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I attended a Christian university in the long ago days of acid wash denim and Commodore 64s. One of my classmates, Ken Jacobsen, had a gift for impersonation. He was renowned for his imitation of Bono on the U2 song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking ...

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Displaying 1–34 of 34 comments

Paul Schryba

September 17, 2013  7:36pm

John 1: 1" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." KJV The Word of God is not the Bible- it is Jesus. Jesus, infinite Being, second person of the Trinity. The Bible is not God. It is a written Word, that must be quickened by the Spirit to speak to the individual's heart. Does God speak through the Bible? I believe so, and have had such an experience; but I do not believe the Bible to be 'literally' true. Was there an Adam and Eve who ate the apple? I cannot discount such; but I believe that the Genesis creation story is inspired by God, and that it reveals a truth that is deeply 'human', that speaks to the heart, and not necessarily about a conscious moral failing of the first humans to eat a literal apple in a literal garden. Could the world have been created in six-24 hour days? Yes, but there is good material reason to believe that it took longer, and that creation involved an 'evolution' of life forms, just as human thought has 'evolved'.

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Daniel Hartshorn

May 09, 2012  7:23am

I just found this. Fascinating! "Most Ancient Hebrew Biblical Inscription Deciphered, Scholar Says" "The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time." English translaton of the deciphered text: 1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]. 2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an] 3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and] 4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king. 5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger. Take that you so-called OT scholars who sneer at an early dating of the OT.

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Duane D Watts

May 08, 2012  11:14pm

My Theologian friend may be right that Genesis 1 and 2 are not science text, but that leaves us with a vacuum. In this vacuum steps scientists, the offspring of fallen man in a fallen creation, and we are to buy into their creation myth because they have scientific evidence. Their version is replacement theology for our "creation myth" (which by the way DOES subject us to natural theology). But the real reason for my comment was to beg, BEG someone to answer what the LORD wishes us to glean from this: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept; and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh thereof, and the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man. And Adam said "this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man". I implore you oh learned ones, cipher to me the meaning of this vision.

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Glen Waugh

May 08, 2012  6:44pm

... the Word of truth, coming as it does, as a whole, from one and the same Divine Author, is its own context. That is to say, a particular passage is to be regarded not only in the relation it bears to its own ... context; but, in the relation which it bears to the Word of God as a whole. It may not be intended to teach science, chronology, or history ... but, everything that it records will be in perfect harmony with whatever is true of any or all of these. Scientia means knowledge, and nothing in Scripture will be found to contradict what we really know, which is true science. Much that goes by the name of "science" is only hypothesis; and, in much more, supposition is so mixed up with knowledge that the result is vitiated. All must be brought to the bar of the Divine Word. That Word as a whole is the context for its every part. All that is outside the two covers of the Word of God must be judged by what is within. We must not reverse this process. (E.W. Bullinger)

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Roger McKinney

May 07, 2012  12:54pm

Compare interpretations of Genesis 1 with interpretations of Christ's resurrection. How would scientists handle the resurrection using nothing but knowledge we have today of the natural sciences? They would say resurrection is impossible because it violates the laws of physics and biology. Therefore Jesus must not have actually died and his recovery took longer than 3 days, probably months. The only reason we know about the resurrection is the eye witness accounts. The only way we can know about the creation is through an eye witness account, but God is the only witness. Science cannot prove or disprove a miracle because miracles by definition violate physics. So if the creation was a miracle that took six day, then physics would lead us astray and convince us it was not a miracle. Science can tell us nothing about miracles.

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Roger McKinney

May 07, 2012  12:49pm

Mike, no I don't think Genesis 1 is a scientific account of creation. The commonly understood definition of science limits the word to the natural sciences. Of course Moses did not know modern natural science. Creation was a miracle. Science can tell us nothing about miracles because by definition miracles violate the laws of physics as we know them. But Genesis one is an accurate historical account of creation. Get a book on hermeneutics and see if you can force "evening and morning" to mean anything other than a 24-hour day using Aristotle's principles.

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Kevin V

May 04, 2012  8:47pm

In general, it's a thoughtful, well-written piece. I do think, however, that Ms. Arends could have helped her article (and the comments section) by providing a number of examples so we could better gauge where she believes literalists get it wrong. Specifically, I'd be interested to know where she stands with regard to creationism.

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Kyle Dupic

May 04, 2012  3:22pm

Roger McKinney: Thank you! It is good (and bad) there is a character limit. I have felt the need to include hermeneutics. Most of the Bible can be handled with a simple understanding of hermeneutics.

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Kyle Dupic

May 04, 2012  3:20pm

Diane Tucker, please refer to Arthur Shippee's post. Your comments about Jesus being a literal door make me believe, that like many others, you struggle to understand the perspective we are coming from. It is the unfortunate stigma against those who use the word literal. There are different contexts for the word literal. Of course Jesus doesn't have literal eyes blazing with fire. It is almost impossible some times to have productive conversations about this issue because people will do that. Well is this literal!?! Please, please, PLEASE stop making that argument, because almost no-one actually believes that. My apologies if that is the way that post came off, but I have met no-one (doesn't mean they don't exist, but they are a RARE population) who believes everything in the Bible is literal word for word. No doubt, Scripture can be difficult to handle, but overall, it is most of the time much simpler than we make it (thus child-like faith illustration Driscoll shared).

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Mike Sechler

May 04, 2012  2:22pm

Thanks for the article I really enjoyed it. Roger McKinney are you sure a proper understanding of Genesis 1 indicates that it is a straightforward scientific and historical account of how God created with no room literary structures that might influence our understanding of the passage? What do the terms "evening" and "morning" mean on the first 3 days when there was no Sun to demarcate those times of day? Are they perhaps being used as a literary devise rather than as specific markers of the time of day? Doesn't the fact that the Hebrews of 3500 years had a completely different understanding of cosmology mean that Moses' intent was not to give a rigorous scientific explanation of creation? Exegesis of the passage tells us some things very clearly about the fact the God created everything, but not everything is as clear as you seem to think.

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Roger McKinney

May 03, 2012  12:10pm

Strange. Neither the article's author or anyone in the posts have mentioned the principles of hermeneutics. Aristotle wrote down the principles, but they are common sense and honest interpretation. They are the principles of reason applied to interpretation. Aquinas and succeeding Church scholars refined them and applied them to scripture. So why is there such apathy toward hermeneutics? Paul gave the answer in Romans 1: people don't like the truth. Men love darkness rather than light. The principles of hermeneutics rein in the flights of fancy that people love to take. They force people to face the truth that they dislike so much. Hermeneutics applied to Genesis one says that God created the universe in six literal days. Any other reading is dishonest.

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ildefonso j. rubrico

May 03, 2012  5:41am

The point that Ms Arends drives in her article is clear and unequivocal, and she expresses it succinctly, thus: “God uses every kind of language available—straightforward (but culturally lensed) historical narrative, analogy, metaphor, parable, poetry, apocalyptic vision, and, hallelujah, the Word made flesh, Jesus.” One might say that she has "graduated" from a literalist mindset of her college days, to a more-nuanced view of biblical interpretation that calls for a lot of open-mindedness, and - yes - humility on our part! As we used to say in our adult Sunday school class, "no one, but no one, can put God in a box!"

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Diane Tucker

May 03, 2012  1:11am

Kyle Dupic: You said: "God isn't trying to "trick" us with poetry, allegorical sayings." Are you saying that poetry, allegory, etc. are tricks to obfuscate meaning and blur truth? No so! Poetic language properly used is specific, precise and expresses figuratively things that can't be expressed another way. Example: Jesus said "I am the door." This is poetic language: a metaphor. Jesus "is" the doorway to eternal life: we must go through him, as people go through a doorway, to go from death to life, as a person does when he goes from one room to another. To interpret Jesus statement "I am the door" literally would be to assert that Jesus is a wooden plank hung between two rooms. So Jesus is speaking the truth, but not speaking literally. He is speaking the truth using the tool of metaphor. We need to know when these tools of language are being used and when they are not. But both the figurative and the literal can communicate objective truth. That's a basic fact of language.

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Brendt Waters

May 03, 2012  12:31am

YECers are a hoot and a half. Carolyn made one passing comment (referring to Genesis 1 as an "ancient Hebrew prose poem") that has almost nothing to do with her larger point, and suddenly, they see their entire faith under full-scale nuclear attack (and react accordingly). BTW, this observation is coming from within the camp -- I've been a YECer for 40+ years and anticipate no change (despite being thoroughly embarrassed by the behavior of some of those who share my beliefs).

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Randy Brandt

May 02, 2012  6:43pm

> We'd been blithely unaware that there is more than one genre in the Bible, or that literary context profoundly matters to meaning I'm curious where Carolyn attended school, because I was at the Ground Zero of the Young Earth Creation movement in the early 80s (Christian Heritage College) and we certainly knew there were multiple genres, that context mattered, and that there was an amazing amount of scientific detail in books like Job and Genesis. It's too bad her teachers were so sub-par and poorly read.

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MICHAEL H CONSTANTINE

May 02, 2012  6:38pm

Carolyn, thanks for a well-written article. My observation is that we Christians are quite skilled at turning our opinions into convictions. We then claim we alone understand the "right" way to interpret Scripture, and mix all of that with our human pride. Like you, I attended a Christian college ( a couple actually). The first was so fundamentalist that a fellow student asked me to go with him to a nearby Assemblies of God college to "win souls for Jesus!" We were taught to follow Usher's dates, so 4004BC was the beginning of everything. Now, almost 50 years later, I had almost the same conversation with a pastor friend here in Southeast Asia. I told him that there is much I do not understand, but that I do believe, as Hebrews says, that the world was made by the Word of God, so that what is seen was made from what cannot be seen. Brilliant words, and simple enough for me to grasp, whatever processes God used to do it. Thanks again.

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Lewis Herbert

May 02, 2012  5:07pm

Great post. The Bible must be read and interpreted through the world of its original writers and audience--the questions they asked and answered. The writer of Genesis was not writing for a scientific journal, but rather to an ancient audience in an ancient world asking ancient questions. When Christ is the center of our faith (as opposed to Biblicism), the arguments about a slippery slope leading away from the gospel become irrelevant.

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Arthur Shippee

May 02, 2012  4:35pm

Please, some patience, wisdom, and closer thought. As stated, the post is somewhat unsophisticated, but the direction taken has been around since, as someone noted, at least Paul. But beware the word "literal", a word used in many different senses, and which people use mostly for its emotional attachment to "good" or "bad," depending. But look at, e.g., Alston's discussion on talking about God literally, where he argues for a linguistically sensitive use of "literal", marking how a word is used in a specific context, i.e., it is always historically contextualized. So, Aquinas' analogy (akin to Maimonides' negative theology) can be a form of literal usage, when so established. Reading anything is riskier than some like, and one must take responsibility. Some use "poetry" or "allegory" to wiggle out of that responsibility; others wiggle out by other means. But patience, commitment, community, and wisdom are likely to help guide us aright. We are children of God, not slaves.

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Dan

May 02, 2012  4:33pm

Genesis 1 is not science -- it is not meant to give us a geological timeframe, but rather a theological truth. That does NOT mean it's not historical, either. As John H. Walton points out in his book "The Lost World of Genesis One", Genesis is written in the context of a primitive cosmology, shared with ALL of the Ancient Near-East neighbors. Modern science shows us that the sun does not revolve around the earth, there is no "solid dome" (firmament) in the sky holding back the waters, and the earth is NOT 6,000-years-old. But that's fine -- because Genesis (nor any genre in the Bible) is concerned with scientific truth.

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Justin Stratis

May 02, 2012  4:01pm

Just a quick note - Carolyn Arends doesn't say that the Bible is to be read allegorically; she says that language used for God is to be understood analogically. This is a standard view in the tradition, and I suspect she's getting it from the first question of Thomas' Summa. No need to get the pitchforks out just yet.

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Kyle Dupic

May 02, 2012  3:27pm

Austin, you recognize Biblical slavery is MUCH different than the slavery we faced in America for years, correct?

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Austin Miles

May 02, 2012  3:25pm

I was disappointed in this story, some of the comments and in CT for publishing this distorted view of the Bible. The early Bible was written during a primitive civilization with practices that shock us today. A lot of Scriptures are within that setting and how those problems would be dealt with. That was for then, not today. For example: The Holy Scriptures do NOT endorse slavery as liberals contend. Slavery was a part of life THEN and Scriptures taught slaves how to cope for the sake of their own peace. The Bible is a history of God's relationship with man during their time of history. Josephus, the Jewish historian documented many biblical events as legitimate world history. Rev. Austin Miles

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D. Cyril Marlatt

May 02, 2012  3:23pm

I loved the article. Simply put, if we are to take Paul literally while he teaches us how to read the OT especially, then we must understand the Shadow Covenant of the OT (Hebrews) as allegory. (Gal.4:25 where the Greek alegoreo is translated as figuratively.) To impose a flat literalism is a liberal approach that Paul would need to correct.

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Kyle Dupic

May 02, 2012  3:20pm

Lastly, in reference to the J.I. Packer statement about God and children, I would turn your point around. God desires for us have a child-like faith. Mark Driscoll told a story of a kid who came to him and said, "I have a dragon." Driscoll asked, "Really, have you seen it?" The kid replied, "No, but my dad says we had one." Later the dad told Driscoll he was totally kidding. Point is, God is our Daddy, and whats us to recognize His word is more often than not pretty straight forward. God isn't trying to "trick" us with poetry, allegorical sayings. He is telling us exactly how it went down.

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Kyle Dupic

May 02, 2012  3:15pm

Unfortunately, no one in any non-literal camp ever goes as far to say that Jesus' life was allegorical, but it is a reality if you begin to pick and choose what WE believe to be literal and allegorical. I've never received a good answer to these questions over Genesis: If a literal 6 day creation did not occur and thus God "worked" in some evolutionary way, at what point did the fall occur? Did we (Adam and Eve) actually reign in death, disease, corruption, sin? Or did the first organisms do that? Because evolution HAS to have death happen. But death didn't enter the world until Eve ate the piece of fruit. So how can ANY sort of evolutionary model work with the Biblical story of Genesis, especially in relation to the fall? Did God decide at some point in our monkey evolution we had souls? And when was that? I'm fine if God worked in a way other than 6 day creation. But I just don't see it in Scripture.

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Duane D Watts

May 02, 2012  2:38pm

We can debate over all of Genesis, (e.g. was it a literal serpent? Did God literally breath into man's nostrils?) but I believe that with each figure of speech there is a one to one relationship of the analogy to a reality. What is the poetical equivalent of God having put Adam in a deep sleep and taken woman from man's side? What did God mean when He proclaimed "It is good"? Did that goodness include millions of years of pre-fall suffering and death? Finally, in answer to Roger McKinney, why indeed should we believe what the Word of God has to say? Maybe it is all poetry, and can be interpretted according to our own refinements. We don't have to be scandalized at cocktail parties by Jesus' crucifiction and resurrection. I wrote an analogical song to tell you why: Jesus Loves me this I know, for the theologians tell me so. Bible stories may be wrong, but to Jesus I belong. Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, The theologians tell me so.

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Duane D Watts

May 02, 2012  2:27pm

As far as understanding the language describing God as analogical, I believe the word "analogical" is more difficult than the concept, and any of us who have had any interest in knowing the God we believe in, came to understand that He was infinitely above our understanding in a relatively short time. So that seems to talk down to us. As far as ascribing everything that embarasses you with the in crowd to biblical poetry: I can not imagine, when neighboring populations had such strange literal views in their creation myths as a serpent coming and swallowing the moon each month, why God would poetically describe the creation act as something that has no relation to reality other than, as theologians argue, He wanted to ascert that there is One God responsible for creation. I believe he would only do this if He wanted his people to be as confused about the creation act as their neighbors. That does not mean we need to take every symbol literally.

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Chris Lyons

May 02, 2012  1:51pm

A wonderful article, Carolyn. All too many of us (like the last few commenters) forget that the Bible isn't a homogenous tome written by the same human hand (though with the same ultimate source of Truth), and that each of its writers were not acultural, but were integral members of the cultures they wrote to, both in content and style. Only someone of little (or no) faith can say something like "If Genesis isn't literally true (in a scientific sense), then maybe none of the Bible is." That is a complete non-argument backed by fear (and a hefty dose of modernism), not faith. I believe that Genesis is literally true, in the sense of how its original author considered it to be literally true (which may, or may not, take my 21st Century scientific methodology into account). When we make claims on the Bible that the Bible itself never claims, we only cheapen our own faith and (sometimes) choose public hills to die on which make us look (reasonably and literally) like fools.

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Brent Vermillion

May 02, 2012  1:15pm

Bad article. Of course, there are some valid points that not everything in Scripture is intended to be literal. However, this article in the end really said nothing. It made no real point and came to no real conclusion. My final point is if Genesis is not real literal history and just allegorical poetry as suggested with no backing, then maybe all of the Bible is just allegorical. Maybe God does;t really even exist. How do we choose what we are going to truly believe as literal and what is just left up to our private interpretation (since after all it is only allegorical). Thus, I will repeat. This article was pitiful and really said nothing worthwhile in the end.

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Roger McKinney

May 02, 2012  12:13pm

It would be nice if CT would occasionally throw a bone to those of us in the YEC camp.

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Roger McKinney

May 02, 2012  12:11pm

The evidence that Genesis one is "prose poetry" (what is that?) is awfully slim for such an important subject. And the same arguments against an historical reading of Genesis one have been applied to the validity of the Gospels. Once you start picking apart the Bible's historicity, where do you stop? Some don't stop until they claim that Jesus is not an historical figure. Seems to me that the modernists who insist on the validity of evolution and the "poetry" of Genesis are the ones killing Christianity. If we can declare any part of the Bible to be poetry instead of history simply because we don't like what it says, then the whole book means nothing more than what we want it to mean.

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Kurt Bowers

May 02, 2012  11:31am

No, fundamentalism isn't killing Christianity. It's not helping it, but it's not what's killing it. Agreed, overly simple and unscholarly dogmatism obscures the Christian message, but so does allegorical interpretation. Arends comes very close to espousing an Emergent/Post-Modern approach in stating that intrepretation was a "nuanced adventure" and that aspects of God were "stubbornly shrouded in mystery", both points of which I agree, but then explaining that in terms of Bible language being "analogical" and not "univocal". Clarification is needed here unless we are to understand Arends' arguments to mean scripture is one big metaphor of which there is too much ambiguity to really comprehend. I hope that is not what she meant. I hope she would agree with literal interpretation - not a slavish, rigid literalism, but that within the use of allegory, analogy, metaphor, etc. there is a normal and literal meaning, i.e. the literal principle, where words are taken in their usus loquendi.

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Daniel Hartshorn

May 02, 2012  11:20am

Of course, for the Christian the question is "What does God say about His word?" And He says a lot! Jesus quotes Deut. when He said in Matt. 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Long ago I lost interest in what the so-called biblical scholars said in their criticizing of God's word, and I found what God's word said in criticism of them much more enlightening and edifying. Paul wrote in Rom. 3:4 "...let God be true, but every man a liar..." And I don't think fundamentalism's hermeneutical practice is much of a danger, either; I do think, however, apathy among Christians about what God's word says and their duty to obey Him is the far greater danger.

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JAMES DAUER

April 05, 2012  10:01am

Author wrote: "We didn't understand that when we read ancient Hebrew prose poems (like Genesis 1), wisdom literature (like Proverbs), or apocalyptic literature (like Revelation) as if they were science textbooks, we were actually obscuring their meaning." Fundamentalism is killing Christianity. Thankfully CT is finally saying this.

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