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Thom Wade

Patriotism and the Christian Faith

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A historical-critical analysis of Gen. 1 & 2 would simply suggest that the two stories are separate but partially overlapping accounts of the same events (neither one, obviously, being an eyewitness account), collected from divergent strains of oral tradition. But an inerrantist has to maintain that both chapters are written by the same author — who apparently gives great attention to a strict, ordered chronology in ch. 1, and then goes off his meds in ch. 2, since the chapters don't have a prayer of being reconciled unless you assume that ch. 2 is completely non-linear.

In the end, inerrantists shred the text to chop suey in order to maintain their preconceptions. I'd just rather shred my preconceptions and take the text as I find it.

Ha – I love it. I too find it remarkable the lengths that inerrantists seem willing to go. To me, their best (worst) arguments have an air of "Alice in Wonderland" about them. To the degree that historical-critical analysis functions like a solvent to remove the dross of overworked exegesis that is wedded to inerrancy, more power to it. Christians ought to welcome historical-critical analysis for the light that it does shed on the Bible. Why should we remain in ignorance (about the Bible, and how it came to be)? Surely God does not want that for us. The tricky thing with historical-critical analysis is to know when it's done all it can reasonably do, so we can move beyond it (while not forgetting what we learn from it). Because when we overuse it, it can turn even those biblical passages that resemble hard rock candy jawbreakers into pea soup (solvents just keep dissolving, indiscriminately – it's up to us to know when to stop applying them).

I think a similar process is in play with creationists, who literally believe that the earth is about 6,000 years old. Christians ought to welcome science for the light that it does shed on nature. Why should we remain in ignorance (about nature)? Surely God does not want that for us. The tricky thing with science, once again, is to know when it's done all it can reasonably do, so we can move beyond it (while not forgetting what we learn from it).

What do I mean when I say that we should "move beyond" historical-critical analysis (and science, for that matter)? Perhaps something akin to what Hans Urs von Balthasar meant when, in his great interpretive study of Maximus the Confessor, he wrote (on pp. 308-9) about Scripture in this way (and quoted Maximus):

And just as the world hides God in a revealing way and reveals God in a hidden way, the Scripture is a disguised and confused voice like the rolling of thunder,

which says nothing clearly; it is a kind of voice of the elements. For every word of God that is written down for man is, as long as this age lasts, the precursor of another word, which uses it as an instrument to proclaim itself to the mind in an unwritten, intellectual way, and which, in the age to come, will be revealed in a more perfect form. As it is proclaimed, it bears truth within itself, but does not show it in an unveiled, naked way.

Or, again, as when Maximus wrote in his Centuries on Theology (second century, from sections 74 and 75):

It is by means of the more lofty conceptual images that the inner principle of Holy Scripture can be stripped gradually of the complex garment of words with which it is physically draped. Then to the visionary intellect – the intellect which through the total abandonment of its natural activities is able to attain a glimpse of the simplicity that in some measure discloses this principle – it reveals itself as though in the sound of a delicate breeze. ...

For an understanding of Scripture that does not go beyond the literal meaning, and a view of the world that relies exclusively on sense-perception, are indeed scales, blinding the soul's visionary faculty and preventing access to the pure Logos of truth.

"... it reveals itself as though in the sound of a delicate breeze." The greatest film directors, such as Tarkovsky and Ozu, have understood this mode of revealing very well.

But if words like these sound altogether too "mystical" to control, and the first thing that leaps to your mind is the danger of theological speculation, then perhaps nothing I might say would assuage your fears (which I acknowledge are not without basis). Still, I wonder where this spiritual timidity in so many of us Christians comes from, and if it is truly necessary. It's as though we imagine that "the way" is like a one-inch wide board fence, the top of which we must tread with the strictest possible adherence (to orthodoxy), leaving no room for deviation – the slightest of which would send us tumbling headlong into perdition. I guess that's one way to try to "control" people. In a different spiritual tradition from Christianity, Shunryu Suzuki took a wider view of the matter, and we all might learn something – and to be less controlling, spiritually – from him:

Even though you try to put people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.

And a few centuries before Jesus of Nazareth was born, Chuang Tzu was not afraid to address his hearers this way:

I'm going to try speaking some reckless words and I want you to listen to them recklessly.

If we tried listening to the word of God a little more recklessly, perhaps we might actually come nearer to that "inner principle of Holy Scripture" which Maximus had in mind when he wrote about "the intellect which through the total abandonment of its natural activities [i.e. recklessly?] is able to attain a glimpse of the simplicity that in some measure discloses this principle."

Edited by tenpenny

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A passage that places so much emphasis on 1st day, 2nd day, etc., is somehow not chronological????!!!

Well, the "literary framework" view has many different varieties, but some would understand the emphasis on the days as a way of evoking temple dedication ceremonies, a passage that essentially paints the poetic picture of the world as God's temple. Other close cousins, like the point of view put forward by John Walton, who keeps the idea of God speaking on days, but suggests the text isn't actually about material creation at all (he bases his argument primarily on a revised understanding of the word bara).

Personally, I've always been struck by the common ground shared by Genesis 1 and Egyptian creation myths--there are stronger connections between the two, I'd argue, than there are between Genesis 1 and other Ancient Near Eastern creation myths--and am interested in exploring Genesis 1 as a polemic against Egyptian myth.

The phrase "the earth" occurs five separate times in Gen. 2:4-6, but you both want to maintain that the chapter is not about the earth?

The word that is sometimes translated as "earth" can also be translated as "land" or "territory," depending on context. See, for example, the words selected by the ESV, which translates the word as "land," with the option for "open country" suggested in footnotes. I'm not necessarily arguing they're right to approach it from that POV--the ESV's word choice strikes me as a bit inconsistent in these passages--but it's nevertheless out there.

In the end, inerrantists shred the text to chop suey in order to maintain their preconceptions. I'd just rather shred my preconceptions and take the text as I find it.

Let's face it, historical-critical research has generally been more interested in what the text was than what the text is.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Well, the "literary framework" view has many different varieties, but some would understand the emphasis on the days as a way of evoking temple dedication ceremonies, a passage that essentially paints the poetic picture of the world as God's temple. Other close cousins, like the point of view put forward by John Walton, who keeps the idea of God speaking on days, but suggests the text isn't actually about material creation at all (he bases his argument primarily on a revised understanding of the word bara).

Are such views attractive to inerrantists, though? I suppose there may be some exceptions, but I figure most people who want to argue for inerrancy would also prefer a reading of these texts that is literal to some degree.

Let's face it, historical-critical research has generally been more interested in what the text was than what the text is.

Oh, without a doubt, historical-critical can be just as effective at tearing a text to shreds as inerrantism can. I just prefer to let the edifice of scripture be what it is, rather than try either to chisel off all its rough edges in an effort to resolve contradictions ... or to prise all of its bricks apart in order to make an educated guess at which kind of clay they were made from.

Edited by mrmando

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Are such views attractive to inerrantists, though? I suppose there may be some exceptions, but I figure most people who want to argue for inerrancy would also prefer a reading of these texts that is literal to some degree.

In my experience, these views are relatively popular--or at least part of the open discussion, without outright dismissal--among inerrantists of a not-so-deeply fundamentalist stripe. After all, many definitions of inerrancy allow for genre to inform how we understand what the text does and doesn't suggest.

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Well, the "literary framework" view has many different varieties, but some would understand the emphasis on the days as a way of evoking temple dedication ceremonies, a passage that essentially paints the poetic picture of the world as God's temple.

Are such views attractive to inerrantists, though? I suppose there may be some exceptions, but I figure most people who want to argue for inerrancy would also prefer a reading of these texts that is literal to some degree.

I would call myself an inerrantist -- though I'd have to unpack what that means -- and I would say the "literary framework" theory is a very attractive way of reading Genesis 1.

But an inerrantist has to maintain that both chapters are written by the same author — who apparently gives great attention to a strict, ordered chronology in ch. 1, and then goes off his meds in ch. 2, since the chapters don't have a prayer of being reconciled unless you assume that ch. 2 is completely non-linear.

This is not what I understand to be required by an inerrantist view of scripture.

Are such views attractive to inerrantists, though? I suppose there may be some exceptions, but I figure most people who want to argue for inerrancy would also prefer a reading of these texts that is literal to some degree.

In my experience, these views are relatively popular--or at least part of the open discussion, without outright dismissal--among inerrantists of a not-so-deeply fundamentalist stripe. After all, many definitions of inerrancy allow for genre to inform how we understand what the text does and doesn't suggest.

Exactly.

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This is not what I understand to be required by an inerrantist view of scripture.

So there are strains of "inerrantism" that allow for some of the assertions made by historical-critical scholars, e.g., that the shift in style, focus, and vocabulary (Elohim vs. YHWH) between Gen. 1 & Gen. 2, as well as the differing chronologies, all point to these stories being collected from two different sources?

Not my grandpa's inerrantism, but terribly interesting.

Edited by mrmando

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So there are strains of "inerrantism" that allow for some of the assertions made by historical-critical scholars, e.g., that the shift in style, focus, and vocabulary (Elohim vs. YHWH) between Gen. 1 & Gen. 2, as well as the differing chronologies, all points to these stories being collected from two different sources?

Not only are there such "strains," this is in fact the teaching of the Catholic Church as I understand it.

In the famous formula of Pope Pius XII's key 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (On Promoting Biblical Studies):

For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, "except sin," so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error.

At the same time, the pope also notes the extent to which the sacred meaning of the text is conditioned by the cultural, literary and other circumstances of the human writer, and the extent to which exegetes must have recourse to the methods of biblical criticism:

For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use.

For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries. What those exactly were the commentator cannot determine as it were in advance, but only after a careful examination of the ancient literature of the East. The investigation, carried out, on this point, during the past forty or fifty years with greater care and diligence than ever before, has more clearly shown what forms of expression were used in those far off times, whether in poetic description or in the formulation of laws and rules of life or in recording the facts and events of history...

Let those who cultivate biblical studies turn their attention with all due diligence towards this point and let them neglect none of those discoveries, whether in the domain of archaeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing. In this connection Catholic laymen should consider that they will not only further profane science, but moreover will render a conspicuous service to the Christian cause if they devote themselves with all due diligence and application to the exploration and investigation of the monuments of antiquity and contribute, according to their abilities, to the solution of questions hitherto obscure.

More recently, and perhaps definitively, here's the crucial passage from Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of Vatican II (1965):

In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

Tons of ink have been spilled in subsequent theological inquiry regarding the meaning of the words "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation": Is this meant descriptively or restrictively? I think this is clearly a red herring, since this whole clause is merely a conclusion drawn from the prior assertion that "everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit." This "everything" is not qualified and must be taken as applying to assertions of all kinds, not merely assertions of a special religious or soteriological character. That said, conclusions about what is or is not "asserted" by the sacred author should not be drawn in an uncritical way.

Edited by SDG

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Does "solidly, faithfully and without error" also mean "without contradiction"?

Going back to the original example, I would simply say that the contrasting details in Ex. 18 and Deut. 1 point to two different sources, one of which is concerned with promoting Moses' role in setting up the government, and one of which wants to give the tribes more credit ... just as in the books of Chronicles you get the government-approved versions of events whereas Samuel sometimes gives you a behind-the-scenes look. Even while conveying to us "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation," the Bible's authors often manage to give us contrasting points of view about that truth. To go all Sgt. Friday on the text would be to miss the point(s).

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Does "solidly, faithfully and without error" also mean "without contradiction"?

The law of noncontradiction would seem to require it.

Going back to the original example, I would simply say that the contrasting details in Ex. 18 and Deut. 1 point to two different sources, one of which is concerned with promoting Moses' role in setting up the government, and one of which wants to give the tribes more credit ... just as in the books of Chronicles you get the government-approved versions of events whereas Samuel sometimes gives you a behind-the-scenes look. Even while conveying to us "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation," the Bible's authors often manage to give us contrasting points of view about that truth. To go all Sgt. Friday on the text would be to miss the point(s).

I'm not sure what "going all Sgt. Friday" means. I can't see that "contrasting points of view about that truth" poses a difficulty for the point of view in question.

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I'm not sure what "going all Sgt. Friday" means.

It means trying to boil everything down to just the facts. Sgt. Friday would be irritated with contrasting points of view.

Contra Persiflage, I might want to maintain that the presence of contrasting points of view in Ex. 18 and Deut. 1 suggests that the Bible does not necessarily speak with a unified voice about the nature of government.

Edited by mrmando

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I would call myself an inerrantist -- though I'd have to unpack what that means -- and I would say the "literary framework" theory is a very attractive way of reading Genesis 1.

But an inerrantist has to maintain that both chapters are written by the same author — who apparently gives great attention to a strict, ordered chronology in ch. 1, and then goes off his meds in ch. 2, since the chapters don't have a prayer of being reconciled unless you assume that ch. 2 is completely non-linear.

This is not what I understand to be required by an inerrantist view of scripture.

Are such views attractive to inerrantists, though? I suppose there may be some exceptions, but I figure most people who want to argue for inerrancy would also prefer a reading of these texts that is literal to some degree.

In my experience, these views are relatively popular--or at least part of the open discussion, without outright dismissal--among inerrantists of a not-so-deeply fundamentalist stripe. After all, many definitions of inerrancy allow for genre to inform how we understand what the text does and doesn't suggest.

Exactly.

I'll second what SDG said here. I'm an inerrantist who holds to the Framework Theory of Genesis 1. And the caricatures of inerrantist beliefs here bear very little resemblance to the robust inerrantism that characterizes much contemporary Evangelical and Catholic theology. We have no fear of historical criticism, or textual criticism, though we don't accept them whole hog.

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I'll second what SDG said here. I'm an inerrantist who holds to the Framework Theory of Genesis 1. And the caricatures of inerrantist beliefs here ...

They're not caricatures, just the beliefs I grew up with. That I was raised in an intellectually impoverished brand of Christianity is not my fault.

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I'm not sure what "going all Sgt. Friday" means.

It means trying to boil everything down to just the facts. Sgt. Friday would be irritated with contrasting points of view.

Ah. I am not.

Contra Persiflage, I might want to maintain that the presence of contrasting points of view in Ex. 18 and Deut. 1 suggests that the Bible does not necessarily speak with a unified voice about the nature of government.

I am not committed to the proposition that the Bible always speaks in a unified voice on every subject. I am committed to the proposition that what is asserted by the human author is asserted by the Holy Spirit.

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I'll second what SDG said here. I'm an inerrantist who holds to the Framework Theory of Genesis 1. And the caricatures of inerrantist beliefs here ...

They're not caricatures, just the beliefs I grew up with. That I was raised in an intellectually impoverished brand of Christianity is not my fault.

What...now are you going to try nd say you don't get to choose your family?

Oh...uh...wait... ;)

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My family chose the church they attended. Perhaps they could have chosen better.

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I apologize for caricaturing inerrantism. That was not my intent, and I should have shown more respect for its many subtleties, gradations and frameworks.

I do have a couple of questions though. On the subject of theodicy, and Genesis 2 (rather than 1), wouldn't an inerrantist, of whatever stripe, pretty much have to believe that all suffering and death, creation-wide, is ultimately a result of Adam's disobedience to God, i.e. human sin? I mean, wouldn't one's allegiance to inerrantism require this or, at the very least, make it difficult to "interpret" one's way around it?

In fact, I've done a little checking on my own, on the internets, as George W. Bush used to say. And I did find a blog post, by a professor of Biblical Studies named Kenton Sparks, who evocatively described the usual causal nexus, ironically enough, in the context of an essay that argued against inerrantism! My guess, however, is that most inerrantists wouldn't be persuaded by his argument, even though they likely would endorse, wholeheartedly, this premise and analogy of his:

Let us begin with God's creation. It is beautiful ... in fact, unbelievable beautiful. Yet it also includes terrors and evils that are unspeakable ... rapes, murders and wars ... famine, disease and disaster ... pain indescribable. Given that God has created everything that exists, how do Christians avoid the possible (some skeptics would say inevitable) implication that the blame for creation's evils and horrors can be pinned on God? Following Paul's lead in Rom 8:20-22, Christians dogmatically assert that the cosmos is broken because of human sin. So it is not God, but human beings, who are finally culpable for the messy side of creation. Creation is good and beautiful because it is God's creation, but warped and broken because of human influence.

To make the point clearer, imagine with me a beautiful painting by Renoir or Monet. And then imagine that someone seizes the painting, rips it from its frame, crumples it up and stomps on it for about ten minutes. What does one end up with? One ends up with a beautiful painting that is everywhere warped and twisted. In some places the former beauty of the unmolested painting is more visible than in others, but there is no quarter of the painting that has escaped the damage. This, I would say, suitably describes God's creation. It is beautiful but also broken, and in such a way that one cannot really separate what's beautiful from what's not. Because it is the good thing itself that is warped and damaged.

Over against this line of thought, there is Knud E. Løgstrup (1905-81), Danish philosopher, theologian and contrarian, about whom I've written previously on this forum, in the context of the Bresson film, A Man Escaped. Here is something Løgstrup wrote in his book Skabelse og tilintetgørelse (Creation and Annihilation), substantial portions of which were translated into English in Metaphyics, vol. I, by Russell L. Dees (the passage cited here begins on p. 271, and the emphasis is mine):

Today there are many Christian and religiously-minded people who will not face up to the fact that there is physical suffering, disease and death which is impossible to understand as an effect of the evil in humanity. As if suffering, disease and death could be found only among humankind and not also in the animal world. There are passions that the higher species of animals have in common with us and they know physical pain as well as we do. But that pain cannot be due to the evil in the human world. It cannot be for that reason alone that animals suffered and died on our globe before humankind existed. And if we keep to the human world, then there is a deterioration of the body and the soul in disease, aging and death which is biologically conditioned and has nothing to do with evil. Nor have such misfortunes as earthquakes, floods and all other natural catastrophes that take place. One speculates mythologically about creation and finds that all suffering and death have their cause in the evil in humanity. It is true that we inflict upon each other nameless suffering and sudden early death in war, in struggle, in apathy, but there is also a suffering that will occur as long as disease and natural catastrophes occur – even if everyone were saints. Certainly, this suffering and death that belongs to the biological process of development and decay or has geological causes must be interpreted religiously, but to deny that there is suffering and death that is biologically or geologically conditioned and instead claim mythologically that it is due to evil is to deny facts. We can argue about interpretations, we must bend before facts.

Religiously understood, the eternal, divine creative power has built in annihilation and to annihilation it has united suffering and accidentalness in its creation. Certainly, the creation is full of splendors; without them we would not have the spirit to exist – on the other hand, we cannot rely on them, because we only have them on annihilation's terms. If we undertake a religious comprehensive interpretation of existence and the universe as created, we must face the fact that there is suffering and pain in the world of human beings that comes from the Creator, just as it also comes from the Creator that they strike indiscriminately and that the Creator has coupled development and decay together in his Creation, a coupling we ascertain biologically. Just as we ascertain biologically that reproduction occurs under conditions of cruelty. One species survives at the cost of another. God's act of creation is terrifying in its splendor and annihilation; it exceeds our intellectual and emotional apprehension. Jakob Knudsen saw this as speaking to God's pagan essence. Martin Buber saw it as saying that God in His creative might is an impersonal being and that it is an irrational limitation of our conception of God only to imagine God as a person; God makes Himself into a person only for the sake of allowing humankind to meet Him. In the deeds and words of the meeting, God becomes a person for the human being, but as the power to exist in everything that exists, God is beyond all personality. And no one struggled with this question with such intensity, indeed with such violence, as Luther, especially in "The Bondage of the Will."

The coming of God's Kingdom with Jesus of Nazareth – the decisive content of Christian faith – must therefore be understood against a background of the work of creation and annihilation, placed as it is in the greatest tension with the Kingdom, a tension that one must not try to reduce. With the coming of God's Kingdom, no insight into the creation follows, no explanation of why splendor and annihilation go together, we get no chance to explain or justify suffering, haphazardness or death with the fact that they have their cause, not in God, but in humankind. We are supplied with no defense of God, no theodicy. Seen in human terms, God in the creation is extravagant with splendor, cruel with suffering, unjust with accidents. This is the manner in which his pagan essence, his impersonal being, appears for the human being, the moral being. We are outraged by everything. In the name of morality, we border on blasphemy, because we want to have God, the universe, the world order and destiny on our moral terms, not on God's. In our cultural situation, indignation is expressed as blasphemy. In the name of the misfortune of our fellow creatures, in the name of their suffering, we are indignant to the point of profaning God.

The un-reduced tension between creation and the Kingdom of God means that the substance of the Christian message is set up against one self-evident thing after another. It sets itself up against the self-evidence of a moral conception of God. And it sets itself up against the self-evidence that the eternal is the same as the unchanging. The coming of God's Kingdom means that the work of creation and annihilation, its splendors, suffering and haphazardness is not God's last word or act. Something new happens. In spite of His creative and annihilative essence, God makes Himself personal, human, but on His own god/human terms, not on our moral/human terms. He does not comply with our morality. We do not get to know that, on our moral conditions, the profanation of God makes no sense. If we insist on our morality, we hand ourselves over to blasphemy. Christianity does not turn on our morality but on hope and the promise of faith.

I am reminded of the Book of Job:

Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?

We ought not to minimize human sinfulness – which is grievous, and grievous to be borne – but to insist as we do that "Creation is good and beautiful because it is God's creation, but warped and broken because of human influence," as though we would or could shield God from being implicated in his own creation, for both "the good" and "the bad" of it, according to our own, paltry, moral assignations – is there not a hidden element of considerable hubris here? Shall we imagine that because we have sinned, and brought our own race low, that we are practically co-equal authors of the universe with God? that we can make a sword to approach unto behemoth and draw out leviathian with an hook? or douse supernova and outweigh black hole?

Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
Edited by tenpenny

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I do have a couple of questions though. On the subject of theodicy, and Genesis 2 (rather than 1), wouldn't an inerrantist, of whatever stripe, pretty much have to believe that all suffering and death, creation-wide, is ultimately a result of Adam's disobedience to God, i.e. human sin? I mean, wouldn't one's allegiance to inerrantism require this or, at the very least, make it difficult to "interpret" one's way around it?

...We ought not to minimize human sinfulness – which is grievous, and grievous to be borne – but to insist as we do that "Creation is good and beautiful because it is God's creation, but warped and broken because of human influence," as though we would or could shield God from being implicated in his own creation, for both "the good" and "the bad" of it, according to our own, paltry, moral assignations – is there not a hidden element of considerable hubris here? Shall we imagine that because we have sinned, and brought our own race low, that we are practically co-equal authors of the universe with God? that we can make a sword to approach unto behemoth and draw out leviathian with an hook? or douse supernova and outweigh black hole?

How does human responsibility for sin make humans "practically equal co-authors of the universe with God"? To use the example you used earlier, if a vandal slashes a Matisse painting, thus altering it forever, does make the vandal a "co-artist" of the work?

There's more in your post I'd like to respond to, but time is against me.

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to use the example you used earlier, if a vandal slashes a Matisse painting, thus altering it forever, does make the vandal a "co-artist" of the work?

In the case of Matisse, the answer is quite possibly yes. ;)

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I do have a couple of questions though. On the subject of theodicy, and Genesis 2 (rather than 1), wouldn't an inerrantist, of whatever stripe, pretty much have to believe that all suffering and death, creation-wide, is ultimately a result of Adam's disobedience to God, i.e. human sin? I mean, wouldn't one's allegiance to inerrantism require this or, at the very least, make it difficult to "interpret" one's way around it?

...We ought not to minimize human sinfulness – which is grievous, and grievous to be borne – but to insist as we do that "Creation is good and beautiful because it is God's creation, but warped and broken because of human influence," as though we would or could shield God from being implicated in his own creation, for both "the good" and "the bad" of it, according to our own, paltry, moral assignations – is there not a hidden element of considerable hubris here? Shall we imagine that because we have sinned, and brought our own race low, that we are practically co-equal authors of the universe with God? that we can make a sword to approach unto behemoth and draw out leviathian with an hook? or douse supernova and outweigh black hole?

How does human responsibility for sin make humans "practically equal co-authors of the universe with God"? To use the example you used earlier, if a vandal slashes a Matisse painting, thus altering it forever, does make the vandal a "co-artist" of the work?

There's more in your post I'd like to respond to, but time is against me.

Pardon me, but the phrase "human responsibility for sin" could give the appearance of being carefully worded to avoid any cosmic implications. As an inerrantist, do you deny the cosmic implications of human sin?

In cosmic-space terms, if God's universe is analogized to a Matisse painting, and the entire earth is defaced by human sin (which it is not, yet, but let's exaggerate for the sake of the analogy), an "outside" observer of the painting would not be able to detect the effects of human sin even with an electron-microscopic examination of the canvas. And this analogy entirely neglects cosmic-time, on which scale man's life-span as a species is not even as long as one beat-cycle of an "outside" hummingbird's wings.

Edited by tenpenny

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... if God's universe is analogized to a Matisse painting, and the entire earth is defaced by human sin (which it is not, yet, but let's exaggerate for the sake of the analogy),

My entire contribution to this thread seems to be throwing out isolated scripture passage, so forgive me if I seem obnoxious in doing so. However... how do you square this with Romans 8:18-23?

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

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... if God's universe is analogized to a Matisse painting, and the entire earth is defaced by human sin (which it is not, yet, but let's exaggerate for the sake of the analogy),

My entire contribution to this thread seems to be throwing out isolated scripture passage, so forgive me if I seem obnoxious in doing so. However... how do you square this with Romans 8:18-23?

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Pardon me, but I think you may have mistaken me for an inerrantist. I am not attempting to "square" anything, much less everything – that is the burden of the inerrantist camp. And a heavy burden it is.

Actually, I am not trying to deny the cosmic importance of humanity, but many Christians so take this for granted that a "stealth" sense of entitlement takes root, and a consequent hubris and noblesse oblige towards the rest of creation has built up, over time, to the point that it is completely out of all proportion to our true physical punyness. God is not only spiritually mighty, he is physically mighty as well – besides being God, he is God-of-the-cosmos – and we need to be reminded of this, lest we become too ant-like in our breadth of vision.

Regarding Romans 8:19, N.F.S. Grundtvig delivered a terrific sermon on this verse in 1838, which I have translated from the Danish (expanding on A. M. Allchin's translation of some short passages from the same sermon) in this post on my blog site (where my current post translates some additional material about Løgstrup, in case anyone else is intrigued by his thought).

Edited by tenpenny

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So there are strains of "inerrantism" that allow for some of the assertions made by historical-critical scholars, e.g., that the shift in style, focus, and vocabulary (Elohim vs. YHWH) between Gen. 1 & Gen. 2, as well as the differing chronologies, all point to these stories being collected from two different sources?

Not my grandpa's inerrantism, but terribly interesting.

Yeah, whenever I hear people try to redefine "inerrancy" so that it means something other than what most people mean by it, I wonder why we should even bother going to bat for that word in the first place.

How does human responsibility for sin make humans "practically equal co-authors of the universe with God"? To use the example you used earlier, if a vandal slashes a Matisse painting, thus altering it forever, does make the vandal a "co-artist" of the work?

One of the problems with the humans-are-mere-vandals approach is that there is an awful lot of death woven into the very DESIGN of the universe. My favorite example of this is the spider web: it speaks of design in so many ways, and yet what is the PURPOSE of that design? To trap and kill other animals. Is this the fault of anyone's "vandalism"? Maybe, maybe not, but even if it were, it's kind of hard to imagine how spiders would function WITHOUT those webs.

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Yeah, whenever I hear people try to redefine "inerrancy" so that it means something other than what most people mean by it, I wonder why we should even bother going to bat for that word in the first place.

John F. Hobbins--who is not a conventional inerrantist--had some thoughts on this matter:

It is certainly possible to work out a doctrine of Scripture and avoid the language of inerrancy. It's also possible to develop a soteriology in which justification by faith through grace plays little or no role. The language of the "new birth" may also be left to sappy revivalists, and the language of atonement confined to Fanny Crosby hymns.

But this cannot be the route of a theology which treasures the heritage of the Reformation. It is not the route that the Catholic Church has taken either. With respect to Catholic use of the language of inerrancy, go
and
for details.

Evangelicalism is burdened by the currency it gives to intellectually indefensible definitions of inerrancy. Nonetheless, that same movement remains a place in which God’s Word is a lamp unto the feet of believers, a light unto their path. Too often, practically speaking, this has not been the case in other branches of the Christian movement. Roman Catholics and eastern Christians are not shy, usually, about admitting this. Massive efforts are underway in any case to make the reading of Scripture a constant, not only in collective worship, but in group Bible study and personal devotion. If we set to one side the tendency of some Christians to privilege a reading of the Bible based on a hermeneutics of suspicion (I hasten to add that there is a place for that, but it does not have to crowd out reading the Bible in faith, hope, and love), there is an almost universal consensus that Scripture is the
norma normans
of Christian thought and practice, the norm which norms all other norms.

[ . . . ]

In the tradition of the church before rationalism seeped into the groundwater of the debate, the language of inerrancy was doxological first of all. It is praise-language for the words of life God gives, identified with the words of scripture. This is clear, for example, in the writings of Zwingli. These words of the reformer of Zurich deserve to be more widely-known:

Finally, we conclude in the hopes of giving an answer to one and all objections – this is our opinion: that the word of God is to be held by us in the highest honor – by word of God is alone meant, what comes from God’s Spirit – and no word should be accorded the same faith as this one. For it is certain, it cannot err, it is clear, it does not let us go errant in the darkness, it is its own interpreter and enlightens the human soul with all salvation and all grace, makes it confident in God, humbles it, so that it abandons and throws away its pretensions, and places itself in God's hands. In it, it lives; toward it, it turns. It doubts all creatures, and God alone is its trust and security. Without it, it has no rest, and in it alone it finds rest.
(German
, with discussion).

The example of Zwingli demonstrates - though his approach to the nexus between Word and Spirit has problems of its own – that the doxological use, not just of inerrancy language, but of other forms of "love-language" for scripture, is the sign of a healthy theology, full of comfort and praise.

Examples of praise-language in reference to the word of God are numerous in Scripture. Isaiah 55 and Psalms 19 and 119 make excellent points of departure. To the oft-repeated question: what do we do with the appalling passages in the Bible, Psalm 137 for example, with its desire for revenge? How is it the word of God for the people of God? I’ve suggested how
. In some ways, the best avenue of approach to Psalm 137 is through Bialik’s “On the Slaughter,” as I discuss
.

There really are cogent reasons for retaining the language of inerrancy and qualifying it properly. It makes no sense to set aside traditional vocabulary because it is subject to misunderstanding. If that is a sufficient reason, let's do away with other traditional frameworks of understanding, such as justification, atonement, the Lordship of Christ, predestination, the Trinity . . .

Oh wait: all this and more is just what some people think the doctor ordered. For a Christian, this amounts to giving up one's birthright for a mess of Unitarian pottage. It is also, I dare say, a sign of intellectual laziness. Every generation has to appropriate and re-contextualize the language of the classical tradition. That includes, it seems to me, the language of inerrancy.

Edited by Ryan H.

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One of the problems with the humans-are-mere-vandals approach is that there is an awful lot of death woven into the very DESIGN of the universe.

Death, on some level, is actually so essential to the structure of life it's practically impossible to imagine a world that resembles ours but somehow lacks it. What if every amoeba were immortal? Every fly?

But I think it's worth pointing out that the protology of Genesis never suggests that the death of animals somehow entered the world through Adam and Eve, so I think we need to be careful how we theologically understand in what way the world around us has been subjected to frustration.

Edited by Ryan H.

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John F. Hobbins wrote:

: But this cannot be the route of a theology which treasures the heritage of the Reformation. It is not the route that the Catholic Church has taken either.

Well, I'm Eastern Orthodox now, so I don't know where that leaves me.

Certainly I don't subscribe to the views of, say, Martin Luther or Conrad Grebel, who held that their private interpretations of Scripture were sufficient to instantaneously overthrow nearly a millennium and a half of church tradition. Nor do I care to redefine the canon, as virtually all Protestants have done. (Luther, of course, toyed with excluding certain books from the New Testament; but beyond that, there are very few Protestants of any stripe these days who accept the so-called "Apocrypha" as part of the Old Testament. And the so-called "Apocrypha", of course, would have been part of the "God-breathed scripture" that Paul told Timothy about, so there's another problem that Protestant inerrantists have to deal with.)

Nor do I find the Catholic approach suggested here all that satisfying, since not only does it redefine "inerrancy" to mean something other than what the average parishioner might expect, but it goes on to suggest that other words, like "asserts", might not mean what you thought they meant either. Again, I just don't see the point in playing this sort of word-game.

There may indeed be a form of "inerrancy" within Orthodox thought, I don't know. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me if there were, since, in my own early explorations into Orthodoxy, I came across "patristic fundamentalists" (as a friend of mine calls them) who thought that any argument could be settled by proof-texting the Fathers. I certainly wouldn't want to veer to THAT extreme, and indeed, I kind of put off my conversion to Orthodoxy until I was assured by my priest and others that I really didn't have to pay attention to those people.

: . . . there is an almost universal consensus that Scripture is the norma normans of Christian thought and practice, the norm which norms all other norms.

Well, yes. That's why the scriptures are called "canonical". The Greek word "canon" refers to a "ruler", or a "guideline". The scriptures are the "guideline" by which we measure everything else.

: The example of Zwingli demonstrates - though his approach to the nexus between Word and Spirit has problems of its own – that the doxological use, not just of inerrancy language, but of other forms of "love-language" for scripture, is the sign of a healthy theology, full of comfort and praise.

Perhaps. I'm a little suspicious of abundant praise, though. Which, yes, makes it interesting that I attend a church where the services frequently refer to the "holy" this and the "holy" that. But sometimes abundant praise gets taken seriously, even literally, and I'd like to avoid those sorts of problems wherever possible.

: There really are cogent reasons for retaining the language of inerrancy and qualifying it properly. It makes no sense to set aside traditional vocabulary because it is subject to misunderstanding. If that is a sufficient reason, let's do away with other traditional frameworks of understanding, such as justification, atonement, the Lordship of Christ, predestination, the Trinity . . .

If "inerrancy" has enjoyed as long a history as most (or even all) of those other theological categories, then someone older than the Reformation is going to have to be quoted to make that point.

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