Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TF - Chapter 5 - Allegory and Real True History

Chapter 5 - What Went Right, What Went Wrong

This chapter just starts out wrong.  It is so fractally wrong that I don't even know where to start.  I could spend posts on the first page alone.  I am just going to cut to the point.  Colson states that the Bible is a historical document that is completely accurate and infallible.  That about 6,000 years ago God gave two babies a gun and they shot things, so God blamed the babies.   Well not quite that but I will quote Good Omens on the wisdom of the placing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden:

"If you think about it *sensibly*, you come up with some very funny ideas.  Like:  why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a neon finger flashing on and off saying 'THIS IS IT!'?"
My favorite line in the opening of this chapter is:

Their [Adam and Eve] story is rendered figuratively but orthodoxy teaches that these are historical events.
This sounds like something White Goodman would say:

Kate Veatch: That... is a really interesting painting.
White Goodman: Thank you. Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor.
Kate Veatch: I get it.
White Goodman: But that actually happened, though.
Also, since when did orthodoxy teach this?  Orthodox meaning adhering to the Christian faith as expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds. If Colson wants to make claims that the early church has always taught that the Adam and Eve story was true history, he needs to provide proof of this.  He does not.  Why he doesn't is simple.  There is no proof and some proof to the contrary.

Origen of Alexandria (185-254CE):

"For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally." (De Principiis IV, 16)

 "And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone), and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world." (Contra Celsus 6.60)

 St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430CE):

"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation." (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408])

"With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation." (ibid, 2:9)

St. Augustine also defended the idea of a young Earth.  St. Basil of Caesarea believed in a literal reading of Genesis.  In other words, there was no overriding consensus on whether the creation accounts were literal or allegory.  Today, Christians are still arguing over whether it is allegory or literal.  The difference is there is no evidence for it being literal and quite a lot of evidence supporting evolution, the age of the earth, the age of the universe and so on, thus making a literal translation false.  So one can stick with a literal translation like Colson does here, or one can join the 19th, 20th, and 21st century, instead of living in the 5th century.


zilch said...

You're a real glutton for punishment, aren't you, Beams? But although it's dirty work, I guess someone has to do it. Thanks.

And thanks for the quotes. I knew that one from Augustine, but the Origen one was new to me. Smart guys. Smarter than a lot of people nowadays who have far less excuse to be so willfully ill-informed.

BeamStalk said...

I still don't know how a story can be figurative and be true. These two things just don't work together, like omniscience and free-will.

BeamStalk said...

A lot of people will quote Thomas Aquinas for creation, but they take him out of context (big shocker). Aquinas was arguing against people whom believed in an eternal universe. In the end, both were right and both were wrong. Matter is eternal but there was a definite start of space/time.

Aquinas also differentiated between change and creation. Creation had to be ex nihlo and change always started with something. He insisted that the universe came about from creation but change could take place after creation. The Greek philosophies at the time insisted the universe was eternal because nothing could produce nothing.

Aquinas also had the idea, also later put forth by Gould, of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria). That science and religion do not conflict.

I find Aquinas very interesting but I couldn't really work him into this piece.

Propaganda's Antimatter said...

"But although it's dirty work, I guess someone has to do it."
has to do it as some kind of defensive resource?
i personally can't follow much of the biblical stuff (I've also come across Islamic stuff. looks about the same to me.) it makes my brain glaze over.