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Saturday, July 11, 2009

A question of history

There must be some point to history!

By history I mean the actual events that preceeded us and by their arrangement explain our situation. I also must mean the record of those events, and the attempt at elucidating their meaning: writing about history; but mainly, of course, I have in mind the stream of real events, rather than their recounting. But, of course, we only know of them by their recounting.

Christian faith is embedded in history: it is events in the past that bring us to Christian understanding. It was young Michael Jensen’s recent post that lead to my further thoughts on this topic. (Also see cyberpastor's comments on this blog)

So, naturally I turn my mind to the creation account and its reflection throughout Scripture.

That he is creator is frequently used by God as his identifying act (e.g. Isaiah 40:28, Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:14-16, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 51:13, Psalm 115:15, Jeremiah 10:16, Hosea 8:14, John 1:1-3 and Acts 17:24 for example).

God clearly declares that he is creator. He is referring of course to his statements of his creative acts set down in Genesis 1 and 2.

Now, to hold out that he is creator, in reliance on his previous word to that effect, the word must have meaning within the world in which it is spoken. So ‘creator’ means the one who did the things related in Genesis 1. But then, these acts so accounted must have also had the meaning given in their account. I think this because if the words made no reference to actual events in time and space, in the time and space we inhabit, and therefore in the continuity of our temporal-spatial definition, then they could not mean ‘creator’ in any real sense; it could not mean creator as being the one from whose will by the stated actions (words) the world we know was brought about.

Without a connection of fact bedded in our real world, the reference to creative actions would have no credibility and would not place God as creator in relation to us; but as story with none but a cute mythic type non-relation to us. Not grounded in the event continuum that we are in would be equivelent to not a set of events at all. So the cosmos would have to be otherwise accounted for and God’s representation of himself in relation to use would break down.

So, God’s claim to be creator must make sense in the world in which he makes the claim. That is, he must be referring to things he really did: they must be real events as related. We have no other possible reference for the events and so must either reject that God is creator, or accept that he has validated his claim by telling us the terms of his acts. This indicates that the detail of the account in Genesis is significant.

The historical framing twins the events in their place (earth) and their temporal contiguity with our frame: they all happened, like all events happen, and all have a temporal reference that makes sense against the temporal referencing that dominates our lives and times.

God drives this twinning by giving time and place coordinates for them: he uses historically referenced language to describe them, not the a-temporally vague references that characterise myth and prevent the subjects of myth from having real interaction with us.

Saying it another way, the Bible sets out the historical credentials of the creation in valid historical terms (see also this post on time); if these terms are made rubbery, mythic, a-historical or otherwise non-real, in our current frame of reference, then the creation, God’s image making, the creation’s very-goodness, and the fall have no meaning because they are not referenced in our frame of action; this undermines salvation history at its heart and makes Christ’s sacrifice to be nonsense, with it resting on a salvation non-history, but just an arbitrary story which in fact tells us nothing about our creator.

On this last point I know that many commentators tell us that Genesis does not teach us details but that God was our creator. However, this irrationally misses the point. God teaches us that he is our creator by telling us what he did, not what he didn’t do.


neil moore said...

No! No! No!, Eric, you just don't understand.

We in the Diocese see Genesis 1 revealing nothing more than the Sovereignty of God. This way of looking at the passage satisfies us in that we safely avoid the challenge the world and those pesky YECs are pushing at us. Avoidance is the path we prefer although, if we leant in any direction it would be toward the world. After all we have to live here and get on with our neighbours, if you know what I mean.

You must not be dogmatic about truth unless it is "Jesus Christ died for our sins." You see, the only thing that matters is saving our necks. We are not interested in any controversy or any attempt to know the nature of God. Besides, the latter pursuit could lead to some unpleasant findings ... you know ... the God of the Old Testament being nasty and all that stuff.


Duane said...

Yeah don't be led into unnecessary controversy by those tricksy dogmatic young earthers Eric. Reflections on a physical ressurection in space-time history aside, we cling to part of what Paul wrote to Timothy; Scripture is really for things like teaching, rebuking, correcting and training, and stuff. Everything else is a controversial distraction.

And apart from getting on with our neighbours, talk of taking Genesis at face value can only cause friction in our own ranks. So we can't be seen to be taking a position on such things - even when we carry books with commentaries on Genesis 1 & 2 in our own libraries!

Instead, when exegeting Scripture, put the emphasis in just the right place and de-emphasise those themes that might promote a robust discussion about the conclusions we can draw from a God who would take the time to imitate a healthy pattern of work for His creation. Meanwhile, continue to preach Christ risen; that's the only real piece of history we're required to defend anyway. And rest assured that you're fulfilling your obligations.

Warwick said...

Yes you chaps are so correct!
Don't be led astray by those rascally devious YEC's who claim we can take God at His word. Surely the very term YEC says it all.

Yes I know God defined what 'one day' is in Genesis 1:3-5 but today with the advantage of increased human intellect and the efforts of scientists we know God was wrong. Good lord, who takes God at His word any more.

Yes I know God said He created in 6 of these days as defined in Genesis 1:3-5 but science has proved beyond any doubt that creation actually took billions of years. This is proved by 1 Peter something or other which says Gods days are a thousand days each. Therefore it is perfectly plain that God meant to say His days were a billion years each but cretins like Peter couldn't comprehend billions of years.

Yes I know God wrote the 10 Commandments with His finger on stone but he must have slipped as He said He created in 6 earth-rotation style days and rested the 7th so that the Israelites should work for 6 of these same length days and rest the 7th but the blighters couldn't read could they. Not long out of the trees were they.

Yes I know God's word says there was no death in the world before sin but we have the fossil record don't we, a veritable treasure trove of death disease and misery, and all before sin. God Got it wrong again. Just a man of His times wasn't He.

Yes I know He says Adam's sin is the reason why Jesus came to die and rise again for the forgiveness of sin. But that's all peoticmythoalegoricity isn't it.

Yes we can't have people taking God at His word can we. You never know what that may lead to! Could lead to people actually getting excited about their faith.

neil moore said...

Yes, Connect 09 is "Come to God on our terms".