Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 1 – General

For the next couple of posts we’ll look at the theological problems raised by the creationist and Intelligent Design views. This one will be a general look at creationism. This is were the theological muscles get flexed after the science and socio-historic criticism has been dealt out. Firstly, we look at criticism of creationism. This includes scientific ignorance, the ludicrous claims made by creationists, the unethical ploys adopted, and the disregard of proper exegesis.

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Robert Cornwall states that taking the Genesis creation accounts literally makes it look like Christianity “has been left behind intellectually.” Conor Cunningham echoes this sentiment when he says that “the advent and rise of creationism and its understanding of the Bible represent a lapse into intellectual barbarism, a complete desertion of the Christian tradition.” St Augustine’s words are just as applicable today as when he wrote them between AD 397 and 400 in Book 11 of his Confessions: “It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.” This scorn of the unbelievers is called irrisio infidelium. Augustine explained the serious ramifications of irrisio infidelium:

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full off falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

 

Part of the ignorance found within creationism is the ridiculous claims made to support the creationist stance. Mark Isaak states that “the invalid ‘proofs’ necessary to support antievolution, a global flood, and a young earth have pushed people away from Christianity.” Bram van de Beek agrees that attempting to make science fit with the literal interpretation of the Bible results in pseudoscience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” Pseudoscience is a cause of mockery and may prevent others from taking any Christian claims or communications seriously. Robert T. Pennock provides an example of absurdity invoked to defend the creationist account against evolution: “To defend the scientific plausibility of Noah’s Ark, ICR creation-scientist John Woodmorappe provides a book-length feasibility study and finds himself arguing that Noah solved the problem of animal waste management by training the animals to urinate and defecate upon command as someone held a bucket behind them.” Perhaps the most ridiculous claim was the one made by Accelerated Christian Education, which states that the Loch Ness Monster is proof against evolution (see the Top 5 Lies Taught by Accelerated Christian Education). After some unwanted publicity about the inclusion of Nessie in a science curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education has decided to leave Nessie and a “sea monster” caught by a Japanese fishing trailer out of the new editions. I actually did that science PACE and mostly forgot about it until I read Jonny Scaramanga‘s blog about the lies taught by ACE.

 

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In addition to ridiculous claims, sometimes unethical means are utilized to argue for creationism. There are those in the creationist camp that choose to demonize the perceived enemy by arguments such as the following by Henry Morris: “Satan invented the evolutionary concept and is using it as his vehicle to deceive the nations and to turn men away from God.” Robert Cornwall adds an interesting observation: “…the voices that yell the loudest are the most extreme. It is either the militant fundamentalist or the militant secularist… These two extremes agree on one thing: that literalism is the only legitimate religious voice, which means that one must choose between God and evolution.”

 

Besides simply being bad science and at times using unethical arguments, creationism also fails to take the interpretation of Scripture seriously. Christopher Southgate states that “creationism both fails to take science seriously, and uses a very dubious method of interpreting Scripture.” Creationism tends to take a literal stance to Scripture and see the Bible as absolutely inerrant. As Van de Beek states, creationism fails to take into regard the osmosis between context and theology. The stance of inerrancy ignores textual criticism, source criticism, syncretism, and the values of the authors. Basically, the approach used by Biblical literalism does not do the text justice. Isaak lists several examples of factual errors and contradictions in the Bible that shows how the literal, inerrant reading of the Bible does not treat the Bible properly:

  • Lev 11: 6 states rabbits chew the cud.
  • Lev 11: 20-23 speaks of four-legged insects, including grasshoppers as four-legged insects.
  • I Chron 16: 30 and Ps 93: 1 both state that the earth is immobile.
  • In Gen 1, God creates Adam after all the other animals, but in Gen 2, Adam is created before the animals.
  • Matt 1: 16 and Luke 3: 23 differ over the genealogy of Jesus. According to Matthew, the grandfather of Jesus was Jacob, but according to Luke he was Heli.
  • Mark 14: 72 differs from Matt 26: 74-75, Luke 22: 60-61, and John 18: 27 about the number of times the cock crowed. According to Mark the cock crowed twice and according to the others it crowed three times.
  • II Sam 24: 1 and I Chron 21: 1 differ over who incited David to count the people. II Sam states that it was God and I Chron states that it was Satan.
  • I Sam 17: 23, 50 and II Sam 21: 19 differ regarding who killed Goliath. In I Sam it was David and in II Sam it seems to have been Elhanan.
  • I Sam 31: 4 and II Sam 1: 8-10 differ regarding who killed Saul. According to I Sam, Saulorder his armourbearer to killhim, but the armourbearer refused and Saul fell upon his own sword. In II Sam, Saul asked an Amalekite to kill him and the man agreed.
  • The details of the death and resurrection of Jesus is different in each of the four gospels. Matt 27: 37, Mark 15: 26, Luke 23: 38, and John 19: 19 have different inscriptions on the cross. Matthew cites the inscription as THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS, Mark cites it as THE KING OF THE JEWS, Luke cites it as THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS, and John cites it as JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. These are not major differences, but all four cannot be literally factual.
  • Matt 27: 5-8 and Acts 1: 18-19 differ over Judas’s death. According to Matthew he gave back the blood money and hanged himself. According to Acts, he fell in the field he bought with the money and burst.
  • Gen 9: 3 and Lev 11: 4 differ regarding what may be eaten. Genesis states that one may eat everything that lives, whereas Leviticus states that the following may not be eaten: any animals that chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves and any animals that have cloven hooves but do not chew the cud.
  • Rom 3: 20-28 and James 2: 24 differ regarding faith and deeds. Romans focuses on faith, whereas James emphasizes that faith without deeds is dead.
  • Ex 20: 5, Num 14: 18, and Deut 5: 9 state that sons inherit sins from their fathers, whereas Ezek 18: 4, 19-20 and John 9: 3 state that sons do not inherit sins from their fathers.

 

Only with proper exegesis can one make sense of these contradictions. The process of exegesis includes several forms of criticism, these are:

  • Textual criticism, which seeks the earliest or original wording of a text.
  • Historical criticism, which seeks to understand the historical, geographical, and cultural setting of the text. Questions regarding the author and the intended readers and their social norms and structures are investigated.
  • Grammatical criticism looks at the morphology and syntax of the text. Grammatical rules are investigated.
  • Literary criticism looks at the broader literary context. Questions regarding the relation to other texts, composition, structure, and rhetorical style are addressed.
  • Form criticism looks at the passage of text itself. Form, genre, and the life situation are examined.
  • Tradition criticism investigates the earlier stages of development a text has undergone before its present form.
  • Redaction criticism focuses on the final form of the passage and seeks to find out the intention of the author and/or final editor.

From these forms of criticisms it is clear that biblical interpretations is by no means an easy undertaking. The literal reading of the text ignores the rich background behind it and leads to an impoverished view.

 

Also see:

Creation Harms Christianity – Sacerdotus

The Simple Truth about Biblical Literalism and the Fundamentalists who Promote it – Sean McElwee

 

Sources:

Cornwall, R. 2007. Charles Darwin goes to church: A literature guide to the evolution versus intelligent design debate. Congregations, 35-38.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get     it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Hayes, J H & Holladay, C R. 1982. Biblical exegesis: A beginner’s handbook. London: SCM        Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pennock, R T. 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge:         MIT Press.

Scaramanga, J 2012a. How the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/23/how-the-loch-ness-monster-disproves-evolution/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2012b. Top 5 lies taught by Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/07/top-5-lies-told-by-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2013. No more Nessie for Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2013/07/23/no-more-nessie-for-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

Southgate, C 2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London:   Westminster John Knox Press.

Van de Beek, B. 2005. Toeval of schlepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern   denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Reading Genesis 1-3 Pt. 5 – Imago Dei and Conclusion

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That humans were made in the image of God is a point made by both accounts of creation. With regard to the image of God, this section will examine the oriental theology, the ideas of Reformed and Orthodox theologians, the different ways to think of the imago Dei, and finally, the idea of the imago Dei as sacral kingship.

 

Genesis agrees with oriental theology in several aspects. One of these is that man has both material and spiritual qualities. Gordon Wenham states that Atrahasis speaks of man as being “made out of the mixture of clay and the flesh and blood of a dead god.” The text of Atraharsis literally states: “They will take one god, kill him, and make mankind by mixing the god’s flesh and blood with clay…” Wenham goes on to say that Egyptian texts also speak of human beings as made in the image of God. Ancient near eastern religions saw royalty as the sons of the gods or the representatives of the gods. See a previous post “Reading Genesis 1-3 Pt. 2 – The Second Creation Narrative” for more details on these ancient near eastern creation myths.

 

Martin Luther saw the image of God as something that was not inherent in humans, but something that had to do with a relationship with God where humans can mirror the divine being. When someone turns away from God, they would stop mirroring the divine being and thus the image of God would not be found in them. John Calvin saw the image of God in unique human attributes and also in the freedom humans have to reflect God through their attributes or to choose not to. Thus, the imago Dei can be missing in humans.

 

Vladimir Lossky, from the Orthodox tradition, states that the image of God is about “manifesting God to the extent to which his nature allows itself to be penetrated by deifying grace” and the Reformed theologian F. LeRon Shults writes that “the imago Dei is not a static likeness between two substances but a dynamic longing that constitutes creaturely personhood, a longing for participation in the peaceful life of the eternal Trinitarian God.” Christopher Southgate argues that this capacity developed in humans and is still developing.

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The term used for this life of the Triune God which Shults speaks about is the Greek word perichoresis (Latin circumincessio), which refers to the loving interaction of the three persons of the Godhead as equals and equally divine. Jack Mahoney  explains that just as “dynamic, circulating, interpersonal love is central to the nature of God conceived as a community of persons, likewise an innate concern among humans for their mutual welfare can be identified as a distinctive feature in which they are created to image God, not only as individuals, but also as a species.”

 

 

 

James P Hurd states that “Genesis tells us that the eternal, transcendent, and immanent God is other than the creation, not identical with it. Humans share a createdness with stars, giraffes, fungi, and granite rocks, yet they are given a special status in this creation.” Humans enjoy this special status because they are made in the image of God. This detail sets them apart from the rest of creation. That humans are in the image of God may be interpreted in a number of different ways. Wentzel Van Huyssteen mentions the following ways in which the imago Dei may be interpreted: substantive, functional, relational, and eschatological. When this image of God is understood as the imago Trinitatis, then it would mean that it is not “the capacity for such perfect self-giving, for that is uniquely the character of the life of God in Godself, but as the capacity to respond with self-giving to an initiative of self-giving love,”according to Southgate. This view is also known as the “social conception of the image of God.” This understanding is about substance, but it is also relational and functional. Southgate continues as follows: “This response is the human vocation, to be worked out in our relationships with each other and the whole creation. It is also eschatological – the image is only now being perfected by the transforming work of salvation in Christ. Also, the idea of reflecting God by responding to God’s initiative does more justice, I suggest, to the idea of an image than some other suggestions for the character of the imago Dei.

 

The feature of humans to image God is the view that is closest to the sacral kingship of Mesopotamia and Egypt, where the king was regarded as divine or as the representative of the divine. The words “image” and “likeness” are both used for physical representations. Some Egyptian royal stelae refer to the king as the “image” of God. In Genesis, however, it is not just royalty who are in the image of God, but it is something that is in reach of all who are human. Robert Davidson states that “[c]ontext is the safest guide to meaning,” which indicates that the part regarding mankind’s representative dominion over creation should be read as the meaning of the image of God. Van Huyssteen makes the interesting and thought-provoking observation that the Hebrew idea of the imago Dei is a holistic one, which implies that “the imago Dei finally and strikingly functions as a hologram where the original image is visible from certain perspectives, but from others the reality of sin and evil is revealed and the tragic dimensions of human existence dominate.” Being made in the image of God does not negate the fallenness of humanity. The dominion which is given to us by being representatives of God also bestows a weight to carry. Davidson states that because this dominion is delegated, humans have a responsibility before God and are called to stand in relationship with God. It is a dominion which is not our own, but one that has been delegated to us and one for which we should take responsibility. Van Huyssteen states that “[b]eing created in God’s image in a very specific sense highlights the extraordinary importance of human beings as walking representations of God… with an additional call to responsible care and stewardship to the world, also to our sister species in this world.”

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Conclusion

A literal reading of the creation narratives in Genesis is not possible, because of the inherent contradictions between the two narratives and the scientific knowledge we have today. We simply cannot ignore modern scientific knowledge in favour of reading Genesis as a scientific handbook, which it was never supposed to be. The fact that the Bible is not an accurate source of information on natural science does not mean that it is without any meaning or value. One can find much value in the Bible as a book about people’s experiences with God and spiritual truths. Just as one would not expect to find the meaning of life in a biology text book, so one should not expect to find scientific truths in the Bible.

 

The biblical texts have a socio-historic context that must be taken into account for the text to be interpreted in a responsible way. In the case of the creation narratives, the Mesopotamian background of the themes provide insight into why the narratives were written in the way that they were. The first creation narrative acts as a strong polemic against the polytheism of the ancient near east and provides a monotheistic view of the origins of the world. God is presented as supreme, all-encompassing and nature as demythologized and subject to the will of God. Wenham explains the message that Genesis offers against the Mesopotamian cultural and religious background of the time:

The ancient oriental backgrounds to Gen 1-11 shows it to be concerned with rather different issues from those that tend to occupy modern readers. It is affirming the unity of God in the face of polytheism, his justice rather than his caprice, his power as opposed to his omnipotence, his concern for mankind rather than his exploitation. And whereas Mesopotamia clung to the wisdom of primeval man, Genesis records his sinful disobedience. Because as Christians we tend to assume these points in our theology, we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Gen 1-11 and concentrate on subsidiary points that may well be less of moment.

 

Saying that the accounts are not literally factual does not diminish the value. We can still see the value of the Genesis accounts, even without a employing a literal reading. James Hurd thinks in the same vein when he says that “Genesis 1-3 helps us understand human godliness, human uniqueness, human moral responsibility, human failure, and God’s loving response to that failure. We see ourselves in Adam and Eve, not only in their fall, but also in their great potential in God. This is the meaning of Genesis.”

 

Sources:

Davidson, R. 1973. Genesis 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mahoney, J. 2011. Christianity in evolution: An exploration. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Southgate, C. 2002. God and evolutionary evil: Theodicy in the light of Darwinism, Zygon 37(4):801-824.

______2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London: Westminster John Knox Press.

______2011. Re-reading Genesis, John, and Job: A Christian response to Darwinism, Zygon 46(2): 370-395.

Wenham, G J. 1987. Word Biblical commentary. Volume 1: Genesis 1-15. Waco: Word Books.

Zimmerman, P A. 2009. Darwin at 200 and the challenge of intelligent design. CTQ 73: 61-75.

On the Petition “Stop Promoting Satanism in South Africa”

A certain petition has been making waves in the local metal community. It was posted by the vaguely named Christians SA, which turned out to be a certain C Nielsen, frontman of Because of Betrayal. View the petition here. Shots were fired and memes were made.

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Falling under the general term of Christian myself, I think the petition is misguided and counterproductive.

People are freaking out about bands turning young people into satanists. A normal human being should be perfectly able to encounter different opinions without being swayed by all of them. Imagine you’re walking in a mall and see a poster about Colgate toothpaste. Immediately you think that Colgate is the best toothpaste ever. A few minutes later you see a poster for Aquafresh. Immediately you are convinced that Aquafresh is the best toothpaste ever. You decide to grab a quick snack and hear someone talking about veganism. Immediately you decide that veganism is the be all and end all of food and diet. Does that sound ridiculous? It;s because it is. Frankly, if you think that a band can change your child’s entire point of view then you should’ve raised them better.

The petition states the following: “This “right” which they label as “Freedom of Speech” and “Constitutional Law” and the uprising in Record Labels/Event Companies completely undermines the majority and ethical values our “fair” nation stands for and abolishes the Christian values our forefathers and leaders took generations to build to create Freedom in SA.” Chapter 2 point 15 (1)  of the Bill of Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.” Point 16 states that:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; (c) freedom of artistic creativity; and (d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research. (2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to—(a) propaganda for war; (b) incitement of imminent violence; or (c) advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

The last point would be the only one that a petition like this could possibly stand on when it comes to bands playing here. Point 17 (1) states that “Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.” Now that’s fine and good, but then one should also respect the rights mentioned in points 15 and 16. Fundamentalists are not known for being consistent, though (e.g. using OT text to state that homosexuals deserve death, but ignoring OT texts about eating pork).

South Africa is not a Christian country. It is a secular state. If Christians want to have freedom to practice their religion then they have to grant others their freedom as well. This petition and the desire to oppose freedom of religion and expression are harmful to not only those who would be censured, but also to the Christians of the country. It sparks unnecessary antagonism from those upon who this petition is imposed, as well as those Christians who are not of the militant and/or fundamentalist type. I don’t think a Christian state is a good idea in any case. That’s how abominations like the Crusades and witch hunts happen.

Some of the signatures are worried about these bands polluting our high moral code. I’m not sure what country they are living in, but it certainly isn’t South Africa in 2016. While it is true that 80% of SA citizens claim they are Christian, I suspect that many if not most are what are called nominal Christians. Nominal Christians are those who would, when asked about it, answer that they are Christian in their beliefs. They might even go to church, but that is where it stops. If our country were 80% full of Christians who were serious about the faith they believed in, we wouldn’t be struggling with corruption or such an appalling crime rate. It’s easier to point the finger to a perceived outside danger. The real issue facing Christianity in SA is not a band or two playing metal, but the Christians themselves who do not practice what they preach. Rather look to yourselves and change who you are first.

Reading Genesis 1-3 Pt. 4 – Adam, Eve and the Meaning of the Fall

In this installment, we look at some typically sensitive questions: did Adam and Eve really exist and what does it mean for the Fall narrative if they didn’t and/or evolution is true?

Adam and Eve in paradise (The Fall), by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve

In the second creation narrative, it is stated that Adam and Eve were special creations of God. Adam was formed from the earth and Eve from Adam’s rib. Evolution paints a different story with regards to our human ancestry. Ostling quotes Dennis R. Venema as saying that Homo sapiens are not “biologically independent, de novo creations, but share common ancestry.” This common ancestry is not only with hominid and hominin species, but with all life, when traced back to the origin of the first living organisms. In the common ancestry it could still be asked whether there existed a first human couple, Adam and Eve, or a factual couple that they were based upon. Here comes the answer that many are uneasy with: That human beings originated with one original couple is highly unlikely. Population genomics is a discipline that sought to establish the size of the first human populations. The genetic diversity present in modern humans was utilized in the study. Researchers found a “bottleneck” at about 150,000 years ago and every human being is descendent from the small group that existed at that time. This population consisted of several thousand individuals and two starting individuals would not have been able to produce the genetic diversity found in modern humans.

What do we do now? As with the other themes in the first chapters of Genesis, the unlikely historicity of Adam and Eve do not strip them from meaning. Peter Enns states that “The Bible itself invites a symbolic reading by using cosmic battle imagery and by drawing parallels between Adam and Israel,” he sees the narratives in Genesis as only pertaining to the origin of the Israelites and not to humanity as a whole. For Robert Davidson, Adam “is not the first man who lived at a particular place and time in human history; he is ‘Everyman,’ the ‘Everyman’ in us.” Denis Lamoureux is unapologetic and direct when he states that “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” According to Lamoureux, “the Holy Spirit descended to the level of the biblical author of Genesis 1 and used his incidental ancient science regarding biological origins” to disclose “infallible messages of faith about the human spiritual condition.”

Michael Ruse explains it clearly:

Humans are not all bad. We cooperate and work together. Humans are not all good. We are selfish and serve our own ends rather than the needs of others. This is our nature, and it is precisely the nature that we find supposed at the heart of Christianity. We are born this way, and it is no chance – it is part of our heritage. Not a literal Adam who ate an apple, but proto-humans forged by natural selection who survived and reproduced by being both cooperative and selfish. And we are not going to change, whatever our intentions. It is as silly to think that we are all going to do good because of some internal motivation or external exhortation, as to think that always and in every way we are going to be mean and selfish. In this respect, there is a perfect consilience between the Darwinian human and the Christian human.

The Fall of Man by Titian

The Meaning of the Fall

Now that the literal historicity of the Fall has been examined, we turn to the meaning of the Fall. John A. Bloom states that if the Genesis narratives of the first two humans and the Fall are mere myths, “then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged: If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?” Richard Phillips, an evangelical pastor, states that “The hermeneutics behind theistic evolution are a Trojan horse that, once inside our gates, must cause the entire fortress of Christian belief to fall.” Paul A. Zimmerman writes that “[u]nder evolutionary philosophy there is no such thing as original sin, therefore there is no need of a Redeemer. This undercuts the essence of Christology; nothing is left.” Henry Morris states that “[w]ithout a literal Fall, there is no need for redemption and thus no need for Jesus or Christianity.” The Catholic Cardinal Christoph Schönborn admitted that original sin is a “particularly delicate subject.”

This delicate subject is called into serious doubt by the natural sciences. Christopher Southgate points out that “the scientific record of the Earth’s long history before the advent of human beings calls into profound question any account that regards human sin as the cause of struggle and suffering in the nonhuman creation in general. Predation, violence, parasitism, suffering, and extinction were integral parts of the natural order long before Homo sapiens.” In the science-religion journal Zygon, Southgate states more plainly that the “evolutionary narrative of the long history of life on Earth banishes forever the notion that it was human action, human sin, that caused the presence of violence and suffering in nature.” Referring to the theology of Andrew Elphinstone, where Elphinstone states that the travail of humankind is a result of aspirations to reach higher than we can, Southgate comments that he would read the story of the Fall as a “description of humans as a species that never knows its place.” The account of the Tower of Babel also drives this point home. The Fall narrative provides a model of humankind’s fallen nature.

Southgate furthermore argues that we cannot read Genesis 3 in a literal sense about a “Fall-event,” but rather about “fallenness.” It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for fall is not used in this scripture. Jesuit theologian Jack Mahoney sees the account of Adam and Eve as an etiological narrative which “teaches that sin has been around as long as humanity has: its genesis and origin are not in God, but from human beings.” Mahoney continues to say that “[i]t may well be true that at some stage in human evolution something went badly wrong, morally speaking,” but that there is not one original sin that is passed on from generation to generation and that there is no biblical warrant for such an idea. Gordon Wenham states that the second and third chapters of Genesis offer “a paradigm of sin, a model of what happens whenever man disobeys God. It is paradigmatic in that it explains through a story what constitutes sin and what sin’s consequences are.”

Robin Collins sums up the meaning of original sin in what he terms is the Historical/Ideal view, which “denies that human beings were ever in a paradisal state, it nonetheless holds that the Garden story in Genesis 2-3 is rich in theological meaning along several dimensions.” According to Collins, original sin refers to three things:

  1. The sinful choices of the first hominids, or group of hominids, that possessed consciousness and the capacity of making free choices.
  2. The continuing sinful choices of the succeeding generations including ourselves as we come into self-consciousness.
  3. The resulting bondage to sin and spiritual darkness that is inherited from our ancestors and generated by our own choices.

What is important to note from Collins’ three points is that sinful choices were made and propagated. Humans are free to make choices, but there are always consequences to choices. Conor Cunningham remarks that “[c]ognition and freedom on the one hand, and error and guilt on the other … belong intrinsically together…” This error and guilt is part of the human condition. Mark Isaak, with regards to the arguments that without a literal Fall, there is no Christianity, points out that it is “sin in general, and not merely one particular instance of sin, that makes redemption necessary. If you can find any sin in the world then the claim is baseless,” he goes on to say that claiming that without a literal Fall, there is no need for Jesus and redemption “implies that sin and redemption are about things that happened thousands of years ago, not about anything happening to us today. It makes religion less relevant to people’s lives.” Michael Ruse states that regarding “our fallen nature and our human need for redemption in some way, Genesis is not false, but it is not something that can be read straight off. One must delve into the deeper, more profound meaning…”

This deeper meaning of our fallenness does not stop at the human species, but, like ripples in a pond, the consequences are carried further into the world we live in. Southgate states that we can see the fallenness of human nature from our “snatching at resources, and humans’ admiring of their own image and ingenuity at the expense of truly working to understand the nonhuman world,” with the implication that “[h]umans can be thought of as fallen, not only in interpersonal relationships but in relation to other creatures and our environment as a whole.” Human fallennes extends to relationships between people, but also the relationship between us and the environment. Mahoney explains sin as “humanity’s yielding to evolutionary selfishness and declining to accept the invitation to self-transcendence; it is a refusal to transcend oneself in the interest of others.” To deny the historical factuality of the Fall event is not to deny that human beings have a nature that can be thought of as fallen. It does not deny that humans sin and need divine forgiveness. 

Sources:

Collins, R 2003. Evolution and original sin. In: Miller, K B (ed). Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans: 469-501.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Davidson, R. 1973. Genesis 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mahoney, J. 2011. Christianity in evolution: An exploration. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Ruse, M. 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Southgate, C. 2002. God and evolutionary evil: Theodicy in the light of Darwinism, Zygon 37(4):801-824.

______2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London: Westminster John Knox Press.

______2011. Re-reading Genesis, John, and Job: A Christian response to Darwinism, Zygon 46(2): 370-395.

Wenham, G J. 1987. Word Biblical commentary. Volume 1: Genesis 1-15. Waco: Word Books.

Zimmerman, P A. 2009. Darwin at 200 and the challenge of intelligent design. CTQ 73: 61-75.

Also see:

The Historical-Ideal View of Adam and Eve by Ted Davis and Robin Collins and other articles in their series.

Doom Metal Problems

I made this🙂

I was inspired by JustJossie‘s post “Folk Metal Problems” to make one about one of my favourite subgenres: Doom Metal.

  1. Trying to explain doom metal to someone. It’s really heavy, but usually also very slow, compared to most types of metal. Mr. Doomburg put it eloquently: doom is metal largo. It’s heavy in the sense of how some classical music is heavy.
  2. No, it’s not boring.
  3. The tempo is slow, the melodies are melancholic, lyrics are depressing (mostly), but it’s not emo and it can be soothing, beautiful, and powerful.
  4. Good luck finding a band shirt! (Well, one that you can afford, shipping included.) 
  5. You want to play someone one of your favourite songs, but it’s 15-20 minutes long with a 10 minute build-up. Exhibit A (well, in this case a 4 minute intro): 
  6. Trying to explain the differences between the sub-subgenres, e.g. funeral doom, sludge doom, atmospheric doom, etc. Here’s a tongue-n-cheek guide: 
  7. Finding other people who are also into doom. 
  8. Getting carried away and wanting to play all the doom at once to someone.

…which brings me to… Some of my favourite doom metal songs/bands:

Ahab, funeral doom band with lyrics inspired by Moby Dick by Herman Mellville.

My Dying Bride, death/gothic doom. This was the band that got me into doom.

Candlemass, epic doom.

Swallow the Sun, death doom.

Shape of Despair, funeral doom.

Bell Witch, funeral/sludge doom with only vocals, drums, and bass.

While Heaven Wept, epic doom.

Also See:

www.doom-metal.com a great place to discover new doom

Mr Doomburg: Why is Doom Metal so Overlooked?

Depressive & the Doom” playlist on Youtube

My “DOOM” playlist on Youtube

The Best of Doom Metal” playlist on Youtube

http://www.allmusic.com/style/doom-metal-ma0000004496 

Reading Genesis 1-3 Pt. 3 – The Fall Narrative

In this blog post, we look at the Fall narrative, especially with regards to other mythologies of the Ancient Near East.

The usual suspects of Adam, Eve, and the serpent are in attendance, but an unexpected visitor makes an appearance…

The Fall (2: 25 – 3: 24)

Although the Fall narrative is not part of the second creation account, it continues the story and also has great relevance to the theory of evolution. Mark Isaak states that “Creationists link death and decay with the second law of thermodynamics, with the consequence that no decay before the Fall means the second law of thermodynamics was not in effect before the Fall. However, the second law of thermodynamics is intimately connected with the flow of time. Since the Bible says that time was established before the Fall, thermodynamics and therefore decay must have existed then, too.”

The Fall Narrative

At the start of the narrative, Adam and Eve live in what can be called a “golden age,” which “was a widespread motif in the ancient world and symbolically represents the ideal for human beings,” according to anthropologist and historian of religion Mircae Eliade. In the Enki and Ninhursag myth, there exists a paradise in the city Dilmun, which is an actual city, and in the epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (translation here), there was a prior time in which there was one people, one language, no snake, no wild dog, no fear, and no terror. “On that day when there is no snake, when there is no scorpion, when there is no hyena, when there is no lion, when there is neither dog nor wolf, when there is thus neither fear nor trembling, man has no rival!” The different animals were known to the people in that area and serve to summarize what mankind has to fear from nature.

The Mesopotamian tree of life flanked by two images of a Neo-Assyrian king. Above the tree is the god Assur in his customary winged sun disk.

The Tree of Knowledge stands central in the narrative of the Fall. In Mesopotamian tradition, a tree of life is also present, e.g. as the tree of life which also serves to support the constellations. The Akkadian tale of Adapa (translation here) has parallels with the Fall account. Adapa, a priest and sage, angered the god of heaven, Anu, by breaking the South Wind’s Wing by simply saying “South Wind, though you send your brothers against me, However many there are, I shall break your wing!” He was then summoned before Anu to give account. The gods sought to make Adapa a god, because he knew their secrets. The god of wisdom, Ea, advises Adapa not to eat or drink what is offered and Adapa is obedient to Ea’s instructions, resulting in him missing out on the food which gives eternal life. In the Gilgamesh epic, Gilgamesh is told of a plant that gives eternal life by the flood hero Utnapishtim. The name of the plant is “man becomes young in old age” and while Gilgamesh takes a bath after finding the plant, a snake steals the plant from him. In Persian mythology one finds a serpent named Dahâka, which is an incarnation of an evil spirit. Those of you who have played Prince of Persia: Warrior Within will remember this guy:

The music in the background is an instrumental version of Godsmack’s “I Stand Alone,” featured on the Scorpion King OST.

In contrast to the Dahâka, the serpent in Genesis is a mere creature, only more crafty, but without any suggestion that the serpent is to be equated with Satan, even though it has been a popular connection to make. In the myths of Adapa and Gilgamesh, the heroes strove after immortality, whereas in the Genesis account, it was not immortality that Adam and Eve were after, but rather knowledge of good and evil.

Cylinder seal depicting Gilgamesh and Enkidu

In the epic of Gilgamesh, his companion was Enkidu, a friend of all creatures and child of nature. Enkidu was basically the “[h]alf-man/half-beast bestie of Gilgamesh.” After yielding to a courtesan, named Shamhat, Enkidu loses the oneness he had with the natural world, but is said to have gained wisdom, as the courtesan tells him “You are wise, Enkidu, you are like a god.” There seems to be a sexual connotation to the knowledge of good and evil. Robert Davidson explains that the biblical narrative is not meant “as a polemic against sex, but as a warning against the misuse, the deification of sex in the worship orgies of Canaanite fertility cults.” In the tale of Adapa, of Enkidu, and of Adam and Eve, knowledge is seen as something that makes one equal to a god. For Davidson , the phrase “good and evil” has the meaning of “everything” and he states the problem as follows: “Man is being warned that he is subject to certain limitations. He is not omniscient; he is not all-powerful in himself. He can choose to accept this lot as a creature under the authority of God or he can attempt to be ‘Mr Know All’ and go it alone.”

Sources:

Collins, R 2003. Evolution and original sin. In: Miller, K B (ed). Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans: 469-501.

Davidson, R. 1973. Genesis 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Keel, O. 1978. The symbolism of the biblical world: Ancient near eastern iconography and the book of Psalms. London: SPCK.

Mathews, K A. 1996. The new American commentary: Genesis 1-11:26. Volume 1A. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.

Skinner, J. 1976. The international critical commentary: A critical and exegetical commentary on Genesis. Second edition. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

Wenham, G J. 1987. Word Biblical commentary. Volume 1: Genesis 1-15. Waco: Word Books.

Reading Genesis 1-3 Pt. 2 – The Second Creation Narrative

In the previous post, we looked at the first creation narrative, Genesis 1: 1- 2: 4a. Now we turn to the second creation narrative. The second creation narrative starts at Genesis 2: 4b and extends to 2: 24. Conrad Hyers provides a comparison between the first and second creation narratives:

Genesis 1; 2-4a                                                Genesis 2;4b-24

(Water and Formless Earth)                           (Heavens and Earth Presupposed)

Light (day 1)                                                   Water (mist)

Firmament (day 2)                                          Adam

Earth and Vegetation (day 3)                          Vegetation

Sun, Moon and Stars (day 4)                          Rivers

Fish and Birds (day 5)                                     Land Animals, Birds (no fish)

Land Animals, Humans (day 6)                       Eve

From this comparison it is clear that both accounts cannot be literally true. The two accounts are incompossible. Hyers also points out that the two creation narratives appeal to two very different contexts:

Genesis 1 has drawn upon the imagery and concerns of the farmers and city dwellers who inhabited river basins prone to flooding, while Genesis 2 has drawn upon the experiences of shepherds, goat-herders, and camel-drivers who lived on the semiarid fringes of the fertile plains, around and between wells and oases. For the pastoral nomads and desert peoples the fundamental threat to life was dryness and barrenness, whereas for those agricultural and urban peoples in or near flood plains the threat was too much water, and the chaotic possibilities of water. It is also revealing that Genesis 2 does not mention a creation of fish, whereas fish in abundance are prominent in Genesis 1 (fish occupy half of day five, with “swarms of living creatures”). This interpretive approach also helps explain the two versions of creation present in such different – nearly opposite – views of human nature. In Genesis 1 human beings are pictured in the lofty terms of royalty, taking dominion over the earth and subduing it – imagery and values drawn from the very pinnacle of ancient civilizations, which Israel itself achieved in the time of Solomon. In Genesis 2, however, Adam and Eve are pictured as servants of the garden, living in a garden oasis: essentially the gardener and his wife. Thus, while Genesis 1 is comfortable with the values of civilization and the fruits of its many achievements and creations, Genesis 2 offers a humble view of humanity, a reminder of the simple life and values of the shepherds ancestors, before farming, and even before shepherding, in an Edenic state of food gathering and tending. In this manner these two views of human nature are counterbalanced. They are not contradictory but complementary.

In the second creation narrative, the setting focuses on earth and man. In the first narrative, mankind was the climax of creation, but in the second narrative, mankind is the pivot of the story. The accounts begin differently. Where the first account began with the creation of heaven and earth, this one begins with the making of earth and heaven. The first account starts with a watery chaos, whereas the second one starts with a barren landscape. Where the first account speaks of “creating” (bara’) and “God,” the second account speaks of “making” (asah) and “Yahweh.”  The first account uses restrained and dignified language to speak about God, where the second narrative is more homely and familiar in speaking about God. Where the first narrative is from the Priestly source, the second one is from the Yahwist source. The second narrative is also tied to a Mesopotamian tradition, which can also be detected in the loan words for “flow” and “Eden.” The word for “flow” is from the Sumerian a.dé.a and “eden” is from the Akkadian edinu or Sumerian eden. The word is rare in Akkadian, but very common in Sumerian, which points to the original source as being very ancient, going back to the oldest cultural stratum in Mesopotamia. The tree of knowledge also has links to Mesopotamia.

Khnum the potter with Heket assisting.

When looking at Egyptian accounts, the general theme is that man is made from clay. In the Hymn of Khnum, the creator god is depicted as a potter, forming man at the potters’ wheel and life is given to the man by the goddess Hekat breathing life into his nostrils. Khnum is called “God of the potter’s wheel,” who “has fashioned gods and men.” In the Instruction for Merikare, it is said that Re, the sun god (also called Ra), placed the breath of life in man’s nostrils. He “gave the breath of life to their noses.” Kenneth Mathews observes that the Egyptian narratives do not show interest in the creation of woman.

The Atraharsis Epic

In Mesopotamian myths, humans are made from clay or the blood of a dead god. In the Enūma eliš (full text here), the leader of Tiamat’s armies, the god Kingu, was slain and from his blood Marduk formed mankind in order to relieve the gods from their hard work. In the Atrahasis epic the lesser gods, whose duties were to dig canals (including the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), were revolting and the higher gods called on Nintu the mother goddess to create humans. “Create a human being, that he bear the yoke.” The lesser god Aw-ilu is killed and from a mixture of his flesh, blood, and clay, Nintu forms seven men and seven women, after the lesser gods spat on the clay. The Sumerian Enki and Ninmah (text here) depicts mankind as being formed from clay to relieve the gods of their hard work. The gods were also digging canals. This is similar to the Atraharsis account. Regarding mankind,the god Enki told his mother, Namma: “Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence.” The Sumerian mythology influenced that of Mesopotamia and thus such close correlations are not unexpected. In the Genesis narrative, mankind is not created in order to relieve God of menial labour. Instead of making mankind for the needs of God, God provides for all their needs. It is interesting to note that the word nepesh, which is used for the breath God breathed into Adam, is also used to refer to the living creatures of creation in Genesis 1: 24. The difference comes in the personal, intimate way that God breathed the breath into Adam, which Robert Davidson describes as “J’s way of indicating that peculiar relationship between God and man which the creation hymn described in terms of ‘image and ‘likeness’.” The next post will investigate the Fall narrative.

Sources:

Davidson, R. 1973. Genesis 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hyers, C. 2003. Comparing Biblical and scientific maps of origins. In: Miller, K B (ed). Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Keel, O. 1978. The symbolism of the biblical world: Ancient near eastern iconography and the book of Psalms. London: SPCK.

Mathews, K A. 1996. The new American commentary: Genesis 1-11:26. Volume 1A. Nashville: Broadman & Holman. Skinner, J. 1976. The international critical commentary: A critical and exegetical commentary on Genesis. Second edition. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. (pdf available here)

Speiser, E A. 1990. The Anchor Bible: Genesis. New York: Doubleday.

Wenham, G J. 1987. Word Biblical commentary. Volume 1: Genesis 1-15. Waco: Word Books.