Thursday, March 09, 2006

Crayon Theology

Oh my goodness, he was serious!

A couple of days ago, Paul Manata posted this response to these absurd questions of John Loftus. Really, I thought that Loftus was just trying to be cute and was posting some stupid questions just to 1) crack some jokes with his atheistic brethren, and 2) irritate the poor Christian folks that have to put up with this type of “scholarship.” Little did I know that Loftus actually endorsed this ludicrosity. Today, he tells us what’s wrong with the story of Cain:

God’s judgment upon Cain for killing his brother Abel was to be a wanderer. Cain is deathly afraid of this and says: “whoever finds me will kill me.” So God places a mark on him so that “no one who found him would kill him.” (v.14). Now who is Cain afraid of here? Supposedly the only people on earth were his mom and dad, and a few sisters.

“Supposedly”? Who’s supposing that; you, or the Biblical text? From what I see from the text, it merely tells us that Cain was born first, that later Adam and Eve gave birth to Abel, and that after Abel’s death Seth was born and was seen in the eyes of Eve as the Lord’s granting her a replacement for Abel. But who says that Adam and Eve didn’t have a multitude of children in between the birth of Cain and Abel, or after the birth of Abel and before the birth of Seth? Adam had Seth at the age of 130 and died at the age of 930 (according to the text). Are we to believe that he merely had 3 children during his lifetime? I mean, if you lived 930 years, you could have had hundreds of children, could you not?

It’s funny how atheists completely abandon an accurate definition of the law of non-contradiction when it comes to the Biblical text (mainly, that A cannot equal non-A), for surely Loftus will tell me that I am contradicting the Biblical text, or that the Biblical text contradicts the actual occurrence. But does it? Does the fact that God’s Word has a purpose to it, mainly, to tell his work of redemption, mean that his lack of telling us every detail entails a contradiction? Is not the statement that this involves a contradiction simply a worthless joke? Is not my explanation of the text here a reasonable one (Loftus later tells us that there is no reasonable way to interpret this account)?

Then it says, “Cain lay with his wife.” (v.17). Where did he get a wife? Nothing was said about that, but presumably the author isn’t interested in such matters. Why? It’s because the author of chapters 3-11 was stressing the sinfulness of human beings. God created the world good, but look how his highest creation behaves—he behaves very very badly. Human beings are very sinful beginning with Adam and Eve’s disobedience, to Cain killing his brother, to the flood where God destroyed everyone but Noah and his family, to the tower of Babel. Human beings are very sinful and ungrateful for what God has done.

Here, Loftus seems to get it. But, I’m sorry man, to simply tell a reasonable explanation with a sarcastic, unbelieving tone is not the same thing as scholarly critiquing an account. It isn’t enough, Mr. Loftus, to simply mock the Christian’s belief in God’s purpose in inspiring Scripture. That does not get the job done on your part.

Notice that Loftus gives us no reason why such an explanation would be wrong. The Biblical text leaves open a number of possibilities, but, for some reason, Loftus simply makes fun of these possibilities along side of making fun of God’s marvelous work in Scripture.

To try to make sense of where Cain got his wife is to miss the point of these chapters. It has the feel of a story with a point, not a statement about marrying sisters.

Yes and no. One does not have to “make sense” of these texts; it is only when atheists use a children’s Sunday School understanding of Genesis as their authority that these texts become confusing. As Loftus wrote this article, he was probably busy remembering those days in children’s church where he had to color the picture of Adam and Eve and Abel, one big (that is, small), happy family. When crayon theology is your standard, you won’t get very far. Loftus was probably the kid in the class who asked the “teacher” (that is, the girl who’s a senior in high school doing her best to serve the church) where Cain got his wife (since we all know that Adam and Eve didn’t have any daughters, right?). The whole class probably giggled. After that embarrassing situation, Loftus probably kept the question inside of himself, even during his days of pastoring the church, only to bring it up again (with no evolution of the nature of the argument) on his atheist blog years later. But, could we perhaps graduate from crayon theology, please?

Loftus is always quick to slander the past. I mean, does he really think that his crayon, children’s church understanding of these narratives is so ingenious compared to the intelligence of the Biblical authors? I mean, would a Biblical author really be so stupid as to tell a story which allows for marriage between Cain and another woman but doesn’t allow the for the procreation of any women? I mean, is Loftus really that arrogant to think that the past Biblical authors were so blinded by some mythology that they would ignore such obvious details that even the Sunday School kid notices?

Then it says when Cain’s wife gave birth to his firstborn, Enoch, Cain was in the process of “building a city.” (v.17). If we try to make sense of this we simply cannot do it. Cain is banished from his parents and marked so that no one who finds him will kill him. He gets a wife and starts to build a city, and while doing so Enoch is born. None of this makes much sense given the whole setting. A city? Instead, maybe it should have read, “Cain was building a house.” But a whole city?

Loftus continues to frustrate himself, telling us that we “simply cannot” “make sense” out of this narrative. Don’t break your crayons yet, Mr. Loftus. What is a “city”? If you will remember how the book of Genesis (as well as the other books of Moses) relays to us the stories of tribes and clans, we’ll often find that families congregated with each other on land that was probably the size of a small city. Land was bountiful then, was it not? The world wasn’t too crowded, was it? Could not Cain and his wife, his children, and his children’s wives and their children all congregate together on a large piece of land and build a “city”? Must we really rely so heavily on the cartoon picture of our coloring books to the extent that we can “simply cannot” “make” any “sense” out of this story?

It’s always great when atheists take 21st century science and force it upon Biblical literature. Not that there is anything in the Bible which contradicts a fair approach to science, but that the one critiquing the Biblical narrative fails to adopt Biblical assumptions in his assuming the legitimacy of empirical examination. But, in an atheistic outlook so what if the Bible contradicts science? The atheist cannot account for the uniformity of nature anyway, so why should he assume that the scientific properties from thousands of years ago hold up to today’s standards? I say this because Loftus will probably find the notion that Adam lived to be 930 years old preposterous. But why is this notion, according to Biblical assumptions, preposterous? Why is it that Loftus is willing to listen to what the Bible says as it tells the story, but so unwilling to adopt the same assumptions, such as God’s purpose in inspiring Scripture?

Enjoy the theologica de crayola, while the rest of us have scholarly conversations.

Evan May.

7 comments:

  1. Evan,

    Does it ever baffle you mind how someone can be this dense after receiving a Masters under Bill Craig? I mean, I know that we're saved by grace, but there are atheists who actually have well-thought-out arguments. I mean, these are the kind of arguments that my pot smoking friends used to use. Has anyone ever verified that this guy did go to school at Trinity? Has anyone contacted Dr. Craig? Maybe he "went" there, as a janitor?

    I am so amazed that this guy shows his face in public after these posts of his! Actually, I am thankful to Giod for saving me from such foolishness. I do know that "but for the grace of God, there go I."

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  2. I love that phrase "crayon theology." It is so true. I've run into this more times than I can count: adults who see the Bible or biblical teachings through the lens of childhood, having never thought seriously about these things, or read the Bible as adults. I even had an eighty year old tell me that they had never heard of a certain key doctrine in all their years of being in church. It's probably more likely that the hardening and deceitful effects of sin have caused them not to hear or understand.

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  3. I'll admit you guys have colorful ways of writing about me. My hat's off to ya all! Good writers you are, but you lack in understanding and in substance.

    I challenge all of you to pick up and read a few scholarly commentaries on Genesis, including Gordon Wenham and Donald Gowan.

    You have no clue as to the nature of the many pre-historical stories about a first pair that were floating around the Mesopotamian areas, do you?

    But you do want to maintain a double-standard when it comes to the Genesis stories. While every single one of the surrounding cultures had mythical stories about their origins, including the Roman Empire's Romulus, you think the Biblical writers were different. You think they wrote stories down exactly as they happened. That's just laughable...it really is! And you're deluded.

    The point is none of them had a historical consciousness yet, just like none of them had a scientific consciousness yet (which happened much later than a historical consciousness).

    Maybe you cannot understand me and you think I'm dense because you are simply uneducated and blinded by your faith? Alas,that thought would never reside in you. So you stay uneducated and deluded. But please, take up a reading program sometime soon. Read some scholarly commentaries on Genesis 1-11. Okay? Then we can talk.

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  4. Of course, the similar problems arise with a universal flood story.

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  5. anoninva:

    I love that phrase “crayon theology.”

    Yeah, well when you hang out with Steve long enough, those sort of things just come to you.

    Loftus:

    I think here I've pretty well refuted your statement that we “simply cannot” “make” any “sense” out of this story. Sure, you might have an atheistic bias when you read this story, but that does not mean that my explanation is not plausible. That is, unless you are so biased that you and so willing to slander the past that you won't even consider this explanation plausible.

    I can't believe you actually tagged that link to your flood article. That was the first thing that Triablogue ever refuted, here.

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  6. "I challenge all of you to pick up and read a few scholarly commentaries on Genesis, including Gordon Wenham and Donald Gowan.

    You have no clue as to the nature of the many pre-historical stories about a first pair that were floating around the Mesopotamian areas, do you?"

    I've already read a number of scholarly commentaries on Genesis. Indeed, I own a number of scholarly commentaries on Genesis.

    It's up to Loftus to specify what stories he thinks are parallel.

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  7. John Loftus: "You have no clue as to the nature of the many pre-historical stories about a first pair that were floating around the Mesopotamian areas, do you?"

    Why does that matter? It doesn't follow that because there are many stories that all of them are equally plausible. Why should we assume that because there are a lot of stories from this era that this means the Christian view is not plausible?

    Just to put another spin on this, though, did you ever stop to think, John, that perhaps the fact that there are so many pre-historical stories about a first pair in the Mesopotamian areas suggests that there actually WERE a first pair, and all the different stories that are told about the same type of event is actually evidence that such an event was real?

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