Monday, 18 January 2016

Created kinds and creation in six literal days? Not at all, according to the Bible.

A new blog with the title "Biblical Cosmology and the Apocalyptic Imagination" is always going to attract my attention just on the strength of the title alone. So far it has only two posts, but both are corkers. The first looks at the motif of creation in six days, and provides an elegant answer with which to answer the YECs who insist that an appeal to a literal reading of Ex 20:11 is sufficient to overturn all the evidence that shows the universe is ancient and most definitely was not created 6000 years ago in six days. The second shows how the YEC pseudoscience of baraminology is refuted from the Bible, a particularly damning fact given the YEC claims to base their belief of a literal reading of the creation narratives.

The author of the blog, Joel Rothman begins his first post by laying out his acceptance of the facts:
As a student of the Bible I believe we must accept, not deny, the clear evidence that God has put before us: the earth is billions of years old, not mere thousands as Young Earth Creationists insist.
His argument - that God accommodated the pre-scientific worldview of the ancient Hebrews, and gave them a literal event (the working week) to remind them of the theological importance of a non-literal event (creation in six literal days) is hardly one that would surprise anyone who is familiar with Biblical scholarship over the past few decades, but his explanation of the merits behind this approach are definitely worth sharing:
The blending of literal aspects and non-literal aspects should not be shocking to someone who participates in the Lord’s Supper.

In my church we have a tiny cup of wine that is not literally wine but literally juice, as part of a meal that is not literally a meal but literally a micro-snack, to re-enact the time when Jesus literally shared literal wine at the original last supper which was a literal meal, and he literally said that the literal wine was metaphorically his blood, and so at our micro-snack that is metaphorically a meal we say that the literal juice that is metaphorically wine is actually metaphorically Jesus’ blood, and we also say that Jesus is literally with us as we share the metaphorical wine together, although he is not literally with us the way he was literally with the disciples at the original last supper but instead he is literally with us in a different sense.

Compared to that, working six literal days to recall the six figurative days of creation is quite simple.
Lots of assertions w/o backup. Since this is a comment I’ll focus on one:

//The six days, plus the seventh, are a literary device to help express God’s message to people who would have understood that literary device//

This is claiming the the Jews at the time when Genesis was written understood the creation story to be not 7 literal days. Is that claim true?

What was the dominant common man’s interpretation of Genesis in the ancient world? What was the dominant scholarly view in the ancient world. My understanding is that it was virtually unanimous of a literal view. I say virtually bc as I understand it there are occasional instances of someone questioning the dominant view, but the assertion is that it was understood as a literary device… What evidence do you have to back that claim up?
missed Rothman's main point - that a literal event could be used to remind people of the (theological) significance of a non-literal event. Those familiar with the ancient Near Eastern context of the creation narratives will of course have no problems responding to that comment:
  • The reference to 'creation in seven literal days' presupposes a material ontology of creation, whereas as scholars such as John Walton have shown, the ancient Near Eastern world was more concerned with a functional ontology of creation
  • The structure of Genesis 1, with days 1-3 outlining creation of domains and days 4-6 outlining the creation of domain inhabitants shows that something other than a linear sequence of creation events in literal time is being conveyed
  • The reference to a solid firmament in Genesis 1 alone is enough to show that Genesis 1 accommodates an ancient cosmogeography, and therefore cannot be a scientifically accurate description of how the universe was made.
Rothman's second post neatly skewers the pseudoscience of baraminology by showing how its claims are explicitly refuted by the Bible. Baraminology (literally 'created kind') seeks to provide an explicitly creationist alternative to biological classification, and owes not a little to the need to reduce the amount of animals on Noah's ark (cramming the millions of species that live or have lived on the Ark being acknowledged even by YECs as impossible) to a smaller group of 'kinds' which post-flood differentiated into the diversity we see today.

I've pointed out in an earlier post how others have pointed out how this is an example of YECs hypocritically embracing large-scale evolutionary change (macroevolution) in a few hundred years while ridiculing mainstream science when it refers to such change over larger periods. By conceding the possibility of large-scale evolutionary change, YECs have undermined their entire premise, particularly given (1) the fact of an ancient Earth and (2) the lack of any mechanism which magically stops evolution outside the 'kind' level.

What really nails the coffin of baraminology is the fact that it is flatly refuted by the Biblical evidence. Take the word 'kind.' YEC claims that it is a taxonomical term are specifically rebutted by conservative OT scholar Richard Hess who writes:
Genesis 1:12 emphasizes how the plants bearing seed and the trees bearing fruit are created in all their kinds; that is, all kinds of plants and trees are created. Again, in Genesis 1:21, 24, and 25, God creates the sea creatures, the birds, the wild land animals, the domestic animals, and those animals that move along the ground in all their kinds. He creates all kinds of such animals.

Thus the phrase in which mîn appears in Genesis 1 emphasizes the great variety of kinds of plants and animals. It does not assert that each plant and animal reproduced exactly as what preceded it. It says nothing about that point. Instead, the biblical text emphasizes the diversity of life – plants and animals – with which God filled the sky, the sea, and the dry land he had created. Consistent with the basic message of Genesis 1, the emphasis rests upon God’s creation of life in all its abundance and diversity.5 In this context, the Hebrew term mîn carries a sense of all types of divisions between plants and animals, not necessarily in the taxonomies of modern scientific divisions but certainly in those distinctions that were meaningful to ancient Israel, movement within their domain of sky, sea, and land, and clean and unclean.
(Emphasis mine)
Rothman argues (correctly I would assert) that in order to understand the concept of kind, we need to enter the mindset of the ancient Hebrews, one in which the concept of separation between sacred and profane, clean and unclean, ordered and chaotic was a powerful governing principle in their lives. What God had separated, man should not mix or join:
This kosher mindset is expressed also in the prohibition against hybridising. Leviticus 19:19 says,
Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

(See also Deut 22:9-11)
Again, this goes together with the kosher dietary regulations: they are both expressions of the same way of thinking about creation. As Milgrom writes,
“The most favored explanation for the prohibition against mixtures is that it is a violation of the order God brought into the world by separating species (Gen 1) and, hence, a symbol of disorder, the reversal of creation.”
Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22, p1659
In a similar vein, Wenham writes,
“In creation God separated between light and darkness, waters and waters. This ban on all mixtures, especially mixed breeding, shows man following in God’s footsteps. He must keep separate what God created separate.”
Wenham, Leviticus, p268
Let’s come back now to Scientific Creationism, and its core concept of the baramin – the original created kind. Scientific Creationism teaches:

“If you can interbreed them you have discovered the original created kind.”

But as we have just seen, the message of the Pentateuch regarding interbreeding is:

“If you can interbreed them, don’t! You will destroy the separation between original created kinds.”

There is no way those two statements can be held together. The Bible teaches one thing, Scientific Creationism teaches the opposite.
Rothman's point is a powerful one, as it undermines the entire premise of baraminology, which seeks to identify animals that form a kind, whereas, the means by which YECs claim one can determine what forms a kind violates the biblical concept of a kind. The scientific evidence destroys the YEC pseudoscience of baraminology. On that point there is no argument. However, it is far more damaging when the Bible itself refutes the basis for baraminology, and for YECs, who claim to follow the literal word of the Bible, there can be no more telling refutation.