23 November 2017

What is a symbol for, and how does it symbolise?

The symbolist has to explain the real links between a symbolist view of Gen 1 and the realist purposes to which it is put.

The symbolist view of Genesis 1, etc. would have to entail a category error of the magnitude of the undergraduate 'fallacy'.

This is the 'fallacy' committed by many under-graduates who confuse possession (e.g. of a hand out, an e-book, a website address) with knowledge (produced by having read, considered and understood the given text).

The way it pans out in theology is that on the one hand we have, we are told, a 'symbolic' representation of God's creating, for various reasons to do, it would seem, not with creating, per se, but with bragging to ANE neighbours on the 'our story is better than your story' basis.

This places the creation account on the same rhetorical level as a Goon Show script where Neddy Seagoon fronts up to battle with a picture of a gun. Nice, but useless in the real world.

The fissure between a symbol of something rendered unknown by the declaration that the only information we have about it is a 'symbol' (of something else, presumably, but without any real world correlate), and real world events and relationships that are said to depend upon, or are referred to this symbol (that's like threatening your gun totting enemy with a read from your book of Kitchener's battle of Omdurman), have got to be given a connection that crosses the category boundary of 'we are in the real world' and the symbol is not. So where is the 'real world' link to the world of symbols?

Clearly they need a consulting philosopher who is up to date with Hegel, the Greek deceivers (Plato and his pupil Aristotle: a bright pair, but they made too many ontological mistakes to get full marks), and the tail enders, the Neoplatonists.

But seriously, folks, the problem is that there can be no link. God represents himself as creator at critical places in Scripture, which references can only point back to the Genesis account (note I carefully don't say, 'accounts', mainly because I don't think that Genesis is a second temple fantasy, and I can read what the text says...clearly one event, two subject matter branches). If the account is vaguely symbolic (that is, with no identifiable reference event), then it can have no meaningful connection with any of its citations.

God uses his credential as creator inescapably as being the one who created in 6 days, as he sets out in Genesis, and therefore dependable in doing what he says he will do, of being in relationship with us, and having a fellowship with us that characterises the relationship in objective and tangible terms which make sense in the continuity of time-space-event between his actions as reported, and our experience of being in the world created, on an intellectual level, defined by those actions and God's statements in relation to those actions.

Very simply the two are in different domains of meaning with no link apart from a hollow verbal one: Creation = symbol of something unknown, God's actions = thing is real space-time contiguous with the (claimed) basic reality of God-acting-with-wisdom-in-love.

19 November 2017

It just is...

A sermon I recently heard was a cracker.

Both insightful, and not!

How could this be?

The insight was the relation of God and creation, on creation being part of God's self-definition in relation to us in our space-time-causal world.

The 'not' was that creation as set out in Genesis 1, etc. was, we were boldly told, not about origins at all (despite it being God's foundational credential for our worship and knowledge of him, Roms 1:20 springs to mind, along with Hebs 4:3f and 11:3 ); indeed, that the Hebrews had no interest in origins per se (despite the credential popping up time and again throughout the OT and particularly pointedly in Acts 17:24ff) but were interested in the relationship that it indicated.

Now we start to play with category errors: the claim above notwithstanding that it only indicated a relationship, not because it is some purist 'form' in isolation, but because it was set out as a time-space event in our continguous objective causality. This is how it shows relationship. It is able to speak to such by demonstration of the fellowship between God and man particularly, but extending to creation in general. The fellowship is shown in the common space-time-event domain of God's action (by speaking, with immediacy as the scriptures insist), and our responses.

It went on. We were told that because God created we all need to be environmentalists, while not guarding against the environmental religion we are now beset by, or the need to balance benefits to people with our stewardship of the creation, it being our home, the place of our fellowship with God, the subject of his future redemption (which was touched upon, but not in this sense) and, in travail, although that was mentioned, and so no purist end state is available.

More significantly, we were told that things in creation 'just are' and didn't matter beyond this mute given-ness...yoga, tai chi, evolution...they just were, and didn't matter. This makes sense if you in fact, or implicitly, separate creation as a doctrine from creation in fact in the real world, denying that the use of real world terms because that's where it happened are telling us anything real.

Au contraire. Because of creation these things do matter, in a contra-positive way. Yoga is not merely body positions; it is represented that way to we dumb westerners, but it is an integral part of a pantheistic conception of the universe that is at root impersonal, its perception by us illusory. Tai chi is possibly the same but I don't know of it.

But even more 'contraire': nothing 'just is' but all is created by intention, in love, and is full the wisdom of God. As Rorty wistfully once sought a joining of justice and beauty that is denied in his random 'just is' materialist world, this provides it: everything comes together in the loving intention of God.

Evolution I do know about.

A few days after the sermon I was browsing in a bookshop (a time-space-event one, not an electronic one, as handy as they are). I came across a book published by the New Scientist: How Evolution Explains Everything about Life (although a recent book claims that it doesn't, with typcial journalistic shrillness).

This clearly asserted a dominating, total world view; not a mere technicality within God's creation-not-about-origins-which-just-is!

The idea that creation 'just is' was presented in terms that nothing in the creation is to be afraid of. And with this I emphatically agree; but the things cited are not 'in' the creation; they are intellectual (or  spiritual in a demon sense) artifacts of human (or demonic) endeavour.

To put evolution in the 'don't matter' box, takes us to the edge of not one, but two cliffs.

The first is that evolution, not being a 'thing' but a set of ideas, comes from somewhere: it comes from a human desire to conceive the universe as 'just is' in materialist terms. How ironic. I would aver that this view was part of the ancient Greek's lack of interest in science as we know it today. Aristotle typifies this in that he attempted to deduce things about the world, rather than examine it. His legacy remains dominant in theology, despite its unbiblical premis (evolution). It was also the very contrary view of the universe by mainly what today we would call creationist investigators (scientists) that led to the flowering of modern science. Thus, the Bible is not a scientific textbook, rather it is the essential prolegomenon to any science.

The second cliff is that it either puts God logically within a materialist frame, evolution being a materialist, not a scientific conception of reality, or implies that he must be pushed off away from us. This is contrary, obviously, to Genesis 1 etc. where the universe is framed within and by the thinking, relating, loving being behind and through it all, who relates to us.

Genesis gives life to the relationship by demonstrating God's creation is a 'concrete-realist' set of sequenced events, in contiguous objective space-time causality with us; these events form the creation and are definitively placed in time and sequence. The time and sequence that we know and use. If they don't really tell of the creation, then something else, of which we have no historic knowledge, does. This inevitably plays out as undercutting the 'creation' as God's chief relational credential for our worship and demonstration of his work in fellowship with us as it can then do neither.

It undercuts because it renders the actual action of God unknown and perhaps unknowable and thus meaningless in the space-time-event deliminted universe we are in, shades of the category error again: that some sort of symbolism can be connected to real meaning, in the real world, even though its real-world-terms description is denied and said to be about something else (and how would one know, one wonderes) for which we have no reference).

The real-world-terms it is communicated in; and no other could have meaning, show us realist categories (not neoplatonic imaginative ones), the show that our ideas and actions have real meaning and our relationships have consequences because our relationship with God is real and has consequences. Oh, and they also start our knowledge, thereby, of the creation that we are to steward, and show that we have time-space-event objective, shared continuity with it and God's act in creation, and participatory being with him (the only way to have connection) to come full circle.

Some who take a second temple view of Genesis 1 have considered the six days of creation as a rationale for the Jewish week. But not so. The Sabbath pattern and God's using that very pattern is at the core of his demonstration of fellowship. Both he and his people fellowship in a common ordred pattern of the use of time.

To some extent, as a result of all this, Genesis 1 is a science text. John Buridan treated it as such, conceptually, to much profit.

As a footnote, the reign of Barth in the sermon was clearly evident; as was the influence of the Buddha, regretably, even if unconscious.

Theologians quoted were Brueggemann and Goldingay; both of whom miss the realist point of Genesis, and invite us into an Hegelian frolic. This direction is not helpful, although they do have plenty to provoke profitable thought.

8 October 2017

The Everlasting God

Comment to Matthias Media on this book

Just reading Knox's The Everlasting God. What a wonderful accessible book. And, rarely for Sydney these days, one that sticks to the biblical teaching on creation and distinguishes it from evolution. A pity that the idea of chance has overridded the biblical implication of purpose in creation. But then, with Genesis 1 regarded as figurative (it would do Barth proud), the fallback positon is that evolution is the real explanation of life the universe and everything, with the revelation of God a mere chance event within that paradigm.

6 October 2017

How to be pagan

A few prize quotes, for those who deny a link between evolutionary doctrine and Christian theology:

"...I myself have little doubt that in England it was geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation."

F. Sherwood Taylor, ‘Geology changes the outlook’, in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, Sylvan Press Ltd, London, p. 195, 1949.

"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."

Provine, W. B., "Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life." from 1998 Darwin Day address.

"Now what, I ask, was the first lesson given to the indoctinees (by Chinese  communists)?...The first, the fundamental, lesson given was  man's descent from the ape---Darwinism! Darwin negates God, the human soul, the after-life. Into this vacuum Communism enters as the be-all and end-all of the intellecdtual slavery it has created"

O'Gara, C. M., The Surrender to Secularism, Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, 1967.

O'Gara witnessed the communists in China running indoctrination 'education'.

Playing games

Often I find evangelicals playing games with the first half of Genesis. But if you remove a true, historic, space-time Fall, the answers do not exist. It is not only that historic, biblical Christianity as it stands in the stream of history is gone, but every answer we possess in the area of man and his moral dilemma is also gone.

Schaeffer, F. A. 1972 He Is There and He Is Not Silent

3 October 2017

Escape from absurdity

Reading Schaeffer: The God Who Is There. (Crossway Complete Works)

p 164

FS lists the brokenness of man as: man separated [himself] from God, man separated from himself [no longer an integrated being], man separated from himself [no longer in integrated community], and “Fourthly, man was separated from nature”.

I came to a halt with the fourth separation. The word ‘nature’ suggests an independent ‘natural’ reality. But, not so. The non-human world is not ‘nature’, with its hint of autonomy from the creative acts of God, but The Creation, fallen as it is, due to the first separation. This makes the pain of our position even more sharp: we separated ourselves from God and as a result...we are separated from his creation which we were to be stewards of and live in in enjoyment and God’s company.

But FS goes on to some great analysis.

Page 168-9

“The beginning is simply that God exists and that He is the personal-infinite God. Our generation longs for the reality of personality, but cannot find it. But Christianity says personality is valid because personality has not just appeared in the universe, but rather is rooted in the personal God who has always been.”

Page 183

“...The heart of the rebellion of Satan and man was the desire to be autonomous; and accepting the Christian faith robs us not of our existence, not of our worth (it gives us our worth), but it  robs us completely of being autonomous. We did not make ourselves, we are not a product of chance.”

The final sentence caps it all very well.

The alternative to being made and that through the purposeful love of the infinite-personal God is the ironic ‘autonomy’ of chance where purpose is absent, and we live a perceived absurdity of being people full or purpose and intent, and indeed, love, but in a universe, a reality, we imagine has none of this as basic. This man looks back to his roots in meaningless (purposeless) chance and sees a black absence of personality, love and purpose.

To joint the two, as theistic evolution does, for example, compounds the absurdity and evacuates the gospel of credibility. It would tell us that God 'used' purposelessness/chance on purpose, to produce a world of purposeful beings (in his image) that gave no evidence of his purpose! More than absurd because it destroys the fellowship of beings founded in the creation as described in Genesis 1 where God's acts and our being share contiguous objective space-time causality as persons in communion.

1 October 2017

Its all continuous

This morning at  church we had a rather wonderful sermon with this quote from Barth:

‘The goal of creation, and at the same time the beginning of all that follows, is the event of God’s Sabbath rest and Sabbath joy, in which man, too, has been summoned to participate.  It is the event of divine rest in the face of the cosmos completed with the creation of man – a rest which takes precedence over all of man’s eagerness and zeal to enter upon his task.  Man is created to participate in this rest.’ Karl Barth, Dogmatics III/I, 98.

It reads wonderfully well. It reads as though Barth could be an author on this blog.

But not so.

Barth is famous for putting into different compartments scripture and the contiguous objective space-time causality that we inhabit, that scripture seems to speak to and in which terms scripture is delineated; making nonsense of one or the other!

Because: the creation account is presented in terms of the categories and the contiguous causality that we live in. Recursively, this makes the account congruent with the world that it describes and the world whose terms we share in our existential experience. So,  we can make sense of it and take real meaning from it. It gives us a confidence that God has revealed truth to us, and we are not left to the winds of chance.

The world of the account is reflected in a world that has identicial causality with no break in the objective causal continuity between the two, otherwise, one would not make sense in terms of the other and the account would not tell us anything real about this world or God. Which is where Barth is.

The end result would be that the account would have no Real meaning in this world and we would have to seek elsewhere to know not only what really happened, but what is really real, in a basic sense, and how this world, us and god (whose identity is now obscured from us with no place for fellowship...more like Allah than Jehovah) inter-relate. And where would we go? Barth, Dawkins, Enuma Elish? Then, who would we be?

Or, in short:

The nub of it is: if the creation account is not about events (objective causality) in this space-time world, then it is about something else, and the real time-space world is otherly denominated...for which info we have to go elsewhere...where?

30 September 2017

ESV Study Bible

A review that I am much in agreement with, although in enthusiastic disagrement regarding a few points.

My big 'likes':

Compromising the Creation Account

In the “Introduction to Genesis” there is an inexcusable compromise with evolutionary chronology. It is alleged that “faithful interpreters” have explained the days of the creation week in a variety of ways. For example, there is the “ordinary days” view that sees the creation days as six periods of twenty-four hours. Others argue that the days represent “geological ages.” Then there is the “work week” of so-called “God days” (whatever those are).
Additionally, a possible “gap period” is supposed to exist between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, during which a Satanic rebellion occurred. The gap generally is perceived as possibly lasting millions of years, thus accommodating uniformitarian geology. Amazingly, it is argued: “None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical.” Supposedly, “each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation” (2008, 44). How in the name of common logic can the mutually exclusive views of “literal days” and “non-literal days” be harmonized with a biblical narrative that professes to be the inspired word of God?
The author of the introduction is careful to point out that some of the Bible’s genealogical records do not contain strict father-son relationships, and that is true. But if this is intended to suggest that a human longevity of possibly several million years can be accommodated by an elastic genealogy, then the hint is nefarious. Evolutionary chronology flagrantly contradicts Jesus’ statement that humanity existed “from the beginning of the creation” (Mark 10:6), and Paul’s declaration that God’s magnificent universe has been humanly perceived “since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20). Scripture must not be twisted to conform to pseudo-science.

The Flood Narrative

The Bible is perfectly clear that the great flood of Noah’s day was universal in its devastation. The Mosaic language could not be plainer concerning the extent of the deluge: “[A]ll the high mountains, that were under the whole heaven were covered. . . . And all flesh died that moved upon the earth” (Genesis 7:19, 21). While it is true that occasionally comprehensive terms are employed in a more limited sense, the context must demand such, and that factor does not obtain in the flood case. For a further discussion of this matter, see Questions About the Genesis Flood.
The ESVSB contends that the biblical text “does not necessarily mean that the flood had to cover the whole earth” (62). The author supposes that it is “questionable” that the flood explains the geological strata, the fossils, etc. (44). This leaves the matter wide open for evolutionary uniformitarianism as opposed to biblical catastrophism.