The Colors of the Cross

Pink-cruciform-cutout-webIn arguing that God as the summum bonum just is the transcendentals (Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Beatitude [viz., experienced aesthetic value]), we are admittedly engaging in a form of natural theology (dismissed by many as idolatrous). We won’t enter into a defense of such a move here but will recommend Sarah Coakley. Not all ‘natural theology’ makes the ‘onto-theological’ mistake. We’ve also relied upon biblical passages that describe God in terms of a transcendent and glorious beatitude that is supremely transformative of creation’s suffering. We’ve discussed these passages here repeatedly. So biblically (as well as philosophically) speaking we feel like we have good warrant for understanding God to be unsurpassable beatitude.

However, there are other biblical texts that clearly describe God in strongly passibilist terms as possessing the full range of human emotions all of which are determinable by us. God’s anger burns, his heart breaks, he weeps, he laughs at the wicked, his grief leads him to regret having created, and more we needn’t mention. Point is—we have in these texts descriptions of a fully passibilist God whose “felt quality of existence” is contingent upon the fluctuating well-being of the world.

Shouldn’t such passages end the debate? There it is right there in the text: “God grieved” so greatly he regretted having created; God’s “anger burned” red hot against Israel, etc. After all, the Bible ‘says’ it. That settles it, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, this isn’t a straightforward rule that even passibilists use. For example, take Boyd’s cruciform hermeneutic as an attempt to deal with the tension between the divine violence texts and God’s non-violent love revealed in the Cross. Greg has argued for a cruciform standard, i.e., reading the Bible from the Cross outward, from the methodological center of the non-violent love revealed in Christ’s self-sacrificial love outward toward all other descriptions of God (Old and New Testaments), judging whatever descriptions of God fail to conform to [Greg’s reading of] the Cross as you move outward.

If we’re following him correctly, Greg argues that for whatever ‘actions’ (in this case acts of violence) are attributed to God in the text fail to conform to the non-violent love revealed on the Cross, we are to conclude that God did not in fact do or command them. We should rather understand such passages as God accommodating himself to a violent covenant partner (OT Israel) and identifying with their fallen violent ways in Cross-like love. It is only later in the Cross (not in biblical texts per se) that God reveals the nature of this accommodation. God is allowing himself to be identified and used by Israel for their own selfish violent ends. The abiding truth of such passages is one and the same, namely, that God accommodates and identifies himself with fallen, despairing people, sometimes tolerating their flawed understandings of him and even the projection (within the biblical texts) of their violence upon him. It is only through the light which Christ later sheds on this history that we perceive God revealed unambiguously as non-violent love and his accommodating Israel’s violence as a manifestation of this love’s covenant faithfulness. Greg hasn’t published the fuller arguments for this, so we’ll not get into a debate of his main thesis. Looking forward to it!

The point we wish to make here is that this view ought to be applied not only to the problem of God’s ‘doing violently’ but also to God’s ‘feeling violently’. Take a passage like Exodus 32, relied upon heavily by open theists to ground the biblical case for God’s responsive manner of relating in an open future. Greg’s hermeneutic reads the proposed ‘doing of violence’ in cruciform manner. However Greg understands the text to function truthfully, it is for him a Christological given that God neither wills nor does harm or violence. We suggest extending this to the emotions attributed to God in such passages as well. One cannot take straightforwardly what a text like Exodus 32 says God ‘feels’ and interpret the violence God ‘intends to do’ in cruciform manner while saying nothing about the what God is described as ‘feeling’ on this occasion. If God does not ‘do’ violently because he is non-violent love, it can hardly be supposed that he ‘feels’ violently. Rage, laughing at the wicked, holding them in derision are all ‘emotions’ that one should think stand judged to be as un-Crosslike (going with Greg for the moment) as the violent ‘actions’ which these emotions motivate. You can’t qualify the ‘doing’ without qualifying the ‘feeling’ in such texts.

At the very least this means that given Greg’s cruciform hermeneutic there’s no straightforward way to read passibilist texts since some ‘passions’ fail to conform to the self-sacrificial love of the Cross as equally as do some ‘actions’ attributed to God. Besides, in Christ we learn that the moral distinction between ‘feeling’ and ‘acting’ is false. So there’s no question that whatever reasons Greg gives for reading violent passages in cruciform manner, they are also applicable to our reading of the relative divine emotions, which means some emotions depict God no more directly or truthfully than do passages that describe God as commanding genocide.

flaming-cruciformThis is no small adjustment. In Ps 37.13 God “laughs at the wicked” and in Ps 2.4 he “holds them in derision.” In Ps 5.5 God “hates all evildoers,” and in Ps 11.5 “[God’s] soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Never mind the fact that with Christ we come to see that ‘hating’ is a form of ‘doing violence’. So the moral sensibilities of the Psalmists (or Israel as a whole) aren’t exactly cruciform. Consider also Ps 7.11 where God “feels indignation every day” or Hosea 9.15 where God shall “no longer love” a generation of Israelites because of their wickedness. Not exactly emotional judgments or attitudes Greg could recommend as reflective of the loving, self-sacrificial attitude Christ has for the wicked. Our point is just that Greg’s hermeneutic has to embrace the ‘feeling’ as well as the ‘doing’ of violence and this itself tells us that such texts do not reveal God in any straightforward way.

Our difference with Greg is regarding what constitutes the ‘standard’ which is the Christological center. Where Greg argues that this standard is exclusively ‘the Cross’, we recommend the standard be ‘the whole of Christ’s incarnate and resurrected life interpreted apostolically’. It cannot be the ‘Cross’ alone, for this ends up bringing the apostolic witness into conflict with itself. For example, we would take Luke in straightforward terms when he describes the crucifixion as relaying ‘the standard’ revealing God’s intentions and nature but judge Luke (following Greg) to have fundamentally misunderstood God’s intentions and nature when he attributes Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths to the Spirit. Or take Paul’s declaration to know nothing but “Christ crucified” (1Co 2). We would take this to describe in a straightforward manner an all-embracing standard for our understanding of God, but then not take Paul’s statement that “God lives in unapproachable light” as describing deity in any essential way (since, so the logic goes, Jesus didn’t live in unapproachble light but was fully divine; hence, divinity isn’t essentially unapproachable light [whatever that means]). Nor would we think with Paul (Rm 8) that God is essentially a glory/beauty which shall relativize all human suffering into incomparable insignificance since (so the logic goes) Jesus’ experience of rejection and God-forsakeness on the Cross was not an incomparably glorious experience. In our view, it’s the entirety of the apostolic witness (“…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” Eph 2) and not merely what is said and done on the Cross which determines a Christological understanding of God. Paul’s “God lives in unapproachable light,” or any of the other ‘transcendent’ passages we’ve discussed (or Christ’s transfiguration, a hugely suggestive event that ought to tell us Christ’s divinity cannot be reduce to the shattering of triune relations on the Cross), is as authoritative and informative for a NT-Christcentered understanding of God as is Christ’s cry of dereliction.

One possibility we might consider in this regard is that the OT biblical authors sometimes simply got it wrong. Early on open theists argued that anthropomorphic language is “reality depicting.” There are specific correlates on the divine side of descriptions of God as “feeling indignation all day” or “burning with anger” or “laughing at the wicked” or “hating doers of violence.” Even if this is a good hermeneutical rule, it doesn’t follow that the biblical author was always right. Greg’s own hermeneutic already discounts these as revealing God as actually intending or doing violence or harm to people. But the reasoning can extend to the feeling of violence as well, and some passibilist attributions are certainly inherently violent. What do we have in such cases? We have fallen, violent people projecting themselves onto God within the biblical text. They were simply wrong to have believed God was like this. Israel’s Scripture is a mixed bag because Israel was a mixed bag. The text gets it sometimes right and sometimes wrong because the text is Israel. We earlier described what we think this means for the Bible’s inspiration.

Cruciform Comp 1But this doesn’t entirely solve the (im)passibilism debate, for there are many other passibilist passages that attribute non-violent emotions to God (compassion, joy, delight, sorrow, brokenheartedness, grief). What of these? Our feeling is that it all gets read from the point of view of the full, apostolic witness and eschatological hope, not from Jesus’ cry of dereliction alone. We’ve commented on key passages we think make it extremely difficult to understand God in a fully passibilist sense.

So how do we read a passage like Gen 6? It seems to us that taking its truth at face value and concluding that God did in fact grieve to the point of regretting having created and having willed the violent destruction of the entire human race (a plan altered by Noah; note the adversative in “but Noah found favor”) is simply not an option in the fuller light of the Incarnation and the apostolic witness. What we can say is this—the OT biblical authors at least were for the most part strong passibilists. But they were also, apparently, violent and widely racist/tribalists, and these attitudes shaped their religious traditions and their texts as well. Given this, there’s no warrant to assume the biblical authors comprehended divine emotional well-being any more accurately than they understood God’s non-violent character.

We earlier commented:

Thus the history of Israel — her identity as a nation, her calling, her religious traditions and her Scriptures — is the context that will inform the development of the Word’s identity and mission. This context must be sufficiently truthful for that purpose. And the place this history is primarily embodied is, of course, Israel’s Scriptures. The worldview housed in that tradition will become the context in which Christ develops his own sense of identity and mission in the world, communicates that identity and mission to his disciples, and is finally empowered to fulfill that mission on the Cross. Hence that context needs to be sufficiently truthful for this purpose.

Might some errors belonging to the authors find their way into the text? Yes. No human author possesses an inerrant set of beliefs. No one person’s transformation and world-construction is complete or error-free. But overtime, enough of the truth needing to be said gets said in enough ways that a worldview adequate for the Incarnate One and the Church as his Body emerges. This means we view inspiration as relative in the first sense to preparing a context adequate for incarnation and not primarily about providing us a philosophical or scientific textbook adequate to answer whatever questions we put to it.

And this as well:

We are thus arguing for the canonization of Israel (as opposed to her texts per se) as the sacred space within which God creates the conditions sufficient for incarnation. Are the OT ‘texts’ inspired? In the sense that these writings are the written record of that created covenantal space God has sanctified for pursuing his incarnational purposes, yes. And it’s a mixed history; a history of misconstrual, of despairing nationalism, of religious hubris, but also of honest praise and humble dependence upon God. It’s a history that sufficiently succeeded at preserving the socio-religious conditions necessary for incarnational vocation. Israel is that space in the world where God does not give up on carving out a worldview sufficient for incarnation. They got it right enough for what ultimately mattered.

However, Paul claims “all Scripture” is God-breathed (2Tm 3.16). Isn’t that equivalent to claiming all Scripture is equally truthful and thus inerrant? Not necessarily. For example, humankind is also “breathed into” by God and becomes a living soul and yet retains this “God-breathed” status even as fallen and prone to error. He inevitably remains the consecrated space in which God works to secure his incarnational purposes. Similarly, all Scripture is God-breathed in the sense that God is choosing all of THIS history — good and bad, true and false—as the sanctified space in which God works to prepare an adequate social-religious context for Incarnation and redemption.

That said, consider Greg’s description of his ‘cruciform standard’:

But why should anyone insist that Scripture conform to any of these standards of accuracy? If we accept the view that all theological concepts should be centered on the cross, then it means that our understanding of “biblical infallibility,” as well as “biblical inspiration,” should be centered on the cross. And as I said above, if God most perfectly revealed his perfection by identifying with our imperfections on the cross, then we should have no problem affirming that the Bible is a “God-breathed,” “infallible,” and even a “perfect” book while at the same time accepting that it contains human imperfections. And it’s not simply that Scripture is inspired despite having human imperfections, as many argue. If we accept the cruciform approach to inspiration, we should rather affirm that God “breathes” through Scripture’s human imperfections as readily as God “breathes” through any and every other aspect of Scripture.

Finally, if we accept the cruciform approach to inspiration, then the cross becomes the standard against which Scripture’s “infallibility” must be assessed. In this light, to confess that Scripture is “infallible” means, most fundamentally, that it will not fail to bear witness to the crucified Christ if properly interpreted through the power of the Spirit, and with our eyes focused sharply on Christ.

We don’t see why a very similar thing could not be said regarding the strongly passibilist descriptions of God found in Scripture. The point is that there is no direct route from biblical descriptions of God to the truth about God. It doesn’t follow that since God is described as furious with rage or heartbroken with grief that these descriptions ought to be taken in a straightforward (theatrical?) manner. The authors may simply be interpreting God’s judgment (via plague, pestilence or foreign nations) as involving emotions that would undoubtedly accompany them as human beings were they executing such judgment. And if Israel’s view of God as a violent tribal deity is as thoroughgoing as Greg argues, then perhaps we shouldn’t trust Israel’s view of God much at all. But methodologically speaking at least, once we grant that a biblical author may speak from within a flawed view of God (known to be flawed based on later truths arrived at Christologically), then what’s been the standard open theist approach to reading passibilist texts becomes problematic.

It’s not easy to derive a single biblical view of God from Scriptures which tell the story of diverse, sometimes competing, views that develop over time. Greg’s right, we think, to agree with the general conviction that we read the Bible ‘Christocentrically’ (from the conviction that Christ is the end toward which the OT was moving to the idea that Christ can and does judge aspects of the old economy obsolete or originally mistaken). As for the details of Greg’s cruciform hermeneutic, we’ll await publication. Our point here is that when we read passibilist attribution in the light of what we feel are central NT convictions, we’re not departing from a Christcentered reading. We simply don’t share Greg’s understanding of what constitutes the standard by which other texts are to be read. Christ-centered reading, yes. But the Christ at the center is the Christ of the entire NT reflection and not exclusively the passion narratives.

(Pictures here, here, and here)

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23 comments on “The Colors of the Cross

  1. Hey… this was awesome, Tom. Your way of developing Boyd’s work here is very insightful and constructive!

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  2. Hey Tom,
    I think you’ve perhaps unintentionally addressed a major concern that I have had as Greg has outlined this “cruciform” hermeneutic in that its appears to be a different hermeneutic then what he used to come to conclusions about the openness of the future and divine passibility.
    If he is successful in making his case for abandonment of the violent images of God in the OT (not to mention the “violent” things Jesus said) by abandoning exegesis based authorial intent and original audience understanding, why not abandon all of these anthropomorphisms as the misunderstanding of a flawed author/audience?
    We could certainly say an “easier” reading of the Pauline texts that mention anything with time and foreknowledge would be determinism or at least meticulous sovereignty in salvation. Throw out the numerous OT texts as simply divine accommodation (using Greg’s new hermeneutic) for that time/people, and you might as well just become a Calvinist!

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    • tgbelt says:

      Hi Paul,

      I see your point. I think what Greg would do is point out the difference between hermeneutics per se (i.e., how we go about understanding what authors are saying in the texts they write) and the truth-value of what they say. The latter is a separate issue. I don’t think Greg will argue that any of the OT authors responsible for attributing genocidal violence to God were operating with anything like a cruciform hermeneutic. So he has to conclude that they either (a) were straight up lying in their texts, i.e., fabricating narratives they knew were false in order to promote national political and religious interests, or (b) they (falsely) believed (through their own projections and fallen religious sensibilities working with what truth they did possess) God was directing them to commit genocide. My guess is Greg would prefer to opt for (b), though (a) seems to be at work. But the point is, his cruciform hermeneutic is compatible with both, for in both cases ‘textual claims’ work the same way (i.e., the texts mean to attribute to God genocidal intentions and to authorize the Israelites to carry those intentions out). Hermeneutically speaking, these function the same as other non-violent texts that make claims about God. The question is whether textual claims are ultimately true or false (which is not a hermeneutical question), and whether truth and falsehood can function on different levels like Greg will argue (I think). Namely, the genocide texts are ‘false’ on one level (namely, what the original authors were capable of meaning—viz., either ‘a’ or ‘b’ above) but ‘true’ on another level (namely, how God is able to integrate or accommodate such fallen worldviews into the truth of Christ). How Greg will argue this accommodation is what we’re interested in knowing.

      Your question seems to be (correct me if I’m wrong): If God does accommodate fallen views that miss the mark and allow himself to be understood as having authored and supported such views, then isn’t that less than truthful of God and doesn’t that make it impossible for US to know which texts are REALLY true and which are FALSE (but God is just accommodating their falsehood)?

      It seems to me that we definitely have some such accommodation going on. We see Jesus uncover it, like divorce laws under Moses. Jesus said, “Look, you were allowed to divorce your wives, etc., because of the hardness of your heart, not because that was God’s desire ‘from the beginning’. From the beginning, etc….” and Jesus sets it straight. But God via Moses gave pretty specific instructions re: divorce. And by the time you get to Jesus’ day everybody just believed that divorce really was ‘true’ or ‘OK’ because God allowed it. But God was in truth just working with the fallen situation he had.

      Another clear example of this kind of accommodation is Israel’s demand for a King during Samuel’s day. They want a ‘king’ like other nations, but God is clear to Samuel that this is a rejection of God as king, and that God never had any such intentions for Israel. But God goes along with it, works with it, and ‘kingship’ even becomes a vehicle for expressing Messianic vocation.

      My hunch is Greg’s gonna argue the same sort of thing is going on with the violent texts. God isn’t commanding them, but Israel is bent on violence, and she’s God’s covenant partner and he’s not giving up on her. Sometimes you get the truer, non-violent, ‘lover of the nations’ view of God coming through OT texts, but it’s spotty and conflicting with other violent-genocidal texts. It’s not until Jesus shows up and makes God’s non-violent nature obvious. THEN we have a standard by which to compare extra-Jesus textual claims re: God.

      The second part of your question: If God is accommodating stuff he ‘really’ doesn’t desire, then how can we know whether or not some text (violent, (im)passibilist or whatever) is God accommodating us? Well, outside of Christ, we can’t know. That’s the point. You have to take texts as they are, given them the benefit of the doubt (a good hermeneutical rule–assume what’s said is true unless you have reason to doubt it). IF the character of the texts contradicts Christ, then it gets understood in that light. If it doesn’t contradict Christ, then one’s free to live by it.

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  3. formerlyjeff says:

    I think Paul’s point is not weakened by Christ’s teaching on divorce and God’s allowing Israel to have a king. Because in each case, I don’t have to assume any of the original authors or Christ were lying or speaking falsely due to ignorance of some kind. All is intelligible and coherent on the face of it. But what Greg is saying about the Conquest is different in that sense. It requires a hermeneutic we don’t use for any other text. And that’s conceivably doable if you want to treat scripture as a textual singularity in terms of hermeneutics.

    But then what right do we have to claim we can get much from the NT that is historical that any good historian should take seriously? Is Greg saying that we know the Conquest occurred on archaeological grounds and that therefore we can legitimately infer our way to what is erroneous in the text? If so, what is this archaeological evidence? Otherwise, how does he know any of the scriptural statements about the Conquest are historical since he’s clearly claiming, apart from historical evidence, that some of those claims are false?

    This is Greg’s contradiction, in my opinion. You either believe the NT texts are subject to inductive criteria such that it’s conceivable that there is historical evidence in them for what Jesus said, or you concede that the NT doesn’t count as evidence of history in the way other texts supposedly do (i.e., inductively).

    The other logical problem with Greg’s view, unless he’s changed his rhetoric recently, is that he seems to grant that Rom. 13 truly provides the real reason why we should pay taxes; namely, that State force (which seems count as violence per Greg’s definition) has a value for society such that we can, by paying taxes to subsidize such force, be paying what we “owe” to the State consistently with “owing” “no man anything save love,” Until he resolves this problem, he has no reason that I’m aware of to believe the Conquest, merely because of its violence, is inconsistent with divine love. And the whole “genocide” issue is irrelevant anyway. None of the texts say, to my knowledge, that the reason for the violence had anything to do with race any more than are the State’s putatively legitimate grounds for force per se racial.

    Greg has both problems, best I can tell, and they’re related in the way I’ve explained. And I’ve never seen him clarify how he gets around them. If someone knows where he’s done that, I’d love to read up on it. It seems to me that the only way his non-inductive hermeneutic has any chance of being coherent is if his view on Rom. 13 has changed recently.

    On the other hand, if he’s been right on Rom. 13 in the past, there is nothing obviously (i.e., to humans qua humans) contra-Christocentric (or, alternatively, contra-divine-love) about the truthfulness of the Conquest account as it’s described. So I think he has no reason to not just say the Conquest is true as written and that it is somehow analogous to State force in terms of its long-term benevolence.

    But I think the only way could find that consistent with a theodicy he could accept would be if he could believe other things he is already on record opposing; e.g., universalism for one. On the other hand, how does Rom. 13, with its allusion to capital punishment, fare any better to Greg in terms of theodicy, given his current views? I can’t see how he makes sense of his current view.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff,

      I don’t think it all coheres obviously on the surface of it. I think on the surface of it there are some clear tensions.

      As for the the Exodus and Conquest, what can be known from the available archaeological evidence, as I understand it, does not support the mass exodus of a Hebrew nation from Egypt and their coming to exist in the Palestinian hill country through a widespread, violent/military campaign as described in the biblical texts.

      But for Greg even if the textual claims that such violence really was commanded by God is false, there’s still a theological problem of knowing how those texts are to function within the whole. What Greg is saying is that taken at face value the OT violent texts present us with a violent genocidal God who’s character conflicts with the God revealed in the Cross and he seeks to resolve the tension without dismissing the OT en toto as a non-inspired text.

      God tells Israel to wipe out indigenous people groups, including children, including their livestock. Then this God incarnates, preaches unconditional love, and dies for us. You may not see any conflict here. I’m not going to even try to convince you of it. If you don’t see it, you don’t see it. But a lot of people do see a clear contradiction in portrayals of God. You’d be one of those who argue there is no tension. Greg is one of those who admit the tension and seek to resolve it.

      For the archaeological evidence, check out Bill Dever’s lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBIJRtsnNPY&index=13&list=PLbbCsk7MUIGeFrKlS-snrKWTT-uPs7VNO

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        First of all, the text in question is undoubtedly a text. As such, it is either inspired or non-inspired. Greg is not in a position to “save” the text as a text. He doesn’t have that authority. But I’m not seeing how your response, Tom, can explain how anyone could “save” the text as anything but a text that makes mostly erroneous historical claims, unless it’s actually a work of historical fiction in the first place. But I’ve never heard either of you claim the text is a work of intentional historical fiction.

        So once the text is historically false on that broader level, the falsity of its claims about the role of God in that false history are necessarily false also, per mere entailment. We don’t need Greg for that conclusion. Greg doesn’t grant us the right to use logic. And that’s why Paul’s question (i.e., “why not abandon all of these anthropomorphisms as the misunderstanding of a flawed author/audience?”) is completely valid.

        Of course, we know what the bigger problem is. It’s sitting there like an elephant in the living room. Namely, if such OT texts aren’t really just non-inspired, intentional historical fiction and yet are truly as historically false, per authorial intent interpretation, as you and Greg seem to be saying, can we make inductive sense of Christ’s putative claims about OT texts? I.e., can we come up with a different hermeneutic-predictive-heurisitc other than authorial intent interpretation that render Christ’s hermeneutically-interpreted statements about OT texts consistent with Greg’s posited nature of God?

        IOW, can we get a theology where Greg’s “ology” means what it means in other contexts? I.e., where the propositions don’t all sit at the level of axiomatic truths or function as what Hart calls a-logical “lyres?” Clearly, that’s what Greg is struggling with. That’s what a hermeneutic is supposed to do, after all.

        Greg’s relatively recent comments on Rom. 13 constitute an example of how Greg already fails in that regard (because inductive sense includes deductive sense). And that renders his approach to those OT texts thus far irrelevant. Greg has to solve the Rom. 13 problem, which is a logical consistency problem, before his OT hermeneutic project has any relevance to what he’s attempting.

        Even if we say that the OT texts merely conditioned Christ’s understanding of his identity, aren’t we stuck with the same problem? It’s still hard to see, even per that view, how Christ’s putative statements about the OT help us one bit with respect to the problem Greg is trying to solve. This is why Greg hangs SO much on his own interpretation of the “eye for an eye” passage in the Sermon on the Mount.

        And yet he still doesn’t solve the Rom. 13 problem even then. All Greg can logically get from his interpretation of the “eye for an eye” comment by Christ, consistent with his interpretation of Rom. 13, is that believers, from the time of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount on, shouldn’t use any force against another (not even for a sufficient defense of one’s child). But it would still not imply an inconsistency of a putative “Conquest” with the nature of God. Because it doesn’t, by Greg’s approach, imply that God doesn’t “use” government force for divine ends.

        Indeed, how could Greg even appeal to the issue of “genocide,” which one can only assume has something to do with discrimination, when nothing in the OT texts ever claim “genos” had anything to do with the reason for the “violence” and when he has publicly claimed that one can legitimately vote any way one wants so long as they aren’t doing the “force” of law enforcement? But don’t different candidates discriminate differently as to who force should be used against and what kinds of force should be used against them? And therefore, isn’t voting an attempt to affect a discrimination with how force will more probably be used against others?

        So Paul’s point is valid. If all we have is axiomatic claims with no logical structure in our “view” that renders a coherent world-view which, when voluntarily “acted upon,” seemingly increases our over-all well-being, there is no inductive plausibility to our views, true or no. And if the law-of-non-contradiction is valid as a principle, then one of the following is true:

        1) Our greatest, over-all well-being is only attainable by voluntarily choosing aright, which capacity for choosing aright is conditioned, in part, by something God has given to us as humans qua humans,

        OR

        2) It is not the case that 1).

        If we believe 1), our world-view must be derived, in part, from something that God gives to humans qua humans. Hyper-Calvinists believe 2), it seems. But for those of us who believe 1), it’s still imperative that we articulate what it is we think God gives humans qua humans. Otherwise, we will always be talking past one another to the extent that we’re voluntarily interpreting one’s words in terms of an authorial-intent hermeneutic.

        The same logic applies to a community within the human family. If we don’t articulate what it is that we believe that God gives to each member of a community qua a member of the community, we’re being very unclear about the most important part of our world-view. Because that’s the part that’s fundamental to any logical structure in a world-view that has anything to do with humans properly choosing their way to greater well-being.

        Once you understand what a person believes God gives (if they hold to 1 above, i.e.) to a community member qua a community member, a lot of what made no sense theretofore will then make more sense. Seemingly, Greg thinks God gives Christians something that, as a side-effect, creates the very problem he’s working on. Most humans believe something just like this. But what is it that we think God gave us that causes these problems for us to work on? That’s what needs to be communicated. This applies as much to the atheistic scientist working on theoretical problems that concern them every bit as much as it does to the theologian. Until we do this clearly, we’ll be leaving out the most important element in our view.

        Hart, as an example, is a world apart from Greg, in this respect. But at least Hart is relatively clear about how little confidence he has that God has given anything to humans qua humans that amounts to or that could render them, rationally, a true theology. And he is pretty clear on how mystically he thinks revelation is imparted to his religious community. But Greg seems to think the NT is a collection of texts that function as logical evidence for the historicity of the authorial-intent-interpreted meaning of much of those texts.

        This is what makes Paul’s comments spot on with respect to Greg. They have no relevance to, say, David Hart. Because Hart is on record claiming that the authorial-intent interpretation of putatively canonical texts is of relatively little value.

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      • tgbelt says:

        I don’t want to speak for Greg. I didn’t set out to adopt his cruciform hermeneutic lock, stock and barrel or defend his pacifism or anything else. You should probably write him. I don’t have answers for your issues with him. But from the little Greg and we have discussed, I’d say Greg’s not trying to save the text as a text (as you say). He’s going to argue that its being “inspired” is consistent with some level of inaccuracy. Certainly nobody is claiming the entire OT is a work of intentional historical fiction. But some would agree there are clearly embellishments upon a core historical tradition.

        If a text (claiming divine sanction for genocide) is false on a broad historical level, then of course it’s false on that level. Personally I’m beyond the whole inerrancy debate over the minutia of texts. If you want to have that debate, do it elsewhere please. I simply don’t have any interest in convincing inerrantists otherwise.

        Now, I haven’t suggested that Paul’s question isn’t valid. I think it is valid. I actually answered it (as opposed to dismissing it). I said it doesn’t follow from its being the case that some texts falsely describe God that all biblical texts that describe God are false. If one wants to argue that one can reason from the fact that a text is ‘biblical’ that it’s true, then good luck with that. It’s not my view.

        Why not abandon all anthropomorphisms simply because some descriptions of God in the Bible are motivated by false understandings of God? I should think the answer is pretty simple—because there’s no clear warrant to do so. Where you have warrant to take some historical or theological view as mistaken, take it as mistaken. But that’s not cart blanche warrant to dismiss it all.. Greg feels he has warrant to question the violent portrayals of God, and Jesus’ function as revealer of God is that warrant. If you don’t see any conflict, cool. Others do.

        You’ll have to talk to Greg about the other issues.

        Jeff: Namely, if such OT texts aren’t really just non-inspired, intentional historical fiction and yet are truly as historically false, per authorial intent interpretation, as you and Greg seem to be saying, can we make inductive sense of Christ’s putative claims about OT texts?

        Tom: You can make inductive sense about what Christ believed to be the case with respect to historical particularities, sure. But let me ask if you think it’s consistent with Jesus’ being God-incarnate within the constraints of the given worldviews of his local, first-century worldview, that Jesus shared some of the historically inaccuracies of his culture? Let’s say (theistic) evolution is true and there was no particular, historical couple (no Adam and Eve in the Cecil B. DeMille fashion). There’s no question Jesus (and Paul) believed in such a couple. So, what’s at stake for you faith, Jeff, if Jesus and Paul were just mistaken about this?

        Greg, for his part, as I understand him, takes the OT as inspired on the authority of Jesus’ having taken it to be so, but he doesn’t take ‘inspired’ to entail the sort of inerrancy you do. That’s for him to work out. He hasn’t published yet, so we’re all waiting. But in any case, I don’t share Greg’s view (i.e., taking the OT as authoritative or infallible just because Jesus took it to be so).

        Jeff: Hart, as an example, is a world apart from Greg, in this respect. But at least Hart is relatively clear about how little confidence he has that God has given anything to humans qua humans that amounts to or that could render them, rationally, a true theology.

        Tom: Hart neither says nor intends any such thing. He may not deliver the kind of rationalist theology you want, but that’s not to say he denies that God has equipped humans essentially with the capacities to responsibly think their way through to conclusions that are fulfilling of those purposes God’s designed us for.

        Like

  4. formerlyjeff says:

    Jeff: … Hart is relatively clear about how little confidence he has that God has given anything to humans qua humans that amounts to or that could render them, rationally, a true theology.

    Tom: Hart neither says nor intends any such thing.

    J: Hart believes what you say he does. But he has expressed the tentativeness of that belief (The Experience of God,” p. 15):

    “I retain a belief, however NAIVE, in a sort of universal grammar of human nature, which makes it possible to over-come any cultural or conceptual misunderstanding.”

    But for one example of why I can’t even make sense of his claim, I don’t even see how he could define the trinity as a single being (co-substantial) in terms of a universal human grammar. If there’s a definition of “hypostasis” that uses only human categories, I’m not aware of it. Trinitarians that I’ve read freely confess that the word “Trinity” is not definable,

    Tom: but that’s not to say he denies that God has equipped humans essentially with the capacities to responsibly think their way through to conclusions that are fulfilling of those purposes God’s designed us for.

    J: So where does he articulate how one can “think their way through,” thus? All I’ve seen him do is articulate how one could do that for the “demiurge”Teleological Agent he explicitly rejects.

    Tom: You’ll have to talk to Greg about the other issues.

    J: Greg is on record about the legitimacy of voting, the meaning of Rom. 13, etc. It’s out there on his blog.

    Tom: Why not abandon all anthropomorphisms simply because some descriptions of God in the Bible are motivated by false understandings of God? I should think the answer is pretty simple—because there’s no clear warrant to do so.

    J: What kind of warrant are you talking about, though? A human warrant? If so, your response is irrelevant. Because there is no human warrant TO accept descriptions of God in the Bible merely because they’re in the Bible, once we conclude that some such descriptions are false. If you mean something other than human warrant, I don’t know what that is, or whether Greg is even driven by that.

    Tom: But let me ask if you think it’s consistent with Jesus’ being God-incarnate within the constraints of the given worldviews of his local, first-century worldview, that Jesus shared some of the historically inaccuracies of his culture? Let’s say (theistic) evolution is true and there was no particular, historical couple (no Adam and Eve in the Cecil B. DeMille fashion). There’s no question Jesus (and Paul) believed in such a couple. So, what’s at stake for you faith, Jeff, if Jesus and Paul were just mistaken about this?

    J: As I see it, Tom, if a theodicy that consists of the Genesis history plus universalism is not true, I’m not aware of a theodicy. And if there is no theodicy, the only kind of theism I can think of is one for which accountability is illusory. And in that case, there’s nothing intelligibly at stake for me being wrong about theology. Indeed, I can’t even see how accountability is even entailed in your view, if I’m understanding it. But apart from accountability, what does “at stake” even mean in this context? I have no idea.

    And that’s the issue. Words have different meanings per different world-views. Dawkins, e.g., is clear that he thinks atheism amounts to no accountability. I agree with him. Because I can’t even account for “warrant” at all in terms of atheism.

    Like

    • tgbelt says:

      J: Hart believes what you say he does. But he has expressed the tentativeness of that belief (The Experience of God,” p. 15): “I retain a belief, however NAIVE, in a sort of universal grammar of human nature, which makes it possible to over-come any cultural or conceptual misunderstanding.”

      T: He’s not confessing the naiveté of his belief. He’s just admitting that in today’s postmodern climate such a belief is thought to be naïve. Hart doesn’t think it’s naïve.

      ———————–

      T: You’ll have to talk to Greg about the other issues.
      J: Greg is on record about the legitimacy of voting, the meaning of Rom. 13, etc. It’s out there on his blog.

      T: I just meant with respect to these further questions about him that you’ve been asking.

      ————————

      J: Because there is no human warrant TO accept descriptions of God in the Bible merely because they’re in the Bible once we conclude that some such descriptions are false.

      T: I already said that I don’t think a claim’s being “in the Bible” is in itself warrant TO believe it (independent of the assumption of truth which we all automatically extend to claims until evidence to the contrary presents itself). And when available evidence shows some claims to be false, it doesn’t follow that all claims should be doubted.

      ———————-

      Tom: But let me ask if you think it’s consistent with Jesus’ being God-incarnate within the constraints of the given worldviews of his local, first-century worldview, that Jesus shared some of the historically inaccuracies of his culture? Let’s say (theistic) evolution is true and there was no particular, historical couple (no Adam and Eve in the Cecil B. DeMille fashion). There’s no question Jesus (and Paul) believed in such a couple. So, what’s at stake for you faith, Jeff, if Jesus and Paul were just mistaken about this?

      J: As I see it, Tom, if a theodicy that consists of the Genesis history plus universalism is not true, I’m not aware of a theodicy. And if there is no theodicy, the only kind of theism I can think of is one for which accountability is illusory. And in that case, there’s nothing intelligibly at stake for me being wrong about theology. Indeed, I can’t even see how accountability is even entailed in your view, if I’m understanding it. But apart from accountability, what does “at stake” even mean in this context? I have no idea.

      T: I don’t wanna misunderstand, but what I’m hearing is that if you were to admit any errors in the text, you’d have to conclude your faith was in vain or you’d have no convincing reason to follow Christ.

      Like

      • formerlyjeff says:

        Tom: He’s not confessing the naiveté of his belief. He’s just admitting that in today’s postmodern climate such a belief is thought to be naïve. Hart doesn’t think it’s naïve.

        J: That may be true. But it’s not evident from his statement.

        Tom: And that available evidence shows some claims to be false is not in itself reason to doubt all claims nor reason not to begin by assuming truthfulness.

        J: Right, we assume truthfulness if a text doesn’t seem to be intentionally deceptive, intentionally fictional, or contrary to other claims for which there is stronger evidence than mere testimony. But we do this because testimony is itself a species of evidence. And we get more explanatory breadth useful for adjudicating how to best live by acting off the best evidence.

        So when do we reject testimony? When it contradicts more plausible (because it provides greater explanatory/predictive breadth) testimony and/or some other explanatory theory with greater explanatory breadth. What would constitute either as a reason to reject Genesis as history? Indeed, what explanation that robs us of a theodicy is explanatory in any sense if, by robbing us thus, it undermines our ability to conceive of how inductive criteria can be warranted in any sense? This is the very epistemological problem that atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel writes about in his recent book; i.e., how can we even account for warranted belief if some kind of progress-oriented teleology isn’t true? Of course Nagel hopes there’s a teleology that can be shown to work non-intelligently and consistent with compatibilism.

        This is the sense in which claims can be necessary to a theodicy which are otherwise just claims handed down by tradition and thus seemingly void of relevance to value. And to say that a theodicy has no relevance to human value is seemingly to say that there is nothing we infer to be going on presently that God will probably do anything about, if there is a God, because nothing about the world affects God’s felt experience.

        I.e., if God’s “benevolence” is absolutely consistent with whatever God’s creations are like at any time, then the past and future of humanity could be sheer torment consistently with God’s “benevolence.” Something has to be posited of God that explains the existence of a hopeful eschatology. Impassibilism doesn’t imply it or its probability. With impassibilism, we can only posit a hopeful future axiomatically. It’s not derivable from any attributes of a Creator of the universe. The whole notion of hopeful eschatology in the NT corresponds to the NT claims that God is only long-suffering, not eternally-suffering. But impassibilism robs us of this divine-attribute-explanation (explanation because teleological motivation is explanatory for humans and therefore of God) and leaves us with none.

        Finally, to the extent that it’s conceivable that a theological view is grammatically expressed anthropomorphically, it first needs to be shown that a hermeneutic that doesn’t assume the anthropomorphism is inferior in terms of inductive plausibility. In short, if God is passible in the way many think scripture superficially indicates, then it’s not plausible that we should assume all texts that indicate divine passibility are merely anthropomorphic. We’d need independent reasons for believing in impassible theism in that case.

        But I’m not aware of what those reasons are. I don’t see how passibility per se implies incompetence in God since it certainly doesn’t in us. And apart from incompetence, I don’t know what event or state of affairs is only conceivable or consistent with the existence of warranted belief if divine impassibility is the case.

        Tom: I don’t wanna misunderstand, but what I’m hearing is that if you were to admit any errors in the text, you’d have to conclude your faith was in vain or you’d have no convincing reason to follow Christ.

        J: I suspect there are at least copy errors in the text. And I’m not aware of any problems in textual consistency that are problematic to the basic theological themes that render the NT a coherent extension of those themes. Even the archaeological problem you mentioned isn’t near as problematic as the consensus would claim. E.g., see http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/products/Exodus_book.php. It’s quite hard to see the correlations of text and archaeology that Aardsma documents as being mere coincidence. But it requires we change our view of when the Exodus happened.

        Similarly with the Noachian Flood. Some of the greatest geologists have believed in or taken seriously the view that the earth has expanded (contra plate tectonics). And plate tectonics has huge problems. But if the earth expanded, the history of relatively recent ocean basins and sea levels showing a trending decline over time is consistent with a previously flooded earth. It would mean, though, that the time it took for the earth to be uncovered with water to the extent it currently is would have taken a very long time, involving lots of watery catastrophes. And that’s just what the record shows.

        Such a continually evolving environment together with the contingencies of fossil preservation, species populations, species geographic extent, taphonomy, erosion, etc would account for the sedimentary succession of fauna/flora to some extent. And there is no predictive heuristic that DOES account for that succession to any impressive degree. Large stratigraphic range increases have been occurring since paleontologists have been fossil hunting. Indeed, current erosion rates make it hard to imagine how the current sediment distribution could have resulted from erosion going on as long as is posited by the consensus.

        The problems with current paradigms are so huge that they can’t be taken seriously as anything but aids to research guidance. Theories or aspects of theories are overturned all the time with new data. Other hypotheses that are called “theories” don’t predict/imply any “novel” events that render them more plausible than competing hypotheses (e.g., universal common ancestry vs. separate ancestries).

        But if Genesis 1-11 is false in the way academe would claim, I would have to agree that there is no theodicy (since I can’t even think of another that has any plausibility) and therefore no way to articulate why theism is more plausible than atheism. How would I live if I had no theodicy? Not so different at first, probably. But who knows how I’d be affected by it over time if I truly believed there is no humanly-discernible theodicy. I don’t see how I could do anything but become more cynical over time.

        But I know this; I’m not aware of any inductive evidence for any claims that contradict the main gist of the Pentateuch so long as one allows for a long enough history to account for a not-too-catastrophic Earth expansion. The claims that do contradict it are claims that don’t explain/predict real events without diminishing over-all theoretical-explanatory breadth/prediction. I.e., in practice, theories are used in an eclectic, non-ontological way for specific purposes. You have to read a lot of what scientists say and of the consistency/conceivability problems thereof (all of which are admitted by at least some scientists) to understand why that’s so.

        There is a reason why there is no consensus among philosophers of science as to what even demarcates scientific hypotheses from non-scientific hypotheses. They see the problems. Like I’ve said before, I’ve asked atheists what they even mean by “evidence” apart from inductive evidence, and they can’t even define the term. So it’s hard to not conclude that they just equate “plausibility” with their own version of personal credulity/incredulity. But by that definition, “evidence” and “plausibility” correspond to nothing objective in the first place. The one thing you have to hand to those who right the induction chapters in logic books is that they take pains to clarify what they mean by “evidence,” “plausibility,” etc.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Tom: He’s not confessing the naiveté of his belief. He’s just admitting that in today’s postmodern climate such a belief is thought to be naïve. Hart doesn’t think it’s naïve.

        J: That may be true. But it’s not evident from his statement.

        Tom: It’s evident from everything he’s written and argued as a Greek Orthodox thinker/theologian. Understanding that, you’d know the context of such statements. Besides that, DBH is not the sort of scholar who is going to believe what he admits is naive to believe.

        Like

  5. formerlyjeff says:

    Tom: … or you’d have no convincing reason to follow Christ.

    J: I forgot this part, Tom. What it means to follow Christ is a matter of interpretation. If Christ’s conception of divine love was consistent with his belief in an historical Adam & Eve, then it’s not plausible to me that he conceived of that divine love independently of the aspect of a theodicy entailed in that account. It seems to me that the alternative view has the burden of proof. I.e., how is it more plausible that Christ could believe in divine love if Genesis, in his view, was basically just false?

    As such, I’m pretty sure God wouldn’t be the least bit upset at me if I failed to believe what was neither self-evident nor plausible due to a lack of evidence. But there’s the rub, I guess. There only IS such a thing as inductive evidence, in my opinion, if God is sympathetic.

    So if I concluded that Genesis is a-historical, I guess I’d be literally compelled to believe that some theodicy exists even if couldn’t discover it. I suppose that would keep me invested in the golden rule. But how it would relate to Judaeo-Christian texts would be problematic for me, to say the least.

    I would appreciate that Jesus believed in the golden rule and saw it as related to the God of Genesis. And this in turn would make me think that if Jesus was/is divine, that believing true history is not what matters, but only the golden rule. But that would seem to mean that it’s not important what is historically true of Jesus so long as I agree with him about the golden rule. So there’s the dilemma.

    Like

    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff,

      There’s too much here to engage point for point. I’ll just comment on this and leave it at that:

      “We assume truthfulness if a text doesn’t seem to be intentionally deceptive, intentionally fictional, or contrary to other claims for which there is stronger evidence than mere testimony. But we do this because testimony is itself a species of evidence. And we get more explanatory breadth useful for adjudicating how to best live by acting off the best evidence. So when do we reject testimony? When it contradicts more plausible (because it provides greater explanatory/predictive breadth) testimony and/or some other explanatory theory with greater explanatory breadth. What would constitute either as a reason to reject Genesis as history?”

      I fear you may think I or Greg disagree with any of this. On the contrary, this describes precisely why Greg holds the position he does, namely, that we have a contradiction that needs to be resolved — God can’t be the loving God revealed in the Cross AND be the violent genocidal God of the Conquest narratives (and other such passages). Now, you don’t see a conflict. Fine. But others do, and they don’t have to abandon induction or notions of evidence and warrant to do so. From Greg’s perspective it’s far more plausible that God never commanded such violence than that he didn’t incarnate in Jesus. And both can’t be true. Think of this what you will, but he’s not tossing out logic or induction or notions of evidence or warrant.

      I don’t share your faith, Bro. I mean, a faith that requires the kind of inerrancy yours does. If evolution were true, say, and Adam and Eve were not be “a” historical pair whose union is the historical fount of the entire human race, and/or aspects of Israel’s military conquest were embellishment upon a historical core (and there is a historical core we know from archaeological evidence), it would not matter essentially to my faith in and experience of the living Christ.

      Good luck,
      Tom

      Like

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff, your approach (if I’m following you at all) to biblical truth claims seems to be a bottom up house of cards type of approach…

        Cards

        …in which every claim hinges on every other claim. Remove one and the whole falls. If there’s no literal-historical human pair who together are THE progenitors of all the human race, or if God didn’t really command genocide just like the text says, then we have zero reason to believe any other textual claim, including the apostles when they narrate the life, teachings and death/resurrection of Jesus.

        My own approach moves in concentric manner from the inside out…

        Circles

        …with the living Christ of the gospel proclamation being the center and moving outward from there. If an outter circle (say, an OT text about an aspect of Israel’s military conquest of Canaan) should prove to be false or highly implausible, it doesn’t follow that the center is AS false or implausible. You could describe this as a centered web as well (maybe even better).

        Web

        Point is, the truth claims of propositions throughout the wide variety of biblical texts are not all equally entailing or dependent upon one another. But were the center to prove false — where it demonstrated that Jesus never lived or did not in fact rise from the dead — then I’d give me faith up as well.

        Tom

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  6. formerlyjeff says:

    First of all, I don’t require inerrancy of any kind. I just know that until you have a theory that fits the current historical/archaeological data better than biblical texts which are presumably by authors Christ seemingly believed were prophets, there is nothing to “give up.” I.e., unless it’s more inductively plausible that:

    1) God created a world where life-taking tornadoes, floods, land-slides, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, asteroid falls, etc are, if Genesis is a-historical, seemingly just how God made the world to be from the get-go,

    AND

    2) All the children slaughtered thereby, independent of any discernible act of judgement, in any sense, is …

    3) … Consistent with the kind of loving God revealed in the Cross.

    Now, Greg doesn’t believe that 1) thru 3) is plausible, unless he’s recently changed his mind. And I don’t define love that way either. So if you and he disagree on that still, even the two of you disagree on what is more “plausible” about what a loving God revealed in the Cross would or wouldn’t do.

    And that’s the point, Tom. It’s not just me out here disagreeing with others. It’s many of us disagreeing with many others of us about WHAT a God revealed in the Cross would or wouldn’t do if, indeed, he has the sheer minimal power most of us agree he possesses. IOW, we simply must have some definition of what it means to be benevolent if we are to say something intelligible using words like “benevolent,” “love,” “loving,” etc. But knowing how we differ in such definitions is helpful. It accounts for other of our differences to the extent that deduction is involved with such concepts. Then we can know where the disconnect is and determine whether we’re just at an impasse and where.

    If you hold to 1) thru 3), then you and I just disagree about what a benevolent being does to children, directly or indirectly. And in that case, we have a difference there that is as significant as our difference on impassibilism. And the two may be related.

    But, yeah, I agree with you and Greg, Tom, that there is inductive evidence for the resurrection. But if you’ll read that book I linked to, you’ll find that there is impressive inductive evidence (especially for how long ago it was) for an Exodus and a Conquest (about as much as one could hope for). And if the earth expanded, there is nothing particularly problematic about a Flood. As it stands, earth expansion explains somethings better than plate tectonics anyway.

    And no one has a physical theory that accounts for either earth expansion or plate tectonics consistently with all the features of the earth that have to be accounted for. Some of the problems for PT (http://www.ncgt.org/ is one web-site full of articles by professional geologists and geophysicists about them) I read about in the past are profound. But that’s just another way of saying that there is no predictive heuristic for either hypothesis that accounts for the data yet; which is to say that there is no inductive evidence for either yet. They are just research paradigms for all practical purposes. There are seemingly only 3 possibilities: a) the earth has expanded significantly, b) plates have “drifted” significantly, c) the earth has been mostly stationary with respect to the continent-ocean basin configuration.

    And I agree that inductively (and I realize that religious experience that typically attends “conversion” is typically unattended by inductive analysis) we start with the resurrection claim and move outward. But is it really easy to argue inductively that Christ didn’t say the things about the OT that the NT “puts in his mouth?” I don’t see how. But I’m all ears. And if it’s plausible that Christ was a prophet himself, I don’t see how induction compels the conclusion that it is more plausible than not that his theological claims were false. But I’m all ears.

    What it seems is done is that people assume that there are insurmountable problems that we have to live with because some people say there are. But just to show you how misinformed you might be on just the Exodus/Conquest question (leaving aside the whole 1-3 comparison above for the sake of inductive analysis of mere fit of archaeology and scriptural statements), I’ll buy you the two Aarsdma books if you’ll read them. Just send me your address in an email and I’ll have them shipped to you. If nothing else, for reading them, you will be in a better position to more charitably regard the inductive evidence for the beliefs of others, even if they themselves are unaware of that evidence. They’re not long books. They’re quick reads that get right to the point of what archaeological/geological data fits which biblical texts. The fit is quite impressive whether or not you agree with the author’s hypothesis about the biblical issue.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: 1) God created a world where life-taking tornadoes, floods, land-slides, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, asteroid falls, etc are, if Genesis is a-historical, seemingly just how God made the world to be from the get-go,
      AND
      2) All the children slaughtered thereby, independent of any discernible act of judgement, in any sense, is …
      3) … Consistent with the kind of loving God revealed in the Cross.

      Now, Greg doesn’t believe that 1) thru 3) is plausible…

      Tom: I don’t know how it’s possible to so badly misunderstand (each other, or in this case, just Greg). Greg’s not even here. I should charge him for doing clarification of his stuff for him!

      Your (1) assumes “Genesis in ahistorical,” presumably because you think if any part of Gen 1-3 is not literally-historically the case, then it’s all ahistorical (i.e., it says nothing about the nature and history of creation or humanity’s role and predicament in it relevant to our faith), which you think in turn must seemingly mean that God made the world with all the life-taking natural calamities you describe from the get-go. None of this follows.

      To say some aspects of a narrative like Gen 1-3 are ahistorical is not to say it’s historically and theologically worthless through and through. It’s not like if “Adam” and “Eve” aren’t a literal-historical pair that what that the human race therefore must not have a beginning, or that God didn’t create the heavens and the earth, or that humankind wasn’t with the rest of the created order originally “good” so that our present sinful state does not have its origin in God but in our own choice.

      That said, Jeff, I’m unable to pursue this much more. If you wanna write personally, I’ll try to continue to engage you if I can. But I don’t feel like our longstanding and oft repeated disagreements of induction have a place here, not for a while at least.

      Tom

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  7. formerlyjeff says:

    Tom: Your (1) assumes “Genesis in ahistorical,” presumably because you think if any part of Gen 1-3 is not literally-historically the case, then it’s all ahistorical

    J: Greg’s view has nothing to do with the historicity of Genesis. Greg has argued that even if evolution is true (in which case Genesis is out of the picture in the sense you’re talking about), angelic powers are responsible for the kinds of natural evils I’m talking about. IOW, Greg has, in the past at least, argued that God did NOT create the world such that the natural evils I listed would have been part of the worlds workings. He claimed spiritual powers monkeyed with God’s creation, and that’s why those natural evils exist. Now, he may not believe that anymore. But I’ve never seen him say otherwise. I’ll quote SATPOE if you prefer.

    Like

    • formerlyjeff says:

      Oh, yeah, if you want to email, that’s fine. I’ll quote SATPOE in an email to you when I get a minute, tomorrow.

      Like

    • tgbelt says:

      I’m familiar with SATPOE and Greg’s theory on natural evil. I thought your (1) was relative to our discussion, i.e., something I or Greg said or believed. But if you’re aware that neither I nor Greg believes your (1), namely neither of us believes that Genesis is ahistorical and that it follows therefore that God must have created a world where life-taking tornadoes, floods, land-slides, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, asteroid falls, etc are just how God made the world to be from the get-go, then your comments are truly irrelevant, Jeff. I’m not sure this conversation is going anywhere and think we ought to disengage.

      Like

  8. formerlyjeff says:

    Tom, I must have misunderstood you in some of our previous discussions years back. I thought you actually did hold a more consensus view on the relation of natural evils to the whole history of humanity. I never hear but a handful of theist-evolutionists disavow such a history. And I’ve read of consensus-adherents’ “theodicies” that basically embrace my (1).

    And I know the discussion gets long. But answering your questions is not something that’s easy for me to do without doing it justice. I was originally only trying to argue that Paul’s point is valid in the sense that Greg’s “accommodation” hermeneutics is not in the same class as that of Saul and divorce. Authorial intent hermeneutics is not undermined by the latter as it seems to be for the former.

    And, yes, I realize there are folks that have problems with the Exodus and the Conquest texts just as you, I’m glad to learn, have problems with my (1). But whether or not those who reject the main gist (the whole SATPOE thesis) of Greg’s natural evil theodicy, while accepting consensus geological/anthropological historical constraints, ever propose an historical narrative that is consistent with consensus geological/anthropological historical constraints and yet inconsistent with my (1), it still seems true that my (1) seems to be pretty much what consensus geological/anthropological historical constraints amount to if the universe is also divinely-created and/or sustained. Hence, the confusion.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Greg’s view on natural evil seems unworkable to me. He says all natural calamities (tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, mud-slides, etc.) are the work of malevolent angelic beings across the board. I have a hard time accepting this. Not because I don’t believe in an angelic realm, or because I deny such realm is or can ever be so integrated with our own material realm, and least of all because I think God wills such suffering. Rather, I reject it because it can’t account for all natural-type occasions of human suffering. It’s one thing to say there are spiritual beings who under highly complex conditions have some influence over the natural order (for which there is no explicit example in the Scriptures but which I can accept to some measure). It’s another thing to say there is a demon or fallen angel behind every so-called accidental death. An aged tree limb falls on a child playing underneath its shade and maims her, a man slips on a wet surface and cracks his skull, a person who can’t swim trips and falls into a swift river and drowns.

      Greg has to (a) attribute all such suffering to demons or angels tripping, pushing and manipulating nature to hurt people (or perhaps coming up with a demon of ‘wetness’) and (b) hold that within the prelapsarian garden such “accidents” were simply impossible. Somehow prevenient grace would give people unfailing balance, prevent fallen debris from harming unprotected humans AND animals, etc. It’s beyond ScyFy fantasy. I can’t imagine it.

      I think there are genuine accidents that befall us, events that no malevolent will arranges and which God covenants not to micro-manage. It’s part of the world from the get-go. If that much qualifies me for the relevant part of your (1), so be it. But it’s not because (as your (1) stated) I take Genesis to be ahistorical.

      The second reason I object to Greg’s view is that it absolutely makes Satan an all-present, demiurgic/mediating figure, essentially ascribing to Satan the sort of sustaining/mediating presence within the created order that I understand to be the exclusive function of the Logos. Greg feels God covenanted with Satan to oversee, administrate, and sustain his purposes for creation. He feels this original contract between God and Satan is Satan’s legal claim to now mismanage the creative potentialities of every entity in its ‘becoming’ and pervert it. This is where mortality comes from. This makes Satan a functional Demiurge. But then Greg has God fighting Satan in this (presumably because God doesn’t want to honor his original pact with Satan?). It seems excessively ad hoc and I think creates more problems than it solves.

      To boot, Greg adopts an evolutionary view of origins! No historic Adam and Eve. Go figure. AND consider this; when you empower Satan at this level the way Greg’s view HAS to, you undermine the theodicy you seek to secure. Greg’s got God creating human beings in a post-[angelic]lapsarian world. He places the human race within a tiny garden whose very ‘material’ constitution includes, by divine contractual design, fallen angelic sentient beings of immeasurable intelligence and capacities, embedded in the fabric of the created realm and working at cross-purposes with God….and we’re supposed to believe that Adam and Eve (whatever they represent) have a fighting chance? I know you believe we have to believe they had a fighting chance. But I can’t even conceive of the chance. So I can’t imagine you and I coming to agreement on any of this.

      Anyhow, Greg’s theodicy isn’t something I can go with. What’s my prelapsarian story? I don’t have one, except to say God created a good world, it went badly, and it’s restored in Christ. Does its original ‘goodness’ preclude slipping on wet surfaces or having falling limbs maim innocent children? No, it doesn’t. Does it preclude original mortality? No. I don’t think human beings “fell” out of immortality into mortality. And does its going badly mean Satan is essentially a demiurge and all suffering is the produce of malevolent angelic wills manipulating matter against itself? Not at all. Does that mean there’s no sense in which the material world is a battlefield between conflicting divine, human and angelic wills. Also, no.

      Tom

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      • tgbelt says:

        When it comes to theodicy, Jeff, I think our finitude really shows up and we feel it to our core. Theodicy is the one thing about which we’d like the most closure and certainty, and not having the certainty we want hurts us personally and complicates our apologetic conversations too. We’ll just have to live with that I guess. We can give people minimally plausible explanations of evil and suffering, certainly explanations that make faith possible. I don’t think that’s hard to do. If someone rejects the gospel because we can’t explain the prelapsarian world on a quantum level, then so be it.

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  9. formerlyjeff says:

    Well, obviously I disagree with Greg’s preferred approach, too. For one, I agree with you that it’s hard to think of a Satan-and-gang who had existed long before humans, and who are described as being most powerful, subtle and wily, being less than certainly capable of prevailing over humans weaknesses. But I don’t think a straight-forward reading of the texts leads to that view in the first place (whether or not its actually historical). I think that just taking the texts a face value, even angels were created in the 6 days. Thus, by that view, Satan sinned shortly after his creation, which is seemingly hinted at in a later prophetic passage. And then other angels fell thereafter, as per Peter and Jude (again, I’m talking straight-forward reading of the texts whether or not the temporally-sequenced events were actually historical)

    As for just trips and falls, I have no doubt those could have occurred in an idyllic garden, just as intentional harm could have. But on the other hand, I never hear people who doubt a theodicy is possible using such accidents as examples of contradictions to God’s benevolence. There may be such people, but I’ve never heard one articulate that approach to arguing against the possibility of a theodicy. Given how much control an original pair in a non-hazardous world would have over their choices, most if not all danger would be due to risky behavior. And human risk doesn’t negate the conceivability of a theodicy, best I can tell.

    But if there was no chance that humans would not sin, then I can’t conceive of sin in terms of teleology. And I don’t know how else to conceive of it. I define sin as a non-inevitable act of a volitional being that produces a state of affairs that diminishes its (and possibly that of others) greatest, long-term well-being, however trivially. Thus, I can’t square my conception of sin with what is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that some sins aren’t inevitable, given some former sin. But some original sin that renders some future sins inevitable must itself have been non-inevitable, to my mind.

    As for the relation of theodicy to finitude, I have a different view of that. As I see it, it is precisely because of what constitutes actual inductive evidence (as defined in logic books) for a claim, that much of what we believe about the past from speculating on empirical data alone is actually what a logic book would render as just that — speculation. That’s part of our finitude; the very limited senses in which our beliefs can be warranted for humans qua humans. It is quite difficult to come up with predictive heuristics that account for events (even probabilistically) in a way that renders us a history sufficiently defined that it rules other histories out by inductive criteria. The abandonment of strict inductive criteria is what has rendered it well-nigh impossible to demarcate a scientific hypothesis from a non-scientific hypothesis in any clear way.

    As for the historicity of Genesis, it seems that the history of Genesis naturally flows into that of the Exodus. If the Exodus is to be deemed a-historical because of the views of consensus archaeologists, then Genesis becomes suspect for the same reason, I’d think. An author who speaks ubiquitously “historically” of non-history (like the whole Exodus history) is either lying, relaying a previous lie, or doing historical fiction (or something else like that) per our best human analogical inference. And such an author can’t be inductively inferred with any significant plausibility to be speaking historically without external evidence for that hypothesis, it would seem.

    Indeed, the Exodus was seemingly alleged to have been predicted in Genesis. And if we need external evidence of a history before we can believe it in a text, the text itself is not the inductive evidence of what happened historically in the first place.

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