On Peter Enns

Many have noted by now that Enns has been suspended from teaching at WTS, effective May 23. My thoughts on the matter are recorded here. Gary Johnson’s post is here. Few have commented, however, on the most recent development. One who has (and with whom I whole-heartedly agree), is Jim Cassidy. Update: see now Scott Clark’s extremely compassionate and measured thoughts. I have little to add to his excellent comments, except to say this. I am by no means dancing in glee, delighted, or in any other way gloating. It is a sad day for Westminster, despite the fact that it was the right decision. I am praying earnestly for Pete that the Lord will sustain him in this time of trial, and that the Lord will lead him to more solid views on Scripture. I echo Jim’s comments on the fact that critics of Pete are not trying to duck the tough questions. Rather, the issue is how we answer these questions.

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441 Comments

  1. GLW Johnson said,

    March 28, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Lane
    I echo Jim Cassidy’s sentiments.Pete and I were students in the mid-80’s at WTS. He has many fine qualities-and his views would fit nicely into alot of other seminaries-like Biblical seminary just up the road in Hatfield ( where both Steve Taylor and Sam Logan are now)-that are not like WTS with its confessional identity and roots in the Old Princeton tradition. I personally hope that others who share Enns views at WTS take this as a clear message and seek positions elsewhere.

  2. E.C.Hock said,

    March 28, 2008 at 11:58 am

    As noted above in the previous post, where its says, “others who share Enns views” there is pending news. From what has been recently conveyed by students at WTS Philly, the word is out that two other WTS professors have in fact prepared their own resignations based upon what finally happens with Enns. Names were mentioned as the most likely men, but I need not enter them here. So it appears there is more to come from this matter.

  3. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    March 28, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I couldn’t say it better than what has been already said by Dr. Clark, Rev. Johnson, Mr. Cassidy, and GreenBaggins. Dr. Enns has opened my eyes to the deep possibilities of Biblical scholarship, and even today I owe many of my own Biblical studies to his guidance while I was a student. Even thought I cannot agree with some of his exegetical viewpoints as I survey other Reformed BT scholars, but as a whole I will always cherish him as a Christian scholar, a friend, and a fellow brother in Christ.

    Hopefully it would not come down to the Board having to “terminate” Dr. Enns, but Dr. Enns would leave gracefully and lovingly. I believe this is the best for both Dr. Enns and the Seminary (and for the students.)

  4. thomasgoodwin said,

    March 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Gary, I didn’t know big Sam was at (post-)biblical Seminary … that is quite a jump, in my opinion. But, having spoken with him in South Africa, I am not at all surprised.

  5. anneivy said,

    March 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Dr. Clark’s comments were stellar….simply stellar. And applicable to us all in many situations in not only church, but work and even family.

    It’s sad how rarely we consider the possibility that the person from whom we’re demanding an explanation or action – and believe me, I’M a huge offender in this regard! – might be saying nothing because he or she cannot in conscience say anything. They’ve put their hand over their mouths, as Scripture puts it.

    That which ought to be the possibility that occurs to us first, occurs to us last, assuming it occurs at all.

    Excellent comments. Thanks for pointing me to them, Lane.

    And I’m praying for all concerned at WTS/P.

  6. Tim Harris said,

    March 28, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    A concern I have in all this is that the Board seems to have hung everything on “the book.” The effect will simply be to scare professors of a certain viewpoint from expressing their views in print.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    March 28, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Tim, the book is the problem. And, if by “certain viewpoint,” you mean someone who is not confessional, then he shouldn’t be at the school.

  8. CP said,

    March 28, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Tim I can understand that you might think that everything was hung on ‘the book’ but it is my understanding that there were over 100 pages of material submitted to the Board by the President. There have also been many many papers produced by the Faculty on both sides of the issue.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 28, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    CP, thanks for your comment. Who are you? Your comment reminds me of Scott Clark’s remarks about students being much too quick to rush to judgment on one side or the other without having access to all the facts. I know that there is at least one 200 page document floating around.

  10. Tim Harris said,

    March 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Well, I based my remark on the communique published by the Board as given by Jim Cassidy at the link in the post above; which says, in part,

    “Thank you very much for your prayers for the special meeting of the Board of Trustees that was held on March 26 to address the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took the following action by decisive vote…”

    GreenBaggins (#7) — I disagree that the book is “the problem” if by that you mean that if the book didn’t exist there would be no problem. The same content of the book has been taught to wave after wave of students for many years. Conversely, non-confessional teachers that don’t write books on the subject tend to fly under the radar.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    March 28, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Tim, it is only fair for the board to phrase itself in a way that indicates the main spark of the controversy, which everyone agrees is the book. However, as many have pointed out by now, the book is not the only basis of evidence on which the board has made its decision. If the board had mentioned such evidence, then it would be awkward, since that evidence is probably not going (or supposed!) to see the light of day.

  12. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Having read Enns’ book, I would say the problem he and others like him perceive (myself included) isn’t really that their critics have been ducking the issues. He may occasionally seem to characterize it in that way in his book, but I think he would agree that’s not really what he means.

    Its that the classical, inerrantist, answers their critics have offered for those issues are, in our view, bogus. There is a portion of the Christian community, Reformed and otherwise, which cannot find those rationalizations convincing. Again, myself included. For us, Enns’ book is very welcome. And the idea that he and fellow teachers would be “housecleaned” for it is very sad. At least at first.

    But upon further reflection, if the hardline Reformed tradition cannot make room for softer views on the nature of scripture like Enns’ then I agree it is best for him and others like him to leave. They may just find the freedom of a broader view refreshing.

  13. Andrew Webb said,

    March 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks Scott for making what I think was possibly the most helpful comment yet in this dialogue. No matter how we spin it, this is once again simply the confrontation between the broad and the narrow, the liberal and the conservative, the puritan and the latitudinarian. Kudos for calling it like it is.

    Nothing new here.

  14. David Gadbois said,

    March 28, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I think I’d find orthodox teaching to be refreshing at this point.

    And, please, I’ve heard enough about those teachers poisoning the flock and leading seminarians astray being “nice” or being a “gentleman.” Guh.

  15. March 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Scott, RE #12,

    Softer view of Scripture? I don’t see Jesus, the apostles, gospel writers, or Paul having a “softer view on the nature of Scripture.” They freely quote Scripture, even from the cross in Jesus’ case, taking it to be inerrant in every case, even to the point of the singular “seed” in Paul’s case. Are the answers they offered bugus?

    Of course, here are ample Scriptural examples of those who had a “softer view of the nature of Scripture.” Saul, Ahab, Jezebel, the 400 prophets of Baal, Herod, Judas, etc., etc. I don’t find their direction or example worthy of emulation. However, they did find the freedom of a broader view refreshing…for a time.

    So I guess the real question is, where do you draw the line and who gets to decide? Enns? You? NT Wright? A tiny group of Federal Visionists? Or the collective wisdom of the Reformed fathers and Westminster Divines who didn’t draw the line but recognized and accepted the line that God has drawn.

  16. Joel St. Clair said,

    March 29, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I found the R. Scott Clark link very helpful.

    Re: 15

    Is that type of grandiloquent post accurate or helpful? It reads something like: join the Reformed fathers and be like Jesus, anything “softer” [left undefined - but I guess short of a modern inerrantist view] and be like Judas.

  17. J.R. Polk said,

    March 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Re: 16

    I think Bob’s post was right on target. In light of threads like this one and those on the Federal Vision, I think he asked an extremely important question; “Where do you draw the line?” When various “pioneers” who at one time signed on to uphold and defend the Westminter Standards begin to chip away at them in order to make room for their own peculiar views, you set up a situation envisioned by the title of a popular blog — creed or chaos.

    This past week I sat before the session on which I served and put my money where my mouth is. Their loose view of certain aspects of our standards caused me to always be the odd man out and very frustated to boot — so I resigned. Men like Dr. Enns are “free” to do what they want — somewhere else. I choose creed over chaos.

  18. Joel St. Clair said,

    March 29, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Re: 17

    I will pray for your transition and respect your courage. I agree with your post and found nothing objectionable. My previous post was directed toward the fashion in which the line is drawn – not whether a line needed to be drawn in Enns’ case.

    But I disagree that the line drawn between WTS/Enns is analagous to a line separating Jesus/Judas; Paul/400 prophets of Baal; [Peter]/Herod; [John]/Jezebel.

  19. E.C. Hock said,

    March 29, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    RE: reformed (#15) says, Where do we draw the line? Well, if we hold to Scripture’s perspecuity, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 draws the line for us. Luke 24:25-27, 44-45 draws the line for us, as do a host of other passages.

    How are these passages represented in a “softer view,” I cannot say precisely. I am not sure what Scott means when he speaks of a “softer view of Scripture”, or what Enns’ may mean by this language. Maybe it means how authority is conveyed through humanity opposed to the nature of authority itself. Perhaps “softer” pertains to the question of truth clothed in the weakness of the incarnation, or how scriptural authority might be defined (or re-defined) in an incarnational sense (i.e., not the Word over flesh, but the Word as flesh). In another way, when Paul conveys his apostolic authority (in preaching and writing) as “my power made perfect through weakness” (2 Cor. 12), was he reflecting in his canonical office what scripture reflects in its canonical authority? Is that the role of humanity with Divinity? I do not presume. As I read Bromiley’s take on Barth. I wonder if these are the kind of dynamics Barth was working with, though more radicalized, when he saw inspiration and biblical history through the incarnation.

    But aside from that, as we see differences arise in Enns’ view, let’s be careful not to impugn him (and them) with damning categories and mud-slinging anti-scripture rhetoric like “bogus”, “Jezebel”, “Judas”, and the like, as if we are talking about one acting out of deceit and wickedness to undermine WTS. A church can have heretical elements within its domain yet still remain a true church. So too, a seminary more or less. though one ought not to sanction it, but assess it, when discerned. But there is no place for uncharitable words, however one may envision or imagine some slippery slope. I do not think that is how the review Board at WTS is approaching their assessment, so neither should we.

  20. Scott said,

    March 29, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Mr Polk,

    Sorry to hear about the circumstances leading to your resignation.

    Please remember, your office is perpetual.

    Those who serve well are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).

    We need you.

    God’s richest blessing upon you and thank you for all you have done.

  21. Kent Sparks said,

    March 29, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    In his Genesis commentary, Calvin clearly said that the cosmology of Genesis was not correct; it presented the cosmos “as the unlearned perceive it to be.” “There’s no water above the heavens,” he said, “and we all know it.” Why the error? God–the inerrant God–accommodated the errant views of human beings. This isn’t the only place where Calvin (or many church fathers) saw this pattern at work in Scripture.

    WTS will do what it will do. But for my own part, and in the opinion of many others, the present course of events is an intellectual disaster. There are thousands of problems and contradictions in the Bible. Everyone who’s not an evangelical can see that, and many evangelicals see it as well. Judas may have hung himself before the priests bought the field of blood, or Judas may have fallen headling in the “field of blood” that he bought for himself. But it’s plain silly to say that both are true. Grow up.

    If the Westminster Confession doesn’t allow for the genuine diversity in Scripture, then it’s wrong … and while building a seminary around it is possible, it would be a big mistake. On the other hand, I’d say that Calvin ought to be allowed to teach at Westminster. And if that’s right, then the Westminster Confession would allow for accommodated errors in the Bible.

    But wait … that would mean that Peter Enns can stay too.

    And then there’s the all important question: How can the WTS board judge that Enns’s views are outside of the doctrinal boundaries when a clear majority of the theologically trained Presbyterian faculty believe that he’s in? You must have one confused faculty? Or a very confused board? Which is it?

  22. Paul Seely said,

    March 30, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Jim Cassidy seems to be unaware of how many hard questions Old Princeton/Westminster has not answered. The three questions I posed in response to Gary Johnson’s post (#123 and ff.) are just a tiny sample. Here is another sample. Davis Young, E.J. Young’s son, a trained geologist, sat down a few years ago with Meredith Kline and sincerely asked him how the story of Adam, who is culturally Neolithic, could be harmonized with the scientific evidence that genuine humans existed tens of thousands of years before the Neolithic period (see http://www.asa3.org/aSA/resources/CSRYoung.html). Kline literally had no answer whatsoever.

    In order to make the doctrine of a scientifically inerrant Bible stand up, Old Princeton/Westminster have given us such answers as the Framework hypothesis, day-age concordism, and the local Flood. But, are these the real meanings of the biblical text or creative impositions upon the text ? Or if the stories are real history, how can we believe against all of the scientific evidence the world was created in the space of six days or that a Flood less than 10,000 years ago destroyed all but eight humans?

    Enns may not have all the right answers, but WTS is in deep need of his absolute honesty. Without him (and the others who may resign) who will answer the hard questions? Who will even ask them?

  23. David Gray said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:54 am

    >Or if the stories are real history, how can we believe against all of the scientific evidence the world was created in the space of six days or that a Flood less than 10,000 years ago destroyed all but eight humans?

    We believe the eye witness account rather than somebody’s best guess based on limited circumstantial evidence?

  24. Darryl Hart said,

    March 30, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Paul Seely, without Enns, Calvin, Warfield, and other important voices in the Reformed tradition will ask the questions. The trouble is whether people will read, let alone try to understand, their answers. Believe it or not, Calvin and Old Princeton were pretty careful not to equate inerrancy with a scientific understanding of the cosmos. That is why Calvin developed the idea of accommodation, and why Warfield appealed to concursus. (It is also why Warfield, right or wrong, believed he was along with Calvin an evolutionist.) Both accommodation and concursus stemmed from an effort to do what Enns does — account for the messiness (his word) of Scripture. Unfortunatly, Enns doesn’t deal much with accommodation or with concursus. In fact, his book is fairly light on the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and does not interact with WCF ch. 1, one of the best statements on Scripture from the era of Reformed scholasticism. It seems to me that Enns was reacting against the straw man of a Harold Lindsell version of inerrancy, one that lacked the nuance of Old Princeton or the Westminster Divines. (Enns needs more theology and less biblical scholarship.)

    So I become annoyed with Enns’ supporters claiming all the honesty is on his side when in fact there is some denial of the riches of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture.

    At the same time, what is also missed by Enns’ supporters is his obligation as a seminary professor training pastor to give answers, not simply to raise questions. In fact, Enns regards the theological enterprise as one that is always asking, never answering. It is a conversation. It is provisional. It listens in a Rodney King like way, saying “can’t we all get along?” According to Enns, “Because our theologies are necessarily limited and provisional, the church today must be open to listening to how Christians from other cultures read Scripture and live it out in their daily lives. . . . To put is more positively, the Bible sets trajectories, not rules, for a good many issues that confront the church. . . . There do not seem to be any clear rules or guidelines to prevent us from taking this process too far. But again, this is why the metaphor of journey or pilgrimage is so appealing. . . . We should continue the journey, . . . not because we are sure of our own footing, but because we have faith in God who placed us on this journey to begin with.” (169, 170, 171)

    Much deeper than the doctrine of Scriputre in Enns’ book is the issue of theology, creeds and confessions more generally. Enns may not realize it, but his language of provisionality, conversation, and situatedness is very similar to the arguments made by signers of the Auburn Affirmation (1923) against the Princeton doctrine of inerrancy. What the Auburn Affirmation did was essentially to deny a confessional basis for the Presbyterian Church. I see a similar move in Enns. We can’t be content with WCF because nothing is final, everything is provisional, and that creed was so yesterday (it was part of the journey 400 years ago). But again, Enns may not understand the similarities between his views and that of liberal Presbyterians because of a lack of awarness of the history of Reformed Protestantism. (Enns needs to read more history and less biblical scholarship.)

    In any case, aside from Enns’ doctrine of Scripture (more accurately, questions about Scripture), Enns’ doctrine of doctrine is even more troubling. If it is honest for Enns to raise questions about inerrancy, it is also honest to raise questions Enns’ theology.

  25. GLW Johnson said,

    March 30, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Hart has struck a nerve. It is distressing to me to see the doctrine of inerrancy as formulated by Warfield dump unceremoniously overboard with the views of other zealous proponents of inerrancy-like Lindsell and Norman Giesler. Even more troubling is that the present crisis over inerrancy in the Evangelical world is being lead by those in the Reformed camp who are linked with Westminster. Darryl-I must demur however with your labelling BBW a ‘evolutionist’ he never once referred to himself as one and given his strong insistance on the actual historicity of Adam and the Fall-it is impossible to fit him into any form of ‘Darwinian evolution’.

  26. March 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    [...] are a few things that must be clarified regarding the situation. Some blogs have overstated the actual facts of the situation. Clarity and truth must be valued during all [...]

  27. RBerman said,

    March 30, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Paul Seely, thank you for showing us, with your link to Young’s work, what happens under liberal premeses. First, Genesis 1-2 gets tossed. Then Genesis 3. Then Genesis 4. Before long, he’s up through Genesis 11. Davis (and, I assume you as well) accepts the prevailing secular interpretations of carbon dating, mitochondrial DNA, and paleoanthropology as true, then finds them irreconcilable with Scripture, and then declares science the winner of the “true history” label and Scripture the loser. He concludes that Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but simply representatives chosen by God from the many humans alive 10,000 years ago. He then recognizes that the doctrine of original sin, as normally understood, cannot survive this conclusion.

    Haven’t we been this way before? Have we learned nothing from the mistakes of the mainline churches 100 years ago, and what’s been happening in the CRC for the last 20-30 years?

  28. Tim Harris said,

    March 30, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Kent Sparks (#21) I must challenge your assertion that “Calvin clearly said that the cosmology of Genesis was not correct.” On the contrary, he denies that water in outer space (as we would say today) is what Gen 1 is talking about. Thus, it is not “the cosmology of Genesis” according to Calvin. And the expression “as the unlearned perceive it to be” is what we call “phenomenal language.”

    Calvin concludes that the waters above the firmament refers to the clouds. Those that have the Baker 22 vol set can find this in Vol 1, p. 80, around the middle third of the page.

  29. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    If anyone is going to take scripture wholly inerrantly, he needs to be consistent and believe there is a sea above the dome of the sky and another one underneath the land – that these seas have existed since the second day of creation, and that they continue to exist to this day and beyond, as scripture alludes to repeatedly (Gen 2:6-7, Gen 7:11, Ps 148:4-6, etc). For those of us who cannot go so far, and for whom classically conservative inerrantist answers to such issues do not work, the work of Enns and people like him is most helpful.

    Please recognize, those of you who are concerned about how their work might undermine the faith of others, that there are those of us whose faith is built-up by that same work. For example, if I thought I had to believe that Judas hung himself from a tree which conveniently overdangled a cliff, the rope then snapping, thus “reconciling” his death accounts in Matthew and Acts (though not really, since this rationalization now means that by leaving out germane facts both Matthew and Acts got it wrong – besides which it fails to address the accounts of how the field was acquired and named) – well if I had to believe that, my faith would be sorely tested. This is not merely hypothetical – just read the testimony of Bart Ehrman and people like him.

    Romans 14 would seem to suggest to you that we “weaker brothers” be permitted Enns and people like him even though you may not need them. (And likewise Romans 14 when read in the inverse direction would advise us to tolerate you – but it is not Enns driving out the seminary’s leadership here, is it.)

  30. J.R. Polk said,

    March 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    # 21 Kent Sparks

    Judas may have hung himself before the priests bought the field of blood, or Judas may have fallen headling in the “field of blood” that he bought for himself. But it’s plain silly to say that both are true. Grow up.

    This is a wonderful example of what “plain silly” truly is. There’s nothing really all that difficult to reconcile between Matthew and Acts on Judas unless you have such a heavy axe to grind that reconciliation is simply not permitted in your world.

    Notice how the following explanation is entirely plausible and doesn’t require one to lament over, and subscribe to, the “Scripture is messy theory,” concluding that everyone just got it wrong up until now.

    Kistemaker and Hendriksen on Acts 1:18

    Before Luke continues Peter’s speech proving that Scripture had to be fulfilled “through the mouth of David concerning Judas” (v. 16), he gives an explanatory note about Judas’s death. He provides information that is supplementary and not contradictory to what Matthew writes about Judas’s demise (Matt. 27:3–10). Matthew records that Judas, after he returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, hanged himself. The chief priests decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field for the burial of foreigners.

    In all abbreviated account, Luke portrays Judas as the buyer of this field. Because the high priests considered the reward Judas had received to be blood money, they refused to accept the thirty silver coins. These belonged to Judas. Indirectly, then, Judas purchased the potter’s field. This is what Luke has in mind when he writes, “This man bought a field with the reward money he got for his wickedness.”

    “Falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines spilled out.” Even though Luke omits the information that Judas hanged himself (Matt. 27:5), we infer that Judas’s falling down headlong resulted from being suspended. The rope either broke due to the sudden stress caused by a falling body or eventually was cut by someone. The possibility is not remote that, while falling, Judas’s body struck a sharp object that caused it to burst open. We also infer that Judas died on the field which the chief priests bought. Luke indicates that the residents of Jerusalem heard about Judas’s gruesome death and named the field “in their own language Akeldama,” which means “field of blood.” From Matthew’s point of view, the blood that was spilled belonged to Jesus. For that reason, the high priests called the thirty silver coins “blood money” (Matt. 27:6). But notice that whereas Matthew writes for a Jewish audience, Luke addresses Gentile Christians. Hence, the accounts of Matthew and Luke are not at variance.35 Matthew and Luke are like two news reporters describing an event from different perspectives for different audiences.

    Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. 1953-2001. Vol. 17: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Accompanying biblical text is author’s translation. New Testament Commentary . Baker Book House: Grand Rapids

  31. Bret McAtee said,

    March 30, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    OK… let’s play,

    “Scripture has errors”

    First contestant is S. Jorgenson

    Scott hails from Waverly, Colorado where he drives truck for a Miller Lite Beer Distributor. He has been married for 13 years and his children, Sonny, and Lucy attend The Righteous Heart Parochial school.

    Now, Scott, your first big question on

    “Scripture Has Errors”

    Is,

    If Scripture Has Errors, who gets to determine what God really said from what God didn’t really say?

    Remember, Scott the answer, ‘it’s self-evident’ is not allowed.

  32. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 30, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Interesting. Regarding the Kistemaker and Hendriksen rationalization regarding Judas’ death and the field, this is exactly the sort of thing that doesn’t work for me.

    First, the harmonization as a whole appears nowhere in scripture; rather it is a unification of two parts each of which evinces no knowledge of the other or the postulated whole. Now, given two errant accounts, one of which says A and the other of which says B, it is almost always possible to postulate A+B and think one has defended the idea they are inerrant. Present me with two secular historians contradicting one another on some matter, for example, and I will happily be able to harmonize them even if we know from other sources that at least one of them is simply wrong.

    Such harmonization is just an exercise in creative exposition and proves nothing. It doesn’t even really defend inerrancy in that it renders at least one account, and often both, incomplete in germane facts, and thus misleading and incorrect. Acts suggests Judas died by a fall after purchasing the field for himself; if we didn’t have the Matthew account, no one would think otherwise, because it is the plain meaning of the text in Acts. Even if the harmonization is correct, by missing the larger picture about the events surrounding Judas’ death I don’t see how Acts can be considered inerrant in this.

    For example, if I were to write simply that John F Kennedy died while in surgery, and say nothing more on the matter, I would be errant. Why? Simply because (while technically true) such a statement leaves out the more germane fact of the shooting, while letting stand alone the less germane fact of the the attempted surgery, thus magnifying it and consequently giving a basic and fundamental misimpression about JFK’s death. To take up Kistemaker’s and Hendriksen’s analogy, if two news reporters came away with the accounts of Matthew and Acts, we would be justified in calling at least one of them simply wrong, even if the harmonization is true.

    Not to mention that the explanation of the purchase of the field which Kistemaker and Hendriksen give falls flat with me. If I give $500 to a ministry for feeding the poor, and they spend it on a big-screen TV, can it inerrantly be said that I bought a big-screen TV? Kistemaker and Hendriksen would seem to think so: after all, I gave the money, and the ministry took that money which was mine and used it on the TV even though that was not my intent. Or if I am robbed of $500 and the thief uses it to by drugs, can it be said that I bought $500 of drugs? Kistemaker and Hendriksen would seem to think so: after all, it was not the thief’s money, but mine that was used for the purchase. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that again, if we admit this kind of reasoning in defense of inerrancy, then all sorts of known-errant texts can be justified as inerrant. Believe me, the Mormons do it all the time.

    It makes more sense to me to simply allow each text to stand on its own, and look for what the tension between them might tell us about the nature of scripture, rather than explain it away in ways that end up making each account incomplete and incorrect. I’m glad Enns has done this.

  33. Darryl Hart said,

    March 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Gary: Warfield did say that at one point in his life he was an “evolutionist of the purest water” (quoted in Warfield, Evolution, Science and Scripture, eds., Noll and Livingstone). Don’t you see how brilliant this is? It shows that a doctrine of inerrancy built on the Westminster Standards is much more accommodating, flexible and attuned to the messiness of Scripture than either Lindsell or Enns allows. You can still believe the Bible is inerrant and do justice to its humanity.

  34. E.C. Hock said,

    March 30, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Scott, I think you just gave us (above) an example of what you meant earlier by a “softer view of the nature of scripture,” yes? That is, let tensions between passages remain as presented and not revert to creative reconstructions that harmonize, but cannot claim the mantle of inerrancy since they are of human design. Thus, the classical doctrine of inerrancy cannot be said to be consistent throughout the entire text, nor can it avoid the claim of having been patched together by harmonizations. Yet, given our ignorance of precise happenings, rather than deny inerrancy altogether, we adopt a softer view of inerrancy. Is this getting close to what you mean?

  35. J.R. Polk said,

    March 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Scott J. # 30

    Interesting. Regarding the Kistemaker and Hendriksen rationalization regarding Judas’ death and the field, this is exactly the sort of thing that doesn’t work for me.

    What’s even more interesting Scott, is your very own long, twisting and turning rationalization of the impossibility of Bible reconciliation and harmonization. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black — don’t ya think?

    Honestly, what you’ve presented doesn’t work for me because it goes to such great and unbelievable lengths, falling all over itself, to destroy a very easily understood and altogether plausible harmonization. The mental gymnastics required to believe your explanation is astounding.

    Hmmm . . . so tell me again why we should be happy about men like you teaching in our seminaries?

  36. E.C. Hock said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    J.R. #33 = Be careful about the need to distinquish statements so as to avoid misconceptions. especially on a blog format. Let us not begrudge Scott’s attempt to make sense of his argument, to explain and nuance intricate portions of text by examples and logic to highlight his point (though we disagree). Some harmonizations I have read by inerrantists in the past, out of the fundamentalist school, frankly do as much “twisting and turning rationalization” as any to reach their conclusions. Given the nature of this discussion, distinctions and clarifications by various analogies need to be made to grasp what each are saying. Otherwise, we start to talk past each other and resort to banner waving. Let’s take the time to respect what others are saying. even when they disagree with our position. So, Scott, if this is what Enns is getting at, by the examples you state above (#30), then that helps me discern more where the arguments and assessments of him reside.

  37. J.R. Polk said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    E.C. Hock #34

    You may play footsie with Scott J. if you so desire, but I know all too well what his mindset is all about and I reserve the right to call a spade a spade. I doubt that we are talking past each other in the least. There’s nothing new under the sun E.C.

  38. J.R. Polk said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Scott #20 & Joel #18

    Thanks for the kind words guys. Much appreciated.

  39. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 30, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    EC, yes, if by inerrancy we mean a high regard for scripture as generally trustworthy and primary (certainly a “softer” definition of inerrancy than many would have it), I see no reason to deny it. However modern theologically (very) conservative Protestants, from those in the SBC (famously) to those in the OPC and PCA, have stamped their definition of it pretty well into history, and so I’m not sure that redefining the term has much promise. I feel better off without it, adopting other terms instead, such as those I just used.

    JR, if your combative reception is any indication of what Enns faces, he may well be better off just leaving as I first said. Unwanted guests do best to leave. You seem to have a lot of anger about this kind of liberal slippery-slopism so-called, though in fact we simply disagree. But I understand that tolerance of disagreement is not something that very conservative Protestants can very often handle.

    Best regards to all of you.

  40. March 30, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    I, for one, am hoping someone here steps up and answers Scott’s argument. Though there isn’t anything “soft” about my view of Scripture (I hope), I did feel that JR’s response (#33) was more dismissive than it was helpful.

  41. Towne said,

    March 30, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Mr. Jorgenson (#37)

    If you are still with us, may I conclude from a quick scan of your small body
    of Amazon reviews, that you are a universalist? For example, you said:

    “Those conservatives who could most benefit from seeing the utter majesty and glory of God’s grace, which only universalism underscores,…”

  42. Tim Harris said,

    March 30, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I would define inerrancy as follows:

    1. The Bible says “P” (i.e. some sentence or passage in human language)
    2. “P” says P (P is the intended assertoric meaning of “P”)
    3. Therefore P (i.e. P is true)

    If what is contended is step 2, i.e. the hermeneutical question of determining the meaning, that is one thing. If it is (3), then it is no longer Christian.

    As such, inerrancy of the Word of God is an inescapable concept. If God could say “P” and P not be true, then there is no truth at all anywhere.

  43. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 30, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I would be curious to know how a God who would speak through an errant word could be considered truthful or trustworthy?

    There is a defective doctrine of God lurking behind the defective doctrine of Scripture evidenced by Enns.

  44. Kent Sparks said,

    March 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Tim:

    In response to your post #27:

    If I’ve understood you, correctly then I think you’re saying something like this: (1) Calvin was telling us that the Genesis cosmology was not a “water above the heavens” cosmology, and (2) that the “water above the heavens” cosmology was merely perceptual/phenomenological language, which didn’t actually indicate anything about an ancient belief that there was water in the heavens.

    Is this what you’re saying?

  45. Tim Harris said,

    March 30, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Kent (#42). Right. And (3) the perceptual language (re the firmament separating the waters above and below) references the clouds, and thus (4) this Day 2 narration posits acts and objects, like all the others in Gen 1, that have definite physical referents that can be known and are true.

    “We see that the clouds suspended in the air, which threaten to fall upon our heads, yet leave us space to breathe. They who deny that this is effected by the wonderful providence of God, are vainly inflated with the folly of their own minds. We know, indeed, that the rain is naturally produced; but the deluge sufficiently shows how speedily we might be overwhelmed by the bursting of the clouds, unless the cataracts of heaven were closed by the hand of God.” (p. 80, Baker edition).

  46. Kent Sparks said,

    March 30, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks, Tim:

    OK, I do understand you. But I also think that you’ve misunderstand Calvin. In my opinion, Calvin definitely thinks that (1) the ancient peoples perceived and believed that there were waters above the heavnes, and that (2) there were/are no such waters. They were wrong. This appears to be an error on God’s (and Moses’s) part, but it isn’t. This is because God (says Calvin) has accommodated the false views of the audience in his discourse.

    Calvin does make a perceptual argument, but not in the way that you take it. You seem to be saying something like, “When we say that the sun is rising, that’s perceptual language and not an actual claim about the cosmos.” Now you’d be right about that for the perception of modern people who know that the earth is turning on its axis, but when ancient peoples said, “The sun is rising,” they not only perceived it but also believed it. They had the relative motion right, but misunderstand its nature. Calvin is making the same claim for the ancient regarding “the waters above.” They perceived them, but were wrong about it.

    The whole point of accommodation is to explain why there are errant views in the Bible of an inerrant God. If you don’t belive such errors exist, then you don’t need accommodation. You simply say: “Everything in the text is exactly right.” But Calvin knew better and so tried to provide an explanation.

  47. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 30, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    How do you know if God is inerrant if the Bible he inspired is errant?

  48. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    “For example, if I were to write simply that John F Kennedy died while in surgery, and say nothing more on the matter, I would be errant. Why? Simply because (while technically true) such a statement leaves out the more germane fact of the shooting, while letting stand alone the less germane fact of the the attempted surgery, thus magnifying it and consequently giving a basic and fundamental misimpression about JFK’s death.”

    Not so

    You’re ignoring audience. Maybe you’re addressing some surgeons who think they can save everyone with their expertise, and the death in the surgery is the salient point.

    You’re ignoring milieu too, where Luke may very well expect that many people already know the Matthew text, and his additions are to be understood in a complementary fashion, intentionally.

  49. Kent Sparks said,

    March 30, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Let’s not lose sight of my first point: Calvin believed that God accommodates human error in Scripture. So, if the question you raise is a problem for my views, then its also a problem for Calvin.

    But, that said, I’d point out that one doesn’t need inerrancy to acquire knowledge. We get knowledge from lots of books that are not inerrant. So, even if the Bible reflects influences of accommodated human error, that doesn’t mean it fails to communicate to us. We communicate quite adequately with each other all of the time through errant discourses.

    Also, even if I were to give up my Christianity, I think I’d still judge that there’s one God and that he’s good and without error. The Bible has been around for only a small part of history, and even today is virtually unknown to much of humanity. If God’s left them without written confirmation of his inerrancy, then why should we demand that he provide it to us? In other words, I don’t need a written word from God to confirm his inerrancy in order to believe that he’s inerrant.

  50. Kent Sparks said,

    March 30, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Dear pduggie:

    I think that things are more complicated than in your example. Read the accounts of Judas’s death in Matt and Acts. Did Judas die by hanging himself (Matt), or did he die in a terrible fall (Acts)? Did the priests buy the “field of blood (Matt), or did Judas buy it (Acts)? Was the field named because it was bought with blood money (Matt), or because Judas died in it (Acts)? Sure, I can concoct all sorts of scenaios that harmonize these two stories, but they will look and feel very … well … concocted. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind a concocted solution if this were the only problem in the Bible. But it isn’t. There are hundreds of them, and all of them equally obvious contradictions.

    But let me be clear on one point: Calvin would never say that there are hundreds of human errors in Scripture. So far as I know, he only admitted a few. But his approach to those problems is in my view helpful for the many other problems that we face in Scripture.

  51. Bret McAtee said,

    March 30, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Kent Sparks said,

    But, that said, I’d point out that one doesn’t need inerrancy to acquire knowledge. We get knowledge from lots of books that are not inerrant. So, even if the Bible reflects influences of accommodated human error, that doesn’t mean it fails to communicate to us. We communicate quite adequately with each other all of the time through errant discourses.

    Hence, the Bible, being an errant book, is just like lots of other books that likewise are not errant. God can reveal Himself through any channel. We would still uniquely prize scripture because it is in Scripture we can encounter God?

    Second, the Bible is to us, what our conversation with each other is to us — that is a quite adequate means of communication filled with errant discourse.

    It is our responsibility to separate the errant discourse from the inerrant discourse — separating what God really said from what He really said but didn’t really mean since He was just accommodating human error. And this all the while realizing that our separating the errant from the inerrant is provisional and is only as good until somebody else who resides in a different cultural situated-ness decides to separate differently then we do.

    Ks

    Also, even if I were to give up my Christianity, I think I’d still judge that there’s one God and that he’s good and without error. The Bible has been around for only a small part of history, and even today is virtually unknown to much of humanity. If God’s left them without written confirmation of his inerrancy, then why should we demand that he provide it to us? In other words, I don’t need a written word from God to confirm his inerrancy in order to believe that he’s inerrant.

    That’s funny because if I gave up my Christianity I think I’d judge that if there was a god he must be the devil. I also think I’d be a Nietzsche disciple and so wouldn’t worry to much about objective categories of good or inerrant. I’d be to busy making it up as I go.

    I guess I’m to old to appreciate you hard po-mo guys.

  52. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 30, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I had been intending to leave it at that, but have been feeling obligated to answer questions and comments put to me for at least a while longer.

    To pduggie:

    “You’re ignoring audience. Maybe you’re addressing some surgeons who think they can save everyone with their expertise, and the death in the surgery is the salient point.”

    “Errant” does not mean “worthless, of no value for teaching.” Its not that black and white, in my view. To the audience of surgeons needing to hear that sometimes people do die in surgery, the statement that JFK died in surgery, with no further background or elaboration, is useful and true teaching. But that does not make its plain and obvious implication, that JFK’s death did not have anything else more remarkable about it, any less errant. To Jeff Waddington’s point, this is a good example of how something true and useful, from an intentionalist standpoint, can come from something not strictly true in a correspondence sense.

    “You’re ignoring milieu too, where Luke may very well expect that many people already know the Matthew text, and his additions are to be understood in a complementary fashion, intentionally.”

    Most scholars agree that Matthew and Luke/Acts are more-or-less contemporary in their authorship, but addressed to different communities (Jewish believers on the one hand, Gentile believers on the other). It seems fairly speculative to me to think that new Gentile believers would already know the Jewish Christian tradition to such a degree that Luke could assume it, without even mentioning it, when telling something so apparently different.

    To (Mr?) Towne:

    “If you are still with us, may I conclude from a quick scan of your small body
    of Amazon reviews, that you are a universalist?”

    I do believe Christian universalism (not religious pluralism, but that all are eventually saved through Jesus) is a live biblical option. However it is under-determined by the biblical data (though I do hope it to be true because of what it seems to me to mean about the glory and grace of God). Please note that it is my high regard for scripture that leads me to consider it a possibility; I don’t think exclusivist interpretations of scripture’s universalist passages work very well. Even if I subscribed fully to the modernist doctrine of biblical inerrancy, I don’t think my thoughts on universal salvation would be any different.

  53. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    March 31, 2008 at 2:02 am

    Interesting Mr. Sparks. While grammatically I guess you can argue that Calvin argues that the ancients were errant in their worldview, and Calvin needs to provide the right explanation (clouds, rain) to fix it to make it more scientifically sensible.

    However, it seems incredible to me that you give absolutely no credit to Moses and his worldview (or common sense). Remember, Genesis 1 wasn’t written at the time of Genesis 1, it was written way later at the time of Moses (and presumbly the sky above Moses has no water.) When Moses penned down the Creation account do you not think a lightbulb pop in his head about the waters in the sky? Then he looked up in the sky and see only clouds and blue color “sky?” The question is what prompts him to term Genesis the way he did, when he could of been asking the exact same question Calvin asks in the 16th century.

    Possible solutions:

    1) Moses is that dumb and all ancients were that dumb. I hope nobody here believes this (incredible how this point is so easily refuted in common English, but when you argue this point in academia language with 500+ pages and 20 pages of bibliography it is taken seriously by other “learned”.)

    2) Moses was “verbally inspired” by God to term it the way he did. Well, then we have a problem. It seems like it is not the ancients with an errant worldview here but God purposely injected an errant worldview into the ancients, when the ancients could easily look up in the sky and realize there are no waters.

    3) The “Framework View” answer (or others with similar arguments on “literary genre”)

    4) There really were waters in the sky when God provided the vision of Creation for Moses to write down. This one might seem like it’s very refutable (just look up in the sky), but the more I think about this the more I take this seriously. It’s like what Sherlock Holmes says: when you disgarded all the more logical answers as impossible, the last answer left, however improbable, must be the truth. We don’t know how the world has evolved in the spans of thousands of years (if not more, depending on your Creation view), and trust me when I say scientifically it is possible for water to exist in the sky.

    My point is the problem of “water in the sky” is not a modern problem, it is just a big problem for Moses, but clearly Moses did not see it as a problem and still recorded it the way he did. We must ask why before we dismissed it as “another pre-scientific errant worldview by the ancients”, Moses knows better.

  54. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 5:33 am

    What is the criteria or standard used to separate the erroneous from the true in Scripture?

  55. its.reed said,

    March 31, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Scott Jorgenson:

    I’m curious if you might tell me your current denominational home, background, etc. I’m not asking to set you for any barbs. Rather, I truly am curious as to how you got where you are in your convictions. Some sense of your background would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Reed DePace
    Minister, PCA

  56. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Dear Reformed Sinner:

    Again, let’s not lose sight of my initial point. You seem to admit that Calvin allowed for the accommodation of human error in Scripture, but then quickly propose a list of other solutions that deny any error. Notice, then, how you find it important to distance yourself from Calvin’s views. This is similar to what’s going on with Enns … he’s heading down Calvin’s path, while Lillback and the board are trying to get back to modern fundamentalism. Calvin was very radical in his day … I find it interesting that, so far as I can tell, his views don’t seem to fit the Westminster Confession as the WTS admin is interpreting it.

    As for your proposals to resolve the apparent error in Gen 1, I’m not in that game anymore. There are enough problems in my opinion to warrant putting FI (fundamentalist inerrancy) behind us while reappropriating the valuable insights of TI (traditional inerrancy, of Calvin and the fathers).

    By the way, it wasn’t dumb for the ancients to think that there was water above the heavens. But it is dumb if we think it. We must respect the intellectual context of all human beings, and should not treat it as blameworthy when erring human judgments were based on less complete information. On the other hand, we should admit that they err.

    Believe it or not, it’s not a sin for human to err.

  57. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Hi Jeff:

    “What is the criteria or standard used to separate the erroneous from the true in Scripture?”

    You already have the answer to this question. You already know how to read something and to make judgments about where it speaks rightly and where it reflects some manner of error.

    To go back to the Calvin examples, he understood that Genesis was right about God creating the cosmos but that, in describing this, God accommodated errant human viewpoints on cosmology. How did he notice the error? Because he lived in a day when scholars had already deduced that there were no waters above the heavens. Not that complicated, is it?

  58. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Not a sin to err? Really?

  59. Tim Harris said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Kent — there’s simply no evidence from his text that Calvin believed the ancients were in error about their view. He makes no reference to the ancients’ cosmological view (whether the Hebrews or others) at all in this pericope.

    His argument is a purely textual one. It could be laid out like this.

    1. The text appears to say that there is continuous water above and below.
    2. But we know this is not the case. We learn astronomy from astronomers.
    3. Therefore, the apparent meaning of the text must not be its actual meaning.
    4. Instead, it means the force that holds the clouds up.

    If anything, this passage is strong evidence that Calvin did not believe that God accommodated himself to human error. When a passage appears to contain error at first blush, he digs deeper until he finds the real meaning, which must be without error.

    Calvin’s view of accommodation had to do with human capacity and usage, not error — you can see both types of accommodation explained on p. 78, same edition.

  60. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:19 am

    So the criteria or standard for picking out truth from error or vice versa in the Bible is your mind. Hmm… Is your mind infallible?

  61. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:47 am

    So can we say that Jesus remained sinless while committing epistemological errors? If it is not sinful to err than this would seem to be a possibility. However, I would be curious to know how we determine that those passages that tell us Jesus was without sin are accurate or erroneous. In other words, what standard outside of our own minds guide us?

  62. J.R. Polk said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:56 am

    #49 Scott J.

    I do believe Christian universalism (not religious pluralism, but that all are eventually saved through Jesus) is a live biblical option. However it is under-determined by the biblical data (though I do hope it to be true because of what it seems to me to mean about the glory and grace of God).

    So now we get a glimpse into Mr. Jorgenson’s reason for his own combativeness and rejection of textual harmonization. He needs Scripture to be as full of holes as a block of Swiss cheese in order to make his universalism plausible. Like I said before Mr. Jorgenson, you dismiss everything I’ve said thus far as a mere rationalization couched in “combativeness,” and yet your very own reason for rejecting inerrancy, (seen very clearly in my quote of you above), is nothing less than a rationalization itself. Why the double standard? You don’t have to answer, I already know why.

  63. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 7:58 am

    I would like to make sure I completely understanding what Kent Sparks is driving at- are you disavowing the doctrine of inerrancy as formualted by Warfield and defended by Machen & co. ?
    Darryl- regarding the quote you cited , cf. my chapter in the book I edited on Warfield p.215, footnote 64. I address that in response to the accusations of the creationist group ‘Answers In Genesis’-BBW made that statement about himself as pre-college teenager!

  64. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 8:33 am

    GLW: What I’m describing is Calvin’s view; if that contradicts the inerrancy views of Warfield and Machen, then it contradicts them.

    Tim Harris: You’ve got your view of Calvin, and l have my view. That’s how it goes with interpretation.

    Response to Jeff:

    “So the criteria or standard for picking out truth from error or vice versa in the Bible is your mind. Hmm… Is your mind infallible?”

    -I’d not say “criteria.” I’d say the “faculty” for distinguishing truth from error is always our mind. Minds are infallible, of ourse, but there’s nothing you can do about that. This is why, even among fundamentalist inerrantists, one can find widely different views of what the Bible (or Cavlin, or science) says.

    “So can we say that Jesus remained sinless while committing epistemological errors? If it is not sinful to err than this would seem to be a possibility. However, I would be curious to know how we determine that those passages that tell us Jesus was without sin are accurate or erroneous. In other words, what standard outside of our own minds guide us?”

    -Sure. Is it a sin if I think that my keys are in my left coat pocket and find out that they were in the right pocket? Remember, the orthdox argument against docetisim is that Jesus (in his human nature) didn’t know when the end would come, and that he “grew in wisdom and stature” (See Athanasisu, “On the Incarnation”)

    “In other words, what standard outside of our own minds guide us?”

    -The standard, of course, is reality itself. I’m right insofar as my ideas correspond to reality, and wrong when they don’t.

  65. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Kent
    You are NOT describing Calvin’s view of Scripture -even the most ardent opponents of the classic Protestant view of Scripture ,like Karl Barth ,acknowledged that Calvin held to plenary verbal inspiration with no room for errors, a view he said that border on divine dication.

  66. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Kent:

    I guess we differ on what the reality of the incarnation and inspiration is and entails.

  67. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:00 am

    And I would say that our fallible minds do need an infallible and inerrant standard by which to ascertain the truth and the way of salvation.

    And for Jesus to grow in wisdom and stature does not require growth out of error into truth unless you already assume that it is of the essence of humanness to be in error. That is a view I do not hold or believe the Bible substantiates. Notice that I do not equate finitude with error.

  68. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:01 am

    GLW: That’s your opinion. Lot’s of people disagree with you, though.

    The thing that you are overlooking, perhaps, is that Calvin (like all of us) had his inconsistencies. You can find the same thing at work in Gleason Archer, who used accommodation to explain human errors in the text but didn’t realize that it contradicted his view of inerrancy.

    But I’m not interested in fighting about it. I’ve told you what I think about Calvin and the implications of his theology. You are free to agree or disagree. I’m not the reality police. I’m just a little, finite, fallen person with judgments about how to understand what I read and experience.

  69. Jeff Waddington said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Also, granting general fallibility does not prove error in any given instance.

  70. Tim Harris said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Kent, if such a simple textual matter as determining what Calvin believes just comes down to “I say, you say” then we have a more serious problem than hermeneutical theory. I have backed up my view with quotes and page numbers; you might gain a bit of credibility if you would do the same.

  71. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Kent
    That is NOT my opinion-that is the overwhelming scholarly consensus- you may not like it ,but that is what you are up against.

  72. Ron Henzel said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I believe John Murray published a survey of Calvin’s view of Scripture which more-than-adequately demonstrated Calvin’s view of plenary verbal inspiration. I just can’t lay my hands on my copy of it right now.

  73. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Again Mr. Sparks you don’t give Calvin enough credit now. You have to demonstrate why Calvin is inconsistent and that’s more than just quoting a couple of lines here and there. Also, you have to argue that your definition of “accomodation” and “errant, inerrant” and “fallibility and infallibility” is the same categories that Calvin uses (i.e. to prove your case that Calvin is inconsistent as you said). It’s safe to say at least on here you have not done that.

  74. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Ron
    The work you are refering to is in the old Baker Biblical Monograph series. Murray’s was entitled ‘Calvin On Scpriptue and Divine Sovereignty’ first published in1960.

  75. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Jeff,
    “Also, granting general fallibility does not prove error in any given instance.”

    -Of course. What’s your point?

    All others:

    I think you’re wrong about Calvin, and you think I’m wrong. I think that the Bible has human errors in it, and you disagree. That’s how it goes.

    In my opinion, Scott Jorgenson (#29) understands the situation very well.

  76. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Kent
    Well, having a closed mind is not very useful in this sort of discussion. The evidence against your take on Calvin is overwhelmning – you are simply turning a blind eye to anything that goes contrary to your misguided assumptions. Tell me ,did Enns unintentionally help you arrive at this position in anyway?

  77. Ben Dahlvang said,

    March 31, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Echoing D. Hart’s comment – #24 – (“Enns needs to read more history and less biblical scholarship”) and those of J. Waddington – #43 – (“There is a defective doctrine of God lurking behind the defective doctrine of Scripture evidenced by Enns”), it seems to me that Enns incarnational analogy needs significant reworking as well. Here’s something Trueman said from a lecture available here (the quote is around the 13 minute mark):

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=650619931

    “one has to be very careful about using incarnational analogies for things such as the doctrine of Scripture. There is no equality of divinity and humanity in the orthodox understanding of the incarnation. They are not parallel and they are not equal because of this: the humanity brings no personhood into the incarnation. The humanity is just an abstraction until its united to the divinity. The form of the humanity in the incarnation is provided by the divinity. And when you talk about Scripture as being analogous to the incarnation, you better take that into account, or you’re going to come of what a doctrine of Scripture that is Nestorian at best and Ebionite at worst.”

    Judging by the way he uses the analogy, I can’t help but thinking that Enns seems a bit ignorant of what the church has always taught with respect to the incarnation. Frankly, this makes the premise of his whole book, regardless of where he goes with it, appear quite silly to me. But perhaps I’m missing something.

  78. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Hi GLW:

    No, Enns has nothing major to do with my views. I’ve worked them out over a long period of time, largely because of the troubles I’ve found in Scripture itself. My understnading of Calvin and the fathers was helpful to me … without it, I’d not have the faith in Christ that I now have.

    Though Pete’s work was not formative for me, I do know that his book is preserving the faith of many who read it. That’s something that many in the Reformed tradition don’t realize.

    About closed minds: Let’s make a deal. If you’ll tell me what it would take to show you an error in the Bible, I’ll tell you what it would take to change my view of Calvin.

  79. GLW Johnson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Kent
    Would you please reference in Calvin’s writings any notion that he held that the Bible contained errors?

  80. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:24 am

    To JR (62): If I have been combative here, I apologize, but I fail to see where (maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “bogus”). And if I have failed to answer your objections, it is because I also fail to see where you posed any specific objection, unlike ‘pduggie’ did. You also apparently failed to read on to the very next sentence in what I wrote, where I indicated my views on universal salvation would be very much what they are today even if I were an inerrantist. The issues have, in my experience at least, been unrelated and I certainly do not need one to prop-up the other.

  81. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:26 am

    To Reed (55): I currently attend a non-denominational church here in California which could be best characterized as moderate-evangelical, and whose attendees could be best characterized as, well, diverse. We have those more liberal than I in attendance, and in the same church we have those much more conservative (an adult education class advocating for 6-day young-earth creationism is being taught currently). Our senior pastor is from Fuller seminary and I would say the church falls pretty much into that groove. Its an interesting exercise in getting along, which is maybe why I find the high degree of rigidity that a strictly confessional environment like OPC, PCA, and apparently WTS represent a little unfamiliar.

    I consider myself an essentially orthodox Christian who believes Jesus is the God-man and savior of the world. Theologically I am liberal-leaning but basically moderate — neo-orthodox like Barth would probably be the best label for me (though I have never been wedded to the Calvinist/Reformed tradition). I have been a Christian since I was a teen, and though I still have my issues, I have only really grown in my faith IMO over the last 10 years as I have studied more academically and become more moderate in my views.

    I thank God for where he has led me; it may have saved me from Ehrman’s path, as many of the conservative answers began to work for me less and less. (And please note my problems with those conservative answers arose first, as I became acquainted with informed secular criticism; not from my later moderate/liberal study.)

    Unless its not clear, let me also say I’m just an interested layman here (I’m a software engineer by profession). JR need not worry about me teaching in your seminaries by any means :-) Clearly I find myself here among devotees of Calvin and the Westminster Confession, and if I do not “fit” I apologize; I have no desire to be an unwelcome intruder. I arrived here only following Google for more information on the Enns situation.

  82. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Scott, as long as you are courteous and stay on topic, which you have been so far, you are welcome. We don’t duck the tough questions here.

  83. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Could I just point out that, to a mind ungifted with modern education, the blue sky does look rather like it has a sea overhead? After all, the ocean on a sunny day is blue, and the sky on a sunny day is also blue. Where they meet at the horizon, it is not so farfetched to imagine that the one might continue with the other. Its not so ridiculous as we might think in our modern conceit, and so it is not ascribing stupidity to the ancients to think otherwise.

    As to the sky being a solid dome: Even my own child, when she was very young, thought the sky was a solid dome – she thought she could ride in a rocketship up to the top of the sky, reach out, and touch the moon. In the ancient world, what would have taught her otherwise as she grew up? Its a very common conception, apparently, in the pre-modern world.

    I refer to Paul Seely’s WTJ papers on all this.

  84. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:40 am

    GLW,

    I’ve got class now, but will get back to you. If you have my most recent book, the references are on pp. 232-36.

    Please know, I understand your impulse to take a strong stand on inerrancy. If God is inerrant, then he cannot err in his discourse. Our difference of opinion is whether God accommodates error in his discourse (which is not an error for God, on my reading of Calvin and the Fathers) or whether he somehow shielded it from the errant perspectives of the ancient author and audienc of Scripture (which, I take it, would be your view of Calvin).

    There are other epistemological issues at play here, of course. I don’t believe that we can have incorrigible evidence for incorrigible human knowledge. What we have instead are human judgments for good or ill, and the responsibility to get those judgments as right as we can. In the end, it is God who will take care of finally judging out judgments.

  85. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I thought some of the questions which Jeff Waddington was posing were interesting. Here’s my take:

    First, how can we trust a source unless it is verbally inerrant? Well, as Kent said, we generally trust and regard human, errant, sources all of the time. Those here who do this with Calvin himself are cases in point. Simply because we can’t assume the historicity/factuality of every implication of every claim from a particular source, doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything at all from it.

    Second, does this then reduce all sources to a common level, making scripture no more authoritative and primary than Calvin or Luther or a modern writer like CS Lewis — or a non-Christian source, for that matter? No, not that I can see. As Christians, scripture holds its place of primary authority because it is the testimony of those most closely-situated with the root stock of our faith: the story of Jesus and of God’s movement through Israel up to that point. As I see it, this is similar to why we pay such close attention to the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution today, and give them higher regard when interpreting the meaning of the document than we give to any particular 21st century legal scholar.

    Third, how then can we discern the proper teaching point of scripture if it is primary for us but not verbally inerrant in every single extraneous matter? I would say by generally trusting its plain meaning unless there is significant reason otherwise; and in any case by always seeking the teaching point for us, which may not necessarily match the exegetical meaning of a historically-situated passage. We weigh passages of scripture against other passages and against the trajectory of the Bible as a whole; we weigh it against well-established outside knowledge of science and history; and we most of all weight it against the life and teaching of Jesus (that old rule which the “resurgent conservatives” of the SBC famously took out).

    The result is not a logical-deductive Cartesian system, but that’s OK. Relationships never are.

  86. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    March 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    #85: I guess my only question is on what basis do you logically reasoned which is “errant” and which is “inerrant?” To proclaim something errant (like you and others are too happy to do) it must be projected against a concept and model of inerrancy that you upheld whether consciously or subconsciously, however unattainable, for you to make the conclusion that so and so passages are of errant.

    So far the only criteria I see on this board is “our science and history today has proven that some passages are of errancy”, in which you are also saying: “everyword of the Bible that are not in consistency with 21st century science and historical criticism are of errant”, which by implication means you define inerrancy as “submitting to the test of 21st century science and historical criticsms”

    Is that really wise? Is this really putting the Word of God as the sole authority (not just primary authority) for the rule of faith over all Creation?

  87. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Way to Van Til this, RS! Great post.

  88. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    GLW: About Calvin and accommodation of error:

    According to Hebrews 11:21, Jacob “leaned on his staff” as he blessed his sons at life’s end. Calvin recognizes that that the LXX quoted here by the Hebrew writer is wrong, since the original text was “upon the head of his bed.” Why did the Hebrew writer leave the mistake in his text?

    Calvin’s answer: “The Apostle hesitated not to apply to his purpose what was commonly received: he was indeed writing to the Jews, but they who were dispersed into various countries, had changed their own language for the Greek. And we know that the Apostles were not so scrupulous in this respect, as not to accommodate themselves to the unlearned, who had as yet need of milk; and in this there is no danger, provided readers are ever brought back to the pure and original text of Scripture.”

    I’d say that several things are true of Calvin here:

    1. He believes that the LXX is wrong.
    2. He believes that the mistake in the LXX is cited in Hebrews
    3. He believes that the explanation for this errant view in Scripture is accommodation.
    4. He is aware that his description of this phenomenon applies not only in this case but to “the Apostles” in general (undoubtedly because there are other similar problems in NT quotations of the LXX).

    Don’t get me wrong. Calvin always worked very hard to avoid the implication that error was in the Scripture. But in those few cases where he couldn’t (in his opinion) avoid admitting the errors, he used accommodation as a solution. The same move is made in his commentary on the Genesis creation and in a few others cases mentioned in my book.

    The only case where Calvin uses the word “mistake” explicitly is in his commentary on Matt 27, where Zechariah’s prophecy is errantly attributed to Jeremiah. Here Calvin writes: “How the name Jeremiah crept in, I confess that I do not know, nor do I give myself much trouble to inquire. The passage itself plainly shows that the name Jeremiah has been put down by mistake, instead of Zechariah.” There is a debate about how to interpret this. Calvin may mean that we have textual corruption, in which case the problem is nothing for him; other find in this the same indifference to problems that he exhibits in handling the LXX citations.

    There are other cases cited in studies of Calvin, but for my purposes I only needed to highlight a few. In fact, it only takes one example to make the point.

    Scott: My points exactly. Its easy for inerrantists to insist on strict FI inerrancy, but what can that inerrantist say to someone interested in the faith but troubled by having to swallow the elephant of FI inerrancy? Swallow! I don’t think so. We’d have more success by handing them Pete’s book, which artfully defends divine inerrancy in the context of adequate human discourse.

  89. March 31, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    [...] March 31, 2008 in Recovering the Reformed Confession, Reforming Evangelicalism, The Defense of the Faith Tags: Aurburn Affirmation, Confessionalism, Enns, Hart, inerrancy, scripture, WCF, WTS From a comment at the GB discussion: [...]

  90. pduggie said,

    March 31, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Well, doesn’t Luke explicitly state that he knows Theophilous knows of other accounts?

  91. pduggie said,

    March 31, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I personally like the explanation of waters above the firmament referencing actual water that God created on Day 1 that was taken by God up into heaven (the place where angels were, and Jesus is).

    You don’t have to believe there is water in outer space in such a case.

    I’m a bit of an “unscientific creationist”

  92. Bret McAtee said,

    March 31, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Second, does this then reduce all sources to a common level, making scripture no more authoritative and primary than Calvin or Luther or a modern writer like CS Lewis — or a non-Christian source, for that matter? No, not that I can see. As Christians, scripture holds its place of primary authority because it is the testimony of those most closely-situated with the root stock of our faith: the story of Jesus and of God’s movement through Israel up to that point. As I see it, this is similar to why we pay such close attention to the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution today, and give them higher regard when interpreting the meaning of the document than we give to any particular 21st century legal scholar.

    Of course that is just your opinion. As I read the trajectory of the Bible what I see is the Bible as a living document that encourages us to hear God in other documents. For example, Jude quotes the book of Enoch and Paul cites Greek poets. In doing so these both prove from Scripture that Scripture should not be the primary authority but only one of a host of errant documents that give us wisdom about God. You like reading the Bible. I like finding errant knowledge from the Bhagavad gita.

    This is just like Constitutional scholars today ignoring the Constitution and looking to international law as a basis to adjudicate case law.

    Third, how then can we discern the proper teaching point of scripture if it is primary for us but not verbally inerrant in every single extraneous matter? I would say by generally trusting its plain meaning unless there is significant reason otherwise; and in any case by always seeking the teaching point for us, which may not necessarily match the exegetical meaning of a historically-situated passage. We weigh passages of scripture against other passages and against the trajectory of the Bible as a whole; we weigh it against well-established outside knowledge of science and history; and we most of all weight it against the life and teaching of Jesus (that old rule which the “resurgent conservatives” of the SBC famously took out).

    Who gets to decide what reason makes a reason significant enough and how do they make that decision?

    Shouldn’t we weigh knowledge of science and history against the well established inerrant nature of Scripture?

  93. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Bret:

    “Of course that is just your opinion.”

    -We should perhaps remember that all of us are giving “just our opinions.”

  94. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    About the dangers of submitting scripture to science and history: yes, but the reality is far more difficult. In fact, that train has already left the station. It left the moment believers became aware of the Greek discovery that the world containing the land and the terrestrial seas is spherical. It accelerated when it was discovered that the sky was not solid and there are no waters above it. Calvin submitted scripture to science in just that case. And of course we could mention Galileo and his detractors here, where eventually scripture’s suggestions of geocentricity were again reinterpreted per science.

    Frankly, this isn’t a bad thing. God is the ultimate “author” of both “books”, scripture and nature. When we learn something from science and history that illuminates understanding of scripture, I think we should be thankful.

    Yes, this means that biblical interpretation is dynamic, not static, and even has an element (but only an element) of the personal and subjective about it. If you find your muse in the Bhagavad Gita, so be it. I may critique the Gita (there is very little about love or grace in it, and a lot about embracing honor and duty, and something tells me that if this world means anything and if this life is to be worth living, its got to be more about the former than the latter). But my critique isn’t really on foundationalist grounds. I can live with that. Some of you might be able to as well — didn’t presuppositionalism come out of Reformed philosophy?

    BTW, as for the waters above the sky being lifted out of nature and into the supernatural realm, as per ‘pduggie’ (91): Psalm 148:4-6 indicates that so far as the psalmist is concerned, the waters are still there, above the heavens (‘heavens’ being the name given to the sky firmament in Genesis 1). As for the Judas accounts in Matthew and Acts (‘pduggie’ in 91), Luke indicates he intends to write an orderly account for Theophilus — how much prior knowledge of tangential obscura like the events around Judas’ death would he then assume? Anyway, precisely because the exact events are so tangential to the overall Gospel story, that’s why I think we needn’t look for such detailed synchronicity in the accounts.

  95. Bret McAtee said,

    March 31, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Kent,

    Right, You have an opinion, I have an opinion, God has an opinion — and since all of us beings are errantist all we have are opinions.

    Hence the greatest Prophet of them all was Chairman Mao when he opined,

    Power comes from the barrel of a gun.

  96. Scott Jorgenson said,

    March 31, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Oh, as to “who gets to decide”: maybe its just my own church experience talking (see above for my description of that), but why does anybody need to “decide”, as in, to then enforce across a body of believers? If that’s what that means, I guess I choose “chaos over creed”, to echo in reverse something someone else said above. But I can see how it would be a difficult question for those in a heavily confessional tradition.

  97. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Scott: right on.

    Bret: My “opinion” I mean judgment. Mao had an opinion, to be sure, but in my opinion God’s opinion is that he was wrong.

    Nevertheless, going back to your post #92, I do agree with the sentiments that you expressed there. If there’s a God and he’s in the business of getting any insights to us, he could use anything to do it–including, as Barth said, a “dead god or a communist.”

  98. Kent Sparks said,

    March 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Oops. I meant a “dead dog” … I not so far left as “god is dead” :-)

  99. Bret McAtee said,

    March 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Just for the record,

    My ‘sentiments’ in #92 were tongue in cheek. A feeble attempt to cause people to pull back from their positions due to the implications thereof.

    It looks as if only the implications lived out as they were in Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen will cause people to pull back.

    When you lose objective authority, it is a chaos world guys.

    Enjoy.

  100. BruceGBuchanan said,

    March 31, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Airing various viewpoints here does not bother me in the least.

    Nor does WTS letting PE go–a move that is not only their prerogative, and falls within their liberty and responsibility to helm their own ship; but also is to be commended, imo. Maybe WTS will last a while longer now, maybe even as long as Old Princeton?

    What does bother me is co-opting identity.

    People who believe that because God is permanent, he intrudes a form of “permanence” into this world–and tells us things like “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered,” even when we know that this world is essentially impermanent–sacrifice their lives and treasures to build institutions dedicated to preserving that which is of lasting value. They hope for a form of permanence regarding their labors, while realizing that the permanence they desire is ultimately in the age to come.

    But isn’t it a pity (almost) that those who couldn’t sustain the energy necessary to build a sand-castle find places to roost in the edifices built by men whose commitments were antithetical to the newcomers’ ethos? The reputation earned by the builders is paraded by men disgusted with the founders’ ideals. And soon, this place that previously stood out from the crowd is just another boring monument to our ephemeral cultural fads.

    Meanwhile, laboring in obscurity, the founding of new/old institutions proceeds. Perhaps this one will last a generation longer than the previous one? Its all part of the pilgrim enterprise of the church. The repeated raids bother me… but they don’t–in the sense that I knew the institutional permanence wasn’t meant to be, not in this world. Frustration is God’s “foolish” way of ensuring that we don’t so fall in love with this “promised land” that we look away from the “Jerusalem above.” Still, these Amalekite depredations get old.

    CABriggs calculated his provocative publication, and escalated his rhetoric, back when he knew that regardless of the outcome of the inevitable dust-up, he was set for advancement. Nothing has changed. Semper eadem.

    PE is not going to suffer. He will probably be rewarded for his courage with the chair of theology in one of these venerable schools, founded by Presbyterians 200 years ago, and which haven’t taught recognizable Reformed theology (defined by the Reformation’s creedal statements) as truth for at least a century. At twice the salary too, I bet. That’s what old endowments, given by people whose theology you detest, will do for you.

    But now, maybe WTS will celebrate its centennial still recognizable to the ghosts of Machen and company.

  101. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Welcome to my blog, Bruce. Good to have another PB’er on the GB (or PB 2.0, as Stewart Quarles once called it).

  102. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    March 31, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Oh the Bible where art thou? Even in the midst of your people (conservative, Evangelicals, etc.) you have fallen from grace and now are under watch with criticisms.

    Instead of Biblical data as the sole authoritative point of departure to understand other Biblical data, now the right way to do BT is to use the latest extra-Biblical data to decide on the meanings of Biblical data.

    Instead of following the Bible’s own method of reading itself as in “Thus saith the LORD…” now the right way to do BT is “Thus saith Isaiah”, “Thus saith Paul”, “Thus saith the redactor…” etc.

    Oh my poor Bible. It once was held in high esteem as the sole authoritative voice in declaring the meaning of itself by itself. Now it’s been reduced to be “primary authority” and by implication there are “other authorities” such as science and historical criticisms that help it to define (or redefine) itself.

    The pendulum has definitely been swung, the “divine part” of Scripture is so hard to muster and so why bother; it is so unhuman. The “human part” of Scripture is so close to us, so easy to explore, and so attractive to swallow.

    Oh the Bible my Bible, you are indeed only a “human” book.

    The lamentations of ReformedSinner (DC)

  103. J.R. Polk said,

    April 1, 2008 at 4:36 am

    The lamentations of ReformedSinner

    Very timely . . .

  104. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Kent
    I am not familiar with your book. What is the title? When was it published and by who? None of the examples you cite from Calvin fall into the catagory you are promoting-the Bible is errant.Calvin expressly says otherwise -the Bible does not err. This is so fundamental to his his thought that it is axiomatic. You and Jogenson are absolutely sure that the Bible is errant-in other words you two assume a form of ‘inerrancy ‘ for your criticisms of the Bible. Are these errors that you are so confident about embedded in both the OT and the NT? In addition to being scientific and historical are any of these errors of a theological nature? If not, then why not ? If the men who wrote the Bible were susceptible to being conditioned by the times and culture that they lived in when it came to issues that were scientific and historical then why not also in areas that were overtly theological-and is there a distinct overlap? After all the apostle Paul seems to be working from the assumption in Romans 5:12-21 that Adam was indeed a historical figure and not the product of ANE mythology. By the way, in 1Tim.4:7 the same apostle ( do you accept the Pauline authorship of the epistle?) speaks of ‘silly myths’. Are we to assume Paul thought such things were part of the fabric of the OT and were ‘non-silly myths’?

  105. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 7:40 am

    It looks like he has a couple. here is one; the link to his name can be followed to find a more recent one.

  106. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Kent — in searching for your book I came across your lecture on the subject and listened to it yesterday. There too, you read the passage on Day 2 from Calvin, but completely stopped when he goes on to discuss his solution to the problem — namely, the clouds, as I quoted above. Obviously, you must not think Calvin is still talking about raqiah or Day 2 at that point. So then, how do you read that passage? In your opinion, does Calvin just like to change the subject every once in a while and talk about clouds or butterflies or whatever?

  107. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

    GLW, interesting question — are there any errors of a theological nature in scripture, or are they conveniently limited just to narrative matters: history, science, contradictions in chronology, etc?

    I do believe there are tensions and variances in theology within scripture. For example, John and Paul seem to have a somewhat different, more christologically develped, view of Jesus than do the synoptic gospels. Their Jesus is also much more faith-oriented, while the synoptics’ Jesus is more works-oriented. The Chronicler and Samuel/Kings certainly disagree on who incited David to take his census. And so on.

    But these are not errors so much as snapshots of a whole. You might be surprised that I agree with probably most of you here, that theological harmonizations for these tensions are possible. Theological harmonizations often seem less contrived to me than narrative harmonizations, just due to the very nature of theology which by definition is an exploratory enterprise, I think, more than a simple recounting of spacetime events.

    Anyway, back to the question, about errors. I have come to see scripture as progressively revealing the true nature of God finally revealed in Jesus. If plenary inspiration means the account of Joshua is as fully and truly revealing of God as the account of the gospels, I cannot believe it. (I’ve no time to defend that here.) So, since I see progressive revelation in scripture, I do see theological imperfections in the early Israelite witness. For example, while I see value in the passages about the massacre of the Canaanites, for teaching certain things about how he is a God who judges and who defends his people, I cannot believe the plain claims in Joshua and elsewhere that he is also a God who, at least at that time if not at other times in history, directly orders his people to inflict mass suffering and in fact condemns his people when they hold back. Applying the rule of weighing scripture in the light of Jesus (who commanded we love our enemies and forgive repeatedly), I cannot accept that as inerrant.

    But please note that this exercise is not meant to divide scripture into wheat to be kept and chaff to be discarded, but to arrive at its best meaning for us today. Having discerned the genocide narratives in this way, I do not conclude they are errant and throw them aside. Just because a passage is not perfect in every way does not mean it has nothing to teach.

    BTW to all, this is the last day I’ll be participating in this thread. Its back to work for me tomorrow.

  108. April 1, 2008 at 11:43 am

    [...] heavy conversation is going on at Green Baggins, where Lane writes: “It is a sad day for Westminster, despite the fact that it was the right [...]

  109. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    SJ
    Your comments reminds me of the famous quip of the noted English poet, John Donne, who once said to a person of your mindset, ” You must have a very low opinion of God if you think He ought to behave like you if you were God.”

  110. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Tim,

    Calvin’s point is that we see clearly that the waters of heaven actually come from clouds, not from the “waters above the heavens” imagined by the ancient audience of Genesis. That’s precisely why his point about the clouds is on the heals of his point that, “The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance of thme, is not in accordance with the design of Moses (which was, Calvin just told us, an accommodation to the misinterpretation of the cosmos by ancient, unlearned people).”

    Calvin’s discussion is an effort to determine what is cosmologically correct about Genesis and what isn’t. He believes in the literal “expanse between the waters,” but doesn’t believe that there were “waters above the heavens.” It’s straightforward, in my opinion. So, I didn’t deal with that part of the commentary in my lecture, or in my book, because it doesn’t come close to meaning what you think it means.

    GLW:

    The book is God’s Word in Human Words (Baker, 2007). One thing separating us is that not only do we read the Bible differently, but we also read Calvin differently. You read Calvin as if he’s inerrantly consistent, but I’m not totally sure that he is. It’s quite true that Calvin claims to be an inerrantist, but he get’s there by using accommodations of human error are not God’s errors. If that’s what he means by inerrancy, then he’s fairly consistent but also allows human errors (not divine errors) to appear in the Bible. If by inerrancy Calvin actually means that there are no errant human views in the Bible at all, then I’d say he accidently contradicts himself. This is the same sort of contradiction one finds in Gleason Archer, who claims to support total inerrancy but uses accommodation on severla occasions to explain errors in Scripture. My point is that these authors are using two kinds of inerrancy without realizing it: one kind of inerrancy claims that God does not err (but allows human errors), where as the other approach denies even the human errors.

    And yes, GL, my work does imply that the Bible contains not only scientific but also theological diversity. My book is a modest attempt to determine how we should negotiate that diversity in our effort to hear God’s word through the written discourse that he’s given.

  111. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Kent — in summarizing Calvin’s argument you keep adding phrases like “imagined by the ancient audience of Genesis” and “Calvin just told us, an accommodation to the misinterpretation of the cosmos by ancient, unlearned people.” However, my Baker edition, translated by John King, simply does not have either those words or that content in the passage. Please state which edition you are using and the page number that those alleged statements of Calvin appear on.

  112. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Tim,

    That’s because I am interpreting what Calvin is getting at; it’s like a pastor doing exegesis on the biblical text. I’m explaining Calvin’s rhetoric and arguments.

    Notice that in your explanation of Calvin (#106), you did not merely quote him; you described your interpretation of what you think he meant.

    Let me ask this question: Did Calvin believe that the Bible includes the view that there were “waters above the heavens,” and did Calvin believe that there were no such waters? If you answer “yes” to these two questions, then we agree on what Calvin thought. If you answer “no” to either of them, then we disagree. Not much we can do beyond that, since I’ve read and studied Calvin very carefully for a long time on this issue, and am unlikely to change my position because of some blog dialogue. I wrote about Calvin to inform others about his approach and its potential value to those who see lots of human errors in Scripture, but if you deny the errors anyway, and feel that you need Calvin to be your ally, then you can ignore my work on Scripture and Calvin. It won’t bother me; billions of people haven’t read by book and never will. My work is for a tiny niche of people who sense the same difficulties that I sense. It’s for the few, not the masses. Then, in a few more years, whether I was in good conscience right or wrong, I will die and go to heaven. So, I do my best and then go to sleep at night … trusting my errant humanity to the God who loves me, and gave himself for my very soul.

  113. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    GLW, I do not have a very low opinion of God. I have a very high opinion of Jesus. I do not think God “ought” to behave like me (thank God he doesn’t), but I do think God “ought” to, and would, behave like Jesus.

  114. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Kent — but there is a difference between exegesis and eisogesis. I think you have crossed the line into the region of the latter.

    Here is why I think your interpretation of the Calvin passage simply won’t work.

    Once one believes that the text of Gen 1 is presupposing and reflecting an erroneous cosmology, one then gives up trying to find the “true” referent of the acts and objects that make up the content of that narrative. One then either writes it off completely as ancient mythology, or looks for the deeper, “spiritual” meaning of the text. The latter is what the OT department at WTS does. Like you, they believe the narrative describes an ancient, and scientifically obsolete cosmology. But, they say, the point of the passage is to teach that God is sovereign, he is the one ultimately in control, etc and the passage is meant to be a polemic at that level against the false gods. But they no longer ask, “so what does raqia’ really refer to?” They already know what raqia’ refers to: a beaten out dome over a flat earth that we know is not the case.

    Calvin, however, does ask “what does raqia’ refer to?” and answers: “it is that which holds the clouds over our heads.” His very method, and the flow of his argument, shows that he is not doing what you and the WTS faculty are doing.

    I submit that that, and the fact that he doesn’t seem to have any interest at all in “what the ancients believed to be the case,” shows that your interpretation of Calvin is untenable.

  115. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    SJ
    Your comments about Jesus bring to mind the 19th cent quest for the historical Jesus, which as one wag accurately put it ,was like liberals looking into a well and seeing their own reflection , confidently declared they had found the ‘real’ Jesus.
    Kent- I ordered your book and will interact with it in due time.

  116. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Tim:

    It is exegesis if it rightly explains the text. I believe that I’ve rightly explained it, and you disagree. If you don’t find my reading correct, that’s fine. But if you realize that the Bible accommodates human errors, then perhaps you’ll find my work helpful.

    GLW: Thanks for ordering the book. Please understand, however, that there are certain things in my book that I’m unlikely to reconsider easily. I’d no more consider fundamentalist inerrancy as an approach to Scripture than Neil Armstrong would consider a flat earth cosmology.

    In my opinion, if one is honest about the biblical evidence, it is more than sufficient to preclude a belief that the Bible is free of errant human viewpoints.

  117. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Once again Mr. Sparks you are forcing your definition of “errant” and “inerrancy” into the debate and demand that either people agree with your definition and the implications from these definitions or else that they are wrong, which make the entire endeavor of a debate pointless. Like your statement: “If you realize that the Bible accommodates human errors…”, while, some of us realize the passages you are talking about, but we prefer to think about it from a different perspective, from a possible alternative methodology than the one you proposed, and in our best try to find the best Biblical perspective that satisfies all inquiries rather than just satisfying 21st century science and historical criticsms. To simply declare some of us are wrong and you are right is not the way to have debates.

    For another example you have care-freely created a new definition for “exegesis” in your post #116, and without defense simply dismiss a claim that you’re making eisegesis, again if this is all you going to do then there’s really no point to keep up the dialogue. The point of a dialogue is we both try our best to answer each other’s inquiries, and not a place for us to keep repeating our propositions until parousia comes.

    The argument is never that the Bible doesn’t contain questionable accounts that requires more explanation rather than ignoring them or dismiss them with easy superficial answers. However, the differences are the methodologies involved in looking at them in ernest and try to figure out the best Biblical answer to them that is faithful to the Bible. Obviously you think you are right and others think they are right, this is why we are here to have a dialogue. However, to simply make the statement that “if one is honest…” which by implication calling people that don’t agree with you as dishonest human beings are not helpful to the debate.

  118. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Kent
    I will try to disengage myself from my pre-modern presuppositions -you know, the same one that the apostles labored under.

  119. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    ….but it won’t be easy for me either. Besides, I’ve yet to see any indication on your part that you have bothered to read Warfield.

  120. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    GLW and Reformed Sinner:

    The issue, then, is whether we believe that the Bible actually contains diverse and contrary viewpoints. Every contradiction, no matter how obvious, has a “harmonization” that you prefer to genuine diversty. It doesn’t matter how fancifal the harmonization. If it “works,” it’s right. I, on the other hand, don’t buy it.

    So long as that’s the case, there’s no possibility of real conversation, since I’m not at all open to going back to fundamentalism, and you’re not at all open to entertaining a human error in Scripture.

    I entered into blogsphere to explain how a person like Pete could defend inerrancy while admitting so much humanity in the text. My efforts on his behalf are, in this case, fruitless.

  121. Bret McAtee said,

    April 1, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Behold Kent gives us the truth that the starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another. Kent, autonomously begins with an errantist presupposition and his method leads him to conclude that the Bible has errors.

    But just one point Kenton before you leave.

    You are the fundamentalist here. You are more rabid in your fundamentalism then the most backwoods inerrantist believing, sola drooling, sovereign thumping Calvinist you can name. You’d like to think that you are the open minded one when in fact your mind shows more sign of modernity inbreeding then the inbreeding that obtains in the royal line of Europe or among the swamp cousins of the Bayou.

    Please don’t mistake this as conversation. I think you quite right that conversation is fruitless. Just consider this proclamation.

  122. H Lambh said,

    April 1, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Perhaps this has already been discussed above (there are many comments here and I won’t claim to have read them all), but I am unclear why Enns is the one who should be suspended. A difference of opinion or perspective on a theological issue need not result in disunity. It is possible for folks to disagree about certain issues and yet experience unity, particularly on thorny issues. It seems this is such an issue (the esteemed WTS faculty votes 12-8). In fact, Enns actually finds himself in the majority of the faculty. When I see a 12-8 vote by such learned theologians, I think, “This must be a very complex, hard issue.” When such is the case, it would suggest a need for humility and charity towards others who may disagree. If instead there is disunity, this suggests there may be a heart issue here rather than simply an intellectual question. If a suspension is deemed necessary, perhaps the Board should consider who is creating disunity out of a humbling issue rather than just targeting the person who wrote the book. Maybe that’s still Enns. Maybe not. I have heard no one say that Enns is stirring up disharmony among the faculty. Do we value our intellects so highly that we fail to see that the root cause of the problem here may not be intellectual? Is suspending Dr. Enns the quick fix, but the root problem persists? I certainly don’t have enough information to make that determination, but it’s not clear to me that suspending Dr. Enns is a proper response to the faculty disunity- if that’s the reason for the suspension. Perhaps there is someone on the “orthodox” side of this issue whose behavior is not at all orthodox. I don’t know, but I hope the Board considers the root of the issue. Otherwise, all they have done is kick the can down the street and this type of problem will recur.

  123. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Dear Bret,

    One day we’ll hug in heaven, and forget all of this. I look foward to that; I hope that you do, too.

    Kenton

  124. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Eschatology trumps reason?

  125. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    I addressed my comment to Bret, Tim … but I’ll gladly extend it to you as well :-)

  126. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    From another Blog:

    “A little story for your reading pleasure:

    Young Sam loved math. As a token of his love he had memorized the value of Pi to thirty seven places. Before Sunday School he would often write his beloved number, to thirty seven places, on the chalkboard.

    One Sunday, the lesson concerned the authority of the Scriptures. Sam listened with great interest as the teacher stated that the Bible was the highest authority because it was from God. “Is the Bible of even higher authority than mathematics?” Sam asked. Seeing an opportunity to turn Sam’s love for math into a love for the Bible the teacher responded with an enthusiastic “Yes! All truth is grounded in the Scriptures. There is no autonomous reason. Even mathematics is subservient to what God has revealed in His Word.”

    A few weeks later the class was reading the description of the sea that Solomon built for the temple. For most of the students this was a somewhat boring passage. For Sam it was a crisis of faith. The text stated that the sea was round and measured ten cubits from brim to brim. The circumference of the sea, according to the text, measured thirty cubits. Sam trembled as he raised his hand. “How could it be thirty cubits?” Sam asked. “Circumference is equal to Pi times the diameter which the text says is ten. Pi is not equal to three. The circumference must be more than thirty one cubits.”

    The teacher wasn’t sure how to answer. Fortunately, Sam was too young to have bound himself to a creed so his questions were encouraged. The teacher ushered Sam into a meeting of the session and Sam repeated his question. The pastor assured Sam that this was an excellent question. “The Scriptures in describing the circumference of the sea are using a rounded number”, the pastor declared.

    Sam was puzzled. “If Scripture is of higher authority than mathematics, so that math must be subservient to the Scriptures, how do we know the number is rounded? There is no autonomous reason. How do we know that Pi isn’t equal to three?”

    The pastor tried to explain his answer, but two of the elders were swayed by the child’s argument. They went home and wrote papers about the arrogance of mathematicians who would pit the fallible results of mathematics against the clear teaching of Scripture. Pi was equal to three. New schools were founded in order to shield vulnerable children from the evil doctrines of secular mathematicians. New textbooks were written so that children could learn the Christian value for Pi. Public school boards were encouraged to teach, in order to be fair to all views, that some believe Pi is equal to three. Seminary professors were encouraged, upon pain of possibly losing their posts, to sign an affirmation of the biblical value of Pi.

    Thus began the RPPMC (Reformed Presbyterian Pure Mathematics Church).”

  127. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Funny, but false dilemma. Math is not deduced from Scripture, but it is impossible if not pre-existent in the mind of God. Who speaks in Scripture. Who cannot affirm P and yet not-P. Which leads us back to the question under discussion here.

    (And yes, 3 is an approximation to pi, just as 3.141596535 is.)

  128. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    How do you know, Tim, that math is not deduced from Scripture? And how can we know, given this, which things should be deduced from Scripture and which things we can deduce using our reason, unaided by Scripture?

    And if its rounded off, are you saying that the human author of Scripture knew the actual value of pi an then chose to round it off?

  129. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Math is subserviant to Scripture and bound by it. The presuppositions for math are consistency and eternality. 1+1 always = 2 and never will it ever = 3. The “truth” of 1+1=2 presupposes a world that is consistent and eternal. I.e. math is not a neutral truth that always existed, as in pre-existed along side with God. It’s part of the glory of Creation, and the presuppositions of mathematics can only be explainable by a consistent and eternal Creator. On the contrary, if math is not bound by the revelation of Scripture (on consistency and eternality), math makes no sense in an universe that is believed to be “changing” and “finite”. Math is not a Christian problem (for it fits perfectly well within the bounds of Scripture), but it’s the atheist’s problem (when they don’t believe in consistency and eternality.)

    As for the story of #125, well, the kid asked a sharp question, too bad the story presumes all pastors are not well trained.

  130. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Kent — For starters, because I know a good bit about math by profession, and I did not deduce it from Scripture. But I also know that without the self-existent God that can speak, there would be no math. I would refer you to the excellent work of Vern Poythress for more detail — this would indeed tax the limits of the point-counterpoint possible on a blog.

    We know what things can be deduced from Scripture by deducing them. Scripture gives us true propositions — from which we can make deductions.

    Your last question is a category mistake. It is not necessary to “know” pi — whatever that means — to speak of operational, practical ratios of circumference and diameter.

  131. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    So, did the biblical author think that the proper ratio was 3, or did he round off some other value that he knew?

  132. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    He thought 3 was close enough for his purpose. Did he “know” that the real number is the 2xarctan(1)? I doubt it. But so what?

  133. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    If he thought 3 was “close enough,” then “close enough” to what? But if in fact he thought it was 3, he was using a human estimate that was useful but also wrong.

    This will lead eventually to the point that my book makes; that Scripture’s human genres reflect the finite perpectives of human beings, and those finite perspectives, while tolerably useful as grasps on reality, are by no means perfect and unadulterated by errors of human judgment.

  134. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Well, if he had said the circumference was 31.41596535 cubits, that would have been erroneous also– not just because that too is an approximation of pi, but because no craftsman working silver works to those kinds of tolerances.

    If he had said, “for all x, where x is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a perfect circle, x=3.0″ that would have been an error.

    But obviously, that is not what he intended to say.

  135. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Tim:

    You didn’t answer my question, actually. Did he think that 3 was “close enough” (and if so, “close enough” to what?), or did he simply think that it was 3?

  136. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Yes I did. He thought 3 was adequte to describe what he was trying to describe — which was not a relation of abstract geometrical entities.

  137. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Actually, even saying it that way says too much. He wasn’t thinking “ratio” at all. He was thinking, “30 cubits.”

  138. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    I don’t think you’re answering the question.

    Indeed, we may judge that 3 is a quite adequate ration. But in coming to that value, did the author know the right value of pi (it’s status as an irrational number with infinite digits) and so chose to round it off? Or did he not know that his number was rounded off (in which case, he was actually wrong but didn’t know it)?

  139. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Agreed. He wasn’t thinking of ratios. He rounded off to 30, implying close proximity to a ratio he didn’t know. Did he know that he was rounding off (because he didn’t know the actual number), or did he think that it was actually 30?

  140. Tim Harris said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    I said that he probably did not know that the ratio of circumference to diameter of abstract circles was equal to 2 x arctan(1), and that this was an irrational number that must needs be approximated.

    Turn it around, and ask yourself how the scribe could have described the situation in a way that would not be subject to your criticism. I suppose you want him to have said, “the diameter was 10, and thus the circumference was 2 x 10 x arctan(1), plus or minus metallurgical tolerances.” But that is absurd. Gauss or Riemann would not have described it that way, though they knew all about pi.

    You demanding something of the writer that is completely outside the purpose of scribe, and that no one — even an advanced mathematician — would have done. So “knowledge of pi” is irrelevant to the text, its purpose, our interpretation, or the knowledge of the writer.

    This does not appear to be the situation in Gen 1. There is every textual indication that the writer is intending to describe history.

    With all due respect, I believe this is Hermeneutics 101?

  141. Kent Sparks said,

    April 1, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Tim:

    Exactly! That’s my point. The scribe could not avoid the criticism by any means at all. This is because he is subject to finitude, which God accommodated in Scripture. One can find all sorts of instances just like this in Scripture, in which authors depended upon their finite judgments, or finite sources, to compose their biblical discourses.

    Yes, this is what you’d get in most any basic hermeneutics course that you could take, even at Westminster (but probably not for long): All human grasps on reality are subject to finitude and fallennes and, hence, are partially warped by that finite and fallen horizon. Welcome to the insights of postmodern realism (a la Gadamer and company).

    As for Genesis, I’ve already told you what I and Calvin believe about it. That the author’s purpose was history, Calvin agrees (he criticizes those who use allegory to escape the problem of “waters above”); but Calvin also believed that the history accommodated itself to a misunderstanding of the cosmos, which perceived “waters above the heavens” that weren’t there.

    This is a standard read of Calvin; Where are you getting another Calvin scholar who says something else about this part of his Genesis commentary?

  142. Tim Harris said,

    April 2, 2008 at 12:05 am

    After this post I am going to bed, but I’ll check back in the morning. So you get the “last word” — until the sun rises again!

    I am not aware of any Calvin scholar that agrees with your read. But I also think I know how to read English (and if you insist, I’d be glad to take a swag at the Latin). So racking up the “studied opinion” of tenured professors at subsidized humanistic universities will not be impressive to me. The passage in question clearly indicates that Calvin believes the “waters above” are clouds, and that the raqia’ is that which prevents the clouds from tumbling to the earth in an avalanche of water. I invite you to go back and read the entire passage. It is as clear as day what Calvin is asserting.

    Think of me as Galileo asking you to just peek into the telescope and look again.

  143. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 12:08 am

    By the way, the biblical text gives every indication that the author was trying to provide the circumfernce of a circle, using the ratio of 3. As I recall, I read somewhere that most pre-modern cultures have used a ratio of 3 to determine the circumference of a circle with known diameter. So, I think the biblical author probably was using ratios.

    But once again, you said the biblcal author was “adequately” right about the circumference. That is the pont of my book. He is “adequately” right, but not (nor needn’t be) perfectly right.

    And by the way, if I cite the biblical text as evidence that Pi is 3, how could you counter that with math? If Scripture is truly the final authority and inerrant, you’d have no way to make the argument.

    And another thing: How do you know that the text of 1 Kings “isn’t math,” but the text of Genesis “is history?”

  144. April 2, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Kent,

    Quick question: If I want to read your book and a thoughtful critique of your view, what would you suggest?

    Thanks in advance.

  145. April 2, 2008 at 12:28 am

    And is was my understanding that there would be no math….

  146. Peter Szto said,

    April 2, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I recently shared with someone the theological nature of the Enns affair. I learned the following: The traditional view of incarnation is that it happened at Jesus’ birth (the one-step approach). However, a close reading of Colossians 1:15 suggest a two-step approach when Paul describes Christ as “the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created”. Christ’s human nature existed at creation and took on full human form at Jesus’s birth. Perhaps the missing explanatory concept in Enns’application of incarnational analogy is this two-step understanding of incarnation. Your thoughts my friends?

  147. April 2, 2008 at 4:08 am

    [...] long discussion on related issues (142 comments at the moment) is going on at Green Baggins with people like Kent Sparks weighing in. [...]

  148. Tim Harris said,

    April 2, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Kent (#142) — if you cite the biblical text as evidence that Pi is 3, I would counter that not with math, but with a lesson in how to read.

    (#140) “All human grasps on reality are subject to finitude and fallenness” — that doesn’t follow at all. Even if God had dictated the text, it still would have fallen short of your infinite series demand, no matter what number had been given. It is not a question of finitude or being fallen. It is a question of language communicating meaning. Language is adequate for communicating meaning. The meaning of I Ki 7:23 is not to give a ratio of abstract geometric entities. I’m not sure how many ways to say it until the coin drops, Kent.

    Perhaps you would find this piece I did critiquing many common arguments for the metric system helpful.

    This whole argument reminds me of when I was in grad school in Physics, and how we would laugh at the engineering students that thought they were being “more precise” when they wrote down the answer to a problem shown by their calculators — “I deduce from its moment of inertia that the rod must be 5.1383636 meters long.”

    That is simply a show of precision that does not reflect reality.

  149. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Tim:

    “Kent (#142) — if you cite the biblical text as evidence that Pi is 3, I would counter that not with math, but with a lesson in how to read.”

    And I’d say, your lesson on “how to read” is an merely attempt to undermine the clear word of God.

    “(#140) “All human grasps on reality are subject to finitude and fallenness” — that doesn’t follow at all. Even if God had dictated the text, it still would have fallen short of your infinite series demand, no matter what number had been given. It is not a question of finitude or being fallen. It is a question of language communicating meaning. Language is adequate for communicating meaning.”

    Indeed, even if God dictated the text, it would have been accommodated to the finite, fallen horizon of the huma audience. That is Calvin’s point about Genesis, and a very common point made by the Church Fathers.

  150. Tim Harris said,

    April 2, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Kent, I seriously think that when the point in your life came that you rejected inerrancy, the thing you were rejecting was simply a straw man. Maybe God has led you to this blog for the very purpose of straightening out that misconception and bringing you back to the truth.

    I have left out of consideration the fact that it actually could be that both the 10 and 30 were “precise” — what if they measured circumference as the inside perimeter, but diameter as the outside one? For example. But I didn’t want to go there because those numbers would still not be precise. You won’t be able to make progress on this point until you come to understand the difference between numbers as applied to the physical world, and numbers as abstract entities.

    Re the Calvin passage, you keep reasserting your thesis but without rebutting the evidence I bring to the contrary. Is this how you teach your students? Do you kind of hope they won’t actually look up the passage, and if they do, they won’t read a page beyond the point you cite? But if they do, and point out the falsehood of your statement (that Calvin “does not believe there are waters above” etc), do you then just keep parrotting your assertion over and over until they get tired?

  151. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 2, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Dear Peter Szto (#146):

    This two-step approach, while interesting (I’ve heard it before), is ultimately not Biblical (in my opinion.) I believed the exegesis is superficial and forced (especially on Colossian 1) Without turning this blog into an exegetical place I would quickly comment that “firstborn” refers to Christ’s supremacy (in glory, honor, power) over all Creations, not a literal birth, but rather an exaltation of Christ’s supreme status, as the Triune Son of God, and Colossian does not put Christ as part of Creation nor does it hint at all a human nature Christ created along with Creation. There are ample exegetical work on that to demonstrate from OT background to Paul’s framework that I think is the right explanation to this view (hence “traditional view” is correct in my opinion.)

  152. Tim Harris said,

    April 2, 2008 at 11:21 am

    And again, your point about the “fallen world” is false. It is not as if in God’s mind, pi can be represented by a decimal digit, but when that is refracted into a “fallen” world it somehow becomes an infinite series.

  153. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Tim:

    The pi example has to do with finiteness rather than fallenness, but I’ll set that matter aside, though I think it means far more than you realize.

    Perhaps let’s approach it this way: Is it possible that when Matthew says that Judas hung himself and that the priests bought the field, that this contradicts the account in Acts, where Judas dies by a fall in the field that he bought himself? Is it possible that when Deuteronomy says the Moses built the ark, that it contradicts Exodus when it says that Oholiab built it? It is possible that Deuteronomy’s command that the passover should be “boiled” contradicts Exodus when it says that the passover “should not be boiled, but roasted in fire”? I could list many such examples. Sure, its possible to create elaborate harmonizations in some cases. But surely you can also see how a reasonble person could judge that these are real contradictions.

    It seems to me that if you can’t understand that, then there really can’t be any sort of conservation.

    How would you approach the Bible if you decided (as I and many others have) that it does accommodate human errors? Would you cease to be a Christian? And if so, wouldn’t that mean that your faith is not in Christ (whose Gospel message could presumably be preached without an inerrant Bible) but rather in a particular notion of how God’s discourse must work?

    Your approach works for you, and I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is your impatience for those who judge that the prima facie contradictions in the Bible are, in fact, contradictions. Again, you needn’t agree that Matthew contradicts Acts. But can you see why someone else might reach that conclusion?

  154. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 2, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Kent (#126ff.):

    As a math guy, I feel the need to mention something here.

    The author is speaking of a real object. There is no such thing as a real circle whose circumference is exactly pi * diameter. Rather, the mathematical circle is a model for real circular objects.

    So, searching for an error here has nothing to do with math, and everything to do with the measured circumference of the “sea” in the temple.

    That measured circumference might well have been exactly thirty cubits, to the limits of his measuring instrument, or it may have been thirty +/- some tolerance. It is doubtful that the author had a sophisticated understanding of precision, but he almost certainly knew that he was talking about measured values, and not mathematical ones.

    (As an aside: the interesting thing about your parable is that “30” causes a crisis of faith for Sam, but presumably “31” would not, since we all accept rounding errors in the ones’ place.

    But in fact, “30” is a better answer, assuming that the author was limited to a precision of +/- 1 cubit, since the tolerance in the diameter must be multiplied by pi to give the tolerance in the circumference:

    diameter = 10 +/- 1 cubit
    circumference = pi d = 31 +/- 3 cubits
    = 30 cubits (31 would imply too much precision!)

    No doubt, the biblical author was ***CLEARLY*** aware of rounding rules and error bars, and took that into account when he wrote, anticipating objections such as yours.

    Or not.)

    See, your parable about Sam reveals an important question that hasn’t been addressed yet: “What does error mean?”

    If we come to the text and apply a woodenly literal hermeneutic and expect the author to communicate in the same idioms as modern language, we will experience conflicts. We could multiply examples about “four corners of the earth”, 400 years v. 430 years of slavery, etc. Many statements in Scripture are erroneous *IF* we apply a certain definition of “error” to the question.

    But if we define error as “a statement that is false in the reference frame of the writer”, then it’s not so clear that there are errors in the Scripture. It seems very clear that the circumference example does not qualify.

    So what definition do you have in mind?

    And another thing: How do you know that the text of 1 Kings “isn’t math,” but the text of Genesis “is history?”

    That’s a great question. Genre analysis clearly has utility, but I’m a little skeptical of it because the notion of “genre” is something outside the text that we impose on it.

    But can we agree that Genesis is closer to a historical account than 1 Kings is to a mathematical analysis?

    Jeff Cagle

  155. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Jeff:

    I actually agree with much of what you say. Math is not quite he same as real life. We can’t actually draw a line that has not width, for instance. It’s also possible that the circumference of the basin was 30, as you say (it may not have been perfectly roung anyway). Is is possible, however, that the biblical author actually thought that it was 30 (using a ratio of 3 that he thought was right) and had it wrong (beause it was actually 31)? My point is that its just too much to base our faith on a belief that the Bible it’s wholly free of errant human viewpoints. There are too many places where it seems to have contradictions in it.

    About genre analysis: when we read a text, we always infer what we think it’s genre is. That generic judgment is always ours, so its something outside of the text (its based on how we judge the text and imagine a context for it). That’s why our readings are never precisely right. That is, when I read any text, my reading is always partially eisogetical (insofar as I misunderstand it) and also exegetical (insofar as I get it right). Put crudely, all readings of texts reflect a “mixture” of exegesis and eisogesis. What we call “right readings” are actually not perfect but, practically speaking, “on target” and “getting the main points,” etc.

    I’m not sure that Genesis is closer to a historical account than is 1 Kings to math, but I would also understand why someone could reach that judgment. Generic judgments are not easy to make when it comes to ancient texts.

  156. April 2, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Kent,

    I’ll repeat my question from #144 above:

    “Quick question: If I want to read your book and a thoughtful critique of your view, what would you suggest?”

    Thanks.

  157. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Sorry, Jason … overlooked your question.

    My book’s not been out yet very long, so there won’t be many critiques of it yet. I suspect, however, that many of the critiques that have been made of Enns’s book will be made of mine. We’re on similar paths when it comes to Scripture and theology.

    If you’re not all troubled by the Bible’s apparent errors and the evangelical strategies used to harmonize/resolve them, the I’d suggest that you skip my book. The whole thing assumes that the problems are real and hence need more thoughtful solutions than, “The rope broke and Judas fell headlong into the field that he purchased when the priests purchased it in his name.”

  158. Kent Sparks said,

    April 2, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Jason,

    The book’s just out, so there won’t be any critiques for some time. Opposing views are engaged in the book, so you could read those using the bibliography and footnotes. Also, I suspect that many of the criticisms being made of Enns’s book will be applied to mine, and by the same people. Our titles, “Inspiration and Incarnation” and “God’s Word in Human Words” are conceptually similar for a reason.

  159. April 2, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Jeff Cagle – good thoughts, I do say.

    Also, as an aerospace engineer, the immediate question I think of when someone gives me a diameter value is this – is that inner diameter (ID) or outer diameter (OD)? Unless your part has zero thickness, that is a very relevant question (same goes for the circumferential value). That could easily account for the supposed mathematical discrepancy.

    The more I deal with them, the more it seems that the erranists (both Christian or atheist) don’t really try very hard when dealing with the phenomena of Scripture. They very easily throw up their hands at any puzzling verse and then are arrogant enough to blame the Bible for error rather than question the fallibility of their own intellect.

    On that note, I should mention that my take on the “pi” question above is hardly unique to me. The lazy scriptural erranists should try cracking open a scholarly commentary or perusing the relevant literature before boldly opening their mouths and making clowns out of themselves.

  160. April 2, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    It is also crucial to be mindful of the distinction between accuracy and precision. As engineers, we are very sensitive to that, but I don’t think most people work with these categories. Only if something is inaccurate is something *wrong* or errant. But merely being imprecise (say, in a measuring tool I am using that only measures in feet instead of inches) does not make one inaccurate. And number rounding, for instance, plays into the precision of a measurement, not the accuracy.

    Likewise, while the Bible can be imprecise, it is never inaccurate (i.e. errant). But in the area of language doing things like using loose language, paraphrasing, or using familiar translations of a source text (such as the LXX) falls, once again, into the category of precision. While being imprecise practices, they are not thereby inaccurate or errant.

  161. April 2, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I’m not a Greg Bahnsen fan (in the main), but he did gift the church with this little article from the old Inerrancy book, which someone was kind enough to put online. On the LXX quotations, he remarks:

    A greater difficulty is found in the fact that the Septuagint is sometimes quoted in a way that initially appears to be contrary to the Hebrew text and as hardly permissible. This relates to the problem posed by many critics, that the way in which the New Testament sometimes quotes the Old Testament seems to show little concern for accurate rendering of the original. Foitzmyer says, “To modern critical scholarship their [the New Testament writers’] way of reading the Old Testament often appears quite arbitrary in that it disregards the sense and the content of the original.”

    This is not the place to launch into a full discussion of the well-known, difficult passages related to this issue, some of which call for further study in the light of the broader attitude that Scripture itself teaches toward the issues of inerrancy and the original text. As always, the biblical phenomena must be considered in terms of the basic and background testimony of Scripture about itself – that is, in the light of Scripture’s own given presuppositions. Suffice to say here that an artificial standard of precision that would have been foreign to the culture and literary habits of the day in which Scripture was penned need not be imposed on the Bible in the name of inerrancy or of fidelity to the autographa. Methods of quotation were not as precise in that age as they are today, and there is no reason why New Testament citations had to be verbally exact. The issue is whether the meaning of the autographic text is or is not assumed to lie behind the extant texts and translations used by the New Testament writers. I have given grounds above for adopting this as the assumption of the biblical witness. In focusing on a particular (sometimes narrow, sometimes general) point or insight, New Testament quotation of the Old Testament need only embody an accuracy that suits the writer’s purpose. Preachers today are not being unfaithful to Scripture when they mix passing allusion with strict quotation from the Bible, when they rearrange biblical phrases, or when they paraphrase contextual matters in getting to their specific target statement, phrase, or word. Their scriptural point can be communicated in a way that is true to the sense without being a pristine rendition of the specific text.

    Therefore, the New Testament use of the Septuagint or of inexact renditions of the Old Testament does not belie the commitment of the involved writers to the criteriological authority of the autographa. The practice does, however, underline their unanxious acceptance of texts or versions that were not strictly autographic as being adequate for the practical purposes at hand in their teaching. These were adequate precisely because they could be assumed to portray the true sense of the original.

  162. Towne said,

    April 2, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Re: Post #157-

    This reply is not so much to Mr. Sparks as to those who might read his contention of conflict between the accounts in Mt. and Acts, and be troubled.

    It really is quite simple to understand the two texts in unison, but our urban culture blinds us these days, where we are so rarely exposed to the realities of death.

    Matthew says that Judas went out and hanged himself.
    Luke further relates in Acts that Judas fell forward or became prostrate> and with that action–the body hitting the ground, even merely from a modest heighth–his abdomen burst open.

    Do remember that when a body dies, rigor mortis sets in. Then the body begins to bloat and decay. If you have never seen this, it is understandably gruesome. But apart from the mortician’s preventive labors, it is something that happens every time a body dies.

    Note also that in the text, contrary to Mr. Sparks, there is no mention of any rope breaking. That is an intrusion he brings in from having read someone’s attempt at an explanation. Judas hung himself, yes, but there is nothing to indicate anything about a rope breaking.

    It is more likely that someone cut the rotting, stinking carcass down, in order to put him out of their misery.

    As the body fell, the feet would naturally be the first to contact the ground. Then the body would fall, forward or otherwise, and the bloated carcass could understandably break open. Which is precisely what Luke relates to his audience.

    My conclusion is that while there is much concern about asking the “hard questions”, what we are instead getting from Mr. Enns and others are the cheap, easy answers, capitulating readily to the idea of error and contradiction in the very Word of God.

    The hard answers, instead, to the hard questions in this case, come with asking why Matthew would tell his audience of the hanging, while Luke would relate not the hanging itself but instead the aftermath of the hanging?

    The modernist by his presumption of error delimits himself from peering deeper into the text to see the real reasons for these differences. Dig deeper for those answers and you will have something substantive and profitable from the Word of God with which to feed God’s people. Take the modernist approach and you are left with throw-away texts of no real value whatsoever.

  163. Towne said,

    April 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    My apologies for failing to close the italics portion in the above post. It should be obvious that the italics should have ended with “became prostrate”.

    By the way, how does one include actual Greek text in a post? That really is quite the wonder.

  164. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 2, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    You’ve got a couple of options for the Greek:

    * Cut-n-paste a Greek version from biblegateway.com, or if you have Hermeneutika or Logos, you can cut-n-paste from it as well.

    * On Windows XP, install the Greek keyboard by going to Control Panel –> Regional and Language Options –> Details –> Keyboard –> Add. Then you can type Ελλας at will, after a modest learning curve.

    Anyone know any other options?

    Jeff Cagle

  165. Paul Seely said,

    April 2, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I particularly appreciate the scholarly answer of Darryl Hart (#24) to my post (#22); and the additional comment by Gary (#25) is also good. I agree with both of them that the approach of Calvin and Old Princeton should not be equated with that of Lindsell and Geisler.

    Let us look more closely at the Calvin/Old Princeton view. What separates it from Lindsell/Geisler? Calvin’s concept of accommodation, as Hart recognizes, is the difference What makes Warfied’s view different? The same thing, accommodation. Let’s be specific. To my knowledge the only thing that Warfield officially said with reference to biblical inspiration and science that was different from Lindsell/Geisler was the paragraph originally cited by Silva in his inaugural address and used by me in my papers on the biblical cosmology. Speaking of biblical inerrancy, he said that an inspired writer could
    “share the ordinary opinions of his day in certain matters lying outside the scope of his teachings, as, for example, with reference to the form of the earth, or its relation to the sun; and, it is not inconceivable that the form of his language when incidentally adverting to such matters, might occasionally play into the hands of such a presumption.”

    This statement begins with the view of Old Princeton that whatever an inspired writer of Scripture TEACHES is inerrant, but it then adds in further agreement with Old Princeton that some matters lying outside of the scope of the writer’s teaching may be included in inspired Scripture as merely human opinions, “the ordinary opinions of his day.” This is very much in line with Calvin who with regard to Jer 10:2 recognizes accommodation in Scripture and speaks of the accommodated matter as “the notions which then prevailed.” (John Calvin, Commentaries IX, Jeremiah 1-19 (repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 7) It should also be noted that “the form of the earth” and “the notions which then privailed” go beyond mere phenominal language.

    Given Warfield’s view of inspiration as defined by Calvin, Old Princeton and in particular the above quotation, here is the critical question: What is the criterion or criteria which enable one who adheres to this view to distinguish the inerrant Teachings from the accommodated errant human opinions?

  166. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 2, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Very good question Mr. Seely. The same question I have in my head for some time is what is the criterion of the “errantists” to separate what in the Bible is errant and what are not errant. To say the ancients view of earth is errant, fair, but what’s to prevent people going down this path to declare that maybe Garden of Eden is one big errant myth. That Abraham was just a made believe figure, that Moses was a hypothetical savior because his birth account is so similar to the ANE accounts.

    But going back to your challenge, very good one and one that “inerrantists” should answer. As for me I would need some time to reflect this wonderful challenge.

  167. April 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    [...] A very thorough and involved discussion occuring at Green Baggins. [...]

  168. April 3, 2008 at 12:34 am

    David,

    You write: “Likewise, while the Bible can be imprecise, it is never inaccurate.”

    I often think of that when I read remarks in Hebrews like “Someone says somewhere” when the writer quotes the Old Testament. Did he know the reference? Probably. But does his decision not to be precise mean he somehow erred?

  169. GLW Johnson said,

    April 3, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Paul Seely
    I think we must be careful in how we go about throwing around the word ‘accomodation’. For example, Warfield, in his article ,’The Church Doctrine of Inspiration’ addressed this and wrote, ” Every attempt to escape from the authority of the NT enunciation of the doctrine of plenary inspiration, in the nature of the case begins by admitting that this is ,in fact, the NT doctrine. Shall we follow Dr. Sanday, and appeal from the apostles to Christ, and then call in the idea of ‘kenosis’, and affirm that in the days of his flesh, Christ did not speak out of the fulness and purity of his divine knowledge, but on becoming a man had shrunk to man’s capacity, and in such matters as this was limited in his conceptions by the knowledge and opinions current in his day and generation? “(N.B. this is one reason BBW rejected the incarnational model for the doctrine of Scripture,contra Enns)- Warfield continues, ” In so saying we admit, as has already been pointed out, not only that the apostles taught this high doctrine of inspiration, but also that Christ too, in whatever humiliation he did it, yet actually taught the same. Shall we then take refuge in the idea of ACCOMODATION (emphasis Warfield’s), and explain that in so speaking of the Scripture, Christ and his apostles did not intend to taech the doctrine of inspiration implicated, but merely adopted, as a matter of convience, the current language, as to Scripture, of the time? In so speaking, also, we admit that the actual language of Christ and his apostles expresses that high view of inspiration which was confessedly the current view of the day-whether as a matter of convenience or as a matter of truth, the Christian consciousness may be safely left to decide.” In other words, BBW did not endorse the idea of ‘accomodation’ de facto, but rather used the concept in a very distinct way to accent his own understanding of how the doctrine of plenary inspiration could be sustained and defended.

  170. its.reed said,

    April 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    All:

    I recommend to you a recent (re) publication of Dick’s Gaffin’s 1980’s article on Kuyper’s and Bavinck’s doctrine of infallibility, God’s Word, In Servant Form.

    A short book that provides some helpful insights into the kinds of hermeneutical issues raised by Enns, et.al.

  171. greenbaggins said,

    April 3, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I may be going out on a limb here. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Enns’s book is what prompted Gaffin to publish this little book.

  172. its.reed said,

    April 3, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Lane:

    Not quite. In the preface Dr. Gaffin thanks Dr. Lilliback and Dr. Trueman for encouraging him to re-publish this. He thanks Lig Duncan for publishing it (a publishing house associated with Lig in some manner).

    Lane, contact me off-list. Thanks.

  173. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 3, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Dr. Gaffin wrote so many good stuffs that are scattered all over the place. Maybe one day someone will take the time to organize it and publish them all together ala “Collective Works of _______ ” style.

    Once again we must remember the humbleness of these great men that chose to remain at WTS throughout their lives. People like Dr. Gaffin could of easily gotten a “research professor” job anywhere, with great pay, 10 secretaries, and 20 research assistants that allows him to pretty much produce a book or two per year. But instead they chose to spend majority of their time teaching and shepherding students.

  174. Kyle said,

    April 3, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Jeff, re: 164,

    You can do HTML encoding as well. See here. I’m not sure whether it’ll work in a WordPress comment box, but here goes:

    ΙΧΘΥΣ

    Ιησους Χριστος Θεο&upsilon Υιος Σωτηρ

    IXQUS

    Ihsous Xristos Qeou Uios Swthr

  175. Kyle said,

    April 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Bah. Missed a “;”. Θεου

  176. April 3, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    The importance of Gaffin’s slender volume By Faith, Not By Sight is vastly disproportionate to its size, and I’ve told him so. This man (along with Vos, Cullmann, and Ridderbos) understands the heart of the NT like few others; his scholarship is a treasure trove to the church.

  177. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Ref. 173;

    Reformed Sinner (soory, don’t know your name brother): let me amen your comment and add to it.

    I’m fully aware Dick Gaffin has feet of clay (mine are mire). Yet I am persuaded that if one were to sit with Dick for even the briefest periods of time he would see one who is an exemplar of what it means to live for Christ, of what it means to follow Christ as a bond-servant for men.

    Dr. Gaffin is one of my examples. I am grateful to Christ that I can follow his example of following Christ.

    Of course, Dr. Gaffin would say he is not worthy, but its all Christ. I would say amen and be all the more impressed and encouraged.

  178. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Dear Friends at Greenbaggins:

    I’d like to ask a few questions, which ultimately have direct relevance to our evaluation of Enns’s book.

    1. I assume that all of us agree on this: that slavery (by which I mean, a social institution in which one human being owns another human being as property and thereby exerts either total or almost total control over much of their life destiny) is a terrible evil, that we have wisely eradicated from our own society and, as Christians, work to eradicate on a global scale.

    If this is right, then why does Scripture say: “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his property (Exod 21:21-22).”

    And, continuing in that vein of thought, how does that square with Paul’s assertions that “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal 3:28), that Masters should be kind to slaves (Eph 6:5-9), and that Philemon should release Onesimus because he’s his brother in Christ (Philemon).

    And further, why does Paul not do what we Christians have decided is right: to end slavery entirely?

    2. Given Paul’s assertions about the equality of persons before God in Gal 3, why does the Old Testament reflect racial prejudice when its distinguishes how we should treat Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves (Hebrew slaves could be released after six years; no such requirement was provided for non-Hebrew slaves. Also, we are told in Leviticus to be kinder to Hebrew slaves than to foreigners [contra Exod 21])?

    I’ll be interested in your answers.

  179. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Ref. 177:

    Kent: thinking about how I would answer your questions. While I am, I’m wondering if you might, even briefly, give some direction as to how you believe such questions are relevant to the approach Enns takes in his book?

    I ask, because while I think I see where you may be going, I’m not sure I’d agree that these questions are the best that could be answered to expose the problems with Enns approach. But I could be completely mush between the ears (often am), so I thought I’d ask.

  180. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Dear its.reed:

    The main point of Pete’s book is that the Bible, as a book that is not only divine but also human, imbibes of the finite and fallen perspectives of its human authors and audience. As a result, it includes diversity. And as a subsequent result, good theology recognizes that diversity and then asks how it should be negotiated to determine what God, through Scripture, is asking us to believe and do.

    Pete’s book provides an explanation for the diversity, and also a solution, insofar as it guides us to apply a christological lens when we evaluate that diversity in our pursuit of Scripture’s message for us.

    Though the OT clearly allows us to own and even mistreat slaves, we end up at a very different ethical desination when we apply to that Jesus’s words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  181. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Kent
    Are you using the word ‘diversity’ as a synonym for ‘error’ or something that is contradictory or misleading?

  182. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:40 am

    GLW: Let’s skip the semantics. I mean that the Bible allows for slavery, but Christians believe that slavery is wrong. Feel free to describe that using any word that you’d like to use.

    How do we manage this theologically, in both our doctrine of Scripture and in our ethical reflection as Christians?

  183. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Kent
    How are you using the word ‘diversity’. Define your terms.

  184. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:59 am

    GLW:

    As I said, “diversity” is a word that describes this phenomenon: Christians have come to believe that the Bible says both, “you may own slaves,” and “you shouldn’t own slaves.” Those two perspectives are in the Bible, but they are very different.

    If you can’t understand from this what I mean by “diversity,” then I frankly don’t now how to help you.

  185. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Kent
    If you will go back and read your own posts you will see that you have used the word ‘diversity’ diversely!. In comment #110 you readily acknowledge that the Bible contains errors that are not only scientific and historical but also theological in nature- here you throw in the word ‘diversity’. In comment #120 you mention the humanity of the text and ‘human error’-again you throw in the word ‘diversity’. Also in #118 you allude to ‘fundamentalist inerrancy’ a rather disparaging but revealing remark that shows me that you don’t have a very comprehensive understanding of the thing that disturbs you.

  186. April 4, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Hello everyone. A special hello to Lane, Gary Johnson, and Tim Harris—we interacted the last time I was on this blog; and Tim and I had several classes together at WTS. Kent Sparks, since we have not met online, howdy.

    I just turned in my thesis on Tuesday. Since I have a little time now, I thought I would come out to play. It did take a lot longer than I had hoped to read through the 185 comments so far.

    I really do not know where to start, but hopefully the following contributes to this discussion. David Gadbois’ comment (159) particularly caught my eye: “The more I deal with them, the more it seems that the erranists (both Christian or atheist) don’t really try very hard when dealing with the phenomena of Scripture. They very easily throw up their hands at any puzzling verse and then are arrogant enough to blame the Bible for error rather than question the fallibility of their own intellect.” I would probably be someone you all would define as an ‘errantist.’ Hopefully you would accept me as a Christian—I am, after all, a member in good standing at a PCA church.

    Gadbois’ comment seems to give voice to a complex of issues that continually surface in Evangelical-Reformed discussions on inerrancy, both here and more broadly. A while back, when I was frustrated by similar sentiments from someone else on a different blog, I typed out the following nine examples off the top of my head and posted them. They represent some of the types of issues, I think, inerrantists should confront when articulating what Scripture ‘is.’ So, for all the nuanced Reformed inerrantists here—who pay close attention to the phenomena of Scripture—please do share your thoughts on these examples.

    Some of these may seem harmonizable. But, in those cases, as I try to point out, you miss out on the theological depth and significance of the passage and the Scriptural writing in question—thus making me suspicious that the harmonization deal with the text in a way honoring to it.

    1) Mark 12.9 attributes words to Jesus that Matthew’s version of the pericope attributes to the crowd (Matt 21.41). For another fun synoptic ‘who said what’ instance compare Matt 19.16-17 with Mk 10.17-18. In Mark the man said to Jesus ‘Good teacher.’ In Matthew the man says uses good with reference to the deed in question. What is going on here? We could multiply examples such as these from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) almost endlessly. The Matt 19 and Mk 10 example has an interesting history of discussion in Westminster circles. Both E.J. Young and Ned Stonehouse treated it at some length. Young essentially harmonizes while Stonehouse refuses to do so, looking at how the differences reflect the freedom and creativity of the author and as such serving as windows in on the theology of the writings in question.

    (2) The Synoptics portray Jesus as eating his last supper with the disciples as a Passover meal (Thursday night), being arrested that night, and being crucified Passover day, Friday (c.f. Mk 14.12 / Lk 22.15; then follow the narratives). John portrays Jesus as eating supper sometime prior to Passover and then being crucified on the eve of Passover precisely when the Lambs are being slaughtered for the Passover meals for the Jews (see John 13.1-5; 19.14-16). It seems that John has a rich theological reason for what he is doing—Jesus being killed with the Passover lambs fits in nicely with his emphasis of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29; cf. 1.36). Or, perhaps the Synoptics were motivated in their chronological presentation to cast the last supper (eucharist?) as a new Passover meal? It seems we have the authors of the Gospels (or at least one/some of them) modifying the ‘facts’ for their theology.

    (3) Does Jesus tell the disciples to take a staff (Mk 6.8) or not (Matt 10.10)? I have heard it suggested that the only way to ‘deal with’ this is positing autographs that did not have this problem—therefore this issue arises from corruption in the transmission history of either Mark or Matthew. This would seem like an extreme case of ‘special pleading.’ What do you all think?

    (4) Do you mind if I mention a canon ‘issue’? Jude quotes the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36; a Jewish apocalypse of the 3rd century BCE) as Scripture, Jude 14-15. The way he introduces it corresponds to ways other parts of our Bible (and contemporary Jewish literature) cite what the authors in question would consider Scripture. Such a view of the Book of the Watchers for Jude makes sense since the Book of the Watchers—along with many of the other writings making up 1 Enoch—were viewed as Scripture by Jews in many (most?) strands of Early Judaism in the centuries prior to Jesus and around his time. In fact, the view of 1 Enoch as Scripture continues in the early church as early church writers cite 1 Enoch as Scripture (see, for example, the Epistle of Barnabus with its 3 citations of 1 Enoch with scripture citation formulas!). I am not claiming 1 Enoch or some of the writings in it should be in our canon—but rather that this material makes the Bible messier than we would like.

    (5) What did Jesus say on the Cross? You could put all the Gospels on this together and have our ‘7 last words of Jesus’ sermon series. But, that distorts the different theologies of the death of Jesus that each Gospel has. This is especially true if you conflate Mark and Luke on the death of Jesus. They have different views on the death of Jesus and his approach to it—which can be very theologically enriching (after all, it is the Bible) if we do not flatten them out.

    (6) Deuteronomy (10.1-5) has a different understanding of where the ark came from than Exodus.

    (7) Who failed to dislodge the Jebusites from Jerusalem, Judah (Josh 15.63) or Benjamin (Judg 1.21)? Note, it is exactly the same verse, except that Judges has modified the material from Joshua to fit in with its, basically, anti-Benjamin ideology/theology seen throughout the book. If you delve into this further, you find this to be a window into some rich theology in Judges. But, if you flatten this out, you start to miss something God was saying through Judges.

    (8) Was Hiram/Huram-abi’s descent from the tribe of Naphtali (1 Kgs 7.14) or Dan (2 Chr 2.13-14)? Perhaps one could harmonize this, but then you are missing out on the Chronicler’s rich theology of Solomon and Hiram/Huram (in the building of the Temple) as the new Bezalel and Oholiab (who built the Tabernacle). As the Chronicler draws on his sacred scripture and traditions, he brings out this parallel between Huram and Oholiab by, among other things, giving Huram the same tribal affiliation as Oholiab (see Exod 31.6, 35.34, 38.23). All this has a very important function in the Chronicler’s overall message and theology. But, again, to harmonize this is to get in the way of understanding what God is saying and doing through Chronicles.

    (9) Is it ok for a Moabite to enter the assembly of the Lord and be part of Israel (the book of Ruth) or not (Deut 23.3-6)? See also the general theology of Ezra-Nehemiah on foreigners, Israel, and marriage.

  187. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:21 am

    GLW:

    You have two PhD’s. Surely you can see my point, that Christians judge the Bible to say both, “you may own slaves” and “you shouldn’t.” Skip the word diversity, if you like, and simply talk about what the Bible says and how we make sense of that.

  188. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Stephen:

    Indeed, these are the sorts of things that we must juggle theologically.

    Kent

  189. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:28 am

    No can do-not given the context in which you wish to frame the debate.You propose to sit in judgment on what is and what is not inerrant in Scripture. You have a prejudice on the doctrine of inerrancy but show very little awareness of the history of the doctrine. I will interact with your book in a forecoming book that I am presently working on-and given what I have read by you on this blog I have a pretty good idea what to expect from your book. That all for now .

  190. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:30 am

    p.s. Steven Young it rather odd that we both are graduates from WTS- times change.

  191. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Come, now, GLW. Is your theological acumen paralyzed before the teachings of the biblical text?

    “No can do,” is right. You’re theology doesn’t know what to do with the fact that the Bible permits slavery when Christians believe that it also guides us to free slaves (unless, of course, you actually believe that slavery is OK; if so, I suspect that we’d all be interested in that).

    You’re checking out because you’re stumped. And that’s why Pete’s work is so important.

  192. April 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Dr. Johnson,

    What, in particular, makes you say times have changed? In general what I do above is point out some things from the Bible–without harmonizing them.

  193. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Kent
    I will address you views in the proper arena-just hold your horses-in the mean time ( and since I bought a copy of your book) get a copy of the book I edited on Warfield and read that.
    Stephen
    You defend Enns-I don’t. I am a product of the school that is represented by the deptments of Systematic theology and Church history. Scott Oliphint was a classmate .Those are the differences.

  194. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Surely, slavery can be chalked up to be a very parallel issue to divorce: “from the beginning it was not so, but because of the hardness of your hearts.” Not everything is parallel, of course. However, it can be seen clearly that the organic unfolding character of Scripture points to emancipation.

  195. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

    GLW:

    As much energy as you’ve apparently invested in blogging and the sort, I find it not a little disingenous that you can’t at least give us a peak into how you’d handle the slavery issue. I’m interpreting your reticence as theological incompetence.

    Please, show everyone that I’m wrong.

  196. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Kent
    That was not nice, but since you refused to define your terms, have displayed an deplorable and debilitated knowledge of Warfield and the history of the high Protestant doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Scripture, not to mention the bad taste of havng to resort to name calling ,I feel no compulsion to deal with you any futher- except in the book that I alluded to earlier. Adios.

  197. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Kent, that comment is out of line. If Gary doesn’t want to answer a question, he doesn’t have to do so. That’s his business. But to call him disingenuous for not answering the question is not fair.

  198. GLW Johnson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Kent
    One finally thing- your question-don’t you find that it compares rather nicely to the one about the seven brothers who all ended up dying off and the woman they had as a wife…..

  199. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Sorry, GLW. I suppose that I should let bloggers decide for themselves why the conversation ended. And it is, of course, GLW’s decision when it comes to responding.

    But I’d point out two things.

    First, if you look back at Brett’s post (#121) to me, I’d say it’s at least as offensive as calling someone “disingenuous.”

    Secondly, I hope that we’ll remember how much more serious is the accusation that permeates the discussion, namely, that Pete’s views are heretical. If I had to choose, I’d rather be called “disingenous” than “heretical,” especially when, in many fundamentalist, “heretical” turns out to be a code for “evil.”

    I’ll leave it at that.

  200. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Kent:

    Just call me Reed.

    Thanks for your efforts at clarifying your meaning. I thought that was where you were going, and I disagree that your questions are the best kinds of questions to demonstrate either the correctness or the error of Enn’s approach.

    I disagree with your observation that the Bible teaches it is o.k. to own slaves (OT) and not o.k. to own slaves (NT). That is either a position of a careless-naive reader making a mistake on logic, or one who carelessly-ignorantly insists on flattening what the Bible says itself. I’m not saying you are doing so. Rather, the question as you framed it, could only be asked in one of these two ways.

    Even more to the point, Enns’ archtectonic presuppositions, placing ANE cultural-historical insights in priority-preeminence over the Bible’s self-attested inerrancy, are not necesssary to answer your questions. In fact, I would argue that Enn’s approach lends unnecessary credence to the wrong convictions underlying these kinds of questions.

    More particular with slavery, the slavery being managed in the OT is not the slavery being submitted to in the NT. To be sure, slavery as a whole consistutes a spectrum best categorized as a form of an economic relationship. Yet the chattel slavery of the Roman Empire and the Canaanite nations driven out before OC Israel and the slavery Moses is legislating on are as different as night and day.

    Your question flattens such distinctions, assuming they are the same.

    Further, your question seems to ignore the temporary, shadow nature of the OC – an issue specifically not supported by Enns approach. If I were coming from a dispensational hermeneutic and stuck with the weakenesses of the flattening effects of dispensational harmonization exercises (been there, done that), then Enns approach would seem like a refreshing beer in a dry desert. Yet the bitter after taste would ruin the whole thing for me.

    As to your particular example from Ex. 21:20-21, I commend you to Calvin’s excellent summary. He notes that the issue of a “day or two” is to show that the master, acting possibly in a moment of anger, actually gave no substantial injury to the slave. That is, he struck out in anger, but only bruised him, like we might get when playing a rough sport – an injury that was neither life threatening nor even merely restricting one to a minimal period of recovery.

    I.o.w., rather than allowing a degree of abuse to a slave, the law in question was designed to define when “murder” had occurred, when the master was liable for blood guilt. According to Calvin, the master was so guilty whenever he in anger struck his slave AND this resulted in an injury causing the slave to lose as little as a day or two of the full use of his own faculties and abilities.

    Rather than a standard of slave treatment consistent with (but slightly above) the standards of the ANE cultures among whom Moses was reflective writing (an Enns’ influenced approach), Calvin demonstrates that God’s standard is exactly what God claims it is – absolute and impossible for sinful man to perfectly maintain.

  201. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Ref. 199:

    Rather than heretical, would you settle for “heterodox”?

  202. Mark T. said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:38 am

    And in the liberal camp, “diverse” is code for “gay,” or “homosexual.” I’d pick another word.

  203. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:01 am

    To Mr. Sparks on his “slavery” challenge, and as a “proof” that this shows the Bible are “diverse” enough and by implicaton “messy” and therefore it’s pointless to maintain “an absolute, eternal, inerrant truth word for word, but rather we make room for errors and human cultures that may be outdated”

    Many things I can respond to slavery:

    1) Slavery at Roman times are categorically different than American slavery (the presupposition that we use to judge Biblical slavery, which is wrong.) This is like saying Augustine is an African because he was born and raised in North Africa. This would also be categorically incorrect because Augustine is not an African the way we understand “African” today, but Augustine is primarily a Roman.

    2) What are the differences? a) American slavery are prejudice towards a specific race (Africans), Roman slavery are all kinds of races and not prejudice against any particular race (it is evidented that many Romans have become slaves). b) American slaves are treated as non-human but properties to be exchange. Roman slavery have “human rights” and legally are considered a person. They enjoy almost all the previledges that any other person enjoy under the legal system: for example they can own properties and many of them hold important offices within the family they served, we now know many slaves even hold public offices (when his master is the superior of course). c) Related to point “b” because American slavery are treated as property, they are for the most part abused. But Roman slavery is considered for the most part: “a blue collar job” and integral part of economic system of their day. Just like we cannot imagine a world without 9-5 type “middle class jobs” in the same way those living in a Roman world cannot image a world without “slavery” d) to further illustrate point “c” many slaves in the Roman world “work up the ranks” and even have “slaves of slaves” if you will. It is very superficial to try and understand Roman slavery system without prejudice and bringing in the horrid experiences of American slavery.

    3) It is not so that the Bible did not aim to correct the injustice of Roman slavery. Like any other institution the Biblical principle trumps over any human needs. Paul’s “treat your slave as your brother” is a radical teaching that will no doubt challenged even the most liberal minded slave owners, and in a way turn the Roman economic and social system up-side down. One needs to fully appreciate the boldness of Paul’s radical teaching on slavery.

    There are many Christians that hire maids to clean their houses, drivers to take them around, some of them full-time. They cook, they serve, they clean, they whatever. Again would you call for them to fired all the maids, drivers, etc. because you think they are “unbiblical?” And yes, a careful study of Roman slavery will produce knowledge that Roman slavery are closer to today’s “maids and servants” than American slavery. It is very superficial to not consider these nuances.

  204. horacelamb said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Lane, I’m curious how I can post on your blog. I’ve tried to post twice in the last 2-3 days. The first time it did not show up. I then posted a comment about that, and it was then posted. But by that time the discussion had advanced far past the time I actually made my comment. In other words, I posted at #122, but the posts probably were in the 140s by the time my comment appeared.

    This morning I tried again to post a comment and it did not appear. Maybe this is good- maybe I’m being saved from public embarassment.

    Feel free to drop me a note at horacelamb@gmail.com to let me know what I’m doing wrong.

    Thanks!

  205. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Dear Reed:

    Thanks for your comment.

    You said, “I disagree with your observation that the Bible teaches it is o.k. to own slaves (OT) and not o.k. to own slaves (NT).”

    -So, what should we make of a texts like this: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.” (Lev 25:44). Doesn’t this text plainly tell us that we can buy slaves? Or are you saying something else, namely, that both the OT and NT allow us to own slaves?

    And, to follow up on your comment on Exod 21:20-21:

    The text states that a slave owner should not be punished if he beats his slave and the slave tolerably recovers in a few days. Let’s tweak it, shall we: “If a husband beats his wife, and she is able to get up in a day or two, he should not be punished, since the wife is his property (cf. Exod 20, where wives are listed as property).”

    Following this logic, it seems to me that we should leave wife and child abusers alone, so long as their victims can recover in a day or two. What am I missing?

  206. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Reformed Sinner:

    “Slavery at Roman times are categorically different than American slavery (the presupposition that we use to judge Biblical slavery, which is wrong.)”

    You’re right. Roman slavery was different from American slavery, but if you know anything about it you’d not want to be a Roman slave. If you think that you would, I’d suggest that you do more study on the matter. A common use for young men in Roman slavery was pedestry.

    Plus your perspective seems to suggest that, biblical speaking, slavery–the social institution in which one human being owns another as property–is acceptable.

  207. David said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Kent,

    Reading you reminds me of a comment N.T. Wright made concerning his critics. They expect him so say everything every time he speaks. So when Moses is giving the instructions on debt-slavery in Leviticus 25 and distinguishing it from the more conventional slavery of people who do not belong to Israel, since Israel belongs to God as slaves by dint of their redemption in the Exodus, so in other words the communicative intent of this section of Leviticus 25 is that each Israelite already is a slave to Yahweh, thus ineligible for human ownership, yet because He doesn’t give a full treatise for slavery you want to charge error. This is what irks those who hold to a high view of Scripture. You are placing yourself as the King of the text and not submitting yourself to it. That screams arrogance to those who don’t know you other than by your writings.

    So just because it doesn’t answer all the questions to your sensibilities does not mean error, in fact it might as Reed pointed out earlier, it may reflect more on you than it does on the text.

  208. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Ref. 205:

    Kent:

    You have not substantively responded to my response. As such, I find myself talking with someone who says they are listening, but ignores my comments.

    Again, the “slavery” in view in the OT is NOT the slavery of either the nations around OC Israel, nor the form of slavery common across the Roman Empire, nor even American ante-bellum slavery. You are presupposing that what Moses is making laws on is, in essence, the same, as that of the fallen cultures around.

    I disagree – to use the counterfeit analogy, a real $100 bill has some similarities with a counterfeit one, but it is a category mistake to argue that they are both variations of the same kind. They are not.

    The slavery which Moses is dealing with is an OC shadow of the slavery which I rejoice in today, the slavery I have to Christ. Spend some serious time reading Moses regulations for slavery and compare them to the NC and you will begin to see what I mean. OC slavery was a means into the covenant people – it was means of becoming a part of the family.

    If you begin with the Enns presuppostion however, to wit that Moses is merely writing and reflecting th ANE culture aorund as a means of “fitting” the message of God to the recipients, you begin with a presupposition that cannot allow for such a Scripture interprets Scripture hermeneutic.

    Finally, and a chastisement offered with love, let me note I am disapppointed that you so quickly and easily responded to me. From what you wrote back, it appears that either you did not care to take the time to engage my arguments (e.g., such as reading Calvin’s point), or if you did, you decided that my thoughts (and Calvin’s) were not worthy of any interaction with.

    In all seriousness brother, discuss and debate please, but do not engage in such serious discussions with apparently casual invovlement. I’d be willing to have such a casual conversation if we were arguing over a favorite restaraunt (a matter of little importance). Yet, as I know you agree, the subject before us is one of much greater weight.

  209. Paul Seely said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I appreciate (DC}’s honest response (#166) to my question. To help one arrive at an answer to my question regarding accommodation, it may help to look at the question from a slightly different perspective via the issue of “phenomenal language.” Scripture often speaks of the sun “rising,” and “going down.” Since people in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving, when a biblical author made a statement of this nature, he thought he was saying that the sun was literally rising and literally going down. In other words, he would have been surprised and unwilling to agree that he was just using phenomenal language, just speaking about appearances.

    Historically, this has led to two different responses in the Reformed tradition. Turretin argued on the basis of such passages that since God cannot lie and he knows more about these things than we do, we ought to agree with Scripture and reject the Copernican theory. (Compendium Theologicœ Didactico-Elencticœ,(Amsterdam, 1695.) He rejected the idea that such passages were accommodated to the beliefs of the times. Calvin, on the other hand, when dealing with the size of the sun, moon, and stars (Gen 1:16) set the example of reducing such statements to merely phenomenal language, and Warfield’s statement (above) about such matters follows Calvin’s example.

    My question can then be framed as, On what basis do we reject the historical-grammatical meaning of any passage in Scripture and replace it with the meaning that it is just phenomenal language? Or, What is the criterion or criteria for deciding when an inspired statement in Scripture can be set aside as not really speaking of the actual facts but only of the misleading appearances?

  210. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Ref. 209:

    Paul, if I might offer two comments:

    First, you say, “Since people in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving, …”

    I understand that this is a commonly held opinion, but that is all it is, an opinion. Your statement presumes the opinion is fact, and that this fact determined the Spirit’s inspiration in this particular text.

    As I understand the principles here, I think you are conflating a “language of appearance” principle with the principle of God’s accomodation of revelation to our limitations. It is rather better simply note that from appearance, from the human eye, the sun rises and sets. This is not the same as saying the sun actually does rise and set, only that this is how it appears from our perspective. God spoke, via the human author, in a commonly accepted “appearance” orientation. There is no evidence here that God spoke infallibly but erroneously to accomodate himself to man’s erroneous conviction about the nature of the sun and earth’s celestial relationship.

    Second, with this clarification in view, there is no need to set this appearance principle over against the historical-grammatical principle, as if they were in conflict. In point of fact, the language of appearance is a well accepted principle within the broader set of principles included in the historical-grammatical principle. This is why the weatherman can tell me when the sun rises and sets and I don’t need to worry that maybe he is a closet geo-centrist. I virtually automatically historically-grammtically interpret him correctly.

    Such language of appearance examples are not of critical significance in the error in Enns’ approach. Nor do they support his approach.

    The approach outlined here acheives the same goal Enns wishes to acheive, but without assuming God had to speak erroneously so we could understand him.

  211. Towne said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Mr. Seely (#209):

    It seems that in this particular example, your argument hinges on the statement: “Since people in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving, when a biblical author made a statement of this nature, he thought he was saying that the sun was literally rising and literally going down.”

    I for one am not so ready to concede that point. How do you know, or how can you prove that people (in this case, specifically the authors of the texts) in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving. How would you distinguish in the text phenomenological language from literal language?

    This strikes me as akin to the modern myth that in the middle ages, people thought the earth was flat. Said myth has been deflated. Again, mind you, we are not talking about the average person here in regard to the authors of Scripture. Moses was among the best educated of his day, schooled in that same body of knowledge that built the pyramids, who foundations have not shifted in millennia. Could you or I build a comparable structure today? I think not. On what basis should we presume ignorance? Too many of these problems arise from imposing an erroneous interpretation fueled by modern presumptions.

  212. its.reed said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Ref. 211:

    Towne: I concur. We moderns need continually to remind ourselves against the evolutionary-rooted arrogance that presumes that the more modern = more educated, sophisticated, etc.

  213. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Dear Mr. Sparks:

    Of course there will be abuses in any profession. Just because there are some male bosses that sexually assults their female secretaries that doesn’t mean the job of secretaries are inheritedly evil or wrong. My post is meant to remind you of the bigger picture when dealing with historical categories. The worst thing to do is to apply modern categories upon historical ones on superficial similarities.

    Are Roman slaves abused? Yes. So were Roman women, Roman children, Roman widows, Roman sick people, etc. Citing a few examples of how slaves are abused and then make it generalized to be true of all slaves is not helpful nor is it sound academics. You have impliciting claimed you are an expert in this matter, but unfortunately your short reply suggests otherwise. I will not hold that against you but I will just take it that you don’t have the time, or you are unwilling to spend that time to engage in a real dialogue or debate, fine, that’s your prerogative.

  214. J.R. Polk said,

    April 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Ref. 212

    Another observation in that regard . . . I still hear formally trained meteorologists make reference to “sunrise” and “sunset” for example. I’ve yet to hear anyone accuse a meteorologist of being unsophisticated even though they use such language.

  215. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 4, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Kent (#178ff):

    You haven’t pursued your trajectory of thought to its end yet. The allowance for slavery, or the destruction of the Canaanites, are small potatoes compared to consigning someone to everlasting torment for any cause whatsoever. Unlike the first two examples, which might be construed as a less enlightened OT theology, the doctrine that those who reject Christ will be thrown into the lake of fire prepared for the devil is one that is taught primarily by Jesus and his apostles. (As Lewis points out, “lake of fire” might be metaphorical language — but only because the reality is far worse.)

    So I say, let’s cut to the chase and discuss whether God can be righteous and condemn others to eternal torment. Do you love that kind of Jesus? Do I? Or is there a part of both of us that is too anthropopathetic and wishes to side with humanity over against God?

    Messy indeed.

    I know this doesn’t address your slavery question directly, nor Stephen’s well-put questions. But it seemed important to me that we acknowledge the moral aspect of our exegesis. If it turns out that God really does act in ways that disrupt our intuitions, are we willing to repent of our intuitions?

    Jeff Cagle

  216. Kent Sparks said,

    April 4, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Jeff Cagle et al.:

    “You haven’t pursued your trajectory of thought to its end yet [the problem of hell].”

    I don’t think that we’ll resolve our differences because both sides of the debate (assuming, simplistically, that there are two sides here) are fixed on their opinions. I believe that “Do unto others” and some other (particularly) NT texts are not ethically compatible with the Bible’s laws that allow for slavery. To diversity is obvious to me, and I frankly can’t understand why others don’t see it. But, I suppose that’s how it goes.

    Now, about hell …

    I freely confess that the idea of eternal torment in literal fire does not appeal to me, if for no other reason than that I love people and don’t wish to see them suffer. And then there’s the theological problem that the punishment for finite human sins would be infinite.

    But indeed, the Bible describes some sort of judgment (though I suspect its not literal fire, and might perhaps include annihilations), so I trust God that, in the end, all that is done will somehow be appropriate in ways I don’t fully understand.

    At the same time, I confess that I hope to see some of my deceased friends and family, or were lost to the faith, in heaven. I have to hope that, because I love them. And if God surprises, I’ll be quite happy about it.

    Also, and on this point I feel quite confident: those who don’t know Christ explicitly who can be saved, just as were the OT saints. How God works that out, I’ll leave to him.

  217. April 4, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I do not want to get too pushy, but is anyone planning to engage some of the points I raise in #186? Beyond that I probably just want to be the center of attention : ), I am interested in how the nuanced Reformed understanding of inerrancy deals with such phenomena of Scripture?

    To put some of my cards on the table, I am not against using the term ‘inerrancy,’ so long as we have redefined it somewhat. I cannot say that everything a human author of Scripture intended to claim through the text corresponds to ‘fact’ or that none of the propositional teachings of Scripture contradict (Gaffin gave definitions along these lines).

    I realize such a view can be very nuanced as they still demand rigorous study of the text to apprehend what it actually says and claims. Such an understanding of inerrancy resides behind many of the essays in the excellent volume, ‘Inerrancy and Hermeneutic;’ especially the one by Moises Silva. This view of inerrancy, again, can be much more nuanced–far beyond that of Norm Giesler, as it attempts to divorce inerrancy from bondage to specific interpretive traditions and allows that the Bible might challenge cherished interpretations and still be inerrant–so long as what it claims remains ‘facutally true.’ The example Silva uses is that even though he believed in the historicity of Genesis 2-3, the reason he does is not because of inerrancy alone, but because he believes the genre of the text makes a historical claim and that, thus, inerrancy demands historicity. He leaves open the possibility that a non-historicity view of Genesis 2-3 could be compatible with inerrancy should one be able to show that the genre and text would not be, in themselves, making historical claims. I bring out this example and ramble a bit here to make clear that a traditional Reformed conception of inerrancy can, indeed, be very nuanced and not only be compatible with rigorous historical study of the text, but even demand such study.

    Even in view of this, I do not think such a nuanced Reformed understanding of inerrancy can be squared with some of the types of examples I raise in #186 or with how the Bible itself behaves. Or, at least, such examples require some re-shaping (by the Bible) of what we mean by inerrancy if we must use that term. Again, because of what the Bible does itself, I cannot say that everything a human author of Scripture intends and what every text really claims corresponds to fact or that all the propositional teachings of Scripture cohere in a logical-systematic non-contradictory way. I do not think such a view does justice to what we actually have in God’s Word. I think it forces us, at times, to read against the grain of the text and continue to force a square peg of a Bible into a round hole of our doctrine. To put this another way [perhaps this phrase is the only thing of what I am writing here that sounds like Gaffin, for whom I have great respect : ) ], our doctrine of inerrancy, in my experience, actually keeps us from encountering the Bible—and thus Christ through it—in as rich and deep a way as God would have us. I would like to say I and the MANY others such as myself WITHIN the evangelical and Reformed world are driven to this position because we have a high view of Scripture.

    So, if you have read this far, thanks for reading my ramble. It gives some further flesh to the few examples I provide in #186. My point in them is to point out some places where traditional Reformed conceptions of inerrancy do not work (in my opinion) and/or actually lead us away from encountering the text in as rich a way as God would have us. In all this, if I do not want to abandon inerrancy I am driven to a definition along the following lines: everything in the Bible is inspiredly doing exactly what God wants it to be doing. The messiness and ‘errors’ are not places where inspiration broke down of the humanity of Scripture trumped its divinity. Rather, all of it is part of what it means that the Bible is God’s Word. I realize my definition leaves much to be desired. For now, it is what I offer, along with my examples above (#186), for discussion.

    I would greatly appreciate the thoughts of you all on this blog. Thank you for your time.

  218. April 4, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    By the way, sorry for all the typos in my comment above and for how poorly it is written. I was in a hurry. Sorry about that. One that probably matters occurs in the final paragraph. The sentence in question should read, “The messiness and ‘errors’ are not places where inspiration broke down OR the humanity of Scripture trumped its divinity.’ I have ‘of’ where it should be ‘or.’ But, you all could probably figure that out.

    Ok, again, sorry.

  219. April 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Just a heads-up:

    The Pacific Northwest Presbytery’s committee to examine the teaching of Peter Leithart is meeting again tomorrow morning at 9am. We are planning to report our findings to the presbytery later this month, so, as always, prayers are appreciated.

    Thanks.

  220. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Kent (#216):

    I don’t think that we’ll resolve our differences because both sides of the debate (assuming, simplistically, that there are two sides here) are fixed on their opinions. I believe that “Do unto others” and some other (particularly) NT texts are not ethically compatible with the Bible’s laws that allow for slavery. To diversity is obvious to me, and I frankly can’t understand why others don’t see it. But, I suppose that’s how it goes.

    Well, there might be a couple of reasons that others are not willing to agree with you.

    I certainly see a degree of what you see:

    * Polygamy is phased out over time rather than explicitly forbidden from the start (in fact, arguably, mandated in the practice of Levirate marriages).
    * Divorce is regulated by Moses, but (mostly) forbidden by Jesus.
    * Slavery is regulated by Moses and regulated more stringently by Paul, and (I would argue) is clearly morally impermissible today.

    But there are some plain facts that make me unwilling to go in your direction, attributing these changes to a changing revelation from God.

    For example, the argument against polygamy and divorce does not spring from NT teaching per se, but OT teaching! Look how Jesus frames the issue:

    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

    “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

    Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” — Matt. 19.3-9

    What I see in Jesus’ reasoning is not “God used to allow X, but now in more enlightened times, we realize Y.” Instead, he insists that the argument against divorce was packaged directly into the creation order to begin with.

    As I read Jesus’ teaching, he sees Moses’ permission not as a more primitive concession to humanity, but something slightly different: an ethical condescension from the pure and “primitive” ideal of One-Fleshness down to the reality of fallen humanity.

    In other words, Moses does not represent a step forwards in theological development, but a step backwards for the sake of the hard-hearted folk with whom he works.

    Jesus, as the second Adam, is restoring marriage to its original place.

    Would you disagree that Matthew 19 teaches something like this?

    The same applies to slavery. “Do unto others” is certainly applicable with regard to slavery — but so is “In the image of God he made him. Male and female he made them.” (One of my seminary profs harshly criticized Thornwell and his defense of slavery on the grounds that T. failed to recognize the image of God in the black man).

    So for me, the “diversity” of ethical norms is not a matter of progression nor a matter of condescension to our limited humanity, but rather something more complex. To me, it seems that the flow of diversity is not from crude to sophisticated, but rather from pristine to fallen, and from common grace to “under law” and then back.

    In the cases of polygamy and divorce, God in his wisdom chose not to fix all of Israel’s ethical problems at once because of the hardness of their hearts.

    In the case of slavery, the issue seems to me to be more complex. You have slaves that are a result of the Conquest, and then you have Hebrew “slaves” who are indentured servants working off accrued debt.

    In the case of the former, I agree with Kline that the Conquest was a unique moment of judgment on the Canaanites and a part of the “Intrusion Ethic” that was specific to the time and place of Israel. So I would argue that such a warrant for slavery would ever arise again — not because we “know more”, but because Israel was unique.

    In the case of the latter, I would argue that indentured servitude, within reason, is an acceptable economic arrangement in certain types of economies.

    So I don’t agree with you, not because I fail to see diversity, but because I have a completely different account of (a) the flow of that diversity, and (b) the peculiarity of OT Israel.

    I don’t know if that helps, but at least I hope it explains that I’m not sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling La La La.

    But let’s come back to the Hell question a bit. I’m with you on this point:

    At the same time, I confess that I hope to see some of my deceased friends and family, or were lost to the faith, in heaven. I have to hope that, because I love them. And if God surprises, I’ll be quite happy about it.

    I imagine that this point is quite personal for you, as it is for me. I feel that some of our lack of sense of urgency about evangelism has something to do with a loss of thinking through what it means for someone to go to Hell.

    But now,

    Also, and on this point I feel quite confident: those who don’t know Christ explicitly … can be saved, just as were the OT saints. How God works that out, I’ll leave to him.

    Whence the confidence? Leaving aside the fact that the analogy is inexact (since the OT saints looked forward to the Messiah, and their ignorance was of details, not of God’s promises), still your position that there is greater revelation now than in OT times entirely undercuts the idea that OT rules about salvation could apply today!

    Instead, Jesus says that no-one can come to the Father except through Him. And that if anyone does not believe in Him, the wrath of God remains on him. And Paul’s justification for evangelism is that people cannot believe in One of whom they’ve never heard. So it seems like a good case can be made that the NT tightens up the field a bit and requires explicit belief in Christ for salvation.

    We could possibly debate that point, but let’s not; I’m sure you have some good replies to this.

    But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the NT teaches “No-one can be saved without believing in Jesus.”

    Assuming that the NT teaches this, would you be willing to accept it? Or, would your intuitive confidence override the teaching of the NT?

    I know that sounds like I’m presuming a particular answer, but I’m not.

    Rather, I’m putting again to the fore the basic point made by Packer: if we believe that Jesus is our Lord, then that puts us in a certain relationship to His words — they become normative for us.

    What I haven’t heard so far in your position is the relationship between the fact of Scripture’s normativity and your exegetical method. Without that plank in place, I find it hard to interact with some of your arguments.

    So for example, when you argue

    There are thousands of problems and contradictions in the Bible. Everyone who’s not an evangelical can see that, and many evangelicals see it as well. Judas may have hung himself before the priests bought the field of blood, or Judas may have fallen headlong in the “field of blood” that he bought for himself. But it’s plain silly to say that both are true.

    it sounds like you are arguing that a part of Scripture is not normative: “I’m not obligated to believe it because it’s obviously contradictory.” The ethical aspect of exegesis is the elephant in the room here.

    I *see* the difficulties in the words, certainly. I’ll even go so far as to say this: between Matthew 27 and Acts 1, it’s not clear what the coroner would rule the cause of death to be. Nor is it clear when and why the field came to be known as the Field of Blood.

    But I feel obligated to believe that both Matthew and Luke are reporting true facts, and I can work out at least one or two harmonizations of their accounts which *may not even be very good*, but at least demonstrate that the accounts need not be regarded as fully contradictory.

    So my question is, what’s wrong with that position? And how is it “an intellectual disaster”?

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  221. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Stephen (#217):

    The example Silva uses is that even though he believed in the historicity of Genesis 2-3, the reason he does is not because of inerrancy alone, but because he believes the genre of the text makes a historical claim and that, thus, inerrancy demands historicity. He leaves open the possibility that a non-historicity view of Genesis 2-3 could be compatible with inerrancy should one be able to show that the genre and text would not be, in themselves, making historical claims.

    I fully agree with Silva on this. If Moses was in fact intending something NON-historical (as for example in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man), then it would be unBiblical to push that pericope for factual details (such as using the parable to make dogmatic assertions about the nature of Hell).

    So, with Silva, I would agree that IF we can show that Moses intended something non-historical in, say, Genesis 1, then we are *obligated* to believe that Genesis 1 is non-historical.

    BUT

    With Silva, I would insist that such an argument would have to proceed from the text itself. I would not accept arguments that proceed along the lines of “…and science shows that Genesis 1 is non-historical, so there.”

    WRT (1) – (9) in your post #186 above, I don’t find harmonization questions very interesting unless they lead to important theological points. IMO, only (9) rises to that level.

    Why not harmonization? Well, there is some value to it, and praise God that some are interested in such a thankless task. The usual purpose is to provide a defense against the “Nyah Nyah” form of skepticism by showing that there are enough degrees of freedom in the accounts that the Bible is not *necessarily* self-contradictory.

    Fine.

    But because of the purpose and method of harmonization, the depressing conclusion is usually “…and so we don’t really know what exactly happened here. Maybe Judas died and then fell headlong, or maybe his attempt at hanging himself failed, or something else happened.”

    And of course it’s reasonable that the Scriptures might not always give a fully clear picture of historical events, given (as you point out) the theological motive behind the Scriptural writings.

    In #9, now, we find the very important Grafting Principle articulated by Dr. Robertson: Ruth becomes a full member of the covenant community and is therefore no longer a Moabitess, but a Jew. And the great-grandmother of David — which is likely one of the political-historical concerns of the author of Ruth.

    Jeff Cagle

  222. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 4, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Hello again folks. I feel hesitant to get involved again, because I feel obligated not to “hit and run”, and yet I’m about to be offline again for the next week. But while Kent mulls over Jeff’s post (#220) please let me just give my two cents regarding this:

    ‘…I can work out at least one or two harmonizations of their accounts which *may not even be very good*, but at least demonstrate that the accounts need not be regarded as fully contradictory. So my question is, what’s wrong with that position? And how is it “an intellectual disaster”?’

    I’ll tell you exactly what’s long troubled me, at least, about harmonization of disparate accounts of narrative events: its just too easy. When we harmonize, it is all very well and good to think we have demonstrated mere possibility; but often it seems to me, at least, that we go beyond that, to think we have accomplished something more: that we have proven no contradiction, for example; or have at least offered strong evidence against contradiction. And that’s just not so because, like I think I said way up above, it is almost always possible to harmonize any parallel narrative accounts, if you are loose and creative enough.

    Let me give you an example. I’m a layperson, like I said earlier, and I have a side-interest in the history of the Second World War in the Pacific Theatre. The first generation of Western historians writing on that war (pre-1980, say) generally did not have access to Japanese military records; while more recent Western historians have had such access. Predictably, the more recent historians’ work has often uncovered numerous errors in technical detail in the work of the earlier generation, because that generation only had the accounts of one side to work with. Take any particular air battle as an example: such things as Japanese aircraft type, numbers, and losses, as reported in the work of that first generation of historians, is now sometimes known to be inaccurate due to the research of later historians.

    OK, that’s the background. Now to my point: you can therefore take an earlier Western account of a particular battle, and a more recent one, and find when you read them that they sometimes contradict one another at certain points. And yet, if you were precommitted to the total factual inerrancy of both authors, it would almost always be possible (I would hazard, always possible) to harmonize them by appealing to various devices familiar to inerrantists. If the earlier historian reports 40 Japanese aircraft with 10 shot down, and the later historian reports 36 aircraft with 7 shot down, we could (if we were so inclined) say the earlier historian was reporting approximate numbers; or the later historian was describing a smaller skirmish within the larger battle; or the two historians were actually reporting separate, partial aspects of the same larger battle; or were even reporting different battles entirely. Yet the mere possibility of such harmonizations obviously proves nothing.

    Now of course this analogy doesn’t fully take cultural context into account. We wouldn’t expect modern historians to approximate without saying so, for example; yet we know that ancient writers often used round numbers at face value. We wouldn’t expect modern historians to report only parts of the same battle with no mention of there being a larger hole, as another example; but ancient writers were not so exact.

    However, that is beside my point. Even if we excuse the ancients in that regard (and I think we can), it remains that we have admitted that by using such loose historiography, what they wrote did not strictly reflect reality in every factual detail, and thus is still not “inerrant” in any modern sense (perhaps though if we play with the definition to “water it down” enough to admit judging by premodern historiographical standards…)

    My point is that it seems too easy to over-zealously and wrongly explain-away genuine factual error (“diversity” if you will) by doing such harmonization when there is no explicit clue in either text supporting it. It means putting a prior supposition of inerrancy over letting the convergence of evidence lead where it may and the chips fall where they may. And that is what has always troubled me about this.

    Sorry for the long-winded post. As they say on a radio call-in show, “I’ll take my answer off the air.” Thanks for the great discussion.

  223. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Jeff Cagle (#220):

    Well, I’d say that there are three kinds of people hanging around on the blog. Though we don’t agree, I’d say that your approach is more nuanced and sensitive to Scripture’s diversity than some others I’ve seen here.

    In my opinion, I think that you’re admitting and negotiating Scripture’s diversity without realizing the implications.

    For example, notice your comment:

    “What I see in Jesus’ reasoning is not “God used to allow X, but now in more enlightened times, we realize Y.” Instead, he insists that the argument against divorce was packaged directly into the creation order to begin with.”

    Now, Jeff, go back and read the text. Jesus says that “Moses permitted” (i.e., “God allowed”) the Jews to have divorce. That is, Jesus admits the Bible’s diversity (it forbids divorce but also allows it) but explains the diversity in a way that removes the divine error in Scripture. The diversity stems, not from God’s confusions, but from his accommodation of the law to fallen people. I’d say the same thing about slavery: God accommodated his law to the ancients by regulating that evil institution.

    This text in Matt 19 is, by the way, one of the key texts that inspired the patristic approach to accommodation.

    Here’s how I’d read your post:

    You ackn

  224. GLW Johnson said,

    April 5, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Kent
    In all seriousness, would you please tell us what you mean by Scripture’s ‘diversity’? Even your abetter, Scott Jorgenson ,is behaving like Barnabas at Antioch with Cephas, by speaking of ‘diversity’ in the contxet of ‘factual error’ in the Bible.

  225. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Sorry about the “trash” at the end of that last post.

  226. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:08 am

    GLW:

    “Diversity” means “difference.” So, for instance, when 2 Sam says that David purchased the temple site for 50 shekels of siler and Chronicles says 600 shekels of gold, I call that “diversity.”

  227. GLW Johnson said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Kent
    Ok, now define ‘difference’? Does it mean ‘error’ or ‘contradiction’- that seems to be the way SJ is using the word ‘diversity’- is that what you are trying to establish in a round about way?

  228. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:51 am

    GLW:

    “Does it mean ‘error’ or ‘contradiction’”

    -Depends upon the explanation we give for the diversity. .

    Take the previous example of 50 sh. silver vs. 600 sh. gold.

    1. We could try to harmonize them, saying (for instance) that 2 Sam had in mind only a part of a larger whole that was actually priced at what Chron says. If in most other cases Sam and Chron were giving us the same historical info I might try that, but there are too many places where Sam/Kings and Chron are different to appeal to that solution.

    2. Generic solution: Chronicles is symbolically showing that the temple site was far more valuable than the literal 50 sh. of silver paid for it. Given what I know of Chronicles, this strikes me as a definite possibility. And it would not be an “error” because the Chronicler is not writing a referential history so much as a theological history.

    3. Historical contradiction: The authors of Sam and Chron have different sources and so think different things about the price David paid for the site. This would constitite an historical error for one or both authors, but it would not be a divine error because God has accommodated himself to their finite viewpoints.

    So, yes, diversity sometimes indicates a human error, but not always.

    About #1: An illustration regarding “Harmonization”: According to Matthew’s gospel Jesus’s family goes to Egypt for an extended stay after his birth; according to Luke’s gospel, the family waits for the period of cleansing (40 days) and then immediately goes to Nazareth. This is genuine diversity. Notice, for instance, how Tatian’s ancient harmony of the gospels gives up at this point and simply gives two accounts of Jesus’s birth.

    What I want to clarify here is the problem inherent in harmonization. If we assume that both gospels are telling us something historical that actually happened (a questionable assumption, but I’ll make it for the discussion), then we might harmonize like this: Jesus was born [Luke and Matthew], his family waited for the time of cleansing [Luke],they went to Egypt [Matthew], then they went to Nazareth [Luke and Matthew].

    While that’s a possible historical outline of the events, it is very clear that Luke himself thinks and is communicating to the reader that Jesus’s family remained in Jerusalem for only 40 days after his birth and then returned to Nazareth. So, though our historical harmonization might be right, it won’t save Luke from his error. He didn’t know about the stay in Egypt, so he assumed that Jesus’s family went back to their home in Nazareth immediately afterward.

    Now things are even more complicated than I’m making them. The attentive reader will notice that Luke thinks that Jesus’s family is originaly from Nazareth, whereas in Matthew they are from Bethlehem and only go to Nazareth because of Herod’s family. But let’s leave that to the side.

    My main point is that our historical harmonizations of differing biblical texts are in OUR minds and not in the minds of the biblical authors who produced the diveresity in the first place.

    A Note on harmonizations:

  229. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 5, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Scott (#222):

    Nice to find a fellow WWII buff! (Though my interest is shallow and ill-informed…)

    Even if we excuse the ancients in that regard (and I think we can), it remains that we have admitted that by using such loose historiography, what they wrote did not strictly reflect reality in every factual detail, and thus is still not “inerrant” in any modern sense

    I agree. It is possible to define the word “inerrant” in certain senses such that the Biblical texts do not qualify. For example, if I reasoned “The Bible is inerrant, so therefore pi = 3″, then I’ve asked the author to answer a question that he wasn’t answering, and so therefore did not take the time to give a careful response to. In other words, my “reasoning” implicitly appeals to a definition of inerrancy that the Bible does not meet: namely, that “inerrancy” means “scrupulous and exact mapping to fact in accordance with a woodenly literal hermeneutic.”

    But “inerrancy” is not usually used in that sense in Reformed circles. In fact, standard exegesis distinguishes between “good and necessary inference” and “possibility.”

    The reasoning I alluded to above does not rise to the level of good and necessary inference *because* it does not rest on sound hermeneutical method.

    Where we part company, however, is that I *am* willing to use the word “inerrant” in the sense that, say, Warfield and Calvin used it — namely, that whatever the authors affirmed to be true, is true.

    Jeff Cagle

  230. Joseph Minich said,

    April 5, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Mr. Sparks,

    I wonder if you might briefly address a very practical application of this discussion. There are those (Webb, if I am not mistaken) who argue from divine accomodation that Paul’s statements about gender roles in the New Testament are a mark of God’s condescension to first century culture. I am not the type to bite my fingernails about feminism, but I can’t deny that Paul argues his case from nature…not from culture. In your view, would Paul’s argument about women “from nature” be a possible instance of divine accomodation? Or put succintly, is it possible that Paul was wrong?
    I am not accusing your view of leading to this. I am just curious to see how you might interact with it. Thanks!

  231. April 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Howdy. I guess it is sort of tacky for me to request engagement with my comments (#186 and 217) and then for me not to respond to the engagement.

    The only excuse I can offer is that an event of cosmic significance is happening tonight and I have had to spend the day getting things in order: the NCAA Final Four!!! I trust everyone here will be devoting appropriate time to this event, and pulling to the correct team (UNC).

  232. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Joseph,

    Thanks for your question. My book discusses this matter in detail, in ch. 10 I believe. Have a look there.

  233. Kent Sparks said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Stephen,

    The examples of diversity in the Bible, that you’ve provided above, are sufficiently clear and–as all who are informed know–only the tip of one of many icebergs.

    Evangelicals are accustomed to being afraid that, if they venture to ask questions or to discuss the possibity of human error in the text, that we might get in trouble with God.

    But it also goes the other way. Let us suppose that God, by his sovereign decision, allowed Scripture to accommodate human error, and that he has given us, in the Bible, more than sufficient evidence that this is case. And let us further suppose that we closed our eyes to tons of that evidence, and because of it took as God’s final word certain texts that, in reality, were only provisionally accommodated (especially texts that either condone or espouse slavery, violence, racism and oppression). And let us suppose, too, that those now pushing Peter Enns out of WTS are wrong and are, in reality, not treating him as they wish they’d be treated.

    In the days of Jesus, those who he most criticized were the religiously “orthodox,” whose theology was essentially right but whose heart was hard. Jesus prefered the Samaritan, whose theology was wanting but whose heart was right.

    I do not mean to suggest that any and every person who challenges the views of Enns is a Pharisee, but this is a danger that must be kept in mind.

    I take leave, now, of Greenbaggins. My prayer for all of us–including myself–is that we’d learn every day how to better love God, and our neighbor. For this is the whole duty of the believer.

  234. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 5, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    #233:

    Once again I cannot agree with your opinion that you speak of as if they are facts.

    You made the claim that Evangelicals are afraid to ask the questions (regarding Biblical messiness.) Facts are the “Evangelicals” (including Reformed I take it) have already given more than adequate alternative answers relative to yours. This forum is a living testimony to that. You chose to jest them, look down on them, that’s fine and within your personal liberty, but that’s not proving Evangelicals (and Reformed) are ignoring them or “afraid” of them, we face them head on as you have. Contrary to fear it’s our undivided courage to not only challenge ourselves, but challenge the worldview that we live in. Your view, on the other hand, are suspicious of accomodating not just the Bible, but accomodating to science, accomodating to historical criticism, accomodating to literary criticism, and now you are accomodating to sociological criticism. You have not defended the Bible from the Bible, but instead you are busy accomodating the Bible to higher criticisms and join their camp to jest at “traditionalists.” As I read you more and more I find it harder to distinguish between a Churchman with high-view of Scripture from a liberal scholar that based their faith on higher criticisms.

    Also, Jesus did not “preferred” the Samaritans. Jesus simply chose not to discriminate against them like the Jews had, there is a difference. For this same Jesus also taught that food are first given to “Household of Israel” and then to the “dogs” later. Seems Jesus preferred no one.

    Religious “orthodox” of Jesus’ day that their theology is essentially right? Whoa! I have a good guess from whom your BT are heavily influenced by now. How can anyone reading the Gospels and not see that Jesus not only corrected the “heart” of the Jewish leaders, but also the theology?

    As for the Bible that seemingly “espouse” violence, racism, etc. Everyone of these possible “problem passages” have been adequately answered, just like your issue with “slavery”, but once again you turn a blind eye and instead insisted only your way is the right way. That’s your Christian Liberty, but once again I remind you that’s not academic dialogue.

    As for warning us of possibly being “Pharisees”, fair, a good warning. How about also taking seriously our warning that his view (and yours) may possibly leading down to the road of Liberalism?

    Thanks for the exchange, if anything you have spend valuable time away from your life to enlighten us with alternative views, that is something I always humbly cherish in Christian exchanges.

  235. Paul said,

    April 6, 2008 at 1:35 am

    RE 186:

    Even granting, for the sake of argument, that one cannot ‘harmonize,’ to your satisfaction of course, the various texts you bring up, where does that get you?

    Surely you’re not reasoning that:

    [1] They cannot harmonize text A, B, C, …n,

    therefore,

    [2] Those texts are in error.

    [1] is epistemological, [2] is metaphysical.

    Seems you’re moving from epistemology to metaphysics.

    That someone S cannot harmonize some set of texts T does not logically imply that T is an instance of error.

    Now, it is also the case that we can, and have, answered these objections before, obviously not to your satisfaction, of course, but a more fundamental problem is the fallacious reasoning. Much like the Roman Catholics. They reason that (a) since we can’t know which texts belong in the cannon, therefore (b) Scripture isn’t the sole religious authority. Besides the questionable presuppositions seen in (a), they move from epistemology to metaphysics. A fallacious move. So, I just wanted to point out one out of the many problems I see in your arguments.

    RE: 233:

    You said: “And let us further suppose that we closed our eyes to tons of that evidence, and because of it took as God’s final word certain texts that, in reality, were only provisionally accommodated (especially texts that either condone or espouse slavery, violence, racism and oppression).”

    Seems confused. Needs cleaning up. I am a “slave” of Christ. Is this false? That is a text that “condones slavery.” Or did you not mean what you said? You want to qualify, that is. Some slavery is acceptable, others are not? Okay, then it looks like you just found your own defeater. (And, by the way, where do you get your standard by which you judge the immorality of those things you mention? The errant text of Scripture?)

    Also, what of Jesus cleansing the temple? Was that “violence” condoned? If so, then what of your universal claim? If not, is that text in error too? or, do we pick and choose the “violence” that we’ll allow?

    I frankly find it unconvincing to see someone use selective instances of moral intuitions as a hermeneutical principle, and then turn around and try to “convince” me with arguments like that. The Arminians do that wrt God’s “love.” The universalists do that wrt God sending people to hell. I think it should be bothersome to employ the same form of argumentation they employ.

  236. Paul said,

    April 6, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Reading through the thread I got this basic argument:

    “Those rationalizations are not enough for me.”

    Assuming they want to be consistent, and assuming that they hold to orthodox definitions of, say, the Trinity–which means they deny social trinitarianism as well as modalism (and any other heterodox position)–then what “rationalizations” do they provide to show that the doctrine of, say, the Trinity is perfectly rationalizable (in its metaphysical affirmations, not just formally). This has been debated for a long time. A person and B person and C person are numerically identical to D (deity essence, ousa), logically this means A, B, and C are identical to eachother. But, they are not.

    Anyway, the point here is that if the errantists are going to be fully consistent with their chosen tactic, then why not reject orthodox formulations of the Trinity since those formulations resist complete rationalization?

    Basically the argument has been: “x doesn’t sit well with me, therefore x is false.”

    This is really what it boils down to, from my perspective.

  237. GLW Johnson said,

    April 6, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Kent
    Before you take your leave, I notice from your book that you teach at a school that (1) is not Reformed and (2) has absolutely on confessional basis for faculty-and yet you not only set in judgment on the Bible , supremely confident in your wisdom to correct the rest of us on our misguided views on inerrancy-views ,I might add , that have characterized the Church from her inception- but you feel you have the right to tell Westminster-a Confessional Reformed Seminary-that they are out of line for expecting their faculty to abide by the faculty pledge. You speak distainfully of our fears about incurring God’s disfavor if we countenance the existance of errors in the Bible. Actually, you may have ‘stumbled’ on to something here. Does the thought of having a mill stone tied around your neck give you any pause?

  238. GLW Johnson said,

    April 6, 2008 at 10:17 am

    that should read-“no confessional basis”-

  239. greenbaggins said,

    April 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I have just sprung a bunch of comments from Paul Manata and Elder Hoss.

  240. April 6, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Paul (#235),

    You may think you have pointed out one of the problems in my argument, but you HAVE NOT dealt with any of the Biblical details I brought up. Sure you can say ‘others have dealt with them elsewhere.’ But, my point was that in ‘dealing with’ them you miss some of what the texts are actually doing–in some instances you miss out on the theology of the texts in question. ‘Dealing with’ such details, in my opinion, leads one away from what God is saying through the texts, frequently. Thus, in the name of ‘inerrancy’ (in this case, eliminating possible contradictions) we flatten out the Bible’s rich theological teachings.

    Also, my argument was not that since one cannot harmonize those texts, therefore they contain historical errors. In those examples I mainly was going after the aspect of the doctrine of inerrancy usually understood as teaching that no passages of Scripture contradict each other.

    I will try to come back later. For now, I want to go on a walk with my wife…

  241. Ron Henzel said,

    April 6, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Lane

    Regarding your comment #239: thanks for the warning.

  242. Paul said,

    April 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    RE #240

    I did point out one of the problems in your argument. I know I didn’t deal with each point, as that was not my purpose. I meant to offer a briefer response indicating that even if we couldn’t harmonize them, the cash value of your 9 points are….what? The uninteresting conclusion that they are presently unharmonizable? Same with the metaphysical affirmations of the doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation.

    So, to point out that I “HAVE NOT” dealt with all of your 9 points as if this were some kind of a critique of my post, is disingenuous. I even indicated the purpose of my post, and pointed out the reason that I didn’t interact with them. It would be like a Roman Catholic arguing with me that since I couldn’t find all 66 books listed somewhere in the pages of Scripture, therefore Scripture is not the authority for all matters religious. Or like when a relativist argues that because of moral disagreement, say, I cannot know which moral requirements are universal and absolute; therefore, morality is not universal and absolute. Or, in epistemology, one may argue that since I can’t know that belief-forming is reliable, therefore reliabilism is false. All variations on a common fallacy, viz, confusing epistemology with metaphysics. That’s what I find you to be doing.

    Now, other far better equipped than me are dealing with the particulars, but I thought I’d offer a more basic-level critique that I see in your (and in many of those sympathetic to your views in this thread) arguments. In the gap between premise and conclusion. Surely I am free to pick on a point that I senses was ignored here. Surely people can have more than one problem with their argument? Surely we can not only address alethic considerations of an arguments premises, but also formal considerations.

    And, you say that your argument was not that since one cannot harmonize the texts (I’m granting your points for arguments sake), therefore they are errant, but that’s what I’m getting. If you’d like to formalize your argument, then by all means, I’d like to see it. You see, one problem I have, and it is rather a big problem, is that it seems to me that even granting your premises your conclusion – the Bible is not inerrant – is not easily derivable from your method of arguing. It is the sign of a bad argument such that one could, in principle grant the premises, and the conclusion still not follow. That’s a mark of invalidity. I was merely trying to narrow in on where a possible source of that invalidity lie. Surely another source is even more basic, viz, the denial of the presupposition inherent in inerrancy or plenary inspiration.

    So, I’ll leave the detailed work to my betters. And to complain about that is disingenuous. It would be like complaining about a doctor who told you that the repeated blows to your head caused your concussion but did not present you with a detailed philosophical explanation of causation.

  243. Paul said,

    April 6, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    RE # 239 & 241

    Hi Lane, I’m unfamiliar with “sprung.”

    Hi Ron, was 239 a warning? Perhaps I’m missing something?

  244. Ron Henzel said,

    April 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Paul,

    I took Lane to be indicating that certain comments from the individuals mentioned were stuck in the moderator’s queue, and he released (“sprung”) them so we can read them. This has happened to my comments on several occasions, and it appears to be due to some kind of eccentricity in WordPress blogware.

    As for my expression of appreciation for the “warning”: let’s just say there was no disparagement intended on my part against Paul Manata, concerning whom I know very little.

  245. Paul said,

    April 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Ah, okay. Thanks for the clarification, Ron. I use blogger and we do not have that problem, unless you request for all comments to be stuck in the moderator’s queue.

    Best,

    Paul (whom you know very little) :-)

  246. Ron Henzel said,

    April 6, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Paul,

    I was wondering if you might be the Paul in question. Thanks for providing full identification.

  247. Paul Seely said,

    April 6, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Towne (211)
    You are quite right that my argument in #209 “hinges on the statement: “Since people in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving…” Reed (210) makes the same observation; and you both agree that this is an unproven assumption. Reed goes so far as to say it is only an opinion. Towne more judiciously asks, “How do you know, or how can you prove that people (in this case, specifically the authors of the texts) in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving?”

    When my discussion began back at #112 with Gary Johnson’s post on the Save our Seminary thread (see link in 2nd sentence of this current thread), we were both to read materials suggested by the other, my suggestion being my two papers on the firmament and the waters above, which are assumed in my comment #209, but probably should have been mentioned again. If you will read those papers, even though I did not specifically address the movement of the sun, you will find a plethora of evidence from both ancient literature and anthropology that Peoples in OT times, including the educated, did not distinguish between the appearance of the universe and its factual nature. That is, they believed that the appearance was the reality. The earth looks flat, so they thought it is flat. The sky (especially at night) looks like a solid dome, so they thought it is a solid dome. The sea at the horizon looks circular, so they thought the sea must surround the earth. Mutatis mutandis, the sun looks like it is moving, so it is moving. In addition to this, because the earth is fixed, a revolving earth is excluded. And because the earth is flat even if you forced the concept of revolving upon it, there would never be any night time unless the sun moved. Given the flat earth and the night time, the sun has to literally move. Given all of the evidence I cited in my papers (and more) the burden of proof falls on anyone supposing the Israelites, or even Moses, distinguished the appearance of the sun’s movement from the reality.

    [My papers are Paul H. Seely, “The firmament and the water above, Part I: The Meaning of raqia’ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991) 227-240; “The firmament and the water above, Part II: The Meaning of ‘The Water above the Firmament’ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 54 (1992) 31-46; Paul H. Seely, "The geographical meaning of 'earth' and 'seas' in Gen 1:10," Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997) 231-55 They can be found without endnotes at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/seelypt1.pdf ,
    at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/seelypt2.pdf and http://www.occasioncameras.com/creationdays/pdf/earth.sea.seely.wtj.pdf; They should be read in chronological order.]

    The biblical evidence cited by Turretin, which I would also cite, is given by T. as follows: “First. The sun is said [in Scripture] to move in the heavens, and to rise and set. (Ps. 19, 5.) The sun is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. (Ps. 104, 19.) The sun knoweth his going down. (Eccles. 1, 5.) The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down. Secondly. The sun, by a miracle, stood still in the time of Joshua. [As Luther had said, Joshua commands the sun to stand still, not the earth.] (Joshua, 10, 12-14,) and by a miracle it went back in the time of Hezekiah. (Isa. 38, 8.) Thirdly. The earth is said to be fixed immoveably. (Ps. 93, 1.) The world also is established, that it cannot be moved. (Ps. 104, 5.) Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. (Ps. 119, 90, 91.) Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances. [He missed the best evidence: Eccles 1:5 ends with the statement that the sun rushes back to its starting place, which could not be phenomenal language because no one sees it do this.]

    I hope you will read my papers, and you might add the discussion of the biblical/ANE universe in Chapter 7 of John Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. He is a very conservative professor of OT at Wheaton, but too well educated in ANE literature to take the Bible out of context. The same might be said for John Currid, professor of OT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi. And see my comments in the Save our Seminary thread that Charles Hodge and E. J. Young acknowledged that the OT was speaking of a solid sky, and Warfield acknowledged specifically that the merely human [and erroneous] opinion about the sun’s relation to the earth might show up in inspired Scripture outside of the scope of the writer’s teaching [hence as an accommodation.]

    So, please read the literature I have suggested. Then come back and answer my question. It is the third (really the fifth, see post #126 on the SOS thread) question I have asked without getting any answer from any of Enns’ opponents. I am thankful for the responses I have received, but I would still like answers to these questions. In a few days I will ask a new question regardless.

  248. c bovell said,

    April 6, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    #236:
    Paul,
    I am interested in your identification of an errantist argument strategy:

    “x doesn’t sit well with me, therefore x is false.”

    and a bit earlier:

    “Anyway, the point here is that if the errantists are going to be fully consistent with their chosen tactic, then why not reject orthodox formulations of the Trinity since those formulations resist complete rationalization?”

    I do not understand the errantist reasoning process in this way. I understand it more as follows:

    If x is a necessary proposition, I will try my best to uphold it.
    If x is not necessary, and it seems implausible, I disavow it.

    Let x be inerrancy.
    x is not a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I do not accept x.

    Let x be the trinity.
    x is a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I’ll try my best to uphold it.

    If inerrancy is not judged to be necessary (to Christianity) and the trinitarian formulation is–even while both are implausible–errantists could affirm the trinity and disaffirm inerrancy without inconsistency, given these general argumentative patterns.

    [Implausible: having a quality that provokes disbelief; highly imaginative but unlikely; http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=implausible%5D

    Also, if I may ask, when you write: “Surely another source is even more basic, viz, the denial of the presupposition inherent in inerrancy or plenary inspiration,” what presupposition are you referring to?

  249. Towne Tomae said,

    April 7, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Mr. Seely (#247):

    I will give you this much–I did set you up for that reply.

    Recognizing that you have spent at least eighteen years honing your arguments on this approach to Scripture, I do hope you will extend to your audience here the courtesy of not expecting a comparable reply in the space of just a few days.

    The Internet is a wonderful thing, however.
    I could point to a Mr. Holding’s response, available at http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v13/i2/firmament.asp, and he does seem to make some good points in counter to some of your arguments. Apparently there are other replies that have been offered, as well.

    To be fair, it would take some time to read your papers, to gather opposing views and weigh those, to sharpen some old skills along the way, and then to prepare a reasoned response. None of that happens in the space of a few days.

    Meanwhile Mssrs. Jorgenson, Sparks, and Young come in with prepared jabs, saying “Aha, what about that?”, as if thereby having won the day. All of this is like watching Col. Ingersoll all over again. He was answered adequately in his day, and there are good answers now. The works of Kenneth A. Kitchen, for one, would be a helpful resource.

    More to the point, you have so much vested in defending this position, that I doubt any evidence would disprove your position, in your own eyes. In my own time I will look into these matters, but not with the intent of debating you. It would be counterproductive.

    In the end, perhaps the Biblical admonition, “by their fruit you will know them” is ultimately the best we can do.

  250. jlronning said,

    April 7, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Regarding whether people believed the sun literally moved etc.

    About the first thing I read in college physics is that when describing the motion of a body, you can choose whatever point of reference you want to. Just common sense, isn’t it? Thus, earth-dwellers describe the motion of the sun relative to the earth (who would have ever thought to do otherwise?). Likewise, the earth doesn’t move (with respect to the earth) — a truism which fits all human observation. So, there is nothing unscientific about saying the sun moves, which is why we still talk that way even in a scientific age.

    A problem comes in when people unquestioningly equate “how I’ve always understood it” with “that’s what the Bible teaches.” Thus Luther calls Copernicus a heretic and makes a fool of himself.

    But may I point out that “errantists” commit the same kind of error when arguing for errors, diversity, etc. I.e. “my understanding of what the Bible is saying is infallible, and according to my understanding, what the Bible says is wrong, therefore the Bible teaches error.” That is also foolish, but Luther was a better fool.
    John Ronning

  251. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 11:04 am

    RE #165 “What is the criterion or criteria which enable one who adheres to this view to distinguish the inerrant Teachings from the accommodated errant human opinions?”

    i) What is the criterion or criteria which enables you to distinguish when a heap is not a heap anymore?

    ia) It’s a difficult question to answer because, in order to come of with a set of general criteria, we’d have to have a list what specific phenomena you would count as divinely accommodated statements. And we might take issue with your list.

    ii) Perhaps its intuition. Perhaps it’s common sense.

    iii) Also, even if one didn’t know the criteria, that would not mean that in fact there are actual errors (see my points above on this).

    iv) What is the purpose of revelation? Is it to “teach” scientific theories about the sun etc.? If not, that’s one way to distinguish.

    v) How do you distinguish the “true” statements of science from the metaphorical pictures and inexact language used to describe those theories?

    vi) Apropos (v), you’d need to involve yourself in the millennia-old debate between the scientific realists and non-realists. If the non-realists are correct, then any scientific statements of fact–whether from the OT peoples or from 21st century scientists–are equally untrue. So, if you want to take on this 50 lbs monster, which realism is presupposed in your position, go ahead. Many learned scientists and philosophers would love to see your comments on this discussion. Some might even call your own views naive. As if you think theories actually represent the truth about theory-independent entities.

    vii) Why do you only make these claims based off natural phenomena? Seems one could find theological or spiritual claims which would fit your style of argument. Maybe the “primitives” really thought God was wooden-literally “enthroned in the heavens.” It would hardly take any work at all to produce examples of this kind, and then we would want to know what criteria or criterion you use to distinguish between the inerrant teachings about God and the errant human opinions. Or does the Bible err in theological matters as well?

    viii) Another criteria is to ask what the superior agent and main testifier of a passage would believe. For example, if a mother told a child that a baby was in her tummy, and the child told another person this, we wouldn’t take the another as being in error since she didn’t believe that. Then considerations could be given to the conceptual and cognitive level of the child, and his statements should be read in that light. In one sense, the child wouldn’t be in error, >i>even if he really believed the baby was in mommy’s tummy.

    ix) Another criteria might be: If they had access to the same information we do, what beliefs would they affirm or deny? So, they might deny a moving sun (assuming they believed this), but they (and I) would not deny God’s existence, a soul, the resurrection, etc., if they had access to the same data that I do.

    x) How do your beliefs fit in with the existence of, say, the human soul? Hasn’t “science” shown that it is ridiculous to believe in said entity? Can’t the brain explain all that happens? If I hit you in the head too hard, your personality may change. Why would you side with science about the motion of the sun and not about the existence of a mysterious “soul?” What criteria do you use to determine when you side with science and when you do not.

    xi) Take psuedohermaphroditism. A doctor may know that Susie has xy chromosome pair. So, he would believe Susie is genotypically a male. But, someone else may believe Susie is a female. This belief may be true as well, phenotypically speaking.

    xii) It is still debatable whether the really believed the things you say they did. They never wrote on phenomena vs. noumena. You don’t know. It’s like if in 2,000 years from now some future humans found only a few news tapes left after we destroyed ourselves by war. They hear the weather man say, “Sunrise will be at 6:00 am.” They may conclude what you do. Fact is, though, the ancient people weren’t necessarily as off as you want them to be. They could see, for instance, the curved shape of the earth during an eclipse. They saw birds flying in the sky and didn’t believe that they were trapped in a solid barrier. etc

    xiii) Just off the top of my head, your position produces more questions than it tries to answer.

  252. April 7, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Paul (#242),

    I think I addressed your point in post #240 with, “Also, my argument was not that since one cannot harmonize those texts, therefore they contain historical errors. In those examples I mainly was going after the aspect of the doctrine of inerrancy usually understood as teaching that no passages of Scripture contradict each other.”

    I do not find myself to be moving from epistemology to metaphysics. Pointing out ‘contradictions’ in Scripture brings up things that are properly ‘errors’ within a traditional Reformed inerrantist position. Whether or not what texts A and B assert are ‘metaphysically’ true, if texts A and B claim ‘contradictory’ things about the same thing, you have a contradiction, thus an error from the standpoint of a doctrine of inerrancy.

    Also, you write, “even if we couldn’t harmonize them, the cash value of your 9 points are….what? The uninteresting conclusion that they are presently unharmonizable? Same with the metaphysical affirmations of the doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation.” You see, from our (other Reformed-Evangelicals who have problems with inerrancy as traditionally conceived and used as a hermeneutical rule) point of view this statement serves as a window on how you are not willing to allow the Bible to challenge (to shape?) your doctrine of Scripture. Anything that does not square with your Doctrine of Scripture is relegated to the status of something presently unexplainable? What would it take for the Bible to challenge or to nuance the doctrine of inerrancy, for you?

  253. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 11:34 am

    RE #248:

    You wrote:

    If x is a necessary proposition, I will try my best to uphold it.
    If x is not necessary, and it seems implausible, I disavow it.

    Let x be inerrancy.
    x is not a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I do not accept x.

    Let x be the trinity.
    x is a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I’ll try my best to uphold it.

    The context of my claims was: the statements and arguments made in this current thread.

    No one here has argued the way you’ve portrayed it. So, you’re shifting the goal post and ignoring the context-specific nature of my post.

    I don’t know how you come up with what is necessary and what is not? Indeed, how you’re even using that term (x is not a necessary proposition like “2+2=4” is, or “all bachelors are unmarried males” is).

    Why is numerical identity necessary? Why not drop it and go with the more “rational” generic identity? Likewise, you argue, why not drop full inherency and go with a more rational, plausible position. If you can take one previously-held-to-be-necessary position and drop it, why not another? Seems completely arbitrary.

    I would also argue that you think inerrancy not necessary because it is implausible to you. You run into all these (pseudo) problems. Get laughed at by scientists in the academy. Etc. Well, people argue that the Trinity is illogical in its metaphysical affirmations. So, since I think you go the other-way-around on all this, then I don’t think you’ve shown how they can be consistent.

    Lastly, if inerrancy is not judged to be necessary then how is the Trinity judged to be? There’s a slippery slope there. There’s much in common too. The Trinity is accommodated to us. We don’t have the cognitive equipment to fully understand it. We may be formally consistent, but we may, and probably do, make metaphysical errors when expressing it. Nevertheless, we affirm the creedal statements, even though they are paradoxical. Seems to me that this would be a perfect candidate for dismissal, just like you’ve done with other statements. Or, are only statements about rabbits chewing cud deemed in error?

  254. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Stephen #252

    As to your first paragraph: I thought I answered you by saying that I think that’s what you are doing. You take them as contradictions when, in reality, they could be apparent contradictions. You were responding to Gadbois who was saying that when you come across a troubling passage you throw your hands up and cry “error!” rather than attributing it to fallibility of your cognitive equipment, lack of data, etc.

    You then offered your 9 points in response to him (#159). As if to say, “Well, how do you deal with these, then!” Which precisely missed his point. Say (for arguments sake) he couldn’t. Where does that get you? Does that show that he is wrong about his metaphysical affirmations that the problem may lie in your cognitive equipment, ignorance of data, etc., than in Scripture itself. So what (for arguments sake) if he can’t resolve all your dilemmas?

    In regards to your second paragraph: Appearance of contradiction does not imply fact of contradiction. I still see you moving from epistemology to metaphysics. And, I see you elevating the presupposition that you can judge what God hath said and what he hath not said. Old error, my friend.

    In response to your third paragraph: I don’t see how that answered my question. Why not drop the Trinity. I showed a “contradiction.” If A and B and C = D, then A = B and C. Simple logic of identity. But, you won’t have that. You do something to show how they are “rationalizable.” But what? Social Trinitarianism? Tri-theism? Modalism? Relativized identity models? What? Perhaps you rest in God’s revelation and your creatureliness.

    Recognize the creator/creature distinction goes a long way here.

    Furthermore, I never said it was unexplainable. You keep missing my argument. It was counter-factual. That is, even if if was not explainable, where does that get you?

    You’re letting your Garden Syndrome (hath God said?) run your doctrine of Scripture. You don’t let its teachings on your creatureliness challenge (shape?) your doctrine of Scripture. What would it take for the Bible to change or nuance your doctrine of inerrancy, for you? For me, one thing would be if it were only a man-made text, like the Koran, for instance.

    I have not addressed your 9 points because I happen to know someone better qualified than me who has answered them and will be posting them on our blog soon. Perhaps after the cat is out of the bag I’ll turn my attention to the 9 points. For now, I’m simply dealing at a more basic level.

  255. c bovell said,

    April 7, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    John (#253):
    Thanks for your remarks. By using the term “necessary” I did not mean the opposite of contingent, I meant something like: “x is necessary for A to be A if without x A ceases to be A.” My understanding is that without the Trinity Christianity ceases to be Christianity. I find it curious that you want to intertwine inerrancy with the Trinity, forcing an all-or-nothing gambit. But hey, I’m game. I’m not afraid to count myself out of the Christian fold. If the Trinity is necessary and I can’t swallow it, then I will not be Christian. If inerrancy proves to be necessary for Christianity to be Christianity, then I will not be Christian. Inerrancy is beyond my doxastic reach; the same is not yet true for the Trinity, at least not at present. Problems alone do not cause one to abandon a doctrine, so to argue that both inerrancy and Trinity have problems and so should both be dropped is not sensitive to how people actually accept and refuse doctrines. Central doctrines will be more resilient in the face of problems than peripheral ones. I consider the Trinity far more central than inerrancy.

    People have and are still arguing over inerrancy, I think its “necessity” remains an open question. (I recount my own take on the matter briefly in my book, Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals.) Maybe I’ll be saying the same thing about the Trinity in a few years. I can’t say. I guess now I have to try to define Christianity, which I think is not an easy thing to do.

    How do I identify Christianity? Historically, to the best of my ability. I look to see what trajectory of thought has been called Christianity historically. Inerrancy does not seem to be a necessary part of that trajectory. There are historians who dispute it. (See, for example, Thomas Buchan, “Inerrancy as Inheritance?” in Evangelicals and Scripture, ed. Bacote, et. al.) Yet the trajectory is a trajectory and not a line, evolving dialectically, always growing and changing and adapting in a give-and-take with its cultural milieu.

    You wrote: “If you can take one previously-held-to-be-necessary position and drop it, why not another? Seems completely arbitrary.”

    Yes, I agree, I can take another, and another: but isn’t that a sign of a healthy research program? That said, I would not say that decisions are “completely arbitrary.” Everyone’s on a slope, I’m not sure that “slippery” is a helpful way to describe it. Judgments are going to be person-specific, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions. On a continuum from green to blue, for example, there will be “points” along the continuum where various persons stop seeing green and begin seeing blue, but these points will differ from person to person. Yet there is a point where the colors change for almost everyone. Moreover there will be a statistical range that would mark a threshold of color change that “bounds” where most people will change their opinion. That’s the role the early church creeds play for me. But my threshold of incredulity has been reached with inerrancy. It hasn’t yet been reached with the Trinity.

    I disagree that it was social pressure that caused me to finally turn against inerrancy. It actually had to do with observing how other people understand the doctrine I called by the same name, “my” inerrancy, as it were. For example, fundamentalist preachers laughing at how funny it would have been to be there when the angel scared the donkey and then the donkey began to talk. I began shaking my head, saying to myself, is this really what I believe? I began to ask myself whether the Bible was inerrant because I wanted it to be (I wanted it so badly that I did not realize the absurdities that came with the territory) or because it was inerrant in fact and truly. Prior to this point, I accepted inerrantist tenets based on the authority of those who taught it to me. I accepted inerrancy because of social pressures! But soon the doctrine became a stumbling block to me–so much so, that I was forced to give it up, thinking it meant giving up the whole faith. But, to my surprise, my sense of God remained; my faith in Christ remained. And so I concluded that inerrancy is not a necessary doctrine for believing the Christ story. That’s when I looked at the creeds to see where inerrancy came up. Inerrancy was, again to my surprise, conspicuously absent. In fact, the faith looked far more ambiguous (than I had been led to believe in fundamentalist churches) from the perspective of historical theology. In any event, I began to wonder if the presumption of an inerrant Bible was just that, a presumption.

    On your remark about having “cognitive equipment”: I think that I have enough cognitive ability to judge that inerrancy is wrong. I think I have enough to go on to responsibly take a contrary position with regard to it. In the case of the Trinity, it has not come up as amenable (for me, at present, at least) to the same cumulative body of existential and academic counterevidence. Also, the early church gradually responded to the biblical revelation with a trinitarian proposal; I do not think any such thing was done then with an inerrancy proposal. Moreover, inerrancy has proven itself absolutely unhealthy for me, causing a good deal of cognitive dissonance. I think that if a doctrine proves unhealthy for a person to hold, that person has every responsibility to redescribe the matter in order that he may function better and serve Christ more productively.

    To sum up, I think it a mistake to tie inerrancy to the Trinity. Each should be considered on its own merits. I could take any doctrine that you disbelieve and say, “Hey there are problems with the Trinity, too. You should let go of that one as well.” A person refusing to believe a miracle need not consequently disbelieve all miracles. He can investigate each and make judgments on a case by case basis. That may seem less systematic than you prefer, but I don’t think that means it’s complete arbitrariness.

  256. c bovell said,

    April 7, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Re: 255. Not to John, but Paul (sorry)

  257. Paul said,

    April 7, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    cbovall (#255),

    You called me “John.” So, you might need to re-think your (over) confidence in your “cognitive equipment”! :-)

    Your comments about the necessity of the Trinity “that without the Trinity Christianity ceases to be Christianity,” is true in a trivial way. My argument was a bit more subtle. I asked why one doesn’t adopt one of the more “rationalizable” positions, viz, social trinitarianism, modalism, tri-theism, subordinationism, etc. As A.P. Martinich notes: “[I]f faced with the alternatives of being a heretic and asserting a contradiction, the rational person will always choose heresy and trust himself to th mercy of God” (Identity and Trinity, p.172). So, I wasn’t arguing that the trinity wasn’t necessary, but rather asking why you thought, say, numerical identity between the hypostasis and the ousa (which seems to be what the creedal statements (and attendant literature by early Fathers et al) and biblical references have in mind) is the necessary interpretation of that doctrine. So, a social trinitarian would still call himself a Christian, and I don’t think the position in itself is damnable heresy, and so why not opt for that view too? That’s the more “rational” position to take in the sense of immediately muting arguments about seemingly contradictory affirmations, the ones that arise because of numerical identity between persons and essence and numerical difference between persons. One main problem is that Social Trinitarianism is inconsistent with the creeds and tends towards tri-theism as well as making the ousia some kind of impersonal “stuff.” Thus, one must swallow the “rationalizable” constraint in order to maintain orthodoxy, but not “trinitarianism” broadly construed. It is not that there were just “problems,” but rather I noted similar problems. The arguments given above were such that: A and B appear contradictory, thus they are in error. Okay, same with the doctrine of the Trinity. Given the orthodox numerical identity formulation, it too “appears contradictory.” Simply: If A is identical to C and B is identical to C then A is identical to B. But (!), A is not identical to B. Now one can appeal to various relativized identity arguments (cf. Brower and Rea) to try to get around this argument, but in his recent work Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status, James Anderson shows this view, though interesting and promising, the be chalk full of some pretty big errors. So, my argument has to do with the general form of the arguments I have seen in this thread. That was the initial context of dialogue I entered in to.

    People have, and still are, arguing over the doctrine of the Trinity. See the recent works of Anderson, Brower, Davis, Letham, Martinich, Plantinga, Rea, Tuggy, etc. Also, the necessity of inerrancy is an epistemological necessity, as even the Chicago statement recognize one need not believe it necessarily to be saved. But, that you might reject the doctrine of the Trinity is a telling commentary. I think it makes my point rather nicely. Once you have bought into the Garden Syndrome, any forbidden fruit can become tasty. So, my argument isn’t so much a straight-on rebuttal of your points but, rather, is a flanking of your position and intends to land the blow that your method, your denial of the Creator/creature distinction, your rationalism, your elevating yourself as the final arbiter of what is and isn’t inspired and inerrant, leads, quite easily, to atheism. In effect, it’s what Vanhoozer would call “hermeneutical atheism.”

    I too would define Christianity (in one sense) by its historic creeds and confessions (as they are rooted in the Bible for their authority) as they are culture-identifying markers. Richard Swinburne makes good arguments to this effect (cf. Swinburne’s Revelation as well as McGrath’s The Genesis of Doctrine). But a problem for you on this move is that the great creeds formulated their doctrines on the basis that the Bible was the word of God and could not be in error. They did not so much challenge the early heretical statements on the Trinity and Incarnation on their logic, or even the falsity of the premises, but that their conclusions contradicted Scripture and so must have been wrong (cf. Anderson, pp 13 -22, as well as J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrine for comments to the effect that the heretics of the bunch were the “rationalists” while the orthodox side thought contradiction with the Bible enough to reject the heretics conclusions, even if they could not make sense of it all like the heretics could). So, a main reason you have the historic creedal statements, which identify Christianity, is because they based their views on another authority, and that authority was the Bible. How does it maintain this authoritative status given your conclusions? Indeed, its as if a “Christian” becomes someone who fits in with some set of doctrines that is free-floating from any authority.

    You readily admit you could drop the Trinity. And this is one of my points. What you take as a virtue and so candidly admit, I hope others see the point of my initial argument about the Trinity and the dangers of your method of argument (i.e., the ones I was addressing in this thread.. You are helping my argument out quite nicely, even if you are not bothered by it. Something interesting you said, “But my threshold of incredulity has been reached with inerrancy. It hasn’t yet been reached with the Trinity.” But above you wrote:

    If x is a necessary proposition, I will try my best to uphold it.
    If x is not necessary, and it seems implausible, I disavow it.

    Let x be inerrancy.
    x is not a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I do not accept x.

    Let x be the trinity.
    x is a necessary proposition.
    x does not seem plausible.
    I’ll try my best to uphold it.

    And so with admitting that you “tried your best to uphold inerrancy” you seem to admit that you once, according to your own constraints, considered it “necessary.” If you did not “try your best” to hold it, did you really deal with and grapple with the counter-arguments? Furthermore, by admitting that you would drop the Trinity one you reached the point you did with inerrancy, renders your distinctions in the above modus ponens arguments, fuzzy at best.

    In regards to your comment about why you rejected inerrancy, there’s way too much to cover there in that interesting story. I’m not too sure you’re being honest. You paint the picture that believing in a talking donkey was just plain ridiculous. And of course you didn’t want to be labeled someone who believed something so absurd as(s) that! So, I do think social pressures played a part in it. Maybe it did on both sides. I would also comment as to why you don’t drop other seemingly ridiculous beliefs. I mean, who judges this stuff anyway? Why do you think the idea of a talking donkey absurd but a resurrected person not absurd? Why is a talking donkey so absurd but people speaking in other languages when not being taught them, not absurd? Why is a talking donkey absurd but a voice appearing out of nowhere asking why you are persecuting Jesus not absurd? Why is a talking donkey absurd, but putting mud on someone’s eyes and then them seeing not absurd? Why is a talking donkey absurd, but the existence of an “immaterial soul” not absurd. Don’t you know that most of the most respected scientists and philosophers think this is a silly notion indeed? Indeed, this is why many prominent Christian thinkers hold to constitutionalism about man (they’re called Christian materialists). And is there an intermediate state without being embodied? Most Christians have thought so. But then these “wise” philosophers ask what sense can be made of how these immaterial souls are able to experience anything in that state? How does that word? They have no eyes, so do you “see?” And if so do you “see” only in front of you? But why? You have no skull or eyes. How do you “hear?” You have no ears and they have no mouths. Do “sounds” just come forward from nothing? Or do you all communicate via telepathy? If you read their arguments, you could easily think disembodied existence just as ridiculous as a talking donkey. And you keep your belief in Christ, but they say that belief that one and the same person both knew and did not know some proposition is contradictory. This is worse than the donkey story. At least that story isn’t contradictory!

    As to your cognitive equipment, it may be malfunctioning since I think it is perfectly natural to take the testimony of an agent who cannot be wrong. Given his maximally perfect concepts and categories (of which mine is an analogy of), I trust his say-so, even if it appears contradictory.

    Say you are a flatlander. You only know things from a two-dimensional perspective. Now the trust Spacelanders, who are ultra-intelligent and have never mislead you, try to reveal a three-dimensional object to you, say a cone. They reveal that:

    1. The object is shaped triangularly.

    2. The object is not shaped triangularly.

    In 1 and 2 they could be speaking from different perspectives, say vertically and horizontally. Flatlander could recognize his epistemic limits, and take the trustworthy testimony of Spacelander in (1) and (2) as true, even though it appears contradictory.

    So, if a divine being who could not err told you that a donkey talked, I’d say that that is the most rational thing to believe! To not take the testimony of said being would be irrational since it is irrational for a child not to take the testimony of their finite parent about, say, not drinking bleach. Thus on a divine testimony model, and including my cognitive situation, my ignorance about various facts about the universe and the specific historical situations, why is it irrational to believe? And so since I take it that we function-properly when we take divine testimony on its own authority, then it is not productive to slip into cognitive malfunction of the Garden Syndrome sort.

    To conclude: I did not tie the doctrine of the Trinity to Inerrancy (and just recently pointed out that its basis was an infallible revelation). Rather I tied the method of argumentation of the inerrantists here to what would be a epistemologically self-conscious position to take: drop the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity too. I would also add that I think there are answers to your various “problems” in Scripture. And there is also a parity to theological statements of similar sorts such that, via reductio, you’d have to reject theological statements as errant too, and then what of your “faith?”

  258. Paul said,

    April 7, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Carlos,

    RE: 256 ;)

  259. Paul said,

    April 7, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Stephen, regarding those 9 points of yours, Steve Hays posted the reply I was referring to:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/ents.html

  260. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Paul and Paul M are the same person, I was just set to both names on two different computers. I’ll post with Paul M. from now on.

  261. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Let me add, Carlos, I don’t think I’ll convince you. After all, you’ve wrote a book on the subject! You’ll show resistence to my position just as much as I’ll show resistence to yours. So, it’s not about who’s more open-minded and intelelctually honest in their position. We’re equally entrecnhed as far as I can tell.

  262. c bovell said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Paul (257):
    I will likely not be able to comment again for another few days. I would just like to respond quickly to your penultimate paragraph:

    “So, if a divine being who could not err told you that a donkey talked, I’d say that that is the most rational thing to believe! To not take the testimony of said being would be irrational since it is irrational for a child not to take the testimony of their finite parent about, say, not drinking bleach. Thus on a divine testimony model, and including my cognitive situation, my ignorance about various facts about the universe and the specific historical situations, why is it irrational to believe? And so since I take it that we function-properly when we take divine testimony on its own authority, then it is not productive to slip into cognitive malfunction of the Garden Syndrome sort.”

    I do not think “err” is the right category here. I say things to my kids that are strictly “errors” but not intended in that light. My son asks me constantly if monsters are “far away.” And I tell him that they are far away and they cannot get him. If this were set in writing, when he reaches thirty years of age and comes across it, I would not want him to be forced into thinking that I presumed that monsters exist merely because I sought to assuage his fears in a language that he understood.

    Regarding method, I think that you are taking me to task for being fuzzy for not holding fast to my distinctions. The way I see it, I am saying that I made a mistake with regard to inerrancy. Are you allowed to be mistaken, Paul? Have you ever travelled from theological camp to another? The way I understand what you’re saying is that if I truly heeded my argument, then I would never have conceded inerrancy. I intrepret this as saying that I could never truly be mistaken if a doctrine is necessary to Christianity. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can and will try once again: I don’t find any virtue in not being able to be mistaken with respect to inerrancy. In fact, I see as great a danger in that presumption as you do in your Garden Syndrome accusation.

  263. c bovell said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I do not suppose you are not intellectually honest or open minded. You’ve probably heard these points before. I have moved from inerrancy to errancy and I do not see any way back. I have no pipe dreams about having inerrantists follow me, but I do have a great concern for those who are truly wrestling and feel like they have no place to go because it’s either inerrancy or bust. That concern is what brought me to write the book.

    I have to go for now.
    Peace.

  264. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Carlos (262),

    I just told my son that monsters didn’t exist. I did the same thing with Santa Clause. So when he looks back when he’s 30 he’ll know that his father didn’t lie to him; about those things, or inerrancy.

    Regarding method, I was speaking first to those in the comments thread. I saw a parity of reasoning. I wanted to press that and see where they would go. With you, you flat out admitted that if you become to uncomfortable, you’ll simply disregard it. I don’t know where you’re getting your interpretation of my argument, though. On your model, if belief in God becomes too much of an intellectual burden for you, you’ll toss it. You are the epistemological alethical authority, it seems. You’ve thus undermined the Creator/creature distinction, a foundational error as was pointed out by Bavinck and Van Til.

    But, yes, I was mistaken. I was an atheist and was mistaken. I believed the Bible was chalk-full of errors and was mistaken. I believed my mind was the ultimate authority. I was mistaken. Yes, I can and have been mistaken. Though you may think you are internally rational in denying inerrancy, I do not think you are externally rational in so doing. Thus, I do not believe you are warranted in your denial of inerrancy. Furthermore, there are defeater-defeaters for your position. So you must understand that I am not at all convinced by your position, especially when could just drop the doctrine of the Trinity if you aren’t comfortable with it. Why not the same with the Gospel?

  265. Paul M. said,

    April 7, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Carlos (263),

    I do have a great concern for those who are truly wrestling and feel like they have no place to go because it’s either inerrancy or bust.

    Well, if it’s any condolence, you’ve shown that it’s inerrancy or bust for me! :-)

  266. Bern said,

    April 7, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    #216

    “I freely confess that the idea of eternal torment in literal fire does not appeal to me, if for no other reason than that I love people and don’t wish to see them suffer.”

    Fire is picture-esque; it triggers all kinds of associations like despair, futility, and contempt. The above is what happens when Dante is the filter through which we read Scripture.

    “And then there’s the theological problem that the punishment for finite human sins would be infinite.”

    There’s no theological problem. A finite sin against an infinite God deserves infinite punishment. Read up on the imago Dei. To marr or distort the image of God is deserving of eternal desertion, at the least.

  267. Paul Seely said,

    April 8, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Towne Tomae (#249),
    I did not mean to imply that you or other readers only had a few days to respond. I apologize for that implication.
    All in all, your response is judicious and appreciated.

    When you get around to reading my work, I think you will find it edifying. Even Holding agreed the Hebrews probably believed the earth was flat, etc. but he could not separate the idea of accommodation from that which the Bible teaches. If the Bible said it, it was teaching it, and since the Bible would not teach this, it didn’t say this.

    This takes us back to my questions, which could be summed up as, On what basis do those who follow Calvin, Hodge, and Warfield in believing that merely human opinions have been accommodated into inspired Scripture, separate those errant opinions from the inerrant teachings of Scripture? Since Hodge and E.J. Young acknowledged that Scripture is speaking of a solid sky, a concrete example would be Gen 1:6, 7. What is the inerrant teaching in those verses, and what is the accommodated human opinion? And on what basis do you tell the difference?

    Paul M (#151)
    Thank you for your trip into the clouds.

  268. GLW Johnson said,

    April 8, 2008 at 7:04 am

    This is for Carlos, Kent and others who have on this thread who espouse the belief that the Bible is not inerrant. Do you think that any particular book of the Bible is free from error? For example , the Gospel of John or Paul’s epistle to the Galatians? Would you be willing to acknowledge that the belief that the Bible was indeed free from error has been the overwhelming position of the Church both before the Reformation and after it as well-both Roman Catholic and Protestant? Finally, I have a conundrum for you gaminerians. In Mark 12:18-27 we have the Sadducees posing a quandary to Jesus, you know the one about about seven brothers who all ended up having the same wife-so whose wife will she be in the resurrection ?Twice He tells them that they err- and greatly so because they knew neither the power of God or the Scriptures. Are we to suppose that if one of you soapy Sams had been standing there taking all this in, you would chimmed in and corrected the Lord telling Him, ‘Jesus, these men may have been mistaken as you say, but do you really think it wise to equate the power of God with the fallible Scriptures- after all there are all sorts of errors in the Bible!’ What kind of response do you think you would have gotten? I dead serious- would you dare to tell Christ Himself your foolish beliefs about the Bible being laced with errors?!

  269. April 8, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Paul (258)

    I see Steve Hays has replied to my points. Before addressing any of his comments on the points in question I would like to make a couple comments on Steve Hays. Some of you might claim this is just an ad-hominem response. I do not intend it as such. Rather, I hope to find some hope on this blog…

    A while back Steve Hays posted a fairly nasty response to Enns. In part 2 of that response ( http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/inspiration-incarnation-2.html ) he connects Enns with his supposedly liberal WTS predecessors, Ray Dillard and Tremper Longman. Steve Hays wrote, “This is not the first time that a more liberal view of Scripture has been broached by a faculty member of Westminster. Back in the 90s, Dillard and Longman issued an OT introduction which conceded to the unbelievers everything that E. J. Young had resisted.”

    Though I do not find Hays in any way helpful in that comment, what he says following the quoted comment blew me away, “Thankfully, Dillard died of a heart attack…”

    Matters got worse. Josh Dillard, one of Ray’s sons, posted a kind comment on that thread requesting that Hays alter his wording. Steve responded by defending his cold and sinful comment. Steve continued to defend and to engage in his vitriol as two other people tried to call him out on his hateful comments.

    I ask everyone here on greenbaggins, whether you found Dillard theological helpful or not, can you all at least agree that Steve Hays’ comments stepped over the line? Does he not show how it is possible for a commitment to theology to trump a commitment to following Christ and exhibiting him? Does Hays not show there are repugnant ways of ‘defending the truth’ that have really ceased being of anything that can be called Christian?

    It is difficult for me to interact with Hays. I have mixed anger and disgust towards him. I have been praying for myself and him over this, but this remains very difficult for me. Beyond his comments about Dillard and treatment of those attempting to call him to account, his post directed at me drips with disrespect and an utter lack of charity. Is there not a way to disagree and to interact in a charitable, humble, and ultimately respectful way, even with those with whom one disagrees? Can we not at least start there? Is it possible for us to engage each other without acting as though the one(s) with whom we disagree are basically heretics (which Hays seems to do in suggesting that my church membership status should be reevaluated in light of my public comments…and through his overall tone towards me). I realize I am not always charitable. And for that I MUST REPENT! I hope we can carry on this discussion, treating each other as brothers and sisters who are having a family disagreement. Even if these issues turn out to be such that they cannot be considered inner-family conflict, should we not start our interactions as brothers and sisters and only assume ‘the worst’ when it has eventually come to that? Again, I plead for this here.

    Honestly, I hope and pray everyone here can call a spade a spade and not defend Hays in this. This will help me, because right now in my life, I need to encounter Reformed folk who are willing to exhibit Christ, especially in how they go about fighting for truth and doctrine (which is important!).

    I am posting this comment on Hays’ blog too with a link back here. Again, I intend to engage his points. But, I needed to throw this out there for now. Thank you all for your time.

  270. GLW Johnson said,

    April 8, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Steven Young
    I completely agree with you on this particular issue-Hays words were highly inappropiate and offensive-but Hays has made contemptuous remarks about others as well, i.e. he has had a bone to pick with Westminster Calif.-especially in reference to Mike Horton and Bob Godfrey. So, as the saying goes-consider the source. I knew Ray Dillard as well-he administered my hebrew exam-and I for one wish to focus on the substance of writings of Enns and not on people or personalities.

  271. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 8, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Yes, Hays remarks should not be tolerated, and it’s pointed out by GLW that he’s an “equal-opportunity contemptuous remarker.” He does not represent anyone else but himself, and he’ll answer to the LORD on what he says. In the same way so will we and we have to watch our tongue, however, that doesn’t mean we cannot have disagreements over the substances. I am always careful (although I will admit sometimes not too careful) to separate commenting on the substance instead of the personality. May we sharpen each other not just in theological insights, but also in Christian humility.

  272. Rhology said,

    April 8, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Stephen,

    Count me among those who find your remarks highly dangerous, so I for one am thankful for Hays’ response to your points. The “tone”… is in the eye of the beholder, I must say. I’ve seen FAR worse in the blogosphere. It looks like you spent a few minutes typing this remark; one might think that time would’ve been better spent elsewhere. Just someone else’s 2 bits.

    Peace,
    Rhology

  273. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 8, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Dear Paul of #267, Perhaps you will find Vanhoozer helpful here as a starting point of the “basis of inerrancy:”

    “The basis for the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is located both in the nature of God and in the Bible’s teaching about itself. First, if God is perfect – all knowing, all wise, all-good – it follows that God speaks the truth. God does not tell lies; God is not ignorant. God’s Word is thus free from all error arising either from conscious deceit or unconscious ignorance. Such is the unanimous confession of the Psalmist, the prophets, the Lord Jesus and the apostles. Second, the Bible presents itself as the Word of God written. Thus, in addition to its humanity (which is never denied), the Bible also enjoys the privileges and prerogatives of its status as God’s Word. God’s Word is thus wholly reliable, a trustworthy guide to reality, a light unto our path.”

    If I may also use the “incarnational analogy”: Yes Jesus is a man, but He is also God and more specifically He’s also the Word. So everything He says is at all times the Truth, Perfect, and without Error (inerrant and infallible), simply because everything He says is God’s words. We need not “work through the human messiness” of Jesus’ sayings. When Jesus says in Luke: “Do not think I’m here to bring peace, but rather I am here to bring division” that is not an indication of a contradiction in Jesus’ part, nor can we say “this is the human Jesus talking and we need to struggle through these human errors”, neither do we say “we just have to accept errors on Jesus’ sayings after all he’s also human”, but we affirmed it’s the Truth, Perfect and without Error (inerrant and infallible), because Jesus is the Word of God and every words He says (and every action He does) is at all times the Word of God: inerrant and infallible. His words demand we take whatever he says at “face value”: i.e. they are always inerrant and infallible, and if there are apparent contradictions or inconsistencies that speaks more about our sinfulness and incomprehensibility than Jesus’ “messinss” as a human being (and God).

    I view the Bible in the same way. The Bible is not simply a human recording of God’s words, but the Bible presents itself AS GOD’S VERY WORDS. Therefore just like every words out of Jesus’ mouth is inerrant and infallible, so are every words out of the Bible (in the plenary verbal inspiration sense.) I need not say “these are contradictions we need to accept” nor do I need to say “we simply need to expect errors as they are human writings.” And if there are apparent contradictories or inconsistencies, then it speaks more to my sinfulness and incomprehensibility and not the Bible’s have “messiness” that we need to work through.

    I believe this is the views of Calvin, Hodge, Warfields, and Bavinck (and many others.) While none of them deny the “accomodation” or whatever term they used to described what some would call “errors”, however, at the end none of them recognize them as errors and maintain inerrancy. Simply because the Bible presents itself as the very Word of God and it enjoys all the attributes that comes with it (inerrant and infallible), and any other starting point outside of this will ultimately lead to solutions to be, however clever, unbiblical.

  274. Paul M. said,

    April 8, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Paul Seely (167) I don’t understand what the reference to “trip to the clouds” is in reference to?

    Stephen (269), I don’t know why you addressed that post to me. In response to what he said, I don’t think he meant it as many are taking it, as some sort of gleeful statement that a man died. Rather he meant to express that he was thankful that the spread of liberalism was halted at WTS by Longman’s leaving and Dillard’s death. Now, maybe he could have said it better. That’s a point that can be discussed. Maybe the choice of words wasn’t the wisest. That too can be discussed. But I know from private talks with him that he didn’t mean it in a dancing-on-your-gravestone kind of way.

    More important, though, is that I see in your attitude a common theme in future apostates. Your statement that “right now in my life, I need to encounter Reformed folk who are willing to exhibit Christ, especially in how they go about fighting for truth and doctrine (which is important!),” seems to be a set up for a fall. I have seen countless apostates (and dealing with ex-Christians in apologetic debate is circle I run in) use this very excuse as a justification for their apostasy.

    Stephen, men will always fail you. Men will fail to exhibit Christ. And leaving the “Reformed” world won’t change anything. All the apostates I’ve read were not involved in the reformed world. So you’ll find Arminians who will upset you too. This will not be an excuse for you. You will not be able to use this as a justification. You won’t be able to say: “I would have continued as a Christian, but at a time in my life when I needed it the most, Reformed men said mean things.”

    Stephen, “at this time in your life” you don’t need a man; you need the God-man. You need to focus on the inerrant words of Christ speaking in the Scriptures. There’s a reason that so many apostates started where you are. Is it a coincidence? Or does hermeneutical atheism really lead to atheism?

    “All hermeneutic theories which play down the natue of God as communicator, and which move the focus to either the autonomous text or the autonomous reader, are expressions of hermeneutical atheism.”
    –Graeme Goldsworthy. Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evengelical Biblical Interpretation, IVP, 2006, 53 Fn. 22.

  275. Towne said,

    April 8, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Mr. Manata (#274):

    I understood Mr. Seely’s comment about the “trip to the clouds” as his way of dismissing your post, thus saving him the trouble of dealing with the substance of it.

  276. c bovell said,

    April 8, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Paul (#264):
    I don’t have time to talk now but in the meantime could you explain: “Yes, I can and have been mistaken. Though you may think you are internally rational in denying inerrancy, I do not think you are externally rational in so doing.”

    BTW, by telling your children just now about monsters, I think my point was missed.

    GLW (#268):
    I, for one, would tell Jesus that inerrancy seems absurd to me. I would not fear saying so; in fact, I could do no other. I believe I would not be telling him anything that he doesn’t already know and that I would be on safe grounds saying these things candidly and plainly to him.

  277. Paul M. said,

    April 8, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Carlos (#276),

    I’m using phrases associated with Plantinga’s theory warrant.

    Say a person belives that his head is made of glass. He has been told this by his parents, he wraps it up whenever he goes outside, his belief coheres with all his other beliefs downstram of experience, etc. He is internally rational.

    But, his head is not made of glass. This belief results from, say, some form of cognitive malfunction. His belief is not externally rational. (ch the Warrant Trilogy for further elucidation of this concept.)

    BTW, I don’t know what you mean about telling my children “just now” about monsters. I have always told them that they are not real.

    As far as what you said to GLW, what if Jesus responded to you, “But inerrancy is not absurd. The Bible is inerrant.” What would you say in response to the Lord?

  278. Paul M. said,

    April 8, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    P.S. Carlos (#277),

    In reference to GLW’s comment, you didn’t answer his question. He’s wondering why, if it was believed that the Bible was errant, didn’t the Sadducees just tell Jesus that as an answer? Sure *you* might, but the question was, *if* this was the belief in the Bible, why didn’t they respond that way? Thus it would appear that your position is foreign to Scripture and the early history of Christianity.

  279. c bovell said,

    April 8, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Again, real quick, Paul.
    How did you get “external” to judge all this? How do you know what you see is what you see “externally”? It seems to me that you are just as “internal” as I am.

    I’d like to ask, too, how you can feel so confident in your assertion (I think you wrote it twice) that I am not being honest when I say I didn’t abandon inerrancy because scientists were going to laugh at me? But please talk about how you are external and I am not first. I am interested in learning more.

    About the GLW thing, unless Jesus hit me with a magic wand and changed my doxastic “condition,” I’d have to say, Lord, I’m having trouble understanding. Could you please explain? What do you mean by “error”? I think he’d talk about “error” as a metaphor that was helpful for awhile until humanity began to gain in knowlege about its surroundings in a more reliable fashion.

  280. Paul M. said,

    April 8, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Carlos,

    I’m not too sure you understand the term. External rationality has to do with the belief-forming process itself. I pointed you to some relevant literature. Should we go outside the topic of this thread?

    My assertion about honesty was not meant to be a slam. I think you intimated that you thought the idea of belief in a talking donkey absurd. Who wants to be known as someone who believes absurd things? So I think there were some social factors involved.

    I think I am externally rational because I think there is no dysfunction in my belief producing process. I’ve already indicated that I find dysfunction in your Garden Syndrome. I also find proper function for a human is to take God’s word at its say-so and not to elevate yourself to a position of epistemic authority.

    As far as the GLW things, you said that you would have no problem going up to Jesus and telling that “after all there are all sorts of errors in the Bible!” And so you’d be aserting the term and so why should he have to define what he means by using a word you invoked?

  281. c bovell said,

    April 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I’d begin to wonder if we mean different things since I think there are errors. Maybe he has a different understanding of error than I. How could Jesus insist on something that is flat out wrong? I’d ask him about that.

    Get back to you later on external and garden syndrome comment.

  282. Paul M. said,

    April 8, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    So you wouldn’t define the term? Obviously Jesus wouldn’t insist on something flat-out wrong. So you’d have to bend the knee. He always and everywhere treats all Scripture as inerrant. Satan, who knew more than the country-bumpkin Jews, could have told Jesus, “Don’t bother with that ‘It is written’ mumbo-jumbo, you and I both know better than that” wink, wink. Your view hinders my ability to overcome temptation.

  283. c bovell said,

    April 8, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Paul,

    I don’t see my misunderstanding (re: Warranted Christian belief). Please help me see it. I am saying, for example, that you read:
    “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.”
    and form the belief that this actually happened in response to your doxastic experience. This is internally rational.

    Why can’t I ask how you know you are externally rational in forming this belief? The thing simply never happened.

    Also, I wonder why I am cast as being on satan’s side viz. your garden syndrome and temptation reference. Why can’t I be Nicodemus asking Jesus about inerrancy and expressing my disbelief? Why must I concede that he would give your answer and not mine? You say, “He always and everywhere treats all Scripture as inerrant.” I think you could help things now by defining scripture as well as inerrant in this context. The NT, for example, did not exist. What OT he had in mind can only be speculated. Just because we can’t agree doesn’t mean I have to be the serpent/satan, does it?

  284. Paul Seely said,

    April 8, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Dear Reformed Sinner (#273)

    I agree with much of what you say. An accommodated human opinion should not be considered evidence that Scripture is errant, because it is not God’s opinion; he is just accommodating the human opinion. But what does your last sentence mean?

    When Calvin came to Gen 1:16, astronomy told him that one star, namely Saturn, was larger than the moon. Skeptics were saying the Bible was wrong to say the biggest light was the sun, the next biggest was the moon, and the stars were far smaller (which is how Augustine interpreted the text). Calvin said the text was not giving us “the actual dimensions of the stars” but just referring to the appearance of the sun, moon and stars. Are you saying that Calvin’s solution to the problem of the conflict between astronomy and the Bible was unbiblical because his starting point was the findings of astronomy? If he had not started with the findings of astronomy, he would have been like Augustine who had no reason to say the text is just speaking of the appearances of the heavenly bodies. His interpretation of this text depends upon his starting with the findings of science. Was that unbiblical?

    Calvin’s approach gives us insight into the answer to the question I posed in #165. That is, to answer my question at $165, we can ask, What was Calvin’s basis for deciding that the discription of the heavenly bodies in Gen 1:16 was an accommodation and not an inerrant teaching? Do you not see that it was the findings of modern science? Calvin was thus answering the question I posed in #165. His criterion was whether the text disagreed with modern science. If it disagreed with modern science, it was an accommodation. It should be noted that even in this case the teaching of the text that God created the heavenly bodies remains inerrant.

  285. Paul Seely said,

    April 9, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Paul M. says in #274, “Paul Seely (167) I don’t understand what the reference to “trip to the clouds” is in reference to?”

    Answer: It is a reference to Aristophanes’ play, The Clouds.

    I do not helieve my question in #165 is in any way in need of answers to Paul M’s philosophical questions in order to be understood. As for the non-questions, such as #2 and #4, are they really supposed to be answers to my question? In short, I am hard pressed to believe that Paul M’s response is anything more than playing philosophical games for the purpose of — as his final point indicates — obfuscating the issue. I accordingly associate his response with The Clouds. I may be wrong, of course; and I regret not being able to be more positive; but that is the way I see it.

  286. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Carlos (#283),

    I don’t see my misunderstanding (re: Warranted Christian belief). Please help me see it. I am saying, for example, that you read: “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.”
    and form the belief that this actually happened in response to your doxastic experience. This is internally rational.

    Why can’t I ask how you know you are externally rational in forming this belief? The thing simply never happened.

    External rationality states that any sensuous or doxastic experience associated with a belief must not be attributable to cognitive malfunction.

    Internal rationality states that the faculties responsible for producing the belief must be operating appropriately with respect to the believer’s experience and other beliefs.

    So, say I have a lesion that produced beliefs about ropes dropping, jawbones, donkey’s, killing a thousand men, etc., every time I am appeared to in a Judges 15:14-16 way. Say that when I am appeared to thus, it appears to me that I am seeing the sentences that speak of ropes dropping, jawbones, donkey’s, killing a thousand men, etc.. The belief that I am reading about ropes dropping, jawbones, donkey’s, killing a thousand men, etc., will be externally irrational but, absent defeaters, and the function of my defeater-system working properly, my belief will be internally rational.

    I cast you on the “Hath God said” side.

    And, I’ve been asking for the errantists to specify the things you ask of me. I get no answer but then am expected to answer back when you find an opening? Indeed, I tried to give Seely some criteria above, and to see precisely what he was getting at, and I got a lecture based on The Never-ending Story and told to “get my head out of the clouds,” or something to that effect.

    At any rate, I feel I have fully answered you with regards to why you initially responded to me in the first place viz. the Trinity argument. As you made my point, I am satisfied.

  287. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Paul Seely (#285),

    Ah, I see.

  288. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Carlos
    Tell me, how much of what you are espousing did you learn from Enns & Co. at WTS? Did they teach you that inerrancy was ‘absurd’ or did you conclude that from what they taught?

  289. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    GLW,
    I came to that conclusion year before I attended WTS. Donkeys talking, muscle men killing a thousand people with an animal bone, kings having their fingers and toes chopped off and then confessing that it was just for that to happen to them because they were not a follower of YHWH, people living 900 years, talking snakes, an ark with two of every kind of animal, and a man who lives in a fish. The Bible is most like a comic book. That’s a conclusion that was not hard to make, once I drew enough emotional fortitude to fight the social pressures I experienced regarding inerrancy in my fundamental Bible fellowship. Inerrancy must be understood in terms of genre, a genre most like a comic book. But then, if that’s the direction I have to go, how is the notion of not having errors helpful at all. It isn’t. It’s entirely off the mark.

    Enns has nothing to do with me. Why do you ask? His book doesn’t even say anything provocative from my standpoint. He’s merely assembling some conclusions that have been made in his field and trying to see what a WTF adherent might do with all that stuff. At least that’s my read of his book. Now Sparks’ book, that’s different. He’s pointing the way and wants everyone to come along. He’s saying evangelicals have been dead wrong. That’ very different and that’s more of what’s needed.

  290. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    “year” should read “years.” That’s interesting, your question. Enns responsible for me? What are you looking to establish? and why? Yeah, I took his class, but I’ve been tossing around these ideas even before my days at Liberty Seminary and PCB. It was back when I was in the fundmental Bible fellowship crowd, I don’t know, ca. 1996?

  291. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    CB
    You posted comments on how ‘absurd’ inerrancy was on a thread raising questions about Enns’ views-it was a natural question given that you are a graduate of WTS.

  292. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    CB
    I would like you to address the question I raised earlier- are any of the books of the Bible ‘inerrant’? How about individual chapters-like 1 Cor. 15 ?

  293. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Carlos (#289),

    Donkeys talking, muscle men killing a thousand people with an animal bone, kings having their fingers and toes chopped off and then confessing that it was just for that to happen to them because they were not a follower of YHWH, people living 900 years, talking snakes, an ark with two of every kind of animal, and a man who lives in a fish.

    1. A God creating the world by “speaking,” like, “Abra Cadabra.”

    2. Talking plants (cf. The Three Amigos).

    3. Fortune telling/ prophets.

    4. Turning water into blood.

    5. Parting the red sea.

    6. Bread falling from the sky.

    7. Commandments being written in stone by “the finger” of God.

    8. A “magical” arc destroying armies (cf. Indiana Jones).

    9. Soaked material drying overnight.

    10. Wrestling an angel.

    11. Soaking wet wood spontaneously combusting (cf. Firestarter).

    12. Men coming back to life (cf. Zombie Movies).

    14. Men speaking in other languages that they have not been taught (cf. The Exorcist).

    15. Commanding people to “rise up and walk.”

    16. Da Debil.

    17. Hell.

    18. Dying for the “sin” of others.

    19. Flying up to heaven (cf. Superman).

    20. A perfect new world (cf. wish fulfillment).

    Carson, why not drop Christianity? On your standard, you’re arbitrary to scoff at the things you mention yet hold the things I mention.

    If you don’t mind me saying, your comments serve to warn against denying inerrancy better than anything anyone has said in this thread.

  294. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    2nd paragraph from bottom I meant “Carlos.”

  295. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Yes, I see now. Enns is on a lot of people’s minds and is the topic of this post. It was natural for you to ask.

    I don’t know if there are biblical books that are inerrant and I don’t think it matters either way. I’m not interested in inerrant scriptures, chapters or verses. Demanding and making sure one has absolute inerrancy here or there or everywhere is a diversion of attention and a poor use of one’s spiritual energies in my opinion. After all, a work doesn’t have to be inerrant to accomplish its purpose. Say I have a calculus book for use in class. It probably has chapters that have errors in them and some that don’t. I don’t fret about whether there are errors or not. I just try to keep doing calculus, try to work through the topics and the exercises and when I come across errors I adjust and correct them. Now sometimes what I think is an error turns out not to be an error. Then I have to go back and review my work again. But I have a general confidence in the authors that they were qualified to write the book they did and to provide a trustworthy guide for getting the job done. Of course, there are probably some books out there that are so riddled with errors, they are of little to no use and do not pass the test of time. Most prove quite useful in spite of whatever errors they may contain.

    Now scripture is rather similar, though it is a much more complex phenomenon, being written over a millenium by various authors, editors, scribes, and redactors for countless hearers and readers in sundry cultures and languages. The Holy Spirit oversees the development of the various parts and is primarily after directing the work toward its chief end: to reveal Christ. If the Bible is a revelation from God, which I think it is, I trust that it will prove adequate for the primary purpose intended (to reveal Christ). Any errors that come up will not be so great as to impede that goal. I trust that the divine superintendence can be trusted to that effect. This is my faith commitment based upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit within me and the Christian tradition that I know. The Bible is a reliable guide to Christ, but it does not have to be inerrant to be that.

    I read 1 Cor 15 in this light. The scriptures, especially here, reveal Christ. What is written is a direct reference to Christ and is reliable and able to be trusted. This is why the Bible is provided to churches today. I trust it accomplishes its task when it speaks of Christ in this way.

    I know some would like a more systematic answer, maybe that I should say, like some people, donkeys talking, men being raised, it’s neither or both and there are no other options. But I don’t see things that way. A man does not get raised from the dead, no, not ever, except, I guess, maybe this one time, since this is what the entire tradition, the Christian scriptures and the internal, existential testimony of the Holy Spirit predispose me to think. Ok, alright, this one guy was raised from the dead. That’s where I am. Could that change for me? Who knows, maybe yes, maybe no. Donkeys talking, on the other hand, no, never, not even the one in the Bible. No tradition, no sense of scriptural unity, no testimony of the Holy Spirit even hints at the suggestion that the beast must have talked. It’s there for some other reason.

  296. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    That last post was in response to GLW #292. This one is a short response to Paul #293.

    Idon’t mind you saying what you said. I’m being honest and respectful (at least I’m trying to be) and I’d expect nothing less from you. Not everyone who denies inerrancy will end up where I am, yet this is the faith that sustains me presently. I have no problem with legends in the Bible. They are no source of embarassment. I don’t wish they weren’t there. Inerrantists have more to lose from these types of things that I keep talking about. In fact, some probably feel not a little anxiety even talking about these things openly. But errantists can accept some of scripture as legend, some as history, some as midrash, some as propaganda. This may be arbitrary, but not absolutely arbitrary as I tried to explain before. All of this has to be worked out and that takes time and diligence. I find myself repeatedly asking, what is this thing “the Bible” and how is it communicating to me the gospel of Christ?

    I would hope that if Christianity proves to be false that I would give it up. (Wouldn’t you?) Why haven’t I done that yet? Because somehow the Bible’s account of the human condition (sin) and the Bible’s proposal for the ultimate improvement upon that condition (Christ’s death and resurrection) “rings true” in a non-discursive, existential way that I cannot deny. I have tried to articulate that in my comments and those absurdities that are not central to these biblical accounts (sin and its remedy) I throw out. The other I endure and try to sort out in whatever way I can.

    I don’t think it’s inerrancy or bust. I mean, come to think of it, it almost sounds like you guys are actually trying to kick me out of the faith! All for the sake of inerrancy? That’s really an eye-opener for me!

  297. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Paul (#293 again):
    “Flying up to heaven”: how did he propel himself? where did he go? how did he keep breathing? How far up did he have to go to get to heaven? Was there a portal of some sort? Or does this merely reveal an ancient three-tiered cosmology?

    Don’t these questions bother you? How do you answer them when they’re asked of you? I’ve been told, “You just preach the gospel, that’s all.” Or “Don’t question God, you’re a creature, he’s the creator.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I get tired of answering, “Mystery!” and can’t keep positing them for every legendary feature of the Bible. How many mysteries does it take to get to historical myth? I’ve admitted a resurrection, maybe a couple more, but why multiply miracles unnecessarily?

  298. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    CB
    So, what is the basis upon which we go about determining what is ‘inerrant’ and what is not ? If no book, chapter or verse of Scripture is ‘inerrant’ where does that leave us? It is no longer a question of inerrancy but of reliability. According to you 2 Tim.3: 16 means All Scripture is fallible-how is it then profitable? Carlos, you are adopting a position that has its roots in the 16th. cent. Socinians.

  299. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Carlos (#296),

    To your first paragraph: I’m wondering why you believe the 20 things on my list? If the stuff you mentioned seems like a comic book to you, why not the stuff I mentioned? I even tied them to fictional movies. I frankly don’t know what epistemic warrant you have for believing that Christianity is true, that the Triune God exists, etc. You reject and you deny. You are a poster child for the rational/irrational dialectic.

    To your second paragraph: I wonder what epistemic basis you have left on which you believe those things? You got them from the Bible. Perhaps those statements are in error. How would you know? Why is coming back to life any less comic book than talking donkeys? Has “science” proved either? Seems most scientists would deny both. Laugh at both. Perhaps you’re hanging on to sin and the resurrection because of the peer pressure that caused you to hang on to inerrancy? How would you know? Are you being honest with yourself? If Christianity really “proved to be false”, and I knew it, I would give it up. (I don’t know what rational basis I would have to do so, though. That’s another debate.) I hope you are consistent, though. I would hope that you would only give up belief in talking donkey’s, talking snakes (talking plants??), muscle men, et al, if you proved them to be false. How have you done this? What standard did you use? Induction? But if the reports are true, then they falsify the inductive generalization. And, it works both ways. One what inductive basis would you believe Jesus came back to life? The authority of the Scripture? But you employ a double-faced argument. For why wouldn’t that work for talking donkey’s et al? maybe you’d say, “It’s absurd to believe in a talking donkey.” But, what’s absurd is a function of your worldview. Why are talking donkey’s absurd and God-men aren’t? Indeed, God-men who both know, and do not know, their return!? Surely a “contradiction” is more absurd than an inductive generalization about talking donkeys. And, what if my argument for inerrancy was that “it resonates in my being in an existential sort of way.”? Would you accept that as a good reason to believe inerrancy? Would you tell me that I’m within my epistemic right to hold it? I think these problems are a function of your rational/irrational dialectic. Your hermeneutical atheism has caused you to make irrational and absurd statements much like actual atheists do when they try to argue against God.

    As to your last paragraph: I find that if you stay on your broad road, you’ll see yourself out of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

  300. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    iinCarlos
    Have you read Calvin’s exchange with Lelio Sozzini ? I am sure the school there in Toronto has it. The type of questions you are raising were similar to those of Sozzini.I would urge you to heed Calvin’s advice. You are in more danger than I think you realize.

  301. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Carlos (#297),

    I was simply asking which ones you believed. So I guess we can cross the ascension off the list?

    I have debated atheists in public and on the radio numerous times. So, the charge of burying my head in the sand won’t work on me.

    Since you profess faith, claim you’re a Christian, I’ll work with you in different ways. Apologetics is person relative. Since you’re not an atheist, I won’t appeal to certain arguments against you. So, let’s see how I would answer someone of your profession of faith.

    You ask, “How did he propel himself?” I ask, How did he raise himself from the dead? How do you hold the one and reject the other? Do you reject the resurrection? How did God create the word? Do you reject creation? Can the one who created the world not ascend to heaven?

    You ask, “where did he go?” I say, since he is forever the God-man, he went to a physical location. Do you seriously think that if I can’t say where he is exactly that means the story is false? Is that an argumentum ad ignorantium? And, if this didn’t happen, on what basis do you believe in the second coming? Isn’t this an essential of the faith?

    You ask, “How far up did he have to go to get to heaven?” Who said he went to “heaven?” Is theological and biblical ignorance a possible cause of your rejection of inerrancy?

    You ask, “Was there a portal of some sort?” I don’t think so. Is this another argument from ignorance of sort? And, questions aren’t arguments which reveal absurdities. Your argument method is absurd. You reject inerrancy based on things that the Bible doesn’t tell us? What did Jesus do the first minute he rose from the dead? What!? You don’t know? Guess it didn’t happen. How did he role away the stone? Was he superman? Or did he have to wait for angels to do it? Why? And how would you know?

    Carlos, your “arguments” can be turned against you in a hurry and your double-standard exposed. I dealt with you this way since you profess to be a Christian and I know some of what you profess to believe in other areas of your web. Since the apologetic dialogue is person relative, meeting people where they are at, different approaches can be used.

    If you don’t want to don the Christian mask, I suppose we can ask what sort of non-Christian worldview you want to stand on in order to raise those questions. For example, given atheism and methodological naturalism, I would want to know why you thought the ascension so absurd. Based on what? Induction? But you’ve never experienced a God-man. So, your argument depends on the falsity of Christian theism. That is, it be4gs the question.

    Honestly, Carlos, you give me the impression you never tried to seriously think through these issues in a rigorous, self-conscious sort of way.

  302. Kent Sparks said,

    April 9, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Paul M. said:

    “Honestly, Carlos, you give me the impression you never tried to seriously think through these issues in a rigorous, self-conscious sort of way.”

    I know Carlos … He works on these matters harder, and thinks more about them with more energy and rigour, than just anyone I know. Carlos and others don’t disagree with fundamentlalism because they’ve not thought about it enough … they disagree because they’ve thought about it alot.

  303. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Kent (#302), then what explains his comments about the absurdity of jesus’ ascension? As if it is more absurd for Jesus to ascend than it was for him to raise himself. Or perhaps he denies that too? Then why label himself a Christian? He may think through his particular points, but when he tries to raise them in an apologetic dialogue, he shows where his expertise ends. Did you read my responses to his “ascension arguments?” How would you explain the rather sophomoric reasoning involved in his anti-ascension comments? Those are the kind of arguments I’ve encountered by teenagers on atheist discussion boards.

    On another note: This one is for Paul Seely:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/paul-seely.html

  304. GLW Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Kent
    Can I ask you the same questions I asked Carlos? You both deny the doctrine of inerrancy- does that extend not only to the Bible as a whole but also to individual books as wells as chapters and verses? Can the concept of ‘inerrant’ apply to, say 1 Cor.15 or to any of the Gospel records ?Or do you begin with an a’priori assumption that the Bible is flawed by virtue of it’s human authors?

  305. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    BTW, Kent, denying the ascension of Jesus isn’t the same as disagreeing with “fundamentalism.”

    If he denies it, where did Jesus go? Is he hiding here on earth? Peek-a-boo? Perhaps he disappeared in a puff of smoke? Perhaps he, with his knowledge, made the first spaceship and flew into space? If Jesus resurrected, and is real, he has to have gone somewhere. If he’s not on earth, he’s somehwere else. If he’s somewhere else, he had to get there somehow. Was his mode of transportation less absurd than the ascension?

    And, how will he come back “in the same way he left?” If not, what basis is there to believe in the second advent? To deny the second advent is to deny an essential of the faith, not just “fundamentalism.”

    And, regarding “fundamentalism”, I think Alvin Plantinga is apropos:

    But isn’t this just endorsing a wholly outmoded and discredited fundamentalism, that condition than which, according to many academics, none lesser can be conceived? I fully realize that the dreaded f-word will be trotted out to stigmatize any model of this kind. Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch.’ When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obligated first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use); it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’. -Warranted Christian Belief, pp. 244-245

  306. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Paul, I admit that I’m not an expert in everything. I maybe even argue like a teenager,a sophomore. I open myself to attack and all manner of critical inspection patiently and willingly and am even willing to do so some more, but I think I might point out that when I asked you about what Bible Jesus ever referred to as inerrant and what he might have meant by “inerrant,” you (I think) chided me to the effect: “I’ve been asking for the errantists to specify the things you ask of me. I get no answer but then am expected to answer back when you find an opening.” (#286 above) I did not say anything about reaching the end of someone’s expertise or any such thing.

    Now I cannot stop you from asking, “How about this? How about that? How about the other thing? It’s all or nothing. If not you disbelieve one miraculous thing why not the other?” And that does not bother me. I do not fear the skeptical onslaught. I must say that I don’t feel the same epistemic pressure that you do, to justify every single facet of faith that comprises the Christian experience. I don’t see why I MUST feel this pressure or obsess with it in such an acute way as you seem to want me to. It is not a pressing issue for me. Some philosophers think skepticism is THE issue to beat. Others simply have no interest in it. (See for example, Michael Williams, “Epistemology and the Mirror of Nature,” in Rorty and His Critics.) I do have some questions, though, and I try to answer them, some are of no interest, some seem pressing to me. I was candid with you; if I argue like a teenager and disappoint you during the process, so be it.

    I don’t see my conversation with you as an apologetics match, taking a strategy and looking to “win.” No spiritual antithesis to establish, just some phenomenological description of my faith experience. A conversation between Christians. If you want to clarify for yourself whether I’m a Christian or not, so that you can appropriately select which apologetic tact to take on me, go ahead. Be my guest.

    I do have a question, though, that I’ve been meaning to ask since the beginning? Do you think God is capable of writing a legend, a myth?

  307. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Again, Paul:
    Re: the ascension questions

    I wanted to suggest that my list of such questions would be much shorter than yours. Five versus five hundred miracles; put in those terms, I’ll take five. A matter of religious parsimony, if you will. Your list of miracles and mysteries seems very long indeed, unnecessarily so. When is enough enough? I don’t see why these considerations are sophomoric. I have judgments to make regarding what genre is where in the Bible and what’s historical and what’s not. Everyone does, Paul. Even you. I have just brought mine out into the open for everyone to see and having done so have open myself to the criticisms of others. And I welcome them. I want to talk and learn more about these things.

  308. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    For the record, I believe the ascension, but I still have a host of questions about it. Sometimes these questions really bother me; sometimes not so much. But I detect here another in-or-out scenario that’s being pressed upon me. You either believe it or you don’t and since you’re asking these questions, you most likely don’t believe. I believe and have questions, critical questions.

    Again, my understanding is that Jesus is now at “the right hand of the Father,” and I’ve always understood that to mean heaven. Your comment about theological ignorance made me go look at the Nicene Creed again:

    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    I regularly recite: “ascended to heaven” and equate that with heaven, and rightly so, for that seems to me to be what the creed explicitly says. Where is my display of ignorance here? I am not claiming to know everything, and I am most certainly still in the process of learning, but still, I reckon that when you inveigh against me the charges of theological ignorance and apologetic sophomorism, the assessments seem to overstate the case, to say the least.

  309. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Carlos (#306 & 307),

    I am not playing the skeptic, you are.

    You have attempted to show something “absurd.” I met you on your own turf. Now you’re choosing not to back-up your assertion that the ascension is absurd. You asked how I would “deal with” the “tough questions.” When I do, the response is: silence.

    I find your reference to Williams, the contextualist, to be irrelevant and a smoke screen. I don’t see the use in citing him other than to name-drop. His paper, and your skeptic comments in general, are a red-herring. I was merely responding to your request to deal with an alleged “problem.” When I ask, “How about this,” it is because I wonder how you can hold one thing as absurd and something similar, or even more “absurd,” as not absurd.

    In answer to your question, of course God could write a myth. He could take on a body, put pen to paper, and write a myth better than Tolkien or Homer.

    I also did not intent to call *you* a teenager but to merely report the fact that I have seen the *same* arguments against the ascension trotted out by teenage atheists.

    The list of 20 I provided was not to point out mysteries, but to see if you would deny those too. I don’t see why you would deny a talking donkey and not the other things I mentioned. Apparently you’re missing the reductio nature of my posts.

  310. David Gadbois said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Re: Hay’s comments,

    While we should never revel or gloat in the death of any divine image-bearer (indeed, we ought not even delight in the death of the wicked), I don’t see anything wrong with Steve’s comments. God does his church a good favor by limiting the damage of destructive teaching by cutting off the life of those who propagate it. The Bible does talk about millstones, does it not, in regard to those who cause others to stumble?

    It is also quite possible that God is doing those teachers a favor as well, by taking them out of this life to be in the presence of His Son, preventing them from further regret in doing harm to Christ’s name and His church.

  311. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Carlos (309),

    I didn’t know God had a literal right hand (does he have a left one too)?

  312. Paul M. said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Carlos,

    As far as the “heaven” comment, I was propbably reading you as speaking about some immaterial etheral realm. If you mean it as a physical place, then I’m fine. So, sorry if I read you uncharitably.

  313. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Paul,
    Re: Could God write a legend?
    My question to you: Why couldn’t God have inspired legend in the Samson story? How can one tell that he did not actually “write” a legend, say, for example, in that Samson passage?

    Re: If you deny one “absurdity,” you have to swallow the others that are either equally absurd or more absurd.
    My response to you: Peripheral absurdities are negotiable, more central ones will be more resilient. That’s true for any web of beliefs. Why is it that if I decide to jettison an absurdity here or there that I have to immediately treat all other beliefs simliarly? You are the one pushing the jettison impulse indiscriminately throughout the category of “miracle,” is your question why am I not doing that, too? That’s why I mentioned the Williams article, what’s with the name-dropping charge? Skepticism does not have to be the chief opponent for every thinker, that’s what he says. How can you judge argumentative strategy and rhetorical motivation so confidently and unapologetically when I try to make some point? I am trying to explain myself; if I do not comport myself as do many of your other interlocutors online and on the radio, why instantly chalk it up to some untoward pride-factor? I see the spectre of skepticism here and am trying to articulate it. The Williams article helped clarify why this tends to come up for some philosophers more than others. I didn’t think I was bringing up a red herring? Yyou bring up Plantinga and it’s perfectly fitting and I try to bring up something I’ve read and I’m name-dropping and red herring-ing. I am beginning to detect some asymmetry here with regard to the terms of our conversation.

    RE: Skepticism
    I doubt one or two things and now all twenty things must come equally subject to doubt. Doubt run amok; why aren’t I letting doubt extend to these 20 things in the same manner? that’s what I hear you asking. That’s not skepticism with regard to the miraculous that you would are trying to convince me to unleash? Categorical skepticism, that’s what it looks like to me. I tried to talk about this interms of a slope, not slippery, where different people make different judgments depending on a number of factors. Sometimes the reasons given are not all that convincing to others but there are a number of reasons why people believe what they believe and not all are discursively formed and sustained.

    Re: Talking donkey more absurd.
    The talking donkey is unnecessarily absurd. It is a peripheral matter and fully negotiable and dispensible. Christ raising from the dead is more central–the center. The central “absurdities” will stomach criticism more resiliently and remain in tact in spite of them.

    Re: Doubting inerrancy because of what Bible doesn’t say.
    My book tries to explain why I came to doubt inerrancy. I’m not taking inerrancy to task for what the Bible does not say, but what it does say and the way in which it says it, which make me question genres more (viz. comic book discussion). It’s not the ascension that made me question inerrancy. Where did you get this impression? How did our conversation come to this, Paul? I thought we were making some progress in our understanding of each other and now I find myself back at square one (or almost).

  314. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Paul again(!):
    You wrote:
    “I am not playing the skeptic, you are.

    You have attempted to show something “absurd.” I met you on your own turf. Now you’re choosing not to back-up your assertion that the ascension is absurd. You asked how I would “deal with” the “tough questions.” When I do, the response is: silence.”

    So your answer to my answer is to turn my questions back on me? And if I turn them back on you again? Would that satisfy you? I think not.

    You wrote: “Carlos, your “arguments” can be turned against you in a hurry and your double-standard exposed.”

    So regarding my alleged silence: I thought I communicated to you that when we compare the number of mysteries on each side, my side would have far less; I consider that a virtue and a response to your turning the questions back on me.

    My “double standard”: The peripheral beliefs get examined more critically; the central ones less so. How else does anyone proceed? Is your position own position, Paul, so consistent that all beliefs are equally protected? If one gives out, then the whole thing goes? For me inerrancy is at the periphery, resurrection at the center. Might I suggest that since inerrancy is so central to your web of beliefs you cannot help but think that once that gives out so should everything else? That only happens, I think, if inerrancy is at the center.

  315. c bovell said,

    April 9, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    …which for me it is not. (completing the thought in #314)

  316. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 6:30 am

    I find it revealing that Carlos and Kent both avoid answering my questions about whether there are books, or chapters in the Bible that are 100% inerrant-what about verses? Or are you two so opposed to the concept of inerrancy that you would refuse to admit that any statement in the Bible is totally free from error.

  317. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Of course this would requires some degree of ‘deep’ thinking on their part – and since Kent has declared that the problem with those of us who endorse inerrancy do so because we have not engaged the subject very thoughtfully- I am sure they can put their heads together and demonstrate how this is done-so please led the way.

  318. Kent Sparks said,

    April 10, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Paul M:

    “then what explains his comments about the absurdity of jesus’ ascension?”

    Knowing Carlos, I simply don’t assume that his questions/reservations about the ascension reveal any intellectual laziness on his part; he is asking questions and seeking the best answers. And all because he cares more about young evangelicals, and their intellectual and spiritual confusion, than do many evangelicals themselves.

    GLW:

    “Can the concept of ‘inerrant’ apply to, say 1 Cor.15 or to any of the Gospel records ?Or do you begin with an a’priori assumption that the Bible is flawed by virtue of it’s human authors?”

    My answer would be that “All Scripture is inspired by God” and, hence, all of it is inerrant. But my understanding of inerrancy has to do with the divine author, and not with the human authors. Hence, when the biblical authors get their facts wrong in some way, that’s because of their humanity; God is not implicated by the error because he has accommodated it in book.

    More GLW:

    “Kent has declared that the problem with those of us who endorse inerrancy do so because we have not engaged the subject very thoughtfully.”

    My main point is this: Can one begin with Scripture itself, apart from WCF assumptions about it, and reasonably conclude that it is without any human errors? I don’t see how, given that even I–a long-time, evangelical Christian–find so many glaring problems. Only by a kind of alchemy am I able to pull the wool over my own eyes.

  319. Rhology said,

    April 10, 2008 at 7:23 am

    c bovell,

    I’d like to know your argument for why you say that the story of Balaam’s Donkey is “a peripheral matter and fully negotiable and dispensible”.
    Is it simply b/c of the doctrinal content it carries versus, say, the Resurrection of Jesus?
    If so, how is that not a posteriori special pleading, a ripe, low-hanging peach to be plucked and hurled at you by the next atheist you meet?
    If not, how do you establish the thinking that leads you apparently to believe that a guy rising from the dead is more likely than a donkey talking?

  320. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Kent
    You are in the proverbial ‘no man’s land’. This half-way house where you have taken up temporay residence- a place where you think you can affirm that all Scripture is inspired and necessary inerrant cannot co-exist with your equally strong assertion that Scripture’s humanity does not exempt it from error. At some point down the road you will be forced to seek shelter elsewhere-history bears me out on this. Question: Who determines the nature and extent of these errors in Scripture ? Also, I need remind you, this post is framed around Peter Enns, who teaches at Westminster seminary, which does have the Westminster Standards as its doctrinal identity.

  321. steve hays said,

    April 10, 2008 at 8:15 am

    David Gadbois said,
    April 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm
    Re: Hay’s comments,
    While we should never revel or gloat in the death of any divine image-bearer (indeed, we ought not even delight in the death of the wicked), I don’t see anything wrong with Steve’s comments. God does his church a good favor by limiting the damage of destructive teaching by cutting off the life of those who propagate it. The Bible does talk about millstones, does it not, in regard to those who cause others to stumble?
    It is also quite possible that God is doing those teachers a favor as well, by taking them out of this life to be in the presence of His Son, preventing them from further regret in doing harm to Christ’s name and His church.

    ***************************

    Thanks, David. That nicely sums up my position on the matter.

    Since I never knew Dillard, I don’t harbor any personal feelings about him one way or the other.

    Yet, to some extent, Dillard was a false teacher. Not in the same sense as John Spong. But, by that same token, an insider can do more damage than an outsider. Since Spong is an open enemy of the faith, he can only influence those who are already sympathetic to such full-frontal attacks.

    On the other hand, a lot of Christians let their guard down around theological moderates like Dillard, Longman, or Enns. And this is the more so when the man has a winsome, charismatic personality.

    Why it’s wrong to thank God for his providential intervention in protecting his church from further harm has never been explained to me. The reaction has been emotional rather than reasonable or biblical.

  322. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Steve Hays
    Go away. I personally don’t find you the least bit helpful in this debate.

  323. Richard L. Lindberg said,

    April 10, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I take strong exception to the unidentified post in which the writer asserted that “to some extent, Dillard was a false teacher.” Dr. Dillard was my OT prof at WTS and I never heard him say anything that was false or less than a commitment to an authoritative, inspired, infallible Scripture. My confidence in the OT and how to understand it was strengthened in his classes. If you didn’t know Dr. Dillard, you have no basis for making such outlandish statements.

  324. David said,

    April 10, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Richard,

    Might I suggest that you have set the standard too high for anyone to have any meaningful debate or theological discourse. For if we have to know and study under someone then I can only comment on those whom I know, and not those whom I have read and with whom I have interacted through their works.

    On this particulars of Dillard (whom I have not read and cannot comment on and so refrain from doing so ) versus the particulars of the following narrative, I’d say, it is apples to oranges, but the principle obtains. We will be following “Grudem’s Dictum” on how and why theological institutions go liberal. It is Friendships! People say x is such a nice guy x can’t be in error. Well, I had Grudem for ST 715 at TEDS, then I walk directly across campus to NT 722 with Osborne. (This little narrative all took place the week that the charges came out against Pinnock at ETS in 2001). Someone asked Osborne what he thought of the charges against Pinnock and the bounds of evangelicalism, “I can’t believe my friend Clark is a heretic so it cannot be true.” Osborne had already taught that he thought Openness was erroneous, yet because Pinnock was a friend he could not bring himself to believe it. So in some cases friendships and knowledge do prevent us from examining the issues. I don’t deny or want to say we don’t extend charity, but charity is different than turning a blind eye.

    As I said I have not read Dillard and this should not be read as comments on him. Rather it is to point out that the standard that you have set, Richard, is too high. It would preclude me or anyone reading and examining the premises and warrant of public theological discourse for any argument in which I have not personally talked to a person privately, who has publicly set forth in publication a work. Moreover it is stultifying to the theological discipline in which debates take place in publications

    It leaves us in the hands of caprice. It leaves us with: X was such a wonderful person when I knew X therefore X is correct. The obverse works too. Z is a jerk. Z wrote Y, Therefore Y is bad. Both are logical nonsense. Often we forget that heretics can (i.e. logically able) to right the acme of orthodox food for the soul. While I must also believe that John Owen (in my mind the epitome of greatness) could (i.e. logically able, harmatologically necessary (?), and experientially obvious) write dross that would steer the saint in to error.

    So to say X is in error or wrote error is not to rob you of your experience of that person or to say X is or was jerk. Rather it is to state that X has written error at this juncture. It is to be judge against Scripture, not my or your conception of that person. When I have written reviews, there are authors, whom I have had unrighteous Schadenfreude when excoriating, but also had to note their helpful arguments. It has also been my painful task to demonstrate the folly and error of those with whom I am inclined to concur. Integrity and honesty demand it. Loyalty is due highest of all to Christ the King, not to those whom we have immediate, physical interaction.

  325. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 9:20 am

    David
    Horsefeathers. We can and should debate the particulars of this subject without making inexcusible remarks like those of Mr. Hays. Had he taken steps to either make a sincere apology or retraction we could proceed-but as it is he continues to make inflamatory remarks that end up taking the focus off the real issues.

  326. David said,

    April 10, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Gary,

    I said nothing about Hays, for I am in agreement. I wholly concur with your points. I was merely commenting on Richard’s comment vis-a-vis personal interaction.

    David

  327. Paul Seely said,

    April 10, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Paul M. recently directed me to a different websitge offering Steve Hay’s criticism of my views. Hays attempted to refute my position without bothering to get the facts from my papers, which he knew of. Worse still he later complained that I did not offer any examples. The amazing thing is that he said this immediately after quoting me offering a specific example. Worse still he concluded with slanderous accusations.

    This made me think of the fact that I could react to such a blog with, Well, that’s the inerrantists for you. They are all just fundadmentalists, long on ignorance, and substituting judgemental poison in place of facts. But, such a reaction would not be in order. There are always extremists on both ends of a debate, and I see that Gary Johnson (#322, 325) recognizes that Hays is not helping his side.

    For my part, I am embarrased by some of the “errors” trumpteted by some “errantists” and I hope that their extreme views will not be cited as a source of evidence that “errantists” are all on the road to unbelief. I am reminded of Briggs, who after being run out of the Presbyterian church for “liberalism” joined the Episcopal church and without changing his views became such a strong voice for theological conservativism that even his old Presbyterian enemies praised him.

    As for the errantists’ arguments, let me say that although I cannot buy the narrow view of inerrancy which motivates Enns’ enemies, any arguments against biblical inerrancy based on a philosophy of naturalism can never be considered valid by either a Christian or a scholar. Nor should superficial “errors” such as are supposedly present in conflicting Gospel accounts be readily dubbed proofs against inerrancy. Years ago I bought an encyclopedia along with the forthcoming yearbooks at a time when I could barely afford to feed myself. When the first yearbook arrived, I was so pressed to pay for it, that I felt obligated to read it from cover to cover. In the process I ran across several instances of historical conflict between different writers on the same subject but coming from differing perspectives. These “errors” were so clear, almost blatant, that I wrote the editors about them. In two cases the conflicts involved three different writers in three different categories all mentioning what seemed to be exactly the same event and all 3 disagreeing with each other. I really was not convined there was a true conflict, but the severe differences gave me a good reason to presssure the editor for answers. He duly responded, filling in the missing facts and making me aware that the neglible difference in wording were very significant. I am not suggesting that Lindsellian harmonizations should be taken seriously, but there should be far more caution about such conflicts.

    May I suggest that before citing errors, errantists should do the good scholarship of checking the commentaries and journal articles for posssible explanations. Then if the explanations are still wanting, they should be addressed with the scholarly detail that exposes them. We do not need extremism on our side any more than Gary does on his. I cannot say a loud enough Amen to his comments in #325; and add that they apply to both sides. We must keep the focus on the real issue.

  328. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Kent (#318)

    If you think asking how could the ascension be taken serious “because, after all, how did Jesus breathe and propel himself?”, then there’s a serious gap in what you and I take to be serious questions.

    Carlos (#313 & #314),

    I have brought up issues which I would like to see how your reasoning works. How you deny A and not B as absurd. What standard you use. I am not getting answers here. You only answer seems to be, “I don’t deny B over A because B is closer to the center of my web.” But inerrancy used to be close. You said you “tried to hold on to it.” You even indicated that you would drop the Trinity, which is also close to the center of your web. So, being “close to the center of your web” is neither necessary nor sufficient to save a doctrine from the label of “absurdity.” I also think I can apply *identical* reasoning, and if arguments and reasoning is objective, then I’d like to see why you would hold to one and not the other. It seems you will give as much as you can so long as you can hang on to some “core” Christian doctrines. But what are those? How are they core? Because some errant men in history just said so? What if they had said the talking donkey was essential? And, what is the basis for their numbering doctrines “essential?” Just an arbitrary guess? Or, did they believe that Scripture was inerrant, authoritative, etc? I’m trying to find some consistency in your position so I can engage it better. You want a faith that others can hold to in the face of challenges. But when you offer one “challenge” and ask how I would answer, I show you that we can answer the challenges without denying their truth. What rock can you stand on when your faith is challenged? What epistemic foundation to you have?, or do you give the “young evangelicals” who might struggle? Sure, lose inerrancy and “win” the retaining of faith. If you care about less you have less to lose. Care about nothing, that’s the loser’s way to win. How can they keep their faith without a basis for it?

  329. GLW Johnson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    BB
    Understood-no offense taken, but I do wish you would appeal to SH to retract the very harsh words about Dillard’s death.

  330. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Paul Seely (#327),

    I see you claim Steve’s post was poorly argued, etc., but I’d like to see interaction. For example, above you made the claim that the “ancients” didn’t distinguish between appearence and reality. That was the linchpin of your response to others who asked you to prove that the “ancients” believed the sun moved, the earth was flat, etc. So, did they also think that sticks bend when placed in the water? After all, that’s how it “appears” and “they did not make a distinction between appearance and reality.”

  331. Bern said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    #325
    “Horsefeathers. We can and should debate the particulars of this subject without making inexcusible remarks like those of Mr. Hays. Had he taken steps to either make a sincere apology or retraction we could proceed-but as it is he continues to make inflamatory remarks that end up taking the focus off the real issues.”

    Why don’t you follow your own advice and stop feeding us your sophistical superpiety?

    Hays has interacted with a great number of the arguments put forward here by anti-inerrantists and has been met with appeals to pity over a comment he made. You’re an adult aren’t you? This is the internet, not a support group. I want to believe that you’re able to sidestep what you consider to be an “inflammatory remark” and deal with the substance of a peson’s position, but you are casting doubts on my initial estimation of you.

    Anti-inerrantists are crybabies. Observe Stephen Young’s stalling on the Triablogue. These kinds of tactics are usually done by democrats in political discussions. Sad to see these red herring appeals get in the way of an important debate.

  332. Bern said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    GLW Johnson,

    I didn’t notice that it was your name next to the post I was replying to. I thought you were Kent, who is an anti-inerrantist, and whom I’ve addressed in earlier replies. Sorry that I attributed the anti-inerrantist position to you.

    The above is meant for Kent, Stephen Young, and anyone else interested in throwing red herrings around rather than deal with the substance of another’s position.

  333. c bovell said,

    April 10, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Paul (#328):
    I’m not looking for an epistemological foundation. The Bible failed for me as a foundation because it was never intended to serve that role. In fact, that whole way of thinking is not divinely decreed, it’s Descartes decree. I find your way of framing the argument ultra-modern and profoundly captive to Cartesian cultural understandings.

    Currently, I am non-foundational and trying to learn more; I do not believe I am in need of epistemological foundation, much less using the Bible as one. People who do not begin with inerrancy will not be in the predicament that you want to put me in. The Bible was not my center, but my foundation. Now that foundation is out and soon I moved away from the idea of a foundation at all.

    The errant men you speak of gave the church the rule of faith by which the scriptures were eventually selected. Yes, they were errant, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily wrong. The scriptures are in dialectic with tradition. I don’t know where you get this blind confidence in scripture from. The scriptures didn’t just fall right out of heaven. It’s composition and history is messy, not at all conducive to the supreme authority you give it.

    Paul, is the mustard seed the smallest seed? Do you believe that? Do you force yourself to believe it because that’s what Jesus said? Or do you read a literary device into that remark? Why do you do so? On what basis? Are you externally rational for doing so? See, Paul, all readers have to do the same thing that I am doing with regard to genre. Every single Bible reader.

    To BB, I’ll have to reply later: I only have five minutes here at the moment. God can write a myth without it being revelation. Who would know it’s a myth and how? Who would know it’s a revelation and how? I think God can reveal through myth. There is nothing impossible about it. Call me clueless, but I think it’s actually what he did.

  334. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Stephen (#334): “How in the world can the triablog claim to represent Christ with such vicious comments and defending them?”

    I take offense at this.

    I did not make the comments, and I did not “defend” anyone either. I merely pointed out what I took to be the *intent* behind them, indicating that the short quip might not have been the best way to express the *thought* behind it.

    Now you have gone so far in your inquisition and repeated clamoring for votes, as to impugn my claim to represent Christ. I don’t even know what you mean by that, anyway. I’ve already told you to look to Jesus rather than men. I claim to be a Christian. Anyway, you’ve said your piece; others have said theirs, why don’t you drop it now as it is obviously distracting from the discussion. Your offense at Steve’s comments is much the same as my offense at your repeated appeals to pity and airing dirty laundry. Why don’t you move this campaign to get people to side with you somewhere else?

  335. Bern said,

    April 10, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    #306

    C Bovell wrote:
    “I do have a question, though, that I’ve been meaning to ask since the beginning? Do you think God is capable of writing a legend, a myth?”

    There is a sense in which Bovell is clueless. One of the main themes throughout the Old Testament, indeed, throughout the entire Bible, is the existence of the one true God over against the thousand other created gods who aren’t real. Why would the true God need to resort to myth to guide his people through revelation? Indeed, the whole point is that he is the one who can actually rain down fire to strike the altar while Baal cannot.

    Its counterintuitive to the idea of revelation to consider any section of Scripture “divinely-sanctioned myth.”

    Your question is a false question. Everybody who is a theist believes God can write a myth. The question is whether or not he’d utilize myth in revelation. The answer is simply, why would he need to? Does the kind of God who speaks through prophets in the Old Testament appear to need to utilize myth in order to get himself across to a people?

    And anthropomorphisms are different than myth. So please don’t use that as an argument. Inerrancy provides for the former but not for the latter.

  336. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Carlos,

    You’re shadowboxing. You’re swinging at the air.

    As I made obvious, I am fairly Plantinginian in my epistemology. So, to heap the “Cartesian” boogie-man on my approach is disingenuous.

    You also fail to distinguish *classical* foundationalism from foundationalism *per se.* The former is borne out of Cartesianism and enlightenment thinking, not necessarily the latter.

    I am not an infallibilist in my epistemology. I am not an internalist. I think deontological justification is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge.

    My way of framing the discussion is to show you how “uber” arbitrary you are. To get you to be consistent. Postmodern or no, inconsistency is not an intellectual virtue.

    You have tried to avoid these arguments by a vague appeal to your “center.” I have posted a comeback to this. This can’t be your answer since you’ve indicated that something being your “center” isn’t necessary or sufficient to ward of absurdity. So, my questions fly back in your face again. Your fly-swatter has a gapping hole in it.

    As far as the men in history, you are not even close to grasping my questions. What basis did they have for claiming doctrines “essential?” Pure conjecture? By what authority?

    When I speak of the Bible as an epistemic foundation, I mean in the broad way that it provides some basic and meta answers to worldview issues. Metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. I mean it in the sense of ultimate authority.

    I do not think the mustard seed is the smallest seed. What is your *argument* here, though? Or, is presenting arguments too “modern” for you?

    Lastly, with respect to your questions to BB, how funny given your anti-epistemological, post-modern position above! Maybe BB thinks it is too modern to answer how you know.

    You are caught in a rational/irrational dialectic. When I ask you how you know, how you make distinctions, you label me a “modern” and a “skeptic” but then you turn right around and do the same thing to BB. Unstable thinking. Inconsistent methods. You’re exhibiting the intellectual virtues of the apostate.

  337. April 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Paul M,

    I am not sure of the wisdom of responding directly to your last comment (336). But, here it is. I do not continue to bring this up in an attempt to ‘gain votes.’ In fact, I do not continue to bring it up (‘repeated clamoring’). Bernabe Belvedere brought it up this last time in calling my original comment on all this–the comment I made a while back–a red herring.

    I am not trying to gain votes. Again, Dr. GWL Johnson and others who have expressed similar sentiments to mine have not ‘voted for’ me. I imagine he and Reformed Sinner(DC) [271] continue to disagree with me strongly when it comes to my thoughts on Scripture in this discussion.

    Your comment, though, once again brings up one of my overall concerns. Are issues of character and behavior in discussion the unimportant husk that can be discarded if necessary in order to get at the real deal: the theology in question? If they are not, then the issues I brought up a while back (269…note, I have not brought it up since then) are very germane to this discussion. The tendency within some strands of the Reformed tradition to prize theology over Christ-like behavior truly alarms me. I wish it alarmed you as much as divergent views of Scripture do.

    From my reading of the Bible, such behavioral issues really matter to our Lord.

  338. April 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Bern,

    It is a sad day when Reformed folk consider issues of character and humility to be “red herrings” in a discussion. A while back I asked on this blog (in a different thread) when we would be willing to die for and to stand for humility and Christ-like character in the same way we do for inerrancy and good doctrine. I am of the theological opinion that one cannot separate Christ-like character from correct doctrine in a discussion. One cannot be questing for the truth when one does not comport him or herself in the way The Truth (a person!) comported Himself; better yet, in the ways The Truth commands us to comport ourselves. I have yet to find a command from our Lord to be a jerk, unhumble, un-charitable, and unkind in the midst of discussions and disagreements with others of the household of faith; with others within the family. In my experience, much of the triablog is suffused with nasty, unhumble, and uncharitable tones. This is especially true with respect to Steve Hays’ comments about Ray Dillard. How in the world can the triablog claim to represent Christ with such vicious comments and defending them?

    Please do not misunderstand me, I do not think sound doctrine and Christ-like character are to be played off each other. My concern is that we quest after BOTH together. Christ will not be divided. Just as we cannot have Justification apart from Sanctification because we receive both in Christ and Christ will not be divided (I am obviously strongly alluding to the beginning of Book 3 of Calvin’s Institutes), Christ would not have us quest after him in the area of sound doctrine apart from questing after him in Christ-like (humble, charitable, loving, etc…but still firm!) character.

    Dr. GWL Johnson and I rarely agree on anything on this blog. In fact, until this discussion, I think we have opposed each other on just about every point when we have crossed paths on the greenbaggins blog. We disagree with each other over the content of much of this thread of comments and discussion. I imagine he finds my views on how I would like to tweak inerrancy repugnant. He would probably claim my position is functionally a denial of inerrancy and he is probably right by his definition of inerrancy. Yet, even we are agreed on the inflamatory nature of Steve Hays’ comments (I would like to think we are also ‘agreed’ on having Christ as our savior and Lord…I know he has devoted his life to serving Christ in the ways he finds best).

    So, again, I take issue with your claiming that my frustrations over Hays’ tone and cold comments, especially about Dr. Dillard, are me stalling and distracting folk with red herrings.

    Also, if you will notice, I have tried to continue the discussion with Steve Hays on specific points of his post. I have yet to receive a response. But, I imagine Steve Hays is a busy as most of us are. I am not ready to accuse him of stalling. It would be nice if you would extend the same courtesy to myself and to others.

  339. its.reed said,

    April 10, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Ref. 338:

    Stephen, Paul M. (and anyone else who thinks it applies to them):

    Rather than spend more time in who-said-what, might I suggest you all take a step back, reflect on your own attitude, and offer an apology just because maybe you mispoke here or there, grant each other some grace and mercy, and then change the subject to something more substantive than challenging eahc other’s behavior.

    I’m not taking sides, or suggesting anyone is more or less at fault. Just suggesting that Christ will be more pleased if we behave better. :)

  340. Rhology said,

    April 10, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I have come to the conclusion, much like c bovell and Stephen Young before me, that those commands from the Lord Jesus to be charitable and love our neighbors and such are inapplicable to our present situation. Our society, political, and theological discourse are in so many cases so far away from it that I don’t see how it is even possible that anyone could follow those commands.

    Therefore, they are clearly either errant, just plain wrong, or at the very least out of touch with our modern and even postmodern sensibilities. I hereby propose that we drop-kick them. And donkeys don’t talk, K?

  341. Bern said,

    April 10, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Stephen,

    “It is a sad day when Reformed folk consider issues of character and humility to be “red herrings” in a discussion.”

    “Issues of character and humility” are perfectly pertinent when the discussion is about character and humility. Otherwise, you may disagree, indeed, even despise the way another person frames his argument, but more often than not these appeals to “character” and “humility” are convenient escape-routes from the actual debate.

    I wouldn’t have posted that comment that Steve posted. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy when God in his providence stops the stream of corruption from within conservative Christian academia. Yes, by having someone removed from his post or even by heart attack. But I would never have posted that. One reason is because of what it has caused: an uproar that has taken the focus off of the matter at hand and onto “issues like character and humility.” But you notice how we seem to operate at the Triablogue. Nobody from the Triablogue has emailed me to defend Steve or to even tow the Triablogue line on the matter. We have disagreed with each other in the past. Jason Engwer isn’t even a Calvinist. We all have freedom to represent ourselves and to think for ourselves. Yet our approach is to deal with the substance of the positions of others rather than their sanctification. Unless of course a person’s attitude or disposition is skewing their position, in which case we make note of it accordingly.

    You continue:
    “A while back I asked on this blog (in a different thread) when we would be willing to die for and to stand for humility and Christ-like character in the same way we do for inerrancy and good doctrine.”

    What does this even mean? I would be willing to die for the authority of the Scriptures. I’d be willing to say yes, if asked at gunpoint, “Is the Bible God’s Word, yes or no?” I’d also be willing say yes, if asked at gunpoint, “Was Christ humble, yes or no?” But to say “Would we be willing to die for and to stand for humility and Christ-like character” fails to make sense on its own. You need to supply the circumstance in order for this sentiment to connect.

    You continue:
    “I have yet to find a command from our Lord to be a jerk, unhumble, un-charitable, and unkind in the midst of discussions and disagreements with others of the household of faith; with others within the family.”

    This presupposes that anti-inerrantists are of the “household of faith.” Let me say that I don’t have a problem calling a person who is an anti-inerrantist a brother in Christ, however, I believe they are extremely misguided in their thinking. And when they are in positions where they are the teachers of other Christians, the matter is even worse.

    Also, I don’t think Jesus is a good example for you to use here. Your analogy is poor. The division shouldn’t be on how Jesus treated those outside as compared to those inside the household of faith. The division should be on how Jesus treated those who were exhibiting a corrupting influence over the covenant community as compared to those who would cling to Christ’s teachings as they were being given. This is because the matter is about purity of faith, not primarily about conduct among different types of persons. In fact, the Pharisees, the ones who were supposed to be the great teachers of Israel, were chided repeatedly in harsh language for their corrupting influence over Israel.

    I apologize to anyone who has been hurt by anything I’ve said over at the Triablogue. But for the love of God let’s continue the discussion.

  342. Bern said,

    April 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    C Bovell wrote:
    “God can write a myth without it being revelation. Who would know it’s a myth and how? Who would know it’s a revelation and how? I think God can reveal through myth. There is nothing impossible about it. Call me clueless, but I think it’s actually what he did.”

    You’re confusing ontology with epistemology. My answer to you was framed ontologically. Yes, God is *able* to write myth. He is creative enough, as Paul M. has noted, to out-myth Homer.

    If the question is now “If God were to reveal himself through myth, how would we know?” then that is a shift towards an epistemological question. Since I reject that God would reveal himself through myth, I don’t concern myself with speculations. As I’ve noted, one of the points of God’s self-revelation is his existence over against the false gods. This logically entails God’s revelation to occur through *true* events in order to reveal the *true* God. You’re free to disagree with this connection, but that is the logical connection that the Old Testament in particular would have us make. To disagree seems to me counterintuitive to God’s self-witness in Scripture.

    Why are you bringing up possibility/impossibility? The question is not whether it’s possible. I’ve already said that it is most certainly possible that God is *able* to write and reveal himself through myth. My question, rather, deals with why God would do that? Was his ability not great enough to accomplish the acts the Bible gloriously portrays him accomplishing?

    Since you and I weren’t around for the flood account, we have to either accept it as factual or dismiss its factuality. What do you think about the God of Scripture. Could he have done it that way or would he have needed to embellish a story in order to get the point across that he is a mighty God?

  343. c bovell said,

    April 10, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Paul (#337):
    How come you are the only one who can turn someone’s questions around on someone? When I ask BB “how do you know” why am I being funny? Are you the only one who can turn questions back at a person? I know I have granted you control throughout the discussion. I wanted to try to honesly talk to you about things and set out to engage your questions. But when I try to ask you something, I get lambasted for not arguing consistently. I am not arguing, I am trying to find out what you’re saying. I really must not be grasping what you has happened these last few exchanges.

    By what authority, by what authority, that’s what I keep on hearing, but I can’t place these question into the context of my last few attempts at clarification. I am beginning to really loose touch with your responses. I almost feel like you are speaking another language. Maybe it’s partially because I do not have time to read your comments as carefully each time I sit down at the computer.

    I am now officially behind on my work because I have spent so much time here. So I am afraid I’ll have to end the conversation here. But I think I am surely missing something about what you are saying because I don’t even know who you are talking to or about. That’s how removed I have become from what you are saying each time you talk to me. I, for my part, have been trying to say that I am making genre judgments each time I read scripture. I ask you about the mustard seed to see if you think you make a genre judgment when you read that particular scripture. That’s all. No authority, no po-mo, nothing more. A genre concession. That’s what I was trying to get out of you. That you distinguish between genres when you read scripture. But maybe that’s another sign of how clueless I am. For whatever reason you didn’t hear what I was asking. I am not an apologist or trying to defend Enns and set you or other bloggers straight here on this posting. You think I am trying to argue with you point for point, but I have not had time or desire to do so. I repeatedly was trying to explain myself. And each time I did you kept asking me questions. I am not sure you have understood me. But either way, I am thankful for our exchanges.

    I am going to end with the same question, Do you concede that we have to make genre judgments when we read scripture? If so, how do you make them? I tried to explain how I make them. That’s what I’ve been trying to say these last few times I’ve come to the computer. Perhaps we can discuss inerrancy again. Thanks for your patience and insight to the “other side”.

  344. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Itsreed (#339),

    It’s not my comments that are being referred to. I have not been asked to apologize for anything.

  345. its.reed said,

    April 10, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Paul: see ref. 338, 336; just following the trail. If it doesn’t apply, please don’t consider yourself addressed.

  346. Paul M. said,

    April 10, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Carlos,

    You are allowed to ask questions. You asked me about the ascension. I answered, showing the absurdity of your “problems” with it, and then that issue got swept under the rug.

    Furthermore, since I haven’t played the role of anti-epistemologist, then your counter doesn’t work on my. You, on the other hand, want your cake and to eat it too. You want to play the part of post-modern with me, and then the part of modern with BB.

    I have attempted to show that you have no objective basis to deny some of the stuff you deny and to affirm some of the things you affirm. Your sole reason that granted you the ability to do so, has now been shown to be neither necessary nor sufficient.

    But rather than engage the issues, you’re playing the role of postmodernist. You have a problem with Descartes when it comes to classical foundationalism, but then you adopt his idea theory of sensation and apply it to knowledge. Postmoderns and Descartes? Strange bedfellows indeed!

    You have not explained how you make judgments. When pressed, you resort to irrationalism. When on the offensive, you resort to rationalism. I do recognize we make genre judgments. Simply put, Balaam’s ass, Samson, the resurrection, the ascension, et al. do not present themselves as poetry, song, myth, etc. If they do, then why not the incarnation and the resurrection. Joseph Campbell’s tries very hard to show this. You have no non-arbitrary standard by which you can affirm the one and not the other. You simply hold to the resurrection et. al. because you’re too scared to deny it as of now. Just like you were at one point scarred to deny inerrancy. It’s not like you have a good basis to believe those essentials. You simply call them essentials as some sort of facade intended to bootstrap you to the Christian faith.

    I have tried to engage you on this point, but you knew you were getting close to the fire. You knew you had no basis to affirm the incarnation, resurrection, ascension, etc., if you stayed consistent with your approach in denying things like Sampson and Balaam’s ass. Your “cover” was paper thin. I exposed it, and then you call me a Cartesian. Attempting to argue in circumstantial ad hominem fashion. As if being a Cartesian (which I’m not) would make my points false. Much like a gang seeks out to get rid of those poseurs who try to identify themselves with the gang, but are not prepared do hard time when called on it, I likewise didn’t want you to continue to claim that you could hold to same basic truths of the Christian faith based on how you argued against some of Scriptures teachings. I understand why you didn’t want to go down this road. Why you didn’t want to place your (current) beliefs in the resurrection etc., under the same microscope you place those things you deny under!

    You are pretending to be noble. As if you are trying to save the faith of others. But what is that faith you try to save?? There is no basis to believe it. What, is the ability to arbitrarily dub some of your beliefs “at the center of your web” some kind of prophylactic against apostasy? It cannot be since you previously held inerrancy at that center, and it was not enough to stave of denying that doctrine. So, Carlos, when the flood waters of doubt come rolling in, and those students you sought to save come up with their arguments against the absurdity of the resurrection, the incarnation, yes, even the very existence of the triune God, what will you tell them? One what basis should they believe those things, and why? Because some errant men in history rubber stamped those beliefs? Well, (a) you even said you would deny the Trinity and so said rubber stamping is neither necessary or sufficient to stave of doubt, and perhaps more importantly, (b) what basis did those men have for those things they rubber stamped?

    Carlos, I have tried my best to warn you of where consistency will take you. Your only savior is the insanity of inconsistency. To deny inerrancy (in your particular way) you had to give up cannons and paradigms of rationality. You had to become intellectually unvirtuous.

    In your postmodern insulation, you feel consistent by merely stipulating what you will and what you will not take as “essential.” You have the “freedom” you sought for. But, as Ester Meek has stated, “the kind of freedom implied by the thought that we humans completely determine our reality leaves us with a gnawing sense of the relative insignificance of our choices. I think it leads not to total responsibility but to careless irresponsibility, both with regard to ourselves and with regard to other humans, not to mention the world. And, paradoxically, it leads not to a deeper sense of [communal or individual] identity and dignity but to a disheartening lack of it” (Meek, Longing to Know, p. 182).

    Carlos, you have made your chosen “essentials” insignificant, your alleged attempt to protect the sheep is built on carelessness and irresponsibility, they will have nothing to ward off the doubts that can lead to death, and you have ruined the identity, integrity, and dignity of the historic church you claim to descend from. By not giving them a basis in terms of which they objectively labeled anything as “essential,” you have made it disheartening to be a Christian…if one takes your outlook. When those you are trying to protect need real answers, real firepower, we will be glad to take them off your hands.

  347. steve hays said,

    April 10, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Paul Seely said,

    April 10, 2008 at 10:52 am

    “Paul M. recently directed me to a different websitge offering Steve Hay’s criticism of my views. Hays attempted to refute my position without bothering to get the facts from my papers, which he knew of.”

    That’s an odd complaint on several grounds:

    i) Seely himself didn’t even bother to cite his own papers when he original posed his question to other commenters under #209.

    At that time, he felt that his own summaries, which he supplied in comment #209, were a sufficient basis for commenters to answer his question.

    Is he now of the opinion that his original summary of his own position was so defective that you have to read through his papers before you can answer his question? He didn’t lay down that precondition under #209.

    ii) Moreover, when he did get around to citing his papers, he introduced his papers with the following concession and caveat: “Towne (211)_You are quite right that my argument in #209 ‘hinges on the statement: “Since people in biblical times believed the sun was literally moving…’…If you will read those papers, even though I did not specifically address the movement of the sun, you will find a plethora of evidence from both ancient literature and anthropology that Peoples in OT times, including the educated, did not distinguish between the appearance of the universe and its factual nature.”

    So Sealy admits, on the one hand, that his argument hinged on ANE belief in geocentrism,” while he also admits, on the other hand, that his papers don’t actually addressed that specific issu— even though this argument “hinges” on that specific issue.

    Hence, as he himself as framed the issue, his papers are irrelevant to the assumption on which his argument hinges.

    iii) Not only do his papers fail to establish his specific assumption, they also fail to establish his general assumption: to wit, that people in Bible times were committed to naïve realism. Where do his papers show that the ancients ever believed that mountains were smaller at a distance, or that oars are actually bent by water?

    When he makes sweeping statements about how people in Bible times didn’t distinguish between appearance and reality, it only takes few counterexamples to falsify his universal claim.

    iv) There is also a lack of intellectual clarity in the way he relates his general claim to his specific claim. At one point he says that his argument for naïve realism hinges on his argument for universal ANE belief in geocentricism, yet he has also indicated that naïve realism was the reason that people in Bible times believed in geocentrism, as well as a flat earth and a solid sky.

    I suppose the most charitable way of clarifying his intellectual confusion on this point is that he meant naïve realism to be the constitutive principle, while belief in geocentricism, &c. would supply evidence for naïve realism.

    v) His papers also fail to rebut a number of my contentions:

    a) As I explained in some detail, it’s simplistic to claim that appearances single out geocentrism or a flat earth or a solid dome. To the contrary, the appearances point to a more complex model which is at odds with Seely’s blanket assertions.

    b) His papers fail to rebut the evidence I cited regarded the stylized and symbolic dimension of Biblical cosmography. Even if he were right about the “firmament,” that misses the point.

    c) His papers fail to address his selective appeal to scholars when they happen to agree with him—as if he has all the scholars on his side.

    Those are just a few of the points at which, both in his papers, and his direct reply to me, is unresponsive to my answer.

    Remember, I didn’t initiate this challenge. Seely is the one who posed these questions to commenters at Green Baggins. When, however, his challenge is answered, he acts offended. And he gave Paul Manata the brush-off as well, when Manata also responded to Seely’s challenge.

    We’ve responded to Seely on his own terms. Were his questions sincere or insincere? If sincere, why does he react in this fashion?

    “Worse still he later complained that I did not offer any examples. The amazing thing is that he said this immediately after quoting me offering a specific example.”

    That’s a clear misrepresentation of what I said. I systematically ran through his putative examples and showed that they were unsuccessful in establishing his claim.

    “Worse still he concluded with slanderous accusations.”

    How is what I said “slanderous”? Several commenters, both here (in the thread at Green Baggins) and at some blogs supporting Enns, have been trying very hard to come up with one Scriptural example or another which would embarrass the inerrantist and make him stand down from his commitment to inerrancy. That’s trivially easy to document. Consider one of Seely’s own statements here:

    “In order to make the doctrine of a scientifically inerrant Bible stand up, Old Princeton/Westminster have given us such answers as the Framework hypothesis, day-age concordism, and the local Flood. But, are these the real meanings of the biblical text or creative impositions upon the text? Or if the stories are real history, how can we believe against all of the scientific evidence the world was created in the space of six days or that a Flood less than 10,000 years ago destroyed all but eight humans?”

    Look at how he’s framed the alternatives. If the “stories” in Genesis are “real history,” then how can we believe them given all of the scientific evidence to the contrary? Aren’t various attempts to defend a “scientifically inerrant Bible” a “creative imposition on the text”?

    Isn’t Seely admitting that, on his own view, the Bible is scientifically errant? That these stories, to the extent that they conflict with all the scientific evidence to the contrary, aren’t “real history.”

    Or consider Seely’s Pickwickian statement that “I agree with much of what you say. An accommodated human opinion should not be considered evidence that Scripture is errant, because it is not God’s opinion; he is just accommodating the human opinion.”

    How does that salvage the doctrine of inspiration? By that dichotomy, every assertion in Scripture could be accommodated to errant human opinion, yet this shouldn’t be considered evidence that Scripture is errant, for God wouldn’t share the errant, inscripturated opinions of Moses or David or Isaiah or Matthew or Luke or John or Paul.

    Yes, I’d say that that’s instilling a spirit of doubt in the Word of God. And I’m more concerned about slandering the Holy Spirit when we deny the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

  348. steve hays said,

    April 10, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Richard L. Lindberg said,
    April 10, 2008 at 8:26 am

    “I take strong exception to the unidentified post in which the writer asserted that ‘to some extent, Dillard was a false teacher’. Dr. Dillard was my OT prof at WTS and I never heard him say anything that was false or less than a commitment to an authoritative, inspired, infallible Scripture.”

    Dillard and Longman coauthored an OT introduction which capitulated to liberal German Bible criticism at various points. And that’s not just my opinion. O. P. Robertson spends several pages on the subject in The Christ of the Prophets (pp228-35).

    “If you didn’t know Dr. Dillard, you have no basis for making such outlandish statements.”

    I don’t need to know him personally, which has clouded your own judgment. Rather, I base that on what he wrote. The teaching which he committed to writing in the OT introduction that he coauthored with Longman.

  349. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 10, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    If I were asked why, from Samson and the jawbone to the resurrection of Christ, I don’t see it as an all-or-nothing affair, here is how I would answer:

    The resurrection is a central teaching of Christianity – all the epistles attest to it and insist upon it being a real event in some shape or form. If Christ is not raised then our faith is in vain, Paul insists. Now it is not a hallmark of legend and story, that other literature should repeatedly attest to its historicity as the New Testament does to the resurrection of Jesus. It would seem, then, that anything resembling orthodox Christianity is tied to a real resurrection event of some kind. And it is certainly the case that Christian conviction of the centrality of Jesus, the reality of his lordship, and our hope for the future are all based on that resurrection. Thus the resurrection cannot be conceded without giving up anything resembling the historic, ecumenical Christian strand.

    In contrast, I know of nowhere in the Bible where the historicity of Samson and the jawbone is dwelt upon and insisted upon like the resurrection of Jesus. The story is narrated and left at that, and no central body of Christian doctrine revolves solely around it. Meanwhile the story bears resemblance to the hero legends of other cultures which nobody considers historical, and so it becomes plausible and admissible (when we consider the human face of scripture and not just its function as word) to consider this story as a biblical example of the same genre (which does not prevent us from looking for its teaching point anyway, as we believe God can inspire and reveal through both story and history).

    In between those extremes, there are also things in the Bible which receive some comment later, though (in comparison with the resurrection) not very much — like the global flood and Peter’s and Jesus’ allusions to it. Such instances must be weighed with all the external considerations, such as the massed weight of scientific and historical evidence against the historicity of a global flood, and how allusion in literature does not necessarily constitute teaching of historicity (anymore than when we allude today to the Boy Who Cried Wolf, are we teaching his historicity), to come to a position.

    So anyway, that is how I would navigate those waters. My point of course is not to convince inerrantists here who are skeptical, but simply to illustrate one way we “errantists” go about it, in the interest of mutual understanding.

    Some here probably will not consider mutual understanding a worthy goal in itself. In reading the mass of comments accrued on this thread, it seems to me that some here do not accept that articulations of biblical “errancy” by others among us are not meant as attacks on the Bible, but defenses buttressing our faith. They are a line of dialogue meant for us, not you. We are the “weaker brothers” if you will; you may not need our theological opinions, but is it necessary to stamp them out? That is what it sometimes seems like to me, at least.

    What those who feel our views must be stamped-out don’t realize, however, is that we have already tried their porridge and found it cold. (Note I’m not endorsing the historicity of Goldilocks just now :-) ) What hope can you offer us besides repeating your arguments more insistently and warning us to swallow and believe? Would you really we rather leave the faith, all in the interest of preserving sectarian Doctrinal Purity? Sometimes it seems like it, from some of the comments I’ve seen here.

  350. c bovell said,

    April 10, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Paul (#346):
    You write:
    “You have no non-arbitrary standard by which you can affirm the one and not the other. You simply hold to the resurrection et. al. because you’re too scared to deny it as of now. Just like you were at one point scarred to deny inerrancy.”

    I was scared to give up inerrancy, but I’m not scared now Paul. I might give up resurrection, maybe even belief in God; or maybe I’ll pick up some more evangelical beliefs again or some from another Christian tradition. The future’s uncertain. The present’s uncertain. I’m not afraid of whichever way I may go. I know you have set out to scare me and have been doing so rhetorically from the start with your consistency arguments. But I am not scared. However it pans out, so be it. The control you usurp in dialogue is uncanny. But you should know your insinuations of fear have fallen upon deaf ears here, Paul. Same with your remarks about dishonesty, disingenuousness, sophomorism, and listening to satan. I am not scared of losing faith or gaining more faith, for that matter. But I must say that I really learned a lot about conservative Christianity witnessing how you unabashedly would rather have me renounce faith than confess errors in scripture and try to spiritually work things out from there. That demonstration of ill-will convinces hearts and minds hundreds of times as effectively as the most carefully crafted argument. You should take note of that, Paul.

    I have been freed from the inerrantist ultimatum and rejoice that I can go about living my life again.

    Goodbye, Paul.

    Grace and peace.

  351. Paul Seely said,

    April 10, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Paul M (333) and Steve Hays (347)

    My statement about the appearance/reality was in a context regarding the ancients’ beliefs about the universe: cosmology. Hays took the statement out of context and turned it into a universal. Anyone can make clever arguments if they start by taking statements out of context. Other statements I made have also been distorted by him in order to make an argument. Am I now supposed to make a detailed a response to show exactly where and how Hays distorts? No thanks. If that makes a naive reader think I cannot answer his wondrous arguments, so be it.

  352. Paul M. said,

    April 11, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Paul Seely,

    Oh, I see now. Somehow Seely knows that when it comes to cosmology the “ancient, superstitious” people thought appearence = reality, but when it came to sticks immersed in water, they didn’t think that. How much does someone have to know in order to make these detailed distinctions within the mind of the “ancient” Jew!? A lot. Well, if what you say is the case, I assume you have an argument for this psychological distinction? If not, your position has been rendered arbitrary.

    Carlos (#350),

    I do not wish you to reject the faith. I wish you to embrace it. And, I do not think one will go to hell for any kind of rejection of inerrancy. But, I agree with what Dr. Johnson said about you, “I think you’re in more danger than you realize.” But, whatever you do, I wish you to be consistent. Encouraging inconsistency as a habit of the mind is to encourage people to be sinful in their thoughts. I was just calling on you to be consistent.

    Goodbye.

  353. GLW Johnson said,

    April 11, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Carlos, Scott and any others who share their position.
    In Hebrews 11:32 Samson is listed with other OT historical figures as examples of faith-how do you square this with saying that Samson belongs in the same catagory as Hercules?

  354. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

    In ancient historiography there is a mixture of legend and historicity; we see this in even the most respected Greek and Roman historians, and we see it more so in their antecedent cultures such as the ANE and later the Second Temple Jews. They seem to have not valued hard boundaries between the two, nor did they know about such boundaries or care, when it suited their thematic purposes. (How else to explain the relentless mixture of real and miraculous in everyone from Herodotus to Suetonius, for example.)

    Applying that to scripture, we see scripture as a mixture or gradation of legend and history. But at the end of the day, it is the story that matters more than sorting out which is which, because it is through the story that we are taught.

    Applying that to GLW’s specific question about Samson: in my humble opinion, he was probably a historical figure who did great things bearing some resemblance to what is generally recorded about him in Judges, and to which legendary accretions have occurred. Those legendary accretions are not to be regarded as “chaff” to be stripped away to recover the original Samson, however, as liberal theologians might envision the project. They are instead as much part of the story as whatever historical core there might be, and as God reveals both through legend and history they are to be given no less value or attention.

  355. GLW Johnson said,

    April 13, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Scott
    For pity sake, you are treading on very thin ice with that ‘answer’. You do know ,don’t you ,that Bishop Spong, among others, apply that very same type of ‘reasoning’ to the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospel record. Have you ever read Albert Schweitzer’s ‘ The Quest For The Historical Jesus’ ? The ‘conservatives’ back in Germany in the 19th. cent. found themselves conceding ground to the Higher critics and their steady crusade against the historicity and reliability of the Scriptures. First they surrended the five books of Moses, then the historical books and the prophets. They attempted to stand their ground when the hordes began to sack the Synoptic gospels but they were weakened by their previous concessions and so they retreated once again hoping to retain the Gospel of John, but alas, the seige was too strong for them and so they fled, each man to his own pietistic house finding comfort with the thought that the distinction between ‘historie’ and ‘geschichte’ would enable them to cling to their belief in the resurrection of Christ…tenitively .

  356. its.reed said,

    April 13, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Ref. 355:

    Hmm … did they retreat to their own little lockbox, that place where they kept their faith in Jesus safe from the ravages of their own fleshly aquiesence to unbelief?

    Hmm … think I’ve heard that one recently.

  357. GLW Johnson said,

    April 13, 2008 at 8:01 am

    reed
    You are a sharp cookie-nothing gets by you.Hey, you need to touch base with me – What’s going on?

  358. Paul Seely said,

    April 13, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    To get back into focus, let me answer the question, What is the extent to which Enns is applying the category of “myth” to Genesis?

    Looking at pp. 52-4 where he deals with this issue, He says the stories in Genesis 1-11, as we have them in Hebrew, did not predate the parallel Mesopotamian stories (Enuma elish for Gen 1; and Atrahasis/Gilgamesh for Gen 6-8). These stories are the focus because he is attempting to answer the question that thinking people and students in particular ask, “So how is it that Genesis can look so much like other ancient Near Eastern texts?”

    It should be noted here that although he does not qualify the word “Genesis,” we can see that in this sentence as well as in the context preceding it, the issue of “myth” is about those stories that look so much like the ancient Near Eastern stories, namely those in Gen 1 and 6-8. He does not qualify the word “Genesis” because he quite rightly assumes that anyone asking the question of why the stories in Genesis are so much like the earlier Mesopotamian stories must know that the parallel stories are found only in Gen 1 and 6-8 or at the most in Gen 1-11. There is no basis for supposing that he is extending the category of “myth” beyond Gen 1-11.

  359. GLW Johnson said,

    April 14, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Paul
    I would hope you do not share the view championed by Bovell and Jorgenson on Samson- but I still am deeply troubled over Enns’ proposals even if they are, as you claim, limited to Gen. 1-11. Exactly what is gained by elevating ‘myths’ or ‘legends’ -the same thing Barth and Childs prefer to label ‘saga’, the end result is the same these are ‘stories that are maded up’-to the staus of being ‘inspired’ and even ‘inerrant’? Futhermore , this approach can hardly claim to be in keeping with the Old Princeton tradition with its emphatic emphasis on the historicity of the Scripture. Do you actually think a Warfield or a Machen would look kindly on this?

  360. GLW Johnson said,

    April 14, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I just finished going though Kenton Sparks, ‘God’s Word In Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship’ ( Baker,2008). Incrediabily, he mangers to dismiss the doctrine of inerrancy as formulated by Warfield without once interacting or even citing him! Sparks thinks he can have his cake and eat it too by positing th strange notion that the Bible is both inerrant and errant! ‘Errant inerrancy’- think about that in the same way you would ponder the sound made by one hand clapping.

  361. Paul M. said,

    April 14, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Looking at pp. 52-4 where he deals with this issue, He says the stories in Genesis 1-11, as we have them in Hebrew, did not predate the parallel Mesopotamian stories (Enuma elish for Gen 1; and Atrahasis/Gilgamesh for Gen 6-8). These stories are the focus because he is attempting to answer the question that thinking people and students in particular ask, “So how is it that Genesis can look so much like other ancient Near Eastern texts?”

    You need to deal with the “similarities” between Jesus’ life and other mythic “god-men” too.

    The works of Joseph Campbell are important because it is attempting to answer the question(s) that thinking people and students in particular ask: “So how is it that Jesus birth, resurrection, and god-man status can look so much like other ancient Mythic religions?

    All the errantists have not shown how their position can avoid full blown rejection of the truth of virtually any Christian teaching.

    Once this point is made (as has been in this thread), it pulls the rug out from the errantist carpet.

  362. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 14, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    One reason the buck stops with Jesus’ resurrection, to my mind at least, is that the resurrection narratives don’t really bear that much resemblance to those current at the time. See NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God.

    In any case, the position is not that Samson or any other particular narrative is wholly legendary, but rather that they are an admixture of historical and ahistorical elements in a manner, and to a degree, appropriate to the culture and time. That there may even be ahistorical embellishments to some of the stories of Jesus’ life, for example, in no way subverts the idea that there is a basic historical core to which the gospels generally adhere. To use a crude analogy: George Washington may not really have chopped down the cherry tree, but nonetheless the story gets right his existence, setting, and character, and doubting the story’s exact historicity does not impugn or subvert the reality of what we believe about him.

    Finally, I’ll repeat that anything the New Testament refers to again and again as must having happened in spacetime and as central to the faith — ie Jesus’ real resurrection of some kind — is made indispensable to Christianity thereby. That is how the line is drawn between where essential historicity can be questioned and must be affirmed by Christians. Of course this does not prove Christianity true, in the manner of some forceful evidentialist/foundationalist apologetic, but IMO such proofs don’t work anyway even when attempted. Christianity is an existential, relational, whole-person encounter (subjective and objective, emotional and rational, etc), not a logical deductive system.

    Its a work-week for me again so I may not have much opportunity for followup. Again, best regards to all of you.

  363. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    By the way, I agree with Paul Seely about what Enns would probably say about all of this. For example, in no way should what I’ve been saying here be taken to be representative of Peter Enns. I’m not even among the Reformed! If I and others have led us down a rathole into a general discussion over historicity and inerrancy, while this thread should instead have been focused specifically on Enns and his claims, I apologize. I believe that what I have been saying is rather more liberal than Enns would admit, based on my reading of his book, and so I would hope that you would not tar Enns with my feathers.

  364. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 14, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks Scott 363,

    However, the scary part (at least for me) is that what Enns suggests and what you did say are so compatible….

  365. steve hays said,

    April 14, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    “As we have seen above, there is no piece of literature extant from Mesopotamia that presents itself as an account of creation. Therefore, there is nothing comparable to the creation account of Genesis in terms of literary genre. The similarities between the Enuma Elish are too few to think that the author of Genesis was in any way addressing the piece of literature we know as Enuma Elish.”

    —John Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Zondervan 1990), 34.

    “We are terribly ill-informed regarding the history of either Mesopotamian or biblical creation accounts. This makes the argument based on chronological sequence null and void. We cannot say for certain that the traditions preserved by the Israelites are any less ancient than the traditions preserved by the Babylonians,” ibid. 36.

    “The only evidence that can be produced to support the case for Israelite borrowing is the similarities we have already identified. These are hardly convincing, in that most of the similarities occur in situations where cosmological choices are limited. For example, the belief in a primeval watery mass is perfectly logical and one of only a few possibilities. The fact that the Babylonians and Israelites use similar names, Tiamat and tehom, is no surprise, since their respective languages are cognates of one another,” ibid. 37.

  366. Paul M. said,

    April 14, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I’d also add to Steve’s post that Scott’s position boils down to what “bears that much resemblance to those current at the time.” But who judges this? Has Scott taken a analysis of the quantity of resemblance? If the resemblance is 67% then we’re good? And so all those that only resemble views current at the time by 66.9999% are dubbed errant. And, why should that matter? What is the justification for determining what is and what is not errant based upon a percentage of resemblance? Again, the errantist position is shown to rest on arbitrary lines of demarcation.

  367. steve hays said,

    April 14, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    “We must question, however, whether the position that the Bible demythologizes Mesopotamian legends takes into account all the critical data bearing on the issue. First of all, the common assumption that the Hebrew stories are simplified and purified accounts of Mesopotamian legends is fallacious, for in ancient Near Eastern literature simple accounts give rise to elaborate accounts, and not vice versa,” J. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament” (Baker 2001), 29.

    Second, there are no examples from the ancient Near East in which myth later develops into history. Epic simply never transfigures into historical narrative. And, clearly, the creation and flood accounts in Genesis are presented as direct history with no evidence of myth,” ibid. 29.

    “Third, the contrasts between the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts are so striking that they cannot be explained by a simple Hebrew cleansing,” ibid. 29.

    “But despite the reiterated claims of an older generation of biblical scholars, Enuma Elish and Gen 1-2 in fact share no direct relationship. Thus the word tehom/thm is common to both Hebrew and Ugaritic (north Syria) and means nothing more than ‘deep, abyss.’ It is not a deity, like Ti’amat, a goddess in Enuma Elish. In terms of theme, creation is the massively central concern of Gen 1-2, but is a mere tailpiece in Enuma Elish, which is dedicated to portraying the supremacy of the god Marduk of Babylon. The only clear comparisons between the two are the inevitable banalities: creation of earth and sky before the plants are put on the earth, and of plants before animals (that need to eat them) and humans; it could hardly have ben otherwise!” K. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003), 424.

  368. its.reed said,

    April 14, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Ref. 367, et.al.:

    Steve: thanks. exactly where my mind was going. I remember sitting in class at WTS hearing about the supposed similarities between ANE cosmology and Gen. 1-2 cosmology and concluding, after listening and reading all the evidence to the contrary, that the similarities were so superficial that one had to begin with a presupposition that could only be justified by saying the similarities were the result of borrowing (accomodation if you will).

    What’s wrong with the notion that the similarities are there as a result of the distorted (the noetic effects of the fall) and perverted (the moral effects of the fall) on the memory of all mankind, who clearly had to receive this from father Noah? Of course, one would have to presuppose that the story of Noah himself is history of the one righteous man, and not merely a myth about a pagan named Gilgamesh.

    Ah, how far our souls wander in search of any truth but the Truth.

    P.S. Gary, not ignoring you. Will send you an update off-blog.

  369. steve hays said,

    April 14, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    “The story of creation in the Bible forms the first part of Genesis, and the best known Mesopotamian account is that found in the composition known to the Assyrians as enuma elis (‘when above’) from its first two words…This account is typical of others and shows that, apart from individual details, the Mesopotamian creation stories have little in common with the early chapters of Genesis,” T. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (Paulist Press 2004), 79.

  370. Paul Seely said,

    April 15, 2008 at 3:43 am

    Gary (359) I will come back to your comments after attempting to clarify what Enns is saying about the relationship of Gen to ANE stories.

    PaulM (361),
    The correspondence between the death and resurrection of Jesus and that of Osiris, Attis, etc is very broad, general, and superficial; and hence not really parallel to the Gen 1/Enuma elish and Gen 6-8/Gilgamesh/Atrahais parallels. Given the distance this is from Enns and the limitations of this forum, I can’t get into this now, but if I were to take up the challenge of Campbell, I would follow the lead of Machen, who addressed the differences between Christ and the mystery religions in his book, The Origin of Paul’s Religion.

  371. steve hays said,

    April 15, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Paul Seely said,
    April 15, 2008 at 3:43 am
    “The Gen 1/Enuma elish and Gen 6-8/Gilgamesh/Atrahais parallels.”

    Seely is conflating two distinct issues.

    1.I don’t think anyone disputes genuine parallels between Gen 6-8 and Gilgamesh/Atrahasis.

    This, however, doesn’t mean that Gen 6-8 is a bowdlerized version of the Mesopotamian accounts.

    Since, according to Genesis, the ark came to rest in northern Mesopotamia, the survivors of the flood would have resided in Mesopotamia. It’s therefore unsurprising if Mesopotamian culture retained a traditional memory of that historic event.

    The accounts would be parallel because they are reporting the same event (and sharing common, ANE literary conventions).

    The Mesopotamian versions would be somewhat garbled and legendary accounts of the same historical event because they’re idolatrous and uninspired.

    2.However, that explanation is unavailable in the case of the Enuma Elish. Those who think the Elish is genuinely parallel with Gen 1 also believe that the world is billions of years old. Depending on whether they subscribe to theistic evolution or old earth creationism, they also identify Adam with some hominid that came on the scene, at the latest, around 200,000 years ago.

    Given that timeframe, it wouldn’t be possible for the Enuma Elish to preserve an authentic oral tradition of what really happened when man was made or the world came into being.

    Therefore, assuming, for the sake of argument, that Gen 1 is literarily dependent on the Enuma Elish or some earlier version thereof, Gen 1 would have zero historical content.

    If the myth was unhistorical, and you demythologize a myth, then the demythologized version will be equally unhistorical.

    It would be nice if Seely laid his cards on the table at this point. Is Gen 1 the record of a historical event, or is it the record of an unhistorical myth?

  372. Paul M. said,

    April 15, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Paul Seely (#370).

    Along with what Steve said, as well as the quotes he provided, your claims are on the defensive.

    Also, I agree one could go to Machen just like one could go to Kitchen, Walton, Waltke, Currid, et al to deal with your “similarities.”

    The devil is in the details. On the surface, we have triads in ancient pagan religions, gods who die and then return in some way, reports of virgin births, etc. But we can show massive dissimilarity. Same with the creation account. Our God is not like their God. Creation, fall, redemption right there. Massively different.

    I also never got an answer as to how you can determine what amount of similarity is allowed. Where did you get that idea? Why is 25% similarity allowed but 40% similarity not? As you asked above, what criteria or criterion do you use to declare that such and such percent similarity leads to myth while some other such percent similarity does not.

    And, to piggy-back off of Steve’s comment, how do you believe in a historical Adam and a historical fall, or do you? Why is this believed but other parts not? If you believe in them, then this is dissimilarity. After all, Marduk made man so the other gods could rest. Similarity = no historical Adam.

    Also, when I read Genesis I am confronted with what reads like history, not so with Enuma Elish. Sure, some similarities are present, but you can tell which is myth and which isn’t. I mean, just because they both mention sky on day 4 isn’t a compelling reason for me to think the Genesis account is mythic, for instance.

  373. Paul M. said,

    April 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

    “This sort of maximalist position would see the biblical authors as working directly from Mesopotamian exemplars as they carried out theological transformations. Though this sort of conclusion is common, the summary of comparative literary studies of Genesis 1-11 offered by R. S. Hess in the introduction to ‘I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood’ demonstrates that [the maximalist's] conclusions are far from universally held. D. Tsumura’s introduction in the same volume details the rejection of dependence on the Babylonian materials by such well-known Assyriologists as W. G. Lambert and A. Sjoberg….Nevertheless, given the complexity of the transmission of tradition and culture in the ancient world literary dependence is extremely difficult to prove. Walton, Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (eds). IVP:2003.”

    “The similarities between Genesis and Enuma Elish are too few to think that the author of Genesis was in any way addressing the piece of literature we know as Enuma Elish.” Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context, John H. Walton, Zondervan: 1989, p.34

    “Reconstruction of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and ‘purged’ of pagan elements remains imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way…However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and the Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative (form of the Ark; duration of the Flood, the identity of the birds and their dispatch) and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of the whole of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revision, alteration, and reinterpretation in a fashion that cannot be substantiated for any other composition from the ancient Near East or in any other Hebrew writing. If there was borrowing then it can have extended only as far as the “historical” framework, and not included intention or interpretation. The fact that the closest similarities lie in the Flood stories is instructive. For both Babylonians and Hebrews the Flood marked the end of an age. Mankind could trace itself back to that time; what happened before it was largely unknown. The Hebrews explicitly traced their origins back to Noah, and, we may suppose, assumed that the account of the Flood and all that went before derived from him. Late Babylonian sages supposed that tablets containing information about the ante-diluvian world were buried at Sippar before the Flood and disinterred afterwards. The two accounts undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgment is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meteorology, geophysics, and timing alone. In creation its account is admired for its simplicity and grandeur, its concept of man accords well with observable facts. In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us. Granted that the Flood took place, knowledge of it must have survived to form the available accounts; while the Babylonians could only conceive of the event in their own polytheistic language, the Hebrews, or their ancestors, understood the action of God in it. Who can say it was not so?” Millard, “A New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story”, in “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11, Richard Hess and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994. p.126.

    “In the study of material on Genesis 1-3, consideration should be given to G. F. Hasel’s essays on the methodology and problems of applying the comparative approach to the first chapter of Genesis. In few other passages of the Bible have so many facile comparisons been made with ancient Near Eastern myths and so many far-reaching conclusions posited. Hasel provides observations on fundamental distinctions in the creation accounts, with a strong focus on an antimythological apologetic for Genesis.” Hess, “One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative Studies on Genesis 1-11″, in “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11, Richard Hess and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994. p.19

    “So, Genesis 1 and ‘Enuma Elish,’ which was composed primarily to exalt Marduk in the pantheon of Babylon, have no direct relation to each other…It is not correct to say that ‘Enuma Elish’ was adopted and adapted by the Israelites to produce the Genesis stories. As Lambert holds, there is ‘no evidence of Hebrew borrowing from Babylon’. Sjoberg accepts Lambert’s opinion that ‘there was hardly any influence from the Babylonian text on the Old Testament creation accounts.’ …Along the same line, Sjoberg as an Assyriologist warns Old Testament scholars that ‘it is no longer scientifically sound to assume that all ideas originated in Mesopotamia and moved westward.’ …It is difficult to assume that an earlier Canaanite dragon myth existed in the background of Gen. 1:2…Shea suggests that ‘it is possible to view these two separate sources [Adapa and Genesis 2-3] as independent witnesses to a common event’…Niels-Erik Andreasen also thinks that ‘parallels do indeed exist between Adam and Adapa, but they are seriously blunted by the entirely different contexts in which they occur.’…” Tsumura, “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood, “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11, Richard Hess and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994. p.31.

    “Nevertheless, the differences between the biblical and the Mesopotamian accounts are much more striking that their similarities; each of them embodies the world outlook of their respective civilizations. In Genesis there is a total rejection of all mythology…[Differences include:]…Cosmogony is not linked to theogony. The pre-existence of god is assumed–it is not linked to the genesis of the universe. there is no suggestion of any primordial battle or internecine ware which eventually led to the creation of the universe…The primeval water, earth, sky, and luminaries are not pictured as deities or as parts of disembodied deities, but are all parts of the manifold work of the Creator…The story in Genesis, moreover, is nonpolitical: unlike Enuma Elish, which is a monument to Marduk and to Babylon and its temple, Genesis makes no allusion to Israel, Jerusalem, or the temple.” S.M. Paul Ency. Judacia, s.v. “Creation”, 5:1062

  374. steve hays said,

    April 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    If Seely thinks there are genuine parallels between Gen 1 and the Enuma Elish, then it would be helpful to observe him demonstrate that claim by directly quoting those portions of the Enuma Elish which are parallel, along with the matching verses in Gen 1, so that the reader can see what, exactly, he is referring to. Why doesn’t he show us what he means, by presenting a direct, verbatim comparison.

  375. Paul M. said,

    April 15, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Here’s one

    http://meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Ancient_religions/Mesopotamia/genesis_and_enuma_elish_creation.htm

    And it would be an understatement to say that it isn’t impressive.

  376. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Here’s why it seems unlikely to me that Genesis 6-8 inerrantly preserves the historical events of an actual global flood, while Gilgamesh and Atrahasis preserve a corruption of those same events.

    There are dozens if not hundreds of flood legends from across many of the world’s cultures, but the pattern we observe is that the stories which are most parallel to Genesis 6-8 are the ones whose authors were closest in geographical, historical and cultural proximity to the authors of Genesis 6-8. This strikes me as quite a coincidence unless there is some literary relationship between the two. Everybody else forgot what the flood was really like except the ancient Hebrews and, just coincidentally, their Mesopotamian neighbors? Very strange indeed.

    As I understand it, this is sometimes explained by suggesting that cultural pollination from the Hebrews to the Mesopotamians is what kept the Mesopotamians closer to the true events than anyone else. Precisely because they were in proximity to one another, cultural osmosis kept the Mesopotamian corruptions in check. Well, if so, this would be a very rare case of reverse influence: from minor power to superpower. What we generally observe in history is that, if anything, it is the superpower’s culture which seeps into and overrides the native traditions of the weaker peoples surrounding it. Even today, how much of modern American culture owes itself to Canada; versus how much of modern Canadian culture owes itself to America? (Apologies to any Canadians here; I am NOT rubbing this in :-) So this suggestion seems implausible to me.

    By the way, I don’t see where most of those quotations disagree with the position Paul Seely and others here have been representing. For example, I don’t know of any but the most liberal, critical scholars who think that Genesis is thematically similar to the ANE myths, eg offering similar opinions on the nature of God(s) (as opposed to merely using some common motifs as building blocks) — so I think we agree with the quoted sources on that. Another example: I think it is rare for scholars today to think that Genesis 1 is self-aware of Enuma elish and polemicizes specifically against it. Rather the position is that Enuma elish is an expression evolved from pagan cosmogonic and theogonic traditions, and it is those traditions behind Enuma elish that Genesis 1 addresses.

    As to what definitive rule we use to determine a “significant” degree of resemblance, there is none; but there are guidelines. As I understand it, the more particular the shared motif, the more significant the resemblance. A god incarnating, for example, is a very common element in much mythology, so is not a significant factor in signalling literary relationship. But a sea, or figure representing the sea, being divided into two halves, one erected over the earth and the other around and underneath the earth, is a much more particular, “statistically significant” marker because it shows up so rarely. Of course, this is not a definitive, quantitative rule — but for that matter there is no such rule for determining when red becomes orange in the spectrum, either, yet we do not doubt they are related.

    OK, I’ve written this during my workday which is a sure indicator I’m spending too much time here :-) Thanks for the conversation.

  377. its.reed said,

    April 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Ref. 375:

    Rather an impressive list of the willingness of some to force the data to fit the pre-existing conclusion. This does not document the striking similarities. It documents the interpretation of similarities.

    Even granting some vague similarities, all this show is that a common memory was shared by the descendents of Noah. The pagans perverted their memory (six generations of gods). Moses received the inerrant truth from the inerrant Source.

  378. steve hays said,

    April 15, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    “Here’s why it seems unlikely to me that Genesis 6-8 inerrantly preserves the historical events of an actual global flood, while Gilgamesh and Atrahasis preserve a corruption of those same events. There are dozens if not hundreds of flood legends from across many of the world’s cultures, but the pattern we observe is that the stories which are most parallel to Genesis 6-8 are the ones whose authors were closest in geographical, historical and cultural proximity to the authors of Genesis 6-8. This strikes me as quite a coincidence unless there is some literary relationship between the two. Everybody else forgot what the flood was really like except the ancient Hebrews and, just coincidentally, their Mesopotamian neighbors? Very strange indeed.”

    I already anticipated that argument. It’s not a strange coincidence of the survivors of the flood disembarked in Mesopotamia (e.g. the mountain chain of Ararat). There’s where they would have initially settled. That’s completely consistent with what Genesis says. You’re behind the curve.

    “Rather the position is that Enuma elish is an expression evolved from pagan cosmogonic and theogonic traditions, and it is those traditions behind Enuma elish that Genesis 1 addresses.”

    Enns claims the parallels are more specific. They involve (according to him) a specific sequence of events (I&I, p26).

    Sounds like you’re just winging it with your canned answers rather than addressing what I specifically said or Enns specifically said.

  379. RBerman said,

    April 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Almost 400 posts in, the answer so far is that those who will articulate a defense of Peter Enns, do so on grounds that would cause them to flunk any NAPARC ordination exam. That’s not very encouraging! I was rather hoping to hear from someone within the Reformed fold which WTS serves. Someone like the faculty or board members who work alongside him. Is there a recognizably Presbyterian defense to be had of Enns, or is their solidarity with him simply an example of Grudem’s edict?

  380. Paul M. said,

    April 15, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Okay, so Scott (#376) has offered a criteria whereby he can hold to some things in the Bible as myth and others not as myth. That is:

    As to what definitive rule we use to determine a “significant” degree of resemblance, there is none; but there are guidelines. As I understand it, the more particular the shared motif, the more significant the resemblance. A god incarnating, for example, is a very common element in much mythology, so is not a significant factor in signalling literary relationship. But a sea, or figure representing the sea, being divided into two halves, one erected over the earth and the other around and underneath the earth, is a much more particular, “statistically significant” marker because it shows up so rarely. Of course, this is not a definitive, quantitative rule — but for that matter there is no such rule for determining when red becomes orange in the spectrum, either, yet we do not doubt they are related.

    In other words, the criteria C is:

    [C] Generally, for a “resemblance” between the Bible and other religions to be deemed not significant enough to indicate that we aren’t being presented with myth figured by literary relationship, is that the similarities be somewhat ubiquitous, then we can say the resemblance is not significant. But, for the resemblance to be deemed significant enough to indicate that we are reading myth and not history, the resemblance should be particular to one or two (three, four…?) non-biblical religions. If so then the resemblance is significant.

    Let me make a few observations:

    i) Notice that [C] has an escape clause built in. A hedging of bets. This way, if the errantist is presented with something that fits into the “myth” container that he does not want to consider myth, he can just say that [C] only gives some general guidelines that can be broken. In this case it seems that, again, we are subjected to an arbitrary principle. Basically, what is really going on is that the errantist wants to be able to look “respectable” to the secular scholars, the atheist philosophers, the scientists et al. and not have to believe in talking snakes, talking donkeys, muscle men, Joshua’s long day, etc. But when his principle is turned against him and he is forced to give up some essential that no Christian could give up and still even think to call himself a Christian, he just says that [C] allows for him to do that. So, in effect, what we have, upon analysis, is that [C] is a smoke screen for another principle, [C*] which states:

    [C*] Whatever is ridiculed by the non-Christian “intellectuals” can be given up unless it is belief in some main essential of the faith which would cause me to be declared an outright apostate or heretic. This way I can somewhat have my cake and eat it too in that I would be looked upon as more intellectually respectable by holding to n rridiculous belief instead of those fundamentalists who hold to n + 1 ridiculous belief.

    Anyway, that’s the way it comes off to me.

    ii) How did [C] get decided? Where did it come from? Is it not just an arbitrary stipulation grounded in nothing objective?

    iii) Why is ubiquity in story an indicator of not-myth or not-literary relationship? Perhaps some myth is so appealing that it spread from one source and was kept in all the various religions. How would we know otherwise?

    iv) Some of the paradigms of myth given above viz. Joshua’s long day, Balaam’s ass do not seem dependant on some particular source, or are ubiquitous (e.g., talking animals). So, what now?

    v) Some of the Proverbs are almost found verbatim in ANE wisdom literature, esp. the Egyptian documents. Are these then errant?

    vi) Let’s look at a saying from the Buddha:

    Better than reigning supreme over the earth, better than ruling heaven, better than dominating all worlds, is the reward of the sotopatti way (Dh 13:12).

    And now from Jesus:

    For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away (Luke 9:25).

    And so is this errant myth too? Literary dependence? Or is this when you pull out your escape clause?

    Isn’t the amount you will reject something determined by the amount of laughter you receive from the “secular intellectuals” rather than any scientific or objective basis?

    vii) What about those scholars who believe the eschatology of Judaism and possibly the idea of monotheism originated in Zoroastrianism, and may have been transferred to Judaism during the Babylonian captivity, thus eventually influencing Christian theology. or do you make similar moves as we’ve made in response to Enuma Elish.

    viii) Steve had asked you to quote (or reference) parts of the Enuma Elish you thought we so similar.

    ix) Some scholars tell us that an inscription to Mithras reads: “He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.” In John 6:53-54, Jesus says: “…Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    — J. Goodwin, “Mystery Religions of the Ancient World,” Thames & Hudson, (1981), Page 28. Quoted in Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy, “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” Acacia Press, (1999), Page 49.

    x) Isn’t it the case that in Mithras mysteries Mythra is flanked by two torchbearers, one on either side. One torch points up, the other down. This indicates heaven and hell. Perhaps this is similar to Jesus dying between two thieves. One went to heaven the other went to hell.

    xi) (vi), (ix), and (x) seem to meet the standard set forth in [C], and so is Jesus death myth too?

    How can you avoid these reductions based on your own criteria?

    Have you not cut off your nose to spite your face?

  381. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 15, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Steve: I don’t see how the Mesopotamians having settled in the area while the rest dispersed, would cause them to retain better memory of the specifics of the flood than all the rest but one (the Hebrews). I realized you had suggested that; but it seems a non sequitur to me.

    As for Genesis not being a specific response to Enuma elish, what I meant was that it was not a specific response to the Marduk saga which is the core of Enuma elish. That’s my understanding of the view held by most scholars. Rather, the parallels in Genesis are with some of the basic motifs or building blocks out of which the Marduk saga as well has been constructed. I think the most telling one is the splitting of Tiamat because of how it points to the ANE cosmological view of a sea above and underneath the earth, which we find in Egyptian sources too, as well as the Old Testament, and which cannot IMO be persuasively concorded with modern science.

  382. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 15, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Paul M:

    (i) Of course this “C” as you put it, is not a hard-and-fast rule. That’s not a special pleading though. Hard-and-fast rules exist only in the simplest of domains like Cartesian geometry. Most of the higher-order things in life, including politics, philosophy, theology, hermeneutics, you name it, do not yield to hard-and-fast rules. Rather we apply numerous tests and hopefully find that the preponderance of evidence converges toward a common result.

    Your hypothesis about the psychological motivations behind the views of myself and others who think similarly is baseless. That dog doesn’t hunt anymore, at least not with me.

    (ii) Actually, “C” comes from simple and ordinary statistics which we already apply in many other domains in life: forensic science, linguistics, you name it. The more particular and peculiar the aspect which two or more things have in common, the less likely they are unrelated, when they already are known to share geographic-cultural proximity…

    (iii) …which doesn’t mean that a general aspect which two or more things have in common, thereby means they are necessarily unrelated. I never stated your (iii) and it does not follow. What I stated was that relationship is more demonstrable the more particular the commonality, which of course is not to say the opposite, that a general commonality demonstrates lack of relationship.

    (iv) This “C” is not the only test operative here. There is also the test of external corroboration or the lack thereof (there being no Egyptian or Chinese corroboration of the long day, for example). In the case of Samson and the jawbone, I reject its strict historicity (though not some general historical core) on the relatively weak basis (I admit) that the story just generally seems like a hero saga, and the historicity of which is not essential in my more-Christocentric theology. Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary, and I’m OK with that. As I said, from reading him it doesn’t seem to me that Enns would necessarily go to all those places with me.

    (v) I don’t see a problem with Proverbs recording wisdom unique to the Israelites as well as wisdom shared with surrounding cultures and even received from surrounding cultures and accepted due to its consonance with biblical values. Also see my (vi) below.

    (vi) I know of no geographic-cultural contact between the proto-orthodox writers of the gospels and the authors of the Buddhist scriptures. Without such contact, “C” is impossible. Your statement of “C” needs to take proximity into account. Anyway, as I said in (v) above, I have no problem with God’s truth being revealed in multiple cultures and sources to the extent it is self-evident, which of course is not to say that is what has happened here with this Buddhist saying.

    (vii) Likewise I have no problem with dualistic personal eschatology in Judaism having possibly arisen from Persian contact. God can use different means to progressively reveal truth to his people over the generations. Stephen in Acts says approvingly that Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and in Daniel 1 it is narrated without disapproval that he and the other captive sages are trained in the wisdom of the Babylonians. What was suspect about surrounding cultures were those of their pagan theological ideas that ran counter to Judaism, such as Baal worship, human sacrifice, polytheism, and etc — not necessarily everything those cultures believed or held as knowledge.

    (viii) Actually Steve had asked Paul Seely for that, not me. For what its worth, I think the most telling parallel is the division of the waters as I mentioned in (i) above, because of its specificity, its allusion to ANE cosmology known from yet other sources (eg Egyptian), and its difficulty to concord with modern science.

    (ix) Sorry, I don’t know enough about that to answer it.

    (x) Interesting, but not enough in itself.

    I should warn you guys – I’ve spent 2 hours on this today and don’t have that kind of time generally. I’ll try to answer your questions but cannot keep this up except sporadically as I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.

  383. Paul Seely said,

    April 16, 2008 at 1:57 am

    steve hays (365) gave several quotations from one of John Walton’s books, which appear to contradict Enns’ position. A closer look, however, shows that either there is no real contradiction of Enns, or the writer is mistaken. See my comments in brackets.

    “As we have seen above, there is no piece of literature extant from Mesopotamia that presents itself as an account of creationTherefore, there is nothing comparable to the creation account of Genesis in terms of literary genre. . [The primary subject matter and story in Enuma elish do not revolve around creation, but there is a section in it which is about creation and is parallel to Gen 1 with regard to Day 2 in particular, and the order of creation events.] The similarities between the Enuma Elish are too few to think that the author of Genesis was in any way addressing the piece of literature we know as Enuma Elish.” [Enns emphatically says the same thing on p. 26]

    —John Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Zondervan 1990), 34.

    “We are terribly ill-informed regarding the history of either Mesopotamian or biblical creation accounts. This makes the argument based on chronological sequence null and void. We cannot say for certain that the traditions preserved by the Israelites are any less ancient than the traditions preserved by the Babylonians,” ibid. 36. [Perhaps so, but the fact that Abraham, as an idolater, hailed from Babylonia suggests that he accepted their orgins stories, and only after conversion purified them. Further, the account we have in Hebrew, must as Enns shows, be chronologically later than the Mesopotamian accounts; and I do not believe Walton would argue that the Mesopotamians got their account from the Hebrews.]

    “The only evidence that can be produced to support the case for Israelite borrowing is the similarities we have already identified. These are hardly convincing, in that most of the similarities occur in situations where cosmological choices are limited. For example, the belief in a primeval watery mass is perfectly logical and one of only a few possibilities. The fact that the Babylonians and Israelites use similar names, Tiamat and tehom, is no surprise, since their respective languages are cognates of one another,” ibid. 37. [More evidence can be and is produced below, but it should be noted that Enns avoids the idea of borrowing in favor of a shared world view.]

    (367) Hays continues

    “We must question, however, whether the position that the Bible demythologizes Mesopotamian legends takes into account all the critical data bearing on the issue. [Enns idea that Abraham as an idolater would have Mesopotamian stories implies that Abraham would have a theistically corrupted account, which would because of the revelation he and others received would be revised theologically, which could be called demythologization, but Enns does not pursue this idea. Instead he emphasizes that Abraham would have the typical ANE mentality.] First of all, the common assumption that the Hebrew stories are simplified and purified accounts of Mesopotamian legends is fallacious, for in ancient Near Eastern literature simple accounts give rise to elaborate accounts, and not vice versa,” J. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament” (Baker 2001), 29.[Tigay proved that ANE accounts can go from complex to simpler.]

    Second, there are no examples from the ancient Near East in which myth later develops into history. Epic simply never transfigures into historical narrative. And, clearly, the creation and flood accounts in Genesis are presented as direct history with no evidence of myth,” ibid. 29. [It would appear that Enuma elish with its myth was considered by the Mesopotamians to be history in some sense, e.g, the genealogy of the gods. And the Mesopotamian Flood account with its attached myth was certainly regarded as history. Further, Enns’ view is more organic than someone sitting down and purifying an account.]

    “Third, the contrasts between the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts are so striking that they cannot be explained by a simple Hebrew cleansing,” ibid. 29. [Enns would agree.]

    “But despite the reiterated claims of an older generation of biblical scholars, Enuma Elish and Gen 1-2 in fact share no direct relationship. [This is exactly what Enns says on p. 26.] Thus the word tehom/thm is common to both Hebrew and Ugaritic (north Syria) and means nothing more than ‘deep, abyss.’ It is not a deity, like Ti’amat, a goddess in Enuma Elish. In terms of theme, creation is the massively central concern of Gen 1-2, but is a mere tailpiece in Enuma Elish, which is dedicated to portraying the supremacy of the god Marduk of Babylon. [Enns would agree with all of the above.] The only clear comparisons between the two are the inevitable banalities: creation of earth and sky before the plants are put on the earth, and of plants before animals (that need to eat them) and humans; it could hardly have ben otherwise!” K. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003), 424.

    [Kitchen’s last argument, which is similar to one that Walton makes, overlooks the very important similarity of the splitting of the tehom on the 2nd day to the splitting of Tiamat in Eluma elish, and the making of first the sky , then the earth, and then the heavenly bodies. But, it is not just these similarities which tie these two traditions together. It is the fact that no other ANE story has a splitting of the primeval Deep. In fact, it is difficult to find any other creation story anywhere in the world that has these similarities.

    #373 I believe Enns would agree with paragraphs 1, 2, most of 3, 4, most of 5, and 6; but there are several statements in 3 and 5 that are questionable, and I am not sure what he would say.

    In my own view which is not to be equated with Enns’ view which shows no interest in the idea of borrowing, an idea that is less organic than Enns’ point about a worldview, I question the statement, “As Lambert holds, there is ‘no evidence of Hebrew borrowing from Babylon’. This is Lambert’s conclusion regarding E.e. and Gen 1, but he is somewhat inconsistent in drawing it. In his later discussion of days 6 and 7, he says “This common Mesopotamian tradition thus provides a close parallel to the sixth and seventh days of creation. Since the particular concept of the destiny of man goes back to the Sumerians, but is unparralled in other parts of the ancient Near East, ultimate borrowing by the Hebrews seems very probable.” (p. 107) When discussing the splitting of the waters in E.e. and Gen 1, he says,“These seem to be the only two examples of the splitting of a body of water from the area and periods under discussion…so a parallel must be acknowledged.” (p. 103) Since this parallel certainly suggests that the Hebrews got it from Mesopotamia—since it is found nowhere else and he would not argue that the Mesopotamians got it from the Hebrews, Lambert’s conclusion runs against the grain of his own logic regarding days 6 and 7. In any case he does acknowledge borrowing from Mesopotamia in regard to days 6 and 7 as well as in the case of the Flood. I will look later at the idea that Gen 1/E.e. and Gen 6-8/Atrahasis-Gilgamesh go back to common originals.

    We could go back and forth like this for some time, but I don’t have the time to nail down every detail particularly since the citations being made by and large agree with Enns. It should be noted that he also acknowledges the disimilarity in the Mesopotamian/Genesis accounts (p. 26) And it should not be overlooked that the dissimilarity is fundamentally theological,while the underlying events often coincide with E.e. or other Babylonian sources. There is no reason to have to belabor all this. Enns is scarcely alone in seeing similarities between Gen 1 and E.e. or Gen 6-8 and Atrahasis-Gilgamesh. And as to borrowing, he has accepted it only indirectly. He has set forth a perfectly reasonable scenario of Abraham beginning with theologically corrupted traditions and then having them transformed by revelation. Those corrupted traditions are not to be identified with the E.e. account and the Gilgamesh account as we have them today; but there is a relationship between the traditions and the later accounts. One would think from the way some talk that Gen 1 has no relationship at all to Enuma elish. The splitting of the primeval waters links the two accounts together, as does the order of events. This is not to say that the E.e. tradition was the only one underlying Gen 1; but, it was one source.

    In Post #375, the suggested article on the web links Enuma elish to Genesis 1 in a way that is not often seen; and Reed #377 comments, “Rather an impressive list of the willingness of some to force the data to fit the pre-existing conclusion. This does not document the striking similarities. It documents the interpretation of similarities.” What Reed does not realize is that John Davis, Professor of OT at Old Princeton, linked the two accounts together in a very similar way. On page 10 of his book,he says, “Evidently if for these divinities [in Enuma elish] there be substituted the natural objects which the divine names signify, an orderly statement is rendered, like that in the book of Genesis, of the physical development of the universe.” (cf pp 20, 21)

    In the same chapter of his book, John Davis says,
    “And two considerations leave no reasonable doubt of a relationship between the two traditions [Enuma elish and Genesis]:first, the ancient common habitat in Babylonia of the two peoples who transmitted these accounts [thus agreeing with Enns that Gen 1 comes down from Abraham], and second, the community of conception, Hebrews and Babylonians uniting in describing the primitive conditions of the universe as an abyss of waters shrouded in darkness and subsequently parted in twain in order to the formation of heaven and earth. The kinship between the two traditions need not be close, but kinship there is.” John D. Davis, Genesis and Semitic Tradition, pp. 8, 9. Davis thought of Genesis and Enuma elish as coming down from a common tradition, not Gen being slowly purified. But, to the extent that critics have sought to deny any relationship between Genesis and Enuma elish, they should be aware that they are contradicting the position of Old Princeton.

  384. its.reed said,

    April 16, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Ref. 383:

    Paul: whether I realized Dr. Davis’ conclusions or not is immaterial to the point I am making, which maybe you might respond to (or point me to where you already have).

    The issue is not the appearance or reality, or degree of similarity between accounts. The issue is why such similarities exist.

    In Gen (at whatever chapter you draw the line) did God through Moses accomodate the ANE roots of the Hebrews’ own distorted cosmology, without intention toward historical accuracy, thereby allowing (accomodating) the account to man’s historical inaccuracy? – or –

    Did God through Moses give us the original, the historically accurate, from which the ANE descended in a distorted/perverted manner?

    The critical issue is the willingness of Enns (and apparently yourself) to use the ANE angle as support for the former over the latter. My question is, on what basis do you do so? Both options have as a part of their presuppositional package anthropological notions which are rationally reasonable.

    Yet only the latter option is consistent with the worldview of Scripture. The former is forced on Scripture in opposition to this worldview.

    I would find it helpful for some explanation as to why one would choose the presupposition of accomodation over the presupposition of distortion/pervsersion?

  385. GLW Johnson said,

    April 16, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Paul S.
    I see that you have not gotten around to addressing my question to you- and John Davis does NOT remotely hint that Gen.1-11 is composed of ‘myths’ so you really cannot claim, as you do, that the Old Princeton position, as represented by him ,is somehow sympathetic to yours.

  386. steve hays said,

    April 16, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Paul Seely said,
    April 16, 2008 at 1:57 am
    “steve hays (365) gave several quotations from one of John Walton’s books, which appear to contradict Enns’ position. A closer look, however, shows that either there is no real contradiction of Enns, or the writer is mistaken.”

    i) You and others were making facile claims about parallels between Gen 1 and the Enuma Elish. I simply posted some material which drew attention to the equivocations and disanalogies in this facile comparison.

    You are now introducing qualifications which you didn’t volunteer in your original claim. It betrays a certain lack of candor on your part when these qualifications have to be forced out of you.

    The average Christian reader doesn’t have access to standard reference works. Therefore, he’s dependent on people like you for his source of information. When you are selective and one-sided in your presentation of the evidence, that misleads the reader. It should not have been necessary for Manata and me to present the other side of the argument. You should have done that yourself.

    ii) I also quoted two scholars (Currid, Walton) whom you quoted to support your interpretation of Gen 1:6.

    iii) When the experts disagree, what is a layman to think?

    “Kitchen’s last argument, which is similar to one that Walton makes, overlooks the very important similarity of the splitting of the tehom on the 2nd day to the splitting of Tiamat in Eluma elish, and the making of first the sky , then the earth, and then the heavenly bodies. But, it is not just these similarities which tie these two traditions together. It is the fact that no other ANE story has a splitting of the primeval Deep. In fact, it is difficult to find any other creation story anywhere in the world that has these similarities.”

    Gen 1 doesn’t speak of “slitting” the tehom. You’ve carried that over from the Enuma elish.

    Where does the Enuma elish have timemarkers to say which action is first, second, third…in the sequence of events? Where does the Enuma elish present a chronology of events?

    “And it should not be overlooked that the dissimilarity is fundamentally theological,while the underlying events often coincide with E.e. or other Babylonian sources.”

    That’s an assertion. You need to document that assertion by actually quoting from the Enuma Elish or “other Babylonian sources” so that a reader can see for himself what they allegedly have in common. All you’ve done is to *summarize* what you think they have in common.

    “There is no reason to have to belabor all this.”

    To the contrary, there is every reason to belabor all this. When you make specific claims, you need to furnish specific evidence commensurate with your claims.

    “Enns is scarcely alone in seeing similarities between Gen 1 and E.e. or Gen 6-8 and Atrahasis-Gilgamesh. And as to borrowing, he has accepted it only indirectly. He has set forth a perfectly reasonable scenario of Abraham beginning with theologically corrupted traditions and then having them transformed by revelation. Those corrupted traditions are not to be identified with the E.e. account and the Gilgamesh account as we have them today; but there is a relationship between the traditions and the later accounts.”

    That’s one of those beautifully unfalsifiable claims that we often get in higher criticism. The critic postulates a hypothetical source on which a Bible writer was dependent. This hypothetical source is conveniently unavailable for direct inspection. So we can’t actually check his claim against the putative point of reference.

    Putative similarities are treated as evidence for some sort of literary dependence. However, dissimilarities never count against the theory since the dissimilarities are relegated to the hypothetical source document.

    “One would think from the way some talk that Gen 1 has no relationship at all to Enuma elish. The splitting of the primeval waters links the two accounts together, as does the order of events.”

    i) The theme of creation by division isn’t limited to the primeval waters in Gen 1. It also involves light from dark, day and night, and (by implication) land from sea.

    ii) You haven’t shown a common order of events. You merely asserted a common order of events. Your summaries assume what you need to prove

    If you claim a parallel, then you need to actually quote from both documents (Gen 1, Enuma Elish), so that a reader can see that the putatively parallels involve the same *kind* of events, in the same chronological order (with timemarkers to indicate the relative sequence).

  387. steve hays said,

    April 16, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Scott Jorgenson said,
    April 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm
    “Steve: I don’t see how the Mesopotamians having settled in the area while the rest dispersed, would cause them to retain better memory of the specifics of the flood than all the rest but one (the Hebrews). I realized you had suggested that; but it seems a non sequitur to me.”

    i) Well, to go back to your original statement, many cultures will have their share of flood “legends” simply because they happen to reside on a natural flood plain, like a river valley. If their respective legends don’t have much in common, that’s because they were never referring to a common event in the first place. So your frame of reference is very questionable.

    ii) Differences can also depend on how soon after the event it was committed to writing, and what records have survived.

    iii) Cross-cultural diffusion can also revise the original account, such as the transmutation of Greek mythology into Roman mythology. There is more opportunity for cross-cultural diffusion if some descendants of the survivors (of the flood) migrate to far-flung regions of the globe—in contrast to a more homogenous civilization.

  388. Paul Seely said,

    April 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Gary, (#385) I said I would get to your question after addressing the question raised about the relationship of Genesis to ANE stories.
    Isn’t some patience in order?

    Also, your emphatic “Davis does NOT etc” is refuting something I did not say. I specifically stated that Davis did not see Genesis as being slowly purified. That means he did not see it as a myth or even a purified myth. Further, I qualified my statement about Davis by saying “to the extent that critics have sought to deny any relationship between Genesis and Enuma elish, they should be aware that they are contradicting the position of Old Princeton.”

    The primary thrust of the objections that were made centered on whether Enuma elish was really related to Genesis 1. Part of my answer was that John Davis, hence Old Princeton, took the position that they were related. That is absolutely true; and nothing I said deserves the response you gave. You have need of patience.

  389. Paul Seely said,

    April 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Steve (#386)
    Point i: the same comments could be made about your and other critics’ posts.

    Point ii: I cited Walton and Currid to support my contention that Gen 1:6 is about a solid firmament. I did not mean to infer that they believe everything I do.

    Point iii: You say, “Gen 1 doesn’t speak of “splitting” the tehom. You’ve carried that over from the Enuma elish.” And you are splitting hairs for no good reason. In both accounts a large body of water is divided into two parts, does the fact that one account says, “split” and the other says, “divide” make any difference to the substance? John Davis saw this commonality of splitting the waters as evidence that the two accounts were related (p. 9). Similarly he implicitly answers your other questions about sequence: 1 an abyss of waters with darkness (from the same tradition as E.e. but only mentioned explicitly in Berossus and Damascius), 2 parting the abyss of waters in two, 3 making of heaven, 4 making of earth. He could have added the sequential making of the heavens and the making of humans last of all; but he concludes from the first 5 that “kinship there is.” As for actually addressing the question of sequence, Davis presents his case very much like the web article mentioned by Paul M. If you want more details, read Davis or Heidel’s The Babylonian Genesis. Or Pope and other commentaries on Genesis. If I were writing a journal article, I might be obligated to give more detail, but for the purpose of this forum, I have provided sufficient evidence to establish John Davis’ conclusion: “kinship there is.” If you still want to dispute that conclusion, take on Davis’ article and show where he is wrong. But, as far as I’m concerned, the issue is settled: kinship there is; and we can move on to the next issue: why such similarities exist (Reed’s post).

  390. c bovell said,

    April 17, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Oh good, you guys are still talking.

    Paul Seely, I tried to send you a letter in the mail a few weeks ago before I came to know of this post. Did it reach you? Could you kindly email me about it either at the email address I mention there or at j1234@closecall.com?

    Thanks.

  391. steve hays said,

    April 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Paul Seely said

    “If you want more details, read Davis or Heidel’s The Babylonian Genesis.”

    I’ve read Heidel. On pp128-29, he gives a precis of what he believes to be the sequential parallels. What he fails to do, and what you fail to do, is to quote the relevant portions of the Enuma Elish where these parallels occurs.

    I myself have gone back through his translation, and when I attempt to locate the parallels in the actual text, these are not analogous events. All we have is the sort of loose parallelomania we find in Frazer et al.

    You have failed to document your claim. Indeed, you don’t even make an effort to document your claim. All you give us are your tendentious summaries of the evidence in lieu of giving us the actual evidence.

    You *tell* us there are parallels without *showing* us there are parallels. Fine. I accept your tacit admission that you can’t begin to actually prove your case. You resist repeated invitations to make good on your claims.

    As Neusner is wont to say, you don’t know what you can’t show.

  392. Bill Stephens said,

    April 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1988 Erasmas Lecture (now Benedict XVI) on Biblical Interpretation. URL here: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1049

    Conclusions:
    (a) The time seems to have arrived for a new and thorough reflection on exegetical method. Scientific exegesis must recognize the philosophic element present in a great number of its ground rules, and it must then reconsider the results which are based on these rules.

    (b) Exegesis can no longer be studied in a unilinear, synchronic fashion, as is the case with scientific findings which do not depend upon their history but only upon the precision of their data. Exegesis must recognize itself as a historical discipline. Its history belongs to itself. In a critical arrangement of its respective positions within the totality of its own history, it will be able, on one hand, to recognize the relativity of its own judgments (where, for example, errors may have crept in). On the other hand, it will be in a better position to achieve an insight into our real, if always imperfect, comprehension of the biblical word.

    (c) Philological and scientific literary methods are and will remain critically important for a proper exegesis. But for their actual application to the work of criticism–just as for an examination of their claims–an understanding of the philosophic implications of the interpretative process is required. The self-critical study of its own history must also imply an examination of the essential philosophic alternatives for human thought. Thus, it is not sufficient to scan simply the last one hundred and fifty years. The great outlines of patristic and medieval thought must also be brought into the discussion. It is equally indispensable to reflect on the fundamental judgments made by the Reformers and the critical importance they have had in the history of exegesis.

    (d) What we need now are not new hypotheses on the Sitz im Leben, on possible sources or on the subsequent process of handing down the material. What we do need is a critical look at the exegetical landscape we now have, so that we may return to the text and distinguish between those hypotheses which are helpful and those which are not. Only under these conditions can a new and fruitful collaboration between exegesis and systematic theology begin. And only in this way will exegesis be of real help in understanding the Bible.

    (e) Finally, the exegete must realize that he does not stand in some neutral area, above or outside history and the church. Such a presumed immediacy regarding the purely historical can only lead to dead ends. The first presupposition of all exegesis is that it accepts the Bible as a book. In so doing, it has already chosen a place for itself which does not simply follow from the study of literature. It has identified this particular literature as the product of a coherent history, and this history as the proper space for coming to understanding. If it wishes to be theology, it must take a further step. It must recognize that the faith of the church is that form of “sympathia” without which the Bible remains a closed book. It must come to acknowledge this faith as a hermeneutic, the space for understanding, which does not do dogmatic violence to the Bible, but precisely allows the solitary possibility for the Bible to be itself.

  393. Paul Seely said,

    April 18, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Reed #384
    I understand you to be saying that given the fact that the creation and flood stories each come down to us in two related versions, the biblical and the Babylonian, we may ask, Did these two sets of traditions each come down to us from a common original which was factually accurate and stayed accurate in the Hebrew accounts but was distorted by unbelievers in the Babylonian tradition, or are the biblical accounts revisions of the distorted Babylonian traditions?

    I think your statement about worldview refers to the fact that the rest of the Bible, including Jesus, seems to accept these accounts at face value, as factually accurate literal science-history.

    Neither Enns nor I place the theology being taught in the category of accommodation, so I take your last statement to mean, Why should we place the historical-scientific side of these accounts in the category of accommodation rather than in the category of teaching science-history?

    I think the best way to begin to answer this last question is to discover on what basis Charles Hodge and John Calvin placed some matters of science (which cannot be separated from history) into the category of accommodation rather than into the category of factual science-history.

    Hodge (Systematic Theology I:569-70 ) answers the question, Why does the Bible represent the sky as a solid expanse? (And remember that E.J. Young confirmed that the Hebrew word raqia’ was properly understood as something solid). His answer is that the Bible, as Calvin says, is being accommodated to the ignorance (ruditas) of the common people. So what were the ignorant masses ignorant of? Isn’t Hodge saying he believes the masses were ignorant of the facts given by modern science that the sky is not really solid, so the Bible was accommodated to mere appearance?

    Yet, where does Scripture tell us anywhere that the firmament, the raqia’, is not actually, factually solid? When we interpret the relevant verses within their historical context, there is every reason to believe that the human author and his first readers took them literally. The Church understood the verses as saying the sky was literally solid until the Renaissance. If we interpret Scripture by Scripture, verses like Job 37:18 (Canst thou with him spread out the sky which is strong as a molten mirror.) confirm that the sky is actually, factually solid. Add to this that no biblical verse teaches even by implication that the sky is not solid. So since Scripture does not tell us the sky is not solid, on what basis is Hodge saying the biblical representation of the sky as solid is not literal fact but an accommodation to mere appearance?

    Let me answer the question. The basis of Hodge’s statement is not Scripture but EXTRA-BIBLICAL MODERN KNOWLEDGE OF SCIENCE.
    .
    In his commentary on Genesis, Calvin says of Gen 1:16 that “Moses does not here subtilely descant, as a philosopher, on the secrets of nature” which the next sentences make clear means that Moses is not giving the true scientific facts. Calvin contrasts what Moses says with what the astronomers say, an example being that unlike the Mosaic account with its natural implication that the moon is larger than the stars, “astronomers prove, by conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account of its great distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon.” He says Moses wrote in popular style because he could not otherwise “fulfill his office than by descending to this grosser method of instruction.” Calvin’s words, “descending to …grosser” confirm that he regards Gen 1:16 as an accommodation.

    Yet there is nothing in the text of Gen 1:16 which tells us that it is an accommodation. When we interpret the verse within its historical context, there is every reason to believe that the human author and his first readers took it literally. When Augustine read this verse he concluded that it confirmed his conclusion that the stars really are as small as they appear. And if you interpret Scripture by Scripture you may find a verse which confirms Augustine’s literal interpretation of Gen 1:16, e.g. Rev 6:13; but no verses which disconfirm the literal interpretation. So since Scripture does not tell us the heavenly bodies are not literally the size they appear, on what basis is Calvin saying Gen 1:16’s description of the size of the heavenly bodies is not literal scientific truth, but is an accommodation?

    Let me answer the question. The context of Calvin’s remarks shows that the basis of Calvin’s statement is not Scripture but EXTRA-BIBLICAL MODERN KNOWLEDGE OF SCIENCE.

    Gen 1:6 and 1:16 were already accommodated to what the ignorant masses believed, namely, that the sky was literally solid and the stars were literally as small as they appear. But, Hodge and Calvin, not knowing either ANE literature or relevant anthropological studies, did not realize the verses were already accommodated. There was no real need to attribute phenomenal language to these verses in order to save them from making errant scientific statements. All that was necessary was to recognize that they were already accommodated just as they are, that is, accommodated to the worldview of their time. They are accommodation, not teaching.

    Finally it should be noted that there is no difference in principle between using extra-biblical modern knowledge of science as a basis for making these verses accommodations (as Hodge and Calvin do) than for using extra-biblical modern knowledge of ANE literature as a basis for making these verses accommodations. And when you combine the application of extra-biblical modern knowledge of ANE literature and extra-biblical modern knowledge of science to Genesis 1-11, it becomes clear that Genesis 1-11 is not always a presentation of actual, factual science-history, but to varying degrees accommodations to the world view of the times.

    Once the dust settles from this post, we can move on to the question of how we can tell whether the Babylonian and biblical accounts come down from a pure original or whether the biblical has a Babylonian substrate.

    Gary, this post lays the foundation for answering your question, so it is a first step.

  394. steve hays said,

    April 18, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Paul Seely said,

    “As for actually addressing the question of sequence, Davis presents his case very much like the web article mentioned by Paul M. If you want more details, read Davis or Heidel’s The Babylonian Genesis.”

    To the contrary, Davis admits that “The Babylonian story knows nothing of a division into days whereas the Hebrew account is distributed within a framework of six days,” J. Davis, Genesis & Semitic Tradition, 7.

    If the Enuma Elish lacks a temporal framework, then the events contained therein also lack a clear temporal sequence.

  395. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Steve (387) — I am unclear whether you consider the historical flood event to have been global in extent or local. What is your position on that? I ask because your points (i) and (iii) have no support if the flood was global.

    First, to your point (i): if the flood was global, wiping out everyone on Earth besides those with Noah on the ark, then all human cultures in most of (ie post ~2900 BC) recorded history must be considered descendants of the ark survivors. All would have the global flood in their background, and both Mesopotamian cultures and other riverine / bottomland cultures (from Egypt to the Indus to China) would have subsequent local flooding in their background as well. In other words, the global flood would have leveled culture, and there would be no reason to suppose that Mesopotamia would have retained the most accurate memory of the global event (despite subsequent local flooding), while remote cultures’ memory of the deluge was obscured by such subsequent local flooding. So your point (i) does not follow in the case of a global flood. Of course, if your position is that the Genesis 6-8 deluge was local, your point (i) seems more germane: the ANE memory of the flood in Genesis 6-8 and Atrahasis/Gilgamesh could refer to that particular Mesopotamian event, while remote cultures’ stories could refer to their own regional events as you said.

    Likewise, to your point (iii): again the leveling effects of a global flood would rule-out that argument. Out-migrants from the ark would encounter no other cultures with which to cross-pollinate and pollute their own memories of the global flood; they would be moving into empty ruins. Each people-group’s surroundings would eventually fill with peoples of other kinds, yes; but the same is true for those who remained near the ark in the first place. With a global flood, there would thus seem to be no delta between the cultural flux experienced by out-migrants and that experienced by Mesopotamians. If your position is a local flood, however, then (iii) might make more sense as out-migrants from post-flood Mespotamia would contact undisturbed cultures with their own intact traditions.

    So it seems to me that (i) and (iii) are more to-the-point regarding a local flood. However to me the Genesis 6-8 account seems to pretty clearly refer to a global event, and most commentators agree. Perhaps its historical core is a local Mesopotamian flood, but as recorded in Genesis 6-8 this has been magnified to a universal remaking of the world. Since I don’t look for concrete historical content here, the lack of concordance of the global flood story with well-established history and science does not trouble me; but I imagine it would you.

  396. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Steve (387), I forgot to address your point (ii). Early proto-writing systems are known from China and the Indus Valley which are generally contemporaneous with the earliest Mesopotamian proto-writing. I don’t see how your point (ii) helps your case.

  397. Paul Seely said,

    April 18, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Steve (394)
    Although Enuma elish does not have a sequence of days, Davis thinks there is a sequence in the first tablet which matches the sequence in Genesis 1. On p. 11 he says, “Here again [in Enuma Elish] the substitution for the gods of the natural objects which their names signify and which they were believed to animate yields a correct chronological account of the physical development of the universe [that is, as found in Genesis 1] If you work at it you can find and see his parallels.

    Paul

  398. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 19, 2008 at 12:34 am

    #397, sounds like eisegesis to me. “If you work at it…”

  399. Paul Seely said,

    April 19, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Continuing from #393 to answer the questions asked by Reed in #384

    When Evangelicals speak of the biblical and Babylonian accounts coming down from a pure original, they generally think of them as coming down from Adam (creation) and Noah (Flood). In both cases, on a “Genesis 1-11 is literal history” basis, the accounts would come down from the Flood through the 3 sons of Noah and their descendants.

    This means that some form of the original account of creation and of the original account of the Flood would come down to all nations. One problem with this is that most creation accounts do not look very similar to Genesis 1. Many of them do not even begin with water. In fact, I don’t know of any other account that people have said looks like Genesis 1 although there are a couple that are similar because (there is evidence) they apparently were influenced by Christian missionaries telling the Genesis story. So why is it that only the Mesopotamian story has been seen as related to Gen 1? One reason, as I mentioned earlier, is that Enuma elish is just about the only creation story that tells of a splitting of the primeval ocean, It may be the only one.

    As for the two Flood accounts, there is practically unanimous agreement that the Babylonian story and only the Babylonian story is genuinely related to the Flood story in Genesis. John Bright rightly said, “No two of these [other] accounts are alike in detail, and most of them bear but the faintest resemblance to Genesis 6–9.” Kidner, similarly commented,

    The specific similarities between the Genesis story and most others are utterly outweighed by the differences, and it is only the Babylonian legend that shows any close resemblances to the story of Noah.

    Bruce Waltke likewise says,

    To be sure, stories of a great flood are found all over the world….However, no deluge accounts are so strikingly similar to the Noah account as those of ancient Mesopotamia.

    How is it that out of of all the flood accounts that exist all over the world and supposedly all came down from Noah, only the Babylonian account is genuinely comparable to the biblical account?

    Seeing there are great dissimilarities in most creation and flood accounts and really close similarities to the Biblical accounts only in the Babylonian accounts, the evidence certainly points away from the idea that all accounts came down from the same original.

    Secondly, most Evangelicals suggest that the true original accounts came down in pure form through the believing line of Seth and Shem; but the distorted Babylonian accounts came down through unbelieving lines. When you look at the biblical history, however, you find that there is no pure line of descent. As Enns points out Abraham begins as an idolater—thus a member of a corrupted line of descent. The idea that the biblical accounts came down through a pure line of descent, etc. has no evidence to support it; and such evidence as exists disproves it.

    So, is there a Mesopotamian substrate beneath the biblical accounts? Since there is no evidence the accounts came down a pure line vs a corrupted line, and in fact evidence against this theory, there is no reason to hold to that theory. On the other hand, the Flood account is first told among the Sumerians, then the Babylonians, and last of all Israel. And as mentioned above, the Mesopotamian accounts are the only ones with a really close relationship to the biblical account. So, the evidence indicates that Israel got their account from the Babylonians—albeit via divine revelation they certainly revised it theologically. As to the creation account, no one including John Davis has closely linked Genesis 1 to any other creation story besides Enuma elish. Yet there is no reason to suppose the Babylonians got their account from Israel, so probably it is the other way around. Again, the account has been revised via divine revelation.

    Next time, we will look at some important evidence, long neglected by Evangelicals including WTS that these accounts in Genesis are traditional stories that God accommodated to teach theology to the Hebrews, not pure historie; and I will also answer Gary’s question (#359).

  400. GLW Johnson said,

    April 19, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Paul S.
    Appears from the recent debate on the subject at DTS, at least according to OT professor Gordon Johnston, that a shift has taken place in the scholarly community-(that leaves me out of the discussion)-with Gen. 1-11 being derived from Egyptian mythology and not as prvieously thought Babylonian. Wonder where the next step will take us? I have a pretty good idea, but like I said , I am really nothing but a simple pastor who dabbles here an there in the fields of historical theology and church history-what do I know?

  401. Paul Seely said,

    April 19, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Gary (400),
    There is good reason to consider Egypt as a source of some concepts in Gen 1, but not 1-11. I left the following comment on an article by Johnston on the web,

    There may well be influence from Egypt upon Genesis 1; but, the dividing of the primeval waters found in Gen 1:6,7 will forever link that chapter to the Babylonian creation tradition found in Enuma Elish because the splitting of the primeval waters is found only there in ancient Near Eastern literature, and virtually only there in all the creation stories in the world. Further, the splitting of the Tehom in Genesis, which is not the normal Hebrew word for sea,is cognate with Tiamat, the name of the sea in Enuam Elish.

    It will also take a lot more than the parallel with the potter Knuhm to link Gen 2 to Egypt more than to Mesopotamia.

    It should be borne in mind that the rest of Genesis 1-11, which is a unit, reflects Mesopotamia, not Egypt, particularly in the Flood account and the Tower of Babel story. It is doubtful that Egypt even has a flood story; and it certainly does not have a tower in Babylon.

    I

  402. GLW Johnson said,

    April 20, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Paul
    Whew,you have no idea what a relief that is to me.

  403. steve hays said,

    April 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Scott Jorgenson said,

    “I am unclear whether you consider the historical flood event to have been global in extent or local. What is your position on that?”

    That’s not an easy question to answer. The temptation of a modern reader, in reading the geographical markers in the flood account, is to unconsciously translate or transfer these to his modern map of the earth.

    But the original audience didn’t have the same mental map. So it’s easy for a modern reader to overinterpret the scope of the flood.

    At the same time, the flood was clearly meant to eradicate the human race.

    “In other words, the global flood would have leveled culture, and there would be no reason to suppose that Mesopotamia would have retained the most accurate memory of the global event (despite subsequent local flooding), while remote cultures’ memory of the deluge was obscured by such subsequent local flooding.”

    i) I didn’t say that local flood traditions would obscure the memory of a global flood. What I said, rather, is that you need to establish that all these flood traditions are traditions of a global flood rather than a local flood.

    Your argument is that we have legends of a global flood from cultures all around the world, but only two of these traditions are significantly parallel. You haven’t established all these flood traditions, or even many of them, are, in fact, traditions of a global flood—in contradistinction to traditions of a local flood. Therefore, you can’t use that as a benchmark to single out the parallels between the Biblical account and its Mesopotamian counterparts.

    ii) Memory is reinforced by physical proximity to the event. Peoples who moved away from the site where the original survivors disembarked would lose that mnemonic reinforcement.

    “Out-migrants from the ark would encounter no other cultures with which to cross-pollinate and pollute their own memories of the global flood; they would be moving into empty ruins.”

    That’s simplistic since migration often takes place in successive waves of immigration, with intervals of stasis and internal development in-between.

    “Each people-group’s surroundings would eventually fill with peoples of other kinds, yes; but the same is true for those who remained near the ark in the first place.”

    You need to establish that Mesopotamia underwent the same dislocation. Were the people who stayed behind subject to the same degree of cross-cultural diffusion?

    “Early proto-writing systems are known from China and the Indus Valley which are generally contemporaneous with the earliest Mesopotamian proto-writing.”

    You’re equivocating. The question at issue is not the origin of writing, but when a particular event was committed to writing.

  404. steve hays said,

    April 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Paul Seely said,

    “Point i: the same comments could be made about your and other critics’ posts.”

    That’s because Manata and I have to present a counterbalance to your slanted sampling of the evidence.

    “And you are splitting hairs for no good reason. In both accounts a large body of water is divided into two parts, does the fact that one account says, ‘split’ and the other says, ‘divide’ make any difference to the substance?”

    Yes, it does. Here are two standard translations of what you regard as the key passage in the Enuma Elish:

    “He split her open like a mussel(?) into two (parts),” A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, 42.

    “He split her like a shellfish into two parts,” J. Pritchard, ed. The Ancient Near East, 1:35.

    The choice of the verb is tied to the mythopoetic image of splitting a body in two the way you’d split a shellfish.

    That idea is nowhere present in Gen 1:2.

    What you’ve done is to *create* a parallel rather than *find* a parallel.

    “John Davis saw this commonality of splitting the waters as evidence that the two accounts were related.”

    I don’t know why you keep plugging John Davis. This is a very antiquated piece of scholarship. It was originally published way back in 1894. Surely you don’t think his very dated monograph represents the last word in comparative Semitics.

    I think the only reason you introduced it into the discussion was as a tactical maneuver to show that Enns is operating with the tradition of Old Princeton.

    “If you want more details, read Davis or Heidel’s The Babylonian Genesis.”

    Fine. Here’s a detail from Heidel: “As far as Semitic grammar is concerned, tehom represents an older and more original formation than does Tiamat” (100).

    “Or Pope and other commentaries on Genesis.”

    Fine. Here’s what a standard commentary on Genesis (1:2) has to say:

    “Even if the etymological equivalence of tehom and Tiamat be granted, this still does not demonstrate that the biblical Creation story has a Babylonian background. For one thing, many ancients believed in a primeval watery mass out of which the orders of creation emerged, whether these ancients were the Egyptians with their concept of the god of the primeval waters—Nu—who is the source of all things, or the Greek philosopher Thales. Second, the ‘deep’ of Gen 1 is so far removed in function from the Tiamat of Enuma elish that any possible relationship is blurred beyond recognition. The ‘deep’ of Gen 1 is not personified, and in no way is it viewed as some turbulent, antagonistic force,” V. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, 110-11.

    “Strong negative arguments may be sounded regarding the linguistic relationship between Heb. tehom and Babylonian Tiamat. Much more likely is the correspondence between Heb. tehom and Ugar. thm (dual, thmtm, plural thmt), ‘deep,depth(s),” or even earlier Eblaite ti-a-matum, ‘ocean abyss’,” ibid. 111.

    “But, as far as I’m concerned, the issue is settled: kinship there is.”

    Who needs proof when you can resort to truth by stipulation! That’s a real timesaver.

    “If you work at it you can find and see his parallels.”

    The burden of proof is not on me to make your case for you.

  405. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 20, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Steve (403), if all cultures worldwide derive from Noah and thus have the Noahic Flood in their background, I can’t see that it matters whether their individual flood stories later reflect that Flood or local flood events. You say we need to establish that, but it is irrelevant. If their stories reflect the Noahic Flood, then the question becomes why they do it less “accurately” in comparison with Mesopotamian sources. But if they reflect local events, then the question becomes why the Mesopotamian stories don’t as well. In either case, the same basic question exists: why of all the world’s flood accounts do only the Mesopotamian ones bear closest resemblance to Genesis 6-8.

    And the most natural, least-question-begging answer to that, considering also the geographic and cultural proximity of Mespotamia and the Hebrews, is that they are literarily related, reflecting common local traditions, and that any common historical event behind them is not one shared by all of the world’s people. This is indeed the answer that we would apply in any other case and it is only because of prior commitment to total biblical inerrancy and historicity that we are debating this.

    Your point about geographic proximity creating memory-markers is interesting and worthy of some reflection. I wonder if there is research which supports that. But what reason is there to suppose that Mesopotamians were subject to less flux in tradition than out-migrants, considering the geographic crossroads of empire which Mesopotamia occupies? What reason is there to suppose that the Chinese and especially Vedic flood stories (committed to writing in the early- to mid-1st millenium BC at the latest – some argue for much earlier dates – and reflecting earlier oral traditions) were too late to have been able to capture the historical events of the Noahic Flood, while the ANE stories were not? Even the ANE stories are at best recorded in writing around a thousand years later than the supposed date of the Flood.

    Incidentally, radiocarbon dating demonstrates that people were scattered all over the earth long before the ~2900 BC date of the Noahic Flood. An anthropologically-universal flood at the time of Noah would have to have been a physically global flood.

    Overall, how much special-pleading is necessary? How much overthrow of established scholarship, history and science becomes required to support total historicity of Genesis 6-8, let alone the rest of Genesis 1-11? This is certainly no modest project inerrantists are engaged in when it comes to Genesis 1-11.

  406. steve hays said,

    April 20, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Scott Jorgenson said,
    April 20, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    “Steve (403), if all cultures worldwide derive from Noah and thus have the Noahic Flood in their background, I can’t see that it matters whether their individual flood stories later reflect that Flood or local flood events. You say we need to establish that, but it is irrelevant. If their stories reflect the Noahic Flood, then the question becomes why they do it less ‘accurately’ in comparison with Mesopotamian sources. But if they reflect local events, then the question becomes why the Mesopotamian stories don’t as well. In either case, the same basic question exists: why of all the world’s flood accounts do only the Mesopotamian ones bear closest resemblance to Genesis 6-8.

    i) Why might two or more flood accounts be dissimilar? One obvious explanation is that they differ because they are reporting different events (i.e. different local floods in different localities).

    ii) Why might two or more flood accounts be similar? One obviously explanation is that they resemble each other because they are reporting the same event.

    Another reason for some similarities is if they share common literary conventions.

    iii) It is, of course, possible that two or more flood accounts are similar due to some direct or indirect literary dependence. That would be the liberal explanation of Gen 6-8.

    Either a (ii) common historical source or a (iii) common literary source.

    “And the most natural, least-question-begging answer to that, considering also the geographic and cultural proximity of Mespotamia and the Hebrews, is that they are literarily related, reflecting common local traditions, and that any common historical event behind them is not one shared by all of the world’s people.”

    If you favor simplistic explanations that overlook other relevant variables.

    “This is indeed the answer that we would apply in any other case and it is only because of prior commitment to total biblical inerrancy and historicity that we are debating this.”

    And the only reason you’re debating this is because of your prior commitment to extrabiblical evidence over biblical evidence. So you have your presuppositions, and I have mine.

    But Christian presuppositions have more explanatory power than secular presuppositions. For example, evolutionary psychology has a suicidal tendency to cut its own throat.

    “But what reason is there to suppose that Mesopotamians were subject to less flux in tradition than out-migrants, considering the geographic crossroads of empire which Mesopotamia occupies?”

    At best, that objection would result in a stalemate between your explanation and mine.

    At the same time, migration is an inherently destabilizing force. After a few generations, immigrants often assimilate to the challenges of their new environment.

    “What reason is there to suppose that the Chinese and especially Vedic flood stories (committed to writing in the early- to mid-1st millenium BC at the latest – some argue for much earlier dates – and reflecting earlier oral traditions) were too late to have been able to capture the historical events of the Noahic Flood, while the ANE stories were not?”

    i) If one account committed an event to writing some 1500 years later than another, then it could well be less accurate for that reason alone.

    ii) In any case, this assumes that Chinese and Vedic accounts are reporting the same event as Genesis or Gilgamesh, rather than an unrelated, local flood.

    “Incidentally, radiocarbon dating demonstrates that people were scattered all over the earth long before the ~2900 BC date of the Noahic Flood. An anthropologically-universal flood at the time of Noah would have to have been a physically global flood.”

    Dating techniques tend to be beset by circular assumptions or extrapolations that exceed the evidence. To take one example:

    How are they calibrated? Although the equipment used to date radio-active materials has become more sophisticated through time, basic problems originally discovered by Willard Libby, inventor of the C14 dating method, still hold true. Calibrated using known dates of Egyptian tomb artifacts, it has proven somewhat accurate back to about 2000 BC. But there are problems for radio carbon dating older than 5000 BP (Before Present). Dates earlier than that cannot be calibrated since there is no historical material older than 5000 BP. Furthermore, as Libby made clear in his publication, all “dates” higher than 5000 years BP are not absolute dates, but only the measure of residual C14. Dendrochronology does not help, either, since under certain conditions trees can grow two and sometimes three rings a year. (Libby, 1965, ix, for an application to Mesopotamia, see Mallowan 1968, 7-8).

    Max Mallowan reported in Cambridge Ancient History that Early Dynastic I in Mesopotamia should begin about 2000 BC. However, C14 tests were in great opposition to this which created problems for radio carbon dating older than 4000 BP (Before Present). While developing the C14 method, W. Libby himself said:
    “The first shock Dr. Arnold and I had was that our advisors informed us that history extended back only 5000 years. We had initially thought that we would be able to get samples along the curve back to 30,000 years, put the points in, and then our work would be finished . . . We learned rather abruptly that these numbers, these ancient ages are not known; in fact, it is about the time of the first dynasty in Egypt that the last [earliest] historical date of any real certainty has been established” (Libby 1958, 531). “The larger group of scientists which question specific dates . . . are probably closer to the actual fact. That is, some radio-carbon dates do not indicate the age of the phenomena described for the samples, even though such dates represent true determinations of the quantities of radiocarbon in the samples” (Libby 1965, 144).

    http://www.ancientdays.net/flood2.htm

    “Overall, how much special-pleading is necessary? How much overthrow of established scholarship, history and science becomes required to support total historicity of Genesis 6-8, let alone the rest of Genesis 1-11? This is certainly no modest project inerrantists are engaged in when it comes to Genesis 1-11.”

    Since our exchange has been limited to Gen 6-8, your tendentious question is too vague to merit a reply.

  407. steve hays said,

    April 21, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Paul Seely said,

    “There may well be influence from Egypt upon Genesis 1; but, the dividing of the primeval waters found in Gen 1:6,7 will forever link that chapter to the Babylonian creation tradition found in Enuma Elish because the splitting of the primeval waters is found only there in ancient Near Eastern literature, and virtually only there in all the creation stories in the world. Further, the splitting of the Tehom in Genesis, which is not the normal Hebrew word for sea,is cognate with Tiamat, the name of the sea in Enuam Elish.”

    There are two basic problems with this claim:

    i) Seely is so obsessed with seeing a parallel between Gen 1 and the Enuma elish that he misses the true, intertextual parallel between the creation account and the flood account. The reason that Gen 1 accentuates the watery motif is to draw attention to the historical parallel between creation (1:2,6-10) and the reversal of creation during the flood (7:11; 8:2).

    ii) Ancient Israelites were perfectly aware of the fact that rain comes from rain clouds. Seely’s interpretation imputes to the author and his audience a primitive naïveté which is belied by Scriptural statements to the contrary:

    “Preponderantly the OT describes the process of rainfall much as we do, that is, as a concomitant of lightning, clouds, and thunder (Gen 9:14; Judg 5:4; 1 K 18:45; Isa 5:6; and even poetic passages such as Job 26:8 and Ps 77:18[Eng.17]), Hamilton, ibid. 1:123.

    “The ‘expanse’ is the visible atmosphere or sky (Gen 1:8), characterized by the layer of clouds that contain the water above it (1:7; Ps 148:4). The older translation, ‘firmament,’ gives a false impression of the nature of the expanse. Phrases such as ‘hard as a mirror’ (Job 37:18) and ‘like a canopy’ (Isa 40:22) are merely highly picturesque ways of describing it,” R. Youngblood, The Book of Genesis (2nd ed.), 29.

  408. steve hays said,

    April 21, 2008 at 9:50 am

    From Vern Poythress:

    Skeptical readers of the Bible have sometimes tried to force a technical meaning onto Genesis 1. They have ascribed to the Bible an erroneous, primitive “science.” For example, some have claimed that the Bible teaches that rainwater is held in check by a solid barrier of sky. The water comes down from heaven when God opens “the windows of the heavens,” which are conceived of as solid plates that he moves aside. But the ancients knew well enough that rain came from clouds:

    . . . the heavens dropped,

    yes, the clouds dropped water (Judg. 5:4).

    The clouds poured out water; . . . (Ps. 77:17).

    . . . the clouds that bring the spring rain (Prov. 16:15).

    If the clouds are full of rain,

    they empty themselves on the earth, . . . (Eccles. 11:3).

    I will also command the clouds

    that they rain no rain upon it (Isa. 5:6).

    In 1 Kings 18:44 Elijah’s servant sees “a little cloud like a man’s hand,” indicating the coming of rain.

    The whole language about windows (Gen. 7:11; 8:2) is a colorful metaphor, as one sees from the fact that in Malachi 3:10 God opens “the windows of heaven” to pour down a blessing. In 2 Kings 7:2 the captain postulates that the Lord would “make windows in heaven” to supply grain. Literally understood, this is inconsistent with the windows already being there to provide rain! Such language does not provide a quasi-scientific theory but a colorful picture. Some time ago I myself heard an acquaintance (not a Bible scholar) describing an experience in which, as he said, “the heavens were opened” and a strong downpour descended.

    With this in mind, we may go back to the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 7–8. At the start of Noah’s flood, Genesis 7:11-12 says that “the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” Even though people knew that rain came from clouds, they did not necessarily know what supplied the clouds with water. And the amount of water that fell during Noah’s flood was truly remarkable. It is therefore pictured as being like someone who opens a hole in a ceiling and pours down bucketfuls. Later on, in Genesis 8:2, “the windows of the heavens were closed,” terminating the downpour. The second part of the verse explains the same thing without using the picture of windows: “the rain from the heavens was restrained.”

    We can receive further illumination by asking what are these “heavens” to which Genesis refers? In Genesis 1:6 God made “an expanse” (KJV “firmament”) and then called it “Heaven” (1:8). (The words heavens and heaven in English translate the same Hebrew word, shamayim.) Later on, in verse 15, the heavenly lights are “in the expanse of the heavens” (Hebrew shamayim). That is, they are in the sky. The word for “heaven” in Hebrew can denote the sky (as it does in Gen. 1:15; see also Gen. 15:5). It is the location from which rain comes (as in Gen. 8:2). The land of Canaan “drinks water by the rain from heaven” (Deut. 11:11). If God is angry, he will “shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain” (Deut. 11:17). In blessing, “The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season . . .” (Deut. 28:12). See also 2 Samuel 21:10; 1 Kings 8:35; Psalm 104:13; Isaiah 55:10; and Jeremiah 10:13.

    The same word for “heaven” can also denote the invisible heaven where God is surrounded by angels: “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel . . .” (Deut. 26:15). “Listen in heaven your dwelling place” (1 Kings 8:30). But in Genesis 1:15 it refers to the sky, and it is natural to take the earlier reference in Genesis 1:8 the same way. The waters below eventually come together to form “Seas” (Gen. 1:10). The “waters above the heavens” are then the source of rain, as they are in Noah’s flood and in the passages in Deuteronomy and elsewhere. No technical scientific explanation is being provided.

    In fact, in God’s speech to Job he points out that Job does not know the mysteries about rain, snow, and hail (Job 38:22, 25-30). Making “the waters above the heavens” into technical language flies in the face of God’s own statements about the limitations in ancient knowledge. The Bible is describing what an ordinary person could observe about the sky overhead and the rain coming down.

    Sometimes it is said that the language in the Bible arises against the background of ancient “cosmology” that postulated underlying waters, then solid earth, then a solid “firmament” dome for the sky, then the sea above the firmament (Paul H. Seely, “The Firmament and the Water Above. Part I: The Meaning of raqia‘ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 53 [1991]: 227-240; Seely, “The Firmament and the Water Above. Part II: The Meaning of ‘The Water Above the Firmament’ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 54/1 [1992]: 31-46; Seely, “The Geographical Meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59 [1997]: 231-255; Seely, “Noah’s Flood: Its Date, Extent, and Divine Accommodation,” Westminster Theological Journal 66 [2004]: 291-311).

    For one thing, the ancient Near East did not have one unified “ancient cosmology” but several accounts—Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hittite—contradicting one another at points but nevertheless with some similarities. Genesis 1, as we have observed, does show some similarities to these accounts, but it repudiates the pagan accounts in favor of a monotheistic alternative.

    Now, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that from these mixed pagan accounts we can distill a core of assumptions that were also shared by ancient Hebrews. The Bible nevertheless describes things that Hebrews (and eventually other readers) could see for themselves. To suppose that the text teaches detailed technical cosmological views is to confuse the text with the totality of what its readers may have believed.

    Moreover, a modern cosmological interpretation of the ancient accounts may sometimes impose on the texts a preoccupation with physicalism that does not belong to this kind of literature within the ancient cultural milieu. For example, the idea that the firmament is literally solid is disconfirmed by the statement in Genesis 1:17 that God set the lights “in the expanse [firmament] of the heavens.” If the lights in heaven were literally embedded in a solid, they could not move in the way that they obviously do. Perhaps some ancient people could see the obvious, as well as be skeptical about alleged physicalistic implications of pagan cosmogonic stories.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/Poythress_books/NAllPoythressRedeemingScience20061017.pdf

  409. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Steve (406), if I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the world’s flood accounts are so different from the Mesopotamian and Genesis accounts because they are related neither as common history nor as common story/tradition. Rather they are simply unrelated. And the reason the Mesopotamian and Genesis accounts are comparatively similar to one another is because they are related, either as common history (your preferred explanation) or common story/tradition (the liberal explanation, to use your words).

    Well, if that’s your view, then I’m a little befuddled about what it was we were talking about, because that’s what I think is most likely myself. I admit there could be a physically and anthropologically local, historical core common to both Genesis 6-8 and the Mesopotamian accounts – I see no reason to insist the accounts are purely legendary – so perhaps we just disagree on the degree of historicity to assign the accounts.

    But perhaps that is not your view, because you also suggested (unless I misread you) that while the flood may not have been physically global, it was at least anthropologically universal. If that’s so, then I’m again puzzled: how can one say it is in everyone’s background, and then fail to be puzzled at why none of the rest of the world’s flood stories reflect it as well? How can it be said, as I believe you did, that all the rest of the world’s accounts aren’t referring to the Noahic Flood but instead are referring to purely local stories or events, and yet something coincidentally happened in the ANE to keep their stories anchored to the Noahic Flood rather than be likewise diluted? In response to that, I noted some speculative ideas from you about Mesopotamians having more physical reminders (interesting), less cultural osmosis (quite unlikely I would think, considering the centrality of the Fertile Crescent in history), and a quicker commitment to writing (yet still a thousand years or more after the Flood, plenty of time for the ANE memory to disintegrate as much as the rest of the world’s I would think). If you know of any mainstream scholars not fully pre-attached to total biblical historicity and inerrancy who are convinced by this, please let me know. I don’t.

    As for radiocarbon dating: if you wish, you may see our own Paul Seely’s WTJ paper on the Tower of Babel for a concise summary of the state of the art. Actually, you may refer to any non-fundamentalist-apologetic resource on the subject. You are misinformed by about 40 years. Beginning in the 1970’s (after Libby and your other sources made the remarks they did) radiocarbon dates were calibrated from numerous natural sources, most particularly tree rings, ice layers and varves (lake or bog sediment layers). Contrary to your statement, dendrochronology does help immensely in this calibration, and dendrochronologists today would be astonished at the claim that they cannot control for multiple growth rings per annum (by choice of species and growing environment, close examination of ring structure and density, anchoring to known historic events like major volcanic eruptions, and sampling from multiple locales not subject to the same weather). We know these control techniques work, because when applied to independent sources (eg bristlecone pines in North America, and oaks in Europe) and known historical events, they cross-check within reasonable error bands consistently.

    For an example of this cross-checking and common convergence, see this article where the anchoring historical event is the eruption of the Greek volcano Thera in the middle of the 2nd millenium BC: http://www.arts.cornell.edu/dendro/thera.html. In fact, Gerald Aardsma (who to my knowledge is the only young-earth creationist dendrochronologist) accepts calibrated radiocarbon dating. He accordingly adjusts his dates for a physically-global flood back to before the calibrated sequence (well over 12,000 years before present). I don’t know how he then fits such a physically-global flood into the avalanche of other contrary evidence, but to me it is telling that where he is within his expert field, he yields. You can read his brief and readable summary of the situation here: http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/answers/c14_treerings.php. Bear in mind that he is still an inerrantist and young-earth creationist, hardly in the “liberal” camp and perhaps more “conservative” than even yourself.

    Anyway, it seems to me that there is a troubling pattern here. First we begin with archaeology and comparative literature, which suggest that Genesis 6-8 is not historically inerrant but instead dependent (along with Atrahasis and Gilgamesh) on common Mesopotamian traditions (perhaps with a historical core, perhaps not). To deny this, we must plead-away that conclusion by appealing to speculations about local landmarks serving as physical reminders and what-not. But next (at least, if we are going to uphold at least the anthropological universality of the Flood) along comes the science of radiocarbon dating, which again suggests the same thing: that Genesis 6-8 is not historically inerrant (in at least that respect, because people were spread all over the world by the ostensible time of the Flood). So now it is the accuracy and validity of radiocarbon dating which we must second-guess and deny. Finally, along comes dendrochronology (and similar sciences applied to ice cores and varves) which both calibrate radiocarbon dating and uphold its validity, and thus once again suggests that Genesis 6-8 is not historically inerrant. So once again we are forced into action against a well-established field, this time dendrochronology.

    Notice how we are necessarily drifting further and further afield, opening more and more fronts in the battle, because everything in the standard, mainstream scenario is interlinked and points to the same conclusion. And notice how we must appeal to a different, unrelated, set of hypotheses in each case, in order to undermine archaeology, comparative literature, radiocarbon science, and dendrochronology – none of which appeals entail and thereby reinforce the other. This is simply ad-hoc and Enns does well to decry this kind of thing in his book. It is not scholarship; IMHO it is lawyering of the kind that convinced the jury that OJ Simpson was not guilty. I’m sorry, but there it is.

    I apologize for the length of this posting, and appreciate everyone for reading and especially Steve for his attention and engagement. I’m not sure anyone other than Paul Seely, Steve Hayes and myself are still reading this thread or care, so I’m going to wind down now. If Steve would like to ask me one more set of questions, I’ll try to answer and then let him have the last word.

  410. steve hays said,

    April 21, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Scott Jorgenson said,

    “Steve (406), if I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the world’s flood accounts are so different from the Mesopotamian and Genesis accounts because they are related neither as common history nor as common story/tradition. Rather they are simply unrelated.”

    I haven’t taken a position on that. I’m simply answering you on your own grounds. To judge by your repeated reaction, that’s a novel experience for you.

    This is how it works. You cited various flood accounts from around the world as a frame of reference. I merely pointed out that your comparison was based on certain assumptions which you need to validate for your comparison to be cogent. For some reason, that elementary point of logic leaves you flummoxed.

    “If that’s so, then I’m again puzzled: how can one say it is in everyone’s background, and then fail to be puzzled at why none of the rest of the world’s flood stories reflect it as well?”

    I didn’t say if they do or don’t. I merely pointed out that many cultures have flood accounts because the cultures in question reside on flood plains. These are probably dissimilar because they describe dissimilar events.

    Hence, for your comparison to work, you would need to separate out the flood accounts which share a common historical referent from those that describe local, geographically isolated events.

    “How can it be said, as I believe you did, that all the rest of the world’s accounts aren’t referring to the Noahic Flood but instead are referring to purely local stories or events.”

    I didn’t commit myself to that position. I’m answering you on your own grounds. You’re comparison is predicated on certain assumptions which you need to validate. One obvious way of accounting for different descriptions is if, in fact, they describe different events—just as one obvious way of accounting for similar descriptions is if they describe the same event.

    “And yet something coincidentally happened in the ANE to keep their stories anchored to the Noahic Flood rather than be likewise diluted?”

    Of course, that’s a deliberate misrepresentation of what I said. I didn’t attribute the commonality to “coincidence.”

    “In response to that, I noted some speculative ideas from you.”

    Once again, I’m responding to you on your own grounds. You’re whole argument is speculative. It is predicated on the speculative assumption that all these flood accounts ought to be more-or-less parallel since they ought to be denoting the same (global) event.

    “Mesopotamians having more physical reminders (interesting).”

    Why you think that’s “speculative,” you don’t explain. Living in physical proximity to an event (in this case, where the survivors of the flood disembarked) can be reminder of the event.

    Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks the gov’t should award research grants to sociologists to study commonplace things which everyone already knows to be the case, such as double-bind experiments to see if men have a predilection for blond bombshells.

    “Less cultural osmosis (quite unlikely I would think, considering the centrality of the Fertile Crescent in history)”

    Why is that unlikely? France is a cultural crossroads. Yet French immigrants to America quickly assimilate to the dominate culture. They are less “French” than their French forebears, who remained in the homeland.

    In any case, I’m simply pointing out that your comparison is predicated on questionable assumptions.

    “And a quicker commitment to writing (yet still a thousand years or more after the Flood, plenty of time for the ANE memory to disintegrate as much as the rest of the world’s I would think).”

    You suffer from a serious inability to follow your opponent’s argument. I didn’t state this as a fact. Rather, I made the commonsense observation that the sooner an event is committed to writing, the more likely the account is to be historically accurate. Therefore, when you compare flood account A to account B to account C and so on and so forth, you need to make allowance for that differential factor.

    “If you know of any mainstream scholars not fully pre-attached to total biblical historicity and inerrancy who are convinced by this, please let me know. I don’t.”

    I don’t share your bigoted and viciously circular dismissal of anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

    “Actually, you may refer to any non-fundamentalist-apologetic resource on the subject.”

    i) Once again, I don’t share your bigoted and viciously circular dismissal of anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

    ii) But, to answer you on your own grounds, Richard Milton (Shattering the Myths of Darwinism, 2nd ed.) is an agnostic scientist who challenges conventional dating schemes.

    “Contrary to your statement…”

    This isn’t *my* statement. If you paid attention, you would see that I was quoting David Livingston, who was quoting other sources. Follow the link.

    “Anyway, it seems to me that there is a troubling pattern here. First we begin with archaeology and comparative literature, which suggest that Genesis 6-8 is not historically inerrant but instead dependent (along with Atrahasis and Gilgamesh) on common Mesopotamian traditions (perhaps with a historical core, perhaps not). To deny this, we must plead-away that conclusion by appealing to speculations about local landmarks serving as physical reminders and what-not.”

    David Livingston is an archeologist. So is John Currid, whom I also quoted. I could cite others, who disagree with Seely, such as Alfred Hoerth, Director Emeritus of archaeology at Wheaton.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted a number of top scholars in the field of comparative Semitics in support of my position. (So has Manata.)

    For you to insinuate that you have a monopoly archaeology and comparative literature is patently false given the documentation to the contrary which I’ve been providing.

    “But next (at least, if we are going to uphold at least the anthropological universality of the Flood) along comes the science of radiocarbon dating, which again suggests the same thing: that Genesis 6-8 is not historically inerrant (in at least that respect, because people were spread all over the world by the ostensible time of the Flood). So now it is the accuracy and validity of radiocarbon dating which we must second-guess and deny.”

    Once again, I’m merely answering you on your own grounds. Anyone can go to a YEC site like creationscience.com, answersingenesis.org, or icr.org and do a search of dendrochronology, ice-core dating, C-14 dating, and radiometric dating. Kurt Wise has also criticized conventional dating methods in print.

    Remember, you brought this up, not me. Speaking for myself, since I’m a temporal metrical conventionalist, I don’t think that natural objects have any intrinsic age to begin with, so my own position tends to transcend this entire debate.

    One other point: a tree is not a clock. It wasn’t designed to tell us the time.

    Now, I have no objection to our trying to redeploy natural processes for chronometric information. But that’s a purely human, secondary application—like using the nose as a platform for a pair of glasses.

    Let’s not confuse the nature of our application with the nature of the object. And let’s not assume that natural objects must conform to our expectations when we put them to a use which has absolutely nothing to do with their actual function.

    “This is simply ad-hoc and Enns does well to decry this kind of thing in his book. It is not scholarship; IMHO it is lawyering of the kind that convinced the jury that OJ Simpson was not guilty. I’m sorry, but there it is.”

    That’s a very ironic criticism considering the fact that your own center-left theology is an ad hoc intellectual compromise. You only believe the parts of the Bible that happen to be believable to you, which may vary from one year to the next.

  411. Paul Seely said,

    April 22, 2008 at 1:22 am

    steve hays (407, 408)

    Pt i Genesis’ intertextual parallel of the split waters with the flood account in no way refutes the fact observed by John Davis that in both Gen 1 and Enuma Elish, there is “an abyss of waters shrouded in darkness and subsequently parted in twain in order to the formation of heaven and earth” Nor do any discoveries since his day in Semitics or any other area refute his observation. The same observation has been made by modern scholars including WG Lambert a leading modern Semitics scholar.

    You spent a lot of time citing Poythress to the effect that OT shows the Hebrews believed rain comes from clouds. That is common knowledge; and I never said anything against it. Further, the fact the OT desribes a sea above the firmament does not mean the Hebrews did not believe rain comes from clouds. The rabbi’s said the clouds go up to the firmament to get the water they carry and then dump as rain. There is no necessary conflict between the solidity of the firmament and fact that the clouds dump rain.
    Poythress says, For one thing, the ancient Near East did not have one unified “ancient cosmology” but several accounts—Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hittite—contradicting one another at points but nevertheless with some similarities.
    Yes , and one similarity is that all of them believed the sky was solid, as I documented in my paper on the firmament.

    Poythress continues, For example, the idea that the firmament is literally solid is disconfirmed by the statement in Genesis 1:17 that God set the lights “in the expanse [firmament] of the heavens.” If the lights in heaven were literally embedded in a solid, they could not move in the way that they obviously do.

    He is assuming that the words, “in the firmament” necessarily imply embedded in the firmament. This is a false assumption since the cup “in Pharaoh’s hand” (Gen 40:13) was not embedded in his hand, hence his conclusion is fallacious.

    Gary, I apolgize for taking time to answer hay’s attempts to obscure the Bible in order to save a fundamentalist view of inerrancy, but I am trying to get to your question as fast as I can.

  412. GLW Johnson said,

    April 22, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Paul
    If holding to the doctrine of inerrancy as formulated and defended by Warfield makes one a ‘Fundamentalist’ than so be it.

  413. steve hays said,

    April 22, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Paul Seely said,

    “Pt i Genesis’ intertextual parallel of the split waters with the flood account in no way refutes the fact observed by John Davis that in both Gen 1 and Enuma Elish, there is “an abyss of waters shrouded in darkness and subsequently parted in twain in order to the formation of heaven and earth’.”

    i) The Enuma Elish doesn’t speak of primeval darkness.

    ii) Anyway, you’re missing the point. Gen 1:2 doesn’t require an extratextual explanation, for an intertextual explanation is close at hand.

    Your procedure is to arbitrarily isolate Gen 1:2 from other parallels within Gen 1 (i.e. other examples of creation by division), as well as between Gen 1 and Gen 6-8. Having thus artificially narrowed the frame of reference, you claim that the only way to account for Gen 1:2 is through literary dependence on some extratextual source.

    But separation is a recurrent motif in Gen 1. And, as Wenham points out, the literary and theological function of this motif is to foreshadow the distinction between ritual purity and impurity.

    It has a completely different function than the myth of Tiamat. You keep superimposing that extraneous grid on Gen 1 in defiance of its internal structure and intertextual parallels.

    “There is no necessary conflict between the solidity of the firmament and fact that the clouds dump rain.”

    To the contrary, these are two very different ways of depicting rainfall. In one case, rain comes from visible clouds—in the other case it comes from an invisible sea above the firmament, channeled through sluice gates. They involve two very different models of the world.

    “Yes , and one similarity is that all of them believed the sky was solid, as I documented in my paper on the firmament.”

    Actually, the OT uses different, literally incompatible metaphors for the sky. It’s a solid dome. A tent. A scroll.

    “He is assuming that the words, “in the firmament” necessarily imply embedded in the firmament. This is a false assumption since the cup ‘in Pharaoh’s hand’ (Gen 40:13) was not embedded in his hand, hence his conclusion is fallacious.”

    That comparison reinforces his argument, not yours. A cup doesn’t move itself. It moves by moving the hand in which it is held.

    “Gary, I apolgize for taking time to answer hay’s attempts to obscure the Bible in order to save a fundamentalist view of inerrancy.”

    It obscures the Bible to deny that Gen 1 is a bowdlerized version of a pagan myth?

  414. steve hays said,

    April 22, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Put another way, for the cup to move, the hand must move the cup. So even if the celestial bodies are in the solid sky the way a cup is in a hand, the celestial bodies couldn’t move unless the sky rotated.

  415. steve hays said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Paul Seely said,

    “Gary, I apolgize for taking time to answer hay’s attempts to obscure the Bible in order to save a fundamentalist view of inerrancy.”

    That’s a wonderfully ignorant statement on Seely’s part. One doesn’t need to be a “fundamentalist” or inerrantist to reject trumped up comparisons between Gen 1 and the Enuma Elish. As Stanley Jaki observes,

    “Rather willful should seem interpretations of ancient ‘creation’ stories, where they are raised to the status of cosmogonies. They invariably contain far less than what is read into them time and again…One wonders whether anyone, wholly unfamiliar with Genesis 1, could have ever summarized in such a way the contents of Tablets IV and V which alone deal with the ‘creation’ of the world in Enuma elish,” Genesis 1 Through the Ages (Thomas More Press, 1992, 17-18.

  416. Paul Seely said,

    April 22, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Gary (359) You said, Exactly what is gained by elevating ‘myths’ or ‘legends’ -the same thing Barth and Childs prefer to label ’saga’, the end result is the same these are ’stories that are maded up’-to the staus of being ‘inspired’ and even ‘inerrant’? Futhermore , this approach can hardly claim to be in keeping with the Old Princeton tradition with its emphatic emphasis on the historicity of the Scripture. Do you actually think a Warfield or a Machen would look kindly on this?

    First of all, “ALL Scripture is inspired” Therefore if myths or legends are included in Scripture, they are inspired. In the case of Gen 1-11, I would say Gen 1 and 6-8. as the examples Enns uses, are ancient traditions which Israel accepted as historical but revised the theology. They were appropriately accommodated by God because (1) they were accepted as valid before Moses incorporated them—just like the custom that a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever; and (2) it would have caused stumbling and rejection of the theological correction Moses incorporated if they had been changed to reflect our views (of science and history) as to what ought to have been said—just as was the case with the custom of easy divorce. The absolute truth about the creation/Flood just as the absolute truth about divorce simply could not be told to a rude and ignorant people. Enns is then in line with Old Princeton as it followed Calvin and Jesus in allowing inspiration to include accommodated views that were not entirely consistent with God’s perfect knowledge.

    The theological principles accepted by Old Princeton and Machen, if informed by a modern knowledge of the ANE and of science, would, if applied consistently, lead to classifying the stories in Genesis 1-11 as accommodated stories, and hence in no way inimical to Enns’ position.

    Old Princeton accepted the facts of science, most notably in their day, the facts of geology, as authoritative; and since, they believed that the Bible would always agree with the facts of science, they very logically concluded that the Bible should be interpreted in the light of the facts of science. Hodge, accordingly, admitted that if one only considered the word “day” in Gen 1 “it would be most natural to understand the word in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.” (Syst I:570-1) He goes on to accept the day-age theory, and praise it as a means of harmonizing science and the Bible. John Davis (pp 15 ff), similarly, accepts the day-age theory, along with the framework hypothesis, as a valid way of harmonizing Gen 1 and science.

    Warfield apparently accepted the day-age theory also; and when interpreting the account of Adam (The Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race), he was willing to push Adam back even 20,000 years if geology required it. Most tellingly he says of Gen 1, “We do not simply admit, on the contrary, we affirm that in every sphere the observed fact may throw a broad and most helpful light upon the written text. It is so in the narrative of creation in the first chapter of Genesis; which is only beginning to be adequately understood as science is making her first steps in reading the records of God’s creative hand in the structure of the world itself.” (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p. 206).

    Warfield was waiting for science to make clear the meaning of Gen 1, and presumably of the Flood and the rest of Gen 1-11 as well.

    Well, today science has made it clear. At the time of Old Princeton, it may not have been a breach of the knowledge of geology to say that Gen 1 could be harmonized via the day-age theory or that Adam could not be dated except by the genealogies and they could be stretched 20,000 years, or that the Flood account could be harmonized via a local Flood theory. Today, however, if we give to science the same respect as did Hodge and Warfield and apply our knowledge of science to Gen 1-11, science makes it clear that none of those old harmonizations hold water. So far are the scientific facts from agreeing with Gen 1-11, “Creation science” has invented its own private science to agree with Genesis; and WTS can barely speak of science at all without emphasizing the noetic effects of sin (on scientists, not themselves). If we follow Hodge and Warfield by interpreting Gen 1 and 6-8 in the light of modern science including what we know of the ANE, two things are evident: These chapters do not agree with modern science, but they do agree with the worldview of the times.

    What about “the self-attestation” of Scripture? It includes the teaching of Jesus that inspired Scripture can incorporate by way of accommodation material which, as Ned Stonehouse (commenting on the divorce law) said is, “Not a commandment dictated by the nature of God and his righteousness…” Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1944) 205.

    Applying all of this to Enns’ statements, we conclude that his “myth” is an inspired accommodation, and the principles of Old Princeton demand this conclusion. How else, for example, could you interpret the Flood account in the light of the scientific facts, which at this point in history falsify it, except by regarding it as an accommodation to the views of the times? Yes, you could appeal to the bogus science of creation science, you could twist the daylights out of the Bible and make it agree with some of the scientific facts, and you could play turtle: Inside my shell of faith there is no problem. But, where is the answer that can accept ALL the facts with the kind of intellectual integrity that was part of Old Princeton’s vision?

    Enns’ views are a logical extension of the principles of Old Princeton. The question which now must be seriously asked is, Are the views of his critics true to the principles of Old Princeton? Are they willing to face and incorporate ALL of the facts, including those from science and the ancient Near East as Old Princeton was willing to do?

  417. steve hays said,

    April 23, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Paul Seely said,

    “First of all, ‘ALL Scripture is inspired’ Therefore if myths or legends are included in Scripture, they are inspired.”

    In a perfunctory show of mock piety, Seely prefaces his explanation with a face-saving appeal to 2 Tim 3:16. But he then extends this to myths or legends. Yet myths and legends are falsehoods. So, his position reduces to saying that God inspires falsehoods. Scripture teaches inspired falsehoods.

    I’m not entirely clear on the difference between inspired falsehoods and uninspired falsehoods.

    “In the case of Gen 1-11, I would say Gen 1 and 6-8. as the examples Enns uses, are ancient traditions which Israel accepted as historical but revised the theology.”

    So the Bible writers sincerely believed that these stories were historical. The Bible writers intended to teach history, but we know better.

    “They were appropriately accommodated by God because (1) they were accepted as valid before Moses incorporated them—just like the custom that a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever.”

    i) Seely likes to lean on this example. But his appeal suffers from a fatal equivocation. The Mosaic divorce law is not an accommodation to falsehood. The divorce law doesn’t assert something to be true which is really false. It doesn’t assert something to be a moral absolute which is actually immoral.

    ii) To know what falsehoods God accommodated in Scripture, Seely would have to enjoy direct access to the mind of God outside of Scripture. He would need to know God’s ulterior intent apart from Scripture. What is Seely’s source of information? Is God telling him which Scriptural assertions are true, and which Scriptural assertions are accommodated errors?

    “And (2) it would have caused stumbling and rejection of the theological correction Moses incorporated if they had been changed to reflect our views (of science and history) as to what ought to have been said—just as was the case with the custom of easy divorce. The absolute truth about the creation/Flood just as the absolute truth about divorce simply could not be told to a rude and ignorant people.”

    So Seely adopts a double truth theory. In the pulpit, preaching to the rude and ignorant masses, he speaks as if these myths and legends are true. But in the privacy of his study, he believes them to be false.

    “Well, today science has made it clear. At the time of Old Princeton, it may not have been a breach of the knowledge of geology to say that Gen 1 could be harmonized via the day-age theory or that Adam could not be dated except by the genealogies and they could be stretched 20,000 years, or that the Flood account could be harmonized via a local Flood theory. Today, however, if we give to science the same respect as did Hodge and Warfield and apply our knowledge of science to Gen 1-11, science makes it clear that none of those old harmonizations hold water. So far are the scientific facts from agreeing with Gen 1-11, ‘Creation science’ has invented its own private science to agree with Genesis; and WTS can barely speak of science at all without emphasizing the noetic effects of sin (on scientists, not themselves). If we follow Hodge and Warfield by interpreting Gen 1 and 6-8 in the light of modern science including what we know of the ANE, two things are evident: These chapters do not agree with modern science, but they do agree with the worldview of the times.”

    For Seely, a commentator must submit his commentary to The Ad Hoc Committee On Facts. Since, by Seely’s own admission, the facts change from one generation to the next, a commentator doesn’t know in advance which interpretation is the factual interpretation.

    Hence, if a commentator is prudent, he will want to have a fallback option in case The Ad Hoc Committee On Facts overrules his interpretation. So the prudent commentator will submit a draft copy with multiple-choice interpretations, such as:

    1.The Young-earth interpretation of Gen 1.
    2.The Old-earth interpretation of Gen 1.
    3.The Theistic Evolutionary interpretation of Gen 1.
    4.The Demythological interpretation of Gen 1.
    5.The Mythological interpretation of Gen 1.

    1.The Resurrection narratives are inerrant stories.
    2.The Resurrection narratives are errant stories.
    3.The Resurrection narratives are legendary stories.
    4.The Resurrection narratives are mythical stories.

    1.Jesus is the omniscient Son of God.
    2.Jesus is the kenotic Son of God.
    3.Jesus was a Cynic philosopher.
    4.Jesus was a psychic.
    5.Jesus was a space alien.
    6.Jesus never existed.

    The far-sighted commentator has a scripted series of rotating interpretations for every contingency. That way, he can whip out whichever interpretation falls in line with the fashionable facts of the day.

    If The Ad Hoc Committee On Facts says that miracles represent a throwback to an antiquated and superstitious worldview, he can reinterpret the miracles of Jesus as accommodated errors.

    If The Ad Hoc Committee On Facts says that Paul’s views on sex and gender are unscientific, he can consign that bit of Pauline teaching to accommodated error.

    If The Ad Hoc Committee On Facts says the Parousia reflects an obsolete, triple-decker view of the universe, then he can relegate the Second Coming of Christ to accommodated error.

    An ambidextrous commentator should be able to tailor a suitable interpretation for every eventuality.

    “Applying all of this to Enns’ statements, we conclude that his ‘myth’ is an inspired accommodation, and the principles of Old Princeton demand this conclusion.”

    Notice that this has nothing to do with what God demands, or Scripture demands. Like a good defense attorney, Seely knows how to game the system. You treat tradition as case law. As long as you’re able to find a precedent somewhere in your tradition, you can then get your client off on a technicality.
    For folks like Seely, God has ceased to be a living reality. It’s just a case of learning how to work the system. Knowing where to find the escape-clauses in the contract.

    “How else, for example, could you interpret the Flood account in the light of the scientific facts, which at this point in history falsify it, except by regarding it as an accommodation to the views of the times?”

    How does Seely’s methodology different from that of John Spong or Rudolf Bultmann? We must save the Bible from itself. Man has come of age. Our task is to make Christianity relevant to modern man.
    “You could play turtle: Inside my shell of faith there is no problem.”

    Doesn’t Seely play turtle? Isn’t he arbitrarily selective about what parts of the Bible he credits?

    But, where is the answer that can accept ALL the facts…Are they willing to face and incorporate ALL of the facts.”

    I don’t have any problem with accepting all the “facts,” although something is not a fact just because Seely says so. He is very selective in his appeal to the facts. And his philosophy of science is puerile.

    And the one little fact he leaves out of his grand synthesis is the fact that God has spoken.

  418. Paul Seely said,

    April 24, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Having laid out the basic reasons for understanding Gen 1 and 6-8 as accommodations, let me lay out more concretely why we know they are accommodations.

    Professor John Davis of Old Princeton made an important point in his paper on Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish, namely that when you separate the gods from the parts of nature that they ruled, you have a statement about natural parts of the universe. Tiamat and Apsu, for example, are deities of the primeval sea, and in Enuma Elish they are parallel both in content (DeepSea)and in chronology (prior to making heaven and earth) to the primeval sea in Gen 1. Davis also cites a Sumerian text about Gur (which refers to Deep water) and is called, the mother of heaven and earth, as also being parallel to the primeval sea in Gen 1 (pp. 9, 10). He also makes this important comment, “A similar doctrine permeates the native literature.” Given this permeation, it should not be surprising that the Hebrews would accept the idea of a primeval sea preceding the making of heaven and earth, just as we find in Gen 1:2. This is not the acceptance of mythology per se because when the gods are removed, as they are in Gen 1, the myth is removed. But the underlying concept of a primeval sea preceding the making of heaven and earth, a concept, that is no more mythological than many a modern cosmological theory, remains.

    But, this leaves the question, Is the primeval sea in Gen 1:2 a revelation from God of what actually happened, or a divine accommodation of a pre-existing cultural concept? The question cannot be answered by Scripture any more than the question of the solidity of the sky or the relative sizes of the heavenly bodies can be answered by Scripture (see post 393). It has generally been assumed by conservatives that if God inspires a narrative that ostensibly sets forth history, it must be true literal history. This assumption is understandable, but it is a completely human assumption, and it bypasses the biblical and Reformed doctrine of inspiration, which includes the possibility of accommodation. And since the concept of a primeval sea certainly existed in the ancient Near East before Moses or even Abraham, this concept in Gen 1:2 is a perfect candidate for being an accommodation.

    As we have seen (post 393), one basis upon which a reformed scholar recognizes accommodation is extra-biblical knowledge of science. In the case of Gen 1:2, the words of Calvin on Gen 1:6 are most apropos: ”He who would learn astronomy, …let him go elsewhere” i.e. consult the astronomers. If we do consult the astronomers regarding a primeval sea prior to the appearance of the dry earth (Gen 1:9, 10), we learn that when the earth first condensed with a crust out of the nebula, it was not only dry but so hot no water of any kind could exist upon it, much less a Deep Sea. The biblical account in Gen 1:2 is diametrically opposed to modern scientific knowledge. Because of the clear parallel of Gen 1:2 with the ANE concept of a primeval sea (as per John Davis), and the knowledge that Gen 1:2 is not in agreement with modern astronomy, we are led to conclude that Gen 1:2, therefore, is not literal history, but an accommodation to an ANE concept. Now I realize a number of questions can be asked at this point in an attempt to refute my conclusion, but as one goes on in Genesis 1 to learn more about this Deep Sea that covered the earth in Gen 1:2, it becomes so clear that God is accommodating ANE ideas, that no serious question about that fact can remain.

    I mean, we learn in Gen 1:6,7 that God made a solid sky and used it to divide the primeval waters, the Deep Sea, into two parts. A solid sky has no place in modern astronomy but like the primeval sea is a common ANE concept. So, again we have here an accommodation. The dividing of the Deep Sea (Tehom) is, as John Davis and Lambert observed, parallel to the dividing of the Sea (Tiamat) in Enuma Elish, so the act of dividing the Sea is also an ancient ANE concept, which astronomers and geologists will tell you has no place in modern astronomy or geology and hence this dividing of the Sea is properly understood as a divine accommodation: God talking to his children in the concepts they believed in.

    Having split the primeval sea in twain with half above the firmament, and half below, God goes on (Gen 1:9) to gather the lower waters together into seas (the earthly ocean) and have the dry land (the earth, 1:10) appear out of the surrounding sea. This method of making the sea reminds us of Enuma Elish; and the scenario fits nicely into ANE concepts. On the other hand, it is a million miles from modern science. Modern science is, admittedly, still asking how exactly did the oceans form: from outgassing of volcanoes, ice ferried in on meteorites, or how? But, there is no way astronomers and geologists are going to entertain much less accept the idea that the ocean was here all along and just needed to have half lifted up above the farthest stars in order to leave half below as our ocean. No, this is not divinely revealed history, it is a continuation of God’s divine accommodation to the Hebrews.

    And, as if this whole scenario is not obviously ANE and completely out of accord with the findings of modern science, one must add into the picture the upper waters being placed “above the firmament” with the sun, moon and stars later being placed “in (and hence under) the firmament” (Gen 1:14, 15, 17), so that this body of water is above the farthest star. And if that were not sufficiently contrary to modern science, it is the consensus of Evangelical OT scholars that this water above the firmament fell as rain during the Flood. From the farthest reaches of outer space? No, for this is not a divine revelation of what really happened, but an accommodation to an ANE worldview wherein the sky and the water above it are not much further away from earth than are the clouds.

    If time and space allowed, I could go on to point out other aspects of Genesis 1 which agree with ANE concepts but disagree with modern science, hence are accommodations. But sufficient evidence has been given to show that Enns is correct in his identification of the events of Genesis One as accommodations to ANE concepts, which in the broadest sense, as he uses the word, are “myth” rather than history. I can only emphasize that God’s use of such accommodation in no way denies that Genesis 1 is an important divine revelation—of theology.

    What about the Flood? I can scarcely deal with the Flood in detail in this short space. I have two long papers on the Flood, one published, one not; but, the interested reader can at least read the one (“Noah’s Flood: Its Date, Extent, and Divine Accommodation,” Westminster Theological Journal 66 (2004) 291-311). The other, which is about local flood theories, shows that no local flood theory matches the biblical description. There is evidence of an unusually large Flood in Mesopotamia c.2900 B.C., which is probably the event that gave us the Flood story, but the Bible is not describing a local flood, and no local Mesopotamian flood ever destroyed all of the population even in Mesopotamia much less the rest of the world the Hebrews knew of (Gen 10).

    If one accepts the biblical account of the Flood (see my paper on it) as literal history, the Flood must have been universal, i.e., global if modern knowledge of the earth is added to the account. But a global Flood is completely contrary to modern science. Geology, anthropology, archaeology, glaciology, and other sciences strongly testify against it. On the other hand, as an event that destroyed all mankind, it is an integral part of Mesopotamian historical tradition. It, therefore, qualifies as a divine accommodation, and Enns is fully justified in seeing it as an accommodation of an ANE tradition, which in the broadest sense can be called “myth.”

    I can understand how some on the WTS faculty have been so unaware of or thoughtless about the ANE literature that they failed to see that Genesis 1-11 is accommodated to ANE concepts and traditions. I can also understand how some have not been sufficiently educated scientifically to be aware that astronomy, geology, anthropology, archaeology, glaciology, and other sciences forbid the acceptance of Genesis 1 and 6-8 as literal history. However, I must add that if they were carefully following the footsteps of Old Princeton, they would have asked scientists about these matters, and thereby discovered that these traditions cannot be accepted as literal history, and hence Enns is justified in his seeing them as accommodations to ANE “myths.”

    If the critics of Enns correct their course, listen to science (actual scientists, not straw men) in so far as modern science bears on this issue, much of the storm swirling around Enns will cease. But, if they continue to show no interest or respect for the findings of modern science, we must conclude that they are not the true heirs of Old Princeton. It is part of the Reformed heritage to honor the findings of science. This was so in Calvin’s thinking and it is evident in the works of Alexander, Hodge, and Warfield. I look for this to become evident again in the theology department at WTS.

  419. GLW Johnson said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Paul
    Which scientists do you have in mind? You speak like there is a overwhelming consesus out there just waiting to respond in unison. Have you been keeping up on the discussion surrounding global warming? Put 10 scientists in a room and you likely to get 10 different answers on this subject! You have badly misread Old Princeton if you think they constantly went around with their finger up in the air trying to determine which direction the most recent scientific wind was blowing-and my patience with you ever addressing my questions is pretty well exhausted.

  420. GLW Johnson said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:40 am

    …. your response to my questions are not the less bit satisfactory, and neither Warfield nor Machen would take any comfort in you giving ‘myths’ the status of being ‘inspire’ and therefore ‘inerrant’! Gee, can you imagine the wonder of being told by Mormon apologtists that they have come to see that all the things written in the Book of Mormon did not actually happen as Joseph Smith thought they did, i.e. they are not historical at all and we sick and tired of trying to prove that they are- but that doen’t mean these fanciful stories about Jesus appearing in the New World and the Nephites and the Lamanites, etc. are any less inspired!

  421. Ron Henzel said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Paul,

    You write as though “modern science” is your actual working canon, rather than Scripture.

  422. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Ref. 420:

    This has, in my mind, been the problem from day one. Do folks like Enns and Paul here recognize that their presuppositional base for their doctrine of inerrancy gives rationalism a role at least on par with God’s role? I understand they will say not so, merely describing how God exercises His authority. Yet the role given to rationalism by such a hermeneutic at the very least begins to crack the biblical foundations for inerrancy, if not outright break them in two.

  423. steve hays said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:47 am

    We’ve reached the point where an adequate reply to Seely would call for a full-blown defense of Gen 1-11. That’s beyond the scope of the combox. I’m offer a few concluding observations:

    1.Seely is rehearsing all the stock, liberal objections to the historicity of Gen 1-11. His view is functionally indistinguishable from the way in which unbelievers typically attack Genesis.

    The only difference is that he tacks on a bit of face-saving verbiage about divine accommodation. That makes his position more nominally pious than Rudolf Bultmann or Victor Stenger, but his interpretations and conclusions have the same cash value.

    2.There are two ways viewing Christian apologetics.

    a) On one view, the duty of apologetics is to first ascertain what the Bible teaches, then defend whatever the Bible teaches. This is the evangelical view of apologetics.

    b) On another view, the duty of apologetics is to rescue Christianity from the Bible. We must try to salvage a residual core of Christian faith from an error-ridden text. This is the liberal view of apologetics.

    Bultmann was a classic exponent of (b). He didn’t see himself as an enemy of the faith. Rather, he viewed himself as a Christian apologist. He thought he was doing the Christian faith a favor.

    3.Seely, through his selective, one-sided emphasis, has convinced himself that Gen 1-11 is indebted to pagan mythology. Manata and I have cited a lot of counterevidence by top scholars to deconstruct his specious parallels, but Seely is committed to his thesis.

    4.Seely has a very naïve view of what science can prove. He betrays no awareness of the realist/antirealist debate in the philosophy of science. For example:

    http://www.lps.uci.edu/home/fac-staff/faculty/stanford/publications/Oxford%20Handbook.pdf

    5.Seely lectures us on modern science as if we were suddenly transported to the 21C from the Middle Ages. But all of us are the heirs of modern science. We don’t believe the Bible out of scientific ignorance. Does Seely think that Vern Poythress is a scientific ignoramus?

    6.Seely likes to belittle creationism. But creationism isn’t all of a piece. Kurt Wise and Ken Ham aren’t interchangeable.

    And it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. I think that OEC exegesis is sometimes better than YEC exegesis.

    7.Seely also likes to belittle fundamentalists. But Seely construes the imagery in Gen 1 with the same wooden literality as Tim LaHaye. Seely’s hermeneutical approach is no different than the backwoods preacher he so disdains.

    He disregards the emblematic nature of the imagery at various points, where Moses is using architectural metaphors to signify sacred space and sacred time. Scholars like Currid, Beale, and Walton have all documented that feature.

    8.In his unwitting way, I think Seely has rendered a service to the cause of Christianity by ripping the mask away from I&I and showing us just what, without the pious makeup, their alternative really amounts to.

  424. steve hays said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:51 am

    We’ve reached the point where an adequate reply to Seely would call for a full-blown defense of Gen 1-11. That’s beyond the scope of the combox. I’m offer a few concluding observations:

    1.Seely is rehearsing all the stock, liberal objections to the historicity of Gen 1-11. His view is functionally indistinguishable from the way in which unbelievers typically attack Genesis.

    The only difference is that he tacks on a bit of face-saving verbiage about divine accommodation. That makes his position more nominally pious than Rudolf Bultmann or Victor Stenger, but his interpretations and conclusions have the same cash value.

    2.There are two ways viewing Christian apologetics.

    a) On one view, the duty of apologetics is to first ascertain what the Bible teaches, then defend whatever the Bible teaches. This is the evangelical view of apologetics.

    b) On another view, the duty of apologetics is to rescue Christianity from the Bible. We must try to salvage a residual core of Christian faith from an error-ridden text. This is the liberal view of apologetics.

    Bultmann was a classic exponent of (b). He didn’t see himself as an enemy of the faith. Rather, he viewed himself as a Christian apologist. He thought he was doing the Christian faith a favor.

    3.Seely, through his selective, one-sided emphasis, has convinced himself that Gen 1-11 is indebted to pagan mythology. Manata and I have cited a lot of counterevidence by top scholars to deconstruct his specious parallels, but Seely is committed to his thesis.

    4.Seely has a very naïve view of what science can prove. He betrays no awareness of the realist/antirealist debate in the philosophy of science. For example:

    http://www.lps.uci.edu/home/fac-staff/faculty/stanford/publications/Oxford%20Handbook.pdf

    5.Seely lectures us on modern science as if we were suddenly transported to the 21C from the Middle Ages. But all of us are the heirs of modern science. We don’t believe the Bible out of scientific ignorance. Does Seely think that Vern Poythress is a scientific ignoramus?

    6.Seely likes to belittle creationism. But creationism isn’t all of a piece. Kurt Wise and Ken Ham aren’t interchangeable.

    And it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. I think that OEC exegesis is sometimes better than YEC exegesis.

    7.Seely also likes to belittle fundamentalists. But Seely construes the imagery in Gen 1 with the same wooden literality as Tim LaHaye. Seely’s hermeneutical approach is no different than the backwoods preacher he so disdains.

    He disregards the emblematic nature of the imagery at various points, where Moses is using architectural metaphors to signify sacred space and sacred time. Scholars like Currid, Beale, and Walton have all documented that feature.

    8.In his unwitting way, I think Seely has rendered a service to the cause of Christianity by ripping the mask away from I&I and showing us just what, without the pious makeup, the alternative that he, Enns, and others of their ilk really amounts to.

  425. Paul Seely said,

    April 25, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Gary (419) You asked
    Which scientists do you have in mind? You speak like there is a overwhelming consesus out there just waiting to respond in unison.

    Yes, I have no doubt that there is an overwhelming consensus out there just waiting to speak in unison on the issues I mentioned. The scientists I have in mind are the same caliber of scientists that Warfield respected and listened to in his day, even willing to adjust his interpretation of Gen 1 and 2 based on their consensus. Who were they? The geologists from the best univerties in the world. I suppose the closest one to you is the U. of Pa, but you have a numbr of others close by: Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins. You could even ask Davis Young. Take the points I enumerated in my post, then go to the astronomers and geologists in these universities and ask them if they think I am correct or not. Go to as many universities as you can find that have an astronmy or geology dept.and show them my comments and then ask them if they agree? Will there be even one who thinks there was a primeval sea on earth before the sun was made? Even one who thinks that maybe our ocean came from splitting a primeval sea in two? Even one who thinks the world’s population was reduced to 8 people by a global Flood sometime in the last 10,000 years? The more astronomers and geologists you talk to, the more you will know there is an overwhelming consensus that agrees with what I have said.

    This is Copernicus all over again. You have the choice of admitting that your understanding of the Bible is wrong, or you can stand against science, and weaken the Church and tarnish the name of Jesus Christ just as those who resisted Copernicus did in their day. And that resistance to the scientific truth will only weaken the cause of Jesus Christ now and, as occured with Copernicus, may well tarnish our Lord’s name for centuries to come.

  426. Paul Seely said,

    April 25, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Gary (420), you said
    …. your response to my questions are not the less bit satisfactory, and neither Warfield nor Machen would take any comfort in you giving ‘myths’ the status of being ‘inspire’ and therefore ‘inerrant’!

    Just like parables, the inerrancy of the ancient stories that God remodeled to teach true theology is restricted to the theology which they were designed to teach. Inspiration does not automatically make parables inerrant history, nor does inspiration automatically make accommodated ancient traditions inerrant history. It is a purely HUMAN ASSUMPTION that God would not or could not employ the science-prehistory of the times in order to communicate theology to simple people who believed in that science-prehistory.

    Coming back to your question, “Do you actually think a Warfield or a Machen would look kindly on this?”

    I can only assume that Machen would follow the principles of Old Princeton and ask, What does science tell us? Warfield, as I indicated earlier, not only took the findings of science seriously, he was interpreting Gen 1-11 in the light of those findings. Yes, he believed Gen 1-11 was literal historical fact, and he expected that as the sciences of astronomy and more especially geology and therein anthropology matured and became more clear and sure, they would confirm the literal history of Gen 1-11. Now here we are a century later, and those sciences have matured, but instead of confirming the historicity of Gen 1-11, they falsify it; and ANE archaeology shows why: the stories (apart from their revised theology) are basically old Mesopotamian traditions—not fresh revelations of history from God.

    So what would Warfield say if he were alive today to see all of this? Well, he began by stretching the biblical record to agree with science; so maybe he would join Hugh Ross and stretch it even further to make it continue to agree with science. I am quite sure he would not follow creation science. But, why not assume his intellectual integrity was such that he would realize his assumption about the historicity of Gen 1-11 was false, and change his theory to one more in accord with the facts? Warfield was always talking about the facts when any issue related to science came up and always wanting to follow them and agree with them. Neither you nor I know for sure what Warfield would do with all of this, but you can be sure that he would not be denying the facts or even ignoring them, and neither would anyone else at Old Princeton.

    Unfortunately, WTS, aside from an occasional distortion of Scripture to accommodate modern science, has consistently ignored the scientific facts with regard to Genesis 1-11. But WTS is following Bavinck at the very point where Warfield rejected him: namely that the science of unregenerate men is significantly different from the science of regenerate men. (See the review of Bavinck by Warfield in Evolution, Science, and Scripture — Selected Writings of B. B. Warfield, Edited by Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone.) And it is upon the basis of this deviation from Warfield and indeed from all of Old Princeton that the critics of Enns think they can ignore the very scientific facts and ANE evidence which justify and exonerate Enns.

    I say again it is time to raise the question whether the critics of Enns, including those in the faculty of WTS, have deviated from Old Princeton, and in particular with regard to extra-biblical facts which would justify Enns.

    The above comments are also relevant to #421 and #422.

  427. GLW Johnson said,

    April 25, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Paul S.
    Martin Downes has a link over at his ‘Against Heresies’ to the just released documents by WTS pertaining to the Enns matter. Paul,your views are distinctively ‘Briggsian’ and NOT ‘Warfieldian’.

  428. Ron Henzel said,

    April 25, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Paul,

    You wrote, “The above comments are also relevant to #421…”

    Okay. So then I was right: the shifting sands of modern science are your canon, and not Scripture. (And this is coming from someone old enough to remember Newsweek’s cover story about overwhelming scientific consensus that ice age was coming back in the ’70s. Gee, I wish I’d kept that issue!)

  429. GLW Johnson said,

    April 25, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Paul S.
    Al Mohler has a interesting post on “The Politics of Religion-A Secularist Attempt” -Most interesting developments among the most highly respected Scientists in the field of bio-medical embryonic research- they do not wish to be hendered in their work by bothersome theologians. Hmmmmm. You might want to rethink whether or nor it is really prudent to defer to ‘the experts’ in Science before formulating our doctrines.

  430. pduggie said,

    April 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Maybe Warfield would have just apostatized, since the ground he had staked out fell apart.

  431. GLW Johnson said,

    April 25, 2008 at 11:21 am

    pduggie
    No,no- BBW knew his Reformed theology too well to buy into the Arminian notion that once justified a person could end up falling out of covenant because God didn’t give them the grace of perseverance. Have a nice day.

  432. April 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    “Yes, I have no doubt that there is an overwhelming consensus out there just waiting to speak in unison on the issues I mentioned.”

    Yes, and there was also a unanimous consensus of scientists who believed in ether, geosynclinal theory, the universe had no beginning, etc., all of which are no longer believed in.

    You need to have your philosophical naivete corrected by Kuhn, Van Fraassen, etc.

  433. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    April 26, 2008 at 11:33 am

    #428:

    I figured this out hundreds of posts ago (that their Doctrine of Scripture is grounded in modern science, not Scripture itself), and really after that there is nothing further to say. Until of course another 500 years passed and a “new post-pre-modern science” takes over and they would need to adjust their Doctrine of Scripture accordingly.

  434. Scott Jorgenson said,

    April 26, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Sorry for the delay in responding as I’ve been pretty busy this week. I just wanted to make a few concluding remarks to Steve and to all of you, before dropping off this thread.

    First, for Steve (410). On the point of literary parallels between Genesis 6 – 8 and the Mesopotamian flood accounts, which are exhibited by none of the world’s other flood accounts, I really don’t think you appreciate the point. Standard criticism explains that feature by saying they are most likely dependent on common local traditions not shared by the rest of the world. It would be incumbent on you to offer a better explanation that does not question-beg. As you say, by answering this argument on its own grounds: the worlds’ other accounts most likely do not share great similarity with the ANE accounts because they are separate traditions based, if upon any historical event at all, then upon separate local events. To which I say, yes, precisely. So if there really was a global or at least anthropologically-universal flood, why has the rest of the world forgotten while the ANE alone remembered it?

    A. Because of local physical reminders in the ANE? As I said, that’s an interesting hypothesis. But it is unconvincing at least as far as a physically-global flood is concerned, because there would be ruins everywhere. The only distinctive physical reminder near the Mesopotamians would be the ark itself. Migrating people groups would encounter reminders everywhere in the devastation of the earth, as would those who remained near the ark; only the ark itself would distinguish their experiences. Why would that one alone be sufficient to make all the difference?

    B. Because of cultural cross-pollination being greater among migrants than those settling nearby? Whether the flood was physically-global or just anthropologically-universal yet local, no. To apply your example, Americans to this day retain great affinity with English culture because when the English migrated to America they culturally interacted relatively little with the Native Americans they found here (considering them sub-human). And England itself has remained distinct from the continental cultures because it has been less of a crossroads than France or Germany. Much as the French would like to think otherwise, they have been influenced substantially by the rest of the continent. This kind of experience suggests what I said earlier, which is that migrants away from the ark ought likewise to have retained cultural affinity and memory, at least no worse than those remaining behind in the crossroads.

    C. Because of the early date at which the ANE cultures set their accounts into writing? Why would accounts set into writing 1000 years or more after the flood be substantially more accurate than those set into writing 1500 or 2000 years after the flood? Loss of information is not linear. And I would be careful how much the argument is pressed, as scholars date the earliest written Mesopotamian accounts (Atrahasis) earlier than even traditional dates for the Pentateuch. Is Atrahasis therefore the more historically-accurate account, on these grounds?

    Second, to everyone here. Even if we admit that the literary comparison alone offers only one line of evidence (which it does), science offers others establishing that there has been no physically-global flood or anthropoligically-universal flood in anywhere near the biblical timeframe. (That is why I brought it up, Steve.)

    I have to confess I am shocked to see science treated so blithely in this forum (and here I extend this criticism beyond Steve to many of the other participants). There seems to be no appreciation for the distinction between fleeting hypotheses like “global cooling” and deeply-supported, repeatedly- and multiply-confirmed conclusions established and upheld over many generations of cutthroat scientific competition between researchers of all nationalities, religions, ideologies and etc. I’m referring to the flippant dismissal of “rationalism” that I’ve seen here in several of the recent posts, and the clinging to the hope that such widely-established conclusions will eventually, in future, be overthrown and replaced by what science has already considered and overturned. Yes, theories have been subducted in science, paradigms have changed, but always in directions which build upon and incorporate the data that previous scientific ideas explained. Kuhn knew this, and I’m sure he also knew that consequently there has never been a case where a major scientific conclusion has not just been replaced, but replaced with its earlier competitor. Phlogiston was tried and failed, and though current chemical theories of combustion may be replaced (unlikely), there is no historical reason to believe that phlogiston might ever come back. The same goes for science bearing-out the historicity of a physically-global flood, or even just a local but anthropologically-universal flood.

    Now I know that many here will simply chalk this up to the corrupting effects of sin (where in the Bible do you find that sin corrupts our secular knowledge), or the untrustworthy nature of human reason versus trusting the plain words of the Bible (though we use human reason to interpret those words), or whatever. I can only beg you to recognize what a “get-out-of-jail-free” card that is. Utterly unfalsifiable, it could just as well be used by Mormons (and it is) to counter scientific proof against their ideas of American pre-history, In fact, this trump card “works” in every contest you can imagine, which is what makes it worthless.

    I am an engineer. I cannot seal my worlds apart from one another like you suggest. I know no technical person (engineering, science, medicine, etc) who can. I beg you to reconsider your dismissal of the fruitfulness of critical/scientific method for ascertaining things about the physical world, including its history. Everything surrounding you right now — your computer, your clothing, the materials constituting your furniture and the building you occupy, the food in your stomach, and the antibiotics in your blood the last time you were sick — they are all proof of this fruitfulness. Of course it is not perfect, but that is not necessary (utterly relativizing science was not Kuhn’s point). Please reconsider, if only because pastorally you stand to lose so many technical people by insisting on that tack.

    This will be my last post here. Once again, thank you to you all, and I hope I have offended no-one. My apologies if I have. Best regards.

  435. GLW Johnson said,

    April 26, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    SJ
    Somethings never change- Charles Briggs said the exact same thing about Old Princeton and their emphasis on the doctrine of inerrancy -it would drive away ‘ intellegent’ people from the Christian faith.

  436. April 26, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    “I am an engineer. I cannot seal my worlds apart from one another like you suggest. I know no technical person (engineering, science, medicine, etc) who can. I beg you to reconsider your dismissal of the fruitfulness of critical/scientific method for ascertaining things about the physical world, including its history. Everything surrounding you right now — your computer, your clothing, the materials constituting your furniture and the building you occupy, the food in your stomach, and the antibiotics in your blood the last time you were sick — they are all proof of this fruitfulness. Of course it is not perfect, but that is not necessary (utterly relativizing science was not Kuhn’s point). Please reconsider, if only because pastorally you stand to lose so many technical people by insisting on that tack.”

    No one is compartmentalizing worlds. In fact, I would consider myself an Instrumentalist, one who recognizes that scientific theories can be useful for engineering things but realizes that with the discovery of a single piece of data an old theory can be placed in the dustbin, rethought, and a new (and sometimes drastically different) theory can emerge.

    It was this case with geosynclinal theory. All geologists back in 1960 believed that mountains were formed through trough-like depressions that were filled with sediment, heated, became unstable, and rose to become mountain ranges. In fact, this theory was so widely held that it was said to be as sure as Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It could account for the vast majority of the data at the time. What happened to it? Some guy proposed plate tectonics. Within a small period of time, the geosynclinal theory that was believed in by everyone was washed away and replaced by a very different one.

    Another example would be the various geocentrist theories of our solar system. It allowed them to predict the position of planets and stars to a great degree of accuracy and was held world-wide by almost all cultures. Did its success mean that it was true? Of course not!

    Yet another example would be Newton’s Laws. Were they true? If anyone has heard of Heisenberg and Einstein, then obviously not. But did they allow us to engineer all sorts of useful things? Absolutely!

    But that’s the point. While scientific theories can be useful for engineering such as the things you mention above, antibiotics and computers, they should not be given the status of descriptors of the actual world.

    More examples could be given that bear upon the very issue of dating methods. One example is Yellowstone National Park’s fossil forrests (i.e. trees buried vertically on top of one another). Just about every geologist at one time thought that the fossil forrests must have been created gradually over long periods of time (i.e. one forest buried and another forrest planted above it and the cycle repeated over again). In fact, this “overwhelming consensus” is what caused Ron Numbers to leave the Christian faith!

    Well, after Mt. St. Helens blew, one geologist that witnessed the event who was also an expert on Yellowstone, noticed that the trees that were washed away in mudflows were buried upright, in the same manner as those at Yellowstone. Now, the catastrophic mudflow explanation is the leading theory for how the buried forrests were deposited. Ron Numbers stopped believing in the inerrancy of the Bible all because he didn’t wait long enough for the current theory to be overturned. That is the whole point! Christians shouldn’t have to re-interpret their Bible because of scientific theories. Scientific Realism is false! Instrumentalism should instead be the philosophy of science for every Christian.

    And by the way: I’M AN ENGINEER TOO!

  437. steve hays said,

    April 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Scott Jorgenson said,

    “But it is unconvincing at least as far as a physically-global flood is concerned, because there would be ruins everywhere.”

    i) As I’ve said twice now, I’m noncommittal on the physical extent of the flood due to difficulties in correlating geographical markers in the text with our contemporary preconceptions. It would be anachronistic to take a modern map of the world and superimpose that on Gen 6-8—in a one-to-one correspondence—since I doubt that Moses or his audience was using satellite cartography. This doesn’t mean that Moses had an inaccurate notion of the world. But we can’t begin with our sense of scale, and then presume that an ancient author is using geographical markers to denote equivalent distances.

    ii) Whether there would be ruins everywhere makes extratextual assumptions about the extent of prediluvian human dispersion as well as the durability of building materials.

    When I interpret Scripture, I use the grammatico-historical method. That means the studious avoidance of extraneous, anachronistic interpolations into the text.

    “The only distinctive physical reminder near the Mesopotamians would be the ark itself.”

    Which would be an outstanding memorial.

    “Migrating people groups would encounter reminders everywhere in the devastation of the earth, as would those who remained near the ark.”

    i) That assumes a global flood, which may or may not be the correct interpretation.

    ii) It also makes gratuitous assumptions about the flood mechanism. The degree of devastation, as well as the rate of renewal, would depend on the flood mechanism.

    This is all highly speculative. Different models will yield different results.

    iii) I also don’t assume that a global flood would be uniform in its effects. That would vary with the natural terrain.

    “To apply your example, Americans to this day retain great affinity with English culture.”

    No, that’s your example—not mine. You’ve substituted English immigrants for French immigrants.

    “Because when the English migrated to America they culturally interacted relatively little with the Native Americans they found here (considering them sub-human).”

    That’s one reason. Another reason is that English culture was (for a long time) the dominant culture in the U.S.

    “Much as the French would like to think otherwise, they have been influenced substantially by the rest of the continent.”

    A process vastly accelerated in the case of French immigrants to the U.S.

    “And I would be careful how much the argument is pressed, as scholars date the earliest written Mesopotamian accounts (Atrahasis) earlier than even traditional dates for the Pentateuch.”

    The Pentateuch is inspired.

    “Yes, theories have been subducted in science, paradigms have changed, but always in directions which build upon and incorporate the data that previous scientific ideas explained.”

    That’s simplistic. Larry Laudan, for one, is less sanguine.

    You’re also equivocating. For example, Newtonian physics is still useful for computational purposes. However, Newtonian physics is underwritten by views of time and space which are fundamentally at odds with Einstein.

    “Now I know that many here will simply chalk this up to the corrupting effects of sin.”

    I have’t used that argument, although many secular scientists are quite public and militant about their agenda.

    “Utterly unfalsifiable, it could just as well be used by Mormons (and it is) to counter scientific proof against their ideas of American pre-history.”

    Mormonism is falsifiable on many different fronts. We know a good deal about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. We know a good deal about 19C American history. Not to mention the many contradictions between the Mormon canon and the canon of Scripture—even though Mormonism pays lipservice to the authority of Scripture.

    “I am an engineer. I cannot seal my worlds apart from one another like you suggest.”

    I don’t know what this is alluding to. I don’t think that Kurt Wise or John Byl (to take two examples) is out of touch with nature.

    Likewise, when I refer to temporal metrical conventionalism, that’s a scientifically respectable position which has enjoyed the intellectual patronage of many distinguished scientific minds.

    “I know no technical person (engineering, science, medicine, etc) who can. I beg you to reconsider your dismissal of the fruitfulness of critical/scientific method for ascertaining things about the physical world, including its history. Everything surrounding you right now — your computer, your clothing, the materials constituting your furniture and the building you occupy, the food in your stomach, and the antibiotics in your blood the last time you were sick — they are all proof of this fruitfulness.”

    i) This is philosophically naïve. Successful theories can be false. For a theory to succeed, all you need is a reliable correlation between the distal stimulus, the proximal stimulus, and the percept—along with a theory that accurately captures that correlation.

    This, however, doesn’t mean the theory is true—any more than my mental representation must be isometric with the distal stimulus.

    For example, I can use a keypad to successful withdraw money from an ATM, yet the appearance of the keypad tells me nothing about the money inside. The money is several steps removed from the keypad by physical, electronic, cryptographic, and mechanical processes which intervene to implement my command.

    ii) Indeed, a scientific analysis of sensory perception accentuates the distance between appearance and reality. What I perceive is not the extramental object, but encoded information.

  438. steve hays said,

    April 26, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Stephen Hawking on the philosophy of science:

    “He’s [Roger Penrose] a Platonist and I am a positivist. He’s worried that Schrödinger’s cat is in a quantum state, where it is half dead and half alive. He feels that can’t correspond to reality. But that doesn’t bother me. I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I do not know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper. All I am concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements.”

  439. Paul Seely said,

    April 27, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I came to this site looking for information on the Enns issue. Now that the primary documents have been made public, I need no longer guess via secondary sources. So, this will be my last oost on this thread. My time here has been helpful to me; and I thank each and everyone who responded to my comments. I bless you all and pray God’s blessings upon each and everyone of you.

  440. August 4, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    […] From a comment at the GB discussion: […]


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