Scot McKnight's soteriology

(Christy Hemphill) #102

I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t think you are correct. Illegitimate totality transfer is about saying all the available senses of a word apply to a single use in context, which violates the basic principle of language that (unless you are intentionally making a pun) only once sense of a word can apply for each use. So if I say, “the chicken is spoiled” I can’t be talking about both the temperament of an animal and the freshness of its meat at the same time. Context will determine which sense of the word spoiled I meant.

Pistis is used 227 times in the NT with the following available senses; 1) faith, trust, belief; 2) the Christian faith; 3) conviction, good conscience; 4) doctrine; 5) assurance, proof; 6) promise

The idea of faithfulness is part of the semantic content of sense #1, hence the ongoing debate about the best translation of pistis christou in English. (You can google it to read all about it.) Is it “faith in Christ” or “the faithfulness of Christ”? When you combine the ambiguity of the Greek genitive with the fact that the first sense of pistis includes the idea of both trust and faithfulness, context doesn’t give a clear indication of what would be the best English rendering. This is not a matter of deciding which sense of the word pistis is being used (we know it’s the first one), it’s about what the best translation would be in English.

What @DennisVenema is maybe trying to get at is not really about the semantic range of pistis (which can be used in the sense of faith/trust, Christian faith, conviction, proof, or promise) but about the semantic content of the word pistis when it is used in the sense of ‘faith.’ The semantic content of the use of pistis that we would typically translate ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ in English has more depth than the semantic content of those English words.

If I translate murder to matar in Spanish, I might lose some depth of semantic content, because murder in English includes the semantic content of intentionality and violence, whereas matar just means to kill.

Translation always involves dealing with these kinds of semantic mismatches.

It is correct to say that faith does not capture the depth of the semantic content of the Greek pistis because there is not a perfect semantic overlap between the two languages. The Greek word, when used in the sense of ‘faith, trust, belief,’ has the semantic content of loyalty/faithfulness as well. To acknowledge this is not the same thing as claiming that the entire semantic range (all the available senses) of pistis applies in a single use, which is what illegitimate totality transfer is all about.

(Raymond Isbell) #103

Ultimately it’s a theological argument which is the final step in exegesis, viz., is it consistent with the rest of scripture.

I’ve studied that issue, i.e., is it a subjective or objective genitive. The objective genitive in Gal 2:16. doesn’t fit in my view. In a very real sense, we are justified by Christ’s faithfulness. That phrase makes more sense when you see that Paul was using a Roman legal metaphor. See Lyall’s book where he claims that both faith and trust are used by Paul in light of their use in Roman law.

(Christy Hemphill) #104

Yes, I think you’re right. And it’s true it comes down to theological, not linguistic arguments.

(Phil) #105

I appreciate the discussion that @Christy and @Raymond_Isbell are having. It is great to be a fly on the wall, learning from both and deepening my understanding.
Back to being a fly.:mosquito:

(Daniel Fisher) #106


I can’t fully agree that Raymond’s critique is such a non sequitur, depending on what he meant… I can’t help but observe that the two aren’t as utterly unrelated as you suggest, given that Professor McKnight co-wrote a book defending Darwinian evolution. Granted, there are plenty of theologians that defend or critique evolution wherein they have no formal training, but to the degree to which they append their name to a book on the topic, to at least some extent they have claimed some level of expertise, or at least confidence, in the topic.

And, if I were to find an author to be logically careless or inconsistent or otherwise untrustworthy in their primary field, to that extent I would find even less confidence in their claims regarding a secondary field. But Mcnight’s contribution is to the biblical aspect. I have not yet read this particular book (it is on my list), but if I did find McKnight’s biblical credentials lacking in one area (soteriology), then to that degree, I may lack confidence on his interpretation in other areas (Biblical genealogy, claimed historicity of Adam, etc.) that impact the question of evolution.

But finally, to the extent that a book was written on “Adam and the Genome”, to at least some extent, the two authors of the book seem to think the topics clearly related or at least overlapping.

(Christy Hemphill) #107

McKnight’s half of the book wasn’t “defending evolution.” It was examining interpretive options for Adam in Genesis and in Paul’s writings that would not conflict with the fact that genetics shows that the humans alive today are not all biologically descended from a single ancestral couple as some people insist the biblical account requires. McKnight’s section of the book dealt with biblical scholarship, not science. All the arguments he was defending were about how Adam has been presented/understood in Judeo-Christian writings. He assumed the accuracy of modern genetics as a premise, it wasn’t something he was defending or claiming expertise in.

What it sounded like @Raymond_Isbell was saying would be like someone who doesn’t “believe in” vaccination saying that if they disagreed with a certain Bible scholar on a Scripture interpretation and that Bible scholar vaccinated their kids, then the validity of vaccination is in doubt.

I understand what you are saying that a person’s intellectual credibility affects all areas. Fine. That makes sense. If it’s demonstrable that a person can’t think critically, then you might not trust their judgment in anything that required critical thinking. But we aren’t talking about overall critical thinking skills, we are talking about conclusions that people agree with or don’t agree with in one domain being a litmus test for whether or not accepting consensus is valid in an entirely different domain. If Scot McKnight (as a non-pilot, non-engineer, non-physicist) concludes that air travel is safe, but I don’t like his biblical scholarship, I’m not going to doubt the safety of air travel on the basis of his dubious exegetical skills. That is just silly.

(Albert Leo) #108

I am quite sure that many (most?) of the contributors to this forum consider that my unorthodox views of the Old Testament bar me from claiming to be a Christian. And this current post may confirm that. Yet I do consider Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, the eternal Word and my Savior. Why, then do I consider the OT to be as much misleading as it is inspiring? Why cannot I consider Abraham as “the Father of my Faith”?

One hurdle the I find insurmountable is that God requires propitiation for Original Sin–for the disobedience of the perfectly created Adam & Eve. I cannot turn my back on the scientific evidence for evolution, and the anthropological evidence that some quirk in the wiring of the prehistoric Homo sapiens brain caused them to value blood sacrifice as a necessary propitiation to keep the gods mollified. Historic examples are the Aztec priests who cut the beating hearts from thousands of captives so the sun would keep rising every morning. Or the practice in Central and South America of sacrificing young virgin girls for a similar purpose. This practice seemed to arise independently–not spreading from one culture to an adjoining one. To their credit (aided certainly by revelation), the ancient Israelites
restricted the sacrifice to animals (mostly lambs that were consumed in religious rites). But in the case of Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac as a blood sacrifice: was this a bona fide demonstration of his Faith in God–or just a reversion to a mental quirk that bedeviled early humans all over the globe?

Of course it is more comforting to hold the orthodox view–if only the OT described Abraham in a more favorable light! Abraham had no qualms in disowning his firstborn son, Ishmael, and sending him and his mother into the desert (without a safety escort?) For valuable favors he pimped his pretty wife (who was also his half-sister) first to the Egyptian pharaoh and later to king Abimelech. After leaving Ur, following a convenient command by God, he settled his clan in Canaan, displacing the people who had lived there for many centuries. (Justified, perhaps, by “manifest destiny” the same way Europeans justified taking over the New World–both events something not to be proud of).

So…is all the above an unsubstantiated diatribe? Jesus himself claimed his Jewish heritage and paid homage (of a sort) to Abraham. How could he not. He made enough enemies amongst the scribes and pharisees as it was, and any criticism of Abraham would assure that we in the centuries to come would NOT hear his message.

Thus, to have a worthwhile discussion of soteriology, it seems prudent to take into consideration what modern science has to say about human origins and how we have changed from our ancient roots.
Al Leo

(Mervin Bitikofer) #109

Well, then I guess we should all rejoice that the “contributors to this forum” are not the bouncers stationed at the pearly gates!

You’re not alone in having problems with O.T. content. Or perhaps what would be more accurate (for the way I feel about it at least), is that I certainly do have problems with how people today want to handle the Bible generally - which especially gets them deep into many weeds when it comes to the O.T.

(Phil) #110

Recently read Enn’s new book “How the Bible Actually Works” and while typical of His books, it is not something I fully buy into, but makes some good points and is helpful if you have trouble accepting the OT. It helps you see it not as history, but as wisdom literature.

(Randy) #111

I just bought that and was wondering if someone will post a review; haven’t read it yet. It will be interesting. Thanks.

(Albert Leo) #112

Thanks for the reassurance, Mervin. As a kid, I was one of those obnoxious brats who continually asked: “But, why? Why?” After reading Genesis 2,3 for the first time, I asked “Why were Adam & Eve punished for wanting to be smarter–for eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge? Isn’t that what I am in school for?” Of course I was told that the Bible was a Good Book, an exception, and I should read it, but I should assiduously avoid books that the church disapproved of. Of course that made me ask: “Why did the church disapprove of them?” And, not getting a straight answer, I just had to read these ‘forbidden books’ to find out. Was I being “too smart or my own good”? Perhaps.

I don’t think I’ll run much risk if I take Phil’s advice @jpm and read Enn’s new book, “How the Bible Actually Works”
Al Leo

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