This one is my new favorite and another example of exploring the theological implications of evolution coupled with a remarkable knowledge of the Bible.
I kept waiting for an explanation of the helicopter and finally gave up right near the end and googled it, only to have him explain it right after that. It is about what I expected – the idea of God hovering and micromanaging which Peter observes is something that God only does at special times. I noticed this too and compared it to Parenting. But even in that comparison, Peter was right about special times rather than just when we were immature. Like when a baby learns to crawl, we need to hover to make sure that isn’t going to get them in trouble. And then again when they learn to walk. With every new power learned comes new possibilities for danger and so we have to watch carefully then.
Peter’s comment on never having to shift from the religious to the academic reminded me my own attitude in seminary where it all seemed connected to the different facets of the religious experience.
The comment about Paul being wrong about Adam being historical was not appreciated for I have never understood this because there is nothing in evolution or science that precludes an historical person. It is only the treatment of Adam as magical golem and the sole genetic progenitor of mankind, which does not work so well with evolution. After all it is part of an overall pattern in the Bible where God selects individuals in order to make a change, letting the change in thinking spread from them.
Then we come to one of the priceless quotes of Peter which we encounter several times in the podcast: “The power of scripture is ironically not limited to the intention of the human author. If this is God’s word then it cannot be.” Amen to that. I have always been a little dubious about arguments supposedly reconstructing a Bible author’s original meaning. Frankly I think they only do that when don’t like the plain meaning of the text and need some excuse to fiddle it. I don’t think there really is such thing as a plain text meaning in the first place – interpretation is always a part of it. And this is something Peter Enns explains quite well with this idea about fundamentalism and evangelicalism possibly being just a phase we are going through. It really is rather absurd to imagine that we now finally have everything figured out, with the one correct understanding of the Bible. Don’t you think that is the difference between God being the author of salvation rather than imagining ourselves to be? As Peter said, God is way ahead of us. And so it only makes sense that God has a lot more planned for us to learn.
The next priceless quote is a quote of the Bible in Ezekiel 18:2 “Parents have eaten sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” And while Peter and many commentaries are ready to explain this in terms of the story, what jumps out at me, is what a perfect description of the generation gap this is. We old folk confront changes which are sour grapes to us because the system we have devised for understanding the world isn’t working very well, meanwhile the children react to our sour grapes with teeth on edge because we are the ones who are out step. The point is not that there is nothing to learn from us old folk and that everything in the next generation is always better, but more that it goes back to the same point about the foolishness of thinking that our understanding could ever be the end of the story. God has more to teach. I would fervently hope so!
Peter’s next comment, “It is not about repeating the past,” is one which I finish with… it is about learning from the past. And this hammers in the same point which follows with a fantastic observation about the influence of culture. He talks about the influence on the Israelites of Alexander the Great’s efforts to spread Hellenistic culture. This is something I have often pointed out, suggesting that the cup referred to in Jesus’ prayer in Gesthsemane was the cup of Socrates – the death willingly embraced because one is unwilling to compromise on principle. The point Peter then makes is priceless. When people are adamant about refusing to let culture influence our understanding of scripture the truth is they are just choosing a culture of their own which has influence their understanding and there is no reason to presume that it was a better one. Consider the fact that it was a culture that shipped Africans like cattle in ships to be slaves in America which was the culture which has been the basis for understanding scripture in a good portion of this country for a long time. That was NOT a better culture by which to understand scripture!
The discussion then turns more specifically to understanding Genesis in the light of evolution. James was wondering about Peter’s seeming reluctance to work out the apparent contradictions. Besides suggesting that science and the Bible are speaking with different languages about different things, I think Peter just wanted to be wary of settling such issues with too much finality, thinking that an open discussion of this is more fruitful. Some of the issues, like about why death, suffering and even violence might be necessary are far from easy ones to answer. So it is not so much that Peter thinks we shouldn’t try, quite the contrary. It is just that we should be wary of setting answers in stone, especially, I would say, when science is still digging up a lot more information about things.