Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Bible: History or Myth?

Thus far in my exchange with Dr. van der Meer I have maintained that a Reformed worldview entails that we accept the traditional, historical reading of Genesis 1-11, and that we reject those scientific theories that contradict it. Dr van der Meer, on the other hand, insists that we should accept the evolutionary view of origins, including the evolution of man, and re-interpret Genesis accordingly.

In his response to my "Is Reformed Academic Reformed II?" his prime objection boils down to:

"Dr. Byl chooses to select those interpretations that suit his view of Scripture as providing scientific information…I believe that the Bible is inerrant or infallible in the classical Christian sense that is also presented in the Belgic Confession, but that it is NOT intended to provide information about nature and history that satisfies the requirements of contemporary scholarly study of nature and history."
Elsewhere he on the Reformed Academic blog he wrote :

"While both Warfield and the authors of the classic The Genesis Flood – Morris and Whitcomb – claim to practice the plain reading of Scripture, Morris and Whitcomb read science into Scripture. They read the book of Genesis as if it provides a historical record that satisfies the requirements of contemporary science. In contrast, I hold that the book of Genesis provides history, but without that qualification. This, I claim, is a plenary reading of that book. I believe that what is at issue is a view of Scripture that is alien to the Reformed tradition and confessions as shown by Dr. Tony Jelsma in his paper “Is Creation Science Reformed?”

What, I ask, does Dr van der Meer mean when he says that "Genesis provides history", but not such history that "satisfies the requirements of the contemporary scholarly study of history"?

I take the word "historical" to mean "factual": occurring in actual time and space. Thus, in taking Genesis in its plain historical sense, I am simply affirming that the Genesis events actually occurred as described. This has in fact been the majority view of Christians, particularly Reformed theologians such as Luther, Calvin, Kuyper and Schilder.

Either the Biblical events occurred as described or they did not. Was Eve created from Adam's side-- or not? Was there a Flood that destroyed all people other than Noah's family-- or not? Was there an Exodus from Egypt-- or not? Did Christ die on the cross-- or not? Will there be a future resurrection of the dead-- or not?

If the Biblical events really occurred then, of course, these are facts that any scholarly study of history--or scientific theorizing about origins-- must take into account.

To say that the Biblical events are "historical" but not pertinent for a scholarly study of history is to say that Biblical history has no actual factual content: the Biblical events did not actually occur in real time and space. The Bible is thus demoted to a set of traditional stories invented for religious purposes.

There is a word for such non-factual "history"--it is called "myth".

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