The Various Meanings of Concordism

(system) #1
There is no need to keep theology in a watertight box, in isolation from the materiality of the created order.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Jay Nelsestuen) #2

Some good observations here. I suppose I tend to waffle between types B and C, with maybe a blend between the two. But it’s pretty clear that A is a bad way of going about things, because the Bible was not meant to be a book of science.

(Doug B) #3

C makes sense to me–although those are some dense examples you give. I’ve always thought the former Pope Benedict offered wise words on interpreting scripture.

We are always searching for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. If we stick to the letter, we will not necessarily truly understood the Word of God. There is a danger that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within, the Holy Spirit. We do not find in the words the Word. St. Augustine, in this context, recalls the scribes and Pharisees consulted by Herod when the Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where he would be born the Savior of the world. They know it, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are great specialists who know everything. And yet they do not see reality, they do not know the Savior. St. Augustine says: they are signs on the road for others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger as well in our reading of Scripture: we stop at the human words, words of the past, the history of the past, and we do not discover the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today in the words of the past. So we do not enter the interior movement of the Word, which in human words hides and opens the divine words. So there is always a need for ''exquisivi (seeking)". We must always look for the Word within words.

(Brad Kramer) #4

Fantastic quote from Benedict. Bookmarked.

(Doug B) #5

Here is the link,
Chrome will translate it.


(George Brooks) #7

I was surprised that this definition of Concordism ever existed!:

“A little further reading reveals that there are two types of concordism which relate to this definition. For example, in the Jewish tradition David Shatz distinguishes between a “modest” concordism in which Jewish philosophers seek to reconcile the Bible with “accurate science and accurate metaphysics” (equivalent to Ramm’s “modest concordism”), and contrasts this with a “bold” concordism . . . .”

Huh? in contrast to Bold Concordism? The definition proceeds thusly:

". . . contrasts this with a “bold” concordism which claims that “the Bible teaches science and metaphysics in a positive fashion” (Shatz, 2008). A similar distinction is made between “soft” and “hard” versions of concordism by the organization Reasons to Believe. Here we will label Shatz’s “bold” concordism as Type A. In the Christian community this is generally associated with the attempt to extract scientific information from Biblical passages."

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this definition of Concordism flies in the face of what Concordism is intended to do!

You don’t build a “harmony” with natural science by replacing the findings of natural science with the presumed conclusions of natural science dug out of the Bible…

(George Brooks) #8

Is Type “C” basically the position of the Vatican?

“Type C concordism emphasizes that all truth is God’s truth and that it’s therefore healthy and good for science and Biblical theology to engage in active dialogue, seeking where possible to allow both disciplines to complement each other. This is in full light of the history of science and religion, marked as it is by complexity (Brooke, 1991), and the knowledge that concord is never a foregone conclusion.”


Sometimes it seems that the Bible and science are not in agreement. When this happens there are two ways to find harmony. They correspond to concordism A and B. One way is to change what science says. The other way is to change what the Bible says.

One or Type A is to adapt your science to fit the Bible. Denis gives the example inferring a young earth because of the days in Genesis. Other examples would be the “science” of flood geology or the denial or evolution. I would call this the YEC approach.

Two or Type B as Denis points out,“seeks to interpret texts in the light of modern science”. He gives examples of the gap and day age theories. As Ted Davis has written historically this type of concordism is associated with OEC. I think it goes beyond that. For example the Bible says there was flood. The context indicates it was world wide, but in the light of modern science we know that did not happen Therefore, we change the Bible to say it was a local flood. Coming up with an interpretation for the sake of harmony.

If we create an Adam that is not the person described in the Bible but who fits with modern science is this not concordism?

(Christy Hemphill) #10

I think it is.

(George Brooks) #11


And I think Concordism is the logical approach to an impossible situation …

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12

Type A makes science correspond to the Bible.

Type B makes the Bible correspond to science.

Type C reconciles science and theology. The best way to do this is through another basic discipline, philosophy. This also corresponds to the three basic aspects of Reality, the physical, rational, and the spiritual.

God made re4ality complex, rather than simple, even though traditional philosophy tries to make it Simple. Nonetheless neither monism, nor dualism works. We need a different point of view.


It is not an impossible situation if you can give up inerrancy and accept accommodation


Roger, I agree with your observation. Type C does not seem to be about Biblical concordism but about a concord between science and theology. Type C may be a more useful enterprise as philosophy. However, I don’t think speculation about a possible Adam that fits evolution is helpful. It’s Type B not C.

(Christy Hemphill) #15

I’m still not a fan. What is impossible about the situation? We really don’t need the Bible to accurately describe historical facts in every narrative.

(George Brooks) #16


Well, now I’m puzzled. If I say “Concordism”, I’m implying that Concordism has to be applied to all texts and all narratives?

Here’s an example: I think the Adam and Eve story is a perfectly fine episode to which to apply Concordism …

But if someone were to ask me: So what is the Concordist interpretation of Eve and of the rib, I would say: that’s just material to make the story more interesting. I don’t see the need to take every element of a Biblical “story” and say it corresponds to something in reality.

@Christy, what distinctions do you make that help you conclude that you are not a Concordist? Maybe I fit in the same category ?


George, it does seem in actual practice that concordism is not applied to all texts. Your example of Eve’s rib is not concordist but if you agree with Denis Alexander that Adam and Eve were chosen out of a group of humans that would be concordist. Denis is not a strict concordist because he can accept evolution but because he needs a historical Adam thus he is open to concordist solutions. This is where definitions of concordism become unclear.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #18

I agree that people generally take an A or B approach to the “Adam problem,” which is unfortunate. It is my view that the story of Adam and Eve is primarily the story of the Fall from innocence, while evolution is interested in the evolution of the first genetic humans.

I expect that that the first genetic humans were not the ones who took part in the Fall. Therefore we ate mixing apples with oranges when we try to make them the first genetic humans.

However it is important to study our origins. There are two aspects of this found in Genesis. The first is the Image of God, which is found first in chapter 1, It seems to me that the genetic ability to think comes before the development this actual use of the mind.

I remember having to read an interesting book in grade school, Before Philosophy by Henri Frankfort, which tried explain the development of critical thinking. Looking back it seems strange to have children study a book about the origins of philosophy. Maybe that is why my thinking is distorted.

Genesis 2-3 conflates the origin of humans with their Fall from Innocence (not their fall from grace.) This is understandable, but causes much confusion. Philosophy can help straighten this out.


Grade school? I remember reading that book but in college. If people could get a handle how differently people in the ancient world thought from the way we think today, there would less problems with the Bible vs science.


I’m guessing that what makes concordism so unpopular today is the notion that either science or the biblical text must be distorted in order to bring the two into harmony. I really don’t think either is necessary. What is necessary is for Christians to know more about cosmology. Most know very little. Regarding Scripture, we need to let go of many traditional interpretive cliches. For instance, what is so compelling about the idea that we can only see in Genesis what the ancients could have seen. The ancients saw biblical references to the sun as describing a sun that circled the earth, not because the text required this interpretation, but because that was how they believed the sun to behave. Their version of cosmology guided their interpretation of the text. Now that we have a different understanding of the sun and planets, we see references to the sun rising and setting as metaphorical. The old Ptolemaic view of the solar system need not inform our current interpretive efforts. Just because the ancients believed that the earth was covered by a physical dome that was solid in nature does not mean that we must interpret the raqia in the same manner. We are tethered by the translation of the word, beaten out, as we should be, but we needn’t see the result as a solid just because the ancients did. We should be guided by our own understanding of cosmology and our consideration of the surrounding text. These two things must have a greater influence on our interpretation than the interpretation understood by the original audience. The original audience does have its influence, but one must put it in perspective and not make it a closely limiting factor.

(Christy Hemphill) #21

But don’t you think part of the interpretive process is understanding what it meant to the original audience, and then moving beyond that to try to understand what enduring truth the text is teaching? I don’t think it is so much that they had one lesson and we have another as we have to work a little harder to get the lesson, because our context and conceptual frameworks are different.