The Dust Cast (podcast) just posted a short interview with me on the divine council and The Unseen Realm. Enjoy!
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The Dust Cast (podcast) just posted a short interview with me on the divine council and The Unseen Realm. Enjoy!
I enjoyed this because the the interviewer was asking the right questions: “How much of their worldview are we suppose to accept?” This goes back to the historicity question and HOW it affects one’s faith in the whole “supernatural worldview of the Bible”
Now he just asked about the worldview of giants. We can take this further and ask about the worldview of God actually spreading rule of the gentile nations to other gods. Historicity plays a crucial part. Their worldview is simply not OUR worldview. Given that, how should we approach our Bibles and the the theology we are supposed to accept.
Hopefully this is something you can go much deeper in, since many many people on different sites have been asking it.
For those who didn’t listen to the interview, my answer (I think I recall the question) is that, since biblical propositions about the spiritual world are not subject to the tools of science (the natural world is something we regularly experience and can thus learn about first hand, developing our ability to do so), then propositions about God’s domain (the spirit world) and the intersection of that domain with our domain are items we must accept (by faith, of course, since they cannot be tested scientifically, only logically).
The rest (about how the Bible was never intended to be a scientific commentary on the natural world) I have written about here a number of times, so I won’t repeat that.
Not sure if you recall, but a few posts ago, someone had a similar question about historicity and you requested I send you a reminder to speak about historicity vs theology. The Implication is that you have not written about this topic a number of times. That’s not criticism. A man after all only has 24 hours in a day and can’t write about everything, but nonetheless, I don’t think you have given this enough thought since so many people constantly bring this up without a real response. So let me parse this out.
1) None of what I bring up has anything to do with science. 0%. Nada. So lets not bring up the word “science” into the discussion. I am talking about history. Events. Did X happen? History of events is not science. History is not logic. It either happened or didn’t
2) The question is, are you (or the Bible) asking US to accept THEIR worldview? Or, do you want us to accept Biblical theology? If it’s the the latter, do you not understand that it is CONTIGENT upon THEIR worldview? That is why the interviewer on the radio show asked you directly if he has to believe giants roamed the earth. Your response to him – from what I remember – is that there is no problem in simply accepting it as myth. You say that the word myth is misunderstood. That academically it simply means any discussion of deities, and since the Bible clearly discusses a diety you can accept it as myth. But that is incredibly unfair. It’s irrelevant how academics interpret the word “myth.” What matters is how people colloquially understand it. People understand myth to mean “not real.” Zeus is myth. Vishnu is myth. Thor is myth. I doubt you mean to put the Bible in the same category as these myths. What would happen if I say I accept the Bible is true, but that Jesus is myth? Right. It wouldn’t hold any water.
3) So what is the interviewer really getting at? It’s simple. If the giants correspond to a certain theology in the Bible, it means the theology is CONTINGENT on giants existing……….or else that theology would never have arisen. So lets take his question to the next set of logical questions.
Deut. Worldview is contingent on God scattering people after Babel tower. This theology is utterly contingent on humans being concentrated in one location for him to scatter roughly 4000 years ago. This is a historical question, not scientific. Them being concentrated in one location is contingent on their have been a flood to wipe out everyone. This is a historical question, not scientific.
Do you understand how one thing leads to the other? You can’t use “Well, the biblical authors had no way of knowing Native Americans and Chinese were already settled in their lands” as an argument. Because I could respond by saying “Fine, you are right. They truly didn’t know people were scattered well before these stories took place. Therefore, this means the theology that EMANATES from these biblical stories is incorrect.”
Can we agree with this axiom: Real and True theology MUST correspond with actual events that the theology is based on? That should not be controversial correct? Imagine I said I believe in the theology of Jesus as savior and son of God, but I don’t believe Jesus existed. That wouldn’t make sense.
So to sum this up, if you are asking us to accept Biblical theology are you willing to say that we MUST also accept the events that the theology is contingent upon? A global flood?*** A concentrated population at Babel? God scattering this population into 70 nations roughly 4000 years ago?
We all agree that this was THEIR worldview, but given that we know that none of it is historically accurate, how much of it do we take as OUR theology? Simply go back to the essence of the interviewers question. Since giants did not roam the earth what would you tell regarding his own theology? Since all man was not concentrated into one location, what would you tell regarding the interviewers own theology? etc etc etc etc.
Im hoping other commentators will chime in. This is so important I feel it deserves its own post.
*** Remember, just because YOU don’t believe the flood was not global does not mean the Biblical authors did not. The theology requires to take the Bible on ITS terms which means it was global, all life was destroyed except for Noahs’ and that the Babel/scattering of nations is contingent on a global flood.
See my reply of just now. It does involves science if the issue is “Is there a God or not?”
One note on your last line. I don’t know what the extent of the flood was. I like things about the local flood, but I don’t really care one way or the other. A local flood can certainly mean taking the Bible on ITS terms for two reasons: (1) the biblical writers tell us what “the world” was to them (Gen 10 – the Mediterranean and Ancient Near East) and that isn’t global; (2) all the phrases that people take as global language in the flood account have precise counterparts elsewhere in *the Bible* that cannot (in context — its own terms) refer to something exhaustive. Here are some examples where the vocabulary of Genesis 6-8 (individual words or combinations or phrases) shows up elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible where “all encompassing” interpretation isn’t coherent or even possible. In many such instances, the language is hyperbole or that of naked eye observation.
(1) Combinations of כֹּל and אֶרֶץ
The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole (כֹּל) land (אֶרֶץ) of Havilah, where there is gold. (Are we really being asked to believe that every place in Havilah was infiltrated by this river? Or that a river surrounded the entire land? If so, the Bible would be in error when it comes to Havilah.
And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole (כֹּל) land (אֶרֶץ) of Cush (Ditto the above)
1 Sam 14:25
And all (כֹּל) the land (אֶרֶץ) entered the forest, and there was honey on the ground. The word כֹּל presumes “people” here – but are we really to believe that every last person of the land of Israel entered into this single forest?
The whole (כֹּל) earth (אֶרֶץ) is at rest and is quiet … Really? No human or animal in the entire earth was making a sound?
Genesis 13:9 (Abraham to Lot)
Is not the whole (כֹּל) land (אֶרֶץ) before you? – No, Lot wasn’t looking at the entire globe, nor could he.
And the people of all (כֹּל) the earth (אֶרֶץ) came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph . . . Did everyone in the Mediterranean come? China? India? North America? Again, the hyperbole is obvious.
Judges 6:37 (Gideon)
Behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all (כֹּל) the ground (אֶרֶץ), then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me – “all the ground” refers to a small portion of land in the area where Gideon was.
1 Samuel 13:3
Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout (כֹּל) the land (אֶרֶץ), saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” – Obviously, Saul didn’t blow a trumpet loud enough for everyone on the globe to hear it (nor could he send trumpeters throughout all the earth).
2 Samuel 18:8
For the battle there was spread over the whole (כֹּל) land (אֶרֶץ) … (This battle didn’t take place in every portion of the entire globe).
1 Kings 10:24
And all (כֹּל) the earth (אֶרֶץ) was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. (Everyone in the Mediterranean come? The Chinese? The people of Easter Island? Native American tribes? Again, the hyperbole is obvious.
(2) Combination of כֹּל and בָּשָׂר (“all flesh”)
This Hebrew lemma combination occurs in contexts where every last human being cannot be in view.
For example, Isa 66:23 (in any millennial view the Lord will have enemies who don’t worship him)
Jer 45:5 (the reference is to all the people of Judah – they are going to be sent into exile)
Joel 2:28 – all people don’t received the Spirit, only believers (and this passage is quoted in Acts 2).
Other examples could be noted. The point here is that you should not assume too much of the phrase. Your task was to look up the lemma combinations to find exceptions like the ones I noted here, which would in turn be taken back to Gen 6-8 by local flood theorists to argue their case.
(3) Localized orientation in the Genesis flood account itself
The translators of most English Bibles use the word “earth,” which to us means “planet earth.” However, their mistranslation can clearly be seen in the following passage:
Gen 8:3 – The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down
Gen 8:5 – And the water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
Gen 8:6 – Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made;
Gen 8:7 – and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth.
Gen 8:8 – Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land;
Gen 8:9 – but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark; for the water was on the face of all (כֹּל) the earth (אֶרֶץ). Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself.
Do you see the problem? Genesis 8:9 tells us that the water was on the face of all (כֹּל) the earth (אֶרֶץ), but forty days earlier the water had *receded sufficiently for the mountains to be VISIBLE* – and so, the entirety of the earth was not covered in Gen 8:9, which means that the vocabulary there cannot be comprehensive.
So your last statement isn’t a coherent argument against my approach.
You give a perfect summation around the 27 minute mark.
…oddly. OJ is getting a little dated…
Excellent defense(?)/instruction at 21min on the poly(oh-what-is-it-this-week)theism arguments.
You’ve given Mr Mahler a thing or two to think about. I would hope he doesn’t fall under the Churchillian, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” What probably confused him the most was your ability to consider disparate themes that reach identical theological points and not get your undies in a bunch about which is the “correct” line.
How many years in the classroom? Never throw underhand to a guy who can hit a cutter.
I’m not sure what his background is (or isn’t).
I’m not sure I follow the line of reasoning here. Did you perceive Dr. Heiser and I to be in conflict during the interview? My goal is to create an interesting podcast by asking scholars to discuss subjects where they have expertise, and to bring up questions that are being asked within the broader Christian community. For instance, I asked Dr. Heiser how he would respond to polytheistic interpretations of Deut 32:8-9 because that is a perspective advanced by some scholars on a passage that is clearly important to Dr. Heiser’s work, and not because I personally hold to a polytheistic interpretation of the origin of that passage (which I don’t). I agree with you that Dr. Heiser’s defense of a monotheistic interpretation of the passage was excellent, which was kind-of the point of asking the question in the first place. My goal as an interviewer is to create episodes that contain excellent discussions.
I think your interview w/Dr Heiser was remarkably well done. It was one that I ‘missed’. I would guess that there is upwards of 25 hours of interviews with him available online. Easily.
He is remarkably both flexible and consistent. Coupled with honesty and accessibility it is always a pleasure to listen to how each unique conversation unfold. Feel free to dismiss me as some fanboy/cheerleader.
Which brings up the “paragraph” of Ephesians 4:7-16. And. An opportunity to throw myself down some Baskin_Robins metaphore hole. We travel many paths with a common destination. I like what you are doing.
Keep on keepin’ on.
Jason Mahler asked to what extent should we believe the worldview that included Watchers and Nephilim. I didn’t quite understand your answer.
You defined myth as a story used to explain something using divine characters. But it also has a second meaning: a widely held but false belief. Do you think that the Watcher story in Genesis 3 is mythical in the second meaning, that the Watchers never existed?
The difference between the two definitions of myth is not whether the events actually happened in history. The first definition doesn’t speak to the historical validity; the story may or may not have happened; that doesn’t matter. The second definition, on the other hand, is all about historic validity: the story either happened as fact, or it did not and is a lie.
Anyone who believes in a supernatural world understands my definition. We make presumptions about events in our lives all the time — about God’s role in them. If we are incorrect, that doesn’t mean God wasn’t involved. He could have been involved in a different way. So it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Since I believe in a spiritual world (and such belief is philosophically and logically coherent and defensible — nothing new from me there) I have no trouble saying that I think the supernatural reading of Gen 6:1-4 is on target and that such an event transpired. But the precise nature of the events still require interpretation. So the story “happened” to use your verbiage, but whether I get it right in how I interpret it is another question. But I can be wrong there and that doesn’t mean the episode never happened.
In other words, I’m not omniscient, God doesn’t expect me to be omniscient, and my lack of omniscience doesn’t determine whether the event happened or not, or whether the belief in spirit beings is logically/philosophically coherent or not.
My advice is not to descend into a worldview where you require omniscience of yourself and others. That not only makes little sense, but it’s nihilistic and totally inconsistent with the way we live life and think in other areas.
But Mike, Rachel is asking exactly what I am asking. She is questioning supernaturalism. She is questioning a SPECIFIC supernatural message is TIED to historical events on Earth. So either ALL those events happened like they are written or they did not. If they did not, then how does one maintain that specific supernatural theology in ones life devoid of ALL those events that it is contingent on.
I’ve copied the text of this here and will go back and look at Rachel’s email. I don’t remember what it’s about. Just taking a minute now to approve comments missed in the last week.
Okay, I have the context now, but I think there’s a verb missing in your last sentence, and I don’t understand it. At any rate, your follow-up still confuses event and supernatural backdrop.
Event: I got my job through a wonderful series of events. I in fact got my job. It happened. I’m here. The event was real. As I look back at the string of events, some (literally, if that’s an allowable word here) cannot be explained in any other way than direct providence. But I view all the other events, and the events that led up to the “big” ones as “less direct” providences — divine acts or influences / the unseen hand sort of idea. But how do I know that my parsing is correct — completely or partially? I don’t. But that isn’t to deny providence. The unseen hand might have moved differently producing the same result. All it denies is my ability to be perfectly correct.
Now for the biblical writers:
Event: Gen 6:1-4. Leaving aside that there are a couple of ways to read the details of the event (see Unseen Realm), I say that there were events on earth that correspond to what we read here. There was divine activity/transgresion/intervention (bad), whatever word you want to use. What they wrote can be viewed by us moderns as “myth” in that sense — they are recording an event and assigning providential meaning / causation to that event. The fact that I’m not sure how to read that activity doesn’t mean there was no activity. The fact that I’m not sure precisely what was in their head with respect to the supernatural activity doesn’t mean there was no such activity. Saying otherwise is to swap my (your) thought processes for events in real time and divine acts or influences, then take the uncertainty of my/your thoughts processes and transfer that to the events or divine acts/influences — both are dramatic category confusions. It would mean (if played out in normal life) that whatever event you don’t understand, or can’t perceive as to causation, motivation, etc. therefore didn’t happen (on earth or in heaven, so to speak). That simply isn’t logically coherent. None of that changes because biblical writes wrote something. Something happened. They wrote about it. We have to parse what they wrote. What they wrote involved supernatural activity. That I can’t be sure I’m parsing either the event or the divine activity correctly (i.e., my lack of omniscience) doesn’t mean the none of that happened. As I wrote in the earlier reply: “In other words, I’m not omniscient, God doesn’t expect me to be omniscient, and my lack of omniscience doesn’t determine whether the event happened or not.”
If the issue is larger — say Rachel or you struggle with the very idea of supernaturalism, then what I’d suggest you do is examine the philosophical (not theological) underpinnings of the question. You’d have to begin with “Is there a God?” or “Is it more reasonable to believe that God exists or not?” Then you work your way down to questions like, “If God exists is it reasonable to think he could act in human affairs?”
Interestingly, I just finished David Berlinsky’s wonderful book, The Devil’s Delusion. I highly recommend it. While Berlinsky is an agnostic, and the book isn’t a defense of theism. it’s a witty, blunt, thoughtful skewering of the scientific pretensions of atheism (that’s also the book’s subtitle). In other words, he shows how the “science talk” of people like Hitchens, Dawkins (better scientists than Dawkins) is really faith-based and cannot hope to prove God isn’t real. For those who don’t know who he is, Berlinsky “earned Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University.” He’s a career science writer.