Are Adam and Eve figurative people?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by Pax_Christi, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    It may serve as an allegory, but again, what from the context makes think it did not literally happen? This is an issue of contention that I have with a lot of modern scholarship in the bible. Often the Borgians and Spongians of the world lament that the literal view of scripture is too confining and there is more to the bible stories than what can literally be taken from them. And I think to myself, sure, in fact that's a very traditional idea of biblical exegesis, that there are 2 basic senses within which the Scriptures can be read: the literal (or historical) and the spiritual (or typical or figurative). The spiritual sense is further divided into the allegorical, the tropological, and the anagogical. I can even fully accept that one passage can have multiple senses. The prophets often prophesied about immediate things but also about eternal things at the same time. But then what modern scholars do is make anything they don't like an allegory and divorce it completely from its historical, literal sense, leaving only the typical sense. When that happens they begin to, using a word from 2 Peter 3:16, wrest the scripture in a way that can be most abominable. Moreover, it's a practice that deviates from their stated intent. Reading the bible ONLY as allegory, especially the parts which are hard to accept by our 21st century mindsets, is not reading the bible as something "more than literal" (witch is such a narcissistic dig at bible conservatives) it's only reading the bible as something different than literal. And when the that is done even when parts of the bible are obviously literal, then so much of the meat that makes Christianity a living faith is lost and one is left with the King James Version of Aesop's Fables.....and perhaps that is objective for many all along.
     
  2. Old Christendom

    Old Christendom Well-Known Member

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    Brilliant post, Lowly Layman!

    This one should be a sticky too.
     
  3. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Absolutely. If Scripture interprets Scripture, then it becomes obvious from the context whether the text is meant to be historical narrative (Acts), gospel, parable, allegory, wisdom literature (Proverbs), etc.

    Also, if the Bible says, "David was the king of Israel," is that an allegory or a propositional statement of historical fact? How would that fit into a two-fold view of Scripture as true in two different senses? Of course, there are prophecies in the Old Testament that were applicable to that situation but which also pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah. Psalm 22 is a good example of that and so is Isaiah 53.

    Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; And let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." 32 Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it. 33 Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the LORD, For He is coming to judge the earth. (1 Chronicles 16:31-33 NKJ)

    This is an example of allegory in the historical narrative of 1 Chronicles. But notice that the point of the allegory is to announce the sovereign kingship of the LORD (YaHWeH) and that He is coming to judge everyone on earth.

    Peace,

    Charlie
     
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  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Well said Lowly.
     
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  5. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    I think you mistook what I was trying to say. I am in no way advocating neo-orthodoxy. I was just pointing out the suitability of referring it as myth (in the actual academic sense of the word). I have a fascination with mythology and have read a lot on the subject.

    Yes, you're right, thanks for the correction there :)
     
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  6. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    Why wouldn’t it make sense?

    Does the legend of Icarus not make sense as an allegorical treatment of hubris just because there never actually was a Greek boy who flew too close to the sun on wings held together by wax?

    Does the non-existence of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf ruin the story’s allegorical illustration of how hard work and honest craftsmanship are preferable to half-assed efforts and cheap materials?

    Surely not. An allegory does not need to be based on literal characters in order for it to make sense. Lest I be accused of putting Adam & Eve on the same level as Three Little Pigs, let me pre-emptively assure you that I am not. The Genesis myths are spiritual allegories of the highest order, pertaining to ultimate truths concerning the divine, whereas secular allegories pertain to the quotidian and temporal realm.
     
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  7. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    How do you two square your position with so many of the Church Fathers who found allegorical and metaphorical readings in scriptural passages that don’t explicitly proclaim themselves as such? What about all the non-scriptural findings of types of Christ and His Blessed Mother? Where in the Bible is Jonah’s being spat out of the belly of the whale after three days said to be an allegory of Christ’s descent into the tomb and His glorious Resurrection? Tons of Church Fathers believed the scriptures were teeming with allegories not readily discernible if all you do is let the text speak plainly and literally.

    If I were to let today’s gospel “speak for itself,” I would have to conclude that aside from having been a carpenter, Our Lord also had a moonlighting stint as a keeper of sheep. It doesn't say, "now this is a parable."
     
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  8. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    Not to put too fine a point on it, but: pretty much everything. I don’t know about you, but the story fairly screams “myth” as far as I'm concerned. Frankly I’m not sure what oughtn’t to clue me in: the global flood? The demonic serpent? The omniscient god asking Adam where he’s hiding? The cherubim with the flaming sword? These are, for me, cues to read it mythologically—which is not to say it is untrue in any sense, but just that it is not necessarily a literal historical document. Further, there are elements in Genesis which (assuming that the world is more than 6,000 years old) we now know were borrowed from older middle eastern mythologies, such as the Enuma Elish or the epic of Gilgamesh. I don’t point out any of these facts to diminish or belittle the value of Genesis. It is integral to the Christian story, and very excellent too, but I don’t see why it absolutely needs to be historical since it functions perfectly well in its allegorical sense. I side here with Origen, in that I can discern scant value in taking the literal view: "who," he wondered, "is so foolish and lacking in common sense as to believe that God planted trees in the Garden of Eden like a husbandman; and planted therein the tree of life perceptible to the eyes and to the senses, which gave life to the eater; and another tree which gave to the eater a knowledge of good and evil? I believe that everybody must regard these as figures under which a recondite sense is concealed."

    I believe that God is the literal creator of the universe. Nevertheless the Genesis story seems rather plainly, to steal a word, to be a mythological rendering of the action and the manner in which God ordered the universe. Its purposes are grander than just relating a textbook pedestrian step-by-step account (which, were it literally true, would face the double problem of a having a strong mythological quality about it, as well as being at variance with various scientific disciplines like geology and biology).
     
  9. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Sorry if I seemed to be too particular here. I'm not sure if you are aware of the conflict between Cornelius Van Til and Gordon H. Clark over the issue of whether Scripture is univocally the very words of God or just an analogy of God's revelation. Clark believed that the Bible is propositional truth and a logical revelation of God's very thoughts on a creaturely level. Van Til, on the other hand, advocated the view that truth is two-fold. For Van Til Scripture is "true" knowledge but due to the Creator/creature distinction he said that revelation is only analogy and not univocally the same knowledge that God has. So following that logic 2 + 2 = 4 only for us. For God it could be something different. Basically, Van Til's view undermines the doctrine of special revelation. For Van Til to say, "David was the the king of Israel," must mean something different for us and for God and not the same thing.

    Of course, Van Til's view is that the Bible is full of paradoxes, or "apparent" contradictions that cannot be solved in this life. For all practical purposes, then, Van Til's views constitute real contradictions, not just apparent ones. I say that because for Van Til the paradox is never capable of being solved.

    I agree more with Clark and with Carl F. H. Henry that God can and does communicate directly with us in a logical revelation, albeit that revelation is mediated to us in human language. So 2 + 2 = 4 for us and for God since God is Logic.

    See: The Clark-Van Til Controversy, Trinity Review, #249, November-December, 2005.
     
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  10. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Once you accept the idea that the Bible is mythological in any sense at all you have crossed over into neo-orthodoxy or liberalism, imo. Peter flatly rejects the idea that the Bible is myth:


    For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter 1:16 NKJ)​


    The word for "fable" here is "muthos", the same root word for the modern term, "myth":


    3454 mu/qoj muthos {moo'-thos}​
    Meaning: 1) a speech, word, saying 2) a narrative, story 2a) a true narrative 2b) a fiction, a fable 2b1) an invention, a falsehood​
    Origin: perhaps from the same as 3453 (through the idea of tuition); TDNT - 4:762,610; n m​
    Usage: AV - fable 5; 5​

    Gerhard Von Rad's neo-orthodox theology called these stories myths and sagas. For him they were not true historical accounts but merely "inspired" stories. If we accept that view, then Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales could be "inspiring" stories as well. The doctrine of divine inspiration and biblical infallibility/inerrancy is thereby undermined. The other issue here is whether we have a rational/logical revelation from God in the words of the Bible? The neo-orthodox view is irrational and existential. It follows the philosophy of the existentialist philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, and Fredriech Schliermacher. How do you get the doctrine of the trinity from an experience? The trinity can only be revealed through propositional truth in Scripture. The same can be said of other doctrines like creation ex nihilo, the incarnation of Christ, the resurrection, etc. None of these things can be empirically verified nor can they be proven through Aquinas' rationalism. The only way to have any true knowledge of doctrine is from Scripture. So when the step is taken to make Scripture an "inspired" myth, the line has been crossed over into neo-orthodoxy.

    While I would agree that the description of creation is theological and not subject to modern scientific analysis, that is not the same thing as saying that the Bible is an analogy of special revelation and not special revelation itself. When the Bible says that God created Adam out of the mud of the ground, that is to be taken in a literal sense. When God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he became a living soul. The word soul is the rational image and likeness of God, man's consciousness, sentience, and rationality.

    In regard to Origen's allegorical method of interpretation, take a look at modern Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement and you'll see where that leads. The proper method of exegesis is the historical-grammatical approach, not allegorizing everything across the board. Only those portions of Scripture that identify themselves as allegorical or metaphorical should be interpreted that way. (See: Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy).
     
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  11. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Article XXII

    WE AFFIRM that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.
    WE DENY that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation. (See: Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics).
     
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  12. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Your distinction between "spiritual" allegories and secular allegories seems arbitrary. How do you define what is a "spiritual" allegory?
     
  13. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    Again, though, I'd like to know how the accusation of "neo-orthodoxy" could possibly apply to Origen, or to any of the other Church Fathers who undertook allegorical readings of their own. A Council on Biblical Inerrancy held in Chicago in 1978 is far more recent than the second and third centuries, and it propounds it decrees at its own risk of "neo"-isms and novelty. If "Scripture interprets Scripture," and there can be no allegorical or metaphorical readings except for those which the sacred authors plainly delineate in the bible, then how are we to know that Our Lord was not a literal shepherd? How do you justify the story of Jonah as prefiguring Christ's descent into hell and glorious Resurrection? The list goes on.

    This is almost a self-refuting argument you're making. If you can't get the doctrine of the Trinity or the Incarnation from an experience, then how did the authors of the biblical books get it? From an experience. The Church has always taught that the canonical writers were inspired by the Holy Ghost. It's evident in the writings of both the Old Testament prophets and St. John the Divine. "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you." "Write the things which thou hast seen ... "

    You're essentially arguing for the written account of a prophetic experience as superior to mystical experience, which Origen and St. Clement of Alexandria and other Church Fathers saw as the summit of the Christian life; they believed the purpose of the scriptures (holy scriptures indeed) was to direct man to a mystical and unitive knowledge of God. What is even the very first step in Christianity, one's conversion, but an experience? Metanoia means "after perception."

    Is it possible you're confusing Origen with Tertullian, who after an impressive career writing orthodox tracts joined the Montanists to dance around and babble glossolalia? As far as I know Origen never associated himself with such a scene. He taught an uncontroversial Neoplatonist doctrine of mystical contemplation, which he had learned from Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus. Nothing too crazy there.
     
  14. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    Well, as far as I know the story of the Three Little Pigs isn't making an allegorical statment about anything metaphysical (correct me if I am wrong).

    Some of the Early Church Fathers did, in fact, see certain aspects of pagan mythology as prefiguring Christian ideas, believing as they did that Christianity was necessarily universal in its essential character. St. Augustine perhaps summed this view up best when he wrote, "that which today is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and has never ceased to exist from the origin of the human race, until the time when Christ himself came, and men began to call ‘Christian’ the true religion which already existed beforehand." Augustine later retracted this sentiment, but someone like St. Clement of Alexandria would not have reputed it. In any case, what makes an allegory (or anything else) spiritual is that it confronts a spiritual concern. I consider the allegories in the Bible spiritual for probably the same reason you don't treat the Bible as a secular textbook.
     
  15. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Where the scriptures and a given church father or group of fathers disagree, the scriptures win out. There's a reason why Origen was declared a heretic by the Church catholic. IMHO an Anglican, of whatever persuasion, is only working in his wheelhouse when he works from a position that the Scriptures are accurate, inspired, and sufficient and that Tradition is authoritative, which it is, but only insofar as it agrees with scripture or else does not contradict it.
     
  16. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    Ancient heresies and neo-heresies are still heresies. The fact is Origen was condemned posthumously as a heretic because of his views on universalism. Furthermore, you're confusing ancient views on allegory with more recent ones in regards to pentecostalism. And by the way, when Jesus says he's the door, the vine, the light, etc. those are fairly obvious. He was a shepherd of His sheep, meaning the elect people of God. But was the bread and wine his body or only a metaphor? :) You obviously haven't read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics which clearly says:

    WE AFFIRM that Scripture communicates God's truth to us verbally through a wide variety of literary forms.​
    WE DENY that any of the limits of human language render Scripture inadequate to convey God's message.​
    This Affirmation is a logical literary extension of Article II which acknowledges the humanity of Scripture. The Bible is God's Word, but it is written in human words; thus, revelation is "verbal." Revelation is "propositional" (Article VI) because it expresses certain propositional truth. Some prefer to call it "sentential" because the truth is expressed in sentences. Whatever the term--verbal, propositional, or sentential--the Bible is a human book which uses normal literary forms. These include parables, satire, irony, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, poetry, and even allegory (e.g., Ezek. 16-17).

    I don't believe I denied that Scripture contains many different genres of literary forms. However, when the text does not specifically call for allegory, it is improper to interpret it that way. "David was the king of Israel" is not open to to a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation since it is obviously related to historical narrative. The creation account is nowhere identified as an allegory and neither is the flood story, though I would say that the flood story need not be global in scope.


    The last I checked you and I are not divinely inspired prophets or apostles. My contention is that Scripture alone is the Word of God and "our" experience is not revelation from God nor can it be used to write more Scriptures. The "experience" of an apostle or prophet may have produced the Bible but the Bible is in a special category of divine inspiration that is not reproducible by anyone today. If so, then your argument is that divinely inspired revelation is an ongoing process. The only other way I could understand what you're saying is if you say that all inspiring writings are "divinely" inspired, which would make Scripture just another book.

    So anyone who has an ineffable, direct, and mystical encounter can write Scripture? I guess you're including the Qu'ran, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas, and other sacred writings in what you would call "mystically inspired" books? Also, the word "metanoia" means "repentance" or "change of mind". It has to do with rational thinking, not ineffable and existential encounters of mystical ecstasy. I would suggest that you check out the meaning of the word in a good Greek lexicon.



    That would be "quite" impossible for me to make such a confusion. First of all, having done my undergraduate degree at a Pentecostal college and having been a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies during my seminary training, I can assure you that I am well acquainted with the Pentecostal appeal that Montanism and Tertullian were forerunners of their movement. Secondly, simply because Pentecostals allegorize everything it does not logically follow that Origen was a Pentecostal. All apes have hands so all men must be apes? Logic is required before you make statements that are non sequiturs.

    Jumping around all over the place does not make your argument rational or consistent.

    If the historical narratives of Acts and the Old Testament historical narratives in the Pentateuch and Joshua, the Kings and Chronicles are all "allegory", then it would follow that Israel never existed and neither did Jesus. It's all a big "myth" with no historical foundations whatsoever. And if you're going to accept history without any special revelation that is inerrant, even history is nothing more than someone's opinion about what happened. History without divine inspiration and infallibility and inerrancy is unreliable and useless.

    I can know the Bible is true because it claims to be the inspired Word of God and it is revealed in rational and propositional truth statements. (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
     
  17. Charlie J. Ray

    Charlie J. Ray Active Member

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    It would be nice if you could cite some sources for your information here.

    Also, you have not proved that Genesis 1-11 is in the genre of "allegory", "myth", or "saga". That's a presupposition. The text seems to indicate that the biblical writer, namely Moses, thought he was writing history. If there are errors in the Bible, then I suppose it could be taken as just a story. Simply because the phenomenological language of the creation account does not fit with modern historiography or empirical science does not make the account mythological, nor does it amount to saga or legend as the neo-orthodox scholars assert. I would also reject the documentary theory since I do not believe it is possible to prove such a thing. It is a presupposition that "apparent" problems in the text can only be explained by a documentary theory like JEDP. It's also a presupposition to assume that the Pentateuch is composed of late documents like "P" that were edited in after Josiah rediscovered certain other documents in the 6th century B.C. (See: Wellhausen Documentary Theory).
     
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  18. Old Christendom

    Old Christendom Well-Known Member

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    The allegorical sense in Scripture has always been based on the literal sense. If there's no literal sense to begin with, then there can be no allegory: if Jonah hadn't really and historically been inside the belly of a fish, as the Scripture states, then it could not prefigurate Christ's resurrection. Or who is to say that Christ's resurrection was a factual event anyway? It could be another allegory. People don't usually rise from the dead.

    The Bible is God's word and God's word cannot contain factual lies that one then euphemistically calls "myths" in order to maintain a semblance of respectability. If Adam and Eve didn't really exist, then nothing else can be trusted and the Christian religion crumbles as a facade of Jewish fables. Who is then to assure us that the Flood really took place? Or that the walls of Jericho really fell down at the sound of trumpets? Or that Mary really conceived as a Virgin? Or that Christ really resurrected from the dead? Once the scriptural text has been divorced from its plain textual meaning, it has been virtually murdered and no certainty of truth can be established. For all we know, the facts that we hold as dear to our faith can all be "spiritual allegories of the highest order, pertaining to ultimate truths concerning the divine," as you put it. In fact, there are many modern "theologians" who think like this: it's a resurgence of gnosticism.

    This, of course, is nothing short of a formal abandonment of the divinely revealed religion. Please, reconsider this stance, Simon.
     
  19. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    Right. Origen was condemned for universalism; he was not condemned for his allegorical reading of Genesis, which is the stated topic here. You haven't proven his exegetical methods as heretical.

    Yes, some allegories are more obvious than others. But "obvious" is frequently in the eye of the beholder. You said that Scripture interprets Scripture. Is it now the case that readers of Scripture can interpret it based on their own consideration of what constitutes "obviously allegorical"? Or do we submit to yours?

    How do you contend the flood was not global if "all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered"? If the waters covered the Himalayas, then that indicates a rise in sea level sparing nothing else whatsoever, and therefore global. I'm just reading the text "plainly and straightforwardly" here, Charlie. It's not obvious to me that, if Genesis is a literal history, the deluge was simply a regional event.

    I think you're confusing prophetic visionary experiences with mystical experiences. I never claimed they were the same thing. The prophetic experience can be translated into language that is sometimes matter-of-fact, and sometimes poetic and descriptive, and this is reflected in the various styles found in the books of the Bible (which is why it's frequently "write this in a book" or "behold, I saw." Mystical experience, on the other hand, is ineffable and beyond words, which is why those who attempt to arrange it as such are often misunderstood, viewed suspiciously, or outright condemned. I classify the Bible as a compendium of divinely-inspired books, and wholly agree with tradition that the scriptural and universal revelation concluded with the death of the last apostle. I also follow tradition in accepting that individual mystical experience is not off-limits to the Christian believer (indeed, for the contemplative, it is the apex of Christian life). I am not aware that Anglicanism repudiates mysticism or contemplation. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Don't know if these constitute good Greek lexicons for you, but:

    Wiktionary | metanoia: Ancient Greek μετάνοια (metanoia, “repentance”), a compound of μετά (meta, “after, with”) and νοέω (noeō, “to perceive, to think”).

    OrthodoxWiki | metanoia (Greek μετάνοια) means a "change of heart," or, more literally, "after perception."

    The Christian concept frequently carries both meanings, as one must first perceive one's sinfulness before repenting of it. As can be read in St. Augustine's Confessions, his long road to conversion was not purely rational and was in fact accompanied by visionary episodes; most famously, the one where he hears the voices of children playing—"chanting, and oft repeating, 'take up and read, take up and read.' Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God."

    Begging your pardon, but I'm not "jumping around all over the place." You claimed that Origen's allegorical method leads to Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity. I merely pointed out that that it did not end that way for Origen himself, nor for many of the theologians who carried his influence. Nor for me, in fact. So what's your point?

    You now say, "simply because Pentecostals allegorize everything it does not logically follow that Origen was a Pentecostal." Well, huh. Okay. Why, then, does Origen necessarily lead to Pentacostalism, when Origen himself pointed to contemplation and when his contemporaries and successors followed him there? Later devotees like St. Gregory of Nyssa and Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite were as far from Pentecostal as you can get, being interested in mannered, ritualistic, and richly symbolic liturgical trappings—a far cry from any hootin' and hollerin'.

    Sorry; is this thread asking about the figurative nature of Genesis 1-11 (particularly 3), or is it greater in scope than that? I've never claimed that the entire Bible is allegorical.

    This is the root of our disagreement, and although we might getting prickly at times, I'll take a moment to say that I'm enjoying this discussion and learning a good deal about Protestantism.

    I do not think the Garden account in Genesis is history. I don't see why it has it to be. I personally think it takes a cruel view of the Bible to contend that its purpose was to propose an apparently mythological account for us to accept as factual history; I think the story is conveying far more important spiritual truths about our alienation from God. It is making the basic case for Christianity: that our lives are askew; that we are drawn towards the world & the flesh at the expense of stewarding and orienting our souls to their proper destination. Adam & Eve did not die a mortal death; they died a spiritual death. This is like, to use metaphor, a curse, or an inherited inclination to sin. For the reparation of this fractured relationship with God, see: the Gospels.
     
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  20. Simon Magus

    Simon Magus Member

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    I would say the Creed, for one, compels to us to believe in things like the Virginity of Mary or the Resurrection of Christ. Just to point it out again, Origen was not condemned for his refusal to accept a literal garden of Eden. Yet he accepted the literal histories of the gospels, following St. Paul: "if Christ is not risen then our faith is in vain." The maxim that Origen held firmly to, St. Irenaeus' "God became man so that man might become divine" would (indeed) be worthless if God did not actually and literally become man. Because it would follow that man is forever estranged from the divine if the salvific acts did not take place. The story describing the estrangement can certainly be allegorical; but the reconciliation that amends the estrangement must be real; it must really happen. Man cannot save himself; only God can do that, and he either truly does it or truly does not.