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Friday, March 18, 2011

6 days! What could they have meant?

This might help the discussion with Craig of t'other blog: a quote from The Interpreter's Bible (1952 edition) on Genesis (p. 471)

There can be no question but that by Day the author meant just what we mean--the time required for one revolution of the earth on its axis. Had he meant an aeon he would certianly, in view of his fondness for great numbers, have stated the number of milleniums each period embraced. While this might have made his account of creation less irreconcilable with modern science, it would have involved a lessening of God's greatness, one sign of which was his power to do so much in one day.

In a similar vein, have a look at this piece on the Anglican site.

When we decide that we can set aside the truth value of the whole content of Genesis 1, we end up in the odd state that we say that we can infer truth from non-truth. The detail is too much to say it is merely figurative, and Simpson, quoted above, would agree: the author meant it! How can we infer what God did from what we say he did not do? If we set aside the direct meaning of Genesis 1 (and it is clearly not poetry, despite the protestations of some non-Hebrew readers) we have to give a reason as to why the detail of the revelation can be disregarded, when the whole Bible treats it as an account of actual events.

What it does is to say that something that doesn't give information about this world (the world it would speak of) gives instead information about some other world which doesn't exist in terms of Genesis 1 (that is an imaginary world, not the real world, as it holds that Genesis 1 doesn't touch the real world of what actually happened).


Eric said...

Because it sort of lines up with this post, I'll add here a comment I put on Craig's blog:

In the light of your reference to science being your reason for holding to a super old earth, I guess you are referring to standard cosmogony (the big bang theory) claims about the time needed to form the earth as we see it, and, I would think, above all, radioisotope dating.

Unsurprisingly, all three are based on a pre-commitment to long ages being possible (thus my earlier reference to the religious basis of long ages being hypothesised a couple of centuries ago); if one has, on the other hand, a commitment to the facticity of the biblical data, one would interpret observations differently.

Let's take radioisotope dating: the only occassions this has been able to be calibrated, it is wildly wrong (for example:; of course there's always a rationale behind the problem, but I wonder if this doesn't merely reveal the need to save the approach, which simply (!) studies ratios of isotopes and cannot measure the passing of time directly. The dating is applied on assumption of known starting conditions, constant decay rate and absence of sample contamination, cross referenced, of course to that other assumption, that organisms, used as indices of age, evolved over the periods assumed within that hypothesis.

Now, that's hardly hard science, particularly as data that would result in a short age are ignored in its light, and is more subject to pre-conceptions than direct measurement. It is an example, to my mind, of the fallacious notion that the 'book' of nature is in any way comparable to the word of God in the Bible. Any words we apply to nature are human words--not divine ones--interpreting observations and conclusions on the basis of a prior commitment to some intellectual frame of reference. So the 'book' of nature comes to us as a 'second order' book, in opposition to the 'first order' book of God's propositional revelation. To allow these words to overturn the Bible is a rather peculiar inversion of the order of authority that would naturally, I think, accompany evangelical leanings!

I suppose the source of the inversion is the idea that the Bible has no serious business dealing with the material world's origin (and by extension, its destiny?). But this too is not an idea that comes from the Bible: it is quite clearly of substantial importance there; it comes, rather, from a paganising separation of the real world that sustains our bodily life and social culture (nature) from the now-made-etheral-world of God, god-talk, and theology! It thus is part of the pagan project that makes the material cosmos independent of the divine, and ultimately real, rather than contingent. The very purpose of the revelation about creation is to join the two for the benefit of our understanding God, his covenant, his purpose, and ourselves, rendering the material world as contingent, and the ultimately real being the personal (God's person)! They are joined in the creation account; if not, I don't know where or how they can be joined, and how we would then understand Jesus Lordship as creator.

Critias said...

Craig seems like a nice enough bloke: running a blog piece on creation is pretty good; but on the flip side, I wonder if he's read the stuff or listened to the talks that you blokes have posted up here.

Now, if he did that, and engaged in discussion on their content the discussion might get somewhere.

sam drucker said...

Eric, the sorry thing is that the logic of what you have posted will escape people we have been dealing with of late. They are determined to have faith in opinions of men and not the word of God.

He thinks you are a nice chap though.

Sam Drucker

John said...

Yes, Sam, that is the point: they don't engage.

* Craig swears our theology is bad yet offers not one piece of evidence.

* He swears that no matter what we say (or even God!) he'll never believe in a YE.

* He swears the only biblical evidence he needs to know that Genesis 1 is not history is that it conatins parallelism.

* He swears that even though we've pointed out that parallelism is in other narrative historical passages, it doesn't matter.

* He swears that he'll never believe the world is young because an atheist science site tells him it isn't.

* He swears he'll never believe the world is young because he's read all the literature.

* He swears that Genesis 20 and 31 are using figurative language, but gives not one single reason why that is so.

And so it goes on.

As a teacher I would give Craig an F for an essay so constructed.

Eric said...

It amazes me, well, it doesn't, that he doesn't interact with, say Mohler and Pipa, both brothers with PhDs in theology.

Now, I'm not usually one to put much store in qualifications over arguments, but I would think that the considered and highly detailed presentations that these two have prepared should carry some weight. I'd suggest that until they are dealt with, dear Craig has really nothing to add.

Craig said...

The Christian and the Cosmos (part 1)

Eric said...

Craig, thanks for the link continuing the discussion. I've posted the comment below on your site, as well as here:

The mistake that any early Christian 'flat-earthers' made was taking poetic or figurative language as direct reportage.

I know you claim that that is what we biblical creationists do too, but the discussion has been, with numerous references to experts in the field, that any cosmogonical information in the scriptures is derived from narrative.

But I think there is a theological lapse here: a view that the Bible would, could or should have no content that relates to our real world setting. This has more to do with non-realist philosophies than Christian theology (and Christian theology has been dogged by Greek philosophy and later idealist phases of philosphy from the get go). My posts have pointed to some of the theological issues which stand in the face of materialistic views that give the cosmos an independent reality from the 'world' of 'god-talk'.

Without drawing a clear line, you are also attempting to tar the biblical creationist view with same brush as those you mention, without actually arguing a point that connects the two. What you haven't done is establish on either theological or exegetical grounds why the cosmological information in the Bible can be neglected in lieu of views that start with the denial that God can be the principal actor in the creation of the world.

John said...


Yes, let me get this straight via Craig's BIG [idealist] IDEA.

God tells us about his activities but it has nothing to do with what really happened. In fact, God may have had nothing to do with the creation of the world because, after all, God creating the world might just be another piece of figurative or idiomatic language telling us that it was law or chance or matter or time creating the world, but not God.

Eric, can you tell me how I should know from Scripture if God really created the world if what he says about creating the world is mere figurative language? Tell me from this,

'And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying... "The Sabbath is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth"'

how I am to know that it really was a non-figurative God actually creating a non-figurative heaven and earth?

Help me, please, Eric. I am lost and don't know which parts to take figuratively and which to not.

Hey, Craig, can you help me out too? You've really confused me now and I don't know a metaphor from seriousness and straightforwardness.

Craig said...

John, if God really meant to literally tell you that the earth had four corners, what language could he have used?

John said...

(Transferred from Craig's blog)


You go to Wikipedia (and popular biblical dictionaries!) for your information and you haven't even read Burton' seminal work, yet you pretend you're writing a thesis.

As far as I am aware there was certainly 1, maybe 2, Christians in the early Church who held to a flat earth. It was such common knowledge that the earth was round that no one thought otherwise. (BTW, a little philosophy and how the sphere was regarded as the perfect shape would have helped you here.)

Re dead men rising, you, once again, avoid my argument. Here it is again:

1. You believe Scripture can't be saying the earth is young BECAUSE science says it is old.

2. Therefore, any biblical passage which says God created quickly must be figurative language because - here comes the circle - science has shown that the earth is old and since the Bible can't be wrong, passages which clearly state that the earth is young must be figurative in order to preserve the Bible's truth value.

3. I said, to be consistent, you must accept science's ruling on all biblical statements that conflict with scientific truths.

4. Science has shown that DEAD men, truly DEAD men, don't get up after 3 days and are alive again. The proof of this you ask for is in every hospital, battlefied, nursing home, car accident etc, all over the world. When you've watched, as I have, a hundred people die in front of you and had to prepare their bodies for relatives and burial you know dead men, according to scientific law, don't rise.

5. Drawing support upon your theory of knowledge, the New Testament, just like in Exodus 31, says something that contradicts science. It says dead men do rise.

6. To be consistent to your Theory of Knowledge (i.e. no special pleading), since you believe science checkmates any biblical statement about the earth being young, you should give up your belief that Lazarus rose from the dead.

BTW, what do you do with all that scientific evidence that says the earth cannot be as old as the athiests and their Christian sympathisers say it is? Such evidence is far greater than the supposed observable instances of dead men rising.

BTW, what do you say to an atheist who says to you, Craig, "There is absolutely nothing you can say that will make me believe that dead men can rise. It would be the same as you asking me to believe that 2+2=5."?

John said...

Craig asks me, “If God really meant to literally tell you that the earth had four corners, what language could he have used?”

If you'd bothered to read our argument you wouldn't need to try and trick us with these silly questions. It's obvious your aim is not truth but winning.
Eric has spelled the criterion out: It's the type of literature that principally defines how you regard the information in it. Genesis 1, Exodus 20 and Exodus 31 (along with Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3) are part of an historical narrative that make unambiguous, non-figurative statements about the age of the world. In works of poetry, like Job, or apocalyptic literature like Revelation, one is aware that the “literal”, superficial reading may not be the relevant one. Anyone who read a poem and comprehended every line like they would the front page of a daily newspaper would be, to use your expression aimed at me, autistic.

We carry out this procedure not just in relation to the Bible but to modern literature as well. When we read the Herald's lead article we don't think it's figurative language but an historical report about what happened yesterday, last week, a decade ago or whenever.

So, to answer your question, it really is a non-question. But, I guess, if I were God, I would not have had John insert it in Revelation or the author in Job.

The '4 corners of the world' sounds like an idiom. “I the Lord your God created everything in heaven and earth in 6 days” doesn't. Can't understand why anyone can't see the difference (ironically Richard Dawkins can!). I can, however, understand why you won't...and the reason is very troubling!

Furthermore, the Bible is not a science textbook, as many of your Anglican friends do indeed straw man us about. I don't go to the Bible to study science per se; I see it is an accurate historical record, though it does claim certain meta-science truths about the world e.g. non-life not being able to bring forth life as evolution claims.

Craig said...

*I can, however, understand why you won't...and the reason is very troubling!*

A word of warning John - lay off the ad-hom, or I wont talk to you anymore.

sam drucker said...

No dummy spits please Craig.

Sam Drucker

John said...

But Craig, you've not "talked" to us, so no great loss there. You've obviously got some sort of authority trip going on, along with Vaughan. (Note Vaughan won't answer my Hebrews' question)

Anyway, quite honestly, you are quite dishonest and very slippery. It's a waste of time trying to engage with you because you refuse to engage. I asked you about your theory of knowledge i.e. science rules OK!, and you turn it around and just won't discuss it. It's childish and typical of Sydney Anglicanism i.e. sanctimoniousness plus! It's plainly dishonest and unChristian..just like the Pharisees.

So, Craig, take you bat and ball and go home. Life's far ttoo short to be engaged with people who have so corrupted themselves from the inside and think they are being intellectually honest when they clearly aren't.

BTW, you don't lecture people on the subject of the Philosophy and History of Science when (i) you ignore the suggested reasonable background reading on the subject and continue to blather on about flat earthers in the Church (ii) you take some notes from Wikipedia and call it a thesis and (iii) keep on arguing with someone who has a degree in the subject and actually has done more than look at Wikipedia

Like my ad hominem, Craig?

BTW, I am not bitter about SADs, just won't accept their false teaching and Pharisiacal super knowledge.

BTW, your 4-corners-of-the-earth argument is a red nherring. Whether the world is flat or has 4 corners does nothing to sustain one's faith. No one has lost their faith from believing in a flat earth. But there have been upteen studies that have shown Christians losing their faith because of the putative truth of evolution and long ages. Example, the guy who was Billy Graham's right hand man lost his because of that. Why? Because it forms the seamless whole of the Gospel and why Christ came, as we have spelled out on a number of occasions but which you and Baddeley and Jensen etc , ignore and fool yourselves into thinking that you have dealt with you thought you dealt with Exodus 31.

Eric said...

Whew, getting testy!

I posted this on Craig's blog, and just stick it here too, well...because I can.

So, some Christians thought that the earth was flat, and used biblical citations to support their case.

But what you have missed here, Craig, I think, is that both round-earthers and flat-earthers entertained nothing that, on the basis of that view, would or could undo their view of God, or re-structure the formal Doctrine of God to end up to dishonour him (see below for my argument on this; I'm not trying to 'have a go at you')!

Its a different story, however, when it comes to Genesis 1 and origins.

God shows us who he is by his actions, as well as his words. If we say that his words and actions don't line up (on the premise that Genesis 1's content is not aligned with its direct grammatical meaning), then we are conceptualising a different God to that extent, are we not? Thus the quote from Aquinas on our blog banner.

The basic theological concern that I have with views that must undo the direct reading of any biblical data, such as the 'long age' view is twofold: the source of the view lies not only outside the Bible, but makes its basic reference to a world-conception that itself is anti-theistic, and that the view ultimately reconceptualises God. In this case it extends to Christ and turns from his historical understanding of Genesis 1, to rend the cosmos from its creator, making it an independent de-personal phenomenon, with a vague and undemonstrated/undemonatratable connection with God, rather than the outcome of God's wise and loving intention.

We end up with a God who's mark on the world is identical with no God leaving any mark (the evidence of history since the late 1850s goes to this). Indeed, it ends with people who believe in evolution (one of which I'm not necessarily suggesting is you) and the corollary long ages pointing to the 'errors', blind alleys, wrong turns and 'design mistakes' of their ideas to un-glorify God. Hardly a result consonant with scripture!

Of course, they are wrong, because they look without understanding it at a post-rejection-of-God world.

I also refer you to the quote I provided earlier from the Interpreter's Bible (a 'standard' non-evangelical commentary), where the rapidity of creation in the Genesis account was recognised as adding to God's glory; only, not if it is not true [that's my comment, not the IB's]!

Just as an aside, some years ago one Mr. Baddeley, commenting on the problem of death being inherent in a very good creation, made the triumphant comment that in Romans Paul talks only of human death being introduced by sin; not animal death. Here I think he misses the wood for the trees. The whole point of scripture is that the new creation will rectify a broken creation, the broken being a decline from the very good as it left the creator's mind and being a result of it being cut off from life-giver through its federal head (Adam). I just think of the 'every tear' promise of Revelation, and think of the grief that many people, particularly children, feel at the death of a pet: so we should teach our children that that death is unimportant, not part of the broken world? Isaiah seems to think that it is!

Now, sorry to make this a bit longer, a few comments about not taking Genesis as a science book were made: either on this post or an earlier one. I don't think that this is the issue; the issue is about it recounting events. So, it's history, not science that we're considering. A scientist can tell me that there are PCBs in the soil at Rhodes, NSW. A historian (my grandfather, actually) will tell me that there was a chemical plant there. One could suggest that without this information a scientist limited to analysis would have to suggest a way for PCBs to 'emerge' in soil (now, don't hang me on that, its just by way of an illustration of the distinction between the two departments of knowledge).

Eric said...

BTW, the 'four corners' ref this link:

I know its not quite the direction Craig is going, but I had the feeling that it was more an idiomatic phrase...we use it today as such, just like we speak in phenomenal language when we say 'sunset'. Its a basic confusion to think that Gen 1, etc. is this type of langauge, and it is one of those confusions that can emerge from translation. The article covers that pretty well.