Hi CLB, You said, “When is it permissible for the secular sciences to inform our reading of Scripture?”
According to the Christian faith, scripture is the highest authoritative communication of God to humanity. Eisogesis is considered a poor interpretation methodology because it diminishes the authority of scripture and subjects it to the authority of outside influences. Scientific discoveries may help us to understand scripture, but not reinterpret it. Only evidence from the context can be used to interpret scripture.
“Why should secular science NOT influence our reading of scripture?”
Science is fallible by design. Christians believe that the scriptures are inerrant in the autographic manuscripts, and that God has preserved all essential doctrine. Why should the infallible word of God be subjected to fallible, subjective human systems? Either these Christian claims about the inerrancy of scripture are true, or they are not.
“the question is NOT “When should Scripture yield to Scientific claims?” This is not about a contest between infallible Scripture and fallible science, or of God’s word vs. Man’s. Rather it is the issue of man’s exegesis of Scripture and its relationship to what I call man’s exegesis of nature; or, between scholarship and physical science”
You are suggesting that we reinterpret scripture in the light of science – so you are suggesting that scientific claims be given influence and authority over how we interpret scripture. You are suggesting that if the claims of science contradict the claims of the Bible, then the Bible should give way to science – e.g. we should assume (without any evidence from the scriptures themselves) that the Bible is meant to be interpreted symbolically – because it has the gall to disagree with a scientific claim. So it is a competition where in your mind, science wins. You want to mould scripture to fit the fallible and changing claims of science. Then when the scientific story changes because of some new evidence, we will need to reinterpret scripture again.
As the inerrant Word of God, we would expect the Bible to be consistent with the facts. So long as I can interpret a fact to be consistent with the Biblical version of reality, I have no need to compromise my faith in the reliability of scripture.
“And most here will acknowledge certain tools which will help refine or correct those “best” explanations: whether it be better handling of the Greek or Hebrew, better understanding of the historical context etc. Sometimes a discovery, like that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, prompts scholars to reexamine traditional readings of Scripture. Should secular science be allowed the same force?”
In the preceding examples you are examining scripture by looking into and comparing scripture to scripture. That is desirable and logically consistent. Our understanding can be improved by exegesis – drawing information out of the text – i.e. information contained in the text. If “secular science” is permitted the same authority, you are employing eisogesis – reading information into scripture that is not actually contained in the text. Thereby you have subjected God’s word to the fallible judgement of human systems.
When we consider that many secular historical claims are interpreted within the naturalistic paradigm (i.e. in a context that excludes the possibility of an interactive God), the danger faced by subjecting the Bible to “scientific” eisogesis is amplified. The faith premise of these claims directly contradicts the premise of scripture – so your suggestion amounts to submitting our scriptures to a contrary faith perspective.
“Obviously the example that looms largest here is cosmology and its influence on our reading of Genesis”
Cosmology is an historical science. Operational science attributes confidence to claims through observation. Historical claims cannot be observed without a time machine – so a different method is required to examine those claims; an indirect method – where we make up a story to account for the past (a model), then test that story against the currently available evidence. But since there is more than one story which can account for the current evidence, we can never be confident (apart from faith) which story is true. So these claims have no logically legitimate standing upon which to influence our interpretation of scripture – apart from secular propaganda.
“The scientists tell us that the earth is very old, much older than the sum of years mentioned in Genesis would lead us to believe”
Find here a list of highly credentialed scientists who consider the Biblical creation account to be a viable explanation of the history of the universe.
This is not a science versus faith issue. It is about the secular, naturalistic paradigm vs the Biblical paradigm. It is not an issue of facts, but how the interpretation of those facts is influenced by the faith presupposition of the interpreter. Biblical creationists can interpret all of the very-same facts used by secular science to support their models, but to be consistent with the Biblical model of reality. So there is no objective scientific reason for us to surrender our faith in the Biblical version of reality – or to submit our scriptures to the secular faith’s interpretation of facts.
“This has led some to question the intended meaning of the creation account (s)”
Those who lack the understanding required to break down the logic underpinning the secular claims allow themselves to be convinced by the propaganda that these claims warrant logically and scientifically unjustified levels of confidence. Yet there is no objective scientific reason for anyone to question what is written in Genesis.
I think if you are honest with yourself – you are not suggesting a reinterpretation of the creation account, but a rejection of what is actually written. There is nothing in the Genesis account that mirrors Standard Cosmology or Common Ancestry. There is no logical antecedent/metaphor relationship between Genesis and the secular models. You are basically saying that what is written is wrong because it doesn’t conform to secular ideas – then to reconcile your conscience your make an arbitrary claim that Genesis must have been meant symbolically. And thereby, you circumvent the authority of scripture – if it doesn’t agree with science, the Bible is either wrong or symbolic. Science is king and the Bible must submit.
“On the other hand it has been maintained on this forum by many that the abandonment of a literal 6-day reading of Genesis 1 in response to scientific claims made about the earth’s age constitutes nothing less than the abandonment of God’s Word as revelation. I struggle to see why”
I would not consider belief in Genesis creation to be a salvation issue. However, the creation account provides the philosophical foundations for many of the most important Biblical doctrines; such as holding humanity accountable for sin and death – and our subsequent requirement of a Saviour, or how can a good God create such a cruel reality? Genesis answers these questions. Also Jesus, and both Old and New Testament authors referred to Genesis as historical events – so in accepting secular interpretations of facts, there is and implication that they were wrong/ignorant.
“But I am not here concerned with this or that maneuver but with the general condemnation of even searching for alternative readings”
I wouldn’t condemn the search. But I would question the motivation. The Genesis record has been thoroughly researched. The overwhelming evidence from the text itself is that Genesis means what it says; i.e. an historical creation account. The only reason to presume otherwise is some prevailing obligation to contrary (yet unverifiable) secular claims about history.
“For it seems to me that many on this forum are not even willing to entertain alternative readings that are prompted by scientific claims: they are regarded wrong a priori, and that simply because behind them lies the influence of secular disciplines. This baffles me. Why the prejudice?”
I don’t think its “prejudice” at all. Our faith is in the authority of scripture. We have examined the scriptures to establish the intent of the author and found overwhelming evidence that Genesis is meant as an historical account. Then we examine the claims of secular history and find them logically unverifiable and formulated around the precepts of a contrary faith. So we need more than the mere suggestion that there may be another way to interpret these scriptures – or the unsupported dismissal of these scriptures as symbolic.
Ultimately, if you don’t want to believe the Bible, then don’t. But we will take issue with people who go to extraordinary lengths to make our scriptures say something they don’t in order to justify some allegiance to the claims of another faith perspective.
“I think it also highly irresponsible not to acknowledge these claims and reexamine what we think we know about Scripture”
I am more than happy to examine any claim – so long as the claimant is happy for me to subject their claim to scrutiny. If I provide copious evidence and argument supporting my position, but my opponent just says “maybe it’s meant symbolically”, then I’m sure you’ll understand why I might be tempted to question their motives. Nevertheless, I agree that no claim should be ignored.
“Does the fact that it was a secular discipline which initiated the initial search vitiate those finds? Is secular science such a vulgar catalyst that nothing good can come from it, however attractive and (I must say) invigorating results?”
I don’t know what you mean by “secular discipline”. Science does not belong to the secular community. I think we may again need to revisit the difference between the historical and operational methodology. Your example is cosmology – that is historical. All such claims are unverifiable because we cannot perform experiments or make observations in the past - unlike gravity, for example, which can be tested and retested by the operational/experimental method.
Secular historical models do rely on unverifiable faith assumptions – and are therefore inherently biased (in reality – all historical models are influenced by such bias – including creationism). It’s only ‘vitiated’ when this bias is ignored, and confidence in the claims are subsequently exaggerated beyond what is logically and scientifically justified.
Edited by Tristen, 14 August 2014 - 11:07 PM.