Is Genesis all literal, all allegory, or somewhere between?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by ZachT, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Faith concerns the unseen. Science is about the observable and what can be inferred from it. If a particular interpretation of Scripture conflicts with a known scientific fact, then that interpretation is simply false, and we are not bound by it, end of story. Assuming harmony between revelation and science is the traditional Christian - and Anglican - way of interpretation. What you’re arguing for is crude fundamentalism, not Anglicanism.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
  2. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,555
    Likes Received:
    2,358
    Are you an avid reader of Spong or simply cut from the same cloth?
     
  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Spong was a charlatan. I’ve never read a single thing Spong wrote and I don’t plan to. I also don’t identify or sympathize with his overall project. In the area of churchmanship I’m very much a traditionalist. My main areas of interest are European and Middle Eastern history, modern science, classical philosophy, medieval theology, biblical criticism and hermeneutics, Judaism, Islam, music, liturgics, space exploration, science fiction, theoretical political science, environmental engineering, and chess. Spong has nothing to offer me. I have probably read and forgotten more than he ever knew, to put it mildly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
  4. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,555
    Likes Received:
    2,358
    Very impressive
     
    Invictus likes this.
  5. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

    Posts:
    194
    Likes Received:
    93
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Those other people were probably descendants of Adam and Eve. The Bible says they had other children and Jewish tradition says they had 50+ children. Some of these might already have had children of their own. These people would have more reason to kill Cain than strangers since Abel was their close relative. Where did those people get their partners? They married each other. Incest wasn't forbidden until the time of Moses. Abraham married his half sister. This also answers the old question about where did Cain get his wife.
     
    Lowly Layman likes this.
  6. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

    Posts:
    194
    Likes Received:
    93
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Yes I believe in evolution but not the theory of evolution.

    There is good reason to believe that the created kinds had the potential to produce many species each adapted to their environment. This allowed the relatively few kinds on the Ark to produce the many species we have today.

    However the idea that all life originated from a single common ancestor that itself arose naturally form non living matter is scientifically untenable. Evolutionists hold to this as a matter of faith, not science.
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Why go through these speculative gymnastics when it’s clear from textual clues that these were originally unrelated stories that were put together by a later editor? The corollary of assuming this was the work of a single author is that there are unexplained gaps throughout that can only be filled by denying the plain sense. As Gunckel argued so powerfully two centuries ago, these stories are etiological, not historical.
     
  8. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

    Posts:
    194
    Likes Received:
    93
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Actually I think it requires more mental gymnastics to follow that view.

    Gen 1 and Gen 2 are complementary, not conflicting. Your view also implies that the editor, Moses, was an idiot who jammed two conflicting stories together either without noticing or without trying to resolve the conflicts. You could say that Gen 1 was the prologue to the book of Genesis. (Noting of course that originally there was no division into chapters so they flowed naturally)
     
    Lowly Layman likes this.
  9. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

    Posts:
    174
    Likes Received:
    186
    Let us all reaffirm that they were put together by the holy ghost.

    This does not tip the scales in this discussion. It is just a reminder that whichever view ends up being right, what should not come out for the worse is the sacred, inviolable and inspired majesty of the holy Scriptures.
     
    Rexlion and ZachT like this.
  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Of course, just as Luke describes writing his own inspired Gospel:
    It is the “final product” which is inspired, and canon. If the ultimate author is God, it doesn’t matter who the human authors were.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
  11. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    It’s not “my” view; it’s simply modern scholarship. It is intrinsically unlikely that Moses was the editor of a set of a books that describe his own death in past tense. While I certainly uphold the divine inspiration of these books, there is little reason today to maintain that their human author/editor/redactor was Moses. I suggest Richard Elliott Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible? for an excellent treatment of the subject, or the Introduction to the Pentateuch in The Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools (which is public domain). Another excellent treatment is James Kugel’s How to Read the Bible.
     
  12. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    492
    Likes Received:
    469
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Only if Saint Augustine was also cut from the same cloth. To quote the Original Post:

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.​
    ~ from 'The Literal Interpretation of Genesis' - St. Augustine

    Anglicans pay appropriate respect to the Church Fathers when looking how to interpret scripture. Augustine is the greatest of those. It would be a great tragedy to abandon the freedom of Anglican Reason, and instead take an extremist literalist view that would make even Saint Basil blush.

    It is a modern, tradition-divorced apostolic-divorced evangelical American invention that genesis is all literal with no wiggle room. When Augustine explained his literal reading of Genesis he still made sure he clarified that some things were not to be taken literally. And his qualifier was when science contradicts it. For if an observation of nature, and an interpretation of scripture are in crisis, surely the interpretation of scripture must be wrong. Nature also obeys God’s Word. Nature contradicting scripture is like God’s Word contradicting God’s Word, it cannot happen, something has gone wrong on our end not God’s end.
     
    Invictus likes this.
  13. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    492
    Likes Received:
    469
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Darwin’s Theory of Evolution doesn’t predicate an adherence to ‘abiogenesis’ (that is life evolved from non-life). Abiogenesis is a product of Huxley, not of Darwin.

    I’d also qualify that it doesn’t make much difference to me if God created the first micro-organisms from dust, or if they evolved from dust through some process God set in motion, neither of them are Man as would exist in Eden, wearing clothes and eating fruits. So this is all still in day 6, when the animals and humans are in the process of being created. If, in my lifetime, science proves Abiogenesis beyond doubt it won’t shake my faith by even the smallest portion of one iota.
     
    Invictus likes this.
  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Exactly. Darwin’s theory only explains the variations, i.e., how they came about: common descent, speciation through natural selection, genetic drift, etc. It doesn’t explain, and was not intended to explain, the origin of life. This, of course, does not mean that we won’t one day have a viable scientific theory that purports to explain how the first unicellular organism came to be.
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    2,710
    Likes Received:
    2,506
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    I'm actually in favor of evolution, but this kind of fanaticism will definitely turn off good faithful Christians. It's been described in the academic literature as scientific fundamentalism, or 'scientism', and for Christians is completely unwarranted.

    When science advocated the science of eugenics, should the Christians have kept quiet? When science advocated the science of phrenology, should the Christians have kept quiet? When science advocated the multiple races of mankind, should the Christians have kept quiet? When science advocated the eternal existence of the universe, should the Christians have kept quiet?

    Science is not a god, or a demigod. It's run by the same broken people who fart into the wind and molest children, like the rest of humanity consumed in degeneracy and sin. They aren't immune from any temptations and corruptions which break every other field of human endeavor. There are literally hundreds of cases where science said A, while revelation said B, and A turned out to be wrong. I already mentioned to you the Hittites in a recent thread, an example from the field of history. Wrong scientists, correct bible.

    Yeah but you aren't advocating for a harmony (which I'm in favor 0f). You're advocating for submission. You're advocating for domination.

    "Science is infallible, and whatever it says, is automatically true until only it (the one infallible agent) perhaps corrects itself or doesn't." That literally goes against the entire history of science from its origins in the 17th century. You not only have cases where revelation overturned the scientific consensus, but there is a problem with even the process of science itself, being not linear (as you present it), but socially-conditioned, and powered by things like social consensus and peer pressure -- as demonstrated by Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    There is literally zero reason to assume that tomorrow our entire scientific understanding of the universe won't be completely changed because of a new paradigm. Not new evidence, same evidence as now, just a different way of thinking about it. That's what Kuhn described: science doesn't move linearly, but is stuck within scientific paradigms, enforced by social conformity and peer pressure. Geocentrism as 'the paradigm', until heliocentrism. Now heliocentrism as 'the paradigm', until relativity ie. geocentrism again.

    It would be foolish to give that body of work more respect than any other human endeavor would deserve. Science is incredible, and powerful, and deeply important, but so is metaphysics, so is ethics, so is aesthetics, so is theology. All of these give us access to the truth.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    The position I’ve outlined is no different from what Philo said, from what Augustine said, from what Maimonides said, from what Averroes said, from what Thomas Aquinas said, from what Galileo and Newton said. Classical, medieval and modern, Jewish, Islamic, and Christian thinkers, all in basic agreement on the hermeneutical principle that all truth comes from God, and thus that truth discovered via the medium of one discipline must be compatible with truth discovered via another. I also didn’t say “scientific theory”, I said “scientific fact”. That evolution (for example) has happened is a fact; Darwin’s theory is currently the best supported explanation of that fact (by far), but as such is nevertheless provisional and may in the future be superseded by a more precise theory. There’s nothing “fanatical” about that, and it’s not my choice (or my concern) whether that “turns off” people or not. It is every person’s individual responsibility to overcome the prejudice of their own presuppositions in pursuit of the truth, and to follow that pursuit wherever it may lead. It is faithless to assume that free enquiry leads one away from the truth of God.
     
  17. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,555
    Likes Received:
    2,358
    The greatest?! Personal opinions of St. Augustine aside, Augustine isn't even universally recognized. Many in the Orthodox stream of the Church catholic view him as a heretic.

    As an Anglican, I am very deferential to the united voice of the Church Fathers, but on the Creation story, their voice is not united. For every father that promoted an allegorical view of Creation, there was one or more who upheld the literal interpretation. Ephraim the Syrian, Basil of Caesarea, and Ambrose of Milan, among others, all affirmed that Creation consisted of six 24-hour days and that the earth was 6000 years old.

    And let's not kid ourselves that Augustine opened the door to evolutionism. He rejected a literal reading of a six day creation because, for him, it was too long. He believed God created the universe instantaneously. Anselm and Bede attempted to find common ground, saying that the universe was created instantaneously but formed over six days. Only one church father, Origen, advocated the view that creation was an eternal process, similar to evolutionists, but his view was roundly rejected by the Ancient Church.

    But even if the ECFs were united in their view, we should not make more of their writings than they did. Augustine wrote:

    "Neither weigh we the writings of all men. Be they never so worthy and catholic, as we weigh the canonical Scriptures, but that, saving [notwithstanding] the reverence that is due unto them, we may mislike and refuse somewhat in their writings, if we find that they have thought otherwise than the truth may bear. Such am I in the writings of others, and such would I wish others to be in mine."

    And there is nothing Anglican about following the ECFs on their flights of fancy when they are mistaken. John Jewel reminds us of their fallibility:

    "Some things I believe and some things they write I cannot believe. Cyprian was the doctor of the Church, yet he was deceived; Jerome was a doctor of the Church, yet he was deceived; Augustine was a doctor of the Church, yet he wrote a book of retractions. He acknowledged that he was deceived."

    At any rate, Sacred Scripture, when clear, as it is here, should be the beginning and end of our inquiry on a subject.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,514
    Likes Received:
    1,797
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Microevolution, sure. Macroevolution, no.

    Let's say a group of trout get closed off from all the other trout, like in a landlocked lake or a cave. Those trout interbreed, they're affected by their environment, they adjust and adapt physically to their situation, and after many generations they will no longer be quite the same as the other trout in other places. Microevolution. But usually they're still identifiable as trout and it's quite possible they could still interbreed with those other trout. If they lose those characteristics, maybe we would no longer call them trout; maybe they would be grayling (another, similar fish). This kind of evolving, I accept.

    But do I believe that a fish can evolve into an amphibian? Or that a whale can evolve (or mutate) into a cow? No. I don't have any faith in that sort of macroevolution.
     
    strelitziaflower and CRfromQld like this.
  19. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Those who do are disobeying their own Church. Augustine is a Saint in Eastern Orthodoxy. He is cited as such by even the most virulently anti-Western of the post-Schism Orthodox spiritual writers, and he is the patron of many an Orthodox parish.
    https://www.goarch.org/-/saint-augustine-greek-orthodox-tradition

    This is itself a non-biblical position. The Scriptures never make this claim for themselves, nor can such nakedly fundamentalist language be found in the Anglican formularies. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal what is necessary for salvation. They are not a science, history, or medical textbook. They do not teach philosophy. They are not a parenting manual, or a guide to politics. They do not participate in the attributes of God. They are an inspired record of God’s love toward his creation, and man’s response to the mercy of God. :facepalm:
     
  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    This is a creationist myth that has no support from the actual science. There is in fact no distinction between the two. The processes responsible for small changes over short periods of time are the same processes responsible for large changes over long periods of time. As mechanisms of change, they are one and the same causal processes. No “faith” is required: the evidence is right where the theory predicts we’ll find it, in the fossil record, with transitional forms right where we would expect to find them. That all living things have a common ancestor is an established fact, not a belief. That may be uncomfortable for some to accept but the evidence is in such a far superior state compared to what it was in Darwin’s day, that denialism is not an intellectually defensible option anymore. A fantastic book that explains all this in more or less layman’s terms is Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021