Shel Boese / Shelby Boese – At Mercy Church we are willing to call how one looks at Genesis 1-2 (as long as you hold to the authority of Scripture) a secondary issue. Did God create in 7-literal “young earth”days? 7-eons? Theistic evolution? I strongly affirm that Adam and Eve were real and first humans into which God breathed the spirit. James KA Smith also points to the problems of taking up theistic evolution in a non-nuanced way. You need to not affirm it in a way that makes God the author of sin/evil (strange coming from a neo-calvinist/determinist…but I digress).
We must not make the Word of God into something cheap by imposing our culture and values on the text – but ask what is the nature of the literature that God inspired? What did it say to them? What question(s) did the audience have? (e.g. the genre is much less focused on “how” but rather “who” and “why”. AND what is God saying through the cannon and the Church by the Holy Spirit as a whole through time? – much to the shagrin of hard-core fundamentalists and liberals – who do violence to the Bible – one in the name of their own clarity and the other in the name of their own confusion)? What does it say to us?
Having said all that – let the debate rip – and remember science is not done in a neutral philosophical vacuum either. Thank you James KS Smith for keeping us on our toes (and of course good philosophy of science and art critiques the blind faith “scientism” that also is taken up by theists who want to pander to the pop-atheists.
First deal with the modernist/foundationalist views in the pop-atheist faith of scientism…
Posted by Matthew Dodrill on June 19, 2012
James K.A. Smith, a senior research fellow here at The Colossian Forum, has recently reviewed Pete Enns’ book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, prompting a lot of attention from those invested in the conversation on Christianity, evolution, and human origins. Smith’s review focuses primarily on Enns’ methodology rather than his position:
“If one wants to disagree with Enns’ conclusions, it is crucial to first attend to the whole framework within which he pursues his project. In fact, even if one were inclined toagree with his conclusions, it is important to consider whether one also wants to accept the way he gets there. More importantly, if evangelicals are going to debate these matters well, we need to consider more foundational issues and not rush ahead to nailing down a ‘position.’”
Smith critically approaches the paradigm of the biblical studies guild, claiming that Enns is caught between the limits of this paradigm and his “sincere desire to aid and equip the church to be faithful in the modern world.” One significant shortcoming of this paradigm, according to Smith, is the reduction of interpretation to authorial intent, focusing mainly on the intention of the authors of Genesis. Smith refers to this account as one “from below.” Furthermore, Smith says that this account concedes Stephen Jay Gould’s notion of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), an idea that Smith believes we should not assent to. What’s more, he calls into question Enns’ assumptions by proposing the following:
“First of all, the Christian church is not a recipient of the book of Genesis as a discrete unit; we receive the book of Genesis within the Bible and the Bible is received as a whole – as a ‘canon’ of Scripture. Second, internal to the canon is the conviction that meanings Godintends are not constrained by what human authors intended.”
With the mission of The Colossian Forum in mind, Smith posits that the “location” from which we read the Bible should be the practices of Christian worship. We therefore receive Scripture from the particular place of the church, and this place exhibits particular practices that influence our interpretive frameworks. Authorial intent or “original meaning,” therefore, cannot be the determinative factor in our interpretation of Genesis:
“Worship is the primary ‘home’ of the Bible and it is in worship that we cultivate those habits and virtues we need to read Scripture holistically. That will certainly generate meanings of Old Testament books that could never have been intended by their human authors; but that doesn’t mean they were not intended as meanings to be unfolded ‘in front of the text’ by the divine Author.”
The review closes with Smith’s investigation of Enns’ view of original sin, claiming that Enns’ account fails to recognize what’s at stake: the goodness of God. If our acceptance of evolution leads us to eschew the issue of the origin of sin and the causal claims made by original sin, according to Smith, we are likely to make God the author of sin:
“If God uses evolutionary processes to create the world and sin is inherent in those processes, then creation is synonymous with the fall and God is made the author of sin – which compromises the goodness of God.”
Since Smith’s review, others have weighed in, including Fuller Seminary professor J.R. Daniel Kirk, whose critical assessment of Smith’s review prompted correspondance between the two of them in the comment section of Kirk’s post. Even Enns himself briefly remarked on Smith’s review, planning to contribute to the conversation in more depth at a later date. This has not happened yet, but it would promise to be an exciting exchange.
The review was also highlighted by the people over at Near Emmaus and the Gospel Coalition, and apositive nod was given to the review by the folks at the City of God blog. In his own review of Enns’ book, Professor Ken Schenck briefly mentions that Smith might be right about needing to address a more fundamental question before moving on to the issues raised by Enns. Last, Richard Beckrelates his own reflections on the problem of evil to Smith’s concern that Enns’ account renders God the author of evil.
Smith’s original review was posted nearly two months ago, but the conversation is worth re-surfacing here on the blog. There’s still a lot of ground to be covered.