Contend Earnestly: The Battle for the Beginning

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Battle for the Beginning

I am currently reading MacArthur's The Battle for the Beginning (among other things) and although it is not as well done as I thought is would have been there have been some good thoughts on the subject. I will give you a full run down on my disappointments when I am done reading. I wanted to share a great point made in the book when dealing with those "old earth" guys on this weekend's edition of "Contend Earnestly Plagarizes Once Again."

The fact remains, however, that Adam certainly had many features associated with maturity. He wasn’t created as an embryo or an infant. He was a fully grown man. There is no reason to doubt that he had normal adult features; he certainly would have had fully developed muscles; and we know he was created with enough knowledge to tend the garden, name the animals, and talk with God. Without any growth, history, or experience, he was still a mature adult man.
Suppose a modern scientist could travel back in time and arrive in the garden moments after Adam’s creation. If he examined Adam, he would see adult features. If he could converse with Adam, he would find a man with adult knowledge and fully formed language skills. But if he interpreted those things as conclusive proof that Adam was more than one hour old, he would simply be wrong. When we’re dealing with things created ex nihilo, evidences of maturity or signs of age do not constitute proof of antiquity.

And what if that same time–traveling scientist did a botanical study of a newly created oak tree? He would observe the size of the tree, note the tree’s fruit (acorns), and probably conclude that the tree itself was many years old. What if he cut down one of the trees to examine its growth rings? Would he find growth rings inside, indicating that the tree had been there for many seasons? Why not? Those rings of xylem and phloem are not only signs of the tree’s age, but they also compose the tree’s vascular system. They are essential to the strength of a large tree as well. But if our imaginary scientist concluded on the basis of tree rings that the tree was ninety years old, he would be wrong again. The garden itself was created mature, fully functional, and therefore with the appearance of age.
The garden was no doubt filled with creatures that had every appearance of age. On day seven, when the Lord rested from His labor, everything was fully mature and fully functional. The eagles soaring overhead might appear to be thirty years old, but they were less than a week old. Elephants roaming around might have had full tusks and appeared to be fifty years old, but they were merely one day old. Any mountains, rivers, or other geological features probably also appeared to have been there for some time. There were no doubt beautiful waterfalls and canyons, and other features that the typical geologist would surmise had been formed by several ages of wind and water or volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. But the fact is that they were all made in one day. And when Adam looked up into the heavens and saw that incredible expanse with millions of bright stars, he was seeing light from millions of light–years away—even though those stars had all had been there less than four days. The light he saw was itself part of God’s creation
MacArthur, J. (2001). The battle for the beginning : The Bible on creation and the fall of Adam (55). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.


Jake said...

So what are your thoughts on Christians who believe the earth is millions of years old? I'm just curious, I don't really have a strong opinion about the age of the earth, this year when I read in Genesis I purposely avoided questions about the age of the earth because I get caught up in the argument, miss the beauty of the text, and ultimately I don't think the age matters that much. How strong a line do you draw here?

Seth McBee said...

I would want to know why anyone would question the text of Genesis 1. There is no Biblical evidence for an old earth and actually makes the genaeology lines of Adam in 1 Chronicles quite useless if there was mass generational skipping.

So my first question to anyone not believing in a young earth or in the literal 6 days would be, simply, "why?"

Jake said...

Well, I think the scientific evidence weighs heavily in favor of an old earth and if our understanding of scripture and of the world contradict, then I would argue that something is wrong with my understanding of one of them. I'd then look at the evidence to try to determine which one is faulty.

As I look at the scientific evidence, I see literally every respected scientist (young earthers like the Morris', Ken Ham, and Kent Hovind have, literally, zero credibility in the larger scientific community) believes the earth to be millions of years old and has mounds of compelling, scientific evidence to support their view.

Meanwhile, I don't see any need to interpret a creation narrative written in order to help an ancient, wondering tribal group to understand how they came to be where they were in an overly-literalistic way. Genesis isn't a science text book and there's no compelling reason whatsoever to get into dating wars because that isn't the purpose of the book. So I don't even think about the age of the earth when I'm reading Genesis, and if the scientific community presents compelling evidence for an old earth, I have no reason to doubt their judgment. (If I recall, I think I once read that Calvin or one of the other Reformers argued this very point- if science and scripture contradict, we need to adapt our interpretation of one or the other)

As to the 1 Chronicles thing, I think it depends on what you see as being the purpose of the genealogy. I don't think the purpose is to give us a full record of the line of humanity from David to the first human. I think it was intended to establish for Jewish readers the authority David had to claim the throne and was then later used to again show the authority Christ had as a descendant of David.

Does that make sense? I'm still thinking through a lot of this and I've kinda abandoned the whole thing lately because I've had more pressing questions on my mind.

Steve said...

I have an "old Earth" friend who said he found it hard to believe that God would go to all this effort to show us how old the Earth is, if it isn't true.

My rebuttal to him was that I found it difficult that God would be very explicit in saying that creation happened in six days if it wasn't true. That would make Him a liar.

If one disregards the creation account, our whole faith is cast in doubt. If the creation account is wrong wouldn't it follow that perhaps Adam and Eve never sinned in the Garden of Eden? If that didn't happen, then there probably isn't original sin either. Therefore we aren't as depraved as the Bible says we are. Why do we need a savior?

If there is error in the Genesis account, then we can allow for error in other books of the Bible as well. We can pick and choose what we want to believe and disregard the rest.

Funny, isn't it the same scientists who say the Earth is millions of years old who also say the universe was created by the Big Bang? And using the natural laws of physics, shouldn't the universe be decellerating now that the bang has passed? Why do these well-respected scientists hypothesize that the universe is accelerating while expanding?

Remember that the age of the universe and Earth cannot be proven by men. We weren't here to witness it, and therefore cannot measure it. The best we can do is hypothesize.

Science has yet to prove or disprove the creation account. So one needs to accept either the Biblical account or the scientists' account. It's a matter of faith either way. The question is where do you place you faith?

1Cr 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Cr 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

1Cr 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

Arthur Sido said...


Why wouldn’t God create the world in six days? Because He couldn’t?

Whenever I hear the "science has proven" argument, I turn to 1 Corinthians 1: 18-21

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

The problem is see with your argument is the presupposition it approaches from…

>> if our understanding of scripture and of the world contradict, then I would argue that something is wrong with my understanding of one of them. I'd then look at the evidence to try to determine which one is faulty.<<

I come to ANY argument with the assumption that if the Bible and any other source disagree, the Bible is the authoritative source. There are no areas where manmade wisdom trumps Biblical teaching. The scientific understanding of the world says that the Red Sea couldn’t part, that the sun couldn’t stand still in the sky, that bushes don’t burn without being consumed, that donkeys don’t speak, that men don’t walk on water, that diseases are not cured with a word, that men who are crucified, stabbed with a spear, pronounced dead and laid in a tomb for several days don’t come back to life. Where do you draw the line? If you dismiss out of hand any Biblical event that fails the test of modern science, you might as well chuck the whole thing. If Christ is not risen, than we are fools for believing in Him. But scientists say that sort of thing doesn’t happen. I don’t get how people can claim to be Christians, dismiss the Genesis account and then claim to believe in a Risen Lord. This is a slippery slope, because what it leads to invariably is a buffet style Christianity, where you pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe in and as sinners we will always choose to believe those passages of Scripture that are most palatable to our itching ears.

Arthur Sido said...

Oops, Steve and I posted at the same time, saying pretty similar stuff. Sorry for the repetition!

Steve said...


In fairness, here is a link that states the universe is accelerating:

It also goes into some depth about the Big Bang, dark matter, etc.

I especially like it when scientists say things like the universe is flat. How can that be if the universe was created by the Big Bang? Wouldn't everything expand outward in all directions, thus making the universe somewhat round?

And if there was a Big Bang, where did all that initial energy come from?

My point is that the well-respected scientists get it wrong. They have theories that they are trying to prove, and haven't done so. It's all just theories. And they contradict themselves frequently.

Why hypothesize when we have a book that claims some of these things outright? If I were a betting man, I'd double-down on God.



Steve said...

I like your post, Arthur.

Jake said...

I guess I'll try to respond one point at a time:

First, in regards to Genesis. I'm not sure that's the best way to interpret the text. I think it's a very 21st century evangelical way of interpreting it. Frankly, I certainly see merit in the day-age position (a position held by many great men, most notably Francis Schaeffer) and I even see a lot of merit in the Genesis as true-myth view, held by C.S. Lewis. I'm not sure which side I fall on, and frankly I don't plan on making a firm commitment to either of them, I just don't see the point. I think as long as you understand that God is creator, that man is made in his image, and that evil was introduced into the world through the actions of men, then you understand the point of the creation narrative in Genesis.

As to the wisdom of the world being foolishness to men: Honestly, I think that passage gets really abused by people who are afraid of scientific or rational analysis. Paul is writing to the Corinthians, a culture steeped in rationalism. This affects how they perceive the gospel- they see it as primarily a new a philosophy they can argue about and completely miss the fundamental point that it's about hearts being changed by the grace of God through the substitutionary death of Christ. That's why Paul says Greeks seek wisdom and Jews seek miracles. The Jews didn't want life-change, they wanted miracles. Likewise the Greeks want philosophy, not life-change. And the point Paul is making is that you can't just bat around the gospel as if it's a philosophy because the message of the gospel is foolish to the world. The idea that it is in weakness we become strong, that the meek shall inherit the earth, that others are more important than I am, these are the foolish things Paul is referring to. It has absolutely nothing to do with forbidding rational apologetics or scientific inquiry (if it does, how do you explain Paul's actions in Athens in Acts 17?).

I completely agree that if the Bible and an authoritative source contradict, the Bible is correct. However, I do not come to the Bible tabula rosa, I come to it with many things that affect my understanding of it and consequently it's possible that I'm misinterpreting it. Someone using your logic 500 years ago would've argued that the earth is flat because the Bible says so (people have found verses to argue for that in the past) and even though all evidence indicates otherwise, darn it, the Bible is right! Well, the Bible is right. But so is the science. What was wrong was their interpretation of that particular verse. I believe the one in question (don't recall the reference) said something to the affect of God dwells over the earth. So people took this to mean the earth was flat and God literally lived above it. But we've now come to a point where we understand that that picture is mere metaphor, meant to help us understand that God has authority over the earth.

Sorry for being stubborn, but nothing in your posts makes me feel like there's sufficient biblical reason to take such a dogmatic stance on the earth's age. I just don't see what the big deal is.

Seth or Justin- I'm honestly asking this question with as much of an open mind as possible (I've been reading Humility by C.J. Mahaney and realizing again my great need for greater humility), why do you and others feel this is such an enormous issue? I want to see where you're coming from, and maybe I'm just not seeing it, but I don't get why this is such a big issue. It seems like if it were, the Scriptures would be more explicit about it.

Seth McBee said...

Jake...thanks for the interaction and no worries, we're all stubborn at some point...which I am sure you have seen in me on some issues.

I do agree we need to be humble but we also need to understand that when faced with difficulties of the secular world we should not be timid, but understand that God gave us a spirit of power.

I will be quick and to the point so you don't have to read a novel...then we can converse from there...

One, 6 literal days is important because God said it in His word. I really don't know how much clearer God could have been. And like the previous guys stated, where does it stop?

Jake, I am really asking you this...where does it stop? Science has proven that man cannot walk on water and that people cannot come back from the dead after three days. Once you open up that the creation account, or anything else for that matter, should be understood from science first instead of second you undermine the Bible.

By the way, if you just exegete the text there is no other way to interpret it...only when you bring science to the table do you get any other interpretation...

Couple of things to the Bible when the word "day" (yom) is preceded or defined with a number (one, two, three, etc.) it always is taken literal every other place in the Bible...

As far as science...think of this. On the third day, God put vegetation on the earth...if we prove this with science, we see that photosynthesis is required for plants to grow and be nurished...but the sun wasn't created til the fourth day...if it was 2 billion years between the 3rd and 4th day, how did the plants survive? Also, it is scientific fact that there are certain insects that are crucial to plant growth and development...these were not created til the 5th did the plants survive without these insects for 2 billion years?

Things to at least think on...

also, Exodus 20 makes no sense whatsoever if you believe in old earth...

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy."
Exodus 20:11

If the days aren't literal, am I supposed to work on Sunday, then wait 6 billion years before working on Monday? God is plainly stating to imitate Him and uses creation to show us our imitation...if creation happened over many years, how can we imitate this?

Hope this helps...ask questions though...hope life and school are going well for you brother...

Justin Evans said...

In fairness to the "Old Earth" brethren (and granted I have not steeped myself in that particular aspect of Genesis), I do not believe that they would all necessarily jettison the literal 6 Day/24-hour creation account to get to their old earth beliefs.

However, if they try to get there via the gap theory, I think there has been a serious compromise of the perspicuity of Gen 1:1-2. Over all, I would never waiver on the literal 6 day/24-hour creation account. Personally, I believe the rest of the historical narrative tends toward a young earth. But there are other godly men that believe otherwise (Piper, for example, is not dogmatically young earth, but he leans on it while allowing for the possibility of an old earth).

Glennsp said...

Jake, you said;

"As I look at the scientific evidence, I see literally every respected scientist (young earthers like the Morris', Ken Ham, and Kent Hovind have, literally, zero credibility in the larger scientific community) believes the earth to be millions of years old and has mounds of compelling, scientific evidence to support their view."

So what about the following (who are but a small representation) who are all scientists who believe firmly in 6 literal days

Sorry for the long entry, but I thought it would help to provide some background on their qualifications etc.

Dr. Emil Silvestru

Geologist, hydrogeologist & karstologist
Dr. Silvestru earned his Ph.D. in geology at the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania, where he worked as an associate professor in karst sedimentology.
A world authority on the geology of caves, he has published 30 scientific papers, and co-authored one book. He was, until recently, the head scientist at the world’s first Speleological Institute (speleology = the study of caves) in Cluj.
His areas of expertise include: Sedimentology of clastic deposits, stratigraphy of limestone terranes, general geology, karst genesis and functioning, cave climate and glaciology, show-cave assessment & designing, ore prospecting and exploration (surface and mining).

Danny R. Faulkner
Professor of Astronomy
(United States)

Dr Danny R. Faulkner has a B.S. (Math), M.S. (Physics), M.A. and Ph.D. (Astronomy, Indiana University). He is Full Professor at the University of South Carolina — Lancaster, where he teaches physics and astronomy. He has published about two dozen papers in various astronomy and astrophysics journals.
B.S., Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, 1976
M.S., Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 1979
M.A., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1983
Ph.D., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1989

Dr Werner Gitt

The retired Dr Gitt was a director and professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig), the Head of the Department of Information Technology. Three prerequisites must be fulfilled in order for the German Ministerium to award the title ‘Director and Professor’ at a German research institute, on the recommendation of the Praesidium. The person concerned must be:
A scientist. I.e. it is most definitely an academic title.
One who has published a significant number of original research papers in the technical literature.
Must head a department in his area of expertise, in which several working scientists are employed.
Dr. Gitt has written numerous scientific papers in the fields of information science, mathematics, and control engineering.

Dr John Hartnett
Physics, Cosmology

John G. Hartnett received both his B.Sc. (hons) and his Ph.D. with distinction from the Department of Physics at the University of Western Australia (UWA). He works there with the Frequency Standards and Metrology research group. John’s current work involves the European Space Agency’s atomic clock ensemble in space. His research interests include the development of ultra-stable cryogenically cooled microwave oscillators based on a sapphire crystal, ultra low-noise radar, tests of fundamental theories of physics such as Special and General Relativity and measurement of drift in fundamental constants and their cosmological implications. John has a keen interest in cosmology and how it applies to the creationist worldview. He is also developing new physics that has established that there is no need to assume the existence of dark matter in the universe. He has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and holds 2 patents.

Professor D.B. Gower, biochemistry

Professor Gower is emeritus professor of steroid biochemistry at the University of London, United Kingdom. He holds a B.S. in chemistry from the University of London, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of London and was awarded a D.Sc. from the University of London for his research into the biochemical mechanisms for the control of steroid hormone formation. Professor Gower is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a fellow of the Institute of Biology and a chartered chemist.

Dr D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D.

Dr Humphreys was awarded his Ph.D. in physics from Louisiana State University in 1972, by which time he was a fully convinced creationist. For the next 6 years he worked in the High Voltage Laboratory of General Electric Company, designing and inventing equipment and researching high-voltage phenomena. While there, he received a U.S. patent and one of Industrial Research Magazine’s IR-100 awards.
Beginning in 1979 he worked for Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico) in nuclear physics, geophysics, pulsed-power research, and theoretical atomic and nuclear physics. In 1985, he began working with Sandia’s ‘Particle Beam Fusion Project’, and was co-inventor of special laser-triggered ‘Rimfire’ high-voltage switches, now coming into wider use.
The last few years at Sandia had seen greater emphasis on theoretical nuclear physics and radiation hydrodynamics in an effort to help produce the world’s first lab-scale thermonuclear fusion. Besides gaining another U.S. patent, Dr Humphreys has been given two awards from Sandia, including an Award for Excellence for contributions to light ion-fusion target theory.
Dr Humphreys has retired from Sandia and now works with ICR. He still continues to write for TJ and serves as a resource scientist for AiG to assist with questions and information concerning physics, astronomy and cosmology.

Dr Ian Macreadie

Dr Ian Macreadie is a highly regarded Australian researcher in the fields of molecular biology and microbiology. Author of more than 60 research papers, he is a Principal Research Scientist at the Biomolecular Research Institute of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and national secretary of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
In 1997 he was part of a team which won the CSIRO’s top prize, the Chairman’s Medal. In 1995 he won the Australian Society for Microbiology’s top award, for outstanding contributions to research. He is also adjunct professor of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Also, as regards scientists of the past;

"In response to the tide of Darwinism then sweeping the country ... 717 scientists signed a remarkable manifesto entitled The Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences, issued in London in 1864. This declaration affirmed their confidence in the scientific integrity of the Holy Scriptures. The list included 86 Fellows of the Royal Society.’9 James Joule was among the more prominent of the scientists who signed the document."

So I'm afraid Jake that your statement does not stand the test of investigation.

Seth McBee said...

glenn...thank you for your response...this information is great...

Steve said...


I have been thinking about it, and I too can use some humility. :-) If come across obnoxious, please accept my apologies.

I have a concern in your last response. You stated "Someone using your logic 500 years ago would've argued that the earth is flat because the Bible says so (people have found verses to argue for that in the past) and even though all evidence indicates otherwise, darn it, the Bible is right! Well, the Bible is right. But so is the science."

I don't think this claim can be made in the case of the age of the Earth or the universe for that matter. It's all theory and the scientists state it as such. If a respected scientist claims it as fact and it cannot be repeatedly proven by others, then it cannot be claimed as scientific fact. It must remain theory.

Please allow me to indulge you with a small geometric example:

Consider this ray: Its coordinates are (0,0) on the left and (10,10) on the right. By all appearances, this line is a slope.

Now if we zoom out, we can see that the lower left is at (0,0) and the upper right is at (100,5000). The line is actually parabolic, not linear as it first appeared.

What we consider as scientific fact has been observed within a small sampling of time. It's a very low-resolution sampling. If we go to a higher resolution, can we guarantee that theses same scientific facts still hold up? We won't know because we cannot expand our window of observation that far. We can't look back billions of years, nor can we look that far ahead in time.

The one thing I know for sure is that the Bible says the Earth was created in 6 literal days. It's not a 20th century interpretation. If Genesis was claimed to be a myth, then we could claim original sin is a myth as well. Same for the Flood.

If Myhtbusters were to try and bust the "myth" of Jonah and the fish, surely Buster would die every time. By the account of Adam and Jamie, it would be scientific fact. It would be busted. But Jesus claims the story as fact. Who are Christians to believe?

Science cannot measure the supernatural.

Thanks for your comments. This is a fun topic to discuss.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jake said...

OK, so I have 45 minutes till my poetry class starts to respond so some of this will be a bit condensed (but hopefully in a good way... I just finished watching the Wordplay documentary and am in a wonderful mood now as a result :) ):

Again, I'm going to take it one point at a time:

As far as the day of rest is concerned- I don't think the true-myth interpretation contradicts what is said in Exodus. Many ancient cultures base their cultural lifestyle on myths told within the culture. So of course when giving an explanation for the need for a sabbath, they would fall back on their own culture's creation myth.

But the significant thing with this particular creation myth is that it is inspired myth. Like any myth, the thing that makes it true is not whether or not it actually happened, but what lessons it teaches. And I already outlined that above.

The main problems I have with the true myth view, and this is the reason I don't fully affirm it (though I am sympathetic to it) would be two-fold: Where does the creation myth end and the history of it begin? I think most would draw the line between Genesis 11 and 12, but I'm not sure there's sufficient reason to argue for such a line. And the other question I have is what Seth brought up already- Paul's basis for arguing for original sin seems to be dependent on a literal interpretation of Genesis 3- "Just as through one man sin entered the world...."

I'm thinking through each of those right now and may have more to share later.

As to scientific "theory": This is the most frequent complaint scientists make about the ID crowd: When science uses the word "theory" it doesn't mean it in the sense of "it may or may not be true." It means it in the sense of careful scientific inquiry has brought us to this conclusion (IE cell theory, atomic theory, the theory of evolution). Basically, I think caution is important when working with a word like, "theory" because it has many different meanings depending on the context. (

As to the scientists who are young earth- I was not aware of them and know very little about them. When I made that statement I was thinking, primarily, of the Institute for Creation Research in California, Kent Hovind's DinoLand, and Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis, all of which have zero credibility in the scientific community today. (To be fair, the fact that Hovind is now in jail for 10 years for tax fraud doesn't do much to help either) I would be careful at pulling out 130 year old documents though, I'm sure if you looked you could easily find other documents signed by men who were well-respected scientists in their day that would affirm a flat earth or that the earth is the center of the universe.

Finally, questioning young earth has more to do with literary criticism and far less to do with supernatural skepticism. I have no qualms whatsoever with the supernatural. I fully affirm the miracles described in the gospels and the book of Acts (as well as those described in OT historical books) as literally true. My reluctance to affirm young-earth has nothing to do with a lack of belief that God could create the world in six literal 24-hour days if he wanted to.

My reluctance comes from the fact that I'm not sure that's the way Genesis ought to be interpreted. It's an ancient creation narrative/myth, so I'm reluctant to read it like a propositional essay. It's the same reason I don't take the 1000 years at the end of Revelation literally (I don't say that to start an eschatology discussion, I'm only using it as an example of other places where I apply the same hermeneutical principles). I'm extremely reluctant to read narrative from other cultures as if it's a propositional scientific treatise written in the 21st century west. That's what I mean when I say taking Genesis literally is a very 21st century evangelical way of treating the text. You're treating it like it's an explanation on origins written by a 21st century scientist, but it's not. It's an ancient creation narrative written by a Jew dating back to the 15th century BC.

I also enjoy the discussion, although I must confess that most the thought I'm doing is simply done as I'm reading and writing, I haven't spent a lot of additional time with it because I'm also focusing on a number of other school related activities that are more pressing for me. But I do enjoy and appreciate it and hope it continues :).

Steve said...

How is a Christian supposed to choose between what is true and what is myth in the Bible?

Is there a hermeneutic that everyone can learn and subscribe to? Or is the process more subjective than that?

I'm not asking this question to atheists, just Christians.



Seth McBee said...

Since you are off to poetry class give this a shot...

Roses are red
Violets are blue
The earth was created in 6 days
Not in 6 billion


Jake said...

Steve- Well, I think we need to return to what the reformers meant by literal interpretation.

Dispensationalism hijacked the term "literal" and has basically turned it into a convoluted term that, as best I can tell, means that whatever your first thought on the meaning of the text is, is the meaning of the text (plain-meaning). However, in cases where the "plain meaning" contradicts our church's established beliefs (IE Peter in Acts 2:38, James in James 1:27), interpret the text as you see fit and in such a way that eliminates the apparent contradiction.

That was the hermeneutic at the church I grew up at. They were hard-core plain meaning when it came to end times, and verses like Romans 3:23 or Eph. 2:8-9. But show them a verse where the plain meaning seems to suggest that baptism saves and they're all for a nuanced hermeneutic. (And on that one, I'm in full agreement with them, I just wish they applied the same care in all interpretation, not just to selected verses) Or show them a verse that talks about caring for those outside the church and they'll play all kinds of games to get out of it because, as multiple pastors put it, Christians "aren't called to social action."

I say all that because I think the traditional, Scofeldian (I just made up a word) dispensational hermenutic is inconsistent at best and at worst makes a mockery of the scriptures. (Note: I'm not attacking progressive dispensationalism, only traditional dispensationalism which even DTS has abandoned in recent years)

Instead, I suggest we return to what the reformers meant by "literal interpretation" which means reading the text in light of it's historical setting, genre of literature, authorship, purpose, etc. This is why I would take portions of Genesis and almost all of Revelation as symbol and Acts as historic narrative. Hopefully that all makes sense... I did a fair bit of reading on it this summer at L'Abri, but I'm always open to constructive correction/criticism :).

Seth- lol, well done friend, should I submit that to my professor for him to look over? If you're interested, I'm in a fiction writing class too... would you like to write a short story ;)?

Justin Evans said...


Thought I would jump in the ring too. I know it was a side point of yours, but I think the passages that suggest, at a casual reading, that baptism saves can still be debunked with a literal interpretation. If I misunderstood you, then sorry.

What parts of Genesis do you see as symbolic? Are you referring to symbolic language?

Thanks for your willingness to discuss!

Justin Evans said...

And by "ring" I mean "discussion ring". Nothing else..... :)

Jake said...

Justin- Sure, but I was just using that as an example of the larger point that a hermeneutic must be applied consistently throughout scripture, the baptism one may or may not be the best example (although Acts 2:38 can easily be understood to mean baptism saves).

Genesis- That's the question I'm struggling with... I don't know enough about ancient Mesopotamian creation myth to really analyze it in-depth. I want to learn more, I'm just having a hard time finding resources. About all I've found so far is In the Beginning by Karen Armstrong but she makes some assertions I'm not comfortable making. And I was only using the word symbolic as a word to tie my interpretation of Revelation and Genesis together. I could say "non-literal" but literal is a sticky term and I'd rather use a positive phrase to describe my understanding of it anyway. Perhaps metaphorical would be better?

Thanks, and no worries, I knew what you meant by ring ;). lol, although I'm guessing we have two mutual friends who would be more than willing to jump into a wrestling ring ;). (Hint: One has red hair and the other just had a baby)

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