Man – A Fiat Creation?

posted by Reed DePace

I intend this post to solely be a discussion of the biblical question posed. I am aware of the relevance of this question to some particular circumstances within the PCA at present. I am asking anyone who comments on this post to refrain from bring up those circumstances, expressly to refrain from mentioning names. Thanks for your consideration of my request. (Remember, I’ve got moderator powers if you don’t give it due consideration. ;-) .)

I am aware of at least two current situations in which it appears that the following opinion is held by some PCA brothers. With reference to Adam’s creation, some maintain that God took a souless hominid and at some point gave him a soul, thereby creating the first spiritually living man. Intended to coordinate with an evolutionary scheme, this position argues for an intermediate creation by God.

This appears to be inconsistent with the PCA position. See this helpful summary provided by Wayne Sparkman at the PCA Historical Center. The key quote comes from the recommendations:

“We affirm God’s special creation of Adam and Eve as real, historical individuals (Romans 5:12-14; I Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49), and deny that Adam and Eve were the products of evolution from lower forms of life.”

I am unclear, however, as to what force, this Study Committee recommendation has. Yet my question is more basic than this. Does the Bible teach that God created Adam directly, not via any intervening life forms? Is Adam, in other words, a fiat creation of God? Or, is it possible to properly interpret Gen. 2:7 as allowing for a intermediate creation, a creation which used an existing lifeform, elevated to a spiritual relationship with God?

I’ll admit my conviction is towards fiat and away from a intermediate creation. Yet I’m open to hear where I may be limiting Scripture.

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80 Comments

  1. greenbaggins said,

    October 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    It would be difficult to know what “out of the dust of the ground” means if God took a previously existing living being and infused it with a soul.

  2. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I would think that the language used in Gen. 2:7, specifically “formed man of dust from the ground,” would rule out any interpretation that advocated the creation account of man being an intermediate creation. Especially given the similar use of the “dust” and “ground” language in Gen. 3:19 and the verse mentioning that man will “return” (שובך/תשוב) to the ground/dust. Given an intermediate creation via an existing life form, wouldn’t that imply that upon physical death we would return to being the original, soulless, existing life form that was used to create the first spiritually living man? Or at least Adam did when he physically died?

    I’ve never heard Gen. 2:7 interpreted in such a way. I’ve read discussions concerning the first man’s time of ensoulment in Gen. 2:7 (e.g. formed and then ensouled vs. formed and ensouled [logically] simultaneously) but I’ve never seen an argument for an intermediate creation based off of the verse. Where did you hear/read someone advocating this interpretation?

  3. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Romans 5:12 says:

    “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”

    It would seem reasonably clear that there was no death before there was sin. This has always seemed a very strong argument for an orthodox Christian as to why evolution is an impossibility. You can’t have evolution with vast amounts of death. And you don’t have death until you have sin. And you don’t have sin until you have man.

    Even if the seven day creation were not seven literal 24 hour days you still can ‘t have evolution or the oddity described above regarding soulless men.

  4. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Oops. Should read:

    You can’t have evolution without vast amounts of death.

  5. Reed Here said,

    October 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    David: agreed. But the retort from those who disagree runs to defining “death” in the Fall in a narrower sense, thus allowing for other kinds of death to happen outside and preceding the Fall.

    I suspect a similar exegtical argument is offered here.

  6. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    >But the retort from those who disagree runs to defining “death” in the Fall in a narrower sense, thus allowing for other kinds of death to happen outside and preceding the Fall.

    True but an argument which requires us to believe that Adam, had he remained sinless, would still have been food for worms doesn’t seem very compelling.

  7. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Reed said: “But the retort from those who disagree runs to defining “death” in the Fall in a narrower sense, thus allowing for other kinds of death to happen outside and preceding the Fall.”

    Would one of those narrower sense definitions be limiting the “death” mentioned by Paul in Rom. 5:12 to strictly spiritual death? I think I’ve heard that argument before.

    I admit, I have pondered on the issue of pre-Fall physical death. Specifically, I’ve pondered on the types of beasts in the pre-Fall world, though I do suppose it does/can relate to man, in relation to food. That is, is carnivorism a consequence of the Fall? Was man and/or beast eating meat prior to the Fall?

    I think there’s a good exegetical argument from what is recorded in Gen. 1:29-30 that both man and the beasts were herbivores. I also think taking the “no blood” command of the Noahic covenant (Gen. 9:4) into consideration in addressing this is helpful.

    I dunno. Meh, perhaps I’m just thinking too much and/or I’m letting my imagination run away with me. I’m perfectly contempt with there being no type of physical death prior to the Fall. I just think it would be kind of cool if Adam had eaten the most blissful medium-rare steak that man has ever eaten, I guess.

  8. October 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    This reminds me of when I had to read Leonard Verduin’s “Somewhat Less Than God: A Biblical View of Man” for a class once. I can’t provide page citations, but I remember him saying that theistic evolution was the logical conclusion of the doctrine of predestination.

    He also argued for the intermediate creation theory, arguing for an animalistic (m)an, being given a soul and made into (M)an. He applied this to Genesis 6:1-4, saying that the “sons of God” were Men (capital M), who were taking wives from the daughters of men (lowercase m). The product were the Nephilim.

    Some other interesting theories he had were a dominion theory of the imago Dei, and arguing against creatio ex nihilo in favor of an eternal creation. Anyway, I thought most of the book was unsupported assertion.

    I agree with Mr. McConnell (#2) regarding intermediate creation. Regarding death prior to the fall, I think one has to make some sort of judgment call on what “death” means in the context. Again, I agree with Mr. McConnell (#7) on finding a good argument for man as herbivore in Genesis 1:29-30, but doesn’t eating plants involve some level of death? If a fruit was picked, would it still be a living plant? As it was chewed and digested, wouldn’t the plant which was once alive, cease to exist as nutrients were absorbed and wasted expelled?

    Forgive my rambling and non-exegetical thoughts for a moment here, but I remember as a child being taught by my mother about different animals, and I would ask her how or why certain animals behaved the way they did, and sometimes she would reply “That’s just the way God made them.” When I think of such excellent examples of design in predatory animals both living and extinct, I can’t help but wonder, do I really want to say that the cheetah’s speed and perfectly formed muscles and teeth are the result of sin? I guess I just always took the opportunity to admire God’s workmanship in such things.

  9. October 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Likewise, a zebra’s stripes or a moth’s camouflage are rendered needless if they aren’t hiding from predators. Did these features arrive only after the fall? Basically, we’d have to say that every animal on earth’s fundamental design would have to be radically altered (then again, perhaps that was the point). After such radical alteration to allow for carnivorism and omnivorism, the entire balance of the ecosystem would have to be accounted for. Now, I’m not saying that all of this *couldn’t* have happened, I’m just thinking out loud. Feel free to disagree.

  10. Joe Branca said,

    October 11, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Patrick – here’s a good article regarding the existence of death and carnivorous animals prior to the fall

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/animal_death_before_fall.html

  11. Scott Roper said,

    October 11, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I don’t think scripture is clear about animal death before the Fall. However, I find it very difficult to understand how Gen. 2:7 can be reconciled with God giving a rational soul to a pre-existing hominid. I’d be interested to hear arguments as to why this view is not ruled out.

  12. October 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for the article Joe. I can’t say I agree entirely with his position, but he does make some helpful observations.

  13. Dave Sarafolean said,

    October 11, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Reed,

    Back to the original question. I think Lane is correct to point to Genesis 2:7 as controlling this discussion.

    According to Gordon Wenham, “formed” has the connotation of craftmanship which involves skill, planning and even an artistic sense (Wenham, Gordon. Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis, Waco 1987). All of that is lost if God used a pre-existing hominid and gave it a soul.

    I would also add that the image of God breathing life into this lifeless creation to animate it seems to preclude the pre-existing hominid idea. Brown Driver Briggs p. 655 interpets “naphash” as “to breathe, to blow…a furnace blown upon…” Wenham adds that it is the image of someone blowing upon the coals of a fire to revive it.

    Edmund Clowney in The Unfolding Mystery (p. 19) notes the intimate, personal attention that God gives in fashioning Adam with His hands, and the picture of intimate fellowship by breathing into his nostrils (not done for any other creature).

    I’m with you – the idea of an intermediate being is novel and foreign to Scripture.

  14. Brandon Morgan said,

    October 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I haven’t settled my mind on all of this, but here is my thinking at present. To posit any form of incremental creation, one must first accept physical death as being a “very good” thing. I don’t think plant-life death is included in the question, as it does not have “nephesh.” To accept pre-fall death/corruption, I would have to have the following questions/concerns answered.

    If animal death is “very good” then animal life is essentially of no worth. If animal death was essentially worthless, how did the sacrificial system succeed in communicating vicarious atonement. What was wrong with Cain’s offerings?

    If carnivorous animals were rampant in Eden, what kept them from constantly attacking Adam and Eve, and why does God instill the fear of man only after the flood.

    How are we to understand Isaiah 11:6, 65:25 and others?

    If the enemy-death produced by the fall was merely spiritual, why did Christ rise again bodily? Was that just overkill?

    I appreciate the objection raised that there is a certain majesty in the features that make carnivores so uniquely fit for predation. Surely that’s a reflection of God’s wisdom in creation, not the result of sin post-creation. Plus to say otherwise means that God’s creation evolved after the fall right? — This is a pretty strong argument, but we do see drastic effects on the creation caused by the fall and later the flood. The serpent was obviously changed as a result of the fall.

    I am about to read the Lee Irons paper mentioned above. Maybe he answers these and other concerns.

  15. October 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

    If the “creation order” is not intended to be chronological, then you can’t read too much from it. For example, it would be wrong to assume that the judgment “very good” applies to everything true at the time of the creation of humanity. There are internal indications that it’s not intended to be chronological (see pretty much any contemporary Genesis commentary besides Currid’s), even if they’re not knock-down proofs (because there are ways to weasel out of those indications, but I find them unlikely).

    If being made from dust is metaphorical, then similarly you can’t read too much from it. And as for the issue of humanity’s sin being the first sin, that’s the position that’s well outside the mainstream view among orthodox Christians. It’s the fall of the angels that came first, and death in the world may well have been an effect of the angels’ sin, with human death coming later as a result of humans’ sin.

    I’ve written more extended reflections on these issues:

    A silly six-day shibboleth and a pet peeve for both sides
    Old Earth and Death
    Genesis and Objections to Old-Earth Cosmology
    Longman, Literalism, and Genesis 1
    Arguments Against Old-Earth

    Several of the discussions in the comments get into some good issues.

  16. October 12, 2010 at 8:04 am

    The link to Longman, Literalism, and Genesis 1 appears not to have worked, so here it is. I know you didn’t want any names, but I didn’t say here what his position is (and I have no idea if he’s even involved in the PCA dispute, since I have no connection with the PCA and haven’t followed it). That post probably gets at some of the more substantive issues involving the literal Adam and Eve that you’re getting at in this post, whereas the others deal with death literalness about other matters.

    One point I wanted to make in the previous comment and forgot is that there’s an ambiguity in “special creation”. It’s sometimes taken to mean creation ex nihilo, but that contradicts a literal reading of being made from dust. It might be taken to mean that God took literal dust and turned it into a much larger, more massive being instantaneously. I suspect you can hold the traditional view and not have to think such a thing. You can take the dust to be a shorthand (not a metaphor) for non-living raw materials used to fashion Adam relatively instantly. But if you allow for that (and I see no reason not to), then it’s already not literally dust, and it allows for a more metaphorical use that’s compatible with evolutionary accounts. God made Adam from dust by making him via evolutionary processes (and it would be a teleological process of fashioning according to an eventual intended goal, and therefore craftsmanship language would still be appropriate).

    I’ve never taken a public stance on which position we ought to hold (between old-earth common-descent evolutionary views and old-earth instantaneous special-creation views, not to mention those in between). But I have wanted to insist that either view is fully compatible with inerrancy, and that’s the majority view among Genesis commentators (with Currid as the one exception I know of, and I take that as a significant mark against his commentary, not that we should simply go with the majority view, but the fact that there’s a consensus does count for something, even if it’s never a decisive argument on its own).

  17. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Jeremy Pierce said: “But if you allow for that (and I see no reason not to), then it’s already not literally dust, and it allows for a more metaphorical use that’s compatible with evolutionary accounts. God made Adam from dust by making him via evolutionary processes (and it would be a teleological process of fashioning according to an eventual intended goal, and therefore craftsmanship language would still be appropriate).”

    Even we take “dust from the ground” to be either non-literal or a metaphorical statement, doesn’t the similar language in Gen. 3:19 rule out that taking that language in such a fashion leaves room for a [theistic] evolutionary interpretation of the text? If “formed from the dust of the ground” is open enough to allowed to be taken as made Adam from dust by making him via evolutionary processes, then to be consistent with similar language would we not have to interpret “till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19) in a similar fashion? Gen. 2:7 describing how God made man via an evolutionary process and Gen. 3:19 describing how man dies, umm, via an devolutionary process?

  18. Matt Holst said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Dear All

    It seems that some of the central questions here are the definitions of “life” and “death”. Scripture gives definitions of both.

    Those who advocate death before the fall want death to be confined to a spiritual reality or as one proponent described it a “theological” reality. (I’ve always wondered why something that is theological cannot also be physical … like…um … the crucifixion?). Clearly there is truth to this – life and death are theological ideas, but not abstracted from a physical reality. Scripture speaks plainly to this point:

  19. Reed Here said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

    If any element in the creation account is metaphorical, then all the elements are metaphorical. In such a case, it is not an account of God’s creation, just an interesting story merely trying to make metaphorical points.

    If that is the case, then pretty much the whole Bible collapses. There is not one single key doctrine that does not rest on the creation account being in some manner historical – and not metaphorical at all.

    This is a camel’s nose. You cannot say “this peice here (dust, death) is metaphorical” but “that piece there (God actually did create, the Fall actually occurted) is not metaphorical.” The linguistic structure of the text itself will not allow for that.

    (Of course this is where we get into linguistic pretzel studies that effectively remove this central text from all practical uses.)

  20. October 12, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Reed, if we accept your principle then we accept that it’s all metaphorical, because there’s not literal crushing of a literal head or literal heel in the fulfillment of Gen 3:15. If you don’t think it’s literally about a snake but about Satan, then you’re also in trouble.

    Ryan, on the metaphor view, the dust language refers to whatever process actually took place, and so if that was evolutionary then that’s its reference. That doesn’t mean the dust language has to refer to the exact mirror image as the process it refers to in the “returning to dust” image. The language is metaphorical, on this view, and the language is parallel. The origin of raw materials without life and the endpoint of raw materials without life would be all the metaphor is doing. If the process isn’t what’s important, and it isn’t on this view, then why assume an exact mirror image is required for the process of decomposition?

    Matt, no it doesn’t speak plainly, at least not so plainly as to remove debate. There’s been disagreement over the details even independently of the issue of evolution, since it goes back long before Darwin. But even if it did, I’m not sure what the problem is. As I’ve already said, there’s no reason to take the physical death of human beings to require that physical death hadn’t been going on for other species. God could have miraculously bestowed immorality on human beings once there was a point where he did this soul-creation thing that some people are proposing, and then the fall needed to happen before death came to humans. None of that removes the possibility of death in the world before that. So you could simply take it as physical death, and it doesn’t necessarily cause a problem for the view in question.

  21. steve hays said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Jeremy Pierce said,

    “You can take the dust to be a shorthand (not a metaphor) for non-living raw materials used to fashion Adam relatively instantly. But if you allow for that (and I see no reason not to), then it’s already not literally dust, and it allows for a more metaphorical use that’s compatible with evolutionary accounts.”

    Doesn’t that violate grammatico-historical exegesis? Doesn’t the text mean whatever it would have meant or at least could have meant to the implied reader? Theistic evolution is completely outside the historical purview of the narrative. We might as well say Ezk 1 is compatible with flying saucers.

  22. Matt Holst said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Dear All

    It seems that some of the central questions here are the definitions of “life” and “death”. Scripture gives definitions of both.

    Those who advocate death before the fall want death to be confined to a spiritual reality or as one proponent described it a “theological” reality. (I’ve always wondered why something that is theological cannot also be physical … like…um … the crucifixion?). Clearly there is truth to this – life and death are theological ideas, but not abstracted from a physical reality. Scripture speaks plainly to this point.

    Life is defined first in Gen 1:30 as everything “that has the breath of life”(nephesh hayah). Note here nephesh is used of every beast of the earth and birds of the heavens. God also breathed the “breath of life” (NOT nephesh hayah) into Adam’s dust-wrought body (Gen 2:7). In the flood Noah took “two of every animal in which there was the breath of life” (here a third term is used different to Gen 1:30 and 2:7) (Gen 7:15). Then God killed, by the flood, “Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life” (Gen 7:22). Clearly the “breath of life” is an indicator of actual physical life (animals and humans) as well as it having a theological connotation. But Life is also defined in the post flood narrative in Gen 9:4 where God prohibits the eating of blood “But you shall not eat the flesh with its LIFE, for that is its blood”. The rest of Scripture testifies to the inherent value of blood in the sacrificial system and of course in Christ himself.

    So life is defined as breath and blood. Stating, as some do, that we see death before the fall in the plant kingdom is simply to ignore, or be unaware on the Biblical definition of “life” – breath and blood. Last time I bit into an apple, it neither “breathed its last” nor bled! Plants therefore do not have life as humans have or animals have life. Life then, was created when God “breathed” into Adam.

    Death on the other hand is also clearly defined: again Gen 7:22 states that “Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.” – that which breathed, no longer breathed. Death is the permanent cessation of breath of life. Additionally Gen 9:5 “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man”, demonstrates that death is equated to the shedding of “lifeblood” – and there is a reckoning required of those who shed such blood. Death, as life, is defined in the two ways – breath and blood. Thus the eating of plants, which indeed God commanded, does not cause death.

    Furthermore, we also see the cause of death – Gen 2:17 – “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”, and Rom 6:23 “the wages of sin is death”. Death came about by Adam’s first disobedience, which Paul calls sin. Death by definition, can not occur prior to life, as the Bible defines physical life. Death is thus defined and understood biblically – when Adam physically died, breath and blood permanently ceased to perform their ordained functions in his body.

    So Adam could not have been taken as a “hominid” and had a soul breathed into him – in fact the Hebrew does not even point to that – the word is literally breath – not nephesh or ruach. Furthermore, why is it too far-fetched to believe that God could have made Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him, when he is then supposed to have place a soul into a hominid and enabled him to commune with God – is that not equally miraculous?

    The “spiritually” alive hominid that the intermediate creationists declare is only spoken of in Gen 1:26 – man in God’s image (I mean the spiritual aspect, not the hominid, obviously!) . However LIFE is not defined in that verse, rather his constitution and dominion. Life, is defined in the ideas of “breath of life” and “lifeblood” found in Gen 1, 2 and 9.

    Hope this helps
    Matt

  23. Matt Holst said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I’ve just looked briefly through Lee Irons article and noticed he doesn’t deal with any of the texts and ideas I raised, with the exception of Gen 9, and then only deals with Gen 9:1-4. Sorry Mr Moderator, I’m not trying to score points over Mr Irons by naming him (truly I am not!), just noting that in Iron’s argument he hasn’t accounted for proper biblical definitions of life and death. (I did only scan the article, so if I’ve misrepresented him, please forgive me.)

  24. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Jeremy Pierce said: “If the process isn’t what’s important, and it isn’t on this view, then why assume an exact mirror image is required for the process of decomposition?”

    שוב in Gen. 3:19 is being used to communicate the reverse of יצר in Gen. 2:7, is it not? So if “formed from the dust of the ground” is metaphorical, then consistent exegesis demands that “return to the [dust of the] ground” be metaphorical in the same sense (or least very similar to). I wouldn’t say that they are an exact mirror image, though, given that God is responsible for the forming act in Gen. 2:7 while the returning act in Gen. 3:19 is seemingly done via natural causes.

    What it sounds like you’re arguing, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that “formed from the dust of the ground” metaphorically refers to whatever process took place in the creative act of man, that “return to the [dust of the] ground” metaphorically refers to whatever takes place post the death of man, and that the parallel language of the two (and even God referencing His own creative act in Gen. 3:19 via “from out of it [the ground] you were taken”) doesn’t have any real impact on how we read the text regarding whether or not these metaphorical occurrences are similar or not. The metaphorical use of the “dust/ground” language just simply describes whatever process is involved in both cases but the language cannot communicate anything more than “whatever process;” which is seemingly just vague enough to allow us to interpret the “form” act and the “return” act as possibly two completely different processes.

  25. Reed Here said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Jeremy; you’re reading into my comments, seeing a hyper-literalism which is not present.

    You do know the essential hermeneutical tool found in the Bible: Scripture interprets Scripture?

    Following that principle I know the snake was more than a metaphor for Satan, but actually was Satan. I do not ned to read into the text exactly how Satan “manifested” himself as/in a snake to know this is not metaphorical.

    Following the same principle I understand that God used existing inanimate material to create Adam directly. I know this is not metaphorical because the rest of the Bible does not understand it metaphorically.

    You’ve erred is assuming only two options: purely metaphorical vs.. hyperliteralism. The point I was making neither rejects metaphor not literalism, but conditions according the the Bible’s own demands.

  26. Reed Here said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Matt: proper reference to published material is appropriate in your usage. My warning is solely to stop this discussion from dealing with any potential judicial matters within the PCA, relevant to this subject.

    You’ve not gone there in referencing Mr. Irons.

  27. David Gray said,

    October 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

    >the fact that there’s a consensus does count for something, even if it’s never a decisive argument on its own

    But the consensus is clearly in favor of a non-grand metaphorical understanding if we think as Christians and consider the consensus of the church rather than the consensus of a handful of people mao-maoed by a secular consensus.

  28. Brandon Morgan said,

    October 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    1 Cor. 15:42-49, Genesis 3:19, Genesis 18:27, Ezekiel 24:7 seem to connect dust with man’s essence, without regard to the process used to form him.

    Actually a concordance search of dust http://bibletab.com/d/dust.htm is pretty revealing of its significance throughout the writings of Moses…. pouring out blood into the dust, covering blood with dust, dust of the red heifer…etc

    Here’s part of the discourse in 1 Cor 15: “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.”

    Does that passage make any sense if “dust” refers to process of man’s creation rather than the essence of him? Maybe, it does. I’m very much a novice, so I hope to learn here.

    Also, is it going to far to see a connection with Christ’s healing the blind man by forming clay from dust and saliva?

  29. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Brandon Morgan said: “1 Cor. 15:42-49, Genesis 3:19, Genesis 18:27, Ezekiel 24:7 seem to connect dust with man’s essence, without regard to the process used to form him… Does that passage make any sense if “dust” refers to process of man’s creation rather than the essence of him? Maybe, it does. I’m very much a novice, so I hope to learn here.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that the “dust” is man’s essence. Rather, I would see it being the material aspect of man’s dichotomic person. In Gen. 2:7, the “dust” formed from the ground is the material aspect and the “breath of life” is the immaterial aspect (i.e. his spirit, cf. Eccl. 12:7).

    The material plus the immaterial make up what the text refers to as a nephesh (נפש) or a “soul,” which is often used interchangeably with “spirit” to refer to the immaterial aspect. It’s the term used in the lex talionis for “a life for a life” (נפש תחת נפש). I’d recommend reading Hoekema’s chapter titled “The Whole Person” in Created in God’s Image (Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1994) for additional information if you want to know more.

  30. Brandon Morgan said,

    October 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    >”I wouldn’t necessarily say that the “dust” is man’s essence.”
    That is why I used “connect..with” but I see now why that wasn’t very clear. You brought out my intent though, man’s earthiness is tied to his essence as much as he is essentially of Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth in his substance.
    Thank you for that, and I will look for the book you mentioned at my next library visit.

  31. Ryan D. McConnell said,

    October 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Brandon Morgan said: “That is why I used “connect..with” but I see now why that wasn’t very clear. You brought out my intent though, man’s earthiness is tied to his essence as much as he is essentially of Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth in his substance.

    Ah, I see. I guess I either misread or misinterpreted you saying “connect dust with man’s essence.” Glad I got the jist of it, though.

    As for Hoekema’s book, I’d venture to say you should be able to find it at your library. If you’re unable to, Google Books does have the book (though only a Preview version). You can read it by going here.

  32. October 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Steve, you’re mixing up two different meanings of “meaning”. The text can’t mean in its sense something that an original reader wouldn’t have the conceptual understanding to grasp. But it could be a metaphor that refers to a reality unknown even to the original human author. Apocalyptic is largely that, and I don’t see anyone claiming that apocalyptic violates grammatico-historical exegesis.

    Matt, scripture very obviously uses words like “life” and “death” (or at least the Hebrew and Greek equivalents) in a broader way than just physical life and death. The Gospel of John regularly uses both in a more spiritual sense. When Jesus says the little girl isn’t dead but sleeping, he’s obviously not talking about her not being physically dead, because the text itself says and then reaffirms that she was.

    Ryan, yes, I think that’s the idea.

    Reed, I’m not sure I agree with your biblical positivism (the idea that the Bible itself needs to confirm an interpretation for it to be correct). Our understanding of scripture is fallible, and that means the fallibility of our learning about the world through our senses isn’t necessarily epistemologically worse off than basing our view on a fallible interpretation of scripture. It’s an interesting question what we should do when the best interpretation (which I’m not conceding here) but not the only possible interpretation conflicts with our best science (which I’m also not conceding here). In such a case, we can go with what seems to be true about the world and adopt a less-likely but possible interpretation, or we can adopt a much less plausible view scientifically by insisting on the most likely but not only possible interpretation. The latter seems irrational to me, even if the former might also be bad to insist on. So I might remain agnostic on such issues without going against either the best science or the best interpretation of scripture but without assuming either (and again I’m not conceding that this is one of those situations, but I wonder if it might be).

  33. October 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Reed, on the consensus issue I think your claim is question-begging. It’s true that the majority view in the history of the church differs from the view that I’m saying is now the consensus among biblical studies specialists in Genesis. But to describe the latter as “a handful of people mao-maoed by a secular consensus” is to beg the question against their view. If their view is wrong and their arguments all faulty, then perhaps that’s a plausible explanation for why they accept such bad arguments. But if they’re actually convinced by the arguments because they find them reasonable, and it’s not as if much of the relevant information was available throughout church history, then such a description is pretty unfair and indeed unbrotherly. For my part, I doubt Bruce Waltke, Gordon Wenham, Victor Hamilton, Allen Ross, Derek Kidner, Kenneth Mathews, John Sailhamer, and John Walton are all simply mao-maoed by a secular consensus. The arguments do have an initial plausibility to my non-specialist mind.

    I would never have thought it natural to connect being connected with the earth (as opposed to the heavenly) in I Cor 15 with Adam’s being made from dust in Gen 2. I’d say the same of the dust and saliva in Jesus’ healing of the blind man. I wouldn’t want to try to rest very much on those kinds of proposed connections, anyway.

  34. Roger du Barry said,

    October 13, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Ask any professor of Hebrew and OT at any reputable university whether Genesis teaches a literal six day creation, and the answer will be yes. They just don’t agree. It is only some evangelicals who think the text can accommodate an old earth theory.

  35. October 13, 2010 at 5:42 am

    The question isn’t whether the account speaks of six days and means that literally. The parable of the sower speaks of seed and means it literally within the parable, but the question is how that seed in the parable functions with respect to the literary genre. In that case, no one thinks Jesus was speaking of an actual farmer sowing actual seed. But he certainly was using the terms literally within the parable. Those who think Jonah is a parable aren’t claiming that the fish is a metaphor within the narrative. They think the story functions in a way that isn’t meant to convey a historical event. But within the story, the language is being used literally rather than metaphorically. It’s not like when Jesus says he’s a door, where he’s definitely not saying he’s a literal door. There’s no literal door even in a fictional story in that passage.

    So the fact that any Hebrew expert will insist that the terms are being used literally doesn’t tell you much about what genre the account is and how that functions in terms of what it’s communicating. Any Hebrew professor will tell you that the genre is myth, not history. What they mean by that will vary dramatically from scholar to scholar. Those who know the relevant ANE literature will point out how the text functions to contrast the theological views of Israel with those of other nations and worldviews nearby. They will recognize the poetic features of the text (not that it’s poetry, but it’s also not quite pure prose).

  36. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Jeremy: have you read the WCF? My Scripture interprets Scripture “idea” is not novel at all.

    You use a hermeneutic that in the end enshrines man’s opinion as the final arbiter of what Scripture means. Surely you can see this is more than dangerous.

    As to the “consensus” observation, you were responding to David Gray (not Grey). But I’ll take the mix-up.

    Finally, do you know what “Adam” means? Check it out and then see if your 1Co 15 doubt still holds up.

  37. David Gray said,

    October 13, 2010 at 8:23 am

    >it’s not as if much of the relevant information was available throughout church history

    And it is this attitude which is at odds with Christianity. All the truly relevant information has been available throughout the entirety of the history of the church.

  38. October 13, 2010 at 8:44 am

    All the relevant information for what? Certainly we didn’t have all the relevant information for most of church history to know that the Trinitarian cola in I John wasn’t in the original text. We didn’t have all the relevant information for all of church history to know that the sun stopping in the sky didn’t mean a sun moving around the earth stopped moving. We haven’t had the relevant linguistic information to know all the details and nuances of every text, and sometimes new information comes to light that shows something about the meaning of a particular turn of phrase in scripture, or the cultural context shows us a lot more about what’s going on, e.g. motivations for Torah prohibitions that seem unmotivated suddenly make sense in the context of religious practices of Canaanites that come to light by the discoveries of Canaanite texts. There wasn’t always adequate scientific information to know the difference between a whale and big fish, kind of important for identifying what kind of animal the book of Jonah might have been referring to. We still don’t have much of an idea of what a lot of the animals mentioned in the Torah and prophets really are. Most of church history didn’t have the understanding of Deuteronomy as a covenant treaty. The basics for the gospel have been available, sure. Everything we need for life and godliness is provided. But it’s not remotely plausible that all relevant information for correctly interpreting every aspect of scripture has been available for the entirety of the history of the church.

  39. October 13, 2010 at 8:52 am

    And saying a view is at odds with Christianity when there’s no gospel issue at stake? You might say it’s at odds with much of Christian tradition. That’s an empirical claim that can be verified or falsified. You might say it’s at odds with Christian teaching or the teaching of scripture. I’d argue that you’re wrong, but that’s not tantamount to calling it a denial of Christianity itself, which is a very serious claim.

  40. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Jeremy: is the Fall a metaphor? How do you exegetically defend your position?

  41. October 13, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I haven’t taken a position here except to say that the text itself seems to me to allow something that most people here are resisting.

    I did discuss the issue of the fall in the post on Longman linked to above. One thing someone holding such a view can say is that the fall is a fall of an entire generation of human beings. Another option is that there really were two individuals, and Gen 2-3 is largely describing events that did happen with those two people. A third is to take the fall to be describing a fact of human existence that wasn’t caused by one deliberate decision by actual individuals but simply the fact that our corruption is within our very nature.

    I don’t much like the third option, because it makes it harder to make sense of how it might be that God created everything good to begin with. But the third view doesn’t conflict with the gospel itself in any crucial way, just with what I take to be good scriptural interpretation.

    The first option is better, because it allows for a sense of how God created everything good. It has the downside of requiring a few more hermeneutical hoops to jump through to make sense of the first Adam and the second Adam in Paul, but again I don’t think it conflicts with anything essential to the gospel message itself, and I don’t think it requires giving up on inerrancy.

    But I’d favor the middle view if I had to pick from these three. I’m not ruling out non-evolutionary means of producing people in an old-earth model, and this particular problem doesn’t even prima facie arise for that. But I don’t see how it need arise even with evolution.

  42. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Jeremy: no disrespect, but either you’re given to gobbly-gook, or I’m not as sharpas butter knife.

    Let me ask it differently: do you believe in a litera historic Fall following thew details listed in Gen 2 (providing the context5) and Gen 3 (providing the details)? Did Adam as federal head whose free choice to disobey God in one specific event, namely eating a piece of fruit from one particular tree, resulted in the Fall – the corruption and condemnation of all mankind? Did this event actually occur in history, and is it the source of all mankinds problems?

    I’m not really interested in the range of options. I’m only interested in exploring how the idea of “metaphor” functions for you.

  43. October 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Well, I’m a professionally-trained philosopher, and sometimes I reflect on issues in a way that that shows.

    I do believe in a historical event of the Fall (not that the Bible ever calls it that), and I do think it involved two people as described in Gen 3. What I’m saying is that (1) there are ways to take the text, compatible with inerrancy, that don’t hold that and (2) there are ways of taking the text that don’t hold that that nonetheless are compatible with the gospel. My larger point is that some such ways are compatible with evolution (and I even think my own view is compatible with evolution).

    My main point here is for the sake of Christian fellowship with other believers who hold views on that that I’m seeing argued against here. I don’t see this issue as a basis for division among believers or exclusion from a denomination. I haven’t looked at the PCA issue at all, since it’s not my denomination, but my view is in service, I suppose, of those who argue that genuine believers can hold to inerrancy and the gospel and believe in evolution. That’s why the range of options is important to me. There’s a range that I think unlikely and probably wouldn’t accept myself but that I think is compatible with inerrancy and the gospel, and there’s a smaller range that I consider live options for my own belief. Then there’s a smaller range for the views I think most likely and thus actually believe.

  44. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Jeremy: I appreciate the point you are making, no disfellowship over things indifferent.

    It is clear there is a wide gap between your understanding of inerrancy and mine. In the hopes of iron-sharpening-iron, not looking for ammo to shoot you or any other Christian, I’ve been trying to probe your use of “metaphor.”

    If you are not inclined to respond on these terms, I’ll understand.

    I’m not inclined to pursue your question of disfellowship, as it really is not the issue. For me the issue is truth. You’ve at least offered some opinions that in my understanding lend themselves to a squishy truth. If I’m right, I’d at least like to help. If I’m wrong, I’d at least like to be helped.

    So, do you want to answer my question? :)

  45. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Jeremy Pierce: “I’ve never taken a public stance on which position we ought to hold (between old-earth common-descent evolutionary views and old-earth instantaneous special-creation views, not to mention those in between). But I have wanted to insist that either view is fully compatible with inerrancy,….

    FYI, Jeremy and I have an extended discussion on this thread titled:
    Was Adam Real?

    The discussion was whether someone could deny the historicity of Adam and still legitimately claim to be a Biblical Inerrantist. Jeremy argues “Yes” and I argue “No.”

    FWIW, neither one of us have budged one iota.

  46. Roger du Barry said,

    October 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Jeremy Pierce, I honestly think that you need to spend some time acquiring the skills of literary analysis. To summarily dismiss the opinions of the foremost experts in the field is plain arrogant.

    Your attempt to identify Genesis with a parable of some kind speaks of an unfamiliarity with the discipline of literary exegesis.

    Put your philosophy to one side, as it does not apply to the exegesis of scripture. Indeed, it gets in the way.

  47. Roger du Barry said,

    October 13, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    PS. I forgot to mention that these professors are liberals to a man, not Bible believers. They make no pretence at harmonising evolution with scripture. But they know when a text is speaking plainly and when it is not.

  48. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    The question that bothers me is, “At what point does exegesis cease to be exegesis per se, and begin to be eisigesis?”

    Scott Clark argues that we need extrabiblical information in order to understand Gen 2-3.

    I can understand that, to a point. But at some point, don’t we run the danger of just making Scripture a wrapper for views derived elsewhere (i.e., from cosmic background radiation, uranium/lead ratios, etc.)?

    I got that sense when reading Ross’s treatment of bara when discussing the 4th day.

    I keep thinking about the German liberal school. They didn’t start out by denying the faith; they just wanted to square the faith with what was “known” about the world.

    Granted that this is not a bad thing of itself, entirely; still and all, they ran off the rails and wrecked the Church.

    Jeremy, this isn’t a full-on argument against your position. It’s just a question that I think needs to be squarely addressed before someone might accept your view.

  49. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 13, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    A question for YECers here:

    What do you make of Adam’s Very Busy Sixth Day?

    * He was created.
    * He got married.
    * He named the animals.
    * He was inducted into the Covenant of Works.

    Did all of these happen on day 6?

  50. October 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Robert, while we’re in the business of making recommendations, I suggest you learn some basic reading skills, because I never once even suggested identifying any part of Genesis with a parable. I’m not sure why you can arbitrarily select literary analysis as the field against which it’s arrogant to disagree with the experts’ conclusions, all the while flatly denying the experts’ conclusions in biology but not considering that arrogant. Why is literary analysis more holy than biology, especially when we’re talking mainly about non-believers in both cases? And don’t say that the latter conflicts with scripture, because that’s question-begging. That’s what you’re supposed to be proving, so you can’t assume it without argument or only by a circular argument (and by appeal to authority, no less).

    Reed, I’m not sure what question you mean. You keep talking about exploring metaphor, but what do you mean? What specific question about metaphor do you have? My understanding of metaphor is that it’s when you understand something in terms of something else by using language that does not use comparison terms such as “like” or “as”. But I’m sure that’s not what you’re asking. I just have no idea what you are asking.

    My understanding of inerrancy is that it’s the doctrine that there are no errors in scripture, and according to the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy this allows for genre differences to allow for statements that aren’t straightfowardly presenting historical truth but are doing something else, e.g. parables or general but not absolute truths in wisdom literature. It allows for whole chapters of Job to be false teaching (out of the mouths of Job’s “friends”). Some people may go very wrong in categorizing a piece of literature as something it’s not while still retaining inerrancy. So a proper criticism is not to say they deny inerrancy but to say their doctrine of scripture goes wrong in another place. If indeed it is wrong to classify Jonah as a parable, then it’s not a denial of inerrancy to say that Jonah is a parable and then to say that it’s a fictional account. It’s a denial of inerrancy to say that it’s meant to be historical and then to say it’s a fictional account. If it’s wrong to think it didn’t happen, it may be because of a denial of inerrancy, but it may be because of some other element of the correct doctrine of scripture. This is the heart of my debate at Triablogue with the Truth Unites … and Divides.

    On the epistemological question that several people keep raising, I will reiterate. There is an objective fact about what happened. There’s nothing squishy about that, so it’s pretty unfair to characterize my view as involving sq

  51. Roger du Barry said,

    October 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    “I’m not sure why you can arbitrarily select literary analysis as the field against which it’s arrogant to disagree with the experts’ conclusions, all the while flatly denying the experts’ conclusions in biology but not considering that arrogant.”

    We are talking about the meaning of Genesis, that’s why. The cleverest and most trained unbelieving scholars recognise that Genesis 1 – 3 must be read at face value. It is not a parable in prose. And yes, you did make that link.

    You cannot just say “genre” and think that you have made an argument against Genesis 1 – 3. That is a classic liberal ploy, and it is as invalid now as when it was first deployed.

    Second, the Bible is God’s word, God speaking, so that puts it far above biology in authority. There is no valid comparison between the two.

  52. October 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Sorry, some weird key combination must have submitted that comment. About what happened, there’s an objective truth. About what scripture teachers, there’s an objective truth. About our means of accessing that, we do so as fallen people even if redeemed. We are fallible, and our interpretation is fallible, so we shouldn’t be 100% confident that we have the right interpretation of controversial passages. So when compared with fallible science, both involve fallible access to a source of revelation God has given us. I don’t think we’ll be able to reach a point of finding something out in science that contradicts scripture, but we might often with fallible methods reach a point in time when the best fallible scriptural interpretation comes up with a result that the best fallible science comes up with. Since both are fallible, sometimes you have to figure out which is more likely — that we might be wrong in the science or that we might be wrong in the scriptural interpretation.

    Now here’s an argument that’s patently unfair, and I would add arrogant. If we claim that our own personal favorite interpretation of a passage believers disagree on is correct, I have no problem with that. If we claim that we’re so confident of it that we place our interpretation on the level of infallible scripture, then that’s both arrogant and epistemologically indefensible. So to compare fallible science with scripture is wrongheaded, because it’s really fallible science and fallible scriptural interpretation. Or we could compare infallible scripture with infallible divine control over nature. the infallibility in scripture is in the process of God’s putting it together, not in the process of our understanding it. So the fallibility of science doesn’t correspond to the infallibility of scripture. The infallibility of God’s commands to make nature be what it is would be the proper companion to the infallibility of scripture. Our access to both is fallible.

    There’s no squishiness about truth in such a view. The squishiness is in a healthy recognition of our own fallible ability to get it wrong, in science, in literary exploration, in exegesis, and in any other venture that requires a fallible judgment based on an infallible reality in terms of how God makes it what it is.

  53. October 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    The only time I talked about parables was to explain how literary genre can influence how we take a text given inerrancy. It was an example of how something can be used literally but still not be doing historical description. Find me one place where I said anything in Genesis is actually a parable.

    If someone here were saying that the Bible says one thing and science another and we should side with science, then it makes sense to say the Bible trumps science. I haven’t seen anyone here saying anything of the sort, though, so that argument is simply targeting a different opponent. The debate here isn’t over whether the Bible trumps science. It’s over whether our fallible interpretation should be taken to trump fallible science.

  54. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Jeremy Pierce: “It’s a denial of inerrancy to say that it’s meant to be historical and then to say it’s a fictional account.”

    If I’m understanding you correctly, then folks who are denying the historicity of Adam are de facto denying the doctrine of inerrancy.

    Scripture, including what Jesus and Paul communicated, refers to Adam as historical fact. For folks to say that Adam was a fictional account is a denial of inerrancy.

    Have I understood you properly?

  55. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Jeremy: you rightly observe the human dilemma with regards to truth. None of us is ever in a position to know for sure, let alone speak authoritatively. Now this is not a new philosophical conundrum to the Bible or to many biblical scholars. While you sound sincere in your opinions, you demonstrate a serious lack of awareness of the discussion on this topic. If you wish, I can direct you to some resources that will help fill in your background.

    I really don’t have the time to rake over this philosophical ground. Let me just observe that this thread of your argument is yet another based on a presupposition you are reading into my comments. I neither set myself up as an authority, nor do I leave myself in the “squishy” ground that you continue to choose to occupy. There is more certainty to our faith than your philosophical structures gives – and it ain’t man’s opinion.

    As to the question, here it is again:

    “Let me ask it differently: do you believe in a literal historic Fall following the details listed in Gen 2 (providing the context5) and Gen 3 (providing the details)? Did Adam as federal head whose free choice to disobey God in one specific event, namely eating a piece of fruit from one particular tree, result in the Fall – the corruption and condemnation of all mankind? Did this event actually occur in history, and is it the source of all mankinds problems?”

    I believe we can move forward, interacting over the nature of the use of “metaphor” in Genesis 2-3. My purpose is not to trap you, but to analyze your answer via a biblical grid. If you’re game, please respond with your specific answer. If not, thanks for the diversion.

  56. October 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Wait, so the question you keep re-asking me to answer is the one I already answered? I’m not sure why you can’t accept my positive answer to that. I thought I said it pretty clearly. I fully accept a historical pair of people, Adam and Eve, who are the first and only human beings at the time of the Fall, who ate a piece of fruit command by God that they not eat, and it brought about all evil that wasn’t a result of the angelic fall.

    I also think there’s a separate issue about whether such a view is compatible with evolution (I think it is) and whether that combination of views is compatible with the gospel and with inerrancy (I think it is). Those issues have been the focus on this discussion, but none of it counts against the first set of issues that you’re asking about that I’m agreeing with you on.

    I’m not sure which literature you’re talking about, but it was in the context of epistemology that you said that. I can assure you that I know the literature in epistemology quite well. I don’t know as much about the non-philosophers writing about epistemology in the context of biblical studies, but I know the philosophical issues and have written about them at length on my blog. The only workable epistemology that avoids skepticism is reliabilist externalism of a sort that makes most human knowledge fallible (except for a priori reasoning). That’s certainly an assumption of mine, but it’s not one that I can’t defend.

    I’m still not sure what’s supposed to be squishy about wanting to leave unsure matters unsure. I’m not proposing relativism about truth or about ethics or anything like that. I’m not proposing that every view I think is compatible with the gospel is true or equally valuable, just compatible with the basic core gospel. I’m not proposing that every view I take to be compatible with inerrancy is true or equally valuable, just that you can hold to inerrancy and it without contradiction. When I think of squishiness about views, I think about those sorts of things. So I’m curious still what’s supposed to be so squishy about what I’ve said.

  57. October 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    If I’m understanding you correctly, then folks who are denying the historicity of Adam are de facto denying the doctrine of inerrancy.

    Scripture, including what Jesus and Paul communicated, refers to Adam as historical fact. For folks to say that Adam was a fictional account is a denial of inerrancy.

    Have I understood you properly?

    Not quite. Maybe you could define “de facto denial of inerrancy” as meaning denying something that inerrancy + proper interpretation would yield. But it’s not the inerrancy that such a person gets wrong. It’s the proper interpretation. They might or might not also deny inerrancy, but I think you can maintain inerrancy and hold to a view that doesn’t fit all that well with the NT (but I’m not sure it contradicts it outright).

  58. October 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Hey, my italics didn’t close properly there! The “Not quite” begins my part.

  59. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Jeremy Pierce: “but I think you can maintain inerrancy and hold to a view that doesn’t fit all that well with the NT (but I’m not sure it contradicts it outright).”

    Hi Jeremy,

    Although I don’t think you personally have fallen down the slippery slope (and fwiw I see Scripture making slippery slope arguments with its references to leaven), I think you’re actively greasing the runway of the slippery slope with comments like the above.

    Let’s look at your comment again: “I think you can maintain inerrancy and hold to a view that doesn’t fit all that well with the NT”

    Well, based on what you wrote, someone could say that they uphold inerrancy while denying the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. They simply affirm a metaphorical resurrection while simultaneously proclaiming that they are inerrantists. Your arguments affirm them.

    False shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing would love the way you’re greasing the runway for them, Jeremy.

  60. October 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Haven’t we already covered all this ground before? My contention is that inerrancy is a component of a doctrine of scripture that covers specifically whether the person believes there to be errors in scripture. Some who takes a completely nutty hermeneutic that removes the resurrection as having genuinely happened but nonetheless affirms that all the Bible teaches is without errro may well indeed hold to inerrancy. That’s why I’ve been insisting all along that inerrancy is only a bare minimum. There’s quite a lot more required the merely affirming the Bible to be without errors, for the very reason that an inerrantist with a hermeneutic this crazy doesn’t remotely approach an orthodox doctrine of scripture.

    All a slippery slope means is that something comes in degrees. There are certainly degrees of this that are too far, and the case you give is about as too far as you can get. But there are plenty of cases that are not too far, and there are cases where I’m not sure if they’re too far. But that’s how vagueness works. You can’t draw a sharp line between red and non-red objects or between a pile of sand and sand collected together that isn’t quite a pile. I suspect we aren’t in a position to distinguish some of the finer nuances marking off where we move from within orthodoxy to being unorthodox. I’m not sure I want to say there is no line, but I’m not sure it’s a clear one that we can identify, and I’m sure many people would want to draw it in different places.

  61. Reed Here said,

    October 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Jeremy, no. 56: no, that’s the first time you answered plainly. Thank you.

    Am I correct in understanding what you’ve said to mean that you give Gen 2-3 pretty much a straight-forward read? I.e., there was a garden created by God, tended by man? I.e., there was one particular fruit tree, having the ordinary characteristics of fruit trees (i.e., we may not know what kind of fruit, but it fit into the broad category that is descriptive of fruit)?

    Assuming so, why then deny that God made man from dust, from the dirt? (Did you ever look up what “Adam” means)?

    As to the epistemology question, I find it fascinating that you settle for an opinion of man option. It may be your training, but this does not seem like the position one who affirms the sovereignty of God (calling Jesus Lord and Savior) would opt for. Why settle for the tyranny of man’s opinion? Isn’t there a better option?

  62. October 13, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I just repeated what I had already said in 43. I don’t think it’s any more clear the second time. Maybe what was confusing you was that I went on in the same paragraph to distinguish that issue from the plain affirmation that I’d already made.

    I’m not following you on the epistemology question. God speaks to us, and when we receive the message and believe it it’s knowledge. When we get the wrong message, of course, it’s not knowledge. We can’t always distinguish from within ourselves whether we’ve got the correct belief, but if it’s a correct belief obtained by reliable means then it’s knowledge, and believing scripture delivered by God himself certainly is a reliable means of gaining knowledge. Because I’m a fallibilist about knowledge, I don’t think you have to be able to prove you know or know you know, and that doesn’t stop it from being genuine knowledge. So we can’t always be certain that we know. It’s not a tyranny of human opinion, though. When we do believe what God says (and it is what God says), and we believe it because God said it, then we know it. Reformed epistemology doesn’t make much sense without the sovereignty of God. It depends entirely on it. That’s why Plantinga called it Reformed. (It’s too bad he doesn’t follow Reformed thought as consistently when he gets into free will questions.)

    I do take Gen 3 relatively straightforward. There is the snake, who isn’t a snake, and you can’t have a theory that requires statements calling it a snake to be false if it’s not really a snake. I’m not convinced the dust issue is any different. But the term doesn’t get used just for soil anyway. In Deut 9:21 it refers to the metal particles and wood ash from breaking apart idols and burning them in a fire. Since the same word is used of what happens to our bodies in ch.3 when they die, it obviously isn’t talking about soil. The word seems to just mean very small particles of nonliving matter, as Derek Kidner puts it, “a creature of common chemicals”. It’s not the most natural reading to assume that the process of making dust into humans took such a huge length of time as evolution requires, but I’m not convinced that the text absolutely rules such a thing out.

  63. Roger du Barry said,

    October 14, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Jeremy, you are simply theorising about how we know the truth in the most general terms, and concluding that we can never know for sure that what we know is true. Emmanuel Kant would be proud of you. The prophets and apostles would be appalled.

    No, I am not buying the philosophical “doubt everything you know” fallacy. God gave us the scripture so that we might know for sure, through “infallible proofs’ (Acts 1) what the truth is. The “truth” in scripture is the gospel, which commences in Genesis chapter 1. Faith is being certain of God’s promises, and doubt is the opposite of faith. Faith is the substance, essence, solidity, tangibility, of things not seen – God’s promises.

    I think that you have a faith problem, which you are hiding behind your “epistemological doubt as method and answer” argument.

    The meaning of scripture is usually on the face of the text. The entire church throughout history has understood Genesis in its plain literary meaning. This is not just my personal epiphany.

  64. October 14, 2010 at 6:03 am

    No, Kant would not much approve of my view, and I don’t much approve of his. Kant didn’t think we could really know much about the external world, whereas I think we know all sorts of things. He didn’t think we could have much religious knowledge, and I’ve explained exactly why we can know that God exists and that what he says is true.

    The “doubt everything you know” approach is exactly the view I’m resisting. The only decent response to skepticism is to give an account of knowledge that allows us to recognize fallibility without letting it prevent knowledge. Skeptics think fallibility prevents knowledge. Fallibility is clearly there. So instead we have to say that knowledge is compatible with fallibility. Descartes and Kant couldn’t accept that, even though it flies in the face of how we use language about knowledge all the time, and words get their meaning by how we use them. So the high-standards view of knowledge found in Plato, Descartes, and Kant is wrong. I instead go with the Augustinian view of knowledge, whereby we know things that we don’t have absolute internally-verifying proof.

    What translation says “infallible proofs”? That’s a pretty rotten translation. The NIV and NASB both say “convincing proofs”. The ESV just says “proofs”. It’s not exactly talking about scripture for latter-day believers anyway but how Jesus performed miracles to convince people of his resurrection. I’d have to give up on inerrancy if I were convinced that it meant “infallible proofs”, because that would imply that the resurrection appearances ruled out the possibility that the people experiencing it are dreaming, in the Matrix, hallucinating, etc. Our sense aren’t infallible, and an empirical observation therefore is not infallible. This is in fact the reason we shouldn’t just go with whatever science tells us over what the Bible says. Maybe our method of investigation got it wrong. There’s no 100% proof with any empirical claim, and my insistence is that we nonetheless know all sorts of things by empirical investigation when we use reliable methods to attain true beliefs. It’s the person who thinks we have infallible access to the empirical world who provides the foundation for the skeptic.

    As to my faith problem, we have to be clear on what faith is. In scripture, faith is a kind of knowledge. Augustine recognized that. When God gives us faith, he gives us knowledge by as reliable a method as possible, and that’s the only time we can have infallibility when it’s not a priori reasoning. But the difference is that we can see why a priori knowledge has to be true, because we can calculate the inferences ourselves. When God gives us faith, however, there’s no reasoning involved. We just know something. So it doesn’t carry its infallibility on its face. That means second-order knowledge (i.e. knowledge that it is knowledge) has to be also given directly by God if we’re to have it. Maybe God does that. But surely we don’t want to say that you know to know you know for it to be knowledge in the first place, because then you’d have to have knowledge that you know you know in order to know you know. Then you’d need fourth-order knowledge to have third and fifth-order knowledge to have fourth. Such a view is completely nuts. It’s hard to comprehend what such an internal state could even be like.

    Again, I think you’re mistaking my view for something else when you say that people have understood Genesis in its plain literary meaning for centuries. My view is this: If Genesis means what you think it means, then people who have read it have understood what it means for centuries. If it doesn’t, then they’ve understood its sense but not necessarily its reference in the same way that people who think a certain city in the Bible might be in one location and then discover by archeology that it’s in another location. We then would have understood what the text says but not known which thing in the world it’s referring to.

  65. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Jeremy Pierce: “I suspect we aren’t in a position to distinguish some of the finer nuances marking off where we move from within orthodoxy to being unorthodox.”

    Fine theological nuances are not required to understand that denying the historicity of Adam is heterodox or “unorthodox.”

    “I’m not sure I want to say there is no line, but I’m not sure it’s a clear one that we can identify, and I’m sure many people would want to draw it in different places.”

    I somewhat understand what you’re saying.

    Here’s the thing Jeremy. I think you’re orthodox in your Christian doctrine and practice. My concern, however, and it’s not a small one, is that you *aid and abet* false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing by allowing them to claim the mantle of inerrancy while promoting their beliefs that Adam was not historical.

    I don’t think you intend to aid and abet false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing, but I want to alert you to the concern.

    Thanks.

  66. Reed Here said,

    October 14, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Jeremy: no disrespect intended, but I think your head is too far up in the stratosphere.

    The epistemoloigical angle does seem to be at the heart here. Frankly, what you’ve written boils down to the principle of absolute uncertainty – we can never be sure of anything, even the statement “we can’t be sure of anything.” You propose a model of truth that is effectively 100% tentative in nature. Any philospohical reservations you offer to the contrary necessarily include a “however” caveat that you’ve attached.

    (This is the main reason why I’m not engaging your comments related to creation – you’ve made so many qualifications that there is not foundation for forward movement. Everything is like liquid jellow with you.)

    Frankly, you offer a position in which the individual has no outside authority upon whom they can infallibly rely.A consequence of this is that you leave the individual trapped in the tyranny of their own opnion. Your positiion effectively makes doubly sacrosanct the lie of Satan, that man can truly know, be his own epistemological authority, apart from God.

    As to resources, let me strongly urge you to read the Westmindter Confession of Faith, especially chapter1, and as many commentaries as you can on that chapter. This chapter adequately examinse the BIble’s explanation of the epistemological curse under which fallen man suffers without escape – and how via Christ God gives us release from that tyranny. As this is rooted in biblical exegesis, you will not be subject to the rambling opinions of men, but can expect the Spirit’s leading to certainty.

    Finally, let me offer you the root truth upon which I can say with confidence that there is a way out of the epistemological bear-trap: God has promised His children that in union with Christ – they WILL KNOW the truth, and consequently be set free from the epistemological curse (John 8:32).

    With respect brother, I echo TUAD’s loving admonishment. Everything you’ve written reads as one who is very wise in understanding things “under the sun.” Yet you show little understanding of the truth of the Son. Sorry to be hard brother, but there it is, with sincere affectionate prayers for God to bless you.

  67. October 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    You’re still getting my position very wrong. I’ve endorsed Augustine’s epistemology, and he was the first to offer critiques of the skeptics by pointing out thing we can know even if the skeptics’ wrongful high-standard view of knowledge is true (whereas they say you can’t know anything because of their high standards). I would in fact say that we can be sure that the statement “we can’t be sure of anything” is false.

    I haven’t proposed a model of truth. I’ve proposed a model of knowledge. There’s a huge difference. The issue of truth hasn’t been a matter of disagreement here.

    I would argue that we can’t know anything apart from God, so I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. God made our faculties so that we could reliably get generally good information and so we could engage in a priori reasoning about necessary truths. The only information we have about God comes either from inferences based on the effects of God’s actions or direct interaction with God either by receiving the revelation from God in his word or by being given faith directly by God in an act of regeneration. I don’t see how that leads to any claim that we can be an epistemological authority without God. We can engage in reasoning about epistemology without believing in God, but we can’t do it without God making us the way we are, and we can’t know God without divine influence on our understanding.

    For the record, a close friend of mine knows the Westminister Confessions backwards and forwards, and he’s constantly insisting on fitting his convictions to it for reasons I can’t fathom given its non-scriptural status, but I guess it’s just something that Presbyterians do. His epistemological conclusions are pretty much the same as mine, so he sees no problem with any of this given the Westminster traditions. I’m beginning to suspect that maybe presuppositonalism is what’s lying behind these epistemological objections. If that’s so, I’m done with this conversation. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to debate with a presuppositionalist. I’ve recorded my thoughts on the matter here for the record, but I don’t expect much further discussion to go anywhere. The view pretty much immunizes itself from debate because of its circular nature.

  68. Roger du Barry said,

    October 15, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Jeremy said: “When God gives us faith, however, there’s no reasoning involved.”

    I could not disagree more. You have a magical view of the means of grace, which may explain why you are having such difficulty understanding the simplest texts of scripture. Scripture presents us with PROOF of the claims of Jesus Christ. Said proof is his resurrection, and the destruction f Jerusalem in 70-74 AD. Pollois tekmhriois.

    “If Genesis means what you think it means, then people who have read it have understood what it means for centuries. If it doesn’t, then they’ve understood its sense but not necessarily its reference … “

    Please give me a break. So Genesis means that the world was created in six days, but its reference is evolution, or, at the least, that it was NOT created in six days. LOL.

    Your basic comprehension skills are in need of a refresher course in plain prose, uninterpreted by your epistemological wrestlings with grammar and common sense.

    Bottom line is that I think that your basic problem is unbelief.

  69. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Jeremy; I encourage you to rea Cornelius Van Til on these things, especially on the issue of circular reasoning. You’ll find that your’s is circular too.

    What else can I say to one who has simply been dismissive to my arguments and hasn’t even bothered to question his understanding of them. I offered the WCF as a means of getting into this issue biblically.

    Why can’t you see the epistemological basis to “you shall “KNOW” the truth”? It is staring you right in the face.

    I guess this is what some philopsher types do, huh Jeremy? Thanks for trying to illuminate my ignorance. (Yes, in case it is missed – I am being sarcastic.)

  70. Matt Holst said,

    October 15, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Jeremy

    The ease with which you dismiss solid biblical data is concerning. I very clearly referenced and cross referenced the meaning of life and death in Gen 1-9 and all you dismiss it with one wave of your hand. That there are different meanings for the words life and death in Scripture does not violence to my assertions from Gen 1-9. Indeed what your argument does demonstrate is that you are unfamiliar with basic biblical concepts and that you have an agenda which forces you to deny what you read before your very eyes.

    Matt

  71. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Jeremy: to sum up,

    You introduced the concept of “metaphor” in terms of understanding Gen 2:7.
    You’ve not demonstrated either how this is actually the exegetical intent of the passage, nor even how this might work as a sub-aspect of the passage. You’ve merely asserted.

    Your metaphor concept, as you’ve used it, exegetically necessarily requires an unfettered application throughout the whole section. This is because of the linguistic structure of the passage. Indeed, given the Hebrew concept of the waw-consecutive, tthis is relevant possibly up through the first 11 chapters. In other words, virtually any of the details of these chapters is open, according to your usage, of being metaphorical in nature.

    At the very least if “metaphor” applies to “dust” in Gen 2:7, then it equally applies to the details of the Fall in the immediately following chapter. Since the rest of the Bible deals with God’s actions to deal with the Fall, then the metaphor concept necessarily influences the details throughout the rest of the Bible. This is especially true of a passage such as Rom 5 where Adam’s fall is correlated with Jesus’s redemption.

    In other words, you’ve proposed a concept that if rightly applied to Gen 2:7, leaves us with at best a “metaphorical” atonement, one which cannot be rested upon. If the details of Gen 2-3 are to be understood as metaphorical in their basic nature, then the atonement which specifically redresses the Fall is likewise metaphorical.

    You seem interestingly beholden to a post-modern tentativeness, coupled with a higher critical liberals special pleading about the reality of his faith. It is a faith in mere words, defined by his own authority.

    This is not the faith God gives in the promise in John 8:24. Sincerely, I urge you to stop for a moment and think about what I’ve said.

  72. PDuggie said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

    It strikes me that

    “We affirm God’s special creation of Adam and Eve as real, historical individuals (Romans 5:12-14; I Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49), and deny that Adam and Eve were the products of evolution from lower forms of life.”

    leaves some wiggle room on prior hominid evolution.

    Adam and Eve, see, are the result of physical natures that come from lower forms of life PLUS a special spiritual nature.

    A theistic evolutionist could affirm that A&E are not the products of evolution, because mere evolution would not have given them spiritual natures. But all of A&Es bodily life is such a thing.

    I’m sure the PCA (or what’s left of the some pieces) will be there in 40 years.

  73. PDuggie said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:46 am

    @71

    We have a functionally metaphorical atonement anyway. Jesus sheds his blood for our sins on a cross, but what atones for us is “really” the value of the blood, which is only a signifiier for his moral deeds in life. or the merit of his moral deeds in life.

    We say “the blood of jesus cleanses you from sin” but nobody is physically touched by the blood of jesus except some soldiers and disciples back in AD 30 or so. So “the blood of jesus cleanses you from sin” is a metaphor for “God stops holding you accountable for guilt in his mind, because Jesus died even though he was sinless”

  74. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Jeremy is a follower of Christ.

    He personally believes in the historicity of Adam.

    My disagreement with him, or rather my deep and abiding concern for him, is that he is providing cover (“aiding and abetting”) false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing by allowing them to claim that they are authentic inerrantists.

    I understand his objection to my claim. But the more important thing is that he needs to understand is that he’s enabling, aiding and abetting false teaching and false teachers even though he himself is a believer.

    He’s been mournfully warned. And can’t claim ignorance.

  75. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Paul: anachronistic and decidedly unhelpful, on both comments. You should consider the biblical warnings against engaging is silly arguments.

  76. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Jeremy: “I’m beginning to suspect that maybe presuppositonalism is what’s lying behind these epistemological objections. If that’s so, I’m done with this conversation. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to debate with a presuppositionalist.”

    What do you think of these presuppositionalist arguments offered up at A Sound Proof For God’s Existence?

    Excerpts from the thread:

    “Evidentialism makes God out to be a liar. Besides what I alread wrote, we have a more sure word of knowledge whereas evidentialism argues that Jesus might have been raised from the dead. But even if he was, on what authority should one turn his life over to him? The moral of the story is, when you begin outside of Scripture, don’t expect God’s word to bail you out.”

    “Evidentialism fails and is an immoral apologetic.”

    “I’m certainly not the ONLY apologist who finds evidentialism and Thomistic apologetics immoral. Bahnsen said so much. Notwithstanding, his or my say-so doesn’t make it so.

    Evidentialism denies Christianity because as an apologetic it presupposes that (a) all man needs is more evidence; (b) man can interpet the evidence aright apart from Scripture; (c) man, unaided by Scripture, can have a philosophy of fact that is intelligible and (d), and worst of all, it implies at best that Jesus *might* live.”

  77. October 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Those arguments are pretty much either shooting down straw men or just fallacious.

    The evidentialist argument about the resurrection doesn’t stop with just “Jesus might have been raised from the dead”. It says something much stronger, in most cases. Evidentialists generally consider the evidence to be overwhelmingly in favor of the resurrection. So “might have been” is extremely weak given their claim.

    Even aside from that, evidentialists do in fact believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Their claim is that the best way to support our beliefs is to believe the propositions that have the strongest evidential support. The strength of support then is not 100%, according to many evidentialists, but it is strong enough support that we simply ought to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. This point, then, confuses the level of epistemological support for a proposition and whether someone actually believes that proposition. An evidentialist usually will simply believe the conclusion of the argument while claiming that there’s a certainly level of support for the conclusion. It’s the latter that they might say is less than 100%, not the former. Our level of credence isn’t always the same as the level of support for our beliefs, and evidentialists would probably say that it shouldn’t always be the same. I’m no evidentialist, and I wouldn’t say they should be the same.

    On what authority? On the authority of God. Even if you think the level of epistemological support for God’s word being God’s word is lower than 100%, you still might accept it to be God’s word, and it therefore has the metaphysical status of being infallible and worth believing 100%. You might have less than 100% epistemological grounds to believe that, but the content of the belief itself is that the word of God has 100% divine authority. So it’s fully on God’s authority that you believe it, since you accept the Bible as the word of God. The objection confuses metaphysics and epistemology.

    I’m assuming the last paragraph is about the use of evidentialism apart from any notion of divine sovereignty, but why must an evidentialist do that? Evidentialists give arguments to try to overcome intellectual objections to Christianity. It’s anti-Reformed to assume that God can’t work by means of removing intellectual objections via arguments like that as part of the process of bringing someone to saving faith, which does include propositional beliefs that someone might have intellectual reasons not to hold. There are plenty of examples of people who at least seemed to themselves to come to faith in part through having evidence or arguments presented to them, and Van Til himself did give arguments, arguments that I find indistinguishable from the classical arguments for God’s existence (e.g. the moral argument, the cosmological argument, and the design argument can all be put into transcendental form and thus be Kantianized for a Van Tillian to support, and Frame does exactly that sort of thing to show that classical arguments aren’t off-limits for a presuppositionalist).

    The lamest argument I’ve ever heard from presuppositionalists is the claim that you’re somehow arguing for a lesser divinity by arguing for one element of who God is. So the cosmological argument argues for a first cause but doesn’t argue for moral perfection (you need the moral argument for that). That means the God of the philosophers, as they derisively speak, is not the God of the Bible. But how would you conclude that? Is God not a first cause? Of course he is. So the cosmological argument, which shows that there is a first cause, does tell us something, even if it doesn’t tell us everything, about what kind of divinity there is. It doesn’t tell us that there’s a first cause who isn’t a person who isn’t morally good. It just tells us that there’s a first cause. The fact that it doesn’t tell us more doesn’t mean it does tell us that there is no more. That would be a very basic logical fallacy. Absence of evidence doesn’t count as the evidence of absence.

    And in fact there are classical arguments that fill out the picture much more. So the design argument, if successful, tells us that there is a creator who had certain purposes in mind for creation, which is a step beyond the cosmological argument. You won’t derive the Trinity from such arguments, but you also don’t derive its denial, which means you haven’t argued for a lesser divinity or a different divinity. You just haven’t argued for everything that’s true about God.

    (And then the irony is that presuppositionalists do give transcendental arguments that have the same feature of not arguing for everything true about God anyway, and thus by their own standards presuppositionalist arguments are idolatrous and immoral.)

    Some of the best stuff on this is from R.C. Sproul. His series on apologetics shows all the misunderstandings involved with presuppositionalist critiques of classical apologetics. And there’s no arguing that he’s limiting God’s sovereignty. None of my thinking on this was influenced by him. I heard his stuff long after I tried to engage with thus stuff years ago. But I was impressed at his handling of the issues.

  78. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Jeremy: you’re way off topic.

    As the author of the post, let me thank you for your comments and invite you to follow your own advice. If you’re already persuaded of the correctness of your position, then why even engage in a blog devoted to debate and discussion.

    P.S. R.C. Sproul would be appalled at your using his name in defense of the arguments you put forward here.

  79. October 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I just read through Chapter 1 of the Westminister Confession of Faith. It’s no surprise to me that I find it to be a pretty good summary of biblical teaching on the matter and not at all inconsistent with Reformed Epistemology or any of the other epistemological views I hold, even affirming of classical apologetical arguments while recognizing that they do not contribute to the process of someone’s coming to salvation apart from God’s grace.

    I’ve also been looking at A.A. Hodge’s commentary on it, and he interestingly goes beyond the Confession (but not in conflict with it) by saying that you could have a true and certain knowledge of God from classical apologetical arguments such as the design argument. I wouldn’t go that far myself, but I’m pointing it out to show that at least Hodge thinks such a view is compatible with the Confession. I know that Lane Keister thinks the same thing, indeed that everyone knows that God exists even if some resist admitting so, and they know this by general revelation that we access by observing the design in the world and such things as classical arguments point to. I also looked at Shaw’s commentary, which also seems pretty good in terms of the views I’ve been explaining here.

  80. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Jeremy: in terms of the views you’ve been explaining? Frankly dude I can’t begin to pin you down. You are all over the place. I asked a while back if you wanted to stick to one point – and deal with that alone. So far, you’re all over the place. Now you’re into evidentialist vs. presuppositionalism. Good grief!

    How about it, do you want to deal with the original question, do the Bible allow anythng other than a fiat creation of Adam, beginning with Gen 2:7. Limit yourself to textual considerations, please. If you need to define something (e.g., metaphor) please do so clearly with reference to your usage.

    If not, seriously, you’re wasting time.


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