Thursday, May 20, 2010

The pillars of the earth


(1) The comment about Job's historicity was in the context of God's apparently unscientific statements in the book of Job (e.g., ch. 38). If you have the time, I would be interested to hear how you reconcile such statements with science? Or, since the passage is poetry, do you find it unnecessary to even try to reconcile it with science?

Your final sentence states my position. Job 38:1-11 is using stock imagery. We can tell that the imagery is figurative because the narrator uses mixed metaphors: God as carpenter, midwife, and seamstress.

(2) I'm not sure what your general outlook on Revelation is. I did not go into detail either, other than to say that the images are more symbolic than literal.

The imagery is symbolic, although the imagery stands for real-world events. But it’s not a representational depiction.

(3) I wrote to Edward: "The primary question, in my opinion, is the intended message of the biblical authors."


(4) Certainly some passages are from the human perspective but I'm guessing Edward will not find such reasoning persuasive in all cases.

Since Ed is not a reasonable critic, that doesn’t bother me.

Also, the objection is too vague to specifically address.

(5) I have no objection to the assertion that world is depicted as a temple in at least some places in the Bible. But, as Edward will say, that does not mean the authors did not believe the earth was flat.

i) What matters is not the private opinion of Bible writers, but what they intend to convey.

ii) I don’t have any uniform position about what ancient peoples generally believed. I suspect that’s person-variable. Some individuals were more observant and intelligent than others. To take a few examples:

a) Suppose the Bible uses “pillars of the earth” as metaphors for hills and mountains, which seem to support the sky. However, ancient peoples had occasion to climb hills and mountains. When they reached the summit they could see for themselves that the hills and mountains weren’t supporting a solid dome.

b) If the moon was a disk, and the earth was flat, the apparent shape of the moon would vary depending on which part of the flat earth the observer occupied. But ancient peoples traveled. Yet the moon was the same shape wherever they went. At a minimum, that would imply the sphericity of the moon. And if the moon, why not the sun?

By analogy, it wouldn’t be hard for a clever man or woman to infer that the earth was also a sphere, floating in space–like the sun and moon.

So I don’t assume that there was any unanimity of belief among the ancients.

(6) I agree that those under the earth are probably the dead in the passages cited by Edward. However, I'm also open to the possibility that some biblical authors thought Sheol/Hades was actually under the earth.

i) Once again, the question at issue is not what they believed, but what they taught.

ii) In addition, as Daniel Block points out, Ezk 32:22-23 makes use of ancient mortuary customs to model the netherworld. That’s just one example. But it illustrates the way in which certain cultural conventions were a springboard for generating cosmographic metaphors.

(7) Since you're a Calvinist, I would be interested to hear your take on John Loftus' claims in ch. 7 of The Christian Delusion regarding God's alleged failure to communicate. See the second to last paragraph for my summary of his claims. If you want more details on his claims just ask and I'll try to provide more information.

The seventh explanation is offered by Calvinists. They say that God has a secretive will that is different from his revealed will. The revealed will is not his true will but can be used to get people to follow his secretive will. God’s secretive will sometimes decrees that people commit horrible acts for a higher purpose. Loftus states that if this is true we have no reason to trust God’s revealed will. I’ll leave it to Calvinists to respond to this depiction.

Well, that’s a deceptive way for Loftus to describe their interrelation. The preceptive will of God is just as truly God’s will as the decretive will of God. For the preceptive will of God facilitates a number of divinely appointed purposes. As such, God’s preceptive will is true to God’s intentions. In the nature of the case, the purpose of God’s law is indexed to the function which he assigned it to perform.

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