Myth and revelation
There’s been an interesting discussion going on on Scot McKnight’s blog about the problems evolutionary theory presents for traditional Christian theology. I won’t go into the details, but the idea is that if there was no literal Adam and Eve, how should we understand the Fall? What are the consequences for the doctrine of Original Sin?
It’s a very interesting discussion, and there’s some pretty good but readable discussion of the issues involved. I just want to draw your attention to one of the comments, which concisely captures how we should view mythical content in the Bible.
(It’s author is Michael Kruse of the Kruse Kronicle. If you’re interested in a well-balanced and refreshing look at economic theory, or even if you’re not, do yourself a favour and check it out!)
So all I’m saying is that People in Moses’ day had an exceedingly limited understanding of what we would today call medicine, biology, geology, astronomy, etc. This presents a challenge from the standpoint of special revelation at those points where such revelation touches on issues related to these bodies of knowledge. Does God,
A) bring the hearers of the story entirely up to speed on these bodies of knowledge so he can give them a precise accurate accounting of something like how life came to be? (Keeping in mind that the “how” is peripheral to the revelation.)
B) present the timeless truths he needs to communicate to hearers of the story in concepts and forms that will be comprehensible to them but imprecise and sometimes inaccurate to an audience more knowledgeable on these bodies of knowledge?
I’m saying it is the latter. Revelation is always delivered into a socio-historical context. When we read scripture we are not reading something written to 21st Century westerners. We are “listening in” on a conversation from another socio-historical context, the record of which was superintended by God so that, as Doperdeck wrote in #69, “God does not err and the scriptures accomplish every purpose for which they were given without leading us into error.”
Therefore, we can boldly and confidently claim that this record of revelation is an authoritative accurate account of God revealing himself into a particular socio-historical context. We live in a different socio-historical context and it is reasonable to expect that if God was giving such special revelation today he would use different concepts and forms appropriate to us. It would have to accommodated to our level of understanding on many issues. Since he is not giving special revelation in the form of new scripture, we read scripture, ever mindful we are “listening in” on revelation in another socio-historical context accommodated to their ignorance of medicine, biology, geology and astronomy.
The strict literalist position makes no allowance for the contextual accommodation for ignorance of these scientific bodies of knowledge and ends up making the accommodating explanations the supreme measure of truth for all time. It metaphorically sets up the story given to the four year old as the measure to which all scientific knowledge must now conform.