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February 05, 2005

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Mumcat

Because progressives may not believe in a single event called the "Fall" does not in any way negate the need for a Savior.

That every person who ever lived is guilty because of what one man (and one woman) did at the beginning of time is a bit much. It's like beating every child in the family because one stole a cookie. Human beings were endowed by their creator with choice -- and that very gift is what makes a Savior necessary. Humans don't always choose wisely or rightly. That's why we need a Savior.

What do the mainline churches have to offer? Quite a lot. If one wants pulpit pounding and heaps of emotional rhetoric, mainline churches probably aren't going to offer that. If one needs a place where questions can be asked and one does not have to check one's brain at the door, if one has not been included in the church somewhere else, or if one believes that one doesn't have to believe in an actual, physical "Fall" but yet that there is a Savior who is needed and who loves us, then mainline churches serve a very definite purpose.

D. C.

Mumcat, thanks for the comment. I agree with most of what you say. But assuming we need saving from our errors (a highly plausible view), why must we also assume that the mechanism of salvation had to take the form of a sacrificial death of God-made-man? Jesus himself is reported as having had a different view: In the Lukan version of the Great Commandment and Summary of the Law, Jesus tells the lawyer, "do this and you will live [eternally]."

mumcat

Beats me why things had to go just that way in order to ring about a reconciliation just like it beats me why one bite of a piece of fruit condemns every single human being ever born.

The near-sacrifice of Isaac was to prove something (Abraham's trust) but a substitute was found for the sacrifice (thus sparing Isaac's life). A ram caught in a thicket got to be the designated victim. Lambs and rams and doves were the sacrificial requirement for various things, whether to restore cleanliness after an illness, intercourse or menstrual period, or for reconciliation for sin. That's what the temple was for and its main job in life --- to offer the sacrifice to God to make things right.

Jesus is called the lamb of God -- some lambs grow up to be ewes, some grow to be rams. Maybe that's a lousy analogy, but it's about the best I can come up with at the moment. Ram = sacrificial victim, be it as a substitute, as an offering, or as a means of redeeming.

Martinus Scriblerus

So Adam and Eve is a fantasy, but the "core message Jesus actually preached" isn't? "Compelling" doesn't make it factual.

Steven Cullinane

What is your basis for classifying the Book of Genesis - in particular, the account of Adam and Eve and the Fall - as "fantasy"? And wWhat is your basis for asserting that the Book of Genesis "doesn't count as evidence"?

And how about the remainder of the Bible - is that also "fantasy" and "unsuitable as evidence"?
Was Jesus also a fantasy-figure?

Could it be that the problem is not the

Steven Cullinane

What is your basis for classifying the Book of Genesis - in particular, the account of Adam and Eve and the Fall - as "fantasy"? And what is your basis for asserting that the Book of Genesis "doesn't count as evidence"?

And how about the remainder of the Bible - is that also "fantasy" and "unsuitable as evidence"? Was Jesus also a fantasy-figure?

Could it be that the problem is not the Bible?

D. C.

Steven Cullinane writes: What is your basis for classifying the Book of Genesis - in particular, the account of Adam and Eve and the Fall - as "fantasy"? And what is your basis for asserting that the Book of Genesis "doesn't count as evidence"?

Steven, it can be summed up in a phrase that attorneys use in court: "Objection, your honor, no foundation." In modern thinking, we require that assertions about the world be grounded in someone's first-hand observation, either direct or indirect. Suppose that I'm a lawyer asserting that my client tried to apply his brakes before hitting a pedestrian.

  • I could put on an eyewitness to testify that the witness personally heard the screeching of tires just before my client plowed into the pedestrian.
  • Or, I could put on an accident investigator to testify that he examined the pavement and found skid marks matching my client's tires.
  • What I would not be allowed to do is put on a witness to testify that he has known my client for years and is certain that my client would have tried to slow down.

This evidence-based approach is the gold standard in two great truth-seeking disciplines -- I would say the two great truth-seeking disciplines -- namely law and science. It's beyond dispute that this approach has been enormously successful in the secular world. There's no reason to think it would not have its uses in the religious realm as well. (Some of the scriptural authors apparently thought so too; see, e.g., Deut. 18:22 and 1 Thess. 5:20-22; moreover, an evidence-based approach rightly gives precedence to what God has actually wrought in the universe instead of to our imaginings.)

So now let's apply an evidence-based approach to the Genesis stories.

  • There's no indication that the stories' author(s) had a factual basis for their assertions about what happened. Perhaps they did have such a basis, but we have no idea what it might have been. As a matter of intellectual and spiritual discipline, we decline to assume facts that are neither (i) in evidence themselves nor (ii) reasonably inferable from the facts that are in evidence.
  • The observed circumstantial evidence indicates pretty clearly that humans were around for thousands of years before the earliest possible date of the Genesis stories.
  • There's no evidence that the Genesis authors got second-hand information in a manner that would indicate its reliability.
This gives us little choice but to provisionally treat the Genesis stories as fantasies -- or, if you prefer, as speculation.

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