Re: sciDocument.rtf

From: Ron Scheller (
Date: Mon Jul 01 2002 - 10:28:53 EDT

  • Next message: Shuan Rose: "RE: sciDocument.rtf"


    To be fair, I think you are caricaturing the conservative approarch when
    you use phases like "simple literalist interpretation" and "Conservative
    interpreters therefore see science as the enemy". It is true that there
    is a very vocal segment of conservatives who might be classifed as such
    (Creation Science advocates and the YEC crowd), but there are also
    conservatives who have a very nuanced view of verbal inspiration that
    recognizes that a wooden, literal approach is too simplistic, and
    therefore introduce many different literary genre in their
    interpretative activities (and yet try to integrate that approach with
    verbal inspiration).

    Oh well, just wanted to throw that it and see if it sticks.


    Shuan Rose wrote:

    > As has been noted, many conservative apologists has spent an
    > inordinate amount of time explaining away various errors and
    > inconsistencies in the Bible.They have at best been partially
    > successful.I shall discuss two approaches to interpretation, and the
    > result when we apply those approaches at texts that appear to contain
    > errors. The two approaches are: the centrist approach, which I
    > discussed in my earlier post, The Human Word Of The Almighty God, and
    > the conservative approach.The conservative approach to interpretation
    > rules out the possibility of errors in the Bible, on the theory that
    > it is the inspired word of God and so must be free from error. .The
    > centrist approach also has a high view of Scripture as the inspired
    > Word of God, but affirms that the Word of God is human, time
    > conditioned and subject to error. I shall treat three different types
    > of problems that may appear in the text of the Bible.Problems will be
    > characterized as scientific, historical, or theological.
    > 1.Scientific problems.
    > People who hold the conservative interpretation of the Bible tend to
    > have a negative view of science, particularly the life sciences like
    > biology and geology.This is because science has gradually built up a
    > picture of the prehistory of the world very different from that
    > suggested by a simple literalist interpretation of
    > Genesis.Conservative interpreters therefore see science as the
    > enemy.Any advance in the life sciences is seen as a retreat for
    > religion.The Answers in Genesis Website is typical that approach, and
    > spends most of their time debunking the achievement of life
    > scientists.Indeed, scientists are often seen as part of a global
    > conspiracy to inculcate " secularism".
    > I will not discuss the well-worn topic of Genesis, but will look at
    > another passage of Scripture that contains clear scientific errors.I
    > refer to Leviticus 11, which lists clean and unclean animal.In this
    > passage, bats are classed as birds, (v.19) insects are described as
    > having four legs (v.20-22), and rabbits are classified among the
    > animals that chew their cud (v. 6).Conservative arguments that the
    > passages do not contain scientific errors are unconvincing.I have
    > heard one conservative argue that the classification of bats as birds
    > is not erroneous because "a bat is somewhat like a bird".By the same
    > logic, I suppose that the baseball is somewhat like tennis (they are
    > both sports), a law professor is somewhat like a football coach (they
    > are both educators), and Pluto is somewhat like the sun (they are both
    > celestial bodies).Another conservative has argued that the word "bird"
    > use in the passage could be interpreted to mean "flying
    > creature".However, it is my understanding that that word used is
    > translated bird everywhere else in Scripture, and that the Hebrew has
    > other words that mean generally flying creature.The centrist approach
    > understands that the writer shared the pre scientific view of his time
    > and of the audience, views that we now know to be wrong as regards
    > zoology.Moreover, centrist interpreters can argue that the purpose of
    > the writer was to instruct his audience as to clean and unclean
    > animals, not to instruct the audience as to modern scientific
    > taxonomy.To take the writer to task for committing scientific errors
    > given his purpose would be as silly as to dismiss Aesopís fable of the
    > hare and the tortoise, because hares and tortoises do not speak.The
    > fable of the hare and the tortoise was meant to be a story to instruct
    > children, not to give a scientific description of the behavior of
    > hares and tortoises.Centrist interpreters may further point out that
    > modern scientific journal articles usually fail at being religious or
    > inspirational literature, yet no one says that scientific journal
    > articles are useless or absurd because of that.In the same way,
    > centrist interpreters can argue that God and the writer of Leviticus
    > fulfilled their purpose for writing, even if the writing contained
    > scientific error.
    > 2.Historical problems
    > A major historical question concerns the Hebrew conquest of
    > Palestine.In the book of Joshua, the conquest is described as being
    > accomplished in a single military campaign that begins with an
    > invasion from the North.However, the Book Of Judges speaks of a
    > gradual, long, "stepwise" process that began in the South and lasted
    > until the time of David.The archeological evidence is
    > inconclusive.There is some evidence of warfare and destruction
    > associated with the Hebrew entry into Palestine (about 1200 B.C.).On
    > the other hand, cities such as Ai and Jericho, which were described as
    > having been captured by Joshua, may have been unoccupied at the time
    > of the invasion.This does not mean that there was not a historical
    > takeover of Canaan by the Hebrews.Indeed, Old Testament scholars have
    > suggested various reconstructions of what happened.(See Bernard
    > Anderson, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1984).However, we cannot
    > understand what happened by a simple, literalistic interpretation of
    > the two accounts.
    > Conservative interpreters tend to simply glide over the
    > inconsistencies, falling back on the assertion that the accounts were
    > inerrant in the original autographs, as if we were talking about a
    > spelling error or minor inconsistency, instead of two fundamentally
    > different accounts of the conquest.
    > Centrist interpreters understand that there were diverse traditions
    > concerning conquest, and that the scribes incorporated the traditions
    > into their account without attempting to harmonize them.Their concern
    > was not so much historical reconstruction as theological
    > interpretation.
    > A similar approach can be taken to the gospels.The gospels represent
    > diverse traditions about life, ministry, and death of Jesus.Different
    > writers incorporated different traditions into their
    > accounts.According to scholars, Mark probably wrote the first gospel,
    > and later Matthew and Luke combined Mark with another source, called
    > Q, plus other traditions, to create the other Synoptic gospels.The
    > Gospel of John relies on a tradition separate from the Synoptic and
    > develops the material in a completely different way.This concept of
    > gospel formation explains inconsistencies such as the three different
    > versions of the parable of the wicked tenant, the differences between
    > the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, and the differences between
    > John and the Synoptic gospels.In both the conquest and the gospels,
    > the centrist interpretation is that it is better to see the creation
    > of these accounts as a historical, human process, guided by God,
    > rather than as a product of a divine dictation process.
    > 3.Theological problems
    > We should realize that there are that there is theological diversity
    > in the Bible.Conservative interpreters have a hard time admitting such
    > differences but the differences certainly exist.
    > For example, Genesis 1 portrays a transcendental God who creates the
    > universe by his word, yet in Genesis 3 God walks around in the Garden
    > of Eden (presumably on two legs) enjoying the evening breezes.No one
    > has ever seen God, according to John 1: 18, yet in Numbers 33: 11,
    > Moses talks to God face-to-face.Job denies a meaningful afterlife, yet
    > the New Testament affirms it.
    > Those who hold that the Bible is "a propositional revelation of the
    > unchanging truth of Godî cannot explain these differences, because
    > there cannot be inconsistencies in the Bible.Centrist interpreters
    > understand that no one writer has a complete picture of God and his
    > message.Rather, each writer has a partial perception of a larger
    > truth.For example, the prophet Amos sees God simply as a righteous
    > judge.Hosea, however, adds the picture of God as a wronged husband who
    > loves his adulterous wife Israel.In the New Testament, the Synoptic
    > gospels portray Jesus as the Son of God from birth.The Gospel of John
    > adds to this portrait the view of Jesus as the divine Word sent from
    > heaven.
    > A historical view of the Bible see a gradually deepening perception of
    > God, from Abrahamís personal God to the King of the universe, to a
    > suffering God who goes into exile with his people and who dies on a
    > cross.I believe that a centrist interpretation that explains the
    > differences and errors as the product of a gradual process of
    > deepening revelation is better than a conservative interpretation that
    > tries to explain the differences and errors away.

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