JD WALTERS SAID:
“Nothing in the Bible suggests that inspiration included that kind of knowledge. Did Paul say that every scripture is profitable for reproof, for instruction in righteousness, and knowledge of biology and geology?”
i) Inspiration covers whatever the Bible teaches. Genesis concerns itself with the origin of the world, including the origin of natural kinds–like birds, fish, and land animals.
You may say the Genesis account lacks technical specificity, but it’s true at the level of specificity it aims for. It’s speaking at the categorical level. Natural kinds by category.
ii) Perhaps you’re endorsing a more liberal theory of inspiration, like partial inspiration/limited inerrancy, where inspiration is confined certain types of subject-matter.
If so, that’s vulnerable to familiar objections.
“The only factual claims it makes that intersect with science are that God ordered and structured the Universe to make it a place fit to manifest his glory. Again, see Walton and Beale.”
i) I wouldn’t assume that Walton and Beale have identical views. Walton makes some useful points, but he overstates his case.
ii) There are also temple motifs in Gen 2-3, but this doesn’t mean Beale treats those chapters as nothing more a proleptic allegory for the tabernacle. It’s not as if he denies the historicity of Adam and Eve, or the Fall, &c.
“Even the number and sequence of the days and what was created on them is a stylized literary patterning, with two pairs of three days for God to create the structures and then the creatures to fill them. The number 7 is highly symbolic: It took seven years to build the Jerusalem temple, and the root of the word is 'savah' which means 'to be full or satisfied, to have enough of'. Therefore obviously (according to the Hebrew writers) God had to complete his work on the seventh day, the day of rest, the day of completion.”
That’s not all of a piece:
i) A basic problem with the framework hypothesis is the way it overrides the explicit septunarian sequential progression by subordinating that pattern of a nonlinear, hexadic pattern.
ii) Yes, the seven days may reflect a stylized numerological pattern. However, the fact that Scripture frequently uses round figures for numerological purposes doesn’t mean these figures don’t approximate real time (or space or units of something). It doesn’t obliterate a linear sequence. At most it rounds up or rounds down real time intervals for symbolic purposes. To take your own example, while the interval given for the construction of the temple may well be chosen for its numerological significance, this doesn’t mean it either took a nanosecond or a billion years to build the temple. Rather, it’s a round number.
You may say it does more than that, but if so, that requires more of an argument than numerology alone.
Of course, numerology sometimes occurs in literary genres (e.g. Revelation) where it does not approximate a real-world analogue, but that’s a side-effect of the genre, not the numerology, per se.
“I wasn't talking about ancient people, I was talking about modern YECers. My point is that, from their context of acquaintance with modern biology, they pose questions to the text that it never intended to address.”
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s hardly germane to my own responses to you.
“Not when you load it with speculation about what point in the cycle God started from. There is a difference between the biblical and philosophical concepts of ex nihilo.”
The Bible teaches creation ex nihilo, as well as the creation of periodic processes. So that leaves it an open question where in the cycle the cycle is instantiated. Exegesis may further pin that down.
“My objection is predicated on science, on philosophy and on exegesis. I've already argued repeatedly that there is no evidence in the Genesis text for God starting at any particular point in the development of vegetation and animals when he created.”
It doesn’t have an evolutionary narrative in which self-reproducing plants and animals are the end-product of an age-long process, beginning with the Big Bang, cosmic expansion, formation of galaxies, primordial soup, development of microbes, &c, until we finally reach the types of birds, plants, and animals familiar to the target-audience for Gen 1.
“Except with creation there's no reason, other than the Genesis 1 timeframe (which is a literary construct), to assume that God worked as fast as he did with the loaves and fishes.”
Well, I don’t view the timeframe as just a literary construct.
“Maybe not with respect to modern biology, but intertestamental exegesis was full of attempts to get information from the text that it never intended to give. The same goes for medieval and more recent Jewish and Christian exegesis.”
You’re shadowboxing with people other than me.
“It's not a non-sequitur. The Bible doesn't give that information, we get that from science. My point has been precisely that the biblical account is neutral about the issue.”
Which is duplicitous when you demand biblical warrant for all my counterarguments to your biblically unwarranted arguments.
“Again, you're getting too much information out of the text. It doesn't specify what form the emergence of those creatures took. Can we stick with what the Bible says please? The Earth 'put forth' vegetation, and the waters 'swarmed' with creatures. At some point in the process there weren't these things, and then there were. That's all the information we get.”
Which doesn’t mean you can shoehorn the evolutionary narrative into Gen 1-2. You can write it off as a parable, but don’t act as if that’s consistent with your alternative.
“To accommodate the Genesis creation account as interpreted by YECers, all the evidence we have of those species is evidence of events which never took place.”
You’re conflating YEC with Omphalism. YEC doesn’t attribute the fossil record to creation a la prochronic time. It attributes the fossil record to a global flood. Since you know that’s the YEC position, I don’t know why you pretend otherwise.
Of course, you can take issue with flood geology, but that’s a different question.
Strictly speaking, the Bible is silent on the origin of fossils. Scripture doesn’t affirm or deny extinct species. Since I grant the existence of animal death before the Fall, that, per se, is not an issue for me.
“Simple. If you're going to make a radical disjunction between appearances and the external world, so that all we have access to are mental contents, then the Bible and its accounts are only part of those appearances, since we only have access to the Bible through appearances.”
That disjunction isn’t simply *my* disjunction. Rather, that follows from a *scientific* analysis of sensory perception, where the observer does not and cannot directly perceive the external world. All he perceives is coded information, viz. electromagnetic input translated into electrochemical information.
This is one of the dilemmas of scientific realism. If you accept the scientific analysis of sensory perception, then it undercuts the univocal correspondence between the distal stimulus and the proximal stimulus.
What we’re left with is a plaintext/ciphertext correlation, like the correlation between music and a music score, where the score represents the music even though the score doesn’t resemble the music.
“You can't arbitrary stipulate that one set of appearances (the ones we have when we hold and read a Bible) can provide our anchor to the external world. The kind of sensationism you're talking about is too strict for that.”
That simply commits a different level-confusion. Communication (apart from alleged instances of telepathy) involves symbolic discourse, where word and object don’t resemble each other. Yet that doesn’t prevent the successful transmission of ideas, since an idea of an object doesn’t have to physically resemble the object, and the medium of communication doesn’t have to physically resemble the object.
That’s quite different from the question of whether grass is really green, tables are really solid, &c.
“If you're going to espouse that kind of extreme Lockean sensationism, where all we have access to are our mental contents, you'll quickly be threatened by skepticism about the external world from which even appeal to the Bible or revelation won't help you. After all, you couldn't claim that you have access to revelation, you could only claim that you have access to a mental image of revelation.”
i) Revelation is the revelation of ideas. Propositional content. If that’s garbled in process of communication, then the result is gibberish. Since, however, the Bible is intelligible, we know that God successfully communicated his message to the percipient. The process of transmission is self-confirming.
ii) You also act as though you have some alternative which sidesteps the consequences of my position. But what alternative would that be?
You think human beings are embodied creatures. Whether you’re a dualist or physicalist, you’re committed to the proposition that our knowledge of the external world is mediated by the senses. The mind/brain lacks direct access to the external world. If you stick a needle in my arm, what I’m sensing is a nerve impulse.
“Unless the understanding that we have access to the external world through our mental images is primary, and that our connection to the external world is grounded in those experiences themselves, all we can be is Chesterton's madman, locked up in the endless circle of our own mental images, but which is a very small circle indeed.”
No, it would have to be grounded in a God who has designed the encryption/decryption process so that what we perceive is relevantly analogous to what there is.
“For the reasons I gave above, any YEC account is going to have to resort to Omphalism to explain away the fossil record, light we receive from stars that are billions of light years away, etc. To save the appearances, YECers have to postulate that many events from the distant past we have evidence for simply never took place.”
That’s not how YECers account for the fossil record. It’s true that they often say starlight was created in transit, but that’s a different principle. That involves the initial set-up conditions of a cyclical process.
Your strictures wouldn’t permit God to create a coastline without going through the whole process of stratification, coastal erosion, &c. That’s a ridiculous restriction on God’s freedom of action.
“It is if you believe in a God who would plant traces of a history that never happened.”
You mean, like God planting the garden of Eden? What do you make of landscape engineering? Is it deceptive when a landscape engineer creates artificial ponds and waterfalls, or transplants flora from a tree farm, &c? All those traces of a nonexistent history. How deceptive!
“So you wouldn't object to the idea that God started real history five minutes ago, or more generally that we have no way of knowing where real history leaves off and the apparent history begins?”
You mean, like when Adam opened his eyes for the first time, to find himself a full-grown man, with innate knowledge, in a preexisting Garden–none of which existed a few hours before?
There’s also a difference between antecedent objections and subsequent objections. Since the Bible demarcates real history from apparent history, I object to Last Thursdayism. But I’m not Adam. I have a different history than Adam. A different real history.
“But on your own account, your knowledge of what Genesis says is only an appearance, a mental image. You can't use that to ground knowledge that those events took place.”
You’re confusing a carrier wave with what it carries.
“So you take back what you said in your previous post about how accepting the full evolutionary history has no bearing on whether and how many supernatural influences there have been throughout history?”
That depends on how hostile or open to supernatural factors a particular version of evolution happens to be. That ranges along a continuum. Your own version is pretty hostile.
“So yes, in a sense we just 'posit' them, but we posit them to account for our existence in a life-supporting universe, and thousands of experiments confirm that they are indeed constant through time.”
So you admit that you don’t have a noncircular method of measuring time.
“So that makes it more reliable? Now you're sounding silly.”
What’s silly is the way you change the subject. The question at issue wasn’t what’s more reliable, but you’re anachronistic application of modern physics (i.e. physical constants) to Gen 1:14ff. It doesn't speak to that issue one way or the other.
“You're going to have to explain how you think armchair philosophical antirealism invalidates the evolutionary narrative.”
As far as that goes, there are many things which invalidate the evolutionary narrative.
“After my repeated statements of accepting the veracity of boatloads of miracles, you think I'm trying to convince people that they shouldn't believe in miracles. Your extremism is not only callous at times, but also downright dishonest.”
The question at issue, as you yourself framed it, is your standing presumption against miracles. So you’re dishonestly misrepresenting your own position.
“There's plenty of Christian silliness to go around. Think of televangelists who sell blessed 'healing handkerchiefs' or 'miracle wafers'. Think of Christian groups that refuse to use modern medicine and have their children die as a result. It's not as if there's a few Christians tainted by bad experience with supernatural claims and the rest are lily-white innocents who happen to have chanced on exactly the right combination of beliefs, so they don't have to worry about being critical of such claims. Every Christian should be equipped to critically test other people's claims. Even if Scripture is (rightly) part of that critical apparatus, the Christian must exercise reason to properly interpret Scripture and apply it to claims she encounters.”
That tirade is irrelevant to the issue I raised. As I’ve repeatedly explained, is not an immediate miracle, but the way in which past miracles impact the present. Past miracles, like answers to prayer or providential timing, affect the “course of nature” further down the line. Yet in many cases that would be indetectible further down the line. For the long-range effect of a supernatural cause is indistinguishable from the long-range effect of a natural cause. Yet we know, on theological grounds, that answered prayers (to take one example) are factors in historical causation. Therefore, you cannot stipulate a presumption against supernatural causation in world history.
“Ooh, perish the thought! You think holding those beliefs is incompatible with saving faith?”
It’s incompatible with revealed truth.
“You think Martin Luther was damned for entertaining the possibility of postmortem salvation? You think it put him on a slippery slope to apostasy?”
Are you equally nonchalant about his anti-Semitic diatribes?
Luther never meant to break with Rome. So he was having to make up his theology as he went along. He was right more often than wrong, but you can’t use him as the yardstick, for your situation is different from his. You have advantages he did not.
“Your problem is that you see a straight line leading from certain beliefs to apostasy. The Church has outlined clearly which beliefs put someone beyond the pale, and those aren't among them. Nor can you legitimately extrapolate from someone's entertaining them to the conclusion that they are in danger of apostasy.”
A straw man.
“By the way, I'm not saying that I do hold to those things. In proper critical mode, I won't assent or withhold my assent until I've examined all the Scriptural evidence. I certainly won't take your word for it that those beliefs are beyond the pale until I've researched the matter for myself.”
Another straw man. You have a habit of projecting “Father David” onto your opponents. (At least where I'm concerned.) You need to outgrow that father-complex. It clouds your judgment.
Unlike “Father David,” I never ask anyone to accept something I say on my personal authority. I argue for my positions. I’m not claiming the angel Gabriel whispered this in my ear. And that includes my extensive critique of universalism.
“Just because he personally became more skeptical doesn't mean his strategy was ill-fated. Many Christians throughout history who never apostasized held similar views to his theory of 'robust formational economy'. Again, that straight line idea.”
Howard Van Till took his strategy to its logical conclusion. He kept pushing God to the margins until there was nothing left on this side of the margin–at which point God became an expendable postulate.
“We can stop talking about time and instead talk about placing events in sequence. Fine. Either way if you look at the evidence, you're going to find the event of the landing on the moon in between our 'event' and WW1, and the time when Genesis was supposed to happen according to Biblical chronology in between our 'event' and the event of the Cambrian explosion. And one interval is a whole lot bigger than the other.”
The sequence is objective. However, as Poincaré pointed out long ago, you can’t directly compare one interval with another:
“The second half of Poincaré’s essay ‘The measure of time’ is the more famous because of its connection with special relativity. But I will concentrate here on the first half, where Poincaré begins with the problem that we do not and cannot have a direct intuition of the equality of successive time intervals (equality of duration of successive processes). This is not a psychological point. Two successive periods of a clock cannot be compared by placing them temporally side by side, that is why direct perception can’t verify whether they lasted equally long,” Bas Van Fraassen, Scientific Representation (Oxford 2008), 130.
“In the case of two sticks we can check to see whether they are equally long (at a given time) by placing them side by side; that is we can check spatial congruence (at that time) by an operation that effects spatial coincidence (at that time). We can check whether two clocks run in synchrony during a certain interval if we place them in spatial coincidence. These procedures do not suffice for checking whether two sticks distant from each other in time or space are of equal length, nor whether distant clocks are running in tandem, nor whether a clock’s rate in one time interval is the same as some clock’s rate in a disjoint time interval. But in physics, criteria for spatial and temporal congruence are needed. Poincaré is concentrating on this need,” ibid. 130-31.
“What measures duration is a clock, and physics needs a type or class of processes that will play the role of standard clocks. What type or class to choose? One answer might be: the ones that really measure time, that is, mark out equal intervals for processes that really take equally long. While certain philosophers or scientists might count his demand as intelligible, it must be admitted that there could be no experimental test to check on it. We cannot compare two successive processes with respect to duration except with a clock; but clocks present successive processes that are meant to be equal in duration. This is similar to Mach’s point about thermometry: whether the melting of ice always happens at the same temperature, or the volume of a substance expands in proportion to temperature increase, can be checked only with something functioning as a thermometer–and thus cannot be ascertained in order to check whether thermometers are ‘mirroring’ temperature,” ibid. 131.
“Poincaré wishes to reveal by these examples two problems that arise in developing a measurement procedure for duration. The first is the initial one, illustrated with the pendulum: we cannot place successive processes side by side so as to check whether their endpoints coincide in time. So there is no independent means for checking whether successive stages of a single process are of equal duration: the question makes sense only after we have accepted one such process as ‘running evenly,’” ibid. 132.
Continuing with Walters:
“And our unit of time might be conventionally defined, but the size of the temporal intervals we are measuring does not change for all that.”
The size of the unit is invariant, but the size of the interval is a different question. That confuses the measuring stick with what it measures.
“Now some will argue that we are only justified in accepting that physical processes we see operating now are in fact operating now, and that we cannot legitimately extrapolate into the past.”
I don’t object to backward (or forward) extrapolation, per se. And I don’t object to using natural processes to date events.
But at the same time I make allowance for the limitations and circularities of those procedures. And if something which was never designed to yield a reliable result turns out to be unreliable when we overextend it, I wouldn’t impute deception to God.
“We should of course grant the inevitability that in some cases God will work in a different mode…”
Notice how he minimizes exceptions to the uniformity of nature. But that’s not quantifiable. How do I estimate the impact of angelic/demonic activity, or providential timing, or answers to prayer, or other miracles along the way? Once they occur, the effects are rapidly assimilated into the new status quo.
“That would be valid if there were any direct biblical evidence for that idea, so that God told us clearly that that's what happened during creation, and if all Christians knew that to be the case even before the rise of modern science. Instead, I see views like this become prominent only after new understandings emerged about the age and development of the Earth (and universe), and about the evolution and extinction of species.”
To take one example, pre-Darwinian paintings of Eden depict mature creation.
“This suggests to me that this is not just one legitimate understanding of creation among others, but that it was put forward specifically to counter the mounting evidence for an old Earth, a long history of life on Earth well before the current batch of species came on the stage, and a vast Universe.”
Even if that were true, so what? Both sides adapt to new intellectual challenges. Both sides coin new arguments which were not in circulation prior to some new development.
“Paul is clearly talking about spiritual death in Romans.”
Really? That’s not even clear to liberal commentators like Fitzmyer and Jewett. While Paul’s concept of death in Rom 5 includes spiritual death, that hardly excludes spiritual death. And your reductionistic interpretation is scarcely compatible with 1 Cor 15.