Sunday, June 30, 2019

How the Modern Liberal Academic View of the Bible Acidicly Destroys Its Message

How the Modern Liberal Academic View of the Bible Acidicly Destroys Its Message

by Glenn R. Morton January 1, 2020

I have a friend who is a good Christian, loves the Lord, but, while he believes Adam and Eve lived very long ago (not as long ago as me), he refuses to accept the story of the Fall and the Flood.  Most Academics and liberal Christians dismiss the creation story, the creation of man, the Fall, the Flood, and the Exodus as non-historical faerie tales.  They believe there is no historicity to these accounts.

I do believe that liberal Christians are embarrassed by these tales in our Bible because the arguments they use to dismiss them are the same arguments atheists use.  That is disturbing to me.  Furthermore, liberal Christians don't even try to find concordistic solutions to these Biblical tales.  What I intend to demonstrate here is that while I know the liberals are correct about the age of the earth and evolution, the young-earth creationists are correct in seeing the absolute need for historicity. On that, I stand with them.

We must start with the nature of the Bible. Is it God's Word or was it just humans writing about what happened to them and interpreting it in terms of the divine?  I think this is where the biggest divide occurs, with the Liberals believing that God can't really put words in the mouth of the Biblical writers.  An excellent example of this attitude is found in a reply made to me by RichardG on Biologos:

[I wrote:]if it is to be God’s communication, he must have had some kind of control to make sure his message was transmitted clearly.

[Richard G replied:] "What evidence do you have to make this assertion? Surely, if man has free will then he is free to make mistakes? Peter made mistakes? Paul made mistakes. Why should their writing have no mistakes?"
"Do you know what a Gospel is? It is not history. it is not Journalism. it is a promotion of the faith. It is not about the details. it is about the message. And it is personal. Paul writes what he believes. And sometimes he disagreed with Peter. That is in Scripture. So why do you think that the Bible is somehow coherent and God written?

I bolded the last sentence, because in my opinion, if the bible is not somehow coherent and God's message isn't in it, then why on earth should I care about this book other than for its historical content?  If it isn't somehow 'God written' then it isn't God's Word! It becomes human words, no better or worse than any other religious document, but lacking in any metaphysical value. Yes, it might have value as a guide to human behavior but so what if there is nothing beyond this world?

The same man above wrote this of the Bible.

"It seems to me that your main “beef” is with my not accepting early Genesis as history? As if that affects my reading of the rest of Scripture? Only if you take the bible as one complete unified text, and I do not. It was cobbled together by a committee. Perhaps God was chairman?

Well, if the Bible is not God's word, then it would cause me to change what 1 Thes. 2:13 says. If the Bible is Man's word, then that verse should say:

"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of ancient human writers which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of God, but as it is in truth, the word of ancient human writers

and Hebrews 4:12 should read:

 "For the word of ancient human writers is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,"

Now, speaking sarcastically, wouldn't that verse draw people into the churches by teh bucket load! 

Another quite common view among liberals and academics is that the Bible contains stories that 'don't comport to reality'.  Which of course, means that there can be no miracles. Christy, also on Biologos illustrates this view:

There are lots of clues, like you point out, that we are not intended to take the Genesis account as describing a historical event. It is a story. But many sentences in the story are meant to be interpreted literally in the reality the story creates. In the story, I think we are to understand God as actually walking in the garden and the snake as actually talking. Those are the “facts” of the story. That they don’t comport with information we know about reality is how we know it is a story, not a factual account of history.

Put simply, this criterion destroys Christianity because a man dead for 3 days and nights, who is then resurrected to walk around, eat fish, offer his hands to Thomas for confirmation of his resurrection, doesn't comport with reality either. By this standard, if we say a talking snake makes the account of the Fall a mere story, we should also claim that the resurrection isn't meant to be taken historically either. .  Such a view of how to determine what is meant to be taken literally and what is not, destroys the very basis for Christianity. Accommodationalism is one of the most acidic views to the truth of Christianity that there is.

Consider the Exodus.  Modern academic views say the Exodus didn't happen; Jericho didn't fall at that time; there were no Semitic folk in Egypt.  This led Thomas Thompson, in a much mis-titled book to say:

"It may perhaps appear strange that so much of the Bible deals with the origin traditions of a people that never existed as such." Thomas Thompson, The Bible as History,( London, 1999), p. 34 cited by David Rohl, Exodus, Myth or History, (St. Louis Park, MN: ThinkingMan's Media 2013, p. 4.

A whole religion based upon an event which academics say never happened.  Most will say it doesn't matter if the Passover and Exodus happened at all; that it isn't important.  But it is important!  Here is why.

Moses tells the Hebrews to remember the Passover and Exodus: Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. Exodus 13:3 Also  in Deut 5:15

If the Exodus didn't happen, then Judaism is reduced to a human construct, because they are remembering something that never happened. God did nothing for them but they are ordered to remember it anyway! Rohl says:

“Finkelstein:...”Whether the stories happened exactly in that way is not important. ... It is more important to understand the meaning of Exodus-the moral of Exodus- for our civilization, for humanity, for mankind. This, in my opinion, is more important.”
“So the Tel Aviv University professor and doyen of Israeli archaeology seems quite capable of separating his professional work from his personal family life without much difficulty, even though the two seem to be at odds with each other.
“This stance begs some very obvious questions. Why do the Jewish people celebrate (and have celebrated, for the past three thousand years) an even which never happened?  How do Israelis reconcile the fact that their national identity and religion are based on a fantasy? David Rohl, Exodus, Myth or History, (St. Louis Park, MN: ThinkingMan's Media 2013, p.  4

It is utterly illogical to believe that something that didn't happen should be celebrated as a great thing God did for them. Since Christianity depends upon the truth of Judaism, that God actually set them apart and said the Messiah would come from them, if Judaism is a human construct, then so is Christianity.

Let's move to Noah.  Most today think Noah was a faerie tale.  A nice story that never happened, or if it happened, the event occurred in a place which violates the laws of hydrodynamics and matches none of the details of the account.  Most who do believe in the flood place it in Mesopotamia, where physics requires the water to flow into the Persian Gulf and from there out into the Indian Ocean, but somehow the floating, motorless  ark lands on the mountains of Turkey.  Further, geologic maps show that there is no widespread Holocene deposits much further than a mile away from the Mesopotamian rivers--meaning that within the past 10,000 years there has been nothing more serious in Mesopotamia than flooding within the floodplain.  Such floods can't last a year, and the water will flow south at 3-20 mph, taking the ark into the Persian Gulf.  And the liberals are satisfied with a risible view that makes the whole tale false except for water.

The young-earther's are correct that those who believe Noah didn't exist undermine the authority and credibility of God.  Isaiah 54:8-9 has God speaking of Noah:

But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,”  Says the LORD your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to Me,  When I swore that the waters of Noah  Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you (Is 54:8–9)
So, if Noah didn't exist, then God is engaged in fantasy here--like speaking of Mordor, Sauron and Frodo.
Most academics and liberals think Job is not real, probably more believe Job is a fictional character than believe that of Noah. If they are correct, we find God again engaging in fantasy in Ezekiel:

Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord GOD." Eze 14:13–14

It should be noted here, that these words are said to be the words of the Lord. If God can't give man a message, then these words are mere human words. If they are God's words, then we have God speaking nonsense about non-existent people. Shouldn't God know who is in Heaven; who is real and who is false?  If these are God's words, then he KNOWS that Job and Noah didn't exist and is thus lying about what wonderful saints they were!  Why is this a lie? Because they weren't anything, much less saints. Yes, I am aware of the mental gymnastic approach called accommodation and will address it later. The above though is part of why this is wrong.

These are Jesus' words.
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark Mt 24:38

   " And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."  Lk 17:26–27

These words of Jesus mean that Jesus, like the Father is either confused about what actually happened in history, are knowingly lying about what happened in history, or these events really happened. 

Paul, who probably wrote Hebrews, writes an amazing catalogue of saints, many of whom never existed, if liberals are to be believed. Extracted from Hebrews 11 we find:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life

Abel is a guy whose parents, Adam and Eve are said not to have existed as a single human pair. Enoch is from a list often believed to be fictional. Noah we have discussed, and Sarah?  Said to have had a kid at 90 years old--utterly ridiculous. It couldn't have happened!  If we believe that, what does it say about her faith?  She had none because she had to have had Isaac at a much younger age. 

Not believing the Bible as it is, undermines the credibility of God, of Jesus, of Paul and thus makes what they say questionable.  This brings us to the popular but frankly ridiculous, solution called Accomodationalism. Geisler defines it as:

"ACCOMMODATION THEORY—The view of the German rationalists and others that Christ and the apostles accommodated their teaching to the current (but false) Jewish traditions about authorship, inspiration, and so forth, of the Old Testament without thereby either asserting or approving those beliefs".[1]

The Lexham Bible Dictionary says:

In the modern period, accommodation has also provided some Jews and Christians with a means to negotiate tensions between scientific developments and the biblical witness, for example [2]

In my opinion, accommodation has become a cheap thrill, an easy way out of difficulties. Let's take a real creation story from a real people.  The Yokut creation story 
believes that the world was created by an eagle, a crow and a duck who, for fish, brought mud up from the bottom of a vast sea so the other birds could build land.

Let's consider a person who grows up believing this story of his culture and compare it to a person growing up in a conservative home believing the Hebrew creation story.  Both go to college, become roommates, and learn that science doesn't support their respective religious beliefs.
Accommodationalists say it is ok for the Christian to hold that God accommodated his truth to the Hebrew's false view of creation but still believe that the Scripture is full of deep spiritual/metaphysical information.  The Native American sees this approach, his Christian roommate took and decides that that is a grand approach and so, he too says, his god accommodated the creation story to the limitations of his people and his creation account is full of deep spiritual meaning even if it is factually untrue.  And this is the problem with accommodation. Everyone from every religion can use it to solve any observational problems their religion has while retaining belief  in their childhood religion.  After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Accommodationalism leaves us no ability to tell another religionist that their religion is false because it is observationally unreal!  We can't be the pot calling the kettle black and tell others to believe our true religion when we take every observational event in Scripture which has 'science' problems and accommodate the issue away.  By doing this, we sweep our theological mis-fits under the rug of accommodation.  When we tell others our religion is true, then we are hypocrites if we tell them they can't do the same.  the Mormons can accommodate away the massive archaeological proble their story has, in which there is no evidence of chariots and walled towns in pre-Columbian northern North America.  We can't point to the Bahai that their religion is scientifically wrong because the Kiti i 'iqan says copper left in the earth for 70 years becomes gold.  They too can accommodate their problem away. And since there is no way to say one religion is true and another false, we are left facing a universalist theology.

Of course, many in the liberal world, like the Pope, believe we shouldn't tell others that their religion is wrong, which means we should not evangelize. Right before Christmas this year, the Pope told a group of high school kids this:

The first is all. In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: "But why do you do this?". And yes I can speak there. But listen, never, never bring the gospel with proselytism. If someone says you are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, this is not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the Church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony.  Football teams do proselytism, this can be done, political parties can be done there but with faith no proselytism. And if someone says to me: "But why you?". Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.
Would Jesus agree with this? 

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Mt 28:19–20

Either the Pope or Jesus is wrong!

This accommodational loophole, where everyone gets to claim their religion is observationally false but spiritually true, leads to universalism, where all religions are an equal path to God. Indeed, the US Catholic Bishops have gone a long way towards this view when it proclaimed:

"Yet the Qur'an remains God's Word, not Muhammad's, so that Christians should liken the Qur'an to Jesus rather than to the Bible."

One should excuse me for believing the words in the Bible but Paul would disagree.

             "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed" Galatians 1:8

I have worked with many followers of Islam and I would expect them to think the same of me, that I am not preaching the correct theology. That is what it means to believe one's religion. to believe one's religion means that one believes the others are not true.  If one believes that all religions are true guides to the same place, then one must reject Jesus' words, "No man comes to the Father except through me".  That statement must be false.  It seems to me that comparing any two religions, either one or the other, or both are false. Different religions have contradictory claims about what God wants from us. Contradictory claims can't both be true. For example, when the Bible says Jesus is the son of God and the Koran says Allah had no son: Surah 6:101.  "Originator of the heavens and the earth—how can He have a son when He never had a companion? He created all things, and He has knowledge of all things.", both statements can't be true. One or the other is wrong.
Only accommodationalism, via universalism,  can make both statements true true at the same time, but it does so at the expense of ignoring the meaning of the words in each document. One must say that Jesus' statement is wrong, or the Quranic statement is wrong.  God can't both have a son and not ever have had a son at the same time.
As I have said, this liberal view puts a damper on the desire to evangelize. The Washington Post wrote about a study showing which congregations are dying, liberal or conservative.  They concluded the liberal churches are the ones dying because they fail to evangelize.  Haskell wrote:

For example, because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally. Thus, they all held the conviction it’s “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” and thus likely put effort into converting non-Christians. Conversely, because of their liberal leanings, half the clergy members at the declining churches held the opposite conviction, believing it is not desirable to convert non-Christians. Some of them felt, for instance, that peddling their religion outside of their immediate faith community is culturally insensitive. It should be obvious which of these two convictions is more likely to generate church growth."
Because of all this, accommodationalism seems not only to make God lie, or be a plagiarist, but also to bring universalism which undercuts any reason to evangelize. If all religions lead to the same end, then there was no reason for Jesus to die on the cross.

Indeed, this gentleman did indeed turn out to be a universalist. He wrote:

There is so much more to this than can be put down here. Not the least being the ramifications of your message to the millions who have found God from another tradition, or live perfectly good and, dare I say, righteous lives, without the shackles of Christianity, or any other religion.
So we will have to let it be. Suffice it to say, I do understand your position, but I do not accept it as… necessary.
Shackles of Christianity???  Wow, but more importantly, if any religion, or no religion still gets us to heaven, then none of this means anything. Religion is useless, and by that I mean all religions.

 Further, by making light of the observational difficulties the Bible has with science, and accommodating them into non-existence, non-history, we undermine the credibility of God, Jesus and our very religion itself.

[1] Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. (1986). A General Introduction to the Bible (Rev. and expanded., p. 604). Chicago: Moody Press.
[2] Sturdevant, J. S. (2016). Accommodation. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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