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

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

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    1,700
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    If the account of Adam and Eve is just a story meant to demonstrate a principle, and if it never really happened, where do we draw the line? Who is to say if any Bible account is historical? Maybe the stuff about King David and King Solomon are just stories. For that matter, maybe the stuff about Jesus is just an illustrative tale! To paraphrase Tiffy, maybe "the only reason literal fundamentalists are so insistent that" Jesus Christ was a real historical character "is in defence of their assertion that every word of the Bible must be taken literally. It is a matter of what has the right to control one's behaviour. The Bible for them is an authority, not merely an inspired collection of self help healing books and a travel guide and road map back to God. It has been provided, according to their way of thinking, by God, to legislate and control our behaviour, threaten destruction to the wicked, and provide instructions for salvation for the elect."

    Let's keep in sight the fact that there are hundreds of millions of people who think that the account of Jesus' virgin birth, sinless life, and resurrection is a "tall tale" and a fabrication, and a great many of those even doubt that Jesus ever existed at all. They think Christians are just a bunch of control freaks, too gullible to see that their book is a bunch of fairy tales. This lie of the devil is the eventual end product of the train of thought which begins with the more-easily-accepted lie, "Adam and Eve never literally existed."
     
    Carolinian and Othniel like this.
  2. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,069
    Likes Received:
    1,057
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    I've never been a big fan of "slippery slope" theories, and there's no rule that says it has to be "all or nothing". No serious person today believes that Julius Caesar was descended from the goddess Venus, but that doesn't mean we today doubt that Caesar was a historical person. The strength of each individual claim is proportionate to the evidence which supports it. There is a ton of evidence that Jesus existed, and thus no real reason to doubt it. Why should that even come up in a discussion about Genesis? Such a retort makes little sense outside an a priori fundamentalist framework.
     
    Tiffy likes this.
  3. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    698
    Likes Received:
    587
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    Because on the liberal side, it's all of a piece. They don't just doubt the accuracy of certain verses or books in the bible; the doubt the authority of the Bible, period. In fact if not rhetorically, liberals simply do not accept the Bible as the actual Word of God. They take it as a book written by and for men, and that "inspiration" is not Divine but rather just an overall "feeling" within the individual writer. It's a historical book, a curiosity, and something to be kept in a museum as a curiosity rather than an eternal record of God's own words to us, his people.

    Oh, liberals will deny it. They'll insist that they "respect" and "honor" the Bible. But if you listen carefully, you'll begin to understand that for most liberal Christians, the Bible is simply defunct as a vehicle for teaching ethics, morality, or even religious practice. They no longer even affirm Christ as part of the everlasting Holy Trinity, except in some ridiculous "cosmic Christ" sense (look up Richard Rohr if you're curious about this nonsense). And you should hear the verbal gyrations that ensue when you ask them to affirm the death and resurrection of Christ!

    Ultimately, liberal "Christianity" is not the actual Christian faith at all, but a New Age syncretic version of the faith handed down by our fathers. It's like Mormonism in a lot of ways, except that liberals worship themselves rather than any higher Godhead. Anglicans were (sadly) innovators here too -- consider Bishop Spong, who flat-out denies the deity of Christ! Spong is a blatant and unapologetic heretic, and yet has never been excommunicated or defrocked. There is something sick in a church that allows this kind of man into the priesthood (and makes him a Bishop!).
     
    Carolinian likes this.
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,069
    Likes Received:
    1,057
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    I reject the "liberal/conservative" dichotomy in general as largely meaningless, and especially so when it comes to religion. There are believers and non-believers, and neither are in short supply within the Church. There are those who pray, fast, and give alms, and those who do not. It is not a requirement that one adhere to premodern or fundamentalist assumptions about Scripture, to be part of the former group. For someone to hem-haw about the Resurrection is a very different matter, for there is no escaping that the Resurrection had to be genuinely historical or it had no ontological impact whatsoever. Disagreements over Genesis amount to differences in opinion over what literary genre different books of the OT belong to.

    A person need not have any anti-supernatural bias at all to question whether a specific event in the OT - e.g., the Exodus - was genuinely historical as described. There can be no "natural" or scientific explanation for something like the crossing of the Red Sea, as described. It was either miraculous or it didn't happen. Some doubt it happened as described not because of a naturalistic bias but because of the lack of evidence that millions of people roamed the Sinai and northern Arabia during that time, as well as the lack of evidence of any great invasion of Canaan during that period as well. On the other hand, names like "Moses" and "Phineas" are Egyptian names, so it stands to reason that somebody came out of Egypt, even if there is some distance - both temporal and literary - between the events themselves and the events as described.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
  5. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    698
    Likes Received:
    587
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    Given all the evidence to the contrary, that's quite a statement. It's true that we use "liberal" and "conservative" in their religious rather than their political contexts, but denying that there is a dichotomy at all...that kind of blows my mind, to be honest. What else explains all the schisming going on in the Protestant churches now? What else explains the battles between the trads and the progressives in the Roman church? This isn't just a little fracture we're looking at -- it's the Grand Canyon.

    I suppose we could use the words "progressive" and "orthodox" instead, but that amounts to the same difference in my mind. Also, I don't consider liberal theology (or politics, come to that) as particularly progressive, given that it looks to a century-old ideology (Marxism) as its founding principle.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,069
    Likes Received:
    1,057
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Not really. I'm not aware of any such evidence, and I consider the viewpoint I'm espousing to be rather mundane. The words aren't opposites, for starters. "Conservative" is a positional term: it means whatever lies between whatever are considered the two "extreme" positions on a given subject. If history teaches us anything, it is that, absent any other principles, to merely be a strict "conservative" is to have ever-shifting convictions that follow a moving target. The word "liberal" has a perfectly good historic meaning that any free person should want to adopt as his or her own, but it's been so co-opted and distorted beyond any recognizable relationship to its historic usage that it's basically meaningless at this point. In practical terms the word communicates nothing except as a pejorative. Neither word is particularly helpful anymore, especially when it comes to theology. I refuse to use them because they don't actually mean anything.
     
  7. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    698
    Likes Received:
    587
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
  8. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    698
    Likes Received:
    587
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    I disagree. I respect that you don't like how those words are used, but they do indeed have a commonly-understood meaning in the current cultural context. You cannot read modern-day theology, apologetics, or hermeneutics without using those words. You can try to redefine them, I suppose, but I'm no fan of people unilaterally redefining well-understood words to suit their own purposes. I agree that the word "liberal" has been hijacked by people who are not actually liberal in any meaningful sense, but we are where we are. Liberal no longer means what it used to mean, in the sense that "awful" no longer means what it used to mean. (Once upon a time, "awful intercourse" referred to thrilling conversation.)

    This is part of the reason why moderns find the King James Bible to be so difficult to read -- many of the words it uses are either archaic and don't occur in modern conversation, or their meanings have changed. Just listen to the kids snicker when they read this: "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass". I may complain that ass is a perfectly valid alternative to donkey, but in modern usage, it's going to cause problems whether I like it or not. And remember when "gay" meant "happy"? Just try writing "he was a very gay man", and see how many people understand that in the old sense of the word.

    I've written elsewhere that one of the signal traits of leftists is that they wage war on language -- Orwell had the truth of it when he wrote of Newspeak. If you control language, you control speech; if you control speech, you control minds. When language changes consensually (as it always does), it's a different matter; that's just how human languages work. But leftists do it as a method of power and control, which makes it not just totalitarian and creepy, but downright evil.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
    Carolinian and Stalwart like this.
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,069
    Likes Received:
    1,057
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    This is precisely why I refuse to use "liberal" and "conservative": it forces every conversation employing these terms into a virtual echo chamber with only two sides, and I simply have too much respect for theology as a branch of knowledge to treat it the same way political disagreements are also (erroneously) treated.

    For the record, I'm not "redefining" anything: I know exactly what the words mean and what others intend by using by them. What I object to is having theological positions defined by the lowest common denominator's need for only two binary choices. The only theological opinions that matter to me (beyond being of merely historical interest) are those promulgated by those who approach the Scriptures and the whole Christian Tradition with a believing heart and a discerning mind, and I have no interest in having my religious views formed by those who would deny such things as the Deity of Christ or the reality of the Resurrection, for example. That being said, genuine, believing Christians can disagree in good faith over just how historical some specific passages were or were meant to be understood. What would be ideal is for Protestant Christianity in its various iterations to return to a confessional approach to doctrine and discipline. Unfortunately in our own case, Anglicanism simply stopped doing this from a very early point in its development, so differences of opinion such as the ones we've been discussing are inherent to Anglicanism as it has developed historically, and there is really no easy way to resolve them since we lack a proper teaching office.
     
  10. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,589
    Likes Received:
    1,171
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    This is pretty well the Literal Fundamentalist point of view it would seem.

    The problem with it, for the non-fanatical bibliographically educated, believing disciple of Jesus Christ, is it's complete denial of verifiable facts concerning the clarity, accuracy and completeness of agreement between the various extant texts, that the Bible is compiled from.

    And which Bible, pray, is the truly authentic one which contains no errors, omissions, additions, mistranslations, allegories, fictional stories, poetic exaggeration etc, and can be literally held up against all scientific knowledge to irrefutably refute every geological, geographical, historical, cosmological, psychological, medical and experiential truth that mankind has gained in the following 1700 or so years, since the last of its sections was written and bound into a single book?

    THIS is why the Bible only claims itself to be INSPIRED, and 'useful', not errorless, (in the sense that it contains no misprints, faulty translations or a few errors), infallible, (though what book could even begin to meet the criteria for 'infallibility', since theoretically only God can be infallible, even the universe will somehow, sometime, fail to sustain itself) or perfect, (something else only God is able to achieve) or even 'authoritative' (in the sense that everyone MUST believe and apply every edict laid down in it, (right down to the mandatory stoning to death of children who disobey their parents), as happened back in the bronze age. Deut.21:18-21.

    Such slavish adherence to a theory put forward by 18th century religious fanatics in the USA, presumably to have an unquestionable authority backing up their prejudices and excusing their excesses in their desire to control their fellow countrymen and impose their own favoured ethical framework upon an entire nation, is fanatical in itself, and departs considerably from the view of scripture held by the Church for nearly two millennia, besides being strikingly similar in effect and attitude to Islamists in the way they regard the interpretation and application of the many edicts contained in their own scriptures.
    .
     
  11. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    698
    Likes Received:
    587
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    I got a good laugh out of that. You're a card, Tiffy. Never change!

    I could quote Cranmer or Jewel or Packer or Stott or Wright at you, and all of them stout sons of England. But you know what? I'm not going to. First, I suspect that you know as well as I do that what you're writing is nonsense; and second, I think you do this stuff to get a rise out of people*. I shan't be drawn. I have learned to be a wily fish and not bite at the worm when it is dangled before me.

    *In the barbaric backwoods hellhole we call the United States of America, we call this sort of thing "trolling".
     
    Carolinian likes this.
  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,589
    Likes Received:
    1,171
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    I think you will find that Cranmer, Jewel, Packer, Lancelot Andrewes etc were fanatical about some things, but Biblical 'inerrancy' was never one of them. It is a product of American fanatics of the 18th century, and is probably due to the many different fundamentalist sects that migrated to those shores from their slightly more tolerant mother countries, (though admittedly not nearly tolerant enough to tolerate them). :laugh:
    .
     
    Invictus likes this.
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,589
    Likes Received:
    1,171
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    No one. You can't prove it is true, nor can any atheist prove it's not. But does it have to be true in order for you to take the risk of missing out on all that sin you would otherwise want to get on with, instead of turning over your life to Jesus Christ, who is alive today, and will give you the Holy Spirit, and come inside, and sit down to supper with you?

    Are you going to turn down the offer he gives, of having all your sins forgiven and starting over again, a new life, as a virtually new person, with Christ Jesus inside you giving you directions as to what is right and wrong, and waiting for you to occupy the place that he has prepared for you, after you have gone the same way he did, when he was on earth and died a horrible death, on your behalf?

    I'd say if you were foolish enough to turn down such an opportunity of a free pass to heaven, just because you didn't think Adam and Eve existed and were beguiled by a talking snake, you would have to be the stupidest person on earth. :laugh:
    .
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    1,700
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Yes. It has to be true. Because if it is not true, then the following is not true.

    Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
    Rom 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
    Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
    Rom 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
    Rom 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
    Rom 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
    Rom 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
    Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous
    .

    If Adam and Even never actually lived and sinned, then sin did not enter into the world by one man; if the scripture that says sin entered into the world by Adam is wrong, then the veracity of the scripture that says "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" is called into question. "All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" is cast into question, too. If we can't be sure that the train of reasoning contained in Romans 5:19 is inspired by God and assured to be correct, then we can't be sure of anything we read in Romans. If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, will we be save? If we can't trust what it says, the answer is, "maybe, or maybe not; who knows?" Indeed, the truthfulness of Scripture in its entirety and its status as the inspired word of God is placed in doubt, all because the veracity of the above verses is made doubtful by the foolish insistence that Adam never really lived, never really existed, never committed the sin that caused death to reign "from Adam to Moses" and beyond.
     
    Carolinian likes this.
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    1,700
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Wrangling over the labels of "liberal" and "conservative is a cheap way out. The dichotomy exists, regardless of the labels one likes or doesn't like.
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,589
    Likes Received:
    1,171
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    Was Shylock a Jew? Did McBeth commit a murder? Did Adam transgress? Did Scrooge mend his ways? Did ET ride in the basket of a BMX bike?

    If the answer to all these questions is YES, which of these statements is not true?
    .
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    1,700
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Following this new theology of yours, you are the first Adam and I am the first Adam. We all are, corporately, "the first Adam."

    So much for sin entering the world "by one man's sin."

    And how exactly could Jesus be the "last Adam" when all of us, "first Adams" all, came two millenia after the "last Adam"? Doesn't that make the word "last" entirely void of meaning? Doesn't it make Romans 5:12-19 void of meaning, too?

    This new theology sounds like something cooked up by the Addams Family. :p Maybe Lurch dug it up in the graveyard out back.
     
    Stalwart likes this.
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    1,700
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Was Shylock a Jew? Not for real.
    Did McBeth commit a murder? Not for real.
    Did Adam transgress? Yes, for real!
    Did Scrooge mend his ways? Not for real.
    Did ET ride in the basket of a BMX bike? Not for real.
     
    Carolinian likes this.
  19. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,069
    Likes Received:
    1,057
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    It’s not a matter of liking or not liking certain labels. It’s a matter of finding them to be inaccurate. The “cheap” way is to simply accept them whether they actually fit their intended referents or not. But, one man’s labels are another man’s laziness. It takes effort to examine a subject from all sides without prejudice, and then come to a considered conclusion on the merits, on a case by case basis. This insistence on echo chamber thinking is overly simplistic and has done tremendous damage to many segments of our society, the Church included. I choose not to cooperate with that approach. I discuss the issues; I have no interest in assigning labels.
     
    Botolph likes this.
  20. Carolinian

    Carolinian Active Member Anglican

    Posts:
    162
    Likes Received:
    158
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Christian
    Someone who supports women's ordination and denies the existence of a real Adam or a real Eve is orthodox and not "progressive." What would we consider someone who supports the ordination of active homosexuals to the priesthood? Would it be fair to consider them progressive or not? Why? Are they orthodox?

    Let's say that I don't believe that Moses existed. Can I still be orthodox? How many ancient doctrines, practices, and customs must I deny before I become "progressive."