May 19, 2019

Sundays with Michael Spencer: July 12, 2015

Seven Days of Creation, Jordana Klein (info. below)

Seven Days of Creation, Jordana Klein (info. below)

The young earth creationists believe that Genesis 1 is “literally” a description of creation. I do not. It is this simple disagreement that is the cornerstone of my objection to their interpretation.

I believe that Genesis 1 is a prescientific description of Creation intended to accent how Yahweh’s relationship with the world stands in stark contrast to the gods of other cultures, most likely those of Babylon. Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and prescientific way. It is beautiful, inspired and true as God’s Word.

Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares? Here I differ with Hugh Ross and the CRI writers. I do not believe science, history or archaeology of any kind establishes the truthfulness of the scripture in any way. Scripture is true by virtue of God speaking it. If God spoke poetry, or parable, or fiction or a prescientific description of creation, it is true without any verification by any human measurement whatsoever. The freedom of God in inspiration is not restricted to texts that can be interpreted “literally” by historical or scientific judges of other ages and cultures beyond the time the scriptures were written.

In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless. Utterly and completely worthless and I will freely admit to being bored the more I hear about it. I react to this much the same I react to people who run in with the Bible and the newspaper showing me how 666 is really the bar code on my credit card.

Does the Bible need to be authorized by scientists or current events to be true? What view of inspiration is it that puts the Bible on trial before the current scientific and historical models? Has anyone noticed what this obsession with literality does to the Bible itself?

The compliment that is paid to the Bible by those who say it is “literally” and scientifically true comes at the expense of an authentic and accurate understanding of the text.

A simple illustration will show what I mean.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Rev. 6:12-13)

I do not believe the stars will fall to the earth. I don’t. I don’t believe stars are in the sky. I don’t believe the writer understood what stars are or how they operate or the distances involved. I think this is prescientific language, and it is meant to tell us truth in its own way. A simple illustration, but it clearly shows that literary purpose must come before “literal” interpretation.

Now if I insist on a literal interpretation of this verse as a way of saying it is true and inspired, I am not treating the text with reverence and respect. I may be well motivated, but I am damaging the text. My point gets across, but at the expense of the real meaning of the text as it was written and inspired.

In the same way, Genesis describes creation prescientifically, in the language and idioms of the time, with a theological purpose in mind. It speaks clearly and powerfully. Making this into a literal and “scientific” description as a condition of inspiration is wrong.

Am I treating Genesis as a special case? Are Ham and others correct that this is straightforward description and there is no reason for putting a literary spin on how I read the text? My objection is to saying what a “straightforward description” means in a text several thousand years old; a text from a specific culture with a particular purpose. I am not claiming any special insight into Genesis. I am simply saying that, in my opinion, Genesis was not written with reference to the questions or methods of modern science, and making its truthfulness depend on that is a misuse of the text.

Many other examples could be brought forth. (Ask what a literal interpretation of the vision of Jesus in Revelation 1 turns into?) The literary nature of a text can’t be overlooked or taken for granted. In my opinion, this is typical of the creationist approach to the Bible. It becomes a piece of evidence in a scientific discussion, and the text of scripture — particularly its literary distinctiveness — is largely ignored.

• • •

Header Art: Seven Days of Creation, by Jordana Klein

Comments

  1. “Many other examples could be brought forth.”

    The Gospels?

    • No.

      • No?

        Then if we can intuit meaning from Genesis without considering it “a newspaper report describing what happened” why can’t we do the same thing with the Gospel of Mark? It’s all literature. It’s all interpretation. It was all written by prescientific thinkers whose conception of reality was shaped by magical thinking.

        This is where my lack of fundamentalism is liberating. I fully agree that the concept of “literalism” was completely alien to the world view of the writers/editors of Genesis. But what makes us think the Gospels are to be read any differently than Genesis?

        • I suppose you can find scholars who would consider the Gospels “myth” or some such genre, but I don’t think that’s a common opinion. They certainly are theologically shaped, but they are written as eyewitness testimony with such shaping.

        • “It’s all literature. It’s all interpretation.” Well, yes, but the question is what kind of interpretation? Interpretation is not monolithic. There’s no saying we should interpret the Gospels in the same way as Genesis.

        • Robert F says

          Stephen,
          The written findings of science are literature, too: should we ascribe to them the same lack of correspondence to actual occurrences and conditions that you say we should to the gospels? It is foolish to suggest that we should interpret all kinds of literature using the same criteria; to actually do so would border on insanity.

          If the gospels lack all historicity, that is, if Jesus in essentials is not who they describe him to be, then we have no idea who Jesus was or is, we have no connection with him, and we have no way to follow or believe in him. What we do have left is a kind of religious philosophy, or a number of different religious philosophies, drawn from interpretation of the New Testament, proclaiming universal spiritual truths that have no necessary connection to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Is that really all Christianity is?

          If so, how boring, and count me out.

          • I am in this position you speak of – I belive in Jesus as being the revelation of Gods person. However the records of his words were written with a theological bias in some cases – much carefull work is to be done here – it can be hard to spot things added later or with incongruent content – but there is a way – for example – some suggest the trinity was added to matthew 28.19 in the great commission – since no where in acts were people baptised in the name of the father son and holy spirit and jesus said all authority had been given to him – not to all three – however later when documented – trinity was added – earnestly thinking it ‘would have been what jesus said” I think there is much of this about – and much to ponder – but you should not give up – we live in the information age – you have the bible in all translations at your fingers – you have history – you have a good mind – I think God is calling us to follow Jesus and learn from history – look again to his parables which I think are preserved well – pauls gospel is very limited to theology of the cross and religious politics and church rules and does not seem to overlap enough with the teachings of jesus – forgive to be forgiven, the kingdom of god is here, do not judge, and you will not be judged.. etc etc. I find it all very exciting and I am glad to be alive now in this time – there are fantastic scholars doing great and new things to bring the context of scriptures to light – and to correct a great many mis interpretations of scripture – the scarey thing is its becoming apparent to me that God allows humans to do his work – even writing or selecting ‘scriptures’ – and even allows them to stuff up as much as they will – but he will still accomplish his purpose. We have trusted too much that God would not allow the church councils and bible writers to er – but I think they did – that does not detract from God, it just shows us as humans. I hope that you will be exited to search out more of truth in the real jesus – one who asked God to forgive his executors as he died and who spoke about the heart of humans in its religious and proud tendancys..

          • Andrew, No, I’m afraid it doesn’t excite me. I’m old, tired and resourced out (in more ways than one), and I’ve never been good at putting jigsaw puzzles together. I intend not to try too hard anymore to fit all the pieces into a comprehensive pattern; I intend to trust that God has a high tolerance for the errors that his creatures make trying to figure him, and his ways, out, and for their incorrect interpretations of the signals, or the revelations, they believe he has given them. There are a few religious beliefs I hang onto, and rely on God to hang onto me, and mine, and everybody else, for the rest.

    • Christiane says

      Good morning, STEPHEN,

      Ken Ham wrote, not about the Holy Gospels, but about ‘the Gospel’ in the following quote. But what does he mean by ‘The Gospel’?

      “The creation message has matured over the past three decades, as the discernment and understanding of creationist leaders has matured. More and more, the emphasis is on the foundational issue: compromise of Genesis ultimately undermines the gospel itself.”
      (Ken Ham)

      Now I am not a ‘follower’ of Ken Ham. So I do not buy into his theory. But it makes sense that in order to shore up his original teaching, he would then begin to view all parts of sacred Scripture through a strictly literal Genesis, rather than seeing all of sacred Scripture viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ Himself.

      • At which point, it’s not at all about truth or the gospel or creation, it’s about Ken Ham protecting Ken Ham’s theology and views from differing thoughts. He has walked away from the faith, and created his own. AiG, for all intends and purposes, is now a new denomination. He is their leader, their Pope and Savior, and by purity of doctrine they will see the promised land.

        • Christiane says

          Hi StuartB,
          it sounds more like a ‘cult’ than a denomination . . . their ‘stridency’ is only secondary to their extreme viewpoints

          I think one feature of a ‘cult’ is that some of its ‘beliefs’ are SO ridiculous that the cult will only attract those people so desperate to ‘belong’ to a group that they would compromise common-sense, rational analyses, and their own intellectual integrity. Maybe that is the kind of person a cult wants as a member, so the ridiculous teachings are a strange ‘test’ of loyalty. (?)

    • Remember, the Bible isn’t one book, and it’s not flat. What applies to one book or part of a book does not apply to another book. And it would be as dishonest as literalism to slap the same standard across the whole.

      The Bible absolutely cannot be read and understand as ‘plainly’ as possible, it requires education and training to understand, just as any other book cannot be understood by someone who is illiterate.

      If you read any of the words I just wrote, understood what the symbols mean, understood the structure of the symbols to produce a thought, and understood the context of my words to produce a meaning…

      You proved my point.

      • If I ever get to teach or preach a sermon again, I may find a cheap Gideon Bible, pre-rip it into books, and then from the pulpit finish the job. Walk to one end of the stage, put down Genesis, walk to the other end, put down the New Testament. Then ask for a volunteer to pick up the Genesis portion and tell me what the Gospels say word for word, while reading from the Genesis part.

        Or something. There has to be a way to illustrate this so people understand it.

  2. John Taylor says

    God said He created the earth is six days.

    He had the power to create the earth in six days, or six seconds for that matter. He is God.

    Why should not we believe He created it is six days?

    • The author points out whether God did it in six days or a day being like ten thousand years which simply meant then a very, very long time doesn’t matter as much as God created the earth. Ten thousand years is hard to wrap a mind around especially considering everything that has happened in the last. Now my mind has hard time with a trillion. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. Yet when I think is it possible to pay down our country’s debt I tend to believe we can all we have to do is get started. The points in the story aren’t of argument when you simply believe God did them and haven’t a need for a time period. Kind of where I’m at who cares. I have to get started living my life. IMO using the days instead of ten thousand years means God did it quickly. Kind of like bang there it was spoken forth from nothing. Kind of interesting but not the main point.

      It’s the rabbit trails that always steal from me. Rob from me and in a seemingly really bad way have the potential to destroy me if that were possible. I simply believe God and what He does isn’t something I control. I do try to ask Him for bread though and He is consistent on that, always.

      Where do you go when something is on the tip of your tongue. Right there in your mind but unable to form the right words to accurately describe it. I have people in my life that would force me and maybe even convince for a little while their arguments and I wouldn’t say that they do anything wrong and that even despite themselves they do some good through our lord. Oh heck I was just describing me.

      Maybe in the presentation of ideas the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Maybe in the presentation of ideas no matter time periods there are underlying truths that have no argument you either believe or you don’t.

      Now when you make points of contention they quickly become rabbit trails leading in a circle back to a place when everything is finished. all that running and all, you simply line up to do it again. A hunter quickly catches on to the rabbit. So does the dog that pushes him.

      • John Taylor says

        Sorry, W. I did not mean to make points of contention.

        I congratulate Chaplain Mike on allowing diverse opinions. We all learn from them.

        • I’m sorry John I had to get to work and probably should not have hit reply to you. Once you hit enter here you can’t take it back. I know you were not contending. I was just walking through something.

    • “God said He created the earth is six days.”

      He did? Where? (I’m aware that Moses and/or his editors said something to that effect.)

      Why can’t “day” be understood as SYNECDOCHE as it is often used in other places in the writings? (for instance; ??????‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says,
      ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,)

      Did you miss Michael’s point about “literalism”?

      • John Taylor says

        2Ti 3:16

        All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

        If it is inspired by God, then God said it.

        Did you miss Michael’s point about “literalism”?

        Of course not. I simply don’t buy it. This is a straightforward statement from the bible and there is no good reason not to believe it. God is omnipotent. Why does He need billions of years?

        • John, you are missing Michael’s point. The genre of Genesis is not “straightforward statement.” Genesis 1 is not like a newspaper report describing what happened.

          Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and prescientific way.

          Your “literal” reading of Genesis 1 is wrong because Genesis 1 wasn’t meant to be read literally, any more than a passage like Psalm 104:5-7 is meant to be read “literally”:

          He established the earth upon its foundations,
          So that it will not totter forever and ever.
          You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
          The waters were standing above the mountains.
          At Your rebuke they fled,
          At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.

          Or perhaps one of these days one of our satellites will find “the foundations” upon which the earth is established?

          • John Taylor says

            Well, Chaplain Mike, if we don’t take Genesis One literally, we have some serious problems. If we take the evolutionist view that man came from an endless stream of creatures resembling apes, at what point does man have a living soul? When does man become different from the other animals to the point where he is “made in the image of God”

            If Genesis One can be taken to mean something entirely different, why can’t any verse of scripture we don’t like be made into something it does not say?

            • Don’t you see what you’re doing, John?

              You are not starting with trying to understand the text. You are starting with the presupposition that it answers certain questions and then reading it in such a way that it answers them to your satisfaction. What if the text wasn’t written to address those questions?

              Whether evolution is a good model to explain biological origins and development or not is irrelevant to Genesis. Genesis has nothing to do with “science” as we know it. Sorry, but there is a whole host of topics the Bible simply doesn’t address.

          • I don’t know. To me, taking some of what’s written in the Bible “literally” places God in a box that He doesn’t want to be placed in. My opinion…if God the Creator (and we know He loves to create) wants to take a billion years to make this particular Earth and us particular people, that seems to fit with my view of Him.

            Take YOUR creation, for instance. I could ask you to tell me when God “literally” created you – this person JOHN TAYLOT – and you might either give me your date of birth or you might back up 8-9 months and tell me that’s when you were conceived. But in reality, for you – JOHN TAYLOR – to come into existence exactly as you are, it took God thousands of generations of seemingly random couplings of males and females to produce the exact person He “knew in the womb.”

            So God may have “literally” created you in a day (either the moment you were conceived or the moment you came from your mother’s womb), but in reality it took thousands of years and generations of mixing and creating to produce that “literal” moment.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Standard Predictible YEC Response.
            Like playback from an MP3, just push the button.

            If Genesis is But a Myth (i.e. FALSE FALSE FALSE), then why not the Gospels (FALSE FALSE FALSE)? And Jesus Himself (FALSE FALSE FALSE) and YOUR Salvation (FALSE FALSE FALSE)?

            If one isn’t word-for-word literally TRUE, then Everything Is FALSE.
            All In One Package Deal.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Take YOUR creation, for instance. I could ask you to tell me when God “literally” created you – this person JOHN TAYLOT

            Last Tuesday, of course. Along with the rest of the Universe, with a completely-airtight, completely-false back-story and evidence and memories created Ex Nihilo at the same time. And how can you PROVE otherwise?

            This way lies Madness.

    • Why should not we believe He created it is six days?

      I someone wants to believe God created it all in six days via a miracle I’m cool with it. I don’t agree but that’s OK.

      The problem many of us have with KH and others like him is he claims that “six days” can be shown to be true via science.

      Miracles take you out of science. End of discussion.

      And what KH calls science would not pass the smell test at most high schools much less anything else.

    • “Why should not we believe He created it is six days?”

      That would depend on just what you intend by “we”. If you “we” are a congregation of fundamentalist Baptists, not a problem for me if I do not have to attend. If you are a first grade Sunday School class, not a problem, and to be expected, tho I would be ready to answer questions without wreaking havoc. But if your “we” is meant to include me, which it does since you do not qualify it, I have a big problem with that.

      God starts with us wherever we are when we start and with whatever we are bringing to the table. Whatever my beliefs in this particular matter and others, I recognize that they have changed over time and most likely will continue to change. Why else would I be here with this group of people? Why else would you be here? Yes, there are attempts to enforce group ideology here from time to time, not from those presiding, but such attempts are usually met with resistance.

      Believe away! Like it says right above your place to comment, “Speak Your Mind”.

      • John Taylor says

        Actually, Charles, I did not give a lot of thought to the use of “we.” Sorry if it offended you. I use it a lot when teaching Sunday school to avoid “You should do this or that.” I use “we” to assure them that I struggle with all the same things they do.

  3. Tom, I think all John was saying is that only God knows how long it took. We can talk about this until we are blue in the face but it’s only opinion. Six days, 6 million years, who cares. Only God knows and it seems to make us humans mad that we can’t pin him down.

  4. John Taylor says

    Actually, David, I usually take the bible literally unless there is something in the bible itself that says you should not, as in the case of the parable.

    When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Rev. 6:12-13)

    The Greek word “aster” generally referred to any small light in the heaven. For example, planets are called wondering stars.

    Jude 1:13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

    Stars “falling” most likely refers to a meteor shower of some kind. So, the original text could be taken literally. In any case, John said this is what he saw and we can take it literally that John saw it.

    It is true that the Hebrew word, Yowm, can also mean an indefinite period of time. That is why

    God made certain that the words “evening and morning,” accompany the word yowm, for each different day.

    Exodus 20:11 states: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

    He also blessed the seventh day and made it a day of rest. It is a real day, not a million year period. If Yawm meant millions of years, then the sabbath would have to last millions of years.

    Thanks for your input.

    • unless there is something in the bible itself that says you should not

      And who determines what that something is? Because some would say a choice of style, like in Genesis 1-11, is the Bible/writer telling you not to take it literally.

      • John Taylor says

        Well, StuartB, the bible was inspired by God and was written for people to understand it. For example, if the bible says that there is a parable, we know not to take the parable literally. Or, if the bible says my eyes swim, we don’t look for eyes that do a breaststroke across the pool, we know what the statement means. It is not a big mystery.

        Psa 6:6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

  5. I would take YECers much more seriously if they were even interested in the scientific dimensions of their own claims. If you think the world is around 6,000 years old and that, like Ken Ham, it can be shown by science, then PLEASE TRY TO NAIL DOWN THE EXACT DATE LIKE ANY OTHER SCIENTIST WOULD. It shouldn’t be that hard if it’s mere millennia we’re talking about.

    But YECers aren’t even interested in really, truly answering this question. Instead of being the focal point of Creation Science activity (“Can we identify different streams of data that point to a specific date? Let’s get to work!”) they are content with existing, er, Answers in Genesis. The scandal isn’t that they don’t yet have a hard answer: it’s that they don’t even care to find one.

    And that’s what gets me most about YEC. It’s not that it has a non-mainstream opinion about origins. That’s fine — most consensus views today were at one time non-mainstream too. No, it’s the sheer intellectual sterility — THE LACK OF OPEN PROBLEMS TO WORK ON LIKE ANY OTHER SCIENTIST — that is its most characteristic feature.

    In the meantime we can all contemplate the role of the Great Flood in Pluto’s geology over the next few heady days of planetary exploration.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Why should they NAIL DOWN THE EXACT DATE when Bishop Ussher already did?

      • That’s just it, HUG: they DON’T actually quote that date as sacred like one might expect. You can find articles on the AIG website that list a range of dates based on various calculations but no one seems interested in nailing down this question. The important thing is just how wrong all those evolutionists are.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Chaplain Mike, I move we flag this posting “Creation Wars” as well as “Michael Spencer”.

    And reiterate your speculation that the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution changed the Bible from the Old Stores of God and Man to a Spirtual Egineering Handbook of FACT, FACT, FACT.

  7. Christiane says

    one last question: is the ‘flat-earth society’ a joke?

  8. John Taylor AKA John Taylot says

    Here is the way I see it.

    I can believe in a God who requires 4.5 billions years to create man and all the living things, no improvement at all over a nonexistent God the atheist, at least in that area. In spite of having to take 4.5 billion years, His own book says it only took 6 days. This is a God who cares so little about His children that He lets his holy word deteriorate to the point where it is so convoluted that nothing in it is dependable.

    Or, I can believe in a God who is omnipotent and can create the earth in 6 days and then tells us plainly that it took that long. This is a God who cares enough about His children that He gives them a book that is dependable and can be understood by someone with ordinary intelligence and an average education.

    The second scenario is the one I believe.

    Psa 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

    • Those are false choices, John. I’m sorry you feel trapped to decide between these two positions, neither of which represent reality accurately.

      • John Taylor says

        I don’t feel trapped, Chaplain Mike. I just know God is very real and all-powerful. And His word is reliable.

        • Rick Ro. says

          I think the point of the article and what others are saying is this: just because some of us view the Bible less literally than others doesn’t mean we can’t find it as reliable and trustworthy. Literal interpretation isn’t necessary for “reliabilty” and “trustworthiness.”

          I think the other point of the article and what some are saying is this: literalists often foist literalism on others, as if literalism IS necessary for believers to truly believe in the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible.

        • With all due respect John, of course you don’t feel trapped.

          And that is because you have trapped God with your hermeneutic.

          You have trapped God that he has to give clear textual markers as to the genre of the writing that biblical authors in a way that make sense TO YOU in a 20th century scientific world view. It doesn’t matter what the original context of the writing is, or that the Hebrews had no concept of heliocentrism, God has to inspire them to write to satisfy you.

          Is it possible that our categories of literary genre are slightly different? Or that Hebrews might have different markers in the text to indicate genre? Or that maybe we might miss those markers?

          • John Taylor says

            Well, Ken. I am flattered that you ascribe to me such great power that I can put allmighty God in a box. Trouble is, that is not the way it is.

            God gave us the bible to communicate His plan and His instructions. Since He is God, He is able to write, through lowly humans, a book that is applicable to all cultures and all frames of reference.
            All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 2Ti 3:16

            You are right, of course, that the literary genre might be slightly different, but it seldom enough to stop us from understanding what is meant.

    • Rick Ro. says

      John Taylot, I see you picked up on my earlier typo of your name. Thanks for having sense of humor about that! You brought a smile to my face.

      Peace and grace to you today!

      Rick Po.

    • John, that’s such a false choice…either a God who cares, or a god who doesn’t.

      That type of thinking grieves me. Because I was there once as well, and know what it took to get me out of that, and now…to see that thinking again, and recognize it, grieves me again.

      Please…don’t think of it in those terms. A God who cares or a god who doesn’t care. Please don’t think of it like that.

      Faith. Believe in a God who cares. Just stay there.

  9. I love the painting. That is all.

  10. I think the point of the article is this: Defending Scripture as a book that fits with our preconceived notions of what a holy book ought to be (an inerrant book that conveys God’s truth in the simplest and most direct manner possible) has made us unable to read it and recognize it for what it truly is: a collection of books written by several authors speaking into several different situations over a long period of ancient history, that all points us to Jesus. The discussion of Genesis is a case in point.

    Consider this: The first couple of centuries AD were a period when it was very dangerous to be a Christian. Would a faith that could be proven false if inconsistencies could be found in its source documents have survived such times? Would people have been willing to die, many in excruciatingly horrific fashion, for a faith that could be proven false if inconsistencies could be found in the source documents?