Ham vs. Giberson

Over at BeliefNet, Ken Ham and Karl Giberson are mixing it up on the subject of evolution and creationism. One post each so far.

Giberson got the ball rolling. After presenting a bit of his biography (grew up fundamentalist, lost confidence in YEC after studying college-level science) he gets down to business.

Creationists have to “explain away” a gigantic mountain range of evidence that the scientific community has accumulated in the past century. Neither the scientific community nor the scientific data is is on their side. They have to believe that God created a profoundly deceptive world, with countless markers inexplicably pointing to evolution, even though that was not how things originated. This makes no sense.

Indeed they do. Well said! But, I’ll only meet him part way on the continuation of his paragraph:

Creationists, who are almost always Biblical literalists, also have to come up with eccentric and strained readings of the Bible to accommodate its many references to ancient near eastern cosmologies. The Bible speaks of a solid dome in the heavens (Genesis 1:6) holding back the waters to take one example. The Bible refers to the earth as “immoveable,” to take another (Psalm 93:1). The alternate readings of these passages by the creationists are not faithful to the text and twist the original Hebrew in ways that would make it unrecognizable to the writer. I don’t think creationists are as faithful to the Biblical text as they claim.

The verse from Psalms reads as follows (KJV):

The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Since I think it is safe to say that the Lord is not literally clothed with majesty and strength, it is not so crazy to assign some poetic meaning to the latter portion of the verse.

Giberson is on safer ground with Genesis 1:6. The dome to which he is referring is the “firmament,” which is a translation of the Hebrew word “raqiya.” The New American Version actually translates the word as “dome.” The Young Earthers usually understand the word to mean an “expanse” referring to the expanse of space. The idea that a dome was intended can be inferred both from the text itself, and also from the simple fact that the picture of the stars being suspended from a dome which covers a flat Earth is one the Ancients are likely to have devised.

So I think Giberson is right that a somewhat strained interpretation of verse six is necessary to bring Genesis into line with this bit of modern cosmology. But it is a big leap to go from that to the idea that the Genesis writers were not intending to describe historical events. After all, the leading nonliteral interpretations of Genesis, specifically the Day-Age view, the Gap view, and the Framework view, all require far greater distortions of the text.

Giberson follows up with some good stuff about the general integrity of scientists and the scientific enterprise, and with a brief discussion of some of the evidence for evolution. But he loses me with this:

And why not let the Bible be what it most clearly is–a collection of inspired texts from the ancient world, and not a textbook of modern science?

First up, this cliche about the Bible not being a textbook of modern science really must be put to rest. No one is claiming it is. But it does sometimes make statements that can be addressed by science, and those statements frequently lead to conflict.

More to the point, however, what does Giberson mean by “inspired?” If he means that in some way it is God’s revelation to man then I would ask a follow-up regarding what Giberson means by “clearly.” Everything Giberson has said so far has suggested that the Bible is frequently unreliable when taken at face value. Doesn’t that tend to challenge its status as the inspired word of God? How does Giberson distinguish between the parts of the Bible that ought to be taken literally (presumably the parts about Jesus) and the parts that are the outdated relics of a bygone era?

Then we have this:

In embracing evolution my view of the natural world has been deeply enriched, for I have become a part of that world. I write these words from a home office looking out into a New England forest. The leaves have donned their autumn splendor and many are joining the birds in the air, in preparation for winter. Deer, wild turkey, raccoons, squirrels, and countless other species live in those woods, and occasionally come to visit and nibble on my landscape. How awesome to think that I share a history with these life forms and that, to varying degrees, I am related to them. I am humbled to think that God’s creative work is of such grand coherence and scope that the universe is one gigantic narrative of creation. This seems far richer than my former creationist view that the universe is a collection of separately created things. And, to top it off, God created us with minds capable of unpacking the whole amazing story.

Why would any Christian find it hard to believe that evolution was God’s way of creating?

Gosh yes! How could any Christain fail to see the beauty and majesty of evolution as a way of creating? Except that evolution tells us we are the result of a savage and brutal process constantly leading to dead ends that can be broken only via mass extinctions. And that God didn’t create us with minds at all, but instead says we are the chance outcome of an unpredictable process. And that evolution utterly puts paid to the argument from design in biology, thereby robbing us of one of the strongest rational arguments ever devised for God’s existence. And that evolution tells us something so utterly different from what is told in Genesis, that we are forced to the conclusion that God began his holy revelation with a colossal error.

Yeah, aside from that why would a Christian have a problem with evolution?

As for all that gushing about the beauty of nature, you can have all of that as an atheist. It is precisely because I don’t believe the evolutionary process was set in motion by a wise and beneificent creator that I am free to stand in awe of the fact that anything good comes from so brutal a process. Thrust God into the picture and suddenly you’re focused on the horrible details, and wondering why a loving God so hates his creation as to put them through it.

YEC’s are routinely accused of being so dogmatic in their interpretation of the Bible that they are completely blind and uncharitable to other approaches. Indeed they are. But theistic evolutionists have problems of their own. Frequently, as here, they seem completely unwilling to engage the real challenges evolution poses for their view of things. On the question of whether evolution and Christianity can be reconciled in some satisfactory way, it is Ham who is thinking clearly, and Giberson who is not making much sense.

Ham delivers his usual schtick. The Bible is the only infallible source of evidence we have, it plainly teaches YEC, the evidence for evolution is not as strong as you say, blah, blah, blah. If anyone who knows more biology than me wants to have a go at this, be my guest:

“It is a form of prejudicial conjecture to suggest that pseudogenes are non-functional leftovers from past duplication events. The function/non-function of pseudogenes has been hotly debated for years. Several studies have shown that some pseudogenes are, in fact, functional. The ENCODE Project has revealed that much of the human “junk” DNA (pseudogenes fall into this category) may have a function, especially in the area of regulation. Regulation of gene expression is especially important to prevent cancer and other diseases. The psi beta pseudogene in the human beta globin gene cluster has been suggested to play a regulatory role in the expression of the other globin genes in that cluster. Another possibility is that some pseudogenes are the result of genes originally designed by God to have a function but as a result of mutation after the Fall are no longer performing this function.”

Basically it comes down to this. You can go Ham’s route and argue that the Bible is both infallible and perspicuous in its major teachings. That is a crazy starting point, but given that Ham accepts it you can see why he believes the things he does.

Or you can go Giberson’s route and argue, with considerable justice, that the evidence for an old Earth and common ancestry of all life really is overwhelming, and make these facts central to your interpretation of scripture. This view has the benefit of being respectful towards science and of not falling victim to a closed-minded dogmatism in our treatment of religion. But it also leaves us with a serious problem regarding the Bible. If the Bible gets everything wrong in its first eleven chapters, why should I believe the equally fanciful parts about Jesus?

There is a third option. Accept science for what it is, the best method anyone has devised for learning about the natural world. Note forthrightly that the latest findings strongly suggest that nothing like what the Bible is telling us on these issues is actually true. Conclude that the Bible is an entirely human production, frequently wrong (both scientifically and morally) because it represents the ignorance and prejudices of an Ancient mentality.

I know which side I’m on!

Comments

  1. #1 David White
    October 21, 2008

    Jason,

    Did you ever get the piece below? It turns this whole debate on its head by exposing the one thing that creationism/ID cannot explain away based on its internal structure and philosophy…it’s not scriptural. Science it can deny and parse…but not the following:

    http://phoebekate.com/2008/09/14/randomness-creationism-and-intelligent-design

  2. #2 slpage
    October 21, 2008

    Ham is misrepresenting the guts of the pseudogene argument.

    Whether they are functional or not is largely irrelevant – the fact that they accumulate mutations at a faster rate than ‘conserved’ DNA makes them useful for phylogenetic analysis, and the patterns of mutations that have accumulated, as if by magic, are congruent with what we have hypothesized based on other data.

    In other words, they are good evidence for descent whether they are functional or not.

  3. #3 Dan
    October 21, 2008

    Wow, Giberson’s final paragraph, use of the word “God” notwithstanding, could be the basis for an atheistic, scientific ‘spirituality’. (I of course mean the latter without invocation of anything supernatural.)

  4. #4 386sx
    October 21, 2008

    “And why not let the Bible be what it most clearly is–a collection of inspired texts from the ancient world, and not a textbook of modern science?”

    It would be nice if it could get a few simple facts right. Or at least get them not wrong. It doesn’t have to be a textbook of modern science in order to do that. Giberson thinks that if something is not a textbook of modern science, then… something. I dunno what. It don’t make any sense.

    Inspired texts from the ancient world can still get the facts right. (Assuming they are actually “inspired”.) He makes it sound like if something is “inspired”, then… something. I dunno what. Who knows.

  5. #5 Dan
    October 21, 2008

    It was good to see Giberson address the question of scientific integrity. I have not seen it before, and I think it’s crucial. It seems to me that the only way a rational person can ignore the scientific evidence is to believe that pretty much all scientists are lying — this would correspond to the big “conspiracy”.

    With politicians we can safely assume that most of what most of them say is suspect. There is sadly lots of evidence for this assumption. But the same assumption about scientists cannot be supported by evidence, even chosen selectively.

    Or is there somewhere a resource where YECs amass scientific ‘scandals’ in order to convince themselves of the conspiracy?? Is there a creationist version of something like WorldNetDaily??

    PS: Even AiG doesn’t spend its time attacking scientists directly.

  6. #6 RBH
    October 21, 2008

    Dan wrote

    PS: Even AiG doesn’t spend its time attacking scientists directly.

    Um, did you miss the title of Ham’s book? The Lie: Evolution. “The Lie” sure seems to be a direct attack on scientists. (Unless, of course, he’s attributing the lying to Satan and scientist are merely Satan’s witting or unwitting dupes.)

    slpage wrote

    Ham is misrepresenting the guts of the pseudogene argument.

    Actually, the misrepresentation is by Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist with a Ph.D. from Ohio State who now works for AIG. I’ve met Georgia and heard her speak to a group of Christians she deemed to be not Christian enough. That last sentence about the Fall is typical of her approach to explaining contradictory evidence.

  7. #7 Dan
    October 21, 2008

    Um, did you miss the title of Ham’s book? The Lie: Evolution. “The Lie” sure seems to be a direct attack on scientists. (Unless, of course, he’s attributing the lying to Satan and scientist are merely Satan’s witting or unwitting dupes.)

    oops! yes, that’s pretty clear.

    I just spent some time perusing it. Apart from being intellectually flaccid in general, Ham appears to separate out evolution from the rest of science, as not being “true” science, but rather a religion.

    Ham’s attempts at rational argumentation are completely ridiculous, and patently by someone who doesn’t or wouldn’t know how to do Science. It’s topped off by

    The main reason is, of course, that there is [no evidence for evolution]

    This, after discounting evolution by branding it a “religion” because Science can never be completely 100% certain. What was the point of that, if you’re then going to turn around and say that there is no evidence anyway?..

  8. #8 386sx
    October 21, 2008

    This, after discounting evolution by branding it a “religion” because Science can never be completely 100% certain. What was the point of that, if you’re then going to turn around and say that there is no evidence anyway?..

    Reminds me of this quote from Giberson:

    “And why not let the Bible be what it most clearly is–a collection of inspired texts from the ancient world, and not a textbook of modern science?”

    Giberson thinks that if a collection of texts has a few things in it that aren’t 100% completely bassed baskwards wrong about things in the the universe, then that means it’s a textbook of modern science. I dunno what the hell sense that’s supposed to make. Especially considering that if a collection of texts is a collection of inspired texts, than that would make it even more likely to get things right, instead of getting things complwetely 100% the freakin exact opposite of reality. The mind boggles at Giberson’s logic.

  9. #9 Dan
    October 22, 2008

    It’s worth noting that the concept of ‘evidence’ is rendered meaningless in an irrational context.

    Ham would like to have his cake and eat it too. He claims there’s no evidence, but when something turns up, it’s dismissed because really the bible is the true source.

  10. #10 CW
    October 22, 2008

    Giberson thinks that if a collection of texts has a few things in it that aren’t 100% completely bassed baskwards wrong about things in the the universe, then that means it’s a textbook of modern science. I dunno what the hell sense that’s supposed to make.

    I dunno where (the hell) you got that interpretation of his remark. He is nowhere suggesting that the Bible is (or even should be) a textbook, he is noting that it is being used as such, inappropriately.

  11. #11 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    I dunno where (the hell) you got that interpretation of his remark. He is nowhere suggesting that the Bible is (or even should be) a textbook, he is noting that it is being used as such, inappropriately.

    Okay. I thought he meant that the reason God revealed things backwards and 100% incorrect and completely the opposite of reality was because God didn’t intend for the Bible to be used as a science textbook. I thought he was using at as an excuse for why God “revealed” things that weren’t true. Sorry about that.

    “I’m God, and since I don’t intend for the Bible to be a science text, then I can reveal stuff completely backwards and 100% factually incorrect.”

    I thought he was using it as some sort of a loophole or something like that. Sorry about that.

  12. #12 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    “I’m God, and since I don’t intend for the Bible to be a science text, then I can reveal stuff completely backwards and 100% factually incorrect.”

    I thought he was using it as some sort of a loophole or something like that. Sorry about that.

    So in other words, if Giberson thinks that the reason God revealed things that were factually 100% wrong and the complete opposite to the way things really are was because God didn’t intend for the Bible to be used as a science text, then a corollary of that would be: Giberson thinks that if God didn’t reveal things that were factually 100% wrong and completely false, then the Bible should be used as a science text.

    But, if you have collections of inspired texts that get the facts right, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be used as a science textbook. That’s why Giberson’s lame apologetics didn’t seem to make much sense to me. I guess I was wrong about that though. Sorry about that, CW.

  13. #13 Sigmund
    October 22, 2008

    Most pseudogenes are not derived from duplications but are the result of retroviral reverse transcription of mRNAs and the subsequent insertion of these sequences into the germ cell DNA (we can tell that this is the case because they have no promoter elements in their vicinity and have a lack of introns).

  14. #14 llewelly
    October 22, 2008

    It seems to me that the only way a rational person can ignore the scientific evidence is to believe that pretty much all scientists are lying — this would correspond to the big “conspiracy”.

    There is another way:
    “They’re not lying. They’ve been tested by God, and they’ve failed the test.”
    That’s what I was told as a child. I still know several evolution deniers, who, rather than believe scientists conspire, believe God deceives.

  15. #15 Scott Hatfield, OM
    October 22, 2008

    If the Bible gets everything wrong in its first eleven chapters, why should I believe the equally fanciful parts about Jesus?

    (cheerfully) You shouldn’t, if both parts of your argument are conceded as true. It gives me pause that you are essentially making Ken Ham’s argument, and that you would prefer to see the lens of Christian experience through the eyes of a Ken Ham. To me, this would be like using Richard Goldschmidt as a guide to evolutionary genetics. You are, in effect, viewing everything in light not of what the best scholarship says about the topic, but whether it accords with your understanding of an outlier in the field.

    But, unlike Ken Ham, Christians of my stripe are entirely capable of regarding the Bible as a flawed document, a product of frail humanity, that still contains truths about existence. These ‘truths’ (that God made the world, pronounced the Creation to be good, and desires relationship with humankind) are not especially dependent on the trivial claim of whether or not some pastoralists a few millennia past had a literal, blow-by-blow account of life’s origins. I candidly admit that taking the latter seriously can be used to draw an inference about the historicity of the various sources employed in the Bible, but I think you pretty much reveal your hand by announcing in advance that you think the Gospels are ‘equally fanciful.’ I’m pretty confident that there was a historical Jesus, and that the opinions of those to the contrary (such as Robert Price) are definite outliers within their field. If nothing else, we Christians are justified in regarding the Gospels as containing the actual teachings of the early Church regarding claims associated with a real historical figure, and using them as a basis for our faith, and our conduct.

  16. #16 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    These ‘truths’ (that God made the world, pronounced the Creation to be good, and desires relationship with humankind) are not especially dependent on the trivial claim of whether or not some pastoralists a few millennia past had a literal, blow-by-blow account of life’s origins.

    Okay, then what are they dependent on? Is it because you guys have back and forth conversations with your god all the time? Is that why?

    What is this truth about existence dependent on: “I am God, and I hereby officially pronounce the Creation is officially… good. This is my official truth about existence pronouncement, and I officially pronounce this.”

    Gimme a break!

    If the Bible gets everything wrong in its first eleven chapters, why should I believe the equally fanciful parts about Jesus?

    Yeah, like that one time when Jesus flew up into the sky like a birdie.

  17. #17 Badger3k
    October 22, 2008

    Scott – “If nothing else, we Christians are justified in regarding the Gospels as containing the actual teachings of the early Church regarding claims associated with a real historical figure, and using them as a basis for our faith, and our conduct.”

    Unfortunately, even ignoring Robert M Price and other mythicists, there is very little than can actually be traced back to the early days of the church. We know that there were many types of Christianity in vogue in the first few centuries, we know that, with the possible exception of some of Paul’s letters, the New Testament was written decades (at a minimum) after the supposed time of Jesus. We know that the orthodoxy developed over time, and competing ideologies and mythologies were stamped out – we can see the evolution of the texts over time and see how the Jesus legend grew, with more fanciful claims being made over time. There is 0 evidence as to what any historical Jesus may have said – it all boils down to what you want to believe (start with, say Schwietzer and work up from there – the paraphrase is “people find the Jesus they want to find”). Even the idea that there was a unified Church with “popes in Rome” has no real evidence behind it other than what people wrote centuries later.

    How this translates as “justified” escapes me, but then I prefer to try to get to what is real, rather than what I want to believe – a while back I chose to follow the evidence to where it leads, and not stop when I found an answer I felt comfortable with.

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield, OM
    October 22, 2008

    386sx (hey, I used to have one of those!) wrote:

    Okay, then what are they dependent on? Is it because you guys have back and forth conversations with your god all the time? Is that why?

    They in this case is my brief ‘truths’, which I have to point out is in quotes. I’m not claiming that these points of Christian understanding are objectively demonstrable, in other words. I’m just saying that Christians pretty much hold such claims as true regardless of how they interpret the Genesis text.

    Badger3K wrote:

    Unfortunately, even ignoring Robert M Price and other mythicists, there is very little than can actually be traced back to the early days of the church.

    I suppose that depends on what one means by the early Church, and I guess that I am guilty of not being precise. Your general point that Christianity was doctrinally fluid and lacked an agreement about what was canonical in its first few centuries is of course true. But I have to point out that we are talking about the Bible as received today, and thus by inference my gloss ‘the early Church’ should be taken to be that which produced the present canon. Iranaeus is supposed to have asserted four Gospels by the middle of the 2nd century, and early church Fathers (particularly Origen)are believed to have identified the NT canon by the middle of the 3rd century, by which point folk like St. Augustine and St. Jerome regarded the matter as settle.

    BTW, I agree that scholarship shows that there were syncretisms incorporated in the New Testament, notably the Virgin Birth. It is important to remember that the early Church, whatever its doctrine, prospered despite periodic waves of persecution and it is difficult to credit the claim that the Apostles were martyred for a figure with no historical basis whatsoever. One doesn’t have to buy Lewis’s misleading ‘trilemma’ argument to recognize that the early Church believed in a historical Jesus. Scholars believe that figures such as Aesop and Homer were composites, but they don’t doubt that they were drawn from actual historical figures. Similarly, Biblical scholars believe that the Gospels are a pastiche, a compilation of various stories about a real person, a compilation whose likely evolution can be inferred from textual clues. Why, some of the events described might even have happened! That interpretation doesn’t require one to become a Christian, but it is a reasonable way to look at the text, and one which is consonant with belief.

  19. #19 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    They in this case is my brief ‘truths’, which I have to point out is in quotes. I’m not claiming that these points of Christian understanding are objectively demonstrable, in other words. I’m just saying that Christians pretty much hold such claims as true regardless of how they interpret the Genesis text.

    And because… why?

  20. #20 Silver Fox
    October 22, 2008

    Christians should not have any difficulty reconciling evolution with creation if they view evloution as methodology. Evolution is a completely appropriate way of looking at the development of organisms in an extensive time frame. The universe is not 10000 years old – try maybe 15 billion years. For the vast majority of that time there was no life in creation, for sure, no carbon based organisms because there was no carbon.

    Evolution as natrual science presents nothing resembling hope. Creation is purposeless and will end either in the cold ashes of an ever expanding universe or the fiery end of a recoiling one. At present the science evidence favors the cold ashes. That is the evolutionary futurology. It is only in creation that there is any hope of a theological escathology. Science can never get beyond a destructive futurology. There is no tension between continuity and discontinuity because there is no continuity. The theological eschatology, like the theism upon which it is based, is not proveable by natural science. It is based on an indwelling faith, hope and intuition. Whether that be a profound interior revelation or a grand delusion is a question that neither science nor theology will ever prove. Whether theism is devine insight or confections of a purely material brain is a question that is not going to be answered by either science or theology.

    The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is frequently a favored whipping boy for non-believers. Genesis seems to be a special attraction for non-believers. Genesis is probable a redaction of an older assyrian creation myth. It is part of the PRE-history of the Israelite tribal people. They went back and confected a history of themselves to fill in the blanks of what went before they emerged as a monotheistic nation. It is neither history nor science. In fact, before Moses, the historicity of the Old Testament is quite ambiguous. The divine inspiration here is about God establishing a special relationship with a certain people who were going to play a crucial part in salvation history. It is not about talking snakes or apples. We know it was not about apples because apples were not indigneous to Mesopotania. They were imported much later. There were pomagranites. But I don’t think Genesis is about any kind of fruit. It was about a rift in the relationship between creator and creation that was going to be mended.

  21. #21 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    It is neither history nor science. In fact, before Moses, the historicity of the Old Testament is quite ambiguous. The divine inspiration here is about God establishing a special relationship with a certain people who were going to play a crucial part in salvation history.

    How come salvation history isn’t 100,000 years old? How come it’s only a few thousand? How come salvation didn’t happen 100,000 years ago?

    The whole thing is dumb. It’s not “divine inspiration”, it’s a myth and it’s about people who thought they were “special”, and it’s also about people bossing other weaker people around by making them think that the rules came from somebody upstairs. That, and it’s about telling cool stories too. Everybody likes cool stories.

    It is not about talking snakes or apples. We know it was not about apples because apples were not indigneous to Mesopotania. They were imported much later. There were pomagranites. But I don’t think Genesis is about any kind of fruit. It was about a rift in the relationship between creator and creation that was going to be mended.

    Okay, sorry to hear about the rift. Glad they fixed it.

  22. #22 Silver Fox
    October 22, 2008

    Re: 386

    “How come salvation history isn’t 100,000 years old?”

    The short answer to your question is: It is.

    The difficulty you’re having is trying to fit an event that occurs in a temporal order into an eternal order which is timeless. 10,000 or 100,000 years makes no sense in a timeless order to a timeless God. Salvation history was effictively started before time began. Time began when there were events against which to measure time, i.e. at the creation of the universe

    That’s like asking why did God decide to create the universe 15 billion years ago. He didn’t. God does not “decide” because deciding occurs at a moment in time and for God there is no moment of time because there is no time. The universe, in the omniscience of God was effected before time began.

  23. #23 386sx
    October 22, 2008

    Okay thanks Silver Fox. (I didn’t know about all that.)

  24. #24 Lofcaudio
    October 23, 2008

    “Except that evolution tells us we are the result of a savage and brutal process constantly leading to dead ends that can be broken only via mass extinctions…that we are forced to the conclusion that God began his holy revelation with a colossal error.”

    Jason, I find it curious that you are in effect making religious arguments about God to justify your position on matters of God, religion and the Bible. While it may be an effective rhetorical device, your incredulity as to how a creative God may have brought about the universe that we observe is nothing more than you projecting how you would have done things differently if you were God. If you are going to take a stand on logic and science, then these types of arguments should be shown for what they are–fallacious arguments from icredulity.

  25. #25 Iapetus
    October 23, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    you seem to misunderstand the argument here.

    What Jason is doing is to point out that the proposition that god created the biosphere through the process of evolution by natural selection is hard to square with the notion of an infinitely good, loving, merciful deity.

    In other words, he argues that the concept of theistic evolution is highly problematic if we presuppose the Christian concept of god, i.e. it is a critique of the internal consistency of theistic evolution given its theological underpinnings. This has nothing to do with arguing from personal incredulity.

    One can not on the one hand marvel at the majesty and beauty of god’s process of creation and praise it as evidence for the goodness and greatness of god and on the other hand sweep the awful, wasteful, cruel and painful parts, which are inevitably associated with said process, under the rug.

  26. #26 Glazius
    October 23, 2008

    Well, there’s that whole “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” thing. We look at the way evolution works and we see “a savage and brutal process”, to quote some random guy. We could call it evil and try to work to assuage it, but that’s our tag to hang on it and our burden that we take up.

    Didn’t Darwin make this argument for compassion, actually? That people felt compassion for other people, and to close it off and “let evolution run its course” is to also close off the compassion that keeps a society together?

    The terrible things in this world are only terrible to us. Correcting them also falls to us. It’s the price we pay to keep on living, and it isn’t easy and it isn’t fun, but we’re the ones charging it to ourselves.

  27. #27 Lofcaudio
    October 23, 2008

    lapetus, I don’t think I misunderstood the argument. Perhaps I should have been more precise with my critique as I was a bit haphazard with my previous comment.

    Is it fair to say that you (and Jason) are saying that it is problematic for the “Christian concept of God” (which you have further given the attributes of being infinitely good, loving and merciful) to exist while at the same time observing the nasty side of nature? If so, then you are really making numerous religious arguments about what exactly the “Christian concept of God” is and what we should expect from such an entity, are you not? In addition, you are also claiming to know the exact definitions of the Biblical terms “good, loving and merciful” as they would relate to God and how a God would do things; again, relying on your own (or your presupposed) views of religion.

    I have no doubt that there may be some inconsistency with how you view God (or view others’ thoughts about God) and how you view nature and the evolutionary process, but that is not a good argument against theistic evolution or old earth theists as it is entirely likely that it is your views on these matters which are flawed.

  28. #28 386sx
    October 23, 2008

    Is it fair to say that you (and Jason) are saying that it is problematic for the “Christian concept of God” (which you have further given the attributes of being infinitely good, loving and merciful) to exist while at the same time observing the nasty side of nature?

    No. The question was, “Why would any Christian find it hard to believe that evolution was God’s way of creating?”

    Well, evolution takes like a couple billion years or something. It’s a long drawn out nasty business full of dead ends and accidents, and we are an accident of evolution.

    Giberson said, “And, to top it off, God created us with minds capable of unpacking the whole amazing story.” But, God didn’t create us with minds, he created evolution (according to Giberson anyway), so, ergo, Giberson is talking real kooky and making no sense whatsoever.

    Evolution means no design in biology, but design in biology was one of the strongest rational arguments ever in the history of all freakin time of all rational arguments ever devised for the existence of God ever, and furthermore… that argument can even be found in the New Testament as well as in Genesis.

    And, on top of all of that, evolution is so completely backwards and 100% upside down from the fake story “revealed” in the “revelation” of Genesis that it makes God look like a complete liar, or really stupid.

    But other than that, why would any Christian find it hard to believe that evolution was God’s way of creating? Gee, I don’t know! I guess they must not be really gullible or something. No idea why anybody would want to be a creationist.

  29. #29 Iapetus
    October 24, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    “Is it fair to say that you (and Jason) are saying that it is problematic for the “Christian concept of God” (which you have further given the attributes of being infinitely good, loving and merciful) to exist while at the same time observing the nasty side of nature?”

    Almost correct. The issue is the compatibility (or lack thereof) of the notion that the Christian god used evolution by natural selection as a means for creation with the notion that he possesses certain attributes.

    “If so, then you are really making numerous religious arguments about what exactly the “Christian concept of God” is and what we should expect from such an entity, are you not?”

    As I said, it is a critique of the internal consistency of theistic evolution. Since the latter rests on certain theological assumptions, they have to be taken into account.

    “I have no doubt that there may be some inconsistency with how you view God (or view others’ thoughts about God) and how you view nature and the evolutionary process, but that is not a good argument against theistic evolution or old earth theists as it is entirely likely that it is your views on these matters which are flawed.”

    Such blanket, vague statements are meaningless. If you want to make a case as to why describing the Christian god as “infinitely good, merciful and loving” is wrong, or why it is correct but not in conflict with the concept of evolution by natural selection, go ahead.

    Otherwise, your objection has no legs to stand on.

  30. #30 Lofcaudio
    October 24, 2008

    lapetus,

    As I said, it is a critique of the internal consistency of theistic evolution. Since the latter rests on certain theological assumptions, they have to be taken into account.

    Who is the one making vague statements?!? What are these theological assumptions that must be taken into account which threaten the internal consistency of theistic evolution?

    By attempting to shift the burden of proof to me when I question the vague arguments that you and Jason have raised, it only weakens your position.

  31. #31 Iapetus
    October 24, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    “Who is the one making vague statements?!? What are these theological assumptions that must be taken into account which threaten the internal consistency of theistic evolution?”

    The assumption that the Christian god possesses certain attributes, inter alia infinite goodness as well as (or encompassing) love and mercy towards his creation.

    The assumption that you murkily seemed to object to, but never really substantiated. Instead, you chose to vaguely wave your hand in the direction that said assumption is somehow dubious.

    So put the meat on the table: do you agree that the Christian god possesses these attributes or not? If not, why not? If he does, do you see a problem to reconcile them with choosing evolution by natural selection as method of creating or not?

  32. #32 Lofcaudio
    October 24, 2008

    Iapetus,

    Do you agree that the Christian god possesses these attributes or not?

    I agree that the Christian God is good. The Bible not only describes God as loving, but further proclaims that God is love. As for God being “merciful towards his creation”, that statement is overreaching. I believe that the Bible only shows God extending mercy to humanity and even then, God is selective within that class as to who he shows mercy (Romans 9:15).

    If he does, do you see a problem to reconcile them with choosing evolution by natural selection as method of creating or not?

    I see no such problem.

  33. #33 Iapetus
    October 24, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    “I see no such problem.”

    Amazing.

    I guess denying that there is a problem in the first place can also be seen as a solution.

    So the situation is thus:

    we have the concept of a deity that according to your definition is not only good and loving per se, but even “goodness” and “love” personified (whatever that is supposed to mean).

    This deity chose to bring about human beings by a process that inevitably led to the suffering of billions and billions of creatures, many of which were no doubt capable of feeling anguish, fear and terror to a great extent.

    Furthermore, said process was so incredibly wasteful that it resulted in 99% of its results being discarded, i.e. those extinct species were nothing more than a means to an end and thus superflous scrap.

    And yet, you see no problem to bring these two concepts in agreement. Strange that people like Miller or Ayala do not share this serene approach. Looks like it is much ado about nothing…

  34. #34 Lorax
    October 24, 2008

    And why not let the Bible be what it most clearly is–a collection of inspired texts from the ancient world, and not a textbook of modern science?
    First up, this cliche about the Bible not being a textbook of modern science really must be put to rest. No one is claiming it is. But it does sometimes make statements that can be addressed by science, and those statements frequently lead to conflict.

    I was going to argue with your position, but then someone did it for me.

    Ham delivers his usual schtick. The Bible is the only infallible source of evidence we have, it plainly teaches YEC, the evidence for evolution is not as strong as you say, blah, blah, blah.

  35. #35 Lofcaudio
    October 24, 2008

    Iapetus,

    Amazing.

    You sound…incredulous. I attempted to short-circuit this whole discussion with my original comment. We have now come full circle with your last post.

    This deity chose to bring about human beings by a process that inevitably led to the suffering of billions and billions of creatures, many of which were no doubt capable of feeling anguish, fear and terror to a great extent.

    And why would such a thing prove to be inconsistent with a good and loving God? It’s not, unless you insist on fitting such a God into a small box and only allowing him to work within your intellectual and cultural biases. You would be better served to provide Biblical support as to how God allowing such a process would go against his attributes, rather than resorting to personal incredulity and appeals to authority.

    You see, a good and loving God is the ultimate trump card, since non-gods have no standing to judge him on what is good, loving and proper god-like behavior. These arguments only work if you have first resolved that such a God does not exist, then you can dress up this fictional character to do precisely what you want it to do. But for those who have not made that presupposition, the internal inconsistenty argument falls completely flat.

  36. #36 386sx
    October 24, 2008

    And why would such a thing prove to be inconsistent with a good and loving God?

    I don’t think that’s the point.

    The question was: “Why would any Christian find it hard to believe that evolution was God’s way of creating?”

    The answer was: Evolution means that we are the chance outcome of an unpredictable process. And evolution, contrary to the teleology found everywhere throughout the whole damn Bible, means that there is no “intelligent design” in biology. And evolution is completely the exact 100% opposite of what God “revealed” in Genesis.

  37. #37 windy
    October 24, 2008

    You see, a good and loving God is the ultimate trump card, since non-gods have no standing to judge him on what is good, loving and proper god-like behavior.

    You just did! It’s meaningless to say that God is good and loving if “we have no standing to judge him”. Or if our concepts of good and loving ‘don’t apply to God’.

  38. #38 GFB
    October 24, 2008

    windy,
    who is this god you are referencing? surely not the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. God can’t be good or loving if He doesn’t measure up to our standards? We have the right as the created to judge the creator? the God of the Bible is the Almighty King of the universe. all powerful, all perfect, and certainly not down on our level. the expression (and song) i’m only human is a perfect summation of the weaknesses, lies, cheating, and assorted other sins in each and every person. These, however, are not the attributes that God has chosen for Himself. His goodness and loving nature (among other characteristics) He graciously shares with us, and gives us a wonderful goal to aim for.

  39. #39 windy
    October 24, 2008

    who is this god you are referencing?

    The God in Lofcaudio’s argument. I’m pointing out the internal inconsistency in it, not putting forth an competing definition.

    His goodness and loving nature (among other characteristics) He graciously shares with us, and gives us a wonderful goal to aim for.

    “I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos . . . A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling down stairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life, he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him into the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.”

  40. #40 cwfong
    October 24, 2008

    windy, was it accidentally on purpose that you failed to give credit to Mark Twain for the above tale? Not that it was one of his best efforts.

  41. #41 windy
    October 24, 2008

    windy, was it accidentally on purpose that you failed to give credit to Mark Twain for the above tale?

    It was to see what GFB would make of it. I indicated it was a quote.

  42. #42 Iapetus
    October 25, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    I notice that others have already pointed out the fallacy in your argument, but I will reiterate it just for the fun of it.

    You see, this “ultimate trump card” you offer makes all talk about god meaningless. When we assign attributes to an entity, we necessarily have to rely on our, human standards. Anything else would render every proposition incoherent.

    So when you say that god is “good”, but not good in a way we mere mortals can understand, you have not uttered an intelligible proposition. You might as well say that god is “nvsiogn” instead of “good”.

    So maybe god is “good” in a sense that we would normally associate with “evil”. Who knows, since we can apparently not say anything meaningful about him. Do you really want to go in this direction?

    In the view of any moral framework I can think of, the process of evolution by natural selection, which is savage, wasteful and cruel, would be seen as “bad” or “evil”. But according to you, it might just as well be “good” in the utterly incomprehensible framework of god’s view on this.

    Colour me unimpressed.

  43. #43 Lofcaudio
    October 25, 2008

    Iapetus,

    When we assign attributes to an entity, we necessarily have to rely on our, human standards.

    I agree 100%, but I think it is important to go a step further and recognize the weakness in assigning an evolving standard (human morality and values) to something that is a static entity (the God as described in the Bible). If you are wanting to claim that a religion or viewpoint is internally inconsistent, then you have to show that a particular belief is askew in such religion or viewpoint using the terms and definitions as framed in such a view.

    In the view of any moral framework I can think of, the process of evolution by natural selection, which is savage, wasteful and cruel, would be seen as “bad” or “evil”.

    How about the moral framework that is presented in the Bible? I have asked for Biblical support to show this supposed inconsistency and you rely on only those frameworks that “[you] can think of.” After all, it is the Bible which gives us the attributes of the Christian God. I have no doubt that there is an inconsistency in what you think is good and what the Bible says is good. So rather than shift the burden of proof, what does the Bible say that would lead one to believe that the Biblical God would find the evolutionary process bad or evil?

  44. #44 386sx
    October 25, 2008

    So rather than shift the burden of proof, what does the Bible say that would lead one to believe that the Biblical God would find the evolutionary process bad or evil?

    “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

    Sounds to me like the Biblical God saw that it was good. It doesn’t sound like He thought it was bad or evil. I mean, if the evolutionary process is God’s way of creating, then God saw that the evolutionary process “was good.”

  45. #45 Iapetus
    October 25, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    “If you are wanting to claim that a religion or viewpoint is internally inconsistent, then you have to show that a particular belief is askew in such religion or viewpoint using the terms and definitions as framed in such a view.”

    Well, you claimed that the biblical god is “good” and “loving”. If these are not meant to be meaningless terms, we have to apply our human standards to them. How else should we be able to understand them?

    Pointing to the bible will not help here. The bible is no magic book that objectively conveys the one and only true meaning to its reader. It is a book which uses certain attributes to desribe its main character. Said attributes have to be interpreted according to our understanding, otherwise you have nothing but a compilation of unintelligible words.

    “How about the moral framework that is presented in the Bible? I have asked for Biblical support to show this supposed inconsistency and you rely on only those frameworks that “[you] can think of.” After all, it is the Bible which gives us the attributes of the Christian God.”

    And according to the bible, god is “good”; a proposition to which you agreed.

    Now, since the term “evolution” is unfortunately absent in the bible, we have to rely on our own assessment of its moral implications. So, would you say that this process with all its wastefulness, cruelty and pain can be described as “good” according to “biblical morality”?

    P.S.: I would also like to hear your answer to 386sx’s point.

  46. #46 cwfong
    October 25, 2008

    God created a marvelous system whereby life forms are enabled to live forever in an endless series of configurations simply by feeding upon what are ultimately themselves.
    What else could have been created to add such ultimate purpose to an otherwise random and unfeeling cosmological arrangement?

  47. #47 Silver Ffox
    October 25, 2008

    God is not good; but rather The Good. The difficulty in understanding is in trying to fit trancendent good into a definition of transient good in which we are temporal participants. The Good is indescribable. So, in attempting to define it, we must resort to anthropomorphic images. We personify good in terms familiar to us. To pursue good is to develop in our inner self an attitude toward the world and its temporal things. It is to seek the transcendent good which is to approach union with the divine life. Good is a condition of the inner self and a disposition toward the world consistent with a quest for union with the divine good.

  48. #48 cwfong
    October 25, 2008

    In other words, since we can see some form of good in all things, it’s all good?

  49. #49 Silver Fox
    October 25, 2008

    Giberson says “creationists who are mostly biblical literalists must come up with eccentric explanations ….”.

    No they don’t. Not if they know anything about Near Eastern history and literature. Besides, most creationists are not biblical literalists. If he’s talking about Evangelicals, Pentacostals or conservative Baptists maybe he’s right. But I would be surprised if most Episcopalians, Preabyterians or Catholics read the Bible literally.

    The Bible, particularly the Book of Genesis, is probably a redaction of old Near East Babylonian/Assyrian creation myths. Read the Story of Atrahasis, Epic of Gilgamesh or the Enuma Elish and look at some of the parallels with Genesis.

    Is the Old Testament ‘inspired’. Yes, but what does it mean to be inspired. If you look at something like the New Jerome Commentaries of the Old Testament, he has page after page on what inspiration means. In the end, it means that God revealed something of Himself through scripture and what He revealed is true. But you’re not going to get that revelation by reading the scriptures literally. The Bible is neither history nor science. Those are not the literary genres in which the ancient texts were written.

  50. #50 cwfong
    October 25, 2008

    Are things then good because they feel good and thus true because they feel true?

  51. #51 GFB
    October 25, 2008

    the irony of the tale is that it is, in some way, the story of Mark Twain. His wife was a devout Christian when they first met. Her parents wanted to make sure that Twain was also a Christian before they would give their blessings to the marriage. Twain consulted a long time cleric friend, eventually professing his Christianity. The marriage then took place. (to shorten the story) Twain’s conversion was a sham. His wife, dedicated the rest of her life, to no avail, to convert him (back). (there were also similar family tragedies in his real life). She gave up her faith. When she was asked about returning to her faith, she said that she just had no more effort or faith left, and she was never the same, even unto her death. The damage that Twain had done to his wife was his greatest regret in life. In a attempt at redemption, he confronted his cleric friend to fix things for him. Of course, his friend wasn’t able.
    So the tale that was told, was by pagan, not a Christian. And the ensuing results, though not completely identical, were equally tragic.

  52. #52 windy
    October 25, 2008

    God is not good; but rather The Good.

    I thought that was Clint.

  53. #53 cwfong
    October 26, 2008

    “The fact that many use their faith as a crutch to help them maneuver through life, and that the loss of that crutch then effectively cripples them, is not an argument for choosing that particular crutch to start with. It’s the choice rather than the loss of the collapsible or otherwise flawed crutch that leads to tragedy, where a stronger crutch (a secular variety perhaps) might not have been so easily abandoned, or so ultimately indispensable.” Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights

  54. #54 GFB
    October 26, 2008

    According to Professor William Provine of Cornell University;

    “Let me summarize my views on what modern Evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear… There are no gods, no purposes, no goal directed forces of any kind. No ultimate morality, no hope, no future, and no free will. We live, we die, that’s it.”

    In analyzing the effects of non-directed creation, I would have to agree with his assessment. This seems to be the composition of the evolutionary “crutch”. The faith based “crutch” is the exact opposite.

    With faith in God the composition of the “crutch” is, a value to each life, a purpose in life, goals to strive for, morality, hope, a future, free will, and finally eternal happiness.

    I respectfully submit that the positive “crutch” of faith would be much stronger than a “crutch” made of negativism and worthlessness created by evolutionary biology.
    (I also thought it was Clint.)

  55. #55 cwfong
    October 26, 2008

    GFB, you seem to have an inclination to choose bad over worse, a common failing of the fearful that swell the ranks of the faithful.
    Look into secular humanism as one of the better crutches that the less fearful have to offer.

  56. #56 Dan
    October 26, 2008

    @GFB

    After explaining the arbitrariness of “crutches”, you go on to say

    I respectfully submit that the positive “crutch” of faith would be much stronger than a “crutch” made of negativism and worthlessness created by evolutionary biology.

    How do you evaluate to such statements? How can you possibly say that one is “positive” and the other is “negative”? You have already passed judgement. And you must respectfully admit that it was the crutch of faith that made you say so. (Whether you fully use the crutch or not.)

  57. #57 Lofcaudio
    October 27, 2008

    Iapetus,

    Now, since the term “evolution” is unfortunately absent in the bible, we have to rely on our own assessment of its moral implications.

    If you are going to rely on your own assessment of its moral implications, then how does that make theistic evolution internally inconsistent? It sounds to me like you just don’t agree with it and in order to provide a reasonable basis for your opinion you have trumped up this charge of “internally inconsistent”.

    For example, if the Bible says A = B and B = C, but theistic evolution would opine that A does not equal C, then that would be an example of internal inconsistency. But if the Bible says A = B and B = C, just because you do not like the idea of A = C, that does not mean that there is an internal inconsistency. I would imagine that you find it hard to reconcile how a supposedly good, loving and merciful God would destroy much of his creation through a natural disaster or allow an entire city and its inhabitants to be consumed by fire or allow all of the horrific atrocities that have been carried out over the course of human history. Again, that is a problem you have with the God concept, but it does not make a set of beliefs to be internally inconsistent as you have claimed.

    So, would you say that this process with all its wastefulness, cruelty and pain can be described as “good” according to “biblical morality”?

    As I said before, from a Biblical perspective, I see no problem with it.

    P.S.: I would also like to hear your answer to 386sx’s point.

    What’s there to answer? I have no objection to the point that 386sx made.

  58. #58 Iapetus
    October 28, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    “If you are going to rely on your own assessment of its moral implications, then how does that make theistic evolution internally inconsistent?”

    As I said, when you assign certain attributes to an entity, you have to rely on a standard to define said attributes, otherwise you are not claiming anything meanigful.

    So, what is your standard when you say god is “good” and “loving”? How do you define a “good” or “loving” action? You have thusfar studiously avoided to answer these questions.

    My impression is that it is along the lines of “Since god is defined as good and loving, everything he does is good and loving”. Which might be “consistent” in a trivial sense, but robs those terms of any meaning.

    A consequence would be that if humans were to destroy a city and allow its inhabitants to be consumed by fire, it would be “good” as well. Or is there a separate meaning of “good” for humans and for god?

    “As I said before, from a Biblical perspective, I see no problem with it.”

    That was not the question. The question was whether the process of evolution by natural selection to bring about human beings is morally “good” according to biblical standards.

    If it is, I would think that it is equally “good” according to biblical morality if humans use sentient creatures capable of feeling pain, anxiety and fear merely as a disposable means to an end. Is that so?

  59. #59 a reader
    October 31, 2008

    I endeavor to look beyond my own myopic conceits to the larger context of situation that I am examining.

    With nature,evolution and the supposed absolute truth of religion my perspective is that humans only have a very limited personal knowledge of a universe that is so large in time and space that is almost incomprehensible.

    Because of that overarching context,I feel(I)we have no authority to claim that any belief system is the absolute truth(ie the Bible or the Quran etc.)because we do not have access to all information in the universe to compare possible alternatives.

    All the knowledge we claim as fact or as absolute truth is what has been accumulated by one species on one small planet in a cosmos of almost infinite proportions. There may be truths and realities we have not even thought of yet.

    The beauty of science though is that is an open ended pursuit of knowledge that is willing to be revised as new information comes forth.

    Most religions on the other hand are static philosophies that will not accept revision to their original premises and dogma.

    Traditional religion comes from a time and place where our species knew little about the physical workings of nature. They are cultural artifacts that were created to offer explanations,obedience and comfort in times when we did not have the tools or methodologies to understand aspects of the universe which were mysterious and scary to us.

    I feel as long as we stay inside the self-built insular walls and limitations of religion we will hinder our cultural and technological progress that humans are capable of when we open our minds. It is not that worthy and time proven values and ethics should be thrown away, but perhaps we need to discard the archaic notion that we must have a supernatural entity to make our lives complete.

    There may be some entity that created the universe, but as yet we have no way to test this hypothosis and all concepts of a God are merely subjective unverifiable ideas which take many forms in a multitude of individuals minds.

    We have no way to verify a common objective reference to define the term “God” and in my opinion none of our present religions offer believable, plausible or probable definitions.

  60. #60 ?iir
    January 18, 2009

    thanks

  61. #61 Raymond Minton
    January 18, 2009

    We tend to lump all “creationists” together, but the fact is, they represent various factions with irreconcilable views, and I can’t deny it’s entertaining to see them go at each other, like the Ham-Giberson example above. On a related note, wingnut heads must have exploded recently when George W. Bush said evolution and religion are reconcilable, and that the bible shouldn’t be taken literally. It proved, for one thing, that his disparaging references to “Darwinism” were disingenuous (like so much of what he’s said over the years.)

  62. #62 Silver Fox
    October 24, 2009

    “If the Bible gets everything wrong in its first eleven chapters, why should I believe the equally fanciful parts about Jesus??

    What you’re confusing is; the Bible doesn’t get it wrong, we read it wrong.

    The Old Testament is written in the literary genre of old Assyrian mythology and Babylonian folklore. It represents, in a sense, a redaction of these old scripts and oral traditions.

    Yes, there are scriptural literalists but they are by far not the majority in Christianity. Let’s take one example of how the Bible is the inspired Word and yet not a literal narrative. Abraham is asked to sacrifice his beloved son, Issac, whom he has waited well into his old age to have. In obedience to Yewhew he takes his son, builds a sacrifice altar and is ready to slit Issac’s throat when a messenger stays his hand and tells him that Yehweh is satisfied that Abraham is faithful and does not have to sacrifice Issac. At that moment they see a ram caught in a bush. They take the ram and sacrifices it in place of Issac.

    Taken literally, that’s a rather brutal event no matter how you look at it. Yet, it is an inspired work but is told in a familiar ritual in order to tell the story.

    The Israelite tribes, early on, engaged in human sacrifice. They were familiar with their history. They worshiped many Gods. However, when they became monotheistic and accepted Yehweh as their God, they were a transformed people. They are now the people of Yehweh and they live differently. Yehweh makes a difference in their lives. They worship only Yehweh. Their rituals are different. They have given up human sacrifice (Issac) and now ritually practice animal sacrifice (ram). Unlike other gods, Yehweh does not demand their blood; he will protect their tribe because they are his chosen people and what makes them that way is their faithfulness (Abraham) to Yehweh. They, like Abraham, must be faithful to Yehweh to rest assured of His protection.

    Now that’s quite a different message from what is read literally. We read it differently, but for the people for whom it was written or told, they understood the message because it was scribed in a genre that was well known to them.

  63. #63 haber53
    December 30, 2009

    Now that’s quite a different message from what is read literally. We read it differently, but for the people for whom it was written or told, they understood the message because it was scribed in a genre that was well known to them…

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