Ur Video: N.T. Wright on Genesis 1...Literally
Should we read the creation account literally? Wright gets behind the question.
February 17, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 20 comments

Mabely

September 09, 2013  7:35pm

Genesis 46.30 yes , "Israel ", as personified by Jacob , is a man /nation maked by reelitvlay great faith that we in our day can only aspire to. However , God's unchanging constancy is the really awe-inspiring element down through the centuries , whether in the time of Jacob and Joseph or in ours. As VAUGHAN ROBERTS has written ,"There is only one God-the God who made the world.He has absolute power and continues to rule the world despite our rejection of him . That power was seen by the people of Israel during the Old Testament period as they watched him fulfil his promises to them." Jacob/Israel prepares for death after a God fearing life but a chequered life too .In his youth , Jacob was a deceiver and liar and it is a later mysterious encounter with God that transforms him and changes his name . Yet , Jacob now Israel remains no unblemished hero- for instance , he has been a poor parent whose favouritism towards Joseph has provoked bitter rivalry and jealousy among his own sons .That God chose such weak material as Jacob to found " Israel" is amazing . It is a reminder that God can employ and use even us weak and flawed humans as part of his plan and to do good .The story of Jacob , now as he prepares to leave this life in scripture , is a reminder to us that there are many baffling ( baffling to us , not to God Almighty!) in the encounter between God and humanity . The Josephs and Jacobs are no Jesus the best , by far , is yet to come !

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Bill Williams

March 08, 2012  11:02pm

Karen, I've just gotten back to this thread and I've read through your comments. You raise some very good points that I'd like to think about. I don't have a lot of time tonight, but just wanted to let you know that I did read your comments and I'll get back to you hopefully by tomorrow. By the way, I really appreciate engaging in conversation with you; you certainly encourage me to think through and clarify issues, at least in my own mind!

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Karen

March 07, 2012  7:22am

Bill, the only other observation I might offer is that spiritual death as a category only applies to spiritual beings, i.e., men and angels–not to the rest of the material creation. It also occurs to me to ask what sense would Adam and Eve have been able to make of the original commandment not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with the warning that if they did, they would "surely die" if they had never witnessed death in creation and understood what it was a as a process? How would they have been capable of understanding this warning? We have no record of God explaining that to them.

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Karen

March 06, 2012  12:06pm

Sorry for the delayed response, Bill. I haven't been back to this thread until just now. I certainly don't take offense at your questions and wrestling with this issue. And, I don't intend to come across as saying "front-loaded assumptions" are particular to any one group over another. I have had many of the same conversations inside my own head as you describe above. Having wrestled with this issue, too, I find I can't land firmly in any particular camp of interpretation right now, other than to acknowledge that I believe God created the world, which puts me someplace, I think, in the realm of Intelligent Design (and believing, albeit perhaps erroneously, that some version of theistic evolution might be compatible with that). I know that I don't have either the theological or the scientific expertise to do much other than I have done–point out that there is conflicting information from apparently sincere and committed Christians who do theology (the exegesis of the meaning of "day" in the Genesis account, for instance) and equally sincere committed Christians who study science and that we (or at least I) need to perhaps keep an open mind about particulars of interpretation, and that perhaps a focus on attempting to discover the spiritual import of the passage for the Hebrew community in which it was birthed might yield better spiritual fruit than the modern science against religion debates. I'm not confident that Genesis 1 is attempting anything like a modern scientific explanation of creation, but I am very confident it is intending to say something important and even critical about the relationship of the world to the God of the Israelites. So I found N.T. Wright's brief comments intriguing. In other words, I think maybe it would be more spiritually profitable for us modern Christians to ask, "What did this mean for the Israelites as regard to how they approached the Creation and the Creator God?" than to ask, "Can this be reconciled with modern scientific theories of how we got here? and, if it appears it can't, but science appears to be 'correct' (or everyone else thinks it is) what do we do?" I'm not saying that latter question is unimportant, but it occurs to me it might be a distraction from even more important things. No, I don't believe that physical death will play a role in the New Heavens and New Earth either. I appreciate your thoughts and you raise very good questions.

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Bill Williams

February 28, 2012  5:21pm

Karen, I read that link that you posted, and it certainly was food for thought. I've been mulling it over for a couple of days, and I do acknowledge that the Bible does refer to "death" in two ways: physical death that all of us experience, and spiritual death that is a separation from God. But the article seems to be arguing that the two are COMPLETELY different and have nothing to do with each other. That is how physical death could exist through the evolutionary process for millions of years before the appearance of "Adam", or "mankind". The thing is, I don't see anything in Scripture that would specifically argue for that conclusion. You simply have to assume that conclusion in order to harmonize with scientific knowledge, which is based on fallible human observation. That's not to say scientific knowledge is not reliable. But it is also not infallible. On the contrary, Scripture seems to correlate the two deaths much more closely than the author of the article would allow. Yes, the "death" that Adam brought into the world according to Romans 5:12 is spiritual death, symbolized by Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden which contained the Tree of Life. I will agree with the article on that point. BUT...turn to the next chapter and what do you see? The physical death of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain. Turn one more chapter and what do you see? Generations coming and going, each one punctuated by the same refrain: "And he died...And he died...And he died..." Each of these referring to physical death. I could go on, but my point is that Genesis 1-11 seems to be making a strong correlation between spiritual death and physical death. Physical death is a RESULT of spiritual death. Think of a leaf plucked from a tree. You could say that at that moment, the leaf is spiritually dead according to Paul, because it is disconnected from the source of its life. And BECAUSE of that, eventually, it will wither and dry out and physically die. So, if in fact physical death is the result of spiritual death, then we're right back at our original question, since it turns out that the article never answered the question at all! On the contrary, it raised more questions. If the article is true, then does that mean that physical death is simply a part of God's plan? Does that mean there will be physical death in the New Heavens and New Earth described in Revelation 21-22? And what would be the point of the Resurrection of the dead (the hope of the entire New Testament), if people are simply going to die physically again! And if they're not going to die physically again, why not? What's changed? Why would God allow physical death to exist for millions of years, independent (according to the article) of sin, and then at some point just arbitrarily stop it? Like I said earlier, current scientific knowledge claims that life originated on this planet through the process of evolution. And that's fine. I won't argue that that is what science teaches, although it is well to note that there is a significant number of scientists who point out some pretty glaring gaps in evolutionary theory. Regardless, the claims of evolutionary theory seem to me to be so inconsistent with Scripture, that though I can accept it as "knowledge", I cannot accept it as "Truth".

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Bill Williams

February 28, 2012  12:54pm

I hope the last paragraph of my previous post did not come off as harsh, by the way. It's just that those of us who are willing to accept Genesis 1 more literally than others (even though acknowledging the poetic language and structure in which it was written) are sometimes spoken to, in my view, rather condescendingly; and so I guess I was reacting to that a bit. My point is that we need to realize that ALL of us carry assumptions, and that just because someone disagrees with me doesn't mean THEIR assumptions are wrong. Maybe MINE are too! But especially Karen, my experience with you is that you have never written in a condescending or disrespectful manner. So I hope you don't take my comment the wrong way! By the way, I also realize that this is by no means a simple issue, and I'm willing to accept those who see this issue differently from me as sincere and also wanting to know the Truth.

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Bill Williams

February 28, 2012  12:38pm

"Listen my children and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year. He said to his friend, 'If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the North Church tower as a signal light,– One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country folk to be up and to arm...'" This is the first couple of stanzas from a famous poem by Longfellow, using common poetic devices. It is obviously not meant to be taken literally in all its details. AND YET... No one will deny that there WAS a literal Paul Revere who existed, and that the ride described by Longfellow DID literally take place. So, just because Genesis 1-11 was written using poetic language, that in itself does not exclude the possibility of a literal creation by God, or the possibility of a literal first couple (even if their names weren't actually "Adam" and "Eve") or their decision to distrust and disobey God leading to death (both spiritual and physical), or the possibility of a literal flood, or any of the other events mentioned in this section of Scripture, even if those events did not happen exactly, or "literally", as described. It's not just modern Evangelicals (whom I don't even identify myself with, by the way) who carry "front-loaded assumptions." We ALL need to be VERY CAREFUL not to become the person who believes, "Everyone else has assumptions except for me!"

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Karen

February 27, 2012  3:55pm

Elegance, also the term "day" in Scripture doesn't always denote a 24-hour period, and the rather poetic "and there was evening and morning" suggests to me that this account is structured as . . . well, poetry (i.e., not the language of modern science)! I agree with Sheer that there are a lot of "front-loaded assumptions" modern Evangelicals need to examine when coming to the exegesis of the Genesis creation accounts. I rather doubt some of them are assumptions the first readers of Genesis would have had. Just to clarify, I do believe God created the world and everything in it.

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sheerahkahn

February 26, 2012  10:59am

"As soon as some new discovery comes to light the old theories fly out the window - like the flat earth did." Fair enough. In reading Genesis I think we should be aware that exact timelines are...not really given other than just a day. One day at a time. Now, what is a day to a being who sees the beginning and ending all at once? I think there are a lot of assumptions that are front loaded when reading Genesis...perhaps, it is time we start questioning those assumptions of ours. Karen, I'm putting up the post now.

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elegance

February 26, 2012  9:37am

I didn't mean to imply that scientists don't know anything and haven't accomplished a lot. What I'm saying is that there is no one who can really explain the time frame for creation accurately. As soon as some new discovery comes to light the old theories fly out the window - like the flat earth did.

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