Saturday, July 25, 2015

Popping In For A Post

Life has gotten busy, and so I don't really blog any more. My Facebook page really plays that role for me now. But I suspected that every once in a while something would scream for a larger treatment than I could give on Facebook, and lo and behold it has happened. I read this article today:

This is the most puerile, useless treatment of Genesis I have ever read. It completely misunderstands the nature of religious language, and the nature of the Book of Genesis in particular. First of all, the author assumes from the outset that religious language is like the language of newspaper reporting or science...that the point of religious language is 'how' questions.

Language has different uses. Nobody thinks that when a poet says a cloud is like cotton, that the poet is trying to communicate the exact chemical makeup of clouds. They understand that poetry doesn't seek to communicate a third-party perspective but a first-party perspective...that the language of poetry is the language of explaining WHAT IT IS LIKE to experience a cloud.

Religious language is born, too, out of experience, though I think that religious language serves a purpose different than every day poetry. The point is that religious language has its own purpose, uses, and questions it addresses. For a full treatment on this subject I suggest Russell Pregeant's MYSTERY WITHOUT gives a devastating refutation to Schweitzer's entire approach to scripture.

But moreover, Schweitzer uses ONLY one part of Genesis to talk about the Biblical approach to cosmology. There are, in fact, not one but MANY Creation stories in the Bible, and they are often in commensurable. If we are to take the Genesis 1 account of Creation as a straightforward and all-encompassing cosmology, how do we deal with the fact that a very different cosmology is found one chapter over in Genesis 2? And similarly, how do we deal with the more expansive accounts found in Proverbs 8 and Job?

The point is that the Bible tells not one but many creation stories, some of those stories are more or less congruent with a modern scientific account, but that doesn't really matter. What really matters is that the plurality of accounts points to the fact that the language of the Bible shouldn't be taken to be some kind of scientific account of creation, but rather has some other purpose that a thinking person would be wise to discern before actually making pronouncements on Biblical teachings. It would be a practice Schweitzer would've done well to undertake if he wanted to avoid sounding like a theological ignoramus.

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