The Lord is not slow

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Let’s start with a really basic Christian truth: “No man comes to the Father except by me.” Or from another text, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Now one of the challenging things about the Christian narrative is why, if sin is so deadly and Christ’s work so necessary, the history of salvation seems to unfold so slowly.

Things begin in earnest with Abraham somewhere in the early 2nd millennium BC, but God’s “kingdom of priests” for the world was not called out of Egypt until 400 years later. Israel’s failure to grasp the opportunity fully, ending in exile, developed over another, perhaps, six centuries, and the promised Christ arrived, as we know from Daniel, three world empires after that. And the slow spread of the gospel prior to Jesus’s return, which prompted Peter’s remark at the top of this piece, has run on for another two millennia.

Yet God’s “slowness” may be seen as wisdom, in the unfolding biblical history which, remember, from the start has had a continuous line of faithful people “who call on the name of Yahweh”, with whom we have a spiritual solidarity and who, we may be confident, will like the “witnesses” of Hebrews 11 be included in the salvation of the Christ for whom they hoped, however dimly they perceived him.

Still, even on the most literal, short, time-scale, that’s 6,000 years from the time of the Fall. If we postulate an Adam in some earlier time-frame to match an anthropological assumption (like the “Great Leap Forward” c.30K BP), or a possible genetic bottleneck (looking like 500K minimum on the recent calculations by Joshua Swamidass at Peaceful Science), we end up with a huge number of generations “without Christ and without hope in the world.” And that is no less true if, like many Evolutionary Creationists, you reject a literal Adam altogether, but accept the crucial importance of Christ’s gospel to save people from sin that was with them through their evolutionary heritage.

Assuming, for a moment, that there is a link between this “true mankind” and the cognitive abilities of symbolic thought and apparent ritual concerns, this news article poses another, already half-anticipated problem.

Here are some apparently securely dated cave paintings and symbolic representations from Spain, from around 64,000BP, and therefore well back into the period when only Neanderthal man existed in Europe. The article is not the first to cast doubt on the “bad press” given to Neanderthals over the last century. The conviction that they must be primitive and savage has not only dictated how they have been reconstructed in art and displays, but has even underestimated pretty basic measurements like cranial capacity. To be honest I’m a bit annoyed that I was taught false information on this, by authoritative sources, from an early age, but at least now I know Stephen Jay Gould’s truth that:

We do not encounter facts as data… discovered objectively. All observation is coloured by theory and expectation.

Notice it’s the obervations, not just the conclusions, that depend on our expectations (though note that even conclusions from subjective observations are massively better than opinions based on no observations – science is infinitely better than prejudice!). The ongoing BioLogos thread on bottlenecks demonstrates that, as the new modelling has been done in response to new suggestions about what should be looked for.

But the news about Neanderthals shouldn’t surprise us, for we now know about the interbreeding of H. sapens and H. neanderthalis, which implies at least a degree of shared social outlook. Neanderthal man is looking increasingly on a level with us. Consider it theologically, though. 64,000 years is an awful long time for a race to be living under the penalty of sin and death: in fact, it’s far, far beyond the reach of any cultural, linguistic or religious continuity. From the other side, that of God’s providing the means of salvation, 64,000 years is “slow” as nearly everybody understands slowness.

In fact it’s so slow that Neanderthal man had become extinct 40,000 years (or at the very lowest estimate 22,000 years) before even Abraham received his promise from Yahweh. Indeed, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have underestimated the intellectual faculties of our ancestors even more than this, to judge by this article. There is no doubt that the trend is inexorably towards higher estimations, not lower, of the likeness of our forebears to ourselves in any terms we can measure.

What, then, is the answer to the accusation that God let ancient spiritual man fall into sin, and then effectively forgot about him until historical times? We need to look, I think, at the transition from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2, a transition I pointed out recently way back in the thinking of Irenaeus in the second century. That transition comes more sharply into focus as we view recent trends in Evangelical biblical theology, and study the text more carefully. Here I’m reiterating what I’ve said in various posts recently.

Genesis 1 culminates to the creation of man as the ruler of the creatures of the earth, yet living at a distance from God in his heavenly “holy of holies”. But it is a “very good” situation, as God begins his unchallenged reign in the seventh day rest. In Genesis 2, a particular man is called to something new in God’s presence (to Irenaeus meaning the physical presence of the Logos in whose image man was created, and who by that token has a particular affinity with us). Adam is to become ruler, under God, even of the holy angels and, by implication, “all things in heaven and earth”, for nothing is ontologically higher in creation than the angels. Perhaps the breathing of “the breath of life” in Gen 2:7 signifies some special spiritual endowment for that, or perhaps not. But what it does not state is that the man becomes a new biological type, nor even that he receives any new intellectual or cultural endowments.

In other words, under such a scenario, there is absolutely nothing fundamentally surprising if Neanderthal man painted his caves, or even if Homo erectus travelled to Flores by cruise liner. For we find as we build our biblical theology that intimate relationship with the true God, eternal life, and the damage to both through sin are not to do with the old creation, but with the new creation that was always in God’s mind, but only begun in these late (compared to 64,000 years) times.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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74 Responses to The Lord is not slow

  1. Mark Mark says:

    So what does it mean to be “according to the likeness” of God? What makes man like God in a way which does not apply to anything else He created or made? I mean what makes us different in kind, not just in degree. For example, you might say that we are more intelligent than animals. OK, but animals can still be intelligent and we are dim bulbs indeed compared to God. If our degree of intelligence makes us different from beasts, it still does not make us “like God.” Our differences in intelligence with the animals are differences in degree, not in kind. The same is true with our use of language, and our use of tools.

    No, what separates us from the beasts of the earth in kind is our ability to unite in Spirit with the Divine. The doorway to this unity is embedded in another feature which we possess- an ability to make moral judgements. We have a spiritual aspect or dimension which other living things lack. We can cooperate with one another based not on mere instinct or just mutual advantage for some material need, but because we judge some common cause to be in the right.

    Where we are different in kind from the beasts is that humans have the potential to be of one nature with God. Sinful man can only access this potential through membership in the body of Christ, and we sense only the barest glimmer of it in this world, but when we finally become one with Him we will understand how He is one with the Father- one in nature. It is a capacity which beasts completely lack.

    I know there has been a debate over to what degree higher animals possess “self-awareness.” Mankind though, goes beyond self-awareness and seeks out true connectedness. We are self-aware, but at our best we are also aware that there is something beyond ourselves, and bigger than ourselves. We can make a choice to connect and serve not out of mere instinct, but by our conscious choice.

    We are “religious” by nature. Properly connected, we are capable of accessing a reference point for right and wrong which is beyond ourselves and our interests. This is what truly sets us apart from the higher animals in that here our differences are of kind, not just degree. That man rarely uses this potential does not mean that it is absent.

    This is why I am unthreatened by the idea that there may have been hominids, two legged beings, with relatively large brains walking around making some sort of tools back in the dawn of time, or even using orche. I never considered that being “according to the likeness of God” (much less being “in the image of God”) meant having two legs, or a large brain, or even being able to make a flint scraper. That is not what makes us human. If we give up our humanity, I suppose that is what we can degenerate to- apes wearing trousers as C.S. Lewis once put it, but that is not how we were made.

    We have a spiritual dimension which permits us to relate to one another and to God in a deeper way than that available to the beasts. If these other creatures did not have that, then they were not made in His image or after His likeness. In Genesis 1:26 God proposed creating something new. That was Man.

    Regarding the genetic mixing, I have seen studies to the effect that the Y-chromosomes don’t show the same sort of mixing, implying either that these unions had trouble producing male offspring, at least fertile male offspring. I also remember an analysis of declining Neanderthal DNA in the genome over time and the researcher concluded “it looks like we got mostly junk from our Neanderthal ancestors, and evolution is already more than half-way done throwing it out.” I remember that specific quote. And it was made before the most recent research shows that many genes thought to be from Neanderthals are actually the ancestral alleles for modern humans which may or may not have been re-introduced by inbreeding.

    Add it all up: They were not human. There genes were mechanically close enough for a workable but not profitable or perhaps even sustainable fit. They were more like the Sayters from mythology. Interested in us perhaps, but not us.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Mark

      The biggest question is whether being created “in God’s image and likeness” is an ontological statement or a vocational one.

      The second question is whether it applies only to Adam and his offspring, or to those who, we think, existed at the same time as, and before, Adam. We know from Scripture that they were not sinners – but does that necessarily imply they had no sense of morality?

      Sin, after all, begins with rebellion against God’s law, and “where there is no law” (as seems to be the case before Adam) “then sin is not imputed.” But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a God-given nature of behaviour that, surely, would have been a great deal more rational and complex than my dog’s.

      What we see outside the Bible record is an increase in sophistication of culture at any level you care to name, albeit interpreting it is inexact. Art, music, ritual, signs of language, all arise in the palaeolithic. By the Mesolithic there are communal settlements and, towards the end, ritual sites like Göbekli Tepe. The Neolithic sees an explosion of culture and farming, and the chalcolithic the beginning of city culture, named gods and writing.

      Do we put Adam at some neat “level” that corresponds to “human” (and which keeps stretching deeper into the past as we discover more) – or do we instead begin to understand Adam’s uniqueness as the calling he/she had; just as each believer in Christ, actually a new creation, is in continuity with the rest of humanity and even his/her former self?

      • Mark Mark says:

        I consider you to be ahead of 99% of the church just because you understand that the man Adam was not the sole or even chronologically first member of the race Adam.

        Still, there is more truth out there than we will ever have time to grasp in this life. For example, it takes a very intense chapter just to lay out the differences between “image” and “likeness”. So at the risk of not making a lot of sense I am just going to give the answers as I see them without the long drawn out explanations required to support them. If you care to know the explanations, well it takes a book. This one…. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XRLDYJB

        You said: “The biggest question is whether being created “in God’s image and likeness” is an ontological statement or a vocational one.”

        The first thing I would say is that image and likeness are different things. Christ is the image of God and God cannot be seen by anyone who is not God but only through the Image. Christ and the church was always the goal from Genesis 1:26 and the “making” of mankind into His image was meant to be a process which started with a template- an earthly one and a heavenly one.

        At the end of his life Adam did not claim he was in God’s image, only His likeness. His image is something we must be conformed to and none of us are there yet but all of us have the potential to be in Him.

        So “image” is both ontological and vocational. As is likeness, but this regardless of relationship to God and therefore can be a bad a thing or a good thing.

        The second question is somewhat moot therefore: “The second question is whether it applies only to Adam and his offspring, or to those who, we think, existed at the same time as, and before, Adam. We know from Scripture that they were not sinners – but does that necessarily imply they had no sense of morality?”

        Adam started in His Image but fell. The rest were not there to start, so it image part applies to none of them yet- except as God’s intent. Nor are we presently on this earth in His image, though believers are being conformed to it day by day. The only reason men were not “sinners” before Adam was that in the absence of Divine law sin could not spring to life. It wasn’t because they didn’t do bad things or even things they thought were bad. It was because they had not offended God’s command (there being none) and therefore could not be in “rebellion”.

        “By the Mesolithic there are communal settlements and, towards the end, ritual sites like Göbekli Tepe”

        Yes, which was after Adam by over 1,000 years. There is good reason to believe that this site was an attempt to re-enact the account of the Garden of Eden. Men were wondering what happened to them.

        “The Neolithic sees an explosion of culture and farming” – which was one part of Adam’s mission he did accomplish- he helped move humanity from hunter-gatherer to agriculture and animal pastorialism.

        “Do we put Adam at some neat “level” that corresponds to “human” (and which keeps stretching deeper into the past as we discover more)” – but there were humans long before Adam. What separated Adam from them was not his innate traits, but “privilege”. His association with the LORD raised him higher. He was not higher in himself.

  2. Mark Mark says:

    I do have a hypothesis, perhaps we shall see if it checks out, that man started in the middle east and went in all directions, but survived in detectable numbers only in Africa until the OOA event. Maybe part of the problem establishing ourselves was that near-humans were there to compete with humans- both environmentally and genetically. Supporting this idea is a 125,000 year-old neanderthal from central Asia which apparently had some human genes, and also the realization that a part of what we once thought were introgressed alleles from neanderthals were probably once part of the ancestral alleles that humans previously had but lost. They were just re-introduced through admixture with neanderthals.

    I also wonder if much of what we think of as the “evolution” of archaic humans to modern humans is simply the process of the admixture with near-humans being shaken out of our genome over time. I believe there is a wide gap in how modern some of the early human finds are, maybe its from the Omo site I am thinking of. Some of the oldest finds look surprisingly modern while others from the same site look very primitive. The Khoisan are supposed to be near the base of modern humans but they have no brow ridges, no protruding lower faces, are gracile, have high round foreheads, and basically are the furthest thing from a “primitive” morphology. Meanwhile Papuans have all of those primitive features- and also a larger proportion of admixture from near humans. So maybe humans looked more like modern humans from the beginning, but since most of them admixed with near-humans they picked up “primitive” features early that were part of a mildly deleterious gene package. If you don’t notice that the early phase is different it looks like they are evolving into something more “modern” when in fact that are just slowly reverting to something more like their original form.

  3. Mark Mark says:

    Regarding the issue of the eternal fate of those few humans prior to Adam (and scientists agree that the total effective population sizes were remarkably low, the majority of humans that ever lived are probably alive today or lived in the last 100 years) I regard the problem as the same of that concerning children who die before the age of accountability. Remember that “where there is no law, the penalty for sin is not imputed.” I consider that these were in better position than those after Adam, for “death reigned from Adam to Moses”.

  4. swamidass says:

    Jon, seems like you have been reading my mind. I think this is the strongest thelogical argument for a recent genealogical Adam.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Mark

      Your second post is a good deal more speculative than your first! One thing to pick up on is how easily we’re led to accept 19th century ideas of what “primitive” means (I mean in terms of brow ridges etc). If I were a highly artistic Neanderthal (running with the theme of the OP) and came across some gracile white European gang beating up an old caretaker, I’d be inclined to regard the pointy chin, thin nose and so on as primitive – or maybe just degenerate, if I was into evolutionary theory too!

      I suppose the genetics of your speculation would be at least somewhat susceptible to testing by someone like Joshua, as if he hasn’t got his hands full already exploring bottlenecks!

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      …seems like you have been reading my mind.

      That’s what comes of taking Rupert Sheldrake seriously! What struck me this time round was how difficult it is not only for a very early Adam, but for no-Adam views, in which the only evidence of humanity is what palaeontology can dig up.

      As I’ve written before, the biblical chronology makes good sense both on its own terms and in relation to other fields of study. It gives a few millennia leeway, but I’m happy to go with Adam at 4004BC until proved othersise, out of family loyalty to my illustrious ancestor (by marriage) Archbishop Ussher.

  5. drnmud says:

    “Perhaps the breathing of “the breath of life” in Gen 2:7 signifies some special spiritual endowment for that, or perhaps not. But what it does not state is that the man becomes a new biological type…”

    Considering the text, I don’t see how man could be anything other than a new biological type. He comes straight from the dirt and not from another animal.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      He comes straight from the dirt and not from another animal.

      Only if one insists on taking this passage in a materialistially literal sense. But then one has also to deal with these passages:

      For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Ecc 3:19-20

      Remember now, that You have made me as clay; And would You turn me into dust again? Job 10:9

      For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Ps 103:14

      And even the animals:

      You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire And return to their dust. Ps 104:29

      Now one could say that these imply (apart from Ps 104) that individuals stem, eventually, from Adam who was made from dust – but then you’d be admitting they were also born by normal generation, and nothing is different in the Genesis passage – except for several ANE parallels in which man, or sometimes kings, are also described as coming from clay or dust.

      My original comment on 2:7 is about breath, not dust – and the Ecclesiastes passage confirms scripturally my point that God’s “breath of life” might not be unique to spiritual man. But I could have used Genesis itself:

      So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Gen 7:15

      .

      So tell me, did God literally breathe into the nostrils of the animals too, and it is simply not mentioned in Genesis 1, or is it possibly metaphorical in all its uses? And just as the breath of life is not mentioned in Genesis 1, neither is creation from dust – though the command is “let the earth produce…” – yet the passages above imply it as Genesis 7 confirms the breath of life for the animals.

      Athanasius wrote: “The first-created man was made of dust like everyone, and the hand which created Adam then is creating also and always those who come after him.” He believed Adam was created de novo, but he also knew that “created from the dust” didn’t prove it.

      • drnmud says:

        Jon,

        Virtually all people for all time acknowledge that living animals have the breath of life, die, and disintegrate to dust. They also acknowledge different biological types of animals.

        It seems to me that Genesis is about beginnings, the beginnings of the various types of biological life. How you can seriously say that Genesis does not indicate that Man is a new biological type is beyond my current comprehension.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          drnmud

          Read carefully, and you’ll see that I said Adam, not man, was not said to be a new biological type. Genesis 2 is not Genesis 1.

          • drnmud says:

            Jon,

            How you can seriously imply that “man” or “the man” in Genesis 1-3 is different from “Adam” is beyond my current comprehension.

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              drnmud

              All I’ve implied is only that the wording about dust and breath of Genesis 2 can’t prove the case for the identity of the man in Gen 1 with the individual Adam of ch2. In fact, if it could be shown that Gen 1 must mean Adam, it wouldn’t affect my position except to modify the scope of the creation account of Gen 1.

              My impression is that whateverarguments are actually presented, you’re determined to stick with a 19th century version of literalism anyway (but inconsistently applied – I’ve not met a creationist who didn’t take “windows of heaven” and “fountains of the deep”, or the crying out of Abel’s blood, figuratively!).

              But for the sake of other readers, if not yourself, I’ll reiterate a few of the reasons for suggesting the two chapters have different scopes.

              First, and most importantly, adam in ch1 is used generically (as are the various words for beasts, birds and fish), as shown by the fact that it covers male and female.

              There is no hint of a numerical limitation, any more than there is a suggestion that every other species was created as a single pair, but rather they were created “in all their vast array.”

              In ch2, in contrast, adam is used archetypally and individually. Woman, ishshar is differentiated from adam, the man. In 5:3, this archetype is confirmed to be a specific individual with the personal name Adam, though adam continues to be the generic world for man/mankind throughout the Bible.

              There is a parallel, perhaps conscious, to this in Ps:8/Heb 2. The use of adam in the psalm is generic, about mankind as a whole, but Hebrews identifies it specifically with the man, and son of man, Jesus – who as the new Adam, is both an individual and an archetype, through whom alone the psalm will become true of mankind (conceived generically).

              This comparison leads to my second point, which is that the scenario of Gen 1 differs from Gen 2 just as the old creation differs from the new creation.

              In Gen 1, man is created to rule the creatures of the earth, and the chapter ends under the settled government of God (his sabbath).

              But in chapter 2, man is taken into intimate relationship with God in order to come to rule even the angels of heaven and “all things” in creation, without exception (see Ps 8 again). This is the transition I pointed out to you in Irenaeus with his “secret plan of God”, but though you criticized me for not accepting his views at every point, you don’t seem to accept his teaching on this point yourself.

              The result of the drama in the garden is that the settled rule of God in Gen 2:2-3 is challenged by the sin of both Adam and Satan: it becomes necessary for God to do a new thing in order for mankind to be able to enter, once more, the sabbath rest of God (Heb 3:7 – 4:11), and indeed for creation to be completed by the glorification of mankind.

              Hence the fact that, since even before the Christian era, the lack of a close to the seventh day has been noted as significant, and the first day of the new creation noted, amongst other things, by the celebration of the first day of the week by the Church.

            • Mark Mark says:

              drnmud,

              There is the race Adam and there is the man Adam. Genesis one mostly applies to the race Adam, though it mentions the creation of both. Genesis 2 zooms in to the account of the creation of the man Adam. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ1rQ5RFUFg

              • drnmud says:

                I’ve looked at only the first seconds of that video. It says “Adam was NOT the Father of all of Mankind”.

                Yet Scripture says “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” (Gen 3:20)

                And that man was Adam.
                Strange.

              • Mark Mark says:

                This is a reply to the comment below…

                If you will listen more than a few seconds, that scripture is specifically addressed in the video as an example of why this model is more Christ-centered than the Jewish view of the text.

      • Mark Mark says:

        Jon this is where the English translations fail us. The Hebrew word used for “breath” in Genesis 2:7 is not the same word as that used Genesis 7:15 or Ecclesiastes. The only other place that same word is used in Genesis is a bit further down in chapter seven where it is unclear whether it is talking about animals or men or even a special class of men.

        Here is the Hebrew worth translated “breath” in 2:7 https://www.biblehub.com/hebrew/nishmat_5397.htm

        Here is the Hebrew word translated breath in 7:15 and those other places…. https://www.biblehub.com/hebrew/7307.htm

        I conclude that there is a “breath” or spirit of life that advanced animals and humans alike have and there is a breath from God that makes alive in a greater way.

        There is even significance to being created from “dust” as Adam was vs. the animals in chapter two being formed from the “ground”.

        The main point I am trying to make here is that we can’t hope to understand these things looking only at English translations. Time after time DIFFERENT Hebrew words will be translated as the SAME English word.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Mark

          I’m aware of the two words for “breath”, but I’m not convinced it affects my argument. No doubt ruach and neshamah have different semantic ranges, but they overlap considerably, and oftn seem to be used almost synonymously.

          So neshamah is indeed used in Gen 2:7 of Adam, but also in a prosaic way about the imminent death of the child in 1 Ki 17:17, about the life of “all flesh” in Jb 34:14, and even of making frost and ice in Jb 37:10. In Ps 150, it is used of the breath of the whole creation, very much as ruach is in Gen 6-7.

          Meanwhile, ruach is also used of God’s destructive wind in natural events (paralleling the “ice” passage) in, eg, Ps 18:15, of normal human breathing (parallel to the sick child), as also in in Jb 9:18, 17:1, 19:17. It is also used of the “resurrection” of the dry bones in Ezek 37 – surely the closest scriptural parallel to the creation of Adam.

          If there’s a difference at all, it appears to be only in the strength of the breath – “ruach” sometimes “blasts”, but “nashamah” doesn’t (but bear in mind how few instances either has, relatively, in the OT). So I can’t see any “rule” in their use that, aside from the immediate context, marks off the creation of Adam from that of other men and even other life.

          • Mark Mark says:

            It is possible they can be used as synonyms. but I would be very careful about assuming the same thing is meant when different words are used in the same book of the Bible.

            In every case you cite I think it can also fairly be viewed as a special kind of animation or life that God gives which is His own to that which is His own, while ruach applies to all men whether dead in their sins or not, specially connected to Him or not, and even soulish animals.

            I would say that Ezekiel 37 is a better parallel to the creation of men and women generally in Genesis chapter one (the race Adam) rather than the man Adam in chapter two.

  6. drnmud says:

    Jon,

    “My impression is that whatever arguments are actually presented, you’re determined to stick with a 19th century version of literalism anyway…”

    And my impression is that whatever arguments are actually presented, you’re determined to stick with an evolutionary, nontraditional version of Genesis.

    (And, as you say, no one takes all of the Bible literally.)

    “First, and most importantly, adam in ch1 is used generically (as are the various words for beasts, birds and fish)… There is no hint of a numerical limitationIn ch2, in contrast, adam is used archetypally and individually.”

    I’m hoping you will further contrast the animals in Gen 1 from those in Gen 2, how the animals in Gen 1 are different from those in Gen 2. Different biological types, perhaps.

    “… in chapter 2, man is taken into intimate relationship with God in order to come to rule even the angels of heaven and “all things” in creation…”

    Also in chapter 2, a remarkable intimacy is established between man and woman, with God bringing the woman out of the man. And they would have been the first man and woman on earth, as indicated by earlier Gen 2 verses. There was no population of humans from which to pick a woman as a suitable “helper” for the man. This is the same man as the one first identified as Adam in Gen 3. And I think the same man as the one in Gen 1. (Just as I think the animals in Gen 2 are the same as the animals in Gen 1.)

    “… the sabbath rest of God… even before the Christian era, the lack of a close to the seventh day has been noted as significant…”

    I do not understand this alleged lack of closure.
    My reading of the text indicates God rested after His work of creation, which was completed with His creation of man. No more creation ex nihilo and no more creation “ex dust”. Creation is over, only re-production remains.

    • Mark Mark says:

      “I’m hoping you will further contrast the animals in Gen 1 from those in Gen 2, how the animals in Gen 1 are different from those in Gen 2. Different biological types, perhaps.”

      That is explained in the first half of this video. Please be patient. https://youtu.be/gBq6WOra70k

      • drnmud says:

        Sorry. I tried, but I guess I don’t have enough patience.
        I heard him say
        “You have to look at [the flood] through the lens of Christ.”

        But Christ seemed to believe in the flood:
        “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
        “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
        As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man.
        For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,
        and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.”
        [Mat 24]

        • Mark Mark says:

          Well patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and we could all use some more, but I don’t think this is an issue of patience. The very scripture you used to say “that must be wrong” is specifically addressed starting at only 2:06 into the video! Do you mean to say that your patience cannot last any longer than that? Even unbelievers, who don’t have the Holy Spirit have more patience than this.

          But if patience is truly the issue, I have fixed it so you don’t need to wait. Here is a link to the same video which is forwarded to the point where the verse about Eve being “the mother of all the living” is discussed in detail… https://youtu.be/GQ1rQ5RFUFg?t=2m6s

          Regarding your cite in Matthew 24, simply keep reading. He used the same language regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. Clearly he was not trying to make a statement that THAT destruction was world-wide. If the second example is not global then why is it necessary for the first to be? No, this is reading into the text what isn’t there because of what you have been incorrectly taught it says elsewhere. Regardless, if this passage supports that the flood was global then it also supports the idea that the destruction of Sodom was global because it used the same language.

    • Mark Mark says:

      “My reading of the text indicates God rested after His work of creation, which was completed with His creation of man. No more creation ex nihilo and no more creation “ex dust”. Creation is over, only re-production remains.”

      Adam was not “created” in chapter two. He was formed. He was created in chapter one in the middle segment of 1:27. This format is too hard to fill in all the gaps, as a shadow of Christ who is both God and Man Adam had to be both created and uncreated (just changed form). Chapter two is not a retelling of chapter one, it is telescoping the most important part. One is “the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” and the other is “The Life and Times of Julius Caesar.”

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Sorry. I tried, but I guess I don’t have enough patience.

      Maybe that’s the problem, drnmud. The approach of both Mark and myself, coming from different experience, traditions – and continents – and ending up in comparable places, is patient reflection on what the text actually says, within the context of the whole Bible, and taking into account both what we moderns know of the world and what the authors were likely to know, AND what the various streams of thought in the Church have said. All with the aim of a better understanding of what God is doing in history.

      In my case that reflection has been over five decades of Bible study and teaching, plus a lot of reading. And each time I study the text, new truths emerge and my understanding is modified. Evolution has little, if anything, to do with it.

      • drnmud says:

        “And each time I study the text, new truths emerge and my understanding is modified. Evolution has little, if anything, to do with it.”

        That would surprise me.

  7. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    drnmud:

    You seem to be unwilling to take Jon at his word. He says that his conclusions about Genesis are not derived primarily from thinking about evolution, but from thinking about the Bible itself and about centuries of Christian reflection on the Bible. I trust him when he says that. It fits in with everything he has written on the site for the past ten years or so.

    Indeed, that is what makes Hump of the Camel different from BioLogos; whereas the Hump accepts the idea of evolution (at least as a reasonable working hypothesis consistent with scientific data), it does *not* teach (as many writers on BioLogos seem to teach) that Christians ought to scramble around desperately for a new Christian theology, corrected to harmonize with evolution. Jon does not turn Biblical exegesis into a servant of evolutionary thought. Jon has always insisted that whatever consequences evolutionary thought may have for Christian thinking, those consequences must not be adopted at the cost either of deforming the meaning of the Biblical text or of scrapping centuries of coherent Christian theological reflection on the text. He has shown that he does not jump on the bandwagon of radical exegesis (e.g., Enns, Sparks) or radical theology of God or Creation (e.g., Oord). He holds the feet of the BioLogos people to the fire, both on Biblical exegesis and on systematic theology.

    Of course, the meaning of Genesis 1 and of Genesis 2-3 are contested by scholars and theologians, and always have been. So, too, is the question of the relationship between the two stories continually debated. It is possible to disagree with Jon’s reading and — as you seem to be trying to do — to defend a more unitary view of the two stories. However, if you want to do that, surely you could do it based on passages, and without the somewhat carping or irritated tone. As it is, you seem (to me, anyway) to be constantly indignant, which is not conducive to relaxed intellectual conversation.

    Let me ask you two questions: Do you find the idea of evolution so religiously repugnant that you could never be brought to accept it no matter how great the scientific evidence? And are you committed to a “young earth” (and especially “young Adam”) reading of the Bible, to the extent that you feel religiously *obliged* to explain away any scientific evidence seeming to favor evolution, an ancient earth, and an ancient human race (older than 6,000 years) out of a sense of duty to “defend the Bible”? You write in such a way as suggests as “Yes” answer to both these questions, but I would rather hear your own position stated in your own words than risk a flawed inference.

    • drnmud says:

      Edward,

      “[Jon] says that his conclusions about Genesis are not derived primarily from thinking about evolution, but from thinking about the Bible itself and about centuries of Christian reflection on the Bible.”

      I don’t know how much “primarily” is, but I do know that Jon said above that his approach also includes consideration of “ANE parallels” and of patient reflection on “what we moderns know of the world.”

      Well, science, and we moderns, know that people don’t walk on water or change water into wine. Yet Christianity is based entirely on such miracles – first and foremost of which, of course, is Christ’s physical, bodily resurrection. No miracles, no Christianity. It literally requires belief in the “unbelievable.”

      So, as a Christian, if I find an apparent conflict between science and Scripture, Scripture wins the battle.

      Also, regarding the ANE (and possibly other extrabiblical information), I’m of the opinion that Scripture is the word of God and, as such, was intended by God to be understood as is and on its own. I don’t think God intended its proper comprehension to be contingent on, say, expertise in ANE or on waiting thousands of years for modern science to clear things up for us non-experts.

      I also am of the opinion that Scripture, while containing other modes of writing, is largely real history. I will see Genesis as such history, until such time as someone can prove it’s not. (But I don’t think that’s going to happen.)

      And I have vague concerns that not seeing it as history could have perhaps unintended but nevertheless harmful consequences for the faith.

      Jon can write what he wants. But when I read what he writes, I almost invariably get the impression that, as I said earlier, whatever arguments are actually presented, he’s determined to stick with an evolutionary, modern, nontraditional view of Genesis.

      You say “It is possible to disagree with Jon’s reading and — as you seem to be trying to do — to defend a more unitary view of the two stories. However, if you want to do that, surely you could do it based on passages…”

      Here’s a passage which I don’t think has yet been addressed above: In Genesis 1 where God is quoted as saying to man
      “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
      And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

      I always took this as God speaking directly to Adam and Eve alone. But if, as Jon implies, “man” in Genesis 1 is actually a newly created population of men and women, then this would mean God spoke directly to an entire population of humans. That is not my understanding and I very much doubt it was the understanding of the leaders of Judaism and of Christianity. If my understanding is wrong, perhaps you or Jon will clear this up for me.

      As for your questions on my personal views on evolution/age of the earth, there’s no need for that. Let’s just have a relaxed intellectual conversation, based on passages.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        So, as a Christian, if I find an apparent conflict between science and Scripture, Scripture wins the battle.

        “Battle” and “conflict” imply Scripture is fighting physical perception and we should take sides. The conflict, though, is in us, for Scripture and physical reality are both God’s, and agree.

        We believe Scripture matches experience because it is the word of God, not that experience has to be jettisoned because the word of God “trumps” it.

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        drnmud:

        Thanks for your reply. Now, to your specific points:

        Jon said above that his approach also includes consideration of “ANE parallels” and of patient reflection on “what we moderns know of the world.”

        It’s my understanding that Jon does not use ANE parallels to *overrule* the teaching of Genesis, but to *shed light on* the intended meaning of Genesis. That’s an important difference. If some Babylonian term, etymologically related, helps to understand some rare Hebrew word that occurs in the Bible only a few times, I don’t see the use of ANE background as harmful to Biblical interpretation. In fact, the Church Fathers themselves knew nothing about the older ANE languages or cultures, which have only been recovered due to archaeology and modern linguistic science, so it’s reasonable to supplement their readings of Genesis with new information about what certain Hebrew words may have meant, what picture of the cosmos the Hebrew writers may have had in mind, and what religious views the Hebrew writers may have been reacting to. I don’t see that merely making use of information we have about the ANE in itself constitutes any kind of betrayal of Christian faith or Biblical truth.

        As for “what we moderns know of the world”, I concede that we have to distinguish between what certain people *claim* we know, and what we actually know. But Jon has been very careful, and in fact has written a good number of columns on how often scientists in the past have over-claimed regarding what they know, and how we can’t simply take “scientific consensus” as “gospel truth”. I would think you would be pleased at his resistance to some of the bullying that goes on regarding scientific claims.

        Well, science, and we moderns, know that people don’t walk on water or change water into wine.

        I don’t think Jon would argue that we “know” this. I think he would say that science, as currently construed, has a built-in blind spot regarding miracles, rather than that science “knows” they cannot happen. Science simply carries on as if they don’t happen, because if they do happen, the methods of science can’t deal with them. So he’s not arguing that science has disproved miracles, or anything of the sort. In fact, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t affirm most of the Biblical miracle reports as basically historical (allowing perhaps for some genre conventions in the reporting of them). But don’t rely on my reading; you can ask him directly if he thinks that science has disproved miracles, or that modern people can “know” that miracles haven’t happened.

        I don’t think God intended its proper comprehension to be contingent on, say, expertise in ANE or on waiting thousands of years for modern science to clear things up for us non-experts.

        Yes and no.

        Yes, to your view that God intended the Bible to be read by people untrained in modern science, the science of comparative Near Eastern philology, etc.

        But you forget that those ancient readers, untrained in modern science and historical scholarship, knew things about the ancient language and idiom, about ancient literary genres, etc., that a modern American Christian would not automatically know, and indeed, that sometimes even the Church Fathers did not know. To get to “the plain meaning” that God intended for the average reader of ancient times, we sometimes need scholarship to overcome bad translations and incorrect notions that have often stood in the way of our grasping the original meaning.

        What many American Protestants consider to be “the straightforward meaning” of the Genesis is frequently based on less than adequate knowledge of both the Hebrew language and the cultural and literary context of the time of writing of Genesis. Augustine knew literally nothing about the Enuma Elish or Gilgamesh, for example. Irenaeus knew nothing about ancient Semitic languages. Even Calvin and Luther, who could read some Hebrew, did not have the grasp of Hebrew that we have today, thanks to centuries of improved contact between Christians and Jewish scholars, and our access to related ancient Near Eastern languages etc. To deliberately restrict ourselves to “the plain meaning” of the translated English text (which is what most American “conservative” Christians have done) is to continue to be influenced (often unconsciously) by centuries of previous tradition which was Latin- or Greek-based and insufficiently appreciative of Hebrew, Semitic idioms, etc.

        In particular, long ages of Christian prejudice against Judaism prevented most Protestants (until recent decades) from understanding the Hebraic background of both Testaments, and this caused “the plain meaning” of many Biblical passages to be misunderstood.

        For example, the passage about Jesus riding on an ass and the son of an ass was read by some Christian commentators as referring to two animals, when anyone familiar with parallelism in Hebrew poetry would realize that only one animal was referred to. But to some American farmer from Idaho, insisting on “just what the text says”, the Bible would seem to teach that there were two animals there. I don’t see why the historical and philological ignorance of an Idaho farmer should govern how we read the Bible, and why his “plain meaning” should trump the readings of people with much more philological training in reading ancient texts.

        And let’s not forget that for decades, American “conservatives” took their notion of “just what the Bible says” from their King James translations — often blissfully unaware that the English language had changed drastically from the days of King James, to the point where many important words no longer meant what they did in 1611. For example, the word often translated “world” in modern translations should now be translated “age” or “era”; in 1611, the word “world” quite often meant exactly that. But a modern, uneducated Christian, reading the King James, would suppose that “world” meant “earth” or “globe” or “universe” or the like — would suppose a space-reference rather than a time-reference. His “plain meaning of the text” would in fact be the *wrong* meaning. So the idea of a “plain reading of the text, as read by simple believers” is not so straightforward as you seem to suppose. The simple believer needs the aid of people with more historical and philological education than himself, or he is likely to make theological blunders in his interpretation.

        Regarding the Genesis 1 passage which you quote:

        It is of course possible to identify the “man” of Genesis 1 with the “Adam” of Genesis 2; and in fact, most Christian interpreters did so for centuries. And neither I nor Jon would set aside lightly a longstanding Christian interpretation; in fact, one of our main criticisms of American TE/ECs, especially at BioLogos, concerns how quick they are to set aside centuries of well-developed theology in order to appease evolutionary demands. Nonetheless, Jon has indicated that, despite his respect for ancient tradition, his final authority is the Bible, and if in his judgment the Bible seems to teach that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are meant to be read sequentially rather than as two different accounts of the same event, then he has the right to register his disagreement with the traditional reading on that point.

        My own view is unsettled. I think Jon is making a good case for a sequential reading. A few months back, I would have strongly disagreed with the notion, but now I think there is something to it. On the other hand, I think there is a case to be made that the two stories are looking at the same set of events, but from different points of view, or, perhaps better, that Genesis 1 deals with the “macro” picture and then Genesis 2-3 focuses on the “micro” picture. Probably your view is more like the second. I don’t disparage your approach.

        In fact, I think that the textual evidence is not enough to settle the question, i.e., the differences and similarities between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 are such that certain misfits remain, whether one takes Jon’s interpretation *or* the traditional interpretation. So I think we should not dogmatize about which is the “right” interpretation of Genesis. We should continue to discuss the difficulties with open minds.

        If you want my input as someone trained in Hebrew, I can say this much: the “adam” of Genesis 1 is characterized as “male and female” and therefore is generic, and does not seem to refer to simply a man named “Adam”, whereas in Genesis 2-3, God creates (forms) a man, understood as male only, with a woman being created later, and “Adam” soon becomes the proper name of a male individual, not a generic term for the human species (male and female).

        What should we make of this shift? Does it prove that the two accounts are sequential, that God created a human race first, and then separately created an individual man, out of contact (at least initially) with the rest of the human beings he created? Or does the second account merely give more detail regarding the first, specifying how male and female came into existence? Hard to say — it requires thought and repeated return to the text over months and years. I’m not inclined to dogmatize. I don’t think it can be settled by Hebrew grammar and vocabulary alone; the overall literary structure of both tales, and their setting in Genesis 1-11, and indeed in Genesis 1-50 and the whole Pentateuch, need to be taken into account.

        But note that in the discussion I’ve just given, “evolution” plays no role. I’ve been talking about the text alone, not about trying to read it in some way that allows for evolution. In fact, I’m indifferent about evolution; if evolution were confirmed beyond doubt tomorrow, or disproved decisively tomorrow, my thoughts on the interpretation of Genesis would be unaffected. I base my reading on what the Hebrew says, on literary context, etc., not on trying harmonize evolution with creation, or science with religion, or any such thing.

        That’s where I differ from the BioLogos people. They are *committed* to evolution, and not just to evolution, but to evolution understood as proceeding by chance mutations and blind searches for fitness in an environment. So they *must* exclude certain readings of Genesis. But I have no prior commitment to evolution, or to any specific mechanism of evolution, so I’m not bound to twist the Biblical text to make it fit.

        I think that evolution, at least microevolution, has certainly happened, and there is a good case for macroevolution as well (though I don’t think the Darwinian account of its mechanism is plausible), and macroevolution does not threaten me, theologically or personally. But I don’t regard the so-called “consensus view” of scientists on evolution as binding on Christian theologians or Biblical interpreters, and I don’t think they should be interpreting the Bible with one eye looking over their shoulder to make sure the biologists don’t disapprove.

        Happily, I don’t think that is what Jon is doing. I think his Biblical exegesis is governed primarily by the text, secondarily by centuries of Church tradition, and only in the third place by a desire to harmonize the Bible with perceived truths of science. Naturally, like everyone else, he seeks a view of the reality that is coherent, and in which good science doesn’t clash with good Biblical exegesis and theology, so it’s reasonable for him to mention where evolution is compatible with his Biblical exegesis. But that’s not the same thing as letting his exegesis be dictated by either atheistic or TE/EC biologists — which unfortunately is what tends to happen at BioLogos, and among other American and British organizations of Christian scientists committed to uphold Darwin at all costs.

        I have no objection when you disagree with Jon or me or anyone over the meaning of particular Biblical passages, but I do wish you would cease making suggestions (sometimes more indirect, sometimes less so) that Jon is intimidated by the authority of biologists or science or the like to the point where his theology and exegesis are tainted. I think Jon is one of the most independent-minded people writing about faith and evolution I’ve seen anywhere on the internet. This is probably the only creation/evolution site on the planet which is not hostile to evolution yet also doesn’t give evolutionary biologists a free pass on everything they claim, and probably the only pro-evolution site on the planet where ID, though not exactly endorsed, is treated with respect as an important contribution to origins conversations. It’s also the only pro-evolution site I can think of where it is insisted that not just any old Christianity will do as long as it accords with evolution — that the Christianity harmonized with evolution must be orthodox, traditional faith, not a watered-down version. Jon’s repeated discussions of Calvin, the Fathers, Aquinas, etc. show a commitment to traditional Christian teaching beyond what one finds at BioLogos, in most ASA TE/EC writers, and in most British TE/EC writers. The discussions here are at a higher theological level than discussions on any other site I have seen, whether ID, YEC, OEC, or TE/EC. This site serves a valuable purpose.

        • drnmud says:

          Edward,

          Thanks for your reply.

          “In particular, long ages of Christian prejudice against Judaism prevented most Protestants (until recent decades) from understanding the Hebraic background of both Testaments, and this caused “the plain meaning” of many Biblical passages to be misunderstood.”

          If that’s so, I can see no excuse. The Bible, OT & NT, is clearly Hebraic through and through.

          “For example, the passage about Jesus riding on an ass and the son of an ass was read by some Christian commentators as referring to two animals, when anyone familiar with parallelism in Hebrew poetry would realize that only one animal was referred to. But to some American farmer from Idaho, insisting on “just what the text says”, the Bible would seem to teach that there were two animals there. I don’t see why the historical and philological ignorance of an Idaho farmer should govern how we read the Bible, and why his “plain meaning” should trump the readings of people with much more philological training in reading ancient texts.”

          Perhaps I have the historical and philological ignorance of an Idaho farmer, for I, too, see referral to two animals. I read
          “saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.
          If any one says anything to you, you shall say, `The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” [Mat 21:2-3]

          But I always assumed Jesus rode only one of the asses – Mat 21:4-5 in conjunction with Zechariah 9:9 and John 12:15. (I’d guess the mother ass was brought along side to comfort her colt.)

          “And let’s not forget that for decades, American “conservatives” took their notion of “just what the Bible says” from their King James translations — often blissfully unaware that the English language had changed drastically from the days of King James, to the point where many important words no longer meant what they did in 1611. For example, the word often translated “world” in modern translations should now be translated “age” or “era”; in 1611, the word “world” quite often meant exactly that. But a modern, uneducated Christian, reading the King James, would suppose that “world” meant “earth” or “globe” or “universe” or the like — would suppose a space-reference rather than a time-reference.”

          I don’t see the problem in this example.
          For even today, “world” can mean 1) age or era or even personal experience, or 2) earth or globe or universe. At least in my world.

          “Regarding the Genesis 1 passage which you quote…
          Jon has indicated that, despite his respect for ancient tradition, his final authority is the Bible, and if in his judgment the Bible seems to teach that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are meant to be read sequentially rather than as two different accounts of the same event, then he has the right to register his disagreement with the traditional reading on that point.”

          Jon (and everyone else) has the right to think anything he wants. My point is that what Jon wants and what is right appear to be two different things here. For his desired interpretation disagrees both with “his final authority” (i.e. the Bible text) and with the ancient tradition he is said to respect.

          “… I think that the textual evidence is not enough to settle the question, i.e., the differences and similarities between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 are such that certain misfits remain, whether one takes Jon’s interpretation *or* the traditional interpretation. So I think we should not dogmatize about which is the “right” interpretation of Genesis. We should continue to discuss the difficulties with open minds.”

          One might think that if believers are still open-minded and unsettled on the interpretation of the words three thousand years after the words were written, then maybe the interpretation will never be made right and/or the interpretation isn’t important.

          Or maybe the interpretation has been made right and is important. But like with the commandments, hearing them and following them are two different things.

          “… in Genesis 2-3, God creates (forms) a man, understood as male only, with a woman being created later, and “Adam” soon becomes the proper name of a male individual…”

          Or more precisely, “Adam” soon becomes the proper name of not only a male individual, but the same male individual of Genesis 2.

          “What should we make of this shift? Does it prove that the two accounts are sequential, that God created a human race first, and then separately created an individual man, out of contact (at least initially) with the rest of the human beings he created? Or does the second account merely give more detail regarding the first, specifying how male and female came into existence? Hard to say …”

          What I find hard to say is that God was ever understood to have audibly spoken directly to the entire, multitudinous human race, as would have been the case in Gen 1:28-30.
          [If He had done so, one could speculate how the world of faith might look different today.]

          “… what Jon is doing… only in the third place by a desire to harmonize the Bible with perceived truths of science. Naturally, like everyone else, he seeks a view of the reality that is coherent, and in which good science doesn’t clash with good Biblical exegesis and theology, so it’s reasonable for him to mention where evolution is compatible with his Biblical exegesis.”

          Assuming Jon accepts the science-clashing physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, perhaps he chooses which Bible texts need harmonizing with science and which don’t.

          This is probably the only creation/evolution site on the planet which is not hostile to evolution yet also doesn’t give evolutionary biologists a free pass on everything they claim, and probably the only pro-evolution site on the planet where…”

          Yes, I would agree, this is a pro-evolution site.

          “It’s also the only pro-evolution site I can think of where it is insisted that not just any old Christianity will do as long as it accords with evolution — that the Christianity harmonized with evolution must be orthodox, traditional faith, not a watered-down version.”

          No, I don’t think I would agree here.

          “The discussions here are at a higher theological level than discussions on any other site I have seen, whether ID, YEC, OEC, or TE/EC.”

          I would agree that Jon is very intelligent and, on these matters, extremely knowledgeable and very articulate.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            drnmud:

            My apologies for muddying the waters regarding the New Testament/Zechariah passages. I wrote from memory and didn’t re-check the spots. What I should have said was not that some modern American reader didn’t understand Hebraic parallelism, but that (at least in this case) Matthew didn’t. The original Zechariah passage clearly uses parallelism and the two asses mentioned there are the same animal — it’s a deliberate repetition of the same idea in different words. John, in his Gospel, has only one ass, so he gets the original meaning right, but Matthew supposes that Zechariah was talking about two asses, so he throws an extra animal into the account. So I take back my accusation of the Idaho farmer, and transfer the blame to Matthew.

            (Am I accusing Matthew of a theological error? No. Only a literary one. Jesus adequately fulfills the prophecy by riding on an unaccompanied ass, so nothing theologically false is asserted, even if an extra ass is inserted into the story, due to a misunderstood idiom.)

            My more general point was that unless a reader is familiar with the Hebraic device of parallelism, he may be inclined to misread a number of passages where only one thing is being talked about, but a “literal” reading will make it seem like two. So knowledge of the conventions of Hebrew poetry is helpful. The traditional folksy attitude of so many American fundamentalists, i.e., “I don’t need no high-falutin’ book-larnin’, I just go by what the Book says”, is not a wise one, since one can’t know what the book says if one reads it mechanically, without a grasp of how the book is written, what idioms it employs.

            On your next point, I have to disagree, based on my own linguistic experience. It is very rare for the word “world” to mean “age” or “era” nowadays, and in the few cases where it does, it is usually in an archaic literary context, i.e., in fixed expressions like “world without end”, where some hint of the temporal meaning comes through due to understood context. I was a bright little whippersnapper as a kid, well beyond grade level in reading, comprehension, geography, science, etc., yet I just naturally, based on my copious outside-of-school reading of science and geography books, understood “world” in the King James references to mean the geographical or cosmic, spatial world, not an age or era. Thus, I went through much of my life misunderstanding certain Biblical verses. (It didn’t help that the aging clergymen I had back in those days tended to just read the Scripture mechanically — or have a lay reader read it mechanically — and never commented on archaisms of language, etc.)

            But I don’t need the word “world”; there are scores of other examples which you can find if you get a copy of *The King James Bible Word Book*, which notes many of the archaisms and informs the reader of their meaning in 1611. The author wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of compiling a reference book like that, if misunderstandings weren’t widespread enough to need correction.

            So the King James can pose a real problem. I don’t knock it as a translation in its time — it’s actually fairly literal and with a few exceptions reliable — but if you aren’t aware of the changes in English meaning, you can misread it. That’s why most folks these days are better off with the Revised Standard Version or American Standard Version — though those have unfortunately been replaced in many churches with later, feminist-inspired abominations.

            “One might think that if believers are still open-minded and unsettled on the interpretation of the words three thousand years after the words were written, then maybe the interpretation will never be made right and/or the interpretation isn’t important.”

            Or, “one might think” that if God inspired a writing over which intelligent, faithful, thoughtful, literate, educated people continue to puzzle, that God *intended* the text to be something to be thought about and wrestled with, as opposed to texts you don’t have to reflect upon, such as recipes or weather reports. You seem to be of the “democratic” school of Bible-reading which holds that God would make the text as straightforward as a recipe or weather report, so that everyone, even those of the meanest understanding, and of the laziest inclinations, could get the meaning instantly, and have no doubt about it, so they could get on with their lives without having to think any more about it; I’m more inclined to believe that a multi-faceted, multi-layered text, which repays continued re-reading and re-thinking, and the meaning of which emerges best from thoughtful conversation with other readers, is a better tool for encouraging the spiritual growth of human beings. I think the tensions between the two Genesis accounts have been productive of a great deal of deep human thought and I’m quite happy to think that I may get to the end of my days and still not have entirely mastered the thought behind the accounts or have entirely grasped their mutual relationships.

            I think it all depends on whether what one demands from a religious text (and religious tradition) is essentially security (guarantee of salvation and crystal-clear, unambiguous rules for thinking and living) or spiritual, intellectual, and social expansion. If one sees life as an opportunity for growth in all these areas, then a Bible whose meaning can be evoked only through long study and dialogue will be attractive. But if one sees life as a formula that must be followed if one hopes for after-life rewards, then one will prefer to the Bible as a straightforward set of doctrines and rules, and discussions of tension between different Biblical stories will make one uncomfortable, because they don’t allow for easy closure or tidy conclusions.

            “No, I don’t think I would agree here.”

            Do you mean, you don’t think Jon’s account of Christianity is orthodox? If so, then set forth your standard for “orthodox”, and show where he departs from it. I have not yet seen a case where he denies the Creeds, the decisions of the 7 ecumenical councils, or the central Christian doctrines which are pretty much agreed on by Orthodox, Catholics, and magisterial Reformers alike. Perhaps you can tell me which Christian doctrine — Creation, Law, Election of Israel, Prophecy, Incarnation, Trinity, etc. — Jon has treated in an unorthodox manner.

  8. drnmud says:

    Edward,

    “… but Matthew supposes that Zechariah was talking about two asses, so he throws an extra animal into the account. So I take back my accusation of the Idaho farmer, and transfer the blame to Matthew.”

    Maybe you should blame Jesus, because it was Jesus’ words about two asses which Matthew was quoting.

    “On your next point, I have to disagree, based on my own linguistic experience. It is very rare for the word “world” to mean “age” or “era” nowadays, and in the few cases where it does, it is usually in an archaic literary context…”

    Not based on my linguistic experience.
    There are countless instances of “world” meaning something other than earth or globe or physical universe. For example:
    https://www.pcworld.com/
    https://www.mlb.com/news/world-series-game-times-announced/c-155368610
    https://worldoftanks.com/
    https://worldofsolitaire.com/
    https://www.pandora.com/artist/david-ruffin/my-whole-world-ended/AL44kw4xthrrhZX

    “I think the tensions between the two Genesis accounts have been productive of a great deal of deep human thought and I’m quite happy to think that I may get to the end of my days and still not have entirely mastered the thought behind the accounts or have entirely grasped their mutual relationships.”

    You may be quite happy if your obituary says that ‘He was an intelligent, faithful, thoughtful, literate, (highly)educated scholar who puzzled over the *intended* meaning of Genesis 1 & 2 for many decades until his dying day.’

    But I wouldn’t be happy about it.

    “I think it all depends on whether what one demands from a religious text (and religious tradition) is essentially security (guarantee of salvation and crystal-clear, unambiguous rules for thinking and living) or spiritual, intellectual, and social expansion.”

    I think many, including myself, are primarily looking to Scripture not for security and not for spiritual/intellectual/social expansion. Rather, I think we’re primarily looking for the truth.

    “Do you mean, you don’t think Jon’s account of Christianity is orthodox?”

    I mean Jon’s blending of evolution and Christianity on this admittedly pro-evolution site is not orthodox, as in not traditional.

    “I have not yet seen a case where he denies the Creeds, the decisions of the 7 ecumenical councils, or the central Christian doctrines which are pretty much agreed on by Orthodox, Catholics, and magisterial Reformers alike.”

    I thought there might have been more than 7 councils in Christian history. I Googled and found many more:
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/council-Christianity

    Also, I was hoping you could explain what the definition is of “magisterial Reformers”, and why their orthodoxy is different from the orthodoxy of the Orthodox and Catholics.

  9. drnmud says:

    Take 2…

    Edward,

    “… but Matthew supposes that Zechariah was talking about two asses, so he throws an extra animal into the account. So I take back my accusation of the Idaho farmer, and transfer the blame to Matthew.”

    Maybe you should blame Jesus, because it was Jesus’ words about two asses which Matthew was quoting.

    “On your next point, I have to disagree, based on my own linguistic experience. It is very rare for the word “world” to mean “age” or “era” nowadays, and in the few cases where it does, it is usually in an archaic literary context…”

    Not based on my linguistic experience. There are countless instances of “world” meaning something other than earth or globe or physical universe. For example:
    https://www.pcworld.com/
    https://www.mlb.com/news/world-series-game-times-announced/c-155368610
    https://worldoftanks.com/
    https://worldofsolitaire.com/
    https://www.pandora.com/artist/david-ruffin/my-whole-world-ended/AL44kw4xthrrhZX

    “I think the tensions between the two Genesis accounts have been productive of a great deal of deep human thought and I’m quite happy to think that I may get to the end of my days and still not have entirely mastered the thought behind the accounts or have entirely grasped their mutual relationships.”

    You may be quite happy if your obituary says that ‘He was an intelligent, faithful, thoughtful, literate, (highly)educated scholar who puzzled over the *intended* meaning of Genesis 1 & 2 for many decades until his dying day.’

    But I wouldn’t be happy about it.

    “I think it all depends on whether what one demands from a religious text (and religious tradition) is essentially security (guarantee of salvation and crystal-clear, unambiguous rules for thinking and living) or spiritual, intellectual, and social expansion.”

    I think many, including myself, are primarily looking to Scripture not for security and not for spiritual/intellectual/social expansion. Rather, I think we’re primarily looking for the truth.

    “Do you mean, you don’t think Jon’s account of Christianity is orthodox?”

    I mean Jon’s blending of evolution and Christianity on this admittedly pro-evolution site is not orthodox, as in not traditional.

    “I have not yet seen a case where he denies the Creeds, the decisions of the 7 ecumenical councils, or the central Christian doctrines which are pretty much agreed on by Orthodox, Catholics, and magisterial Reformers alike.”

    I thought there might have been more than 7 councils in Christian history. I Googled and found many more:
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/council-Christianity

    Also, I was hoping you could explain what the definition is of “magisterial Reformers”, and why their orthodoxy is different from the orthodoxy of the Orthodox and Catholics.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      drnmud:

      “Maybe you should blame Jesus, because it was Jesus’ words about two asses which Matthew was quoting.”

      It’s not so simple. Mark and Luke, in the parallel accounts, also quote Jesus, and both of them quote him as speaking of only one ass. Matthew has him speaking of two, but Matthew quotes the Zechariah passage, as the other two don’t, and from the way Matthew translates the Zechariah passage into Greek, it’s clear that Matthew thinks Zechariah intended two animals; i.e., Matthew does not interpret the Hebrew in light of the convention of parallelism. So naturally he is going to make Jesus’s words match up with what he thinks the Zechariah passage is saying. (The Gospel writers exhibit variation in their handling of Jesus’s words in many other places, so there nothing illegitimate about such local improvisation.)

      And if we go to the Gospel of John, he has Jesus finding an ass (no report of the command to the disciples to get one) — finding just one ass — and sitting on it. (The Zechariah passage is quoted by John, in truncated form, to mention only one ass, so again there is a match-up between the use of Zechariah and the narration.) In short, three of the four Gospel writers mention only one ass, and the only one who seems to be trying to quote Zechariah fully, Matthew, seems to misunderstand Hebrew parallelism and suppose there were two asses, and then place that misunderstanding in the mouth of Jesus. But Jesus, as a teacher in the synagogues, would be unlikely not to understand parallelism in Hebrew texts, so his words as reported by Matthew are suspect, whereas as reported by Mark and Luke they ring true. All the evidence, then, makes it likely that Matthew has misunderstood the Hebrew idiom.

      And my point, of course, is that if the writer Matthew, presumably a Jew and near to Jewish life at the time of Jesus, misunderstood a particular case of parallelism, there is certainly the danger that a Protestant farmer or grocer or butcher in the USA, living centuries later, knowing little about Hebrew style, might misunderstand it as well, unless he gets help from commentaries or teachers. Again, “just what the text says” is not so simple to determine.

      Your examples of “world” are not to the point. I don’t deny that “world” can mean more than the physical globe or universe. I was saying that the original sense had a time-reference rather than a space-reference. The examples you give show the wide semantic range of “world” today, but they are metaphorical extensions of the typical modern spatial meaning of the term, not of the original temporal meaning.

      I’m quite certain that in the past, many a Protestant American churchgoer — I mean those who were not trained in Biblical interpretation, which would be the majority of the congregation — either interpreted the NT word (meaning “age” for current English speakers, but translated “world” for 1611 speakers) spatially, or at least puzzled over the odd-sounding usage of “world.” The “plain meaning of the text” would in such cases either not be so plain to them, or would be the wrong meaning. (This would all the more be the case going back further in time; back in the mid-19th century through into the early 20th, very few Americans got past eighth grade in school, and many left school well before that, and training in Elizabethan English (King James English was essentially still Elizabethan) wouldn’t have been something most of them acquired in the early grades that they finished.)

      “You may be quite happy if your obituary says that ‘He was an intelligent, faithful, thoughtful, literate, (highly)educated scholar who puzzled over the *intended* meaning of Genesis 1 & 2 for many decades until his dying day.’”

      I’d be happier with an obituary like that than with one that read: “Due to an inner compulsion to obtain religious and intellectual security, he strongly needed to have an authoritative interpretation of every single Biblical passage, and to always be able to exclude all interpretive possibilities but one, and so in his reading of Genesis valued decisiveness over such things as openness to fresh insights, the careful weighing of apparently conflicting textual data, and methodological thoroughness.”

      You write:

      “I mean Jon’s blending of evolution and Christianity on this admittedly pro-evolution site is not orthodox”

      What orthodox Christian doctrine does acceptance of evolution violate? I think perhaps you confuse “orthodox Christian doctrine” with “American literalist reading of Genesis 1-11”. Which episodes from Genesis 1-11 are insisted upon in the Creeds?

      “I thought there might have been more than 7 councils in Christian history.”

      There were. But apparently you don’t understand the historical term, “the seven Ecumenical Councils”. I gather that your church background is not Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican — and I’m guessing not Reformed or Lutheran, either — or you probably would know the term, and why those councils are considered by many Christians to be important in establishing what the *whole* church (not just fragments of it) has affirmed.

      As for “magisterial Reformers”, since you seem to be handy at Googling, I see no reason why you can’t look up the phrase very quickly for yourself. And as Jon has said, differences among the Christian churches notwithstanding, there are a number of “core” doctrines which all the major churches have held, e.g., the Trinity, the Incarnation, the sovereignty of God, etc. I am trying to determine which of those core doctrines, in your view, rules out the possibility that God created through an evolutionary process. I don’t say that God *did* create through an evolutionary process, but I don’t see which Christian doctrine forbids the idea. Unless you can show that evolution is intrinsically unorthodox, you can’t say Jon is unorthodox for accepting evolution. The most you could say is that his views would not be accepted in certain American literalist communities — at least some of which, e.g., the Adventists, the Christadelphians, the Jehovah’s Witnesses — are themselves unorthodox by the standards of the majority of the world’s Christians.

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        You make a compelling case that Matthew misunderstood the Hebrew idiom of Zech 9:9 and consequently had Jesus talking about two asses instead of one.

        Nevertheless, in reading Matthew’s account, I have never pictured Jesus riding two asses at once. For those few who may have misunderstood and envisioned Jesus performing something of a circus act, commentaries or teachers could help. The same might go for whatever “world”/”age”/”era” issues you’re referring to.

        But as I said before, I’m of the opinion that Scripture was intended by God to be understood as is and on its own. I don’t think God intended its proper comprehension to be contingent on waiting thousands of years for ANE linguists to clear things up for us non-experts.

        As to the battle of the obituaries, I’m not saying the Bible is without mysterious or ambiguous passages. I’m confident there are plenty which invite the pondering of both “farmers” and scholars to this day. What I am saying is that as a whole, and in most of it parts, the Bible’s meaning can be sufficiently properly understood by the average reader – especially if millennia of traditional understandings agree. I think Genesis 1-2 is one such part.

        “What orthodox Christian doctrine does acceptance of evolution violate?”

        I’ll have to think some more on that.

        “Which episodes from Genesis 1-11 are insisted upon in the Creeds? … those (7 ecumenical) councils are considered by many Christians to be important in establishing what the *whole* church (not just fragments of it) has affirmed.”

        I have feeling that not all that I and many others might consider “orthodox” is contained in the words of the creeds, or even of the councils (e.g. the “orthodox” prohibitions on divorce, abortion, etc.). They probably say nothing about men being formed from animals, and over many years. Those creeds and 7 councils probably said nothing about evolution as the engine of God’s creation. But that doesn’t mean that’s what the shepherds and their flocks believed.

        “Unless you can show that evolution is intrinsically unorthodox, you can’t say Jon is unorthodox for accepting evolution.”

        But I think I can say Jon is accepting an understanding of creation which was foreign to the church for about its first 1800 years. His understanding is not “orthodox”, as in not traditional.

        One last thought –
        Earlier I said I had vague concerns that the “unorthodox” position of not seeing Genesis as history could have perhaps unintended but nevertheless harmful consequences for the faith. Without trying to untangle correlation vs. causation, I’ll just note that my impression is that the “unorthodox” Genesis position is invariably held by those people (Christian and non-Christian) who also hold “unorthodox” positions on divorce, fornication, abortion, gay marriage, etc.

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          drnmud:

          I either did not see this post before, or only read part of it due to some distraction. I will reply to parts of it now.

          “You make a compelling case that Matthew misunderstood the Hebrew idiom of Zech 9:9 and consequently had Jesus talking about two asses instead of one.”

          Thank you for conceding a point to me. I did not think I would ever live to see the day. 🙂

          For the record, I never pictured Jesus riding on two asses, either. I assumed he rode on one and the other walked alongside — or that the other was left behind and he rode on only one. I was not concerned about any misunderstanding about how many animals Jesus actually rode on. My point was simply that someone without proper training might well think that the plain meaning of the Zechariah text was something other than what the Hebrew writer intended. And that could happen regarding many Biblical passages. Sometimes the plain sense of the Bible isn’t what it seems to be. So caution is warranted.

          “I have feeling that not all that I and many others might consider “orthodox” is contained in the words of the creeds”

          Agreed. But the creeds contain the high points, the skeletal outline of the faith. They are a summary of the priority items, as it were. They aren’t the sum of all doctrine, but they indicate which doctrines are front and center. And the doctrines that are front and center do not include six 24-hour days, a global Flood, etc. My original point was not that Christians should spend *no* time thinking about those other subjects, but that fundamentalists spend *a disproportionate amount* of time on those other things. They write as if the Christian faith, the faith that we must defend at all costs, is the faith that the world was created in six 24-hour days by direct interventions of God and that a serpent talked a woman into eating from a magic tree and that people lived alongside dinosaurs and that there was a global flood, and above all, that evolution never happened. But none of that is at the core of the Christian faith. That’s why none of it is found in the Creeds.

          “I’ll just note that my impression is that the “unorthodox” Genesis position is invariably held by those people (Christian and non-Christian) who also hold “unorthodox” positions on divorce, fornication, abortion, gay marriage, etc.”

          You say you aren’t trying to deal with correlation vs. causation, but in fact there is no reason for you to bring up this point at all unless you think there is a causal relation between reading Genesis non-literally and an increase in depraved moral practices. That’s the relation you are strongly hinting at, even if you won’t affirm it directly. I see no value in such hints. If there is a case for a causal connection, you can state it. If you have no such case, then to hint at it unfairly poisons the waters against theistic evolution and non-literalism generally.

          One could similarly try to poison the waters regarding Biblical literalism. There is at least a historical correlation between reading Genesis literally and black slavery, for instance. We know that some slaveholders, or their defenders, justified the practice on the grounds of a “literal” reading of the “curse of Ham”. Does it follow that literalism is a faulty principle of Biblical interpretation? And for that matter, I suspect that the majority of famous evangelists who have been caught committing adultery with secretaries or call girls have tended toward Genesis literalism. Did the literalism cause the moral depravity?

          This game can be played by both sides, and I think it should not be played. The question of literalism vs. non-literalism is a hermeneutical question. Moral indignation against modern depravity has no bearing on the relevant hermeneutical principles.

          • drnmud says:

            Edward,

            “And the doctrines that are front and center do not include six 24-hour days, a global Flood, etc. My original point was not that Christians should spend *no* time thinking about those other subjects, but that fundamentalists spend *a disproportionate amount* of time on those other things.”

            And one of my points was that some sites which are self-described as ‘orthodox and pro-evolution’ spend *a disproportionate amount* of time on those other things.

            “I’ll just note that my impression is that the “unorthodox” Genesis position is invariably held by those people (Christian and non-Christian) who also hold “unorthodox” positions on divorce, fornication, abortion, gay marriage, etc.”

            “You say you aren’t trying to deal with correlation vs. causation, but in fact there is no reason for you to bring up this point at all unless you think there is a causal relation between reading Genesis non-literally and an increase in depraved moral practices. That’s the relation you are strongly hinting at, even if you won’t affirm it directly.”

            I’d also note, although it’s so obvious it could probably go without saying, that those who stick to the “orthodox” Genesis position almost invariably also hold “orthodox” positions on divorce, fornication, abortion, gay marriage, etc.

            “One could similarly try to poison the waters regarding Biblical literalism. There is at least a historical correlation between reading Genesis literally and black slavery, for instance.”

            It is a fact that Scripture never records Jesus or his apostles condemning slavery. That may be one reason it has carried on so long. But Scripture does record them condemning divorce, fornication, homosexuality. And through the church later (cf. John 14:26; John 16:12-13), things like abortion.

            “This game can be played by both sides, and I think it should not be played. The question of literalism vs. non-literalism is a hermeneutical question. Moral indignation against modern depravity has no bearing on the relevant hermeneutical principles.”

            That’s what you think.
            I think other Christians may think otherwise.

  10. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    …not orthodox, as in not traditional

    “Orthodox” does not mean the same as “traditional”, or no theological development , nor integration with secular thought, would have been considered orthodox in the history of the Church. Augustine’s treatment of original sin was new, but orthodox. Aquinas was orthodox in adding Aristotelian metaphysics to Catholic doctrine, because his work was compatible with the central truths of “the tradition”.

    The current Catholic catechism’s acceptance of belief in an old earth and a limited evolution is orthodox because, although it interprets the tradition in the light of new science, it is compatible with what its authorities consider the catholic tradition (as Eddie says, predominantly established by the Creeds and the Ecumenical councils, the first seven of which are also considered authoritative even by the other main branches of Christianity).

    The specific things you object to in my posts here are actually attempting to be “more orthodox” even than that: I am not simply seeking to show things that are compatible with the “tradition” as defined above, though they are indeed compatible with it, but things that are actually implicit in Scripture itself, the final source of the Tradition for Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant alike. This has been the business of Scriptural exegesis for the last 2,000 years and more.

    Footnote: to save Eddie replying on your last point, you can easily check the meaning of magisterial Reformers for yourself – it’s a standard term. Eddie’s whole point is that, in these matters, their orthodoxy is not different from that of the Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Where those three traditions disagree is exceedingly well-known, and both irrelevant off-topic here.

    As regards views on Genesis that are both “traditional” in the sense of ancient, and “orthodox” in the sense of accepted by the Church, a little research amongst the Church Fathers would show that the kind of literalism embraced by Young Earth Creationists is not very traditional at all, being heavily influenced by nineteenth century concerns, though much of it is orthodox, which is why I have had such cordial and fraternal relations here with Young Earthers like Arthur Jones, David Tyler and Paul Nelson. And, I might add, Old Earth Catholics like Ann Gauger.

    • drnmud says:

      Jon,

      You make good points on the “Orthodox” does not mean the same as “traditional”.
      I agree, and will strive to never again try to equate the two.
      Another way of looking at it in Christianity may be that
      ‘Everything traditional is orthodox, but not everything orthodox is traditional.’

      “The specific things you object to in my posts here are actually attempting to be “more orthodox” even than that: I am not simply seeking to show things that are compatible with the “tradition” as defined above, though they are indeed compatible with it, but things that are actually implicit in Scripture itself, the final source of the Tradition for Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant alike.”

      Perhaps another way of looking at this is that there is no orthodox church, per se, only churches that are more orthodox and churches that are less orthodox.

      “Footnote: to save Eddie replying on your last point, you can easily check the meaning of magisterial Reformers for yourself – it’s a standard term.”

      I was assuming it meant Reformers who insisted on magisterial teachers or leaders. But the wiki link says it primarily means Reformers who wanted the state (e.g. magistrates) to have a measure of control over their church. That surprised me.

  11. Mark Mark says:

    Drnmud,

    If you have the patience for this kind of dialogue it is very possible that you are misdiagnosing why it is you don’t care to listen to the remainder of the 18 minute video explaining why the Bible does not teach that Adam is the sole progenitor of the human race. I think we determined that you did not even make it through 2 minutes and six seconds of it. This was clear because you dismissed the idea due to your beliefs about Genesis 3:20 and that is the point in the video where Gen 3:20 (“she was the mother of all the living”) is specifically addressed directly anticipating the argument which you used. Here is that link again, just in case you are feeling more patient today.. “https://youtu.be/GQ1rQ5RFUFg?t=2m6s

    I find that each of us here has our own position. I am more closely aligned with Jon than Edward. You and he are towards opposite ends of the spectrum concerning intellectual curiosity and the desire to increase understanding. Like you, I want solid answers. Like Edward, I want to be open to the idea that at least the details of what I think I know are open to further refinement.

    There is something to be said for taking a stand and saying “this is truth”. People who live their life and never get there are seekers, but not truth seekers. Maybe they just like the image of being a noble and open-minded pursuer of the truth- more than they like actually finding the truth. Because once they find it they have to turn into a “narrow-minded” person who nags people about the one position they have found that is true. It’s less fun because you can no longer tell everybody else “perhaps you are right”. So there is the temptation to stay a seeker even when one should be a finder, and we all need to watch for that, some more than others.

    The opposite extreme is when one wishes to think of themselves as the possessor of the full and ultimate truth so badly that they shut out evidence which points to the conclusion that there is still more for them to learn after all. Just like the former way to be out of balance leads to a life where one comes up short of finding the amount of truth they were meant to, so this way of being out of balance leads to that. We all need to watch out for that too, some more than others.

    Adam was not the first man, except in the sense that Christ was the second man. That is my claim about what the Bible says and this claim is defended in that video solely on the basis of scriptural evidence. You wondered how the church could have it “wrong” for so long. Edward hypothesized that we lost touch with our Hebraic roots and you disputed that. In this case I side with your position. I will even go farther – the reasons the church has not taken a Christ-centered view of the material in early Genesis is precisely because they have largely adopted the Jewish view of the material. Adam is their progenitor. From a Hebrew-centered view of things, that was the start and that’s what it was all about. Not so in the Christ-centered view.

    Look, if you can have all this dialogue about asses and evolution, you can address the points about the role of Adam in that video- including just saying they have merit and deserve further study if you think that is the case.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Hi, Mark.

      I won’t jump in on the discussion of the points of difference between you and drnmud, but since you mentioned me, I think I can fairly respond to the points that concern my postings.

      Regarding the possible motivations of “seekers”, I can only speak for my own. I’m getting too old now to care much about what others think of me. When I was younger I worried more about the esteem of others, but now I’m getting the point where if I think I’m right and have something to teach the world, and I think someone else is dead wrong, I am quite willing to take firm stands, even if some people accuse me of being dogmatic. So I’m not looking for any admiration for taking a “seeker” stance, and if I remain a “seeker” rather than an asserter on some points, it’s because I don’t overestimate my knowledge on those points.

      For example, I have taken firm stands on BioLogos on the question of divine action in evolution (where my persistent questioning of dubious arguments and vague theological positions made a number of people resent me, accusing me of holding an “interrogation” of their religious beliefs as if I were a Spanish Inquisitor). But in the current case, we are discussing how to reconcile or harmonize discrepant textual data from various parts of Genesis, and I am genuinely undecided about which of the accounts on offer is the best. Hence I tend to say to someone who has a well-thought-out position, such as Jon, that I find much to agree with, but can’t yet give full assent and say, “You’ve got it! You’ve got the right answer!”

      Drnmud would like me to be more “decisive”, but to me decisiveness is a virtue in practical matters such as politics, not in theoretical matters such as the interpretation of an ancient text. In politics, governments must act within a limited time on limited information, and they have to make decisions based on admittedly imperfect knowledge; but I see no need to rush any decision on what Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 mean, especially given that the interpretation of Genesis is not a “salvation issue”, as even most YECs concede. So I feel no guilt about irritating drnmud with my academic caution. He can rush to a conclusion if he likes, but I don’t intend to be pushed faster than I wish to go. I would rather far down the line in time get to a point where I understand 3/4 of what Genesis means, very thoroughly, yet have to admit to uncertainty about the rest, than force myself at a much earlier date to “take a stand” and defend my stand in a partisan manner, when I know that as of yet I only understand, say, 1/4 of what needs to be understood before I can offer an opinion that is worth anything.

      Regarding your other point, “Christ-centered” and “Hebrew-centered” are not at odds, because “Hebrew-centered” is not the same as “adopting a Jewish view.” Jon takes a very Hebraic view not only of the Old Testament but of the New, but he certainly is not supporting Judaism over Christianity. “Hebraic thought” pervades both Judaism and Christianity. One might say that they are two branches of “Hebraic thought”. (I don’t want to be understood, by the way, as meaning that Christianity consists *exclusively* of Hebraic thought; I believe it contains Greek elements, and probably other elements [e.g., Persian] as well; but it can’t be understood apart from Hebraic thought, which is its matrix.)

      So taking “Adam” seriously within one’s theology doesn’t make one more Jewish and less Christian. Adam is an important figure in Genesis, and Genesis is a Christian revealed text as well as a Jewish one, so one can’t get around having *some* interpretation of Adam, whether one is a Jew or a Christian. But note that I have taken no stand on whether one *must* interpret Adam as “sole progenitor”. Certainly the classical Christian traditions (which, far from being “too Jewish” have routinely been accused of anti-Semitism in their reading of the Hebrew Scriptures!) have tended to regard Adam as such, and for that reason I hesitate to set my opinion against such a body of learned Christian opinion; on the other hand, if there is genuine Biblical evidence that Adam was never intended to be understood as sole progenitor, I think we have to at least consider that evidence — and that is what Jon has been doing.

      I know that Jon does not lightly set aside the Augustinian tradition on this, and does so only to be faithful to what the text teaches, and I respect him for *respectfully* disagreeing with the tradition (unlike the folks at BioLogos, who seem to take great pleasure in *disrespectfully* disagreeing with large swaths of Christian tradition, not only on Adamic progenitorship but on a whole host of theological subjects).

      As for drnmud, I have yet to find out whether he gives theological tradition (Creeds, Councils, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, etc.) any importance at all, or is motivated only by a literalist Biblicism which sets itself above all forms of confessional Christianity and sees no need for anything but “just what the Bible says”, presumably as interpreted by the “common sense” of the average American, without the benefit of centuries of learned systematic and literary thought. He has not yet identified his commitments. But if that type of “Bible alone” thinking is indeed his position, I’m definitely against his approach and much more closely aligned with Jon’s.

      • Mark Mark says:

        First, I stink at least as bad as the rest of you. I want to admit that right off. For example if you can hang out at Biologos and dialogue with them for any length of time, you have more patience with atheists than I do.

        So please do not take offense at my implying that one of you is in more danger of getting out of balance in one direction, and the other is at more risk going out of balance the other direction. Than can be true even if each of you is more balanced than me, which may be the case. Just because a predisposition towards something may exist does not mean that’s whats going on.

        Now the difference between the Christ-centered view of early Genesis and the traditional Jewish version which the church pretty much adopted is not a difference between “taking Adam seriously” and not taking him seriously. It is a question of “who is Adam in the Bible?” The New Testament reveals that he was a figure or shadow of Christ. That’s his role. It’s who he is. But they did not see that coming. They don’t read it like that. To him he is the progenitor of the human race- because that is who he is to them.

        I refer you to the same 20 minute video…

        https://youtu.be/GQ1rQ5RFUFg

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Mark:

          I agree that for a Christian, Adam is a figure of Christ (or, alternately, that Christ is the second and perfected Adam). That should not be controversial. And I agree that the Jews do not read Adam in that way.

          Where I disagree is over your apparent view that Adam is a figure of Christ *instead of* a universal progenitor. For Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc. and indeed most Christians up until recent times, he was regarded as *both*. In other words, the “universal progenitor” notion of Adam is not peculiar to Judaism, as you make out. It was also the standard Christian view for most of the history of Christianity.

          The new wrinkle Jon is adding to the discussion is that the standard Christian view may be based on a misreading of Genesis.

          You may ask why I am so generous toward Jon’s non-traditional reading of Adam, whereas I am so harsh toward BioLogos non-traditional readings. The answer is that Jon’s non-traditional reading is driven primarily by internal Biblical considerations, not by any desire to kowtow to evolutionary science, whereas the motivation for the BioLogos non-traditional reading, of ASA non-traditional readings, and of British TE/EC non-traditional readings has always been to beat Genesis into shape until it harmonizes with modern science. This is not surprising, as overwhelmingly the leaders and main spokesmen for these organizations are scientists by profession and theologians only in a hobbyist sense. Their loyalty to the professional consensus of their peers is fierce, their loyalty to long traditions of Christian thought much less so.

          To be sure, after the fact, some of the BioLogos TE/ECs have discovered genuine Biblical grounds for rethinking Adam, but the original motivation was impure, because it subordinated Christian theology and exegesis to the demands of modern science.

          Further, Jon has adopted his model only with due respect for the traditional readings, whereas the BioLogos folks have dumped the traditional readings with obvious glee. They mostly have no use for traditional confessional forms of Christian faith, but endorse free-wheeling private exegesis in which the individual is not responsible to any Church or confession, but only to himself, for how he interprets the Bible. Again, their attitude is wrong, even if it turns out that they are right about Adam and Eve, because that attitude is what sustains them in areas where they are definitely wrong, i.e., in their flirtations with Open Theism, which any confessional Christian (Reformed, Catholic, etc.) would know is heretical and not allowed. Thus, while Jon may end up at one with some BioLogos folks on Adam and Eve, he will still remain far apart from them on other areas of Christian theology. The Bible and Christian faith are his standards for truth, not the “scientific consensus” regarding evolution or anything else. I take his side on this principle.

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        I happened to notice your response to Mark included a couple references to me. I’ll respond to those.

        “Drnmud would like me to be more “decisive”… but I see no need to rush any decision on what Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 mean, especially given that the interpretation of Genesis is not a “salvation issue”, as even most YECs concede.”

        Assuming that, for a Christian, the whole of Scripture is for and about man’s salvation, I sometimes wonder if it’s a sin for a Christian to be spending so much time, maybe much of an entire career, wrestling with a small part of Scripture which is not a “salvation issue.”

        “As for drnmud, I have yet to find out whether he gives theological tradition (Creeds, Councils, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, etc.) any importance at all, or is motivated only by a literalist Biblicism which sets itself above all forms of confessional Christianity and sees no need for anything but “just what the Bible says”, presumably as interpreted by the “common sense” of the average American, without the benefit of centuries of learned systematic and literary thought. He has not yet identified his commitments. But if that type of “Bible alone” thinking is indeed his position, I’m definitely against his approach and much more closely aligned with Jon’s.”

        I think I give theological tradition a great deal of importance. My commitment, I think, is to be faithful to what the text teaches provided that my faithfulness is in synch with the tradition. And I think it is. I also think Jon’s appears less so.

        What I found almost amusing is that you preceded that quote with this:
        “I know that Jon does not lightly set aside the Augustinian tradition on this, and does so only to be faithful to what the text teaches, and I respect him for *respectfully* disagreeing with the tradition…”

        I guess you respect Jon for his ‘text against tradition’ and disrespect me for my ‘text with tradition.’

        No big deal. Like you, “I’m getting too old now to care much about what others think of me.”

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          drnmud:

          1. I don’t understand this passage:

          “I think I give theological tradition a great deal of importance. My commitment, I think, is to be faithful to what the text teaches provided that my faithfulness is in synch with the tradition.”

          You say “theological tradition” which is very broad — nothing specific such as “I accept the three Creeds” or “I accept the decisions of all 7 ecumenical councils” or “I follow the teaching of Aquinas” or “I follow the Lutheran scholastic tradition” or “I accept the Westminster Confession” or the like. You seem to accept a vague “tradition” in general. But later you speak of “the” tradition, as if you either (a) think there is only one tradition for all Christians, no matter what their denomination or theological camp; or (b) have a specific tradition in mind but aren’t naming it. So I’m puzzled.

          But rather than have you parse each word of your statement, I’d like to hear from you directly just what theological tradition you most closely adhere to. E.g., Jon has said he works largely out of a Reformed orientation, George Murphy reads the Bible in light of his Lutheran tradition, others read it in light of Roman Catholic tradition, etc. Which tradition is the dominant one in shaping your reading of the Bible?

          I ask this not out of idle curiosity but because I have not yet seen in your comments any identifiable traditional orientation, only isolated objections to the way Jon reads particular Biblical passages, with your “corrections” seeming to reflect particular opinions of your own about particular passages, but not pointing in any overall theological direction. So I’m trying to find the guiding thread which gives unity to your Biblical readings. Is it Southern Baptist? Adventist? Methodist? I simply can’t tell. I don’t feel any clear traditional orientation, only a series of isolated personal judgments on your part.

          2. “Assuming that, for a Christian, the whole of Scripture is for and about man’s salvation, I sometimes wonder if it’s a sin for a Christian to be spending so much time, maybe much of an entire career, wrestling with a small part of Scripture which is not a “salvation issue.” ”

          Well, you should take that objection to a large number of American fundamentalists, many of whom seem to devote almost their whole apologetic lives “defending” a literal-historical reading of Genesis 1-11, writing endlessly about the Flood explaining dinosaur bones, fake starlight, radioactive dating, etc., and spending almost *no* apologetic time writing about the Gospels, which are specifically about Jesus Christ, who presumably is the center and focus of Christian religion. (At least the early Church thought so, since the Creeds have plenty of discussion of Jesus Christ but virtually no discussion of any of the contents of Genesis 1-11.) A rather odd set of interpretive priorities, these people seem to have, especially when almost all of them openly concede that what one believes about the age of the earth, evolution, etc. are not “salvation issues”, whereas clearly, what one believes about the claims of the Gospel would be “salvation issues.”

          Perhaps you are needed on the websites where these people gather, to set them straight. But I would say that “sin” is too strong a word to describe their obsession with non-essentials such as whether the Flood was local or global, whether the days of creation were 24 hours, whether there really is water above the heavens, etc.; perhaps “waste of valuable evangelical time and energy” would be a less harsh criticism that you could offer them.

          • drnmud says:

            Edward,

            “But rather than have you parse each word of your statement, I’d like to hear from you directly just what theological tradition you most closely adhere to. E.g., Jon has said he works largely out of a Reformed orientation, George Murphy reads the Bible in light of his Lutheran tradition, others read it in light of Roman Catholic tradition, etc. Which tradition is the dominant one in shaping your reading of the Bible?”

            I am just a Christian trying to figure out Christianity better. I have no commitment to any of the above traditions nor to those of the thousands of other denominations.

            The tradition I’m interested in, particularly regarding the understanding of Genesis, is that of the 1,800 years leading up to the age of Darwin, up to the “world” of Darwin, if you like.
            My non-expert sense is that this tradition – the view of Genesis shared by virtually all Christian lay people and Christian leaders for that 1,800 years – is more like mine. You, with apparently far more expertise in this area, seem to confirm my sense, for you said to Mark
            For Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc. and indeed most Christians up until recent times, he was regarded as *both*. In other words, the “universal progenitor” notion of Adam is not peculiar to Judaism, as you make out. It was also the standard Christian view for most of the history of Christianity.

            You respond to my “Assuming that, for a Christian, the whole of Scripture is for and about man’s salvation, I sometimes wonder if it’s a sin for a Christian to be spending so much time, maybe much of an entire career, wrestling with a small part of Scripture which is not a “salvation issue” ”

            with

            “Well, you should take that objection to a large number of American fundamentalists, many of whom seem to devote almost their whole apologetic lives “defending” a literal-historical reading of Genesis 1-11…”

            I think we should consider why such is the case. My sense is that this is occurring in response to attacks on the traditional understanding of Genesis. Perhaps they, like me, have concerns that not holding to the traditional view of Genesis as history could have perhaps unintended but nevertheless harmful consequences for the faith.

            • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

              drnmud:

              Thanks for your answers. Three points:

              1. “I am just a Christian trying to figure out Christianity better. I have no commitment to any of the above traditions nor to those of the thousands of other denominations.”

              Well, everyone’s sense of what Christianity is, is shaped by *some* prior or present experience of Christian teaching and practice. Even if you don’t subscribe formally to any particular systematic confession, you surely know whether you currently or in the past have learned your Christianity primarily in “Bible only” types of church or “confessional” churches such at the Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, etc. You surely know whether or not your current church is one that subscribes to one or more of the three classic Creeds, because if it does, one or more of them will be read in the services. You surely know whether or not your current church accepts the real presence of Christ in the communion (whether in Catholic, Lutheran, or Anglican senses) or whether it regards the communion as purely commemorative in function. You surely know whether or not your current church insists on adult rather than infant baptism, and you probably even have an opinion of your own on that subject. You surely know whether or not you affirm “sola Scriptura”, or “Scripture plus tradition” with *both* as *authoritative* sources of doctrine. And you surely know about your own reading habits, i.e., whether you yourself spend any time at all reading the writings of Augustine, Origen, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, etc., whether you spend time studying the Westminster Confession, the Chicago Statement, etc., whether you spend time reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or whether you read pretty much just the Bible. If the latter is the case, then your endorsement of “tradition” would seem to be a rather vague and general one, since you would not in fact be making the study of tradition a high priority — as Jon, myself and many other Christians do.

              Do you think you could be a wee bit more forthcoming on your current church affiliation (even if you are only an adherent rather than a member), and your general position regarding the things I’ve just mentioned?

              2. Regarding the “universal progenitor” question, yes, that in my view is the majority historical view of Christian writers and institutions. I think Jon would agree regarding the historical fact. But Jon *also* accepts the Reformation principle of the supremacy of Scripture over even traditional interpretation of Scripture, and thus, if he thinks, after due study of Genesis (and he has done a great deal of study of Genesis), that this is one spot where the tradition has missed important points of the Biblical teaching, then he is duty-bound to oppose the tradition — *on that point*.

              Remember, Jon does not conclude that there were people not descended from Adam because modern genetics says so; he makes the argument he does because he thinks *Genesis itself* indicates that there were other people on the earth, not descended from Adam. And he puts forth textual evidence for this. One can dispute his interpretation, but his motivation comes from the Protestant principle of the supremacy of Scripture, not from cowardice under pressure from modern science. So if you think his view of Adam and other human beings prior to Adam is wrong, instead of implying that he knuckles under to modern science, and instead of pointing out to him that his reading of Adam is not the traditional Augustinian one (which he already is well aware of), you should be providing a counter-exegesis that can account for Biblical statements that *seem* to suggest the existence of men not descended from Adam.

              3. “My sense is that this is occurring in response to attacks on the traditional understanding of Genesis. Perhaps they, like me, have concerns that not holding to the traditional view of Genesis as history could have perhaps unintended but nevertheless harmful consequences for the faith.”

              I agree that this is a partial explanation for why some fundamentalists are so obsessed with arguing about Genesis. However, it is only a partial explanation, because the only “traditional” core doctrine of Christianity that might be threatened by abandoning a rigid literal-historical reading of Genesis 1 is the doctrine regarding Adam and the Fall. The stories of Cain and Abel, the Flood, or creation in six days (understood by some as necessarily 24-hour days) — none of those things figure into core traditional Christian doctrine. The length of the days in Genesis is not discussed in the Creeds, or ruled on by any historically significant Protestant or Catholic confessions that I know of. Cain, Abel, the Flood, etc. are no part of the Creeds, and if those stories are treated as myth, legend, instructive parable, etc., no core Christian doctrine (Creation, Providence, Incarnation, Redemption, etc.) is threatened.

              In fact traditional Christian theology has *not* been obsessed with proving the literal-historical truth of every word in Genesis; that is a modern aberration, largely American, and largely in response to historical-critical study of the Bible and to evolution. So your conception of “traditional” — I mean regarding rigid and thoroughgoing literalism — is actually not a traditional conception of traditional, but a modern conception of traditional, which arose fairly recently (late 19th century and after) — and mainly in a parochially American context, since European theologians and European Christians were never nearly as exercised against critical scholarship on the Bible or against evolution as American sectarians have been.

    • drnmud says:

      Mark,

      I found some patience and watched your video. Some points:

      1)
      He says Genesis must be viewed in a Christ-centric manner and not in any other way. I think being Christ-centric and being historically/geneologically-centric are not necessarily mutually exclusive. And contrary to what he also says, the latter does not necessarily “diminish” the former.

      2)
      If Adam was the first man only in the context of Christ being the second man, what significance was had by all the other men who allegedly lived before and during Adam’s time?

      Were these the other men who allegedly lived before and during Adam’s time without sin (contra Romans 3:23)? Why were they not “shadows of Christ” also?

      3)
      He says that in Gen 2:1 – “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” – the “host” means multitude of living people. I think it just means multitude of living things. Specifically here, many birds, beasts, fish, etc. but only two humans. After all, is not the one who is often named “God of hosts”/”Lord of hosts” in Scripture the God and Lord over ALL living things?

      4)
      Around time 9:50 he says that in Gen 1 God is speaking to the whole human race. That special. As I said in an earlier post, I find it hard to believe that the church’s understanding was ever that God audibly spoke directly to the entire, multitudinous human race. [And if He had done so, one could speculate how the world of faith might look different today.]

      5)
      He says Adam is created in Gen 1 but formed in Gen 2, and even more, that Adam after his creation in Gen 1 has his form changed in Gen 2, is made into a new form in Gen 2. And here I thought that in Gen 2 Adam wasn’t a re-formed man but rather re-formed dust.

      6)
      Around 14:54 he asks questions such as “Did Adam and Eve have a whole bunch of daughters before they had Seth?” in trying to advance an argument that Adam and Eve were always surrounded by the rest of the human race and that from the rest of the human race their children could find suitable partners (and should fear murderers, like Cain did).

      I’ll just note that in nine hundred plus years Adam may indeed have had a whole bunch of daughters before he had Seth (cf. Gen 5:5).

      7)
      Around 17:05: “There were other human beings around. Even with Eve, when He said ‘Man will leave his mother and father and cling to a wife’, how did [Adam] know about mothers and fathers, you might even say.”

      Well, I might even say Adam in Gen 2 knew about mothers and fathers by divinely-infused knowledge, just as Adam in Gen 1 would have known by divinely-infused knowledge what the command ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ meant.

      8)
      Time 19:33: “’Let us make man in our own image.’ And that’s a process. Making, making is a process.”

      Hints here that he thinks the “making” was an evolutionary process.

      I’ve met your request and have watched your video.
      And I have again run out of patience, at least with videos like this.

      • Justin K says:

        Hello. I am a very loooooooong time reader on the site, and have consistently benefited from the discussion here. Thanks to Jon, Eddie, and the crew for this from the Southern US.

        I have never felt the need to comment, but I have got to say to Drnmud, you come across as extremely rude and dismissive in most of your posting here. It reminds me of a commentator from years ago, (“Cath Olic” I believe?) who was eventually banned. Do you intend to come off this way? Your comments are consistently negative and attacking of others’ intentions and spiritual state to the point that one has to wonder what you are trying to accomplish here.

        FWIW, the attitude you put on display here is often a factor in people not being persuaded to any sort of “literalist” view of early Genesis (as can be seen on any forum where this type of thing is discussed), regardless of any exegetical basis. You would speak your case more persuasively if you toned down the rhetoric. Earlier in the thread you basically called the owner of this site a liar. I would have banned you at that point.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Welcome in from the shadows, Justin.

          I guess my policy on banning is based on “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

          I’m trying here to serve the Kingdom, not preserve a reputation (and have been in journalism long enough to know that’s a hiding to nothing anyway).

          However, words may sometimes hurt others (if they’re libellous, or seek to reveal confidences, for example) – and sometimes they just clog up the discussion and discourage interested people from reading. And when that becomes someone’s only function, they tend to disappear mysteriously…

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Dear Justin:

          Thanks for your comments. I, too, had noticed the similarity in conversational attitude between drnmud and Cath Olic; and indeed, the similarity may go deeper than attitude. Cath Olic’s endlessly repeated message was that Christianity could end in nothing but anarchy and theological error unless Christians united under the doctrine and authority of one church, and he made it plain that by that he meant the current Roman Catholic Church. Drnmud, though his biography does not indicate any Catholic orientation at the point of his conversion, is now sounding some very similar notes. The drift of his set of rhetorical questions in his last post to me today seems to be that everyone is biased in their reading of the Bible and that nothing will be solved until we can locate the one authoritative theological voice which can suppress private opinions and teach everyone the “right” way to read the Bible. And that sounds a lot like the line of argument of Cath Olic.

          I would be able to see some reason in such an argument, if it came from a self-identified Catholic person who acknowledged the Catechism of the Catholic Church and practiced the Catholic religion. But I never was sure that Cath Olic actually practiced Catholic religion, as opposed to merely having a liking for a central authority that could settle and insist upon doctrine, and in that respect Cath Olic’s personal religious life might not have been any more Catholic in the everyday religious sense than that of drnmud. But I confess that I can’t recall all the details of Cath Olic’s religious life, or even whether he talked much about it, so I can’t go beyond that very general comparison.

  12. drnmud says:

    Edward,

    1.
    “Even if you don’t subscribe formally to any particular systematic confession, you surely know whether you currently or in the past have learned your Christianity primarily in “Bible only” types of church or “confessional” churches such at the Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, etc. You surely know whether or not your current church is one that subscribes to one or more of the three classic Creeds, because if it does, one or more of them will be read in the services.”

    I surely don’t.
    I usually don’t go to church, and on the rare occasions when I do, I shop around. I haven’t bought any of them. I was nonreligious and agnostic, possibly atheistic. Longer story short, I converted to Christianity after reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity; was baptized by an evangelical who also was unattached to any particular church; began reading the Bible, as well as various articles about Christianity.

    Lewis didn’t tout any denomination as the right one. As I recall, he described Christianity as a hallway with many doors (i.e. denominations). However, I must admit such an apparently laissez-faire position seems increasingly unsatisfactory to me.

    So, I’m sorry, but I can’t fulfill what appears to be your burning desire to know what “tradition” I’m in/from. I’m Nowhere Man.

    But perhaps you would tell me what your church is and why you think it’s the best church.
    (If there was what you thought a better church, I’d assume you’d be in that one.)

    2.
    “But Jon *also* accepts the Reformation principle of the supremacy of Scripture over even traditional interpretation of Scripture, and thus, if he thinks, after due study of Genesis (and he has done a great deal of study of Genesis), that this is one spot where the tradition has missed important points of the Biblical teaching, then he is duty-bound to oppose the tradition — *on that point*.”

    So it sounds as though Jon’s faith positions are ultimately founded on his opinions, not on the tradition. This would be the case whether *on that point* or on many points.

    Perhaps that’s the way to go. Although, as with Lewis’ hallway with many doors, this seems unsatisfactory to me. In the New Testament I find so much talk of the church and the importance of it for the faith. You could almost say that without the church there is no Christianity. Or perhaps no true Christianity (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

    “So if you think his view of Adam and other human beings prior to Adam is wrong, instead of implying that he knuckles under to modern science, and instead of pointing out to him that his reading of Adam is not the traditional Augustinian one (which he already is well aware of), you should be providing a counter-exegesis that can account for Biblical statements that *seem* to suggest the existence of men not descended from Adam.”

    That’s what I’ve BEEN doing here.
    To Jon, to Mark (and maybe even to you).
    Speaking of which, I expressed a desire for your commentary over at
    http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2018/03/02/genealogical-adam-an-observation-from-eridu/

    Hopefully you’ll oblige.

    3.
    “I agree that this is a partial explanation for why some fundamentalists are so obsessed with arguing about Genesis. However… none of those things figure into core traditional Christian doctrine.”

    Except in the sense that, if the miracles described in Genesis are dismissed, maybe the miracles of Moses will fall next, and ultimately the miracles of the Messiah.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      C S Lewis wrote an excellent book on miracles, which I’m re-reading at the moment, as it happens (off the back of two more books by or about him).

      He also held to an old earth, and gave a cautious support for biological evolution, with similar caveats to mine on the futility of naturalism – though he sat rather lighter to the historicity of Genesis 2 than I do, putting his “Adam” back in the palaeolithic and allowing the possibilility that Adam and Eve were more than than one pair.

      And as a loyal Anglican, his “mere Christianity” was always (as he clearly stated) intended to encourage brotherhood between all denominations, not a distancing from all of them.

      Many lessons to learn from Lewis: I wish the Evolutionary Creationists would study him more. But then I wish the Creationists would, too.

      • drnmud says:

        Jon,

        “[C.S. Lewis] also held to an old earth, and gave a cautious support for biological evolution, with similar caveats to mine on the futility of naturalism – though he sat rather lighter to the historicity of Genesis 2 than I do, putting his “Adam” back in the palaeolithic and allowing the possibilility that Adam and Eve were more than than one pair.”

        That’s interesting. But again, on these subjects, right now I’m more interested in what Christian leaders and virtually all Christians thought a century before and the 18 centuries before that.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Thanks, drnmud. Now I understand your situation better. The *usual* case here (and on most other websites) when one encounters someone who seems fiercely “Biblical” and inclined to challenge others’ reading of the Bible as too liberal (e.g., for accepting evolution), not literal enough, etc. is that the person in question is from a church background — usually something Baptist-like in church structure and culture — that emphasizes literalism, and that isn’t “confessional,” i.e., beyond affirming the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible doesn’t systematize its faith statement. There are exceptions to this — we once had a combative Catholic ultra-literalist here — but the more normal case is Baptist-like Protestant. But I see you are an off-beat case.

      What I would call “better” churches are those which maintain some continuity with the ancient traditions of the church, treat the Bible seriously, and give the members something challenging (both intellectually and spiritually) to wrestle with each week, whether via sermons, Bible study groups, or some other activity. Those could be Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, or other churches. But there aren’t very many of such “better” churches still in operation, at least in my neck of the woods. And because it is hit and miss, within any one denomination, any advice I could give you that would be appropriate in my area might be useless in yours. If you lived in England, near Jon’s town, I would advise you to try out his church, where at least on the days he was speaking you could be sure of getting some decent theology, delivered in a culturally relevant way.

      I wouldn’t say that Jon’s position is founded on his “opinions”, if by that you mean some set of arbitrary preferences that he has. His “opinions”, as you all them, would be his understanding of what the Bible is teaching, and he would attribute that teaching to God, not to himself. Of course, if you like, you can say that all conclusions about what the Bible means are “opinions”, but if arriving at “opinions” is an intrinsically bad thing, then you participate in that intrinsically bad thing as much as Jon does, because you, too, have “opinions” about what passages of the Bible mean. Yet surely the goal is to rise beyond “opinions” that are merely arbitrary personal likes or dislikes, and perceive the overall teaching of the text of Genesis (or whatever section of the Bible one is concerned with).

      And in fact, that is what “tradition” at its best is about — the building up of an understanding of the Biblical teaching that rises above the prejudices and character flaws of individuals. It’s precisely because Calvin takes into account a vast body of Christian thought, that his “opinions”, as you might call them, are worth much more than those of folksy populist leaders like Hal Lindsey or Ken Ham, who have chosen to admit only a narrow and partisan portion of the whole vast history of Christian deliberation into their statements of “Biblical truth”. All the great Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other systematic theologians have striven to do what Calvin tried to do.

      Yet tradition, though invaluable for teaching young Christians, new Christians, and experienced Christians, is not infallible. It is possible that the Church may get the Bible’s message wrong in some cases. So the Bible must continually be read afresh. The new generation might discover some area where the traditional reading seems defective. And that insight, if verified, can itself become part of the ongoing tradition. That is the way the process works, with tradition helping us to read the Bible, and the Bible, read carefully, constantly improving the tradition.

      Jon understands this. The people who don’t understand it are those at the extremes, those who are so sure of a tradition in advance that they force the Bible into a given theological system, and those who are so sure of their own brilliance in reading the Bible that they take their momentary conceits as wiser than the carefully worked-out views of the greatest Christian minds of the past, and throw out whatever parts of tradition they don’t happen to like, based on their current enthusiasm. At their best, churches can strike the right balance; at their worst, they encourage one extreme or the other, and produce rigid systems of dogma that are actually not Biblical in foundation, or theological anarchy in which every member of the church, believing himself to be the only member of the congregation who is “truly Biblical”, becomes his own theologian and Pope.

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        “What I would call “better” churches are those which maintain some continuity with the ancient traditions of the church…”

        I would think you’d call “better” churches those which maintain better (not “some”) continuity with the ancient traditions of the church.

        “Of course, if you like, you can say that all conclusions about what the Bible means are “opinions”, but if arriving at “opinions” is an intrinsically bad thing, then you participate in that intrinsically bad thing as much as Jon does, because you, too, have “opinions” about what passages of the Bible mean.”

        Except that I try to defer my individual “opinions” to that of tradition’s.
        For, as you say, ““tradition” at its best is about — the building up of an understanding of the Biblical teaching that rises above the prejudices and character flaws of individuals.

        “It’s precisely because Calvin takes into account a vast body of Christian thought, that his “opinions”, as you might call them, are worth much more than those of folksy populist leaders like Hal Lindsey or Ken Ham, who have chosen to admit only a narrow and partisan portion of the whole vast history of Christian deliberation into their statements of “Biblical truth”. All the great Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other systematic theologians have striven to do what Calvin tried to do.”

        This is interesting to me. Not so much the Hal Lindsey or Ken Ham part, as I’m not much familiar with them. What is interesting is that Calvin, too, must “have chosen to admit only a narrow and partisan portion of the whole vast history of Christian deliberation, because otherwise, Calvin wouldn’t have started his own branch of Christianity, which is different from the other “great” branches, each having their own “narrow and partisan” differences. So, Cal, Hal, and Ken have some things in common.

        “It is possible that the Church may get the Bible’s message wrong in some cases. So the Bible must continually be read afresh. The new generation might discover some area where the traditional reading seems defective. And that insight, if verified, can itself become part of the ongoing tradition.” [My emphases]

        The only possible issue is who determines that the fresh understanding is, as you say, “verified”.
        The Bible seems to indicate the church does the “verification”. Which, of course, is another issue.

        As it is, we seem to have a multitude of ‘narrow and partisan verifications’ resulting in a kind of balkanization.

        “Jon understands this. The people who don’t understand it are those at the extremes, those who are so sure of a tradition in advance that they force the Bible into a given theological system, and those who are so sure of their own brilliance in reading the Bible that they take their momentary conceits as wiser than the carefully worked-out views of the greatest Christian minds of the past, and throw out whatever parts of tradition they don’t happen to like, based on their current enthusiasm. At their best, churches can strike the right balance; at their worst, they encourage one extreme or the other, and produce rigid systems of dogma that are actually not Biblical in foundation, or theological anarchy in which every member of the church, believing himself to be the only member of the congregation who is “truly Biblical”, becomes his own theologian and Pope.”

        It seems to me that “At their best, churches…” are balkanized, each with its own “rigid systems of dogma.” Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and thousands of others.

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          drnmud:

          “I would think you’d call “better” churches those which maintain better (not “some”) continuity with the ancient traditions of the church.”

          I’m trying to decide whether your conversational style would be better described as “nit-picking” or “captious.” Are you unable to restrain an impulse to contradict or correct? Already, others beside myself (e.g., Justin, above) have indicated that this is an unpleasant aspect of your postings.

          As for the main thrust of your criticism, you seem to be in a rather awkward place personally to complain about people who don’t regulate their readings of the Bible by “tradition”. By your own admission, you own the authority of no definable Christian tradition, either in theory (since you don’t subscribe to any existing or past Christian theology, denomination, etc.) or in practice (since, not being a member of any particular tradition, you can float between them from week to week, choosing what you like from each one in accord with your own preferences).

          Further, I asked you which traditional writings you typically read, and gave examples such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, the decisions of the ecumenical councils, etc. You never gave any answer to the question, but the whole tenor of your discussion suggests that your answer would be that you rarely or never investigate the primary sources of tradition — which is of course odd for someone who suggests that Jon and I should put less weight on our private opinions and go with tradition! I would wager a that Jon has read ten times what you have read of the Church Fathers, the Reformers, etc. — which would seem to indicate that he cares much more than you do about what tradition has to say.

          As for your remark about Calvin, i.e. —

          “What is interesting is that Calvin, too, must “have chosen to admit only a narrow and partisan portion of the whole vast history of Christian deliberation, because otherwise, Calvin wouldn’t have started his own branch of Christianity, which is different from the other “great” branches, each having their own “narrow and partisan” differences.”

          — it is badly misinformed and distortive. It’s quite evident that you haven’t read much by or about Calvin, or you would know that Calvin made a point of learning the entire history of Christian thought, and was incredibly well-read in the primary sources from the earliest Christian centuries up to his day. He admitted all the positions into his deliberations, excluding none without careful examination. And when he did exclude positions he deemed wrong, it was because he thought they were creations of the mind of man rather than of the mind of God, i.e., he thought it could be shown by plain Biblical statements and strict inferences from plain Biblical statements that they were not in accord with the truth God had revealed in Scripture. And for Calvin, in cases of conflict, the word of God always trumps the word of man — which is a position all orthodox Christians have always held. Your representation of Calvin as someone who was guilty of “picking and choosing”, rather than carefully sifting with Scripture as the standard, cannot be taken seriously by anyone who knows the man’s writings. (By the way, I’m not even particularly fond of Calvin, but I can recognize that you are doing him an injustice.)

          It’s also misleading to say that Calvin “started his own branch of Christianity.” He saw himself not as starting a new branch or version of Christianity, but as attempting to restore the original evangelical faith which had been buried in centuries of human speculation and human tradition, often tradition tinged with pagan rather than Biblical thinking. Your charge would be more appropriate to modern American fundamentalists or evangelicals who offer their own “from scratch” readings of Genesis, or Revelation, etc.; it is ludicrously inappropriate to Calvin, who always checked his own Bible readings against those of the most learned and faithful Christians of the past and present before drawing any conclusions.

          Also, Calvin did not found the church at Geneva; he went there to help, at the invitation of the reforming leaders in that city. And while he had great influence there, he did not always get his way, either in matters of doctrine or practice. He was part of a church, not the founder of a sect. I would say that you need to read some Reformation history as soon as possible.

          You’ve described yourself as a convert to Christianity due to reading C.S. Lewis and some coaching by another Christian who himself sat very loosely to any organized theology or churches. And from everything you have said, you have done very little to move from the individualistic mode of Christianity you started with to a mode of Christianity that is shaped by the life and thought of the living church. From everything you have said, you hang around at the edges of churches, dipping your toe in here and there, but never committing yourself to one community of Christians so that you can learn from them in a steady way. But that, of course, is what tradition is about — learning in a steady way from the deposit of Christian faith and practice, starting with what seems to you (at least tentatively) the most wholesome and pure tradition.

          You seem to be attempting to understand Christianity as a tourist, gazing at it from the windows of a tour bus, stopping at the sites that interest you, but remaining on the bus most of the time. Your defense of tradition thus undercuts itself; your whole mode of Christian life is radically non-traditional, individualistic, personalistic, idiosyncratic. By comparison, Jon, who has been immersed in the collective life of churches since the day of his conversion (for about 50 years now, I think), has never set himself outside and above tradition in the way that you seem to be doing. So for you to chastise him for being too “individualistic” in the way he interprets the Bible, is for the pot to call the kettle black.

          I thought we were making some progress a couple of posts ago, but now, reading this current post of yours, it seems that you are not really interested in conversing with us to learn, but are here to find fault, eager to jump on whatever is said and negate it, but having no positive doctrine to offer yourself, and no intention of reading any of the primary sources that we have suggested could be helpful to you. So I think I shall exit this discussion, unless I see a marked change in conversational tone, and a marked openness on your part to actually learning something from the people here, as opposed to sitting in judgment on them from your lofty “I-am-outside-and-above-all-confessions-and-denominations” perch.

  13. Mark Mark says:

    I still think you are mis-diagnosing the problem as one of a lack of patience. Regardless, let’s go down your list…

    “”1)
    He says Genesis must be viewed in a Christ-centric manner and not in any other way. I think being Christ-centric and being historically/geneologically-centric are not necessarily mutually exclusive. And contrary to what he also says, the latter does not necessarily “diminish” the former.””

    You are just asserting something “contrary” to what is said, but give no evidence to support your assertion. Worse, when you gave the American view of Genesis 3:20 I went to a lot of trouble to direct you to a specific point in the video where it is shown how this view of things is indeed less Christ-centered than the view the video proposes. You ignored all that and go back to making contrary assertions without evidence. That’s not an issue of “patience”.

    Further, you are labeling your view as “historically/genealogically correct” in contrast to the Christ-centered model which is therefore implied to be not “historically/genealogically correct”. Yet you have not even examined what the Christ-centered model says about the genealogies or history. If you did, you would discover that the model says there are NO TIME GAPS between the genealogies in Genesis and shows how this lines up to historical events quite well. IOW you are discounting the model based on assumptions you have about it that were not discussed in the video- but are in others and much moreso in the book.

    *****
    There is an answer, and its a fair question but I am going to defer answering on number 2 until I sense it would be profitable to do so.
    ********
    “”3)
    He says that in Gen 2:1 – “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” – the “host” means multitude of living people. I think it just means multitude of living things. Specifically here, many birds, beasts, fish, etc. but only two humans. After all, is not the one who is often named “God of hosts”/”Lord of hosts” in Scripture the God and Lord over ALL living things?””

    Words mean things. This particular word, in its various forms, is used hundreds of times in scripture. Every time its meaning is clear from context it means some kind of group of people or divine beings capable of being organized for battle. The ancients considered the starts to represent the beings themselves. So until you can give an example in the scriptures where it is clear from the context that it refers to animals on this planet, you have no basis to redefine this word in order to avoid a conclusion that you for some reason (and its not a lack of ‘patience’) don’t wish to come to.

    *******

    Number 4 is just an argument from incredulity based on incomplete knowledge. We don’t know how big or how scattered the host was from scripture but the genes say early humanity had an effective population size of 10,000. In Revelations, the angels are going to directly speak to a lot more than that- and yet still mankind will not change their ways.

    *********
    Number 5- is just that you are misunderstanding the point. Its not a refutation of anything. I will again defer trying to get someone to understand something when I see no evidence that they wish to understand it.

    *********
    “”6)
    Around 14:54 he asks questions such as “Did Adam and Eve have a whole bunch of daughters before they had Seth?” in trying to advance an argument that Adam and Eve were always surrounded by the rest of the human race and that from the rest of the human race their children could find suitable partners (and should fear murderers, like Cain did). I’ll just note that in nine hundred plus years Adam may indeed have had a whole bunch of daughters before he had Seth (cf. Gen 5:5).”

    That you are willing to cling to that scenario rather than face the obvious evidence that early Genesis seems to assume that there were other people around again points to the real issue being something other than “patience”. Especially since it was explicitly stated “Cain’s wife is the weakest evidence I’ve got”. You cling to this unlikely scenario in an attempt to refute the WEAKEST evidence and ignore the stronger evidence of Cain’s response when Yahweh told him he had to leave. This is not a “patience” problem.

    *****
    #7 I think you have a fair point on this one. It doesn’t refute the point, but neutralizes it.

    ******
    “”8)
    Time 19:33: “’Let us make man in our own image.’ And that’s a process. Making, making is a process.”
    Hints here that he thinks the “making” was an evolutionary process.””

    Is this the real basis for your objection? Well, good news. It’s not that kind of evolution. It’s taking humanity which is apart from God and taking us to the place where many of us become Christ and the Church. There is nothing in the video, or the book, about humanity being “made” from non-humans. The book does speculate that macro-evolution was and is at work in the plant kingdom because of the different language used on day three, and that God did not have to directly act after He gave the command, but that’s as close as it gets. Ultimately it comes down on the side of Old Earth Creationism, without diving into the details of how God’s intervention occurred.

  14. drnmud says:

    Edward,

    “As for the main thrust of your criticism, you seem to be in a rather awkward place personally to complain about people who don’t regulate their readings of the Bible by “tradition”. By your own admission, you own the authority of no definable Christian tradition…”

    At the risk of being perceived as nit-picking or captious, I wonder what the worth is of owning the authority of a definable Christian tradition,
    given that there are many different definable Christian traditions (i.e. denominations).

    “[Calvin] admitted all the positions into his deliberations, excluding none without careful examination. And when he did exclude positions he deemed wrong, it was because he thought they were creations of the mind of man rather than of the mind of God, i.e., he thought it could be shown by plain Biblical statements and strict inferences from plain Biblical statements that they were not in accord with the truth God had revealed in Scripture.”

    I know next to nothing about Calvin compared to you.
    But I would be very interested in what you would consider as one prime example of this (i.e. of the plain Biblical statement(s) which lead Calvin to a break from the tradition).
    Just one example would be great.

    “And for Calvin, in cases of conflict, the word of God always trumps the word of man — which is a position all orthodox Christians have always held.”

    I just don’t see how that is true. Some of the first orthodox Christians, Paul and Peter, indicated that their understanding, their authoritative tradition trumped the individual Christian’s opinion (e.g. 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Tim 3:14; 2 Peter 3:16).

    “By the way, I’m not even particularly fond of Calvin, but I can recognize that you are doing him an injustice.”

    I may end up not being fond of him, either. I’ll know better soon, if you could meet my request above on the “one prime example”.

    “From everything you have said, you hang around at the edges of churches, dipping your toe in here and there, but never committing yourself to one community of Christians so that you can learn from them in a steady way.
    But that, of course, is what tradition is about…

    I don’t think that’s “tradition.”
    That sounds more like the ‘peculiarities of one community of Christians.’

    “You seem to be attempting to understand Christianity as a tourist, gazing at it from the windows of a tour bus, stopping at the sites that interest you, but remaining on the bus most of the time. Your defense of tradition thus undercuts itself…”

    I think what’s being undercut might be my limited time. Because there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of bus stops (i.e. traditions and denominations).

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      drnmud:

      Yep, you are still being captious.

      It’s apparent that you want to learn by *arguing* rather than by *reading*. You want *me* to do your reading and digesting work for you, so that you can then argue about (or, I should say, argue against) what I present.

      You have been holding forth, to the tune of thousands of words, on the differences between tradition and reading the Bible for oneself, without having read even the most basic works on that subject, whether by Calvin, by Luther, by Roman writers, or by anyone else. If you aren’t interested enough in the subject you are arguing about to have taken the time to inform yourself about it, I have no intention of being your unpaid research assistant. But I will give you some book references.

      You can find selections of key writings of Calvin and Luther in old editions by Dillenberger. You can read the biography of Luther, Here I Stand, by Bainton. You can read the history of the Reformation in the Penguin series by Owen Chadwick. There is also a good five-volume history of Christian thought by Pelikan. My advice to you is to take three or four months off from arguing with people on the internet, and use the time gained to familiarize yourself with the history of Christian thought, not only on the Scripture vs. tradition question, but on many other things. Then, when you come back to argue afresh, you will be arguing out of knowledge, rather than flying by the seat of your pants. You will benefit from this procedure, and so will your conversation partners.

      My other advice would be for you stop church-hopping and settle in, at least for several months, with one church, and begin to learn at least one Christian tradition *well*. It’s plain that you have no sense of what it means to live within a particular Christian tradition, because your arguments are abstract and sophomore-speculative, showing no insider’s experience or perception. If you hope to ever understand Christian tradition in general, you are going to have to begin by learning at least one Christian tradition in particular.

      When you read C.S. Lewis and listened to the evangelical guru that you mentioned, you were merely taking the first step toward understanding Christianity. You can’t take the second step all by yourself, just by reading and having intellectual internet arguments and occasionally dropping in on churches if you happen to feel like it. You have to find some sort of genuine Christian community to interact with, in, against, etc. Otherwise your faith will remain a private intellectual stance rather than a thriving life-principle.
      I think most if not all long-time Christians would tell you the same thing.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        My other advice would be for you stop church-hopping and settle in, at least for several months, with one church, and begin to learn at least one Christian tradition *well*.

        Reading through the voluminous posts above, this was going to be my firm advice as well. This “fie on all your man-made traditions” line reminds me most of Joseph Smith who, finding all the (admittedly sorely deficient) American denominations he dabbled in confusing, eventually decided to get a pair of supernatural spectacles and start the Mormons. Sectarianism, or apostasy, is a common fate of those disobey Scripture by neglecting to meet together in the discipline of fellowship.

        In contrast, Billy Graham would tell converts to join a local church of whatever (non-sectarian) tradition, secure that the core of the faith he had preached would be there.

        That too is my experience. Eddie is right to say I have been a “paid-up” member of churches for 50 years, in various traditions mainly because of geographical moves. I have found fellowship (and often ended up with some kind of leadership role) in Congregationalist, Anglican, Baptist, and Independent Evangelical churches.

        But I also spent my working career in a Christian Medical practice, where partners and colleagues included Brethren, Methodists, Salvation Army, Pentecostals, Charismatic house churches and Catholics.

        The Christian magazine whose reference panel and editorial board I was on also involved folk from several denominations. Denominations are no big deal.

        Supportive readers here also come from many of those positions, plus Lutheran and Greek Orthodox and – since we have many readers in places as far-flung as Turkey, China, Israel, India, South Africa and a few dozen other lands, probably from denominations I’ve never even heard of, all obedient to the rule of faith.

        The point at which one reader’s restlessness ceases to be instructive and just becomes a distraction is rapidly being reached here.

        Drnmud – go to a church and get stuck in, get some teaching, learn about the Kingdom of God from those within it, and then you’ll have a better basis for weighing the truth. On here, further unconstructive comments may well see you share the fate both of Cath Olic and the alter egos he unsuccessfully tried to take on to get back in the ring.

        • drnmud says:

          Jon,

          “Sectarianism, or apostasy, is a common fate of those disobey Scripture by neglecting to meet together in the discipline of fellowship.”

          But those who meet together in “the discipline of fellowship” almost invariably split into many fellowships, each of which often, but not always, pretty much brook no faith fellowship with the other fellows. At least that seems to be the admittedly sorely deficient experience in American denominations, and perhaps those in other countries.

          Of course a Christian can have the experience you have had of having fellowship with Congregationalist, Anglican, Baptist, Independent Evangelical, Brethren, Methodists, Salvation Army, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, Lutheran and Greek Orthodox.
          The fellowship works, I would think, provided it doesn’t attempt too much to be faith fellowship.
          Which leads to the next point…

          “In contrast, Billy Graham would tell converts to join a local church of whatever (non-sectarian) tradition, secure that the core of the faith he had preached would be there.”

          The “core of the faith”, of Christianity, is Christ.
          It seems to me that Christianity could be looked at as a set of concentric circles with Christ at the core.
          The next circles could be doctrines about the nature of Christ,
          and the next circles about what He actually did/said,
          and then the meaning of what He did/said,
          and then how we are to observe/practice/live what He did/said (cf. Mat 28:20).

          All “Christians” – even a David Koresh or Jim Jones or the craziest Christian congregation you’ve ever heard of – are “orthodox” in the sense that they have Christ at the core of their faith.
          But it doesn’t take long in moving to the next circles around their core that you can find they have a very different version of concentric Christianity.

          Some might say ‘Vive la difference!’
          Except the Scripture seems to indicate such differences are not to be celebrated. Scripture seems to indicate that the church holds the concentric circles together in the right way, the orthodox way (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:15).

          Lastly, I do not wish for my words to be considered “unconstructive comments.”
          I can only hope they will not be taken as such.

          • Justin K says:

            “But those who meet together in “the discipline of fellowship” almost invariably split into many fellowships, each of which often, but not always, pretty much brook no faith fellowship with the other fellows. At least that seems to be the admittedly sorely deficient experience in American denominations, and perhaps those in other countries.

            Of course a Christian can have the experience you have had of having fellowship with Congregationalist, Anglican, Baptist, Independent Evangelical, Brethren, Methodists, Salvation Army, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, Lutheran and Greek Orthodox.
            The fellowship works, I would think, provided it doesn’t attempt too much to be faith fellowship.”

            Has that truly been your experience? I am a Protestant in the Southern US, which is surely the most divided (denomination wise) on earth, and that has not been my experience at all. My family attends a Methodist fellowship but have charismatic, Baptist, Episcopalians, etc in our family/friends, and we talk theology freely and regularly with no infighting or bitterness…we have peripheral differences but we still have good fellowship. If anything, the older I get, the more I appreciate how small some of the differences among Christians really are, broadly speaking. Perhaps my experience has just been oddly positive, but I rather doubt it. Maybe you should give the church another shot? As Gordon Fee has been known to say on many occasions, true unity happens in the Church when we rub shoulders with those whom we disagree and still manifest the love of Christ, not when we flatten out all the differences and only fellowship with those with who agree on every point…as if that were possible.

            What is your alternative?

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              Justin

              drnmud has mysteriously disappeared (!). But it’s hard to think that any practising Christian nowadays would agree with this:

              The fellowship works, I would think, provided it doesn’t attempt too much to be faith fellowship.

              My previous church had emerged from a Closed Brethren background, and endemic schism was certainly a hallmark of that nineteenth century movement.

              But it was also a uniquely notable hallmark – true functional “ecumenism” has been the pattern of Christian life as long as I can remember: serious divisions are more often based on the liberal/conservative divide, which has to do with worldview presuppositions than denominational distinctives.

              It would be inspirational, though perhaps off topic for the blog, let alone the thread, to share our many experiences of deep fellowship with those of other traditions.

              One of my own favourite experiences was “reaching out” a little sniffily to a local Catholic I knew as a patient (who later became a priest) because we Baptists were hosting a concert by a singer who was a Catholic.

              He immediately volunteered to put a poster in every church in his diocese, asked me if I’d yet been to hear Billy Graham (who was in the country – I hadn’t!) and said he was off to hear Luis Palau that weekend.

              We shared deep fellowship when his wife died suddenly. And why wouldn’t we? At her funeral, I declined, on theological grounds, to participate in the Mass – but was pleasantly surprised to hear John Wesley hymns being sung.

          • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

            drnmud

            I’m afraid your comments are unconstructive, and the 71 posts (+ this) on this thread have largely been concerned not with the subject of the thread, but with people trying to point out to you that you are mistaken about the positions of individuals both here and in the public domain, the state of the Church in the US and worldwide, etc, etc.

            You have simply contradicted every one of them. In defending (with teeth bared) the “tradition of the Church” you have comprehensively denied that the Church, in any of its actual forms, has remained faithful to that tradition, and that any actual examples of those traditions posting here – who cover the field from Anabaptist to Greek Orthodox – are sincere in their regard for it.

            And you’ve done that entirely on the basis of your own private opinion of what that tradition is, from outside any of them.

            That is not only unconstructive, but dismissive of all the good people who post here, or who read without posting. And personally, it gets in the way of the discussion of the ideas generated in the original posts.

            Since you’ve ignored all warnings to tone it down, and brotherly advice as to how to grow in the faith, the time has come to exclude you from the site. Sorry about that, but, like the uncannily similar Cath Olic, you have yourself to blame.

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        “Yep, you are still being captious.”

        That’s a matter of opinion.
        But I think I’m definitely being cogent.
        You attempted to undercut my position by saying that I ‘owned the authority of no definable Christian tradition.’ I’m questioning the validity of your undercut by questioning the worth of owning the authority of a definable Christian tradition given that there are many different definable Christian traditions.

        “It’s apparent that you want to learn by *arguing* rather than by *reading*. You want *me* to do your reading and digesting work for you, so that you can then argue about (or, I should say, argue against) what I present.”

        It’s just my way, currently. And it may be a very efficient way. You make arguments, the result of your distillation of all the reading and digesting and working through far more material than I’ve ever seen. I respond, often with counter-arguments. You respond by dismissing my counter-argument on the basis that I haven’t read and digested and worked through all the material you have. When and if you do present an example of this supporting material, I show why I find it uncompelling. In other words, I take issue with your distilled result, and with the ingredients of your concoction.
        I save a lot of time and effort.

        “You have been holding forth, to the tune of thousands of words, on the differences between tradition and reading the Bible for oneself, without having read even the most basic works on that subject, whether by Calvin, by Luther, by Roman writers, or by anyone else. If you aren’t interested enough in the subject you are arguing about to have taken the time to inform yourself about it, I have no intention of being your unpaid research assistant.”

        I would never dream of asking you to be my unpaid research assistant.
        However, I would be so bold as to ask you again for that “one prime example” regarding Calvin.
        Just one.

        “Yep, you are still being captious… your arguments are abstract and sophomore-speculative, showing no insider’s experience or perception.”

        I’m sorry you feel that way.

        • Justin K says:

          This has gone far afield into other subjects now, but if have the patience to work through the original issues raised, a book that I found informative is “Reason, Science, & Faith” by Roger Forster and Paul Marston. The bulk of it is available on google books to read for free. The history of interpretation sections are particularly informative, as they start with early Jewish and Christian exegesis of Genesis 1 to 3 and then go through to the Middle Ages, the Reformers, and early Evangelicals.

          • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

            Thanks for the heads-up, Justin. Hooray for Google Books (though I’m not sure if the authors might not prefer to sell copies!)

            I heard Roger Forster speak many times at conferences in the 80s and early 90s, and liked his broad vision even when I disagreed with some of his conclusions. Good to know his work reaches as far as your neck of the woods.

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