Skip to comments.Sorely Needed Wisdom: Wrestling With Genesis
Posted on 09/22/2003 4:06:31 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback
At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., the questions were asked: Why Genesis? Why Now? The event, sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was a discussion of the new book The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis by Professor Leon Kass.
Both Kasss book and the conference it inspired raise a question that Christians ought to welcome: What is the role of the Bible, in particular, Genesis, in twenty-first century American life? Do words written more than three millennia ago have anything to tell us about how we ought to live our lives today? The answer, according to Kass, a great scholar and the chairman of the Presidents Council on Bioethics, is absolutely.
Kasss book is the product of twenty-five years of studying Genesis and teaching it to his students at the University of Chicago. Those experiences led Kass to appreciate the moral sensibilities and demands of the Torah, although he confesses that his practice is still wanting. But he is no longer confident in the sufficiency of unaided human reason to answer lifes most important questions.
Genesiss impact isnt limited to the personal. What Kass, who is Jewish, calls the crisis in modern thought, especially in the moral and ethical realms, stems from our cultures disregard for the lessons taught in Genesis. We have a need for wisdom in this area, one that requires a serious examination of the Bible, starting with Genesis.
And what better place to start than at the beginning? Even a reader who doesnt believe in the inspiration of Scripture has to admit that Genesis chapters 1 through 11 are without peer in their accurate depiction of the human predicament: our strengths and our weaknesses, our nobility and our folly.
As Kass puts it, the stories in chapters 1 through 11, tell what always happenswhether the subject is the relationship between spouses, between siblings, or between man and God.
For instance, Kasss chapter on the story of Cain and Abel, Fratricide and Founding, is a powerful antidote to our cultures sentimental and even utopian view of human nature. Genesiss account of how pride, jealousy, and anger cause us to prey upon one another is much more true to life than what we hear from contemporary experts.
Given Genesiss insight and accuracy regarding the human condition, its reasonable to think that its insights on what it means to be human are likewise worth examining. Its account of what makes man unique and the dignity that flows from that status, like its portrayal of our faults, rings far truer to human experience than secular alternatives.
Genesiss understanding of human nature and human dignity has implications for nearly every aspect of our culture: bioethics, human rights, religious freedom, war, and peace. That answers the question: Why Genesis? And the answer to the secondWhy Now?is that the alternatives to the biblical worldview have all failed. They have left us with the crisis Kass mentions, unable to find answers because we no longer remember the real questions: Who are we? How are we supposed to live?
To remember those, we, like Kass, need to start at the beginningin this case, The Beginning of Wisdom.
Unless, of course, when Jesus Christ quotes Genesis, speaking in the context of the human race, and declares unequivocably that He who made them at the beginning of the creation, made them male and female. (see Mark 10:6)
Call it "hyper-literalist," if you like, but then there was no one more hyper-literalist than Jesus Christ himself. Jesus personalized his affirmation of the credibility of the writings of Moses (of which Genesis is the first book of Moses), when he states clearly in John 5: 46 & 47: " For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"
If Christianity defines you, theistic evolution cannot. Either what Moses wrote is true, the way God inspired him to write it, or Jesus Christ is a liar. Stated differently, either Genesis is true or Jesus Christ isn't the Son of God.
Maybe if you would stop being coy and give a specific example of an "inconghruity" we would have something to discuss.
I've given you plenty to go on already. If I have to spell it out for you, you aren't prepared to discuss it anyway.
Take your time. I'm in no hurry.
You might want to check this ref. again BTW.
I just did. G-D orders Abram to leave Haran. G-D promises Abram "I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great" etc. What's the problem? What "discrepancy" do you see here? You think Abram was supposed to leave Haran all by himself and not with his wife and his nephew and entourage? Or do you claim Abraham did not deserve G-D's blessing? Or do you claim that someone made this up and somehow managed to sneak it into the Bible? What is it? I'm not a mind reader.
Clearly YOU are not prepared to discuss. I have the Hebrew scriptures open in front of me. If you give me another snotty answer, this conversation is over.
If your view were incorrect, how could someone prove it to you?
Yes, this is a serious question, so think about the answer.
No one thing could do it to me. I have pondered the question. I have read http://www.answersingenesis.org.
and other organizations and find them either venomous or ridiculous. I find much of the creationists' arguments weak and lacking. For ex: The creationists often claim the continents should have washed away by now. Such an understanding conveys no appreciation of plate tectonics, where the surface is recycled.
Some creationists rise above the rest. These often have more subtle errors. Answers in Genesis is of the more subtle variety.
The only group of creationists I know to have good strong mettle, the ability to do hard math, and a muted case are Lambert Dolphin and Barry Setterfield. Both are mathematically adept. Dolphin is a pleasant fellow and will answer emails. Try him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He runs what is probably the most intellectual Christian apologetics site on the Internet. Scholarly papers and real audio Bible studies. Low on graphics. Hence easy to load.
And for his real audio discussions: http://www.ldolphin.org/audio.html
But his whole thesis and Setterfield's thesis is that c is variant. I see little evidence for that. I think what they detect is measurement precision error.
Still if you are into that stuff, try Lambert Dolphin's Website. It is the best of this sort of the web. Only necessary graphics. Lots of articles on everything. And when dealing with science....He actually uses differential equations; NOT Kent Hovind's or Ken Ham's cute pictures.
Dolphin and I have corresponded by email. He is charitable though he knows I am a theistic evolutionist. [I correspond by a different moniker.]
If Dolphin has not convinced me yet, you probably will not. If I am ever convinced, it will probably be by Dolphin.
I hope that answers that question. There is a body of good sturdy physics to argue in favor of the big bang and evolution. Kenneth Miller's discussion on Isochronic radiodating in DARWIN'S GOD is outstanding.
Answers in Genesis attacked Miller for being Catholic which is an ad hominem attack. I am no fan of Catholicism, having left it myself for evangelical faiths, but they said he was not Christian because he was Catholic. A horrific example of close-minded views. So typical of many creationist sites. And alas of http://talkorigins.org , an evolutionary site.
My view is that God is outside the Big Bang and behind the veil of the Quantum soup. Therefore he can control events subtly in ways which seem random to us. So Evolution and the Big Bang are true but ordered, not accidental. On our side of the quantum veil we only perceive it as chance.
This is similar to Polkinghorne's view, I think, or Michael Denton's.
It is the insistence on a literal six day view which I find deleterious. Dolphin is obviously a literalist but he is charitable to those who differ.
Whether one is evolutionary like me or a six-dayer, Christ will be returning soon enough. We can ask him then: Literal or metaphor?
. So, no one thing could do it. The Question is NOT that easy.
Just want to point out that Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve as though they were historical figures.
For those who want to take literalness to an extreme.
Gen 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me.
Well, what happened to Ishmael? It literally says Isaac was his only son, but where did Ishmael go? That reads like God is saying Ishmael does not exist.
Literalness has to be dealt with reasonably.
I hope that answers your question; I fear it won't.
My problem is not with those who are six day creationist but with those who insist on it.
Not quite. This comes directly under the heading I broached with Alouette on this thread earlier.
I am familiar with Schroeder. If I understand him, he says what is 15 billion years to us may be six days to God, from another perspective. I have no problem with that. But from our perspective, it is still 15 billion years.
Dolphin was a member of the Stanford Research Institute and did work for the Defense Dept, I think. The crux of Dolphin's argument is a variant c. The core of his belief is biblical faith. But from emails with him, he is pushing Vc [no longer uses cDK] as his main argument. I am sorry I forgot the name of Norman. I should have mentioned him among Dolphin, and Setterfield. Dolphin marshalls arguments why it is not measurement error and why Vc has to be so.
Dolphin pushes Vc since it is the 800 lb gorilla. If true - and I doubt Vc is - it snatches the speed of light vs. distance argument away from Big Bangers. The speed of light vs. distance is one of the most powerful weapons in the Big Bang/Evolutionary canon [pun intended]. Now Dolphin may have other arguments for a six day creation but he concentrates on the 800 lb gorilla. So far, to my mind, the gorilla is winning. But you gotta love the guy. He does not go after the weak argument, the straw man. He goes after the biggest dragon on the block.
I am not convinced of Vc at this point. There are a host of problems with it. And without Vc, Evolution is very strong. So I remain a theisitic evolutionist. Still Dolphin is probably one of the few truly amiable and intellectual forces in the debate.
You asked me for a test of falsification. No one thing could do it. In paradigm shifts no one thing is critical. Read Thomas Kuhn's THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS
The body of evidence at this point for me weighs in heavier wtih evolution.
Hate to tell you this, but YOU are a creationist. You just think God did it differently than others might.
A few years ago you might have had a point. But recently the Creationists - as a trend - have acquired a take no prisoners attitude. They tote a party line of six literal 24 hour days now and flail any deviance from the offical line. Answers in Genesis wrote a disparaging summation of Dr. Schroeder, a man most would find to be pious. Ah, but he is not a fundamentalist Christian.
It has gotten ugly - amazingly so - on the Christian side.
I would therefore be numbered among evolutionists by them.