When dealing with creationists…

I wouldn’t begin with scientific arguments. I’d start with the biblical text and with Christian interpreters of the past.

Listen to the words of Origen (185–254):

Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the sun and moon and stars? And that the first day, if we may so call it, was even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to believe that god, after the manner of a farmer, “planted a paradise eastward in Eden,” and set in it a visible and palpable “tree of life,” of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life; and again that one could partake of “good and evil” by masticating the fruit from the tree of that name? And when God is said to “walk in the paradise in the cool of day” and Adam to hid himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not though actual event.

– Origen, On First Principles, ed. by G. W. Butterworth (New York, Harper and Row, 1966), p. 288

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Reading in the Economy of Grace

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Much of John Webster’s Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch has been ridiculously dense for me to read through.  I might yet actually write something about what I’m reading, but I’ve found this chapter “Reading in the Economy of Grace” easier to read and beneficial.

In discussing the creaturely act of reading Holy Scripture (a.k.a. the Bible), Webster says:

We do not read well; and we do not read well, not only because of technical incompetence, cultural distance from the substance of the text or lack of readerly sophistication but also and most of all because in reading Scripture we are addressed by that which runs clean counter to our will.  Reading Scripture is thus a moral matter; it requires that we become certain kinds of readers, whose reading is take up into the history of reconciliation.  The separation of reason from virtue in modernity has made this acutely difficult for us to grasp.
Nevertheless, a Christian theological anthropology will envisage the act of reading Scripture as an instance of the fundamental patter of all Christian existence, which is dying and rising with Jesus Christ through the purging and quickening power of the Holy Spirit.  Reading Scripture is thus best understood as an aspect of mortification and vivification: to read Scripture is to be slain and made alive. And because of this, the rectitude of the will, its conformity to the matter of the gospel, is crucial, so that reading can only occur as a kind of brokenness, a relinquishment of willed mastery of the text, and through exegetical reason’s guidance towards that encounter with God of which the text is an instrument.

p. 87-88

“One ironic example is our talk of Scripture as ‘the Word of God’ … The scriptural word for Scripture is Scripture.”

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James Barr’s Fundamentalism contains its misapprehensions about evangelicalism but also its penetrating insights, and one of the latter is this criticism, that for evangelicalism the Bible often has the form of authority but not the reality.  Doctrinally we are committed to a theology of the Word, but precisely that commitment can hinder us from actually being a people of the Word, because the fact that we accept that theoretical commitment provides us with a false sense of security, as if it guaranteed a real commitment to scripture.  The result is that it does the opposite.  We love to tag texts onto things, as if that made them biblical.  One ironic example is our talk of Scripture as “the Word of God”; in Scripture, phrases such as “the word of God” or “the word of truth” are not used to refer to Scripture.  The scriptural word for Scripture is Scripture.

John Goldingay, Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation, pp. 104-105.

Better thinking

After watching a splendid sermon entitled “Anti-Intellectual” by Michael Krause, in Southridge Community Church’s UnChristian series, there were many things I agreed with and was intrigued by.

One such thing was a quote (turns out, so says the internet, that it’s rather popular… I’ve never heard it) by St. Augustine from his “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” written in 408 AD. (His meaning of the word literal is different than what you’re thinking):

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens and the other elements of the world, the motion and orbit[s]… about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such and embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

Now, there’s probably a lot of things I could follow up with after this quote, but I think it’s rather obvious that since the 5th century there have been plenty christians who’ve done such disgraceful and dangerous things.  Least of these things would be the Kirk Cameron Banana video.

I’m just going to keep things simple and in thought with the sermon.  I apologize if these things are rather redundant.

  • Scriptures are not to be treated as science textbooks.  Therefore, don’t give the creation story in Genesis 1 a timeline of 7 “earth?” days (or a timeline at all – St. Augustine would say it all happened at once).  Giving it such a timeline is similar to agreeing with the Sun rotating around the Earth as written in the book of Ecclesiastes.  On this topic Galileo says:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

  • The primary role of scripture is to describe the redemption of the universe through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through the spirit filled community of the Church.
  • To in-errants, theologically, the age of the Earth is a matter of indifference.
  • In reading Genesis 1, one must engage with the history of the ancient world – especially the text of the creation myths of other cultures, engage with systematic interpretation of the genre of literature that Genesis 1 is, and engage with all that modern science has validated.

Nearing Michael’s conclusion he states that Genesis 1 both is and is not history, its definitely not science, and is primarily theology.  Disagree with this because of better thinking, not less thinking.