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Sorely Needed Wisdom: Wrestling With Genesis
BreakPoint ^ | 22 Sep 03 | Chuck Colson

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 Kass’s 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 President’s Council on Bioethics, is “absolutely.”

Kass’s 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 life’s most important questions.

Genesis’s impact isn’t 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 culture’s 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 doesn’t 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 happens”—whether the subject is the relationship between spouses, between siblings, or between man and God.

For instance, Kass’s chapter on the story of Cain and Abel, “Fratricide and Founding,” is a powerful antidote to our culture’s sentimental and even utopian view of human nature. Genesis’s 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 Genesis’s insight and accuracy regarding the human condition, it’s 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.

Genesis’s 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 second—“Why 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 beginning—in this case, “The Beginning of Wisdom.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: beginningofwisdom; bookreview; charlescolson; genesis; leonkass; origins
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Dang straight we do.

In the beginning...God!

1 posted on 09/22/2003 4:06:31 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback
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To: agenda_express; banjo joe; Believer 1; billbears; ChewedGum; Cordova Belle; cyphergirl; DeweyCA; ...
BreakPoint/Chuck Colson Ping! If anyone wants on or off my BreakPoint Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.
2 posted on 09/22/2003 4:06:51 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback (You want freedom fries with that?)
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To: Mr. Silverback
Get even more by reading to the end.
3 posted on 09/22/2003 4:30:02 PM PDT by ScuzzyTerminator
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To: ScuzzyTerminator
Roger that. the last two books of Revelation are some of my favorite reading. I even gave them to a friend for Christmas in 2001 as a booklet, because in the days after September 11th she had told me how much the end of the world scared her.

She's now a Mercy Ship missionary, not that I'm taking credit for that or anything.

4 posted on 09/22/2003 4:57:57 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback (You want freedom fries with that?)
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To: Mr. Silverback
More people are reading the Book of Genesis than Hitlery's book, Living History!

The first book is history, the second is a complete fabrication dressed up in hard covers!

5 posted on 09/22/2003 5:02:50 PM PDT by Gritty
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To: Mr. Silverback
**For instance, Kass’s chapter on the story of Cain and Abel, “Fratricide and Founding,” is a powerful antidote to our culture’s sentimental and even utopian view of human nature. Genesis’s 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.”**

But this is precisely the reason why everyone has abandoned Genesis (including many self-professed Christians). It so adequately points out that, Oprah is wrong, we are not basically good.
6 posted on 09/22/2003 5:12:11 PM PDT by kuma
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To: kuma
True.
7 posted on 09/22/2003 5:29:02 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback (You want freedom fries with that?)
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To: kuma
The heart of man (small "m") is desperately wicked. Humankind, in their desire to be self-judged as good enough, are dispalying the very thing first tapped by the serpent in the garden, namely, the pride of being equal with God, to KNOW good and evil and be their own bosses. That first failing is the key to all sin separation from God, IMHO. How else can one explain the rejection of so great a gift as God's Grace in Christ when there is no loss if the gift could not be given by God for the human to accpet ... if there is no Grace then accepting the Grace offered by God in Christ couldn't harm the receiver! Yet humans reject the gift in favor of their own lordship, using all manner of reasons to assauge their guilt, their arrogance. [Is there a lesson to be seen in the Islamic condemnation for anyone who accepts the Grace of God in Christ?... I think there is, and the author of such hates most the contrite spirit that bows to Christ's Lordship ... contrition and pride are at opposition, eternally.]
8 posted on 09/22/2003 8:07:26 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: Mr. Silverback
I have always said that if we cannot believe Genesis, the groundwork and first book of scripture, then everything eles will crumble. Satan hates Genesis. That is why he tries his best to try to undermine it every chance he gets. I think that the reason Genesis has come into a larger focus now, is because of these truths. All other theories of beginnings have failed to answer any real questions. Only Genesis can gives us those answers. It is up to us to believe it. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
10 posted on 09/22/2003 8:40:24 PM PDT by goodseedhomeschool (returned) ( designeduniverse.com Fighting evos exposing years of lies, restoring conservatism.)
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To: Mr. Silverback; MHGinTN
Interesting comparison with Hillary's book.

But remember, in studying (or even in casually discussing the Bible as we are here!) you've GOT to realize that people's answers will fall in the "faith and morals" category: You can't ever "argue" for or against somebody's faith (even if that is disguised as a liberal's "opinion"(i.e. his "belief" and faith in secular immorality = our faith is homophobic and biased and hate-filled!). A liberal (or extremist will never change his "faith" based on our logical statements - because his answers aren't coming from logic or knowledge.

Usually, religious changes are more accurately termed "conversions" at the adult level, and "life-time" commitments are made when the child is trained through years of exposure every day: thus the liberal commitment to getting our kids indoctrinaed in the NEA/democrat religion through the schools and textbooks and culture in Hollywood and the mass media.

---

That said, the Bible can also be taught (read/understood)as a combination of literature, oral history of a people, religious dogma that MUST be followed as matters of Faith, religious law, civil law, religious stories, and parables, stories, poems, songs, and the family tree of a chosen people.


So, Creation can be a story, Job a story, and the tale of the man who found a pearl a parable - all without changing the fundemental Truth of the Bible at large.

Liberals try to trap the faithful by ignoring (misquoting/misusing/hating/ridiculing/deliberately distorting) the Bible, but most liberals have no "faith" but secularism/Marx/international socialism - or a deluded belief that "for the children" is a moral crutch that justifies any crime.

11 posted on 09/22/2003 8:40:36 PM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only support FR by donating monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Mr. Silverback
It was my great joy, yesterday, to embark on a two year journey - teaching Genesis 1 - 11 to my adult Sunday School class at the Air Force Academy Community Chapel. Additionally, my doctoral dissertation will be on those same eleven chapters, examining the roots of a biblical worldview in Genesis 1-11.

Anyone interested in following that class is invited to my web site where many of the notes and resources will be posted

Scrooby Manor Ministries

12 posted on 09/22/2003 9:25:39 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE
The problem with Creationists is that they insist on a hyperliteralist view of Genesis as an acid test of faith. I have very little problems holding to a high view of Scripture and a 15 billion year old theistic evolutionary view of the universe.

The issue is Christ, not an interpretation of Genesis.
13 posted on 09/22/2003 9:26:54 PM PDT by SchrödingersCat (Regarding Speaketh)
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To: SchrödingersCat
Ah, but good sire, how could that bunch of wandering sheepherders have described (much less counted) the right date when powers-of-ten, ten itself(!), logs, decimals places, and the zero itself had not yet been invented?

Yet, somehow, Genisis has every step of the modern story in the right order (from the creation of the first plasmas (waters above) and fusion to the seas and through continental drift, through the moon's creation after the earth and solar system to evolution to plants, insects, dinosaurs -> birds -> mammals -> domesticated mammals ....

Gee. Remarkable.
14 posted on 09/22/2003 9:56:53 PM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only support FR by donating monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: SchrödingersCat
I think the brick wall is the following. Christ is the Second Adam. Now if there was no First Adam why bother with the Second?
15 posted on 09/22/2003 10:21:40 PM PDT by kuma
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To: kuma
I think the brick wall is the following. Christ is the Second Adam. Now if there was no First Adam why bother with the Second?

"Adam" is the Hebrew word for man, related to the word for red: Adom. It can be ssen as simply a first man.

The literalness of the second Adam may not necessarily imply a literalness to the first adam.

16 posted on 09/22/2003 10:32:24 PM PDT by SchrödingersCat
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To: SchrödingersCat
Allow me to start over and explain my logic. Your viewing it as a literalist thing but try approaching Theology as a mysterious science which observes and records life. If you do so you will recognize the NEED for the systematic begats. Just as there is a desire among scientists to tie up the lose ends with factual evidence likewise there is a desire for theologians (mystery of "life" chai scientists) to have no lose ends.

SchrödingersCat: "Adam" is the Hebrew word for man, related to the word for red: Adom. It can be ssen as simply a first man.

Doing that causes one to have to ignore Christ's lineage which precisely speaks of 14 generations between various well known biblical persons and more specifically 14 breaking down into 7 (mathematics being an intergral part of all science) which is considered Divine. The lineage proves his right to claim the throne of the Kingdom of Israel. The promise of redemption first being given to Adam and on down the line. To dismiss Adam as a person is to dismiss his descendents and in some respects it butchers the mysterious Divinity of Christ.

*note that the 14 generations is spoken of in Matthew which only goes as far back as Abraham. However, Luke's record goes back to Adam, even more specifically back to God (Adam being referred to as "the son of God") which can still be broken down by sevens.
17 posted on 09/23/2003 12:23:57 AM PDT by kuma
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE
Marxism/atheism/socialism is most definitely a religion and liberals are some of the most dogmatic adherents. For Christians faith is the evidence of things not seen. Liberals take their faith to the point of believing despite what they see.
18 posted on 09/23/2003 12:30:45 AM PDT by kuma
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To: kuma


Doubting Thomas's they aren't.

I would dare aknowledge that, in many/most/all liberals, their absolaute faith in the secular international socialist/facist/state-controlled dogma (despite the evidence that is fails economically and oppresses freedom!) is in fact greater than than of many/most/some Christian's belief in the real God.

19 posted on 09/23/2003 3:58:09 AM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only support FR by donating monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Mr. Silverback
Good post. I have found that EVERY subject which flows from the Bible has a parallel introduction, a 'first impression', if you will, in Genesis. It's remarkable how God crammed the raw ingredients for human life into a few chapters like that. Mostly, it has to do with man-to-man and man-to-God relationships, but everything else is in there too. (At least, everything I've tried to find so far...)
20 posted on 09/23/2003 4:08:33 AM PDT by ovrtaxt ( http://www.fairtax.org ** God may not be a Republican, but Satan is definitely a Democrat!)
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To: SchrödingersCat
The issue is Christ, not an interpretation of Genesis.

And what do we have recorded as Christ's view of Genesis?

21 posted on 09/23/2003 4:27:50 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Woahhs
In Matthew 5:17-18, He says that He came to fulfill the law and not to overturn it and that every part of the law will be fulfilled without exception. Also, he was a rather serious student of scripture as a young man. You may conclude from this that he regarded Genesis as trustworthy. This makes sense as Genesis is regarded by Christians and Jews to be divine revelation, not just some fiction written by Moses to answer questions he could not answer.
22 posted on 09/23/2003 5:00:43 AM PDT by 17th Miss Regt
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To: 17th Miss Regt
Yet Moses was not an eyewitness to Creation. He was writing by Inspiration.
23 posted on 09/23/2003 5:05:25 AM PDT by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: Mr. Silverback
The theme of Genesis is not "Creation." That is only the first page. Rather, Genesis is about one man (Abraham) who chose G-D, who dedicated his life to G-D and passed this legacy on to his children.
24 posted on 09/23/2003 5:11:40 AM PDT by Alouette (The bombing begins in five minutes.)
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To: 17th Miss Regt
Precisely!

To claim the important thing is Christ, while actually ignoring Christ's clear regard for Genesis, is a circuitous means of denying Christ while maintaining a fiction of Christianity.

Call it the theological version of "my boyfriend likes someone else...so I'll blame her."

25 posted on 09/23/2003 5:14:59 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: AppyPappy
Yet Moses was not an eyewitness to Creation. He was writing by Inspiration.

The double account of creation is thought to be an incorporation of the story passed down by Adam in some circles.

26 posted on 09/23/2003 5:17:43 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Alouette
Those are some pretty rosey glasses you are looking at Abraham through.

about one man (Abraham) who chose G-D, who dedicated his life to G-D and passed this legacy on to his children.

is rather...um...charitable.

27 posted on 09/23/2003 5:22:19 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: SchrödingersCat
"The issue is Christ, not an interpretation of Genesis"

Genesis is the foundation of the Christian faith. If Genesis is open to interpretation, then the entire Bible is nothing more than a story book, and Jesus Christ ranks right up there with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Do I sometime find it hard to believe that there is an all powerful God that created the heavens and earth? Yes, of course. But I also believe that Jesus Christ was the perfect Son of God, died on the cross, was buried, rose again on the third day, and all this was done for my salvation. My faith does not allow me to seperate the parts of the Bible that I want to believe from the parts that I want to think are a nice story.
28 posted on 09/23/2003 5:33:59 AM PDT by vt_crosscut
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To: vt_crosscut
Also, without Genesis, the rest of the Bible becomes unecessary. If we are not created in God's image because he loved us and wanted us for companionship, why would he send his perfect son to die for our salvation. Why would God make that type of sacrifice to save some things that evolved out of the primordial ooze. To call yourself a Christian, but believe in evolution, is to believe that Jesus Christ died to save a group of cells that exists by chance and natural selection.
29 posted on 09/23/2003 5:41:33 AM PDT by vt_crosscut
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To: Woahhs
Those are some pretty rosey glasses you are looking at Abraham through.

They the same "glasses" that G-D "saw through" (kavayochal). Do you have a problem with that?

And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you, and those that curse you I shall curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you. Genesis 12:1-3.

And the Lord said, "Shall I conceal from Abraham what I do, now that Abraham is surely to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of the Lord, doing charity and justice, in order that the Lord might then bring upon Abraham that which He had spoken of him. Genesis 18:17-19.

30 posted on 09/23/2003 6:21:20 AM PDT by Alouette (The bombing begins in five minutes.)
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To: vt_crosscut; 17th Miss Regt; Woahhs
Excellent responses to SchrödingersCat.
31 posted on 09/23/2003 6:29:17 AM PDT by agrace
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To: vt_crosscut
"If we are not created in God's image because he loved us and wanted us for companionship"

___________

In your immediately preceding post, you claim "If Genesis is open to interpretation, then the entire Bible is nothing more than a story book." But "interpretation" is precisely what you have done in your explanation of the meaning of Genesis 1, 26! There is nothing in the text of Genesis 1,26 that moves the mind immediately to understand that verse in the way that you explain it. Now, I happen to AGREE with you regarding the meaning of that verse; my point is that "Interpretation" is necessary. It is not wise to disparage Interpretation in principle. What is needed, though, is a method of Interpretation that respect the meaning which the sacred author intended to communicate and that stands in continuity with a believing community. I know I just said a mouthful, but that's the main idea.

32 posted on 09/23/2003 6:39:02 AM PDT by Remole
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To: goodseedhomeschool (returned)
Bump!
33 posted on 09/23/2003 6:52:19 AM PDT by avenir
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To: MHGinTN
Bump!
34 posted on 09/23/2003 6:52:38 AM PDT by avenir
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To: Remole
I agree that interpretation is necessary to understand the Bible. But there is a difference between making an interpretation based on other Scripture references and further study, and making and interpretation based on "Creation isn't possible, so God must have ment something else when he wrote Genesis"
35 posted on 09/23/2003 9:56:07 AM PDT by vt_crosscut
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To: Alouette
They the same "glasses" that G-D "saw through" (kavayochal). Do you have a problem with that?

Yes I do.

Call me a mystic, but I don't think the Almighty intended for us to overlook the discrepancies between Divine attribution to Abraham, and what the text actually says about Abraham.

36 posted on 09/23/2003 11:50:13 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Remole
Perhaps you could elaborate on your "mouthful," because at first glance it looks like alot of caviling on your part.
37 posted on 09/23/2003 12:02:02 PM PDT by Woahhs
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To: SchrödingersCat
"The problem with Creationists is that they insist on a hyperliteralist view of Genesis as an acid test of faith. I have very little problems holding to a high view of Scripture and a 15 billion year old theistic evolutionary view of the universe."

The problem with YOU is that you believe God created everything (al beit by starting everything with the first single-celled creature, then guiding all through evolution), but you talk about creationists as though they were nutcases to be dismissed.

Hate to tell you this, but YOU are a creationist. You just think God did it differently than others might.

38 posted on 09/23/2003 12:08:28 PM PDT by MEGoody
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To: SchrödingersCat
"The literalness of the second Adam may not necessarily imply a literalness to the first adam."

Just want to point out that Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve as though they were historical figures.

39 posted on 09/23/2003 12:09:51 PM PDT by MEGoody
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To: Woahhs
I really don't mean to quibble with your or the other interlocutor. It's just that whenever there is a FR thread on the interpretation of the Bible, some posts seem to suggest that the text of the Bible is immediately understandable, without any need for mental effort or interpretation; and some posts disparage interpretation as a godless activity. My point was to show that any explanation of a text is an instance of interpretation. The challenge is to interpret a text in such a way that the method chosen is the best way to get at the meaning which the sacred author wanted to communicate; and that the process should take place within the context of a believing community (and so interpretation is not a mere solitary action).
40 posted on 09/23/2003 12:40:02 PM PDT by Remole
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To: Woahhs
I don't think the Almighty intended for us to overlook the discrepancies between Divine attribution to Abraham, and what the text actually says about Abraham.

Explain.

41 posted on 09/23/2003 12:56:03 PM PDT by Alouette (The bombing begins in five minutes.)
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To: Alouette
I should explain something a thorough reading of the text would make clear? Perhaps you should try approaching the text again with a renewed interest toward incongruities.
42 posted on 09/23/2003 1:02:30 PM PDT by Woahhs
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To: SchrödingersCat
The issue is Christ, not an interpretation of Genesis.

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.

43 posted on 09/23/2003 1:08:37 PM PDT by Agamemnon
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To: SchrödingersCat
If your view were incorrect, how could someone prove it to you?

Yes, this is a serious question, so think about the answer.
44 posted on 09/23/2003 1:08:51 PM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Remole
Perhaps I was to quick to use the word "interpretation" in my original post. I should have used my trusty thesaurus and found a much more interesting word like "caviling" or "interlocutor" (I had to look both of them up).

It was not my intent to imply that any interpretation is wrong or to start a thesaurus battle between seemingly like minded people. My intent was to state that the entire Bible either is or is not the infallible word of God. I don't think that there is any middle ground. When I said interpretation in my original post, I meant the way which some people choose to accept parts of the Bible as truth and other parts as fantasy. I did not mean to imply that understanding the Bible can be done with making some interpretations of what the words mean. However, this interpretation must be done in the context of believing that the Bible is the infallible word of God.
45 posted on 09/23/2003 1:25:09 PM PDT by vt_crosscut
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To: Woahhs
I should explain something a thorough reading of the text would make clear? Perhaps you should try approaching the text again with a renewed interest toward incongruities.

Maybe if you would stop being coy and give a specific example of an "inconghruity" we would have something to discuss.

46 posted on 09/23/2003 1:50:38 PM PDT by Alouette (The bombing begins in five minutes.)
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To: Alouette
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.

47 posted on 09/23/2003 2:39:20 PM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Alouette
And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you, and those that curse you I shall curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you. Genesis 12:1-3.

You might want to check this ref. again BTW.

48 posted on 09/23/2003 2:44:32 PM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Woahhs
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.

49 posted on 09/23/2003 2:56:36 PM PDT by Alouette (The bombing begins in five minutes.)
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To: Mr. Silverback
I definitely dig the part about the Fallen Angels and human women.
50 posted on 09/23/2003 3:02:42 PM PDT by Cogadh na Sith (The Guns of Brixton)
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