Help for another Montana Bible College Student

Hello! My name is Luke, and I am yet another student from Montana Bible College looking for help via some discussion with an assignment for my Science and Origins class. Our professor has asked that I find Christians who hold to different stances on science and the origins of the universe than me, with the intent to deepen my understanding of those views. My questions won’t be too far from Emily’s, but to avoid plagiarism from her thread, they will be different. Please explain what you believe, and why! I am willing to answer some questions as well, and may ask follow-up questions for clarification!
Thank you for your time and may God receive the glory!

1.According to Genesis, God created and called all of creation “good.” How can/does evolutionary creation call something good if it did not remain as it was created?

  1. (This one is narrower) In Genesis 1, God appears to define his own terms: “day” as a period of light and “night” as a period of darkness, similar to how we would today and (unless I’m mistaken) as has been throughout history. How and why is this interpreted differently?

  2. Is Adam only a figurative person, and not the “head” of mankind? If so, then what do you believe that Paul is saying about salvation in Romans 5:12-21?

My questions are more narrow and pointed because I read through Emily’s thread and wanted to dig a bit more.

Thank you again for your time!

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Hi, Luke - and welcome to the forum! We’re happy that students are being encouraged to seek out these sorts of conversations. Below - I’ll write as a participant (not as a moderator) and just put in my personal answers to your questions.

Evolution (and even science generally) doesn’t have any grounding (without appeal to something outside itself) to call anything ‘good’. So I guess my answer to your first question here would simply be … “it doesn’t.”

“Evolutionary Creation” on the other hand does follow scriptures and therefore follows them as they note repeatedly that creation is good. But my answer remains, that for Christians this attribution comes entirely from scriptures, not from science. I still maintain that science can only help us with “is” and never with “ought”. The latter can only come from philosophies, ideologies, religion, metaphysics (God) - things that are beyond mere science.

For these sorts of questions, I am influenced indirectly by authors and Bible scholars such as John Walton who has shown that the ancient Hebrews saw things in terms of functionality (purpose), and not in materially reductive ways that we have learned to favor today (what is it made of?) So it’s an entirely natural thing for them to have seen “daytime” as that functional time that people can carry on with their work, and “night time” as a time of repose since one obviously cannot just “carry on” without all the artificial lighting we take for granted today. Keeping torches and fires going all the time takes effort and fuel, so obviously one is foolish to ignore the free light already given by God during the daytime. Now for the purpose of time, I guess Hebrews at some point began to define the new day as beginning at sundown (the ending of the old day) for the purposes of Sabbath keeping and such. So it isn’t that they were unaware of the need for strict timekeeping that also motivates us today to be precise about such things.

My answer in this is influenced by Denis Lamoureux; (here is a Biologos article authored by him about this very question). But as for my own answer (which I believe is essentially his as well), my faith is not threatened in any way by the conjecture that Adam and Eve may not have been literal historical persons. But nor am I dogmatic that they were not - much ‘ink’ has been spilled on this site defending this or that conviction for when such historical figures may have actually lived. But I do believe that whenever such historical figures may have existed, science has definitively shown they were not the sole biological progenitors of all humanity (at least not in any time recent enough to be anywhere close to the figures of the Genesis 2-3 narrative.)

Romans 5 makes it clear that each of us owns our own sin. “…because all have sinned…”. We are not punished because of one person’s choice thousands of years ago. And furthermore, even Paul himself does not honor the same wooden literalism that some try to cling to … later in the same passage we are reminded that these opposites involve death having come through sin, and life having come through Christ. While we can choose to think of the death as literal (physical) [despite the fact that in the received narrative Adam and Eve did not physically die ‘on the same day’ that they ate of the tree], we are nonetheless obliged to see that people did not stop literally dying just because we are now justified through Christ. So the wooden insistence that one of these forces the other to be taken literally - that falls apart on both ends and does not hold up scripturally. I think Paul draws on whatever is at hand (especially from the received scriptural traditions of the day) to make the case for Christ, and I believe he does so in a Spirit-led way. We need to be careful to draw his intended lesson from that and not try to expand his teaching into reinforcing things for which he wasn’t pointedly aiming. While he no doubt did think of Adam and Eve as literal figures (what reason would anybody have had to think differently then?) - that nonetheless is not the lesson he is teaching in Romans 5. Nor does his aimed-for point at all lean on our trying to make it so.

My own conviction is that I need to follow both scriptures and science - and to do both with the humility that we are obliged to follow our fallible understandings of both. So in that spirit, I strive to remain open to correction on both fronts. But these views are currently my best understandings of reality.

Hopefully you will also receive some good responses from other points of view here too!

-Merv

Great to have you here, Luke. I’ll try to answer your questions as I understand it, but will try to have the humility to say, I may be wrong. And I might add, that the gospel does not stand on whether I am right or wrong. The answers ultimately are not in Genesis, but are in Jesus. Genesis only points us there.

Good does not mean perfect, and as I understand it, means it was properly suited for the purpose it was created. A hammer is a good to drive a nail, but is a poor substitute for a screwdriver if you are trying to put your IKEA desk together. The last part of the question also implies that creation was a “one and done process” whereas with evolution, it is an ongoing process, even to this day. I think that ongoing idea on creation can be supported, as we see God’s sustaining and creative power at work nature, as volcanic and tectonic forces as well as erosion reshape the mountains and continents, in society as God used circumstances and powers of government to shape Israel, and in our personal lives.
Whether you see Eden and Adam and Eve as literal or figurative, we still see it as a space separated from the rest of creation and not subject to the physical laws present in the rest of creation outside the garden, a creation that was deemed good by God. Adam and Eve could no longer stay there due to their sin, and had to return to the outside world, subject to its conditions, and while they were cursed with the trials and pains of earthly struggle, creation remained good.
As Paul stated in Romans 1:19-20,
" Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."
Thus we see that the goodness remains, a visible reminder of God’s nature. How could the sin of Adam destroy that? No, sin itself has been conquered.

Indeed, I think this question addresses one of the biggest problems we find with the literalist approach. We define a day as one rotation of the earth in relation to the star we call the sun. We define morning as when the sun appears at the horizon from our fixed vantage point on a particular place on earth. Evening is similarly defined. Yet, Genesis has days before the sun was placed in the sky, evenings and mornings before there could be days. The vantage point it sees creation from is finite. If you look at the interpretation on God being the source of light before the sun, you get some pretty bizarre effects. You have God being the source of photons and electomagnetic radiation. You also have to make God finite in position in space with that radiation coming from one direction to have mornings and evenings. You have to have creation occurring on one side of the earth, originating from one particular point from which morning and evening were defined. Of course, a flat earth eliminates some of those contradictions. (sarcasm alert)
How then do I see it? I see the division of light and dark as figurative, and more in line of dividing good and evil, in God’s presence or out, and the days also as figurative, more along the lines of a poetic framework describing God’s creative work, with the emphasis on God’s action in creation, not on creation itself. While I have tried to just give my personal understanding, Walton’s Lost World books are the primary source of my ideas, and provide an excellent resource for further exploration. He tries to look at what scripture meant to the original authors and audience, not what we try to layer on top it 2500 plus years later. You may see the acronym “ANE” which stands for “ancient Near East” when reading about such a view, and it is an approach I feel brings us better understanding of what the text is trying to communicate.
Well, enough rambling. Feel free to ask questions to elaborate or clarify any points. Examining ideas in this way is always helpful to me personally, as I try to seek better understanding.

Lots of issues there. I think Adam was figurative, but would leave the word “only” out of the sentence, as it does not diminish his role. I think Paul is writing from his understanding and the understanding of his audience about Adam, and whether symbolic or literal is still truth. I also think you cannot separate that section from the verses that precede it, which are clear that Christ died for our sins, not inherited sin from Adam, though he was the start of it.
Gotta go for the moment, but again, happy to add to it. It can be a lot to digest if you have not been exposed to some of the broader issues, so don’t feel overwhelmed if that is the case. It is fine to not know, and be comfortable with not knowing, but we are not to live in willful ignorance.

I’m agnostic on whether or not Paul thought Adam was a “historical” person or whether he was using him as an established literary figure familiar to his audience and thought of him as symbolic. Regardless, I think Paul’s focus in Romans is on identity; Jewish identity (identity in Abraham), human identity (identity in Adam), and identity in Christ, and he plays with these ideas of identity and community membership throughout the letter.

So, I think the main point in bringing up Adam is to make the contrast between our identity “in Adam” (and the things we all share as a member of fallen humanity) and our new identity “in Christ,” I don’t think his intent was to explain the mechanics of some kind of literal sin transmission and removal process through biological inheritance.

Paul repeatedly talks about Gentile believers as being grafted into Abraham and heirs to the identity that comes from membership in the community of God’s people. The focus isn’t literal biological heritage back to Abraham, but spiritual heritage. Similarly with Christ, we aren’t biologically related and that has nothing to do with our redemption from our sinful human nature, it’s an identity that is taken up spiritually. Inheritance, adoption, “sonship,” and new birth are used metaphorically and symbolically throughout the Gospels and epistles. So I don’t think it is essential to the theology of the sinfulness of humanity that Adam be a historical person that we are biologically related to. I think the main thing is the spiritual status before God that identifying with Adam entails. And the Bible says we are all have that Adam/human identity, and we all sin and need to find our new identity in Christ to be reconciled to God.

I think in Genesis 1 a day is a day. A regular day. Days have mornings and evenings, periods of light and darkness. The question is whether or not Genesis 1 is a straightforward account of history, or something else. I say clearly something else, based on its literary structure. (There is a good Bible Project video that highlights the literary structure here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afVN-7vY0KA It’s also referred to as the Framework View. There’s also more info on non-concordist views here, if you’d like to look into them: https://biologos.org/common-questions/how-long-are-the-days-of-genesis-1/)

So I think the human seven-day work week is being used to frame the important theological points about God’s work of creation. God is anthopomorphized in certain ways so we can understand better. He is the ruler and the artist (human vocations) and he does his work in a work week. I think the seven-day week is part of a literary word picture that is used to communicate who God is, what he has accomplished, and what humanity’s place is in creation. I don’t think it’s factual reporting of a literal time period or that the word ‘day’ has some special meaning in the account that means “millions of years.” It’s a normal day in the passage, but that doesn’t automatically entail that “it’s history.” Normal days can be an element of something poetic or symbolic imagery. Just like you can talk about seasons symbolically to refer to a whole life span (where spring is childhood, summer is youth, fall is middle age and winter is old age) If I referred to someone’s life this way and then said the person died, you wouldn’t insist the person died as a one-year old because we all know that “spring” refers to 3 months. And we don’t have to redefine spring as something other than March, April, May (at least in the Northern hemisphere) in order to understand the imagery in its context.

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One thing to consider is that despite all these things being called good, they were not called perfect. Also it was considered not good that Adam had no spouse. Everything being created and called good would include snakes and angels, yet it seems not all were that good. If you read in psalms, perhaps it’s 74, God battles and kills Levithan during the week of creation.

Luke, welcome.

First of all, I would like to clarify what we are talking about. It appears that you think that God created the world in six 24 hour days while I think God created the universe in 13 billion years. If we both believethatGodcreatedthe universe ex nihilo thjershouldnotbe any theologicaldiffererncbetween the twoof us,but there is sowewilldiscussit.

This is the verse that you are citing is it not.
Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV2011)
2 By the seventh God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work.
3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done.

My first response is a theological/philosophical one, which is God’s is still working on the Creation, God is still creating and is still the Creator. Every day the Creation is refreshed and renewed. The Creation was not good only the seventh day, but on this day.

“This is the day that the LORD has made! Let us rejoice and be Glad in It.” Hallelujah!

Also there is the Biblical New Testament response. We must NEVER forget that we are NT people, at least I hope you are.

John 5:16-18 (NIV2011)
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him.
17 In His defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

Here we have the testimony of Jesus that He and His Father never finished the Creation and rested, but the Creation is good. Even after the Fall it is good. We might be sinful, but it is good.

The important aspect of this statement, unless you are taking a science test is the fact that the Creation has a Beginning. God created the universe out of nothing and thus created matter, energy, space, and time.

The Genesis begins the day at sunset. Is that when you begin yours?

Are you really seriously ready to give up on the Bible, because the length of time for Creation does not agree with human knowledge?

This is a a theological issue, not a scientific one. There are many scriptures about salvation.

John 3:16-17 (NIV2011)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His Onre and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

I answered part of number one in the first response. God called it good, not perfect, and despite being good there was many things that was not good such as the snake, psalms alludes to the sea monsters not being good ( the term big sea creatures is actually a reference to a sea dragon ) , the snake was not good and neither was Adam being alone good.

Evolution is definitely not saying creation is not good. Evolution is very beautiful and it’s good. It’s a creation that keeps on creating. Imagine a painting that gets more beautiful everyday and changes and the people in the picture grow old and have kids and the scene slows it changes and you’re able to witness it and it gets larger and larger as more life happens within it. That’s evolution. Just like through the death of Christ we have new life, so is it that through death, and overcoming it for a longer and longer time, as life wrestles with it there is new life created.

  1. I agree that it’s a direct reference to time. It’s about literal 24 hour days. We see these same patterns used throughout exodus and the sabbath. We see 7,10,70 and 40 again and again. That’s also one of the clues that it’s clearly a mythological tale and not wrote to be understood as literal history and science.

  2. I personally believe that Adam existed. Since the tale is a mythology, I don’t have any reason to take it literally. So I can look at the other stories throughout the Bible and see how God uses a selection of humanity as his voice and people again and again. Paul was a jew. He’s was not a gentile though he grew up among them in their empire like many other. Paul grew up , and as a adult, hearing and studying the scriptures. So ofcourse he refers to it.

But let’s be very literal. Did Adam sin first or did Eve? Eve in the story ate and touched it first, and lured Adam to do the same. So should it not read Eve brought sin? It was Eve sinless and Adam guilty? That would make no sense . Clearly she was. We see those repercussions played out against women later on through painful childbirth and so on.

So why does Paul say Adam when it was Eve? It’s because he understood the literary style. He may have believed things that not true about cosmology and so on but he was no fool and would have seen the clear writing style of genesis. So he referred back to Adam, even if not 100% literal to the story, because its purpose was to show Jesus is the new Adam and its to get the readers back to thinking about sin and goodness and failures being solved through Vhrist.

As Phil mentioned the Hebrew word for good implies suitability for its created purpose, not necessarily completeness or perfection. Notice that even though Adam was part of God’s good creation, it wasn’t good that he was alone, even before sin. I believe all of creation is moving toward God’s perfection. In the Bible this is the idea of shalom, the peace and justice that characterizes the rule of God. In the ANE “rest” was associated with a diety or ruler’s reign. Some people see the creation story as paralleling the inauguration of a temple. In this case the whole cosmos is the temple of the one true God and when he takes up his rest on the seventh day, he isn’t quitting or relaxing, he is signaling the beginning of his reign over creation. See this short video by Bible scholar John Walton if you want more background on that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTKD9ioLLwk&feature=youtu.be

In the Bible perfect shalom is not fully inaugurated until the Eschaton, the return of Christ and the New Creation. So I see evolution as very compatible with the idea that creation is moving toward its “telos” or fulfillment, but it will never be “perfect” until Heaven unites with Earth and God comes to dwell with his creation. The development of evolution is a similar idea to what is seen in some of the imagery of the Kingdom in the parables of the New Testament. Like when a small seed matures into a great tree. I think all of creation is still “maturing” under God’s rule as his Kingdom comes on earth. As humans we are part of God’s good creation in that we are suited for the purpose God calls us to, bearing his image and being faithful stewards of his creation and ambassadors of his Kingdom. But we still need to be conformed to the image of Christ to fulfill that created purpose.

I think one major difference between the young earth interpretation and the evolutionary creationist interpretation concerns the idea of the Fall. I believe that sin entered the world and separated humanity from God, and that had profound effects on the human spiritual condition going forward for all generations. Human sin also affects the flourishing of other creatures and damages entire ecosystems. But I don’t think human sin fundamentally altered the created order or the laws of nature. I don’t believe human sin changed peaceful herbivores into predators or caused deadly viruses to spring into existence or initiated tectonic activity. The young earth interpretation requires God to essentially re-create the world in fundamental ways when Adam and Eve eat the fruit, and I find this view problematic for lots of theological and scientific reasons. More on that here if you are interested: The fossil record fits best with progressive creation

God created life. Life grows (from something so small you need a microscope to see it), learns (from knowning nothing), and evolves (from small simple organisms to large and more complex). That is what life is. It is good when it does what it is supposed to and grows, learns, and evolves to something greater. To do this it generally need to learn how to cooperate with others. If it does not do these things then it not good.

God did not create machines and tools. Machines and tools remain the same as when they are created. They are made for and end – a function to accomplish. We are not machines and tools. We are made to be children not tools for an end, but and end it itself.

It does not say a period of light. It says God separated the light from the darkness and called the light Day and the darkness Night. It never says they are separated by time or that they alternate. It could mean what you say or it could mean something entirely different… like maybe the separation between matter and space or between bosons and fermions. Sure it is speaking of morning and evening at the same time separating the days of creation but nothing makes the connection between the two. And since it talks about the creation of the sun later in the story, it is hard to see how these could be connected or in fact that even the evening and morning talked about in verse 5 has anything to do with our division of time into 24 hour periods. After all, the people at the time when this was written simply didn’t have the words for so many things we now know about in the world.

Some believe that since the word for Adam is simply man, it is talking about man in general. But personally I think Adam and Eve were real people around 6000 years ago whom God talked to. And it is an inheritance of God’s word which makes us human rather than a biological species. It is how God does most things in the Bible. The Bible isn’t consistent with idea that Adam and Eve were only members of their species. We read of the earth being filled with people in Genesis 4:14 and the read of sons of God marrying daughters of men in Genesis chapter 6.

Romans 5:12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned

So humanity came into the world when God spoke to Adam, and Adam and Eve added these self destructive habits called sin to the inheritance which was passed down to us from them – not by genetics but by example and human communication.

In summary… The Bible does not speak of many things like genetics and biological species and thus there is no justification to insert this into the text when it is not there.

Thank you for the welcome and your response Mervin! I’ll respond to your answers in turn.

  1. How do you define “good” as it is used in Genesis 1, and what do you believe are the implications for creation as it was good then and since the curse of the Fall?

  2. If Genesis was written to be understood by Israel, why would words like “day” and “night” (but in Hebrew) be used if it didn’t mean what they understood those terms to mean?

  3. If Paul, a Spirit-led man, thought of and spoke of Adam and Eve as literal figures, then why shouldn’t we? If Paul was teaching an inaccurate view of Adam and the origins of sin, even if there is only a possibility of that being the case, then can we trust anything that he said and taught?
    I agree that Scripture and science can be followed, after all, God created science and is God over science having created and established how things work from the beginning. But, I believe that what we can see, feel, taste, and touch, must be understood from the foundation of God’s truth, His word (John 17:17). To do otherwise seems to be “lean[ing] … on your own understanding.”

  • Luke

Thank you for your honesty and humility Phil, as well as taking the time to respond!
I love the truth of what you said, “The answers are not in Genesis, but are in Jesus. Genesis only points us [to him].”

  1. The first thought that came to mind as I read through your first answer is that all that we see now is indeed God at work, but is at work in cursed world (in Genesis 3 God cursed the rest of creation too & Romans 8:19-22) that is itself longing for renewal. I do not think we can really call it good as God called it good before the Fall, because the world is in a sort of state of decay and has been since sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). Mankind can still see what I’ll call evidence for intelligent design (Romans 1:19-20), but it is tainted as man is from sin and therefore a shadow of what it once was (and will be again, I believe).

  2. I recently read Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One,” and feel that his reasoning is indeed circular beginning in his first proposition. While I believe that to be a problem, I believe that falls to what happens when his logic is followed through completely. He believes that we, with our modern, scientific understanding cannot properly understand Genesis 1 because we are detached on the cultural level. Yet, even 1st Century Israel was drastically detached from the culture of the authorship and original audience of the book of Genesis hundreds of years before. Their repeated idolatry that corrupted their culture, the exile, and Roman subjugation would have drastically changed their understanding of life as a whole and therefore they, according to Walton’s logic, could not understand Genesis 1 either. To only apply his reasoning to the 20th and 21st century is fallacious (strong word there, but I can’t think of a better way to put it).
    It just doesn’t mesh and brings all of N.T. canon into question.

  3. I agree that Christ died for our (individual sins), but I believe we sin because Adam sinned and we are his descendants. Psalm 51:5 says that we are “brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did [our mothers] conceive [us].” We are sinners from conception, which can only be true (I don’t think God would allow a false statement about his own work in his word) with the concept of federal headship and guilt under Adam for all of his descendants.
    I also want to push on your statement regarding Paul’s understanding here. If our understanding doesn’t line up with the Apostle Paul’s, which are recorded and regarded as truth in God’s word, then shouldn’t we be questioning our understanding and not the understanding of one who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

I hope that wasn’t too harsh and pointed a response. :grimacing:

Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully respond!

  1. It doesn’t, as Mervin says.

  2. He doesn’t work at night. It’s prose Luke. Just figures of speech. You’d need to go back to the Hebrew for a start to do a proper literary study. Validly and nicely translated as ‘And the evening and the morning were the first day.’

  3. Paul - a Second Temple Messianic Jew, not a Protestant from one and a half thousand years of European enculturation later and then the rest - is using what he had in his personally Christ and the Spirit enlightened ancient enculturation to demonstrate that despite all appearances, we will fully transcend the human condition on death, and therefore live accordingly now.

Thanks for your follow-up questions, Luke. I’ll respond below.

I think ‘good’ means that everything in creation was fit for its purpose. I also think that it does not mean that all purposes were automatically fulfilled. We are told that ‘man’ has a role in helping to accomplish and bring order to things too as stewards of God’s creation. [Gen. 1:26, 2:5b, 2:15] So we know that while things are good and in one sense ‘complete’ or ‘ready’, there is still remaining and ongoing work to be done - and this is ‘pre-fall’. While our sin does bring corruption into creation, there is no scriptural warrant for thinking that creation has, as a result ceased to be good or that it was in any way ‘re-created’ into some less than good state. To think so flies in the face of God’s final speeches in Job or of various Psalms (think of 19). There is no indicator that predators and prey are any less than the good creatures that God created originally created them to be. I do think that sin does make things harder for us all - first in our own hearts and broken relationship from God, broken relationships with each other, and also then finally our broken relationship with creation. The curse is very real. But it [our sin] does not have creative power - only perverting power that mars and hurts or perverts good things.

I think that it actually did have a straightforward meaning, and would have been received as such. Sorry if I said anything to make it sound otherwise. There is no reason to think they wouldn’t have thought of ‘day’ in the ordinary sense just as we usually do now. Let me know if I misunderstood your question here.

Are you saying, then, that Paul was infallible in all that he said and thought?! If so, this would have been surprising news to Paul! There are places where he admits he doesn’t know things or admits that what he’s writing is just his own opinion. I think you are correct that Paul was certainly Spirit-led, but that doesn’t make him infallible. He and Barnabas disagreed to the point of separation over John Mark’s worthiness to be included in missionary journeys [Acts 15:37-38], and yet in the end (we can all be thankful!), Barnabas prevailed - as pretty fairly implied in Paul’s own words. [Col 4:10 and 2 Tim 4:11]. Paul would no doubt have thought many things according to the knowledge of his own time that we all would disagree with today. But that doesn’t make him any less Spirit-led just because his human knowledge (like ours) will always be limited and even often wrong.

Paul wasn’t teaching any of those things. He was teaching about what sin did to us and what Christ has done for us. To try to make Romans 5 about modern questions of historicity is (in my view) akin to trying to make the parable of the mustard seed be about botany and seeds. It wasn’t. At all. And to make it so is to miss the point of the parable entirely. If one gets distracted over whether or not a mustard seed really is the smallest of all the seeds, and one imagines that Jesus whole point in the parable falls apart if it isn’t - then one is sadly missing the whole point of the parable. That parable is a true observation about faith, and does not at all depend on any literal botanical truth about relative sizes of seeds as we now know them. They knew that mustard seeds were very small and so it served just fine for the point of his parable. He was using commonly accepted knowledge of the day to make his point - which wasn’t to validate all of that presumed knowledge as itself being infallible. It was … to make his point.

Agreed!

It may well be. I can be (and no doubt am) wrong about lots of things. It is by leaning on the very scriptures that you are commendably examining that I come to these sorts of conclusions. Those same scriptures also remind us that God’s word is a living person (John’s prologue) and that they are meant to point us to Him as God’s living word [John 5:39]. It is Christ and my relationship with him that is my foundation on which all else hinges, including my own understandings of everything - including my fallible understanding of the testimonies of the law, prophets, and apostles that make up what we presently call scriptures. I pray to be led by the same Spirit that led Paul, and I pray that this same Spirit continues to lead and guide you too in your continued good studies into these things.

Thanks for your continued questions!

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Hi @Luke.R , fun thread you’ve started here!

David says that about himself and his mom. Since Jesse didn’t initially bring David out to Samuel as one of his sons (see 1 Samuel 16:5, 11), some have speculated that what David said is really true. He may have been only a half-brother to Eliab and the rest, whether through Jesse’s adultery or through Jesse’s wife’s adultery followed by Jesse becoming David’s legal father. Even if neither scenario is correct, David’s statement could simply be exaggeration. It no more teaches about inherited sin than Psalm 58:3 teaches that every child is born able to speak.

So, I think we should be cautious about universalizing David’s statement that he was conceived in sin, and especially if we resist universalizing much more general statements like “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” :wink:

Also, our focus on the seeds might cause us to miss their common knowledge on the other side: the mustard plant is not a tree, and it’s a sorry bird that risks nesting in its scraggly “branches.” If we understand that background, then something incredible seems to be happening with that mustard seed… and I think that is part of Jesus’ point, though one easily missed for those of us for whom mustard just comes in squeezable plastic bottles.

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Most of the people here don’t think day means anything other than a normal day. Trying to make yom mean “long era of time” is an old earth creationist, concordist approach to the text that I and many others find problematic on many levels.

But just because there is no semantic difference between the word used in this passage and the word used to label 24 hours doesn’t entail that the passage is describing literal history. That isn’t how language works.

For example the Greek word for shepherd has two senses, a caretaker of sheep and a person who spiritually leads a church. When Jesus says “I am the good shepherd” he is using the normal sense (caretaker of sheep) as part of a metaphor with figurative meaning. When Paul says some people are shepherds and gives directions to the church, he is using the figurative sense of the word to give very straightforward, literal directives. Whether a passage should be interpreted figuratively or literally doesn’t hinge on word-level semantics, it hinges on discourse-level features.

For example, look at this poem by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

To understand this poem, you don’t need to posit special meanings of stairs, carpet, landings, boards, dark, climbing, or sitting down on stairs to understand that this is not a literal description of climbing stairs. It is imagery about the experience of persevering through a difficult life without giving up. The common everyday experience of climbing stairs and the everyday meanings of words associated with climbing stairs are used to express something more abstract about the human experience of struggle.

Same with Genesis 1. The everyday experience of a seven-day human work week (and the everyday words associated with that like day, evening, morning, rest) is part of imagery that expresses something more abstract - God creating the world. Using everyday meanings of words in no way entails that only a literal interpretation of the passage is possible.

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But if our identity in Christ is to be taken literally, because he was and is a real person, why would the comparison be made against someone or something that was not also real?

I don’t think we are using the word “literally” the same way.

When talking about language, something can be interpreted literally or interpreted figuratively. The literal interpretation of “I’m starving” is that my organ systems are failing due to malnourishment. The figurative interpretation (that it was meant as hyperbole) is that I’m very hungry and looking forward to eating something good.

I don’t know what you mean by “take our identity in Christ literally.”
We are not literally born again. That is a metaphor.
We are not literally children (biological offspring resulting from sex) of God. That is a metaphor.
We are not literally cleansed from sin. That is a metaphor.
We are not literally clothed in Christ’s righteousness. That is a metaphor.
Almost all of what we know about our identity in Christ is expressed in figurative language.

Jesus was a real person who lived in history, yes. Adam may have been a literary figure who was not a real person who lived in history. We can talk about both historical figures and literary figures and say true things. The truth value of what we are saying has to do with whether or not the claim corresponds with reality, not whether or not we refer to historical or literary figures. There are realities that exist in literature. Saying, Romeo and Juliet were in love is true because it corresponds with the reality of literature we are familiar with. Saying Abraham Lincoln lived to a ripe old age and mastered golf in his retirement is false because it doesn’t correspond to the reality of history.

If I say “We can all learn a lesson from Frodo about how the lowly and underestimated things of the world are sometimes what bring down great powers.” The truth I am referring to in my allusion (that the weak can conquer the strong) does not depend in any way of Frodo being a historical individual. I’m not referencing the reality of history, I’m referencing the reality of literature (who Frodo was and what he did in his literary context) to illustrate a principle I believe is true about the world. Whether or not you understand my allusion depends on your familiarity with LOTR, but I’m not making an argument where “Frodo really existed” is a premise and “therefore the weak overpower the strong” is a conclusion. It’s a literary allusion referencing a literary reality that illustrates a truth claim I am asserting.

I don’t think Paul is making some kind of logical argument that hinges on the premise of Adam’s historicity. Paul is not making the argument Adam was a real historical individual who sinned and Jesus was a real historical individual who died for sins, therefore, since they are both historical individuals, Jesus’ atonement is effective. He is making an allusion to a literary figure that everyone would have recognized and known about. That Adam was the first man and that he sinned and death entered the world was not new information that was being asserted, it was part of a shared literary reality. It was common ground that Paul was appealing to in order to make truth claims about what Christ had accomplished. We know Christ died and rose again in history for other reasons than “Paul compared Jesus to Adam and Adam is historical.” So insisting something like, well, if Adam isn’t historical than we don’t know Jesus was either, because Paul compared the two of them-- that’s silly. We can make allusions to literary characters in order to talk about true things and in order to talk about historical people. I can compare Abraham Lincoln to King Arthur. Whether it is a good comparison depends on the truth I am asserting, and whether I use the literary reality appropriately, not whether King Arthur was a “real” person. People make comparisons to communicate ideas, not to tacitly demonstrate historicity.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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