I love that at least a few of us here appreciate George Carlin!
I see. It all comes down to each individual’s views on 1) what God might be interested in doing through revelation 2) how likely or unlikely each specific proposal seems to each individual 3) whether God is interested in, instead of misleading “secular” scientific enquiry, rewarding it when the Scriptures are used imaginatively, discerningly, tentatively and cautiously 4) revealing intricacies within the created order in a manner that rewards patient Biblical study 5) leaving an out for those not quite so inclined. Seems like a reasonable “to each his own” to me. Any objections? Generally, the Bible does promise that God “is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” We agree that that can mean all kinds of things, especially personal comfort and enthusiasm for those who seek to know God as, and in, a “fellowship of Persons.”
So funny, and most of his stuff was just from observing what we silly people do and reporting it back to us. Honesty resonates in us… We’re pretty easy to laugh at too.
I’m not sure what the “it” is (“it all comes down…”) to which you refer. If it is the tipping point at which one is confident in accepting that a piece of text contains a dual revelation, then your list might be a good one. It might just be good for you, but not someone else? Who knows? What we’re all expressing here is our own opinions in terms of what these scriptures that potentially contain dual revelation mean. Some aspects can be evaluated by experts and we can trust their opinions or not. At the end of the day, though, I think you are right in your first line. It all comes down to each individual’s views.
What impresses one person to faith may put another person off. What I thought was a fascinating nod to God himself, @jongarvey saw as Bible Code that would be summarily dismissed by many.
Figured my buddy @jongarvey needed just a twinge of come-uppance. Maybe he loves his tea Earl Grey; I tend towards Sweet and Spicy Chai. Go figure!
We actually seem agred on that, though I didn’t pick up that thought from your comments. My point is that changes in scientific philosophy will affect the way people misinterpret, rather than interpret, the Bible.
Biblical “cosmology” is a good case in point, a subject dear to my heart. The common understanding of “How the Hebrews saw the world” depends on nineteenth century assumptions not so much in science, but in worldview. They were perceived as believeing the earth is a flat circle bordered with mountains supporting the sky, floating in an infinite cosmic ocean, protected by a metal dome etc. All these are actually read into the text through not appreciating fundamental differences in ancient thought, including the lack of a concept of “nature” or “a cosmos”.
Accordingly, the text is accused of teaching “ancient science” which is flat wrong, whereas it teaches perfectly good phenomenology and theology, as it was intended, and which can speak to all cultures equally. It seems to me to compound the error if one compensates by reading back bits of new science that can be stretched out (!) to fit. In the context of Ps 104, for example, the person who explains “stretching out the heavens” in one verse as cosmic expansion has to make sense of “pillars” in the next.
Perhaps a better analogy then the Bible Code is the character in Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone who treats Robinson Crusoe as a magical Scripture which always provides the answer to his current situation if opened at random. Defoe was a great author - but that’s not the book he wrote.
Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply. I think that I didn’t understand a good part of what you were saying. I think that, conversationally, you were working through the topic aloud. You said this:
I definitely keyed in on the first part. What would be the point? The point, I’m making is that God would just communicate and in things that he said, we would be able to infer certain conditions. The main point of the communication would be the topic at hand, though there could be secondary aspects of what is written from which we could infer certain things. These certain things could be helpful in determining the reliability of the source, God in this case.
In the next section (quote above) you mention that it could have educational value, and I very much agree with that. I also see your point about how looking back (viewing ancient philosophies and interpreting through that lens what the text meant contextually) can be helpful in determining the original meaning and intent.
I was really asking about this situation in the modern era. I was asking, based upon your comments, how you thought that philosophy today (or philosophical changes in the future, specifically) might cause us to interpret these potential examples of secondary revelation. I believe that was what you stated in your original post, and I am interested in your thoughts. As you said, I also believe that there is significant agreement in play, so by asking I’m not trying to find differences, but rather to understand your point.
I appreciate the Moonstone example very much. It is so with prayer and God’s will too. A skeptic will see us pray, assign everything that happens to God’s will, and then declare that prayer works, because God’s will was done. While this is dubious, it doesn’t mean that prayer doesn’t work. It means that it is not a good test to see if prayer works. The tent and pillars are a good example of this. There may have been a contemporary philosophy in place that made these word choices highly appropriate. This does not invalidate the secondary meaning (that stretching is also referring to cosmic expansion, for instance.) It simply is not a good test.
To go back to the prayer situation, though, if I need $873.65 in order to avoid losing my home, and, mysteriously, a check shows up from a stranger for that amount, I have a good idea that something else was going on. I’m trying to flesh out whether or not we are seeing a Moonstone or a check for $873.65. I think that it would vary from situation to situation.
What are your thoughts about this as you look toward the future? Do you have examples of how philosophy of science could change that would call into question the assumptions made above? Beyond using the past as an example? That’s what I was asking about.
It’s probably easier to use examples from the past that speculate on examples in the future.
On cosmology, take the development of the Greek cosmology that eventually became the Ptolemaic system. Before then (where and when Genesis had its genesis), it seems people thought of “land” “sea” “sky” “underworld”, as “layers”, but had little or no concept of the world as a whole “thing”. That shows in both the Hebrew and Mesopotamian description of “the world” as “heaven and earth” - a term including all the layers in between.
So asking if they thought the world was flat or round is meaningless - you first have to think of the world as some object with a shape at all.
The Greeks had that idea, in the form of “cosmos”, and by philosophy and observation decided it was a sphere, or a series of spheres, the upper ones being bright crystalline aether.
Now, the Septuagint translators in Egypt, thinking in Greek terms, took the Bible term “raqia” (probably meaning something stretched out) named “shamayim” (heavens), and decided on translating it “firmament” (ie something firm and solid), having at least part of the Greek model in mind. Lo and behold, the Bible correctly says the sky is a crystalline sphere! Only it doesn’t - that’s been read into the text.
The same model gets elaborated in the mediaeval period, and the simple concept of dwelling place of God above the clouds in the heavens (as in Gen 1.2) becomes the outermost sphere far above several crystalline spheres, and the Bible account is now seen through the spectacles of a whole hierachy of being, and the earth, as the Greek lowest point of the cosmos, acquires a moral inferiority absent from the Bible itself.
Along comes Copernicus, and the heavens as God’s dwelling (or actually, as the place where he chooses to “put his name”, even highest heaven being too small to contain him) get promoted out of the universe altogether, so that modern Christians think of God as dwelling in another dimension rather than simply above us (the physical corresponding to the spiritual image becomes a literal but spiritualised conception.) The “waters above the firament”, which seem to me to be simply the clouds in the original (though George will start a debate on that if we don’t stop him!) become an embarrassment because we all know earth’s sphere floats in near-infinite space, so the Hebrews must have conceived an infinite ocean in which the world floats like a bubble.
Well, they got the water wrong, but make that “vacuum” and they weren’t far off - except that’s not what they meant at all. It’s the theory with which we view the universe (not just Copernicanism, but materialism itself) that imposes itself on the text, and then, if we’re not careful, makes Genesis 1 a secret textbook of material cosmology, instead of a statement to Israel (and later, the Church), that their God made all things unaided, and that the whole cosmos is a temple comparable to the tabernacle that Moses has had them make as a microcosmic representation of it.
They didn’t need to know that God was behind the book - they had the Passover experience and a bunch of other stuff to show that God was in charge of the real world, and his authenticated prophet gave them the creation account.
Now, the mediaeval theologians mainly had better sense than to read Genesis as a scientifc account, but inevitably, knowing nothing of ancient cosmology, they probably tended to map Genesis to their Ptolemaic system. But though there were apparent points of contact - including the fact that the world itself hasn’t changed, and the sky is still “up” - they were simply mistaken if they had assumed that God had put geocentrism into the text to prove his credentials. And we’re just as wrong if we do the same with our own particular model of science.
Again, thanks for your reply… I understand what you are saying here and mostly agree with you.
Well, yeah!! Of course it is. We have the advantage of hindsight… What I was asking you about in each of the posts in this thread was this:
I’m asking what you might have envisioned occurring in the future that might change so dramatically that it would invalidate the lens through which we currently view things.
Ah - you want me to don my supernatural prophetic spectacles, urim and thummin!
A couple of suggestions about possible worldview changes, though not their applicaton to the hidden stuff in the Bible, based on what I see as the shortcomings of the current model of science.
For a start, I suspect some revival of something like Aristotelian causes will take over from materialism. That’s partly because I don’t see how one can maintain a view of biology without teleology for much longer, and because I suspect “form” will be appreciated as significant again.
It’s also because the importance of the concept of “mind” and the associated idea of “meaningful information” has emerged from quantum science (and remains stupidly indefinable in our present science, even though it’s what humans use all day every day), and is seriously being seen as central to the universe by those like Paul Davies. If it should come about that science begins to view mind as primary, rather than derived from matter or an epiphenomenoin of it, our whole way of seeing the world would change.
Having said I wouldn’t, let’s speculate on what that might mean for reading Genesis 1. The assumption would then be that our main focus of interest would be the Mind of God creating minds. People would be more interested in seeing how communication of divine mind to human mind was being described, or even embodied, and might simply be uninterested, or far less interested, in what it might be saying about the physical world. In that case, somebody coming along saying, “Hey, I’ve found references to evolution in the text” would draw the response, “So what?”
Don’t quote me on that - it’s a sketchy suggestion to show that not only the factual understanding changes as cultures change, but the whole frame of reference. It’s happened befotre, and it will undoubtedly happen again. And the Bible will still be relevant afterwards, which is the remarkable thing about a deceptively simple text.
Thanks Jon… this is brilliant. I didn’t know where you’d go with the forward-looking view, but this is great. I hope that you are correct on all fronts. I also hope that you are correct on these predictions, because it seems that the data will lend itself to more points of view than it does now. Obviously this would allow for more diversity in the conversations. Thanks very much for donning the urim and thummim! Well done.