june 2008

a christian view of homosexuality
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
This happens to be the time I am working through a series of problems in the Christian worldview. It is uncomfortable because on the surface of it I appear to be advocating lifestyles that are problematic. However, let me be clear about this. Though I advocate the legalization of drugs in the United States, and indeed, in the world, I do not think that abuse of currently illicit substances is either recommended or promoted in the Christian scriptures, and that it is God’s design that people be free from those sorts of physically destructive behaviors. For today’s problem: with respect to homosexuality, I do not think that the homosexual lifestyle can be consistently adopted within Christianity. But, I don’t think that Christianity can consistently adopt a homophobic political position either.

With respect to drugs and homosexuality, I believe that God’s mission for his Church is to be the advocate for people, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to uphold the poor and weak and those who do not fit society’s view of itself against the physical and political depredations of majority rule. Again, this does not mean the acceptance of a drug abusing or homosexual lifestyle, or indeed any other lifestyle the Christian scriptures and the Church deem to be problematic or immoral, but what it does mean is that the Church will not posture itself as the enemy of any group of people, or any individual whose behavior is not explicitly violent towards others or whose behavior does not imply the abuse or removal of the freedom of one’s neighbors.

I believe this way of thinking, though it is uncomfortable for some of my brothers and sisters, is nonetheless unproblematic if we place the cause of Christ as our first priority. If we believe that God’s project is to bring people to himself, then, we should raise no stumbling stones as barriers to this. Simply, this means the Church must allow the Holy Spirit to negotiate peace with respect to the things in a person’s life that are publicly or politically questionable as they are approaching God.

Certainly, the Church should not permit within itself the advocacy of behavior it thinks to be wrong, but it cannot afford to destroy the individual who is struggling to come to grips with their own person in God, before the individual has made every effort to find and adopt God’s will. The Church, in light of God’s purpose, cannot afford to tolerate prejudicial behavior when God loves all people and wants to save them from themselves and from an often cruel society. The Church should be a safe place for an individual to grow in God, not a place to exchange one set of problematic prejudices for another.

Problematically, relationships have been eroticized in our society with the result that people cannot afford to be seen as friends because of the implicit assumption of immoral behavior. For men and women, men and men, or women and women to be “too close” carries with it the assumption of wrongdoing, even though there may be nothing wrong with their behavior at all. The result of this prejudice against relationship is that we live lonelier lives, depressed and disconnected. This post is just one move toward alleviating that, not only for me but for our society. It is a suggestion, a hint that something has gone wrong that needs to be fixed.

More later.

Posted in Philosophy, Ethics, Theology, Culture | No Comments »

questions in genesis
Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
The first question I have about Genesis is how to classify it. I take it that some classifications of the book are so absurdly wrong that they barely countenance a reasonable response. A list should suffice though: The book of Genesis is 1. dictated by God to Moses; 2. a science textbook (anachronistically of the modern sort); 3. a history text (anachronistically of the modern sort).

The consequence of these views is so outlandish as to prevent further discussion. They all require a literal reading of Genesis of the sort that requires number 1., the dictation theory, as if people were barely involved at all, as if the word of God were nothing but the product of scribes, not the sort of persons who could lead a people, as if the scribes actually had no thoughts at all, did not live in a culture, or a world, or have a history of their own. In this sort of view the text is raised above historical accountability, above questioning, above logic and consistency, above literature. The theories arising from this sort of ahistorical deification of the text is used as justification for all sorts of foolishness in our age, from young-earth creationism to the strangest sort of anthropology.

What might Genesis really be. Well, for starters, it was written as a compilation of stories by an historical person, Moses by internal attribution, though the exact authorship with editing forces the inclusion of at least one other if not many other writers. For simplicity, there is no need to think more deeply than that, unless there is good external justification. To say that Moses wrote the pentateuch and that someone else finished/edited the last bits of Deuteronomy is fair enough to get past the initial issue of authorship. For the textual scholars who wish to multiply authors I suggest that it provides no special interpretative advantage. If one wishes to dismiss the authority of the text, one may do so without appeal to modern textual interpretation, another anachronism.

The first step toward redeeming this text I think is to historicize it appropriately. To do this, first the book needs to be split into at least two if not three sections. For my purposes two sections will suffice. The division comes at the beginning of the Abram story. Abram is the first historical figure that left traces or evidences of being here, for whom we can show a continuity in lineage with contemporary peoples and historical sites that, though not without caveats, can be attributed to his being in history. The previous portion of the text from creation to the flood up to Abram leaves us with more questions than answers, little to no historical traces and problematic logical, historical, and scientific plausibility.

Dealing with the creation story to Noah’s children is the problem we have left. As a believer, I do not question the truth of the scriptures, but I ask in contrast, “How is the scripture true?”

I want to answer that, but I need to keep reading for my PhD. See you later.

Posted in Whatever | 6 Comments »

Comments for questions in genesis:

6 Responses to “questions in genesis”
Lisa Says:
September 8th, 2008 at 12:00 pm
In order to delineate what was meant by the author of Genesis, we need to be able to comprehend their understanding of science. No, I don’t think Genesis is supposed to be a step by step instruction manual of how God created the universe. I doubt we will ever figure that out, and that is fine. However, it was a pointed explanation of creation to oppose that of other pagan cultures. The language used for naming the sun and moon is evidence of this, since Hebrew does have words for both; however, they were close to the names of sun and moon god/goddess in other semitic languages.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis is considered pre-historical by most scholars. Flood stories, various god mythologies seemed to be thwarted by the account in Genesis, given an better understanding of God’s actions during this point of time. Does this mean that the first eleven chapters have no historical merit, no, neither do I believe that they are complete. However, for the author of the Pentateuch, be it Moses or a scribe, they had pointed meaning in relating to their audience and how God acts within His creation.

Starting with Abraham, the story turns into probably a more accurate accounting of genealogical history. The evidence of Abraham and his descendants was still accessible, and the oral tradition of relating history from generation to generation is evident in the details of the story starting with Abraham.

So yes, I believe that the scriptures are true, but it is YHWH’s truth that was the concern of the author, not a scientific truth.

Seth Stadel Says:
September 8th, 2008 at 12:06 pm
I don’t think that Genesis has much to do with science, though many fundamental Christians think so. It was given the Moses as a beginning picture of God’s redeeming work with humanity, to bring humanity back into union with him. To argue over whether the earth is a billion years or 10,000 years old is somewhat important, depending on the overall theme of the topic being discussed. (For instance, the age of the earth, to some degree, is quite important in the realm of theodicy. But for personal belief in Christ, I will not not stand a hundred yards further from God if I’m wrong in believing, say, that the earth is 5,000 years old when in might have been 21,462 years old. There are “bigger fish to fry” in this life than to argue over something like this.) Both sides have excellent proof for their theory, though each side thinks the other side to be entirely false. Such is the case for any on-going debate.

Amelia McCown Says:
September 8th, 2008 at 12:38 pm
I do not know enough about Genesis to respond to much of the upper portion of this post. But I want to deal with the question, how is Scripture “true”? I think I’ll need to do a little more reading on the philosophical meaning of truth to really answer that, but here is what I have so far. Accuracy in every small detail is not a prerequisite for defining the Scriptures as true. If the USA Today reported that a crime happened at 12:33, when it actually occured at 12:34, no one would claim that the entirety of the story is false or that all of the journalism by the USA Today is not trustworthy. However, big events such as the resurrection or that Moses existed are non-negotiables. If the crime in the USA Today never actually happened, then one could rightly question its reputation as a trustworthy news source. I realize that this is a rather conservative view, but drawing the line around what could have not literally happened in Scripture without making it a liar seems to best be done with errance on the side of caution.

Zachary Guiliano Says:
September 8th, 2008 at 8:45 pm
I think one of the most important things we can do with the Genesis narrative is to put it within its Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context. Particularly when it comes to the meaning/significance of the first several chapters, we have to stop pretending that Genesis (or nearly any section of the Bible) is transparent. I think that we have to start by assuming that there are relatively large features of the text which we cannot account for without careful study. However, what I think we can be sure of is that the answer as to how Genesis is true will not be found in an overly literalistic interpretation based upon an assumed one-to-one correspondence between our current scientific worldview and the translated word of an English Bible.

John Walton suggests that the meaning of the creation narrative of Genesis 1 has much to do with other similar narratives in the ANE. Most often an aspect of creation is made and then given what Walton refers to as a ‘control attribute,’ essentially, a role in creation. In Egyptian and Sumerian narratives, the king was considered to be an essential part of the cosmos, given the obvious role of preserving order. The stars were often given for time significance, the animals were given for food, etc. Also, a crucial series of divisions would be made, defining the boundaries of the created order. In light of these family resemblances in ANE cosmologies, the division of night from day, heaven from earth and seas, and the appointing of sun, moon, and stars for light and time-keeping and animals and humans for filling the world in their respective areas takes on a new significance, or at least should convince us that the purpose of Genesis 1 likely has very little to do with providing a modern scientific description of the universe’s origin and more to do with declaring divinely appointed boundaries and purposes for all creation.

Another significance which comes out in doing ANE comparative studies is the way ‘image of God’ is given to the primordial man in general and passed on to his descendants. In other contemporary cosmologies, the king is the only person given the honorific of comparison with deity. So, the perspective of Genesis proves to be somewhat more liberating to humanity and becomes the basis for the prohibition of murder later in the narrative.

There is one last significance which seems important. The creation of humanity is often for the ending of the labor of the god’s. Apparently, ANE deities were worn out by the constant toil of keeping the creation going. So humanity was made to do all the labor, while the gods enjoyed its fruit. (in some myths, the human were too loud at their work, so the gods destroyed them with a flood; oddly enough, this makes the flood of Genesis 6 seem somewhat less the work of a ‘capricious’ god and more the work of a god concerned with the safeguarding of creation) Yet the elohim of Genesis creates humanity to rule over the earth, and even when that purpose is put in jeopardy by human disobedience and divine punishment, the creation is recreated after the flood as the righteous human family of Noah arrives on the earth with at least two of every animal in creation, and Noah becomes a man of the soil, reinhabiting the role of primordial humanity. To push the narrative further, when humanity once again rebels, God scatters them over the face of the earth, yet provides a means for renewed blessing of all the human family through the line of Abraham, who will receive the land of Canaan. So the purpose of God in having a righteous people who will wisely rule over the earth continues to be pursued through the narrative of Genesis, despite human sin.

While the above is only a collection of my disparate thoughts which I attempted to force into a coherent account ad hoc, I believe that a number of the comparisions with other ANE cosmologies are compelling. In fact, they provide a much richer grounding for a creational theology (and a richer, more cosmic soteriology) than an overly ‘literalistic’ understanding of Genesis. Because these facts account for the shape of the text much better than the dull ‘new earth’ stance, and plant the narrative firmly in the ANE soil, I believe that as a basic hypothesis, it provides much more explanatory force than the ‘new earth’ creational theology and gives much greater theological impetus for continued exploration of the meaning of Genesis to contemporary Christianity.

Krystie Says:
September 9th, 2008 at 6:52 am
All truth is God’s truth. If we say that Genesis is truth (in whatever shape or form we describe truth to be) and we say science is truth, then they must coincide in some way. I honestly have not done enough research to have an educated opinion on the matter.

Trev Says:
September 17th, 2008 at 12:29 pm
The book of Genesis is a fascinating work that reveals the beginning of the cosmos, earth, man, and everything else. In this creation and evolution debate, many on both sides are ignorant of their own beliefs and even more ignorant of the beliefs of the opposition. Secularists and Theistic Evolutionists (TE) typically put far too much faith in the “white coat heroes” (scientists) while Young Earth Creationists (YEC) and Old Earth Creationists (OEC) tend to put far too much faith into theologians. It is imperative for one to understnd both sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion on the matter. Although I admit that Genesis is a difficult text to exegete, I steadfastly believe that it speaks the truth and that the world was created in accordance with Genesis 1,2. I have read the text and tried to contextualize it as best as possible and I have determined that the vast majority of the text is not only understandable, but applicable. God has always been and will always be, he is omniscient, and His intellects is not limited to a cultural understanding. Most people on this forum have discussed this issue historically and textually which is good, but it is just as important to study this issue scientifically. I have studied this debate for years, and my hope was to ascertain “silver bullet” facts that could once and for all destroy the foundations of Darwinism. I have since learned that it is impossible for either side to find any evidence that exclusively promotes one claim or the other; one’s paradigm is what determines the validity of data. The Biblical text in no way claims to answer how old the Universe and the Earth are, but it definitely claims that God created the world in a sequential manner in six literal days (the Hebrew word yom means day and it used 359 times outside of Genesis with a number to refer to a literal 24 hour day, so why then should Genssis be exempt?). After observing the scientific data, to say that I believe in Creationism is an understatement. I am UTTERLY convinced that God created the world and that Evolution is a dying hoax surviving only on three crucial factors: tax dollars, the dogma of scientists whose paradigms have been developed from already corrupt, pseudoscientific institutions, and the fear put on professors who could lose their jobs for ushering too much controversy into the institutions in which they teach/research. I have yet to meet an Evolutionist who can answer questions pertaining to the Cambrian explosion, polystrate fossils, inherent flaws of uniformitarianism, the circular reasoning of the geologic column, red blood cells in dinosaur bones, fossilzed marine life on the upper parts on Mt. Everest, irreducible complexity, how the Colorado River downcut the entire Grand Canyon and somehow left no delta, lack of transitional forms, and how the human genome somehow added new genetic information when this phenomena has never been observed. Thus, it is ridiculous to consider such a hypothesis (note: I do not even consider Darwinism a theory) as scientific fact since it lacks any real substantiation. Am I proposing that Creation be taught in public schools instead? No, but it seems unreasonable to exclude at least the possibilities of the supernatural from the scientific method. American students should receive a glimpse of both sides in the science classroom and learn both theories indepthly in a Philosophy class if they so desire. God bless.

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