The MB Herald vs. The Book of Genesis – Round 1

Well folks, this blog is going to completely drop the topic of the Mennonite Brethren Conference in Canada.  I’m not pastoring an MB church and am officially withdrawing my membership from the MB Conference, so there’s not a whole lot of reason for me to be keeping tabs of what’s going on there or fighting any more MB battles.  I will have more than enough to think about in my own church.

Since I’m moving on from the MB conference and I’ll pretty much leave it as a subject.  I’ll still be praying for certain individuals in the conference, but I have absolutely no desire to fight MB battles from outside the MB conference.

That being said, I’m going to close off my 34 years in the MB conference by interacting with a 5 part series on 5 articles in the most recent MB Herald on the Creation/Evolution debate.  The MB Herald has finally solved the debate regarding the origins of the universe!  Hooray!  The religious theory of evolution (likely theistic evolution) wins!  Wait a minute…WHAT?

I’ve read the best literature of both sides of the debate, I’ve read every commentary in print on the book of Genesis, I have at least 100 journal articles on various Genesis issues saved on my computer that I’ve read, I’ve learned my biblical languages, done translation and exegesis of the Hebrew text, I’ve read Brian Murphy’s 300+ page doctoral thesis on Genesis chapters 1 & 2, and I’ve done essentially everything I could to come to a biblical understanding of the issue…but until now I didn’t know what the MB Herald had to say about the issue, so my understanding was mediocre, at best.  Now, J Janzen (MB Herald editor), Brian Cooper (adjunct faculty at ACTS Seminary), Robert J. V. Hiebert (actual faculty at ACTS Seminary), Brian Gobbett (faculty at Briercrest), and Paul Teel (Phd candidate and teaches a course at UVic) have spoken and straightened out anyone in the MB Conference who was confused on the issue!

So, since these lads have tossed their stuff out in print, I’m going to interact with them.

I’ll take the articles in order of appearance in the Herald, so first off we’ve got J Janzen’s article entitled My Creation Confessions on page 4.

Instead of re-writing his article, I’ll simply pick out some quotes and the main points of his argument.  My comments will be in italics.

Let’s get started!

J Janzen’s article was a short diatribe opening with “I’m puzzled by the notion that science and faith are at odds with each other.”

  • Science and faith?  These categories are deceitful and completely useless.  The creation question has never been a fight between science and faith.  Science is the name we give to the process of gaining knowledge of the empirical (physical) world through observation, hypothesis, prediction and experimentation.  Science is simply a process, not a council or some uniform understanding of anything.  And faith?  Biblical faith is essentially “trusting God’s word”.  Science cannot possibly be at odds with biblical faith.
  • The battle is between sinful man and a holy God, and always has been.  Sinners (whether they are scientists or not) don’t believe in biblical creation because they’re actually unable to do so. Evolution is one among a long list of theories that sinful man has devised over history to explain their origins outside of God’s clear and propositional revelation of the actual origin of the universe in the scripture.  Sinners, by nature of being sinners, suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness.  Heb. 11:3 says that one cannot believe in the Genesis account outside of the divine gift of faith.  No unbelieving scientist, and no amount of unbelieving scientists working together, will ever arrive at the biblical account of the creation of the world.  The truth is evident and the data is all there, but sinners suppress the truth because it conflicts with their desire to sin.

Janzen also expressed being trouble when people suggest that “true Christian faith must include belief in a six-day creation.”

  • True.  Janzen is right on this one.  True Christian faith isn’t marked by belief in a six-day creation.  I doubt that the thief on the cross thought that…but true Christian faith is marked by a trust in God’s word, and God’s word clearly teaches something that is utterly irreconcilable with any form of the theory of evolution.  Any Christian who studies the first chapters of Genesis and reject its truthfulness on the basis of the findings of unbelieving scientists have (at bare minimum) good reason to question their understanding of the nature of scripture and the unbelieving mind…and should worry a whole lot more about reading the gospels than Genesis.  There’s not an unregenerate scientist in the world who believes any of the stuff in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and that’s pretty darn important!  Conception without sperm?  Walking on water?  Making food out of thin air?  The existence of demons at all?  Healing things like leprosy instantaneously?  Raising from the dead? The testimony of naturalistic science against any of that is utterly univocal, and that stuff is inseparable from the Gospel.

Janzen then questions a straightforward reading of Genesis with only 3 arguments:

1.  The light with no sun argument.
2.  The vegetation with no sun argument.

Janzen literally says “How is it possible for light to appear (Gen. 1:3-5) and vegetation to survive (Gen. 1:11-13) before the sun is created (Gen. 1:14-19)?

I’ll hit both of these arguments at once, since they’re easily defeated.  Here’s my answer:

  • Light can come from something other than the sun, and so can plant life.  In Revelation 21, we see the new heavens and new earth.  Rev. 21:23 says that there’s neither sun nor moon in the new heavens and new earth since God’s glory lights it up.  Rev. 22:2 says that there’s at least 2 trees there, and there’s still no sun.  Even in nature, not all light or life comes from the sun.  There are both light and plant life at the bottom of the Cayman Trough, and not a speck of sunlight reaches down there.
  • In Genesis 1, Janzen is assuming that the sun was made for the purpose of giving general light or giving life to vegetation.  Neither of these is true.  Genesis 1:14-19 says that the lights in the sky were made to separate day from night (which preexisted them both in Genesis 1:4-5), to indicate seasons, days and years, and to give light to the earth.  There was already light, but the earth had a regular allotment of that light apportioned to it when the sun and moon were created.  The sun was the principle light of the day and the moon was the principle light of the night.

3.  The evolution isn’t really that big a deal argument.  Janzen says “supposing evolution is true, how does that prove God doesn’t exist”?

  • Well, if evolution is true, it proves that God is a liar since Genesis 1-11 is untrue.  Evolution and God’s word cannot coexist as equally true: regardless of the age of the earth, Genesis unavoidably teaches that every single human being descended from a single, mature, human couple (Gen. 3:20) anywhere from 7-20,000 years ago, and every version of the theory of evolution that I know of unavoidably cannot coexist with that single fact.  If that one fact is not true, then God is a liar.  God may exist but people have no way of ever knowing since his self-revelation about himself in the scripture may be anywhere from 0-99% true, but there’s absolutely no way to ever know.  For all intents and purposes, God then becomes entirely irrelevant.

Janzen then talks about how he had an existential dilemma in when he was young that was solved by his mother simply asking him “Do you really think all of this could have happened by chance?”  At that point, J Janzen somehow knew that God existed and quotes Colossians 1:16.

Janzen wants us, like him, to “reserve judgment when it comes to questions of genesis” because “I can’t help but think that our arguments about origins are less than helpful because we ask questions to which we don’t have the answers, and make conclusions on the basis of evidence that is partial at best.  Why not wait until we have more information?”

  • Well, I don’t have to wait, and I’m not going to trump the clarity of Genesis 1 & 2 with the ambiguity of Colossians 1:16.  I’m going to let the scriptures give me as much information as they do and I’m not going to pretend that the Bible doesn’t say what it does.  If I ask questions about mechanics (what the actual physical processes involved in creation were), I won’t find answers beyond what the Bible says, and the bible says that the mechanism of creation was divine speech.  Whether or not there were physical processes involved in some way, or what the mathematical relationship between gravity, mass, time and divine speech are, only God knows.  The Bible gives a very simple, very short answer to the question of mechanics.
  • I’m also not going to pretend that any empirical scientific experiment will ever be able to contest the truthfulness of Genesis 1 & 2.  Regardless of the contemporary physical processes in the universe, I have good reason to think that these processes were not always happening at the same rate, and in the same way, during creation.  In fact, the Bible clearly warns me against the usage of uniformitarian arguments (calculating backwards based on the rate of modern physical processes) by unbelievers to suppress the truth of the creation account in 2 Peter 3:3-7, and this was written almost 2 millennia before the modern theory of evolution!  The Bible is clear that the creation week was a 6 day period.  The Bible is clear that light from every star appeared at the same time, regardless of their current distance from the earth.  I don’t have a clue how any of that worked mechanically, but I believe that it happened in 1 day because God clearly tells me that was what happened, he is incapable of lying, and he’s the only eye witness there has been, or ever will be.  Any unbelieving scientist who disagrees with the testimony of Genesis is speculating at best since he can never confirm his hypothesis by travelling into the past (leaving his scientific process unfinished, pushing all “scientific” opposition to anything in Genesis into the realm of philosophy), and is disagreeing with God.

So, the granite slab of scripture stands unharmed from the attack of the feather of Janzen’s skepticism.

Next up, I’ll take a stab at the article by Brian Cooper.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Creationist” Unger

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20 thoughts on “The MB Herald vs. The Book of Genesis – Round 1

  1. Ah…science. Yup, to come to a conclusion *scientifically*, you need to be able to do experiments…Re-creatable experiments. Since we cannot experiment on creation OR evolution, either one needs to be accepted by FAITH. I, along with you, believe in a literal 6 day creation. Regarding the “theistic evolution” approach…it always seems to me that people who believe this are saying, “my God is pretty powerful, but not THAT powerful…so I’m going to put him in a little box and give him a few billion years to work out all the kinks in the world”. If I have enough faith to believe that God is all powerful, then it only follows that I’m also going to believe that God created the world in 6 days. Thanks for the article!

  2. Wow, awesome thoughts Lyndon.

    My favourite:
    “No unbelieving scientist, and no amount of unbelieving scientists working together, will ever arrive at the biblical account of the creation of the world. The truth is evident and the data is all there, but sinners suppress the truth because it conflicts with their desire to sin.”

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest in the series!

  3. Big Evolution Discovery !

    British professor Nigel Swiggerton of Chapsworth College has recently found a missing link in the evolution/creation debate. Everyone is familiar with the “stages of man” chart found in textbooks which begins with a naked, hairy, bent over, grunting Neanderthal type which over millions of years finally learns how to stand erect while sporting a 1930s-style haircut. Well, Dr. Swiggerton discovered that someone accidentally reversed the negative. It turns out that the first man was actually standing erect with a short haircut but has been descending over the years until he has finally reached the last stage – the stage at any rock concert filled with naked, hairy, bent over, grunting Neanderthal types!

    • I always knew that heavy metal concerts were filled with Neaderthals…but now our hypotheses are proven!

      Oh wait…I’ve been to more than a fair share of heavy metal shows…

      …which makes me a…

      …uh oh!

  4. This saddens me. Surely, in your copious amounts of reading and study, you have seen that many well studied, respected, and intelligent theologians and professors have differing opinions, many of whom disagree with you. For example, that “day” refers to a 24-hr period can be understood to be a English-ism; or in differences of how to read and interpret different Biblical genres (do you gouge out your eye when it causes you to sin?). Correct?

    I prefer to err on the side of grace in gray areas, of which there are some in any Christian theology. I believe that neither you nor I have the monopoly on intelligence and study. It is one thing to have an opinion; it is another to insist opinion is truth, and to belittle God-fearing, Bible-respecting, intelligent seekers of truth.

    Religious fanaticism is one of the major threats to a peaceful Earth. Let gray areas be gray.

    • How you can say “I prefer to err on the side of grace in gray areas…” and then say to Mennoknight “Religious fanaticism is one of the major threats to a peaceful Earth. Let gray areas be gray” amazes me.

      I think if it is really a gray area in your estimation, be careful in invoking the religious fanaticism card.

      I think Mennoknight is concern with the veracity of the MB conference and their stance concerning origin. Asserting that Mennoknight’s view is nothing but just opinion and not the truth is to do the same thing you don’t like Mennoknight doing:”It is one thing to have an opinion; it is another to insist opinion is truth, and to belittle God-fearing, Bible-respecting, intelligent seekers of truth.”

      My two cent brother.

    • Thanks for your offering J!

      It’s true; I have run into a rather large amount of well-studied and intelligent scholars and theologians who have differing opinions than my own…but the sheer existence of disagreement doesn’t mean that all positions are valid or equally defensible.

      For example, you said “that ‘day’ refers to a 24 hr period can be understood to be a English-ism”.

      I guess so, except that the usage of “day” to demarcate a 24 hour period predates Greek, let alone Latin, let alone English, so it’s not likely an English-ism. That argument completely falls apart at a surface examination.

      As for the genre issue, I hear you too. I definitely don’t gouge out my eye when it causes me to sin, but that’s because I understand that the phrase is a relatively clear example of hyperbole.

      In Genesis 1, I also follow the genre. It’s historical narrative. This means that one reads it like narrative…which means that it’s read in a straightforward way like Exodus, 1 & 2 Kings, or Judges. When I see language that seems to insinuate the miraculous in historic narrative (like Moses getting water from the rock in Exodus 17 or Numbers 20), I take it straightforwardly because it is historical narrative. Why should I treat Genesis any differently?

      So, I agree that we should leave gray areas gray. I just don’t see how Genesis is gray, and all the arguments to suggest that Genesis is gray don’t stand up to critical evaluation. You’re right to suggest that neither one of us has the monopoly of intelligence or study; good thing we don’t need to have the monopoly to understand something simple and straightforward like Genesis 1 & 2.

      I also agree that it’s arrogant to insist that opinion is truth. Is it arrogant to suggest that words have contextually derived meaning that isn’t overthrown by the consensus of unbelievers simply because they have PhDs in a whole whack of completely irrelevant fields of study? Is it arrogant to interact with someone’s actual argument and respond with counter argument that covers their points and presents points that their argument does not engage?

      Religious fanaticism is a problem; I’m wondering if you’re somehow making that comment suggesting that arguing for the historicity of Genesis is a form of religious fanaticism? Are you trying to belittle me? Are you worried somehow that once I start believing in the historic truth of the scripture, I’ll start bombing commercial airlines?

    • I just have a few questions to J Bandsmer.

      1) Your comment, “It is one thing to have an opinion; it is another to insist opinion is truth, and to belittle God-fearing, Bible-respecting, intelligent seekers of truth,” is a self-refuting point. You are making an objective truth claim, stating that all other objective truth claims cannot make the one you are making right now. This statement is insisting that the truth is not found in opinion, yet stated as if the statement itself is true outside of opinion.

      2) What has Mennoknight done to belittle the men of God who have written the article? What is belittling about entering into a discussion that is for the purpose of finding the truth of who God is? If Janzen is a man of God, then the way he reads his Bible is not about Him personally but about the truth of scripture alone and therefore when engaged in questions on his article and the way he reads scripture, then wouldn’t this discussion about who God is be beneficial? Reading scripture, interpreting it, and teaching it, is not about opinion, but rather it is about discerning the Truth of God’s Word. Opinion is irrelevant.

      3) My last question is about “grey areas.” I would love to know where in the Bible there are “grey” areas? Secondly, why would one be complacent with these areas, if there are any to begin with? I understand how there are things we may not understand fully, (i.e. the Trinity) but not only is this not a grey area, if it is, why would we not error on the side of faithfully and with integrity, trying to understand them? Why would God write His word in a way that is neither this way or that way? This is not in His character. Your saved or your not. Jesus is who He says He is or He is not. There is a heaven and hell, or there isn’t. The Bible is fully true, or it fully isn’t. We may view scripture to be grey and not fully grasped or understood, but black and white is the goal. Let us not be complacent in understanding scripture as that paves the way for a complacent spirituality and relationship with Christ, in which I sincerely hope we all don’t come to and the Lord keeps us from. (1 John 5:20)

  5. Pingback: The MB Herald vs. The Book of Genesis – 5 Part Series « Menno-lite

  6. I did not call anyone on this website a religious fanatic. My point was to say that being un-open to the many differing opinions and interpretations put forward by intelligent and God-seeking studiers of God’s Word can potentially be problematic, insulting, and, at worst, lead to sin, even sin that hurts many. Such as being sure that Jews are doomed to hell and beyond redemption (as has been posited and acted on in Christianity’s past) and that Christians are ordained to militarily conquer the Holy Land (as has been posited on and acted on in Christian past). I’m not suggesting that believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is this dangerous. It doesn’t seem to be so at this time. Or… have any “Christians” shot evolutionists yet?

    Fanaticism, in any religion, often comes from “this one way of looking at things is right and that’s it.” And being unable to listen and consider, and be gentle.

    As an aside, the Hebrew word for “day” ie. yom, in Genesis 1 has a variety of interpretations and translations including that which is larger than a 24-hr period or could be translated as “age”… whereas “day” in English always means 24 hrs. The use of the English word day as a translation could be misleading to those without knowledge of translation issues. That is what I meant by “English-ism.” No need to make condescending remarks that the concept of a 24-hr day is more ancient than Greek. Goodness. But my apologies for not being more clear, as I will assume was the issue.

    Is it possible to find a peaceful and satisfying solution to the dichotomy in today’s society regarding tolerance and faith? Or even within one religion? What do you think? Or must one always belittle the other? I think this will be a key issue for the world in the next millenium. Thoughts are welcome.

    • Fair enough. You definitely didn’t call me a religious fanatic. An appropriate edit has been made.

      You’re right that being dogmatically closed to all discussion can “potentially be problematic, insulting, and, at worst, lead to sin, even sin that hurts many.” I’m interacting with the articles in the MB Herald and giving responses to them. I’m responding to you on your points. How am I being dogmatically closed?

      Beyond that, I what’s up with the whole “lead to sin, even sin that hurts many”? Why is your side the victim? What about the innocent, trusting young believers who are mislead by the deception of evolutionary theory that is being peddled by false teachers in evangelical churches under the guise of “theistic evolution”? Better yet, if we’re talking about feelings, what about God’s feelings? How do you think he feels when his creatures attack his word and labor to prove that he is a liar?

      Now, I don’t have the most remote idea as to how, in this context, you’re mentioning anti-Semitism or the crusades. Aren’t you going slightly overboard, especially in the context or an evaluation of an article in the MB Herald? You then said “I’m not suggesting that believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is this dangerous”. So why do you bring up religious genocide campaigns? Is there a remote possibility of that happening due to a debate over creationism? Why even mention Christians shooting evolutionists? Has that ever happened, even once in the history of the world?

      I get the accusation of blind dogmatism all the time, and people don’t like to hear “this one way of looking at things is right and that’s it.” Good enough. I don’t say or operate that way. I’m more than open to dialogue but bring me actual argument, not just the hypothetical existence of disagreement; hypothetical disagreement doesn’t make a debate. I know of people who doubt that I exist, but the sheer existence of disagreement on that issue doesn’t mean there’s legitimate debate.

      A good example of this very point is when you said “the Hebrew word for ‘day’ ie. yom, in Genesis 1 has a variety of interpretations and translations including that which is larger than a 24-hr period or could be translated as ‘age’… whereas ‘day’ in English always means 24 hrs.”

      Your argument for a variety of (apparently legitimate) interpretations doesn’t stand up because both of those points are simply not true. It is not an issue about being gentle or loving; it’s an issue of objective truth.

      “Yom”, like every single word, has a semantic pool of meanings, but there’s not a variety of equally legitimate interpretations for every occurrence of “yom” in Genesis 1 & 2. “Yom” in Genesis 1:5 does not mean the same thing as “yom” in Genesis 2:4. Words derive their meaning from the context of the clause, verse, passage, and book. Arguing that there’s a variety of legitimate interpretations of any word simply is not true. If I say “I was on a boat in a storm and all the motion made me feel nauseated and green”, there’s only one legitimate understanding of the word “green”. If someone thinks I’m talking about becoming a rookie instead of being sick, they’re simply misunderstanding my statement.

      Beyond that, in English “day” does not always mean 24 hours. If I say “Back in the day, it took 10 days to drive across Canada during the day”, I’m using the word “day” in three different senses in a single sentence. Only the second sense means “24 hours”, and the other two do not mean “24 hours”. There’s no legitimate argument there about the meaning of “day”.

      If someone says things that simply aren’t true and are corrected, that’s not debate. That’s the interaction of truth and error with no opinion whatsoever. God’s word is true, and people who disagree with God’s word are in factual error. My job is to do what I can to understand God’s word as meticulously as I can, so that I can be as close to truth as I can. If you can show me where I’m wrong, I actually desire to be corrected and welcome that opportunity.

      I have absolutely no idea what the “dichotomy in today’s society regarding tolerance and faith” is.

      Please explain that to me.

  7. I’ll try once more. Because I don’t like to give up, and I dislike people misunderstanding my points and/or making them out to be what they are not. And I believe dialogue is extremely valuable and has potential to be very productive.

    Firstly, thank you very much for taking out the note about being called a religious fanatic. I appreciate that very, very much 🙂

    “Dogmatically closed” never entered my conversation and comments, although I think you are right, in that indirectly it did. Anyway, I imagine that you will agree with me, that in the past history of the church, dogma can injure God (am I calling your words dogma? Leave theistic evolution out of this for the moment, please; this has nothing to do with a debate about the nature of creation, as you rightly point out). I then gave two examples from past church history. Again, I was not comparing believing in theistic evolution or literal creationism to the Crusades. I was giving examples of things Christians have believed to be true in the past, firmly, strongly, intuitively, so. Which led to un-Godlike, un-Christlike behaviours. This IS a true danger of dogma. I’m quite sure you can agree with this. Again, let me reiterate, that I am not comparing a Discussion on creation to the Crusades. What is my point? Dogma can be dangerous. That which was seen to be obvious objective truth at the time was not actually so. This sort of potential lies in every religion or belief system. That is why is is Crucially Important for Christians (or anyone for that matter) to Hear each other, Listen, be open to detecting signs of any dogma. And I worry that your comments could be coming from a form of dogmatism. I’ll elucidate more below. And I get that likely you could feel the same thing about me.
    My little comment about creationist shooting was to provoke thought, not be an accusation. Do you imagine it COULD ever happen? (please don’t respond to that, it’s a hypothetical, for-thought sort of a question). Would such a thing be Christ-like? (well that second question is a no-brainer, lol. Although, looking at the concept of Christian Identity, apparently it’s not to some who profess to be Christian… see this interesting scholarly article http://www.scribd.com/doc/20244757/Juergensmeyer-Christian-Violence-in-America… again, not pointing a finger at any creationist to call them anything like the abortion doctor murderers, lest this point is twisted into what it was not…). So, in light of these experiences, it is a valid question to ask.

    So, my comment about the “shooting” was not intended to point a finger and say “look what this will inevitably lead to.” It was food for thought. I knew it was a controversial comment to write, and might provoke a pointed if not vitriolic reaction, but I took that risk, because if such a question makes me think, I think that’s good. And if it makes others think, that is even better in my opinion. 🙂 But let me be more fair; let’s point questions in other directions… Here’s another question: Is it possible that a theistic evolutionist could engage in un-Christlike behaviours? Which ones can you imagine, and why? Another question: “Do evolutionists hate conservative Christians? Liberal Christians? (those are somewhat meaningless labels, all of them, but labels will have to do for the purpose of hypothetical and thought-provoking questions) What could be the reasons for that hatred, if it exists?” Again, I’m not looking for responses to these in the context of this conversation.

    You apparently have studied the Bible a lot. I say apparently only because I obviously can’t say I’ve seen you studying the Bible, since I haven’t talked to you or seen you for years now. However, I have no reason to disbelieve you. I can see that your passion comes from somewhere very meaningful to you.
    These are your words from this website: “I know my biblical languages and am still learning to love them, although we’re currently dating and hope to pursue a long-term relationship. Hebrew thankfully hasn’t taken me to meet the folks, and I’m well aquainted with many of Greek’s great-grand-children.”
    I therefore take issue with your light tossing away of my brief outline of the Hebrew word “yom” and possible translation issues. My information comes from Iain Provan, professor at Regent College since 1997 and has been senior Hebrew and Old Testament lecturer, among other qualifications… http://www.iainprovan.com/bio.
    You are therefore saying that you know more than someone who has studied longer than you have and knows Hebrew much, much better than you do. On what basis? “Because it’s the only way to interpret it. It’s obvious.” It’s not obvious to others, Lyndon.

    When a good number of Christians, intelligent, educated, Christ-like, deeply absorbed in a life-long study of Old Testament literature and languages have differing opinions on a subject such as theistic evolution and creationism, I believe that is a time to listen. This is not “hypothetical disagreement” as you state, Lyndon. As you acknowledged yourself, to quote:
    “It’s true; I have run into a rather large amount of well-studied and intelligent scholars and theologians who have differing opinions than my own” … so this is not hypothetical disagreement. As you acknowledge. Or you did so at one time anyway.

    I have found almost all of your arguments circular in nature, so I didn’t really bother to respond to them (they all, in essence, say that a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 is obviously, “duh”-ingly the way to go; other points you made are secondary to this underlying interpretation). When many people, some more educated in Hebrew and OT theology than you, think you could very well be incorrect in your interpretation, you could therefore be incorrect. But you say not. Why not? … let me say this baldly… “This is the truth” Why, I ask? “Because it’s the only way to interpret the Bible!” How to you know, I ask? Do most Christian theologians believe with you? Have you studied this more than other people who believe otherwise? Did God come down and write this in a stone tablet for you? “No… it’s because this is God’s Word and that’s what it says.” Are you aware there are other valid interpretations, according to more learned God-fearing scholars than you? “Yes, but it doesn’t matter, because they’re wrong.” Why is that? “Because this is how the Bible is obviously interpreted.” I could keep going. Your arguments, Lyndon, have at their base this circularity. I don’t know how to put that any more clearly. It is not my intention to be offensive, just to be clear, clear, clear as to what I see.

    There ARE Christian theologians (Iain Provan, for one), and also Jewish theologians, who agree that historical narrative may not necessarily be the only appropriate way to interpret Genesis 1 and 2. This is NOT only an hypothetical disagreement. “They’re wrong!” you say. Why? “Because it’s obvious! I’ve studied it, and it’s obviously the objective truth.” So, the other opinions of better-studied theologians are all wrong? “Yes!” Why? “Because they’re obviously wrong, according my studies.” That, to me, is the bulk of your arguments. Circular, circular, circular. Stick to your guns in the face of other Christian theologians who know Hebrew better than you do. Admirable? Martyr-like?

    And I don’t want to be too harsh. You are doing what you state: engaging with other’s opinions on this site, and responding with your own. And everyone should be allowed to do that. IT’s a good thing. If more people would do that actively, wouldn’t the world be a better place? …. so… what is it that made me feel a need to respond, and so strongly?…. I guess it is the sensation of your responses being “It’s obvious this is not true because of how I interpret the Bible, which is the only right way to do it” in the face of a clearly documented and researched debate, which is what MB Herald attempted to bringing forth as a dialogue. So I thought I’d enter the debate, from one angle anyway. BTW, I don’t see that the MB Herald intended to “finally solve the debate on the origins of the universe!” as you stated. And as you will see in the responses to the editor, most of the readers didn’t like where the authors went with their articles (What? MB Herald publishing dissenting views? Oh my!)
    Not that I particularly like MB Herald either, lol, but that’s another topic 🙂

    On a personal and interesting note, I have a close relative who, until she was in her mid-20’s, firmly believed in a literal 7-day (7x24hrs) creation. She was obviously not immune to engaging with dialogue, at least internal dialogue, about the nature of Genesis 1 and 2, as you will shortly see. I was not involved in any of this, I will add, she just talked about it with me afterwards. So, as it happened, she read a Jewish translation of the Torah. She came to me and said of reading the translation, “It was very… poetic. It was very different from the NIV and the Geneva.” And this made her believe that there might be other valid ways of interpretation, even if she has decided to believe one way over another. … A different translation, by those who worship and revere the word of God, had the power to make one open to interpreting a passage to be a different genre. The power of translation. NIV translation is particularly delivered in a very literal-like feel. That is a translation. Is it the God-approved translation? Of course not… that’s a silly comment. The NIV is a decent translation in general, although certainly not the best one of the first chapters of Genesis, according to Iain Provan and others. Literal, literal, literal. That is, actually, debatable.

    This pushed my buttons: You invoked “innocent, trusting young believers” and “God’s feelings”… What fear-invoking, righteous-sounding phrases! Despite that, I felt they ended up being content-lacking phrases since you are insisting consideration and discussion and respecting Biblical scholars more educated than you is dangerous? Wrong? Why? Because it’s “obviously” wrong. Again, circular reasoning. Everyone deserves to hear debate, perhaps especially young believers. Especially debate that, as you admitted, is NOT “hypothetical” within God-fearing, Christian circles.

    In your words, you get “accused of blind dogmatism all the time.” “All the time” is a lot. That is interesting.

    I feel somewhat frightened by your written aggressiveness, and find that I can’t take you quite as seriously because of it. I also don’t appreciate having my my words interpreted a bit or slight semantics argued. Please, please, please, don’t put words in my mouth or make assumptions about what I was implying. It is of no use except to raise hackles, and trying to make others look foolish; that backfires with intelligent readers. Hopefully I haven’t done the same to you! I’ve honestly tried not to. And I’ve tried to be more clear to avoid misunderstanding, if possible, if read carefully and generously.

    My last point in my previous entry was about the co-existence of tolerance and faith. I truly think this will be one of the biggest issues to face the earth in this millenium. It is a commentary that, while not wholly unrelated to our “dialogue”, is obviously far, far broader than that. I’ll try to clarify the idea. How do we, as people of many religions and denominations and sects within religions, co-exist peacefully and respectfully? Is it possible? Is it possible to truly believe something (atheism, Christianity, Islam, personal religion) and still respect someone who believes differently than yourself? (by “you” I’m not pointing at you personally). If two Christians cannot agree to disagree with respect but fall to belittling each other and calling each other obviously wrong, not respecting educated opinions and making allowances, what hope is there for a broader peace? Is it possible? I don’t want to see burning of “heretics”, either literally or figuratively with words and disrespect. How can a person of faith co-exist with a person of “no” faith, different faiths, different beliefs, slightly different beliefs? Is it possible? How will this come about? This is exemplified by our “dialogue.” I take offense that you believe your way to interpret is the only objective truth, in disregard of other better-educated Christian theologians. Yet are you not also entitled to your opinion, as I am mine? I like mine better; you like yours better. You think your way is true and best. I think my way is true and best. … can we dialogue respectfully or not? Is it possible? Can we co-exist and be friends? Is it possible?

    I guess, in summary:

    I respect that someone can believe in a 7×24 hr creation and see that as being a valid interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. I respect that it could be true, because I believe in and know the power of God, and I believe that people can be intelligent, seekers of God and come to different conclusions about some things. I respect when someone can believe that theistic evolution is a reasonable and true interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, especially when that person is extremely well-studied and above-reproach. Why? Because I believe in and know the power and love of God, and I believe that people can be intelligent, seekers of God and come to different conclusions about some things. I like mutual respect. I dislike views in which interpretations so held so strongly as to be the only truth in the face of well-respected difference of opinion, with circular reasoning as their main point. I desire to be mature and kind and gentle and strong and have the ability to engage in profitable discussion, dialogue, mutual respect. I guess I just like this better than a stance of dismiss-ment of those same people for reasons of personal, albeit well-studied, interpretations. Is there room for gentleness? Have I been gentle, yet clear? Food for thought. At least for my thoughts.

    And now I’ve talked for faaaaaaaaar too long! lol

    • Judy,
      Thanks for the interaction. I’ll be quick and to the point:

      1. If people wrongly utilize creationism, or any biblical doctrine, as the grounds for violence or any other type of sin whatsoever, the problem is not in the doctrine. The problem is in the people who show by their actions that they don’t believe what they profess. I have no problem with biblically rooted conviction.

      2. I don’t toss Ian Provain aside. I weigh the argument, consider it in the light of the scripture, and find it vastly inadequate. That doesn’t mean I think I know more than Ian Provain. That means that I disagree with him on a single issue. We likely agree on thousands of other issues. I have no problem saying “Ian Provain has a weak argument”. It’s not a slam against him.

      3. Judy, I’m afraid that you’ve been mislead with regards to proper biblical exegesis. It’s not a question of simply agreeing with the most scholars, or who’s the oldest, or who has written the most books.

      As a Christian, I know that the Bible is true, so I build my hermeneutical understandings on looking at issues of vocabulary, grammar and syntax. I also look at how the prophets and apostles understood the scripture and I listen to the clear teaching in scripture about the nature of scripture, and attempt to understand it within its own theological framework.

      The Bible is complete truth with absolutely no error in it whatsoever; it’s the actual revealed word of God himself. It’s consistent, and the usage of words is not haphazard.

      It is also circular reasoning to start with the truth of scripture, but not all circular reasoning is fallacious (i.e. Can you argue for the existence of logic without appealing to logic itself?). I assume the truth of the scripture in order to learn the truth of the scripture. I can do no other and reject anything other than historical/grammatical hermeneutics because the Bible won’t allow me to treat it like any other common book.

      4. Feel free to be harsh; you’re definitely a friend and I value your insights. I apologize for stepping harshly on the toes of someone you value.

      5. Judy, let’s apply your general argument to Jesus of Nazareth. Here’s a scenario:

      Almost all the scholars in the Society of Biblical Literature think that of all the verses in the four gospels, we can only learn around 7-10 actual historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth, and the fact that he rose from the dead isn’t one of them. The majority of “Christian” scholars (i.e. those who call themselves Christians) deny that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, or at least qualify his resurrection so that he didn’t emerge from the grave with the same body he entered with (i.e. it was a “spiritual resurrection” of some sort).

      Should we go along with the consensus of all these men and woman who are far more educated than we are and start questioning if Jesus bodily rose from the dead or should we dogmatically stick to the bodily resurrection of Christ? If so, why?

  8. Oh dear. I take it back for thanking you for taking off your comment about religious fanaticism. It’s still on your website, just… twisted. I have no reason to call you a fanatic. Dogmatic, yes, I think so. But since I have no reason to call you a fanatic at this time, I do not do so. Dogma can lead to fanaticism, of course! That was my point. Do they necessarily go hand in hand? No. Do I think you are a fanatic? Well, no. I have no reason to believe so.

  9. Pingback: The MB Herald vs. the Book of Genesis – Round 2 « Menno-lite

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