Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Back to Blogger Comments ...

Unfortunately, the use of more elaborate commenting schemes was slowing down the blog.  So, we're back to Blogger comments for now.  Unfortunately, that means many pearls of wisdom posted on the blog are not fully lost, but also may not be visible to the public.  If some one of your comments is gone and you want to repost it, please feel free.

Monday, February 10, 2014

On the 24 Hour Days "Argument" in Genesis

Arguing 24 hour days in Genesis is hardly necessary - the text doesn't just say day - it specifies the kind of day - the kind with evening and morning. It's not so much a question of arguing as just basic reading comprehension.

I posted the above on Facebook recently, and got some objections.  I've posted the objections with my responses.  I've tried to use some color coding to help highlight what words came from the objectors, although I've taken a little bit of liberty in terms of simplify, rewording, or omitting portions of the objections. I have not named the objectors, but would be happy to do so, if either of them wants to be named.

An objector might respond that the text specifies the pattern of the day but uses the evening and morning pattern, not the hour by hour pattern.

The value of this objection is low.  If the objector's point is that a day could have been 25 hours or 23.5 hours - and didn't have to be precisely 24 hours - fine.  But if the point is that "day" could have meant a billion years - that's an entirely different thing.  Such a meaning for "day" is totally unreasonable.

The objector may respond that the argument is overstated in the sense that there is no way one can prove the 24hr day theory from the text.

Nevertheless, the text says day.  Moreover, the text specifies the morning/evening kind of day.  That kind of day is approximately 24 hours long.  It's hard to see what could possibly be missing in that proof.

The objector may respond "That kind of day is approximately 24 hours long" is a scientific assumption you are reading back into the text. It assumes that the days as we observe today are exactly the same as the days of Genesis.

But no, it is not a "scientific" assumption.  Instead, it is the plain meaning of "evening/morning" to the Israelites to whom God through Moses wrote the text. In other words, the only way to try to poke a hole in the argument is to throw out grammatical/historical hermeneutics.

Another objector might respond that the method I just mentioned is exactly what I am suggesting we do with our current Scientific understandings.

Instead, I am just suggesting that the assumption of indefinite uniformity in the past is unjustified.

In response to "No, it's not a "scientific" assumption - it's the plain meaning of "evening/morning"" the first objector may respond that this is exactly the same prima facie proofing dispensationalists use for their eschatological theories. No one reads scripture in the sense of a strict grammarian, there are more factors that are involved in reading the text.

First, the only reason for not reading it according to the plain meaning is a desire to harmonize it with some ideas the objector got outside the text.  Furthermore, there is no need to falsely associate my objector's view with someone else to point out that error.

Now, regarding dispensationalists and some of their interpretations - typically those errors the objector is pointing out arise in the context of trying interpret prophecy: statements about future events. That's a different genre from history. IF(!) dispesnationalists apply the same kind of interpretation to prophetic passages as to historical passages, it is no surprise that they have errors.

The objector may respond that he is just pointing out the methodological approaches to reading scripture. Appeals to a "plain sense" reading are similar to the arguments heard from dispensationalists. It doesn't mean the argument is invalid, it just means that particular methodology needs to be avoided.

Of course, the fact that people who come to wrong conclusions (let's just assume they do, to avoid turning this into an eschatology discussion) sometimes use a specific form of argument does not make that argument wrong or suggest that the form of argument should be avoided.

Still, the objector may ask about "The plain sense of x": What do you mean "plain sense"?

What I mean is not some secret meaning, like in a parable or prophecy; nor some specialized technical meaning, like in some detailed discussions of theology or other technical writing.  It's the ordinary meaning people normally associate with the word.

So, for example, when God says he made Eve from Adam's rib, rib means one of those bones around Adam's lungs: it is not a code word for something else. On the other hand, when God speaks of the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah," that's a prophetic reference to Jesus. Different genres, different ways of looking at words.

The objector may then ask: would you argue that because Genesis 1-3 is describing events that are historical, that there are no other literary elements at work? The text is giving us a history, but it isn't doing just that, nor is it doing it strictly chronological (more emphasis on the word strictly). It is providing us a theological understanding of the beginning of the universe, the world, and mankind.

You can have multiple literary elements at work in a single writing. For example, the gospels and Acts are historical accounts, but they are also providing a theological understanding of redemption, of Christology, and so on. We don't hold the third day resurrection as being somehow doubtful, just because there are other purposes to the gospels than just to provide history. So, we also shouldn't hold the sixth day Creation of man to be doubtful just because the purpose of Genesis is not just to provide history.

Now, if your point is that Genesis 1-3 is not "strictly" chronological, because after Genesis 1 describes the 6th day closing, Genesis 2 then provides more detail about the 6th day, ok. Likewise, if you are pointing out that God says first that "in the beginning" God created the heavens and the earth, before then explaining the day-by-day events of that, ok. In both cases, that's a departure from strict chronology. But Genesis 1 does present a sequence of events that are described as occurring chronologically, with explicit relative and absolute chronological references.

And recall that while much of the Pentateuch was Moses writing under inspiration, there is a section where God himself wrote the text, in his own hand, in stone. There he wrote: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is ... ."

The objector may respond that Ken Ham demonstrates that YECers rely on scientific models, so it's a bit odd to attribute that conclusion to OEC speculation.

They rely on scientific models in different ways, as Ken Ham also explained during the debate. For example, scientific models are sometimes offered to hypothesize how people lived such enormous lengths of time before the flood, or how the animals dispersed to places like Antarctica, South America, and Australia.

The objector may respond that it's quite a stretch to absolve Ham from placing how he reads on his scientific understandings, it would be a double standard. It all comes down to "Well since I agree with YEC, then Ham gets off the hook".

Maybe the objector thinks it is a stretch because he has overlooked that Ham's starting point is the text of Scripture, whereas for others the starting point is backwards extrapolation with a variety of assumptions, especially the assumption of indefinite uniformity.

The objector may respond that Ham asserts that his starting point is the text of scripture, but that's a verbal fiat. It doesn't carry over into all of his argumentation consistently.

He does, in fact, start with the text of Scripture. Now, if you are saying that at some points in his arguments he loses track of that starting point - ok - but that doesn't change his starting point, it just leaves room for improvement in his argument.

- TurretinFan