The slippery slope?

Water slide

I’ve been looking at some ways that christianity is changing, including changing views of evolution and gay marriage.

But how much are christians free to change while remaining true to God and the Bible?

Many christians fear any change is a slippery slope that will lead them right away from being faithful to God’s revealed truth. Is change a slippery slope?

The domino theory

It is not our place to question the Bible, it is said, but to allow it to question us. There is certainly truth in this, but it is a truth that only applies once we know what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the Bible.

If we do question the Bible, it is also said, we find ourselves on a slippery slope to liberal christianity where we just believe what we want to believe. Once the domino of complete trust in the Bible falls, other dominoes inevitably follow.

Some of the dominoes

There is some truth in this domino theory. For example, if we decide that evolution is scientifically true, and Genesis 1-3 is not literal history, then we face some other significant questions.

  • Were Adam and Eve real people, or not?
  • Did sin and death enter the world through two people, or were they there already?
  • Is original sin (however we understand this) a biblical and true doctrine?
  • What else in the Bible might be less than literal history?

I will be looking at these and other questions in the weeks ahead.

We have been this way before?

But these types of questions are not actually new for christians, most of us have already made choices like this. I have already argued that all christians disbelieve some parts of the Bible. There are parts of the Old Testament virtually all christians accept as not true or relevant for us today.

And there are parts of the New Testament that are being re-interpreted today by many christians also. For example, Felicity Dale, on her Simply Church blog, has been blogging for a while on a new perspective on the role of women in the church, which involves changes to traditional understandings of some Bible passages.

If the domino theory didn’t apply in those cases, why think it must in others?

Avoid the extremes?

The domino theory effectively argues that there are only two possible conclusions. Either the Bible is 100% literally and historically true, or it is effectively useless. But this ignores all the possible middle ground that almost all of us actually inhabit. The domino theory is a recipe for pushing us to extremes.

Knowing when to stop

It is surely a matter of knowing when to stop. Or, more importantly, knowing how to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. And that means studying, praying, being willing to examine our motives, and looking for the consensus among the christian church worldwide that indicates that the Holy Spirit is leading God’s people.

Refuse to be burdened by a yoke of slavery

Let us not allow ourselves to be intimidated into a slavery that doesn’t allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into new understandings. We don’t need to fear the slippery slope, though we need to be cautious.

Photo Credit: OpenThreads via Compfight cc

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39 thoughts on “The slippery slope?

  1. ChazIng says:

    and looking for the consensus among the christian church worldwide that indicates that the Holy Spirit is leading God’s people

    Which christian church(es) exactly and why does consensus indicate the leading of the HS?

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  2. unkleE says:

    Hi ChazIng, that’s a fair question.

    In John 16:13-14, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will guide his disciples (plural) into all truth, inferring that they didn’t have that truth yet. I take it that we still need that guidance today.

    Paul teaches in several places that the Spirit will guide us when we are together. In 1 Corinthians 14:29, the sayings of prophets should be “weighed carefully” by the rest of the assembled church. And in Colossians 3:15, he says the peace of Christ should “act as umpire” in the body of believers.

    So I draw from these and other passages that it is best when the Holy Spirit guides us collectively. And we see this several times in Acts when Luke reports that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” to take some action.

    So when I am thinking about an issue which is contentious between traditionalists and progressives, I look not only at what the New Testament teaches, but also how the Holy Spirit seems to be leading God’s people. I don’t think of particular churches or denominations, but rather the conclusions of people I think are prayerful, open to the Spirit’s leading and looking to truly follow Jesus.

    That is awfully subjective, I know, but I still think it is important and can sometimes be clearly discerned. For example, it seems to me that there is increasing acceptance across many different churches of a more inclusive role for women. I don’t yet see a similar change in christian views on the morality of homosexuality, but I do see the beginnings of a change towards the acceptance by christians of gay marriage in civil society.

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  3. ChazIng says:

    Hi unkleE, I think that your subjective determination of just who is actually Christian presents a very dangerous concept. This is as subjective as the JWs who use their persecution as indicative of theological correctness. You also seem to be limited in scope: is the worldwide church becoming more or less accepting of evolution and homosex marriage?

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  4. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz,

    I don’t think I am passing a judgment on whether any individual is actually a christian. I generally accept people at their word unless I have good reason to think otherwise, and I am looking at the actions and beliefs of a whole bunch of people. If one or two of them are not christian according to some definition, it makes little difference to the overall conclusion.

    I agree I am limited in scope because I am only human, I only speak English and I can only observe a small percentage of the total number of churches and christians. But if the people I take notice of are prayerful, and their lives seem to match their confession, I think I can get a fair picture.

    I think christians in the west, which are mostly the ones I can read or hear, are indeed tending towards acceptance of those two things. (See for example Tim Keller’s comment.) Do you think otherwise?

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  5. ChazIng says:

    Since the majority of Christendom is in the ‘Third World’, your metric should be based there and not on Keller or the more pagan ‘First World’ countries. Frankly, I am not sure what are the views of the African, Latin and Asiatic churches on evolution and homosex marriages, but I doubt it is as accommodating as US evangelicalism. I see this as being more about the primacy of scripture and exegesis. Neither evolution or homosex marriage is biblical unless one bends the scripture to fit into preconceptions. Given that the ‘very elect will be deceived’, I don’t think this ‘limited temporal US consensus’ approach is necessarily going to be profitable.

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  6. unkleE says:

    Yes, I know the majority of christians are in the third world, but I can only go on what I have access to. But to answer a few of your specific comments:

    1. It isn’t a US approach – I am Australian.

    2. Where I can I take note of third world concerns. For example, I know there are women leading house churches in China, and it seems many Pentecostal churches (which are predominant in Africa) allow women leaders. Hence my comment.

    3. Most non-western christians (and probably a majority of western christian too) seem to still believe the traditional view of the ethics of homosexuality. Hence my comment to that effect.

    4. But I doubt the recognition of homosexual marriage by the state is on the agenda of most third world countries, so of course they haven’t come to a more accepting view. I base my assessment on those who are facing the issues, which is predominantly western countries.

    5. Yes, evolution is not Biblical, but neither is traditional creationism. Long before I came to accept the science of evolution (and I’m talking maybe a decade) I had decided that Genesis 1-3 was clearly a folk tale or something like that, on the Biblical evidence alone.

    6. I am only responsible for my own behaviour and actions, and as I live in a western country, it isn’t unreasonable to give emphasis to those living in a similar culture and facing similar issues. I don’t think there is always one truth that applies in every situation, though there sometimes is.

    So I agree with you that it is difficult to do what I suggest in a comprehensive way, but it is possible to do it to some degree. What do you think of the principle, rather than the practicality of it?

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  7. ChazIng says:

    I am not sure what creationism you are referring to (scientific? theistic? deistic?) but the bible (alone) leans clearly in the direction of YEC. Even theistic evolution has scientific issues as the mechanism for evolution (accumulated random mutations leading to novel function AND macro-genomic information increase) cannot be practically replicated.

    As I see it, if an issue is covered directly in the bible (e.g. origin of life, homosexuality), then the scripture has to be interpreted correctly and applied accordingly. Science and social opinion have no say in the matter.

    If an issue is not directly in the bible (e.g. gender identity due to ambiguous genitalia), then one may go to the scientific literature, access the social repercussions of all alternatives and then reconcile with scripture with the leading of the HS.

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  8. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz, I was simply pointing out that when I read Genesis 1-3, it reads like a folk tale, and so it isn’t clear to me exactly what science it is supporting or opposed to.

    There are many OT commands that are very clear, but do you think we should follow them all? If not, then your statement about issues “covered directly” surely needs some modification, would you agree? And once we agree that some Biblical commands may not apply today, then surely we should be wary of blanket statements. My post Everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible addresses this. What do you think of that?

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  9. ignorantianescia says:

    “Since the majority of Christendom is in the ‘Third World’, your metric should be based there and not on Keller or the more pagan ‘First World’ countries.”

    What is your working definition of “paganism” and what evidence do you have that the “First World” is more pagan than the “Third World”?

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  10. ignorantianescia says:

    “I am not sure what creationism you are referring to (scientific? theistic? deistic?) but the bible (alone) leans clearly in the direction of YEC.”

    What grounds do you have to believe the Biblical witness is relevant on this subject? Do you consider the natural evidence pointing to an age of the universe as approximately 13.7 My and the Earths about 4 My old as willed by God? If so, does this make God a deus deceptor?

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  11. ChazIng says:

    Well the issue is: did Moses write Genesis to be read as folklore or reality? It should not be what science supports it but what the scriptures states. Science changes with time so scripture needs to be read independently. The OT commands are to be followed if they are restated in the NT. Some issues would be modified (e.g. sabbath to sunday worship) and some in the OT are only applicable to the Hebrews.

    Your OT examples: No one is expected or instructed to bash infant heads against rocks. This is simply the psalmist making utterances (perhaps prophetic) of judgment [ http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp7.htm ]. Lev 14 and 20 are only applicable to OT Hebrews. The spirit on Saul was allowed by God, not directly from God [ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2018:10&version=CEV ].

    Matt 5:29 shows the seriousness of sin and the consequences are such that one would be better off if they literally did gouge out their own eye or chop their limb [ http://rcg.org/questions/p025.a.html ].
    Matt 5:42 is literal and a non-issue. Lk 16:18 is literal and a non-issue. Divorce is permitted for sexual immorality. Luke 14:33 is clearly figurative as this was not the rule in the early church.
    1 Corinthians 14:5 is literal and a non-issue. James 2:24 is maintaining that righteousness is not by faith alone but does (once attained) have to produce works indicative of inner righteousness.

    So I think that the issue is understanding how the OT and NT mesh and how they address issues. Now you have probably heard all of the above in some form but the bible does make direct statements concerning the origin of life and sexuality. While they are not blatantly explicit in every detail, they are clear enough to divine God’s view. Thus it is not about following all the OT commands but about following all that are applicable to the NT Christian.

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  12. ChazIng says:

    Hi ignorantianescia, to me, paganism is any form of non-Christian belief, custom or practice. According to Barna, most self-defined Christians in the ‘First World’ do not believe in a literal devil [ http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/260-most-american-christians-do-not-believe-that-satan-or-the-holy-spirit-exis ] and only 19% of ‘born again’ have a simplistic biblical worldview. If you can’t get that right, you’re clearly a pagan. Derek Prince has also echoed a similar sentiment about the spiritual climate in the US.

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  13. ChazIng says:

    For a Christian, the bible is relevant to all of knowledge as God himself is the repository of all knowledge and the bible contains the word of God to man. The ‘natural evidence’ you refer to is based on untestable axioms created by the non-geologist lawyer Charles Lyell who desired to “free the science from Moses” [ http://creation.com/charles-lyell-free-science-from-moses ]. As I have stated previously, the bible is to be interpreted by itself (in its proper context) and not be subservient to current custom or science. So God is not being deceptive, it is either our interpretation of Genesis or our beliefs in science that could be wrong.

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  14. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz, thanks for clarifying your views. We have moved away from discussing whether it is acceptable to modify long-held doctrines, to fundamental views about the Bible. And I think we are unlikely to agree on these matters, for example: I’m not sure that Genesis claims Mosaic authorship and I think the genre is clearly legend/folk tale, and I think your statement about “untestable axioms” is mistaken (the DNA evidence is quite testable and convincing). So let us leave those matters aside.

    But in other matters, you seem to be disagreeing with me while doing what I suggest, in that you have criticised “bending” the Bible, but then you list a whole bunch of passages where you believe the literal reading is not the correct interpretation. So we are actually agreed there, the only difference I can see being that you seem unwilling to recognise what you are doing, whereas I am happy to recognise what I am doing.

    So I’d be interested to hear if you feel there is some difference between what I said in my post and what you have done in your list of “explanations” of those passages. Thanks.

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  15. ChazIng says:

    Hi unkleE, DNA test results may also be open to interpretation [ http://ethnicmuse.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/genetic-variance ] and neither DNA nor genetics is an axiom. Rather, axioms relating to evolution would be uniformitarianism and micro to macro extrapolation.

    I have not criticized “bending” the bible. Recall, I said:

    …the scripture has to be interpreted correctly and applied accordingly.

    Now if you cannot interpret explicit statements, it is quite difficult for me to take your biblical exegesis seriously. As far as I know, absolutely no one argues for a fully literalistic reading of the entire bible. Or is it that you know of some denominations that do?

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  16. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz,

    I am getting a little confused. My post was about whether christians should be willing to “interpret” the BIble in new ways, and you started off apparently disagreeing with me. Now you are arguing that of course “no one argues for a fully literalistic reading of the entire bible”.

    So I think that means we are in agreement, but I’m not sure. Of course there may be differences in how we interpret, and whether we allow changes in interpretation, but since my post dealt with the principle more than any particulars, that is not the main subject.

    So can you please clarify if I am understanding you rightly now, and where exactly you disagree with me on the principle (if at all)?

    Thanks.

    PS If you want to read some scientific information on DNA and evolution, the BioLogos website is a good place to start.

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  17. ChazIng says:

    Hi unkleE, seems we are talking pass each other. You are arguing that Christians are “bending” or ‘interpreting scripture in new ways.’ Agreed. However, they cannot do so legitimately IF their exegesis is incorrect and unsustainable. What some Christians do with evolution for example, is to attempt a form of reconciliation. I would argue that this is problematic and dangerous for both the bible and evolution as science inquiry. Thus I am not criticizing “bending” the scriptures IF said “bending” is warranted. I am arguing that the scriptures you used are being ‘bent’ by you for the purpose of making a straw man with respect to hermeneutics and that those “bending” scripture are doing so illegitimately.

    BioLogos is an example of syncretic reconciliation. They do not test evolutionary axioms like uniformitarianism nor do they provide testable examples of micro to macro evolution.

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  18. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz,

    I think we are agreeing on a few things and reaching some understanding. As I understand it, you and I are agreed that:

    1. We cannot simply take Biblical passages and treat them as literal, but must interpret them.
    2. This interpretation must be “warranted” or it will not be correct (!!!!)

    The main point we disagree on is what constitutes “correct” or “warranted” exegesis. And one area you are concerned about is the use of science in exegesis (you said earlier the Bible should: “not be subservient to current custom or science”). So let’s explore that statement a little…..

    (i) There are verses which suggest the earth is flat and fixed on a foundation. We know these to be not literally true from science. Do you object to science being used here to interpret the Bible? How else do we know that the earth isn’t flat and on a foundation?

    (ii) Some words, concepts and culture from the Bible are difficult to translate. Some texts have copy variants which must be resolved. The sciences of linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, etc, sometimes assist in understanding these things. Do you object to the use of these sciences to assist in establishing and translating the text?

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  19. ChazIng says:

    WRT a flat earth, we need to first ask, is this interpretation theologically viable? We can know the earth isn’t flat because there will come a point when a ship sailing away from a harbour disappears but can be seen for longer on the roof of a high building. No need for a satellite or peer-reviewed article.

    Using literalism, if the earth had a foundation, the foundation would also require a foundation and so on ad infinitum. So, by logic we can deduce that the earth does not necessarily require a (literal) foundation but metaphorically, the foundation could refer to the form and function of the inner earth structure.

    Should we not use soft sciences to assist in interpretation? Sure. Hard sciences? Sure. My issue is when we look to them first or twist meaning for syncretism because we don’t want to be seen as unscientific.

    It is normal to assume that there would be both literal and figurative allusions in any text. The tricky part is figuring out which. Science may assist but should not be the final arbiter of meaning because when the science changes, the exegesis would also need to change.

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  20. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz

    You say “We can know the earth isn’t flat because there will come a point when a ship sailing away from a harbour disappears but can be seen for longer on the roof of a high building.” But isn’t that observation? And isn’t that the essence of science? In what way is it “theological”? Isn’t it true that the original writers didn’t make that observation or draw that conclusion, and we have only changed our view of the earth since we made the observation?

    “So, by logic we can deduce that the earth does not necessarily require a (literal) foundation but metaphorically, the foundation could refer to the form and function of the inner earth structure.”</i
    Isn’t that logic (you say so yourself)? And isn’t logic philosophy rather than theology? And isn’t it true that the original writers didn’t draw that conclusion, and we have only changed our view of the earth since we made observations (science) and used philosophy (logic)?

    “when the science changes, the exegesis would also need to change.”
    What is the problem with that?

    Honestly Chaz, I think you are stretching things here. Surely the truth is clear that:

    1. You accept some science and philosophy and not other.
    2. You don’t have a clear objective explanation (that I can see) as to why you make that choice. So far every explanation you have given has counter examples that show that it isn’t the basic principle you are using.
    3. So you seem to be making your decision based on assumption and principles that are as yet hidden in this discussion.
    4. You offer no reason why I or others should accept those assumptions and principles, nor why we shouldn’t try different ones.

    And I offer a different principle, and one I believe is more transparent and more honouring to God – we accept changes in interpretation as our understanding, from any source, changes, and as the Holy Spirit guides us into new truth.

    What do you think?

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  21. ChazIng says:

    The capability to be theological presumes some form of observational capacity. Observation is not the ‘essence of science’, it is part of it. One has to be able to ACCURATELY INTERPRET what is observed. Greeks saw lightning and interpreted this as angry Zeus. Was their observation scientific as well? In similar form, one has to accurately interpret holy writ. Theology is the basis of philosophy and logic. Only on someone’s theology or worldview, can one perform logical deduction. The original writers did use their observational experiences to write their books. We would like to figure out the original meaning of the text as was the author’s intent.

    Now you have stated:

    … I was simply pointing out that when I read Genesis 1-3, it reads like a folk tale, …

    This is opinion, not hermeneutics. In the original language, culture and time, is the style indicative of tale, historical narrative, or someting else? You then link to a post titled: “Everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible” which lists 10 verses, all of which you interpret literally to make the claim that “Everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible.” However, you still have not named a denomination that applies exclusive literalism to the bible so to me that post seems like a caricature.

    Now if the exegesis gives one meaning and science gives another that’s contradictory, then to stay true to the original meaning of the text, one MUST stay with the exegesis. Thus IF the exegesis says Moses meant 6 days of 24 hour and science says 13.6 billion years, the scholarly purist MUST stick with the original intent despite the science. If the exegesis leaves the meaning ambiguous, then one may attempt a reconciliation knowing fully well that IF a firm exegetical meaning is found afterwards, the science has to go WRT the original meaning of the text. In other words, the science of exegesis is prime and other sciences perform supporting roles.

    But let’s go to hard science.
    1. Have you been trained in the hard sciences? If not, why do you think that you could understand hard science so as to be able to “change” the theology of origins?
    2. What two hard science geological data convinced you of an old earth?
    3. Would you be able to defend said data?

    Free audio of exegesis on the Genesis creation here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=4113125549

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  22. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz,

    I think we may be reaching the end of any useful discussion, do you agree? Let me explain why I think so.

    “Now if the exegesis gives one meaning and science gives another that’s contradictory, then to stay true to the original meaning of the text, one MUST stay with the exegesis. “

    We have already established that this is NOT an inviolable principle for you. You are happy to re-interpret the obvious meaning of the ‘flat earth on a foundation’ passages in the light of science. I note that you said it wasn’t science, only observation, but:

    (1) that is a matter of degree, not a difference in principle, and

    (2) our present understanding of cosmology, which I presume you share, of the solar system and its place in our galaxy, was not developed just by observation, but by the science of Brahe, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo et al.

    So it seems to me that your main objection isn’t to science, but to one branch of science, evolutionary science. And I don’t propose to enter into what would be a long analysis of evolutionary science! 🙂 So let me just make a couple of comments.

    “This is opinion, not hermeneutics. “

    It is actually both. A blog comment isn’t the place for detailed analysis, but experts (e.g. Peter Enns in his book Inspiration and Incarnation) have found that what I spoke of as my opinion seems to be factually true – that many early sections of the OT are very similar in form to folk tales, legends, myths, epics, whatever you may wish to describe them produced by adjacent and contemporary cultures. You may disagree with that assessment, but it is a legitimate view.

    “Have you been trained in the hard sciences? If not, why do you think that you could understand hard science so as to be able to “change” the theology of origins?”

    But surely this is obvious. I have been trained in engineering, hydrology and theology. I have the education to be able to read intelligently in science and OT, but I do not have expertise in these areas. I therefore must depend on the experts, be they cosmologists, biologists, anthropologists, geologists, philosophers, historians or theologians. I’m guessing it’s the same with you about most of those disciplines, if not all of them. I am basing what I say on the best knowledge I can find in all these areas, but it seems that you are rejecting one areas of knowledge, that of evolutionary science.

    I think your approach is inconsistent at that point, because you seems to be selecting which science you accept and which you reject on the basis of an arbitrary choice of which passages you are willing to allow science to help us interpret, and which you are not. But I have no wish to change your view on that, or to argue with you.

    My post was about the argument sometimes made that if we accept some new knowledge that changes our interpretation, we need to be wary of where we will end up. I was saying that we should go with the truth regardless. It still seems to me that you agree with that principle, but you only partially accept the findings of modern science – which is not a matter I think worth discussing.

    Do you feel happy with that summary?

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  23. ChazIng says:

    Hi unkleE, I made the distinction between exegetical sciences (from which logic would help in giving the obvious meaning of the so-called ‘flat earth on a foundation’ passage) and non-exegetical sciences. It is not about evolutionary science but as I have stated before, it has not shown one testable example of micro to macro evolution. Such a claim without testable evidence, I do not (fully) accept in any scientific area.

    Enns view has to be shown to be legitimate by exegetical sciences, not assumed to be legitimate because he has a PhD. There are atheists with PhDs in theology. It is not about what sciences I accept but about properly applying the appropriate sciences to the discipline as I have explained, but has not been understood.

    I don’t have problems with the findings of modern science, I have issues with the interpretation. That’s what science is, repeatable findings, multiple interpretations. For instance, there is the majority big bang cosmology (BBC) and the minority plasma cosmology (PC). The BBC has traction more with physicists and PC seems to be held more by engineers. They don’t dispute the findings, only the interpretation. Perhaps their different educational backgrounds facilitate this schism. You can find the same sentiment about data and interpretation on YEC sites. From the mouth of Ham himself:

    Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians, all have the same facts…. The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them.

    Jay Wile has an excellent post on the dangers of extrapolation: http://blog.drwile.com/?p=9

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  24. unkleE says:

    Chaz, I think we are going to have to simply disagree. For I’m afraid I can see little consistency or validity in what you are saying.

    You started saying you couldn’t allow science to interpret the scripture, but when I showed you that you did in fact do this, you made the distinction between “observation” and science, and now between “exegetical sciences” and “non-exegetical sciences”. But I can see no consistency or logic in the distinctions.

    I suggest it may have been more accurate to simply say that you don’t accept evolutionary science because you are not willing to change your interpretation of Genesis 1-3. That seems a fair statement of your belief, and something I see little point in arguing about.

    I think Ham is right: “Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them.” But in my view, his and your assumption about the literalness of Genesis 1-3 seems to be on shakier ground (i.e. there are more facts against it and more alternative hypotheses) than the assumptions on which evolutionary science is based. But you don’t see it that way. You do not accept the consensus of scientists on this point while I do, and there is little more to be said.

    Thanks for explaining your views.

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  25. ChazIng says:

    unkleE, it matters not IF there is evidence outside of the scripture (from non-exegetical sciences) IF the ORIGINAL intent of the author of genesis was literal. Exegesis is the finding of the ORIGINAL INTENT, not the intent after consultation with a non-exegetical science consensus. You are simply creating straw-men and misdirections from the main point: the method of exegesis. As you have shown when you presented your 10 verses and made literalistic straw-men with them, you have yet to perform proper exegesis said verses. Yet for reasons unknown, you make theological deductions from your non-exegetical reasoning. When asked which denomination(s) use pure literalism, you have not stated any.

    When I stated that ‘science’ should not be used to interpret scripture, that was to mean the non-exegetical sciences. You gave the example of the shape and foundation of the earth and a literalistic interpretation and I stated that observation and logic dismisses such literalism. I then made the distinction (for your clarification) that exegesis should use its own scholarly method of non-exegetical sciences (anthropology, philosophy, logic, archaeology, theology, linguistics, history, etc) and then IF REQUIRED, use the non-exegetical sciences (engineering, medicine, natural sciences, etc) but somehow you still ‘don’t see consistency or validity.’

    Ham does not assume that Genesis is literalistic. He has studied the original languages, consulted scholars and commentaries and is conversant in church history. To say that he simply ‘assumes’ is simply wrong. Others have done as much as Ham and concluded differently. That’s normal exegetical disagreement. Now if you think that Gen 1-3 is not narrative style, why not share why that is so? That exegesis would illuminate your readers. Sadly, I have yet to see actual exegesis in any of your posts. When was evolution approved as a separate science area such that it could be called “evolutionary science”? And how exactly do you know the consensus of all scientists? Is that not the fallacies of appeal to authority and argumentum ad populum? What exactly in “evolutionary science” dismisses the literalism of Ham? If you explain it to us, then your readers would understand HOW you are performing such exegesis.

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  26. unkleE says:

    Chaz, thanks for your comments, but I’m afraid they indicate to me how large the gap is between us. I didn’t really expect this at the start, so it has been a worthwhile discussion. But your comments reinforce rather than dispel my disagreements with your position, and I won’t go over my disagreements again.

    Two additional points ….

    1. I haven’t made any comments on Ken Ham, nor do I intend to.

    2. I think we disagree on exegesis too. I agree with you that too many christians don’t bother themselves with learning the meaning of the text in context, but (a) we don’t always know the original authors, some books may have had multiple “authors” during oral transmission, we don’t always know the authors’ intentions, nor do we know God’s intention, and (b) our main purpose is to know and obey what God is saying to us today, and that may (or may not) be different to the original authors’ intentions.

    So we disagree everywhere, it seems, and I have no wish to get into a fruitless and divisive discussion, so I will leave it there. Please continue to comment as you wish, but I think this discussion has done its dash. Thanks.

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  27. ChazIng says:

    But in my view, his and your assumption about the literalness of Genesis 1-3 seems to be on shakier ground…

    I would take this to mean that Ham’s literalism was an assumption rather than exegesis. I also don’t think that an actual passage exegesis would be “fruitless and divisive” given that you have previously assumed literalism for 10 verses for the purpose of espousing non-literalism.

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  28. unkleE says:

    All I meant was that there are two different approaches here to resolving our understanding of Gen 3 and of current origins science. You take Gen 3 to be historical and thus reject evolutionary science. I think Gen 3 looks like a folk tale and the science looks like it is correct. I don’t think there’s much evidence in favour of your view, and I think it is based on an assumption of the genre of Gen 3. You disagree with that.

    Since we don’t appear to have any way of resolving that (i.e. you don’t accept the evidence I see, and I don’t think you offer any strong evidence), we seem to have reached an impasse. If you can think of a way to resolve, then by all means suggest it. But failing that, I think it is probably better not to enter into further discussion which, lacking a means of resolution, can only become more and more frustrating and divisive.

    Do you agree?

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  29. ChazIng says:

    My personal exegesis would lead me to believe that the author of Genesis meant it literally. This has nothing to do with my views of evolution, which is irrelevant to what Moses wrote thousands of years before I was born. I reject big bang cosmology because it is the result of untestable extrapolations, not due to the bible or literalism. Again, this is irrelevant to what Moses originally meant. I do not reject ‘evolutionary science’ but some of their INTERPRETATIONS as stated before.

    You are wrong in saying that I don’t accept the evidence you see. I don’t accept the prevailing INTERPRETATION of big bang cosmology and since you have not provided a detailed exegesis of why you find genesis to be allegorical, how could I accept your view? So let’s do the agree to disagree bit.

    I gather you don’t want to perform a detailed exegesis and granted, that would be very time consuming but I am quite alarmed that you seem to not be a purist but a syncretist. To me, I don’t care if Moses was a loon, clowning around rhetorically or a scientist of uber-profound insight (from God or otherwise). I only care about what he actually meant regardless of the science of today. You seem to think that I am disregarding the science to save a literal view of genesis. That’s not the case.

    The “strong evidence” for literalism is already in bible commentaries. Now, you may not agree but as I said, that’s natural exegetical disagreement. So let’s wrap this up:

    1. Changes can be made theologically and should be made IFF the evidence warrants such a change;
    2. The HS guidance is to be used [I differ on how this would occur];
    3. There are multiple theological interpretations to any bible text and it is often complicated to figure out the meaning even when using exegetical sciences;
    4. Sometimes the non-exegetical sciences are needed for textual clarification; and

    MY PERSONAL VIEW

    5. The non-exegetical sciences should not be consulted first but only when the exegetical science have limited ability to illuminate the text. Even then, the author’s ORIGINAL meaning is of prime importance to the exegete, not the scientific validity of the author’s words/assertions. [The scientific validity is the domain of the apologist. By necessity, the apologist must also be an exegete.]

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  30. Libby says:

    I had been reading about Peter’s vision and visit to Cornelius’ house in Acts. Then my pastor preached on it. Both of us were struck by what a sea change eating non kosher food was for Peter. God told him something clearly taught in Scripture was changing. Not that he had misunderstood the command about what was clean and unclean, but that that taboo was gone now. When I read the verse that said “don’t call anything God has made unclean” I immediately thought of gay people. Could we be going through another change? I am not advocating one way or another, I am just finding myself wondering. I take Scripture as authoritative in my life, but I am wondering…..

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  31. unkleE says:

    Hi Libby, thanks for your comment. Yes I think Peter’s vision and the instruction by the Holy Spirit is a very clear example of a change, or development, of God’s revelation to us. Jesus saying “You have heard it was said …. [quoting the Law] … but I say to you…..” is another.

    The christian understanding of homosexuality and gay marriage is certainly a case where we need to think …. and pray, to see of God has anything new for us. I have discussed this is a couple of other posts I referenced above.

    Best wishes.

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  32. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz,

    Thanks for this link. But why did you think I would find it useful? I am aware that there are well qualified people on both sides of this debate and I’m sure he has some interesting things to say, but so do Peter Enns and Denis Lameroux. One has to make judgments about who is closest to the truth, and that depends on how one thinks the truth is known. Since you and I disagree on that (and I imagine the above three gentlemen would likewise have two different opinions), it is unlikely we will find the same things “hermeneutically useful”. Best wishes.

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  33. ChazIng says:

    Agreed, however, it is not about simply making judgments but how said judgments should be made. To that end, I would recommend his first two lectures. Even things we don’t agree with can be hermeneutically useful as they may precipitate theological changes over time.

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