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Author Topic:   A Problem With the Literal Interpretation of Scripture
Member (Idle past 4524 days)
Posts: 9
From: Cebu, Philippines
Joined: 02-18-2012

Message 203 of 304 (653116)
02-18-2012 9:09 AM

Hidden Wisdom -- The Literalists' Nightmare
@GDR, great OP. You make a good point.
Certainly, there were many hands in writing and editing the Bible--putting all the pieces together.
Taking the Bible literally, one misses so much. And one could go crazy with the obvious contradictions and lame solutions to attempt to patch together the Byzantine, literal landscape.
One of the key things, beyond love of God and one another, recommended by Yehoshua of Nazareth was an attitude of humility. He chastised the Pharisees because they lacked it. Humility seems to be the antidote to the false self (ego) we must eliminate in order to gain everlasting life. In fact, humility appears to be so important that it seems that the writers of some parts of the Bible (e.g. Genesis) attempted to elicit this quality in the reader before they could discover its secrets. It was as if understanding could not have been achieved with arrogance, or a know-it-all attitude. Are the literalists being both arrogant and lazy? I've certainly done both, and it seems to resonate here.
For instance, God in Genesis 2 warns Adam that he will surely die on the day he eats of the forbidden tree. But did he and Eve literally, physically die on that day? Nope! In fact, they were escorted out of the Garden and Adam lived for several hundred years after the Garden. But was Adam in the Garden the same as Adam outside of the Garden? Were they the same person?
Genesis 5:2 states that Adam was both male and female (a "them" instead of a "him").
There are many more such clues which call attention to themselves and lead to a most interesting interpretation -- the discovery of a biblical timeline compatible with those of science. Imagine that! Creation scientists will go "ape" over the idea that their condemnation of traditional science has been a hollow effort all this time.
The seemingly outrageous longevity of the early patriarchs is also something of a "bone of contention." But if Adam in Genesis 5:2 can be a group (tribe), then each of the ages of those Genesis 5 patriarchs can be symbolic for the longevity of those eponymous tribes.
What is interesting in my research is that, even though the new date for Adam overshoots the current minimum age of humanity per anthropologists (~200,000 years; and there are likely many more bones yet to be discovered), the new date for Noah's Flood pinpoints a rather intriguing target for that event. And it illuminates rather potently the purpose of God for which the Flood was a protective measure. It seems that the last many thousands of years have been a massive rescue mission -- to rescue the children of God lost so long ago in the Garden.
God's children were created in His image (Genesis 1:26); and God is not Homo sapiens!

Replies to this message:
 Message 204 by GDR, posted 02-18-2012 6:31 PM Lone77Star has replied
 Message 208 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-20-2012 2:50 PM Lone77Star has replied

Member (Idle past 4524 days)
Posts: 9
From: Cebu, Philippines
Joined: 02-18-2012

Message 205 of 304 (653193)
02-19-2012 4:28 AM
Reply to: Message 204 by GDR
02-18-2012 6:31 PM

Re: Hidden Wisdom -- The Literalists' Nightmare
Thanks for the warm welcome, GDR. Glad to be here.
I find it interesting that you refer to my take as a "literal" one. In fact, I find that quite hilarious. I thought of my approach as decidedly non-literal. Can we take anything as literal in the Bible? Why not? But I wouldn't call it a "literal" approach to take those parts which might be literal as literal, and those parts which might be metaphor as metaphor. I'd call that a more balanced approach, hopefully approaching Truth which is likely far beyond "literal" or "metaphor."
I remember reading somewhere that the giant of science, Isaac Newton, also entertained the phlogiston theory of combustion; completely bogus. Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time. Newton also researched his own biblical timeline, arriving at 4000 BC, instead of Ussher's 4004 BC for the start of everything. Boy, times have changed.
You seem to admit that there is something of value in the Bible, but also find something troubling within it. That sounds like a perfect opportunity. Why? Because it could lead to humility, if you let it--the kind of attitude which allows for discovery. Perhaps you already have this. Every good scientists has this, at least in their limited area of inquiry.
Don't get caught up in the frustration. Allow the answers to come to you from that quiet, still voice within. Inspiration can strike when you're not looking or grasping; but when you're letting go.

Good Start

I think in your OP you take it too literally. You may be missing a bigger picture by holding onto that literal meaning. I remember one passage (in Samuel, I think) where a prophet is told not to eat while on his mission; but another prophet insists he come in, tricking him into thinking that God has re-written his marching orders. He gives in, but later is eaten by a lion. What's the lesson, here? Don't give in to someone else's "revelation?" But we can even take that too literally.
Would Yehoshua of Nazareth have done what Moses did? I think you implied that he wouldn't have, because our Lord's ministry is based upon love. But why would God wipe out all life on Earth with Noah's Flood? Why would Yehoshua take a whip to the money changers in the temple? Could these also have been acts of love? Certainly, they could. As a literalist, these look like acts of wrath or rage.
But when you realize that God's children look like Him and that He is not Homo sapiens, then the killing of Homo sapiens bodies takes on a different meaning altogether. Because the work of Moses was imperfectly performed, he could not cross the River Jordan. All the miracles he performed from the power of God were tainted with perhaps a touch of ego.

Humility Required, but the Right Kind

I think Christianity must, of necessity, be about the Bible. It has to be. But because humans can create so many conflicting interpretations, we have to include utter humility so that we may let go of cherished beliefs (interpretations) and grow toward a greater understanding and ultimately prepare the way for receiving God's Truth. I don't think anyone currently on Earth has gotten that far, yet. At least, I don't think I've met them or read of them.
So many biblical fundamentalists think humanity and the universe are only 6000 years old. I agree that this is not theology. But it reveals arrogance which is the opposite of the required humility. It reveals ego which is the source of all evil, and the master of this world. Of course, God could create it all in a week--all 6,000 years ago--including all of the deception required to make the universe look billions of years older than it really is. It's His universe. He can do it any way He wants. Personally, I think the universe really is 13.7 billion years old. Science studies the products (fruits) of His creation.
When I discuss this "history" aspect of biblical lore, I'm pursuing a curiosity, but also attempting to break a deadlock of evil proportions. Ego is an equal-opportunity deceiver. Christians who delude themselves with a pitched battle against science are following the master of this world. That breaks my heart.
Moses had his own inspiration. It wasn't perfect. That can be a lesson to us all. We can approach such perfection ourselves (especially on the day of perfection, Sabbath) by understanding the pros and cons of each part of the Bible.
Ego is so very tricky. The lessons of the Bible prepare us for unraveling that trickiness and finding the truth that will set us free. So, please... please! Don't dismiss the Bible because of the problems which attempt to elicit the needed humility. They're there for a reason. Let them work on you. Then let inspiration of the Holy spirit flow.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 204 by GDR, posted 02-18-2012 6:31 PM GDR has not replied

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 Message 206 by Phat, posted 02-19-2012 9:17 AM Lone77Star has not replied

Member (Idle past 4524 days)
Posts: 9
From: Cebu, Philippines
Joined: 02-18-2012

Message 210 of 304 (654794)
03-04-2012 1:56 PM
Reply to: Message 208 by New Cat's Eye
02-20-2012 2:50 PM

Re: Hidden Wisdom -- The Literalists' Nightmare
We know from both geology and biology, that since humans have existed, the planet has never been covered with water. Plain and simple: The (global) Flood never actually happened.
@Catholic Scientist, I know exactly what you mean, but there are some problems with your statement.
First, though, I admit that Noah's Flood might not literally have been a water flood; it may be symbolic for something for which there was (and may still be) no adequate vocabulary. That shouldn't stop us from investigating the possible meanings.

Problems with the claim

"We know" is an interesting generality. Generalities tend to hide truth rather than reveal. Like, "everyone knows that!" Does "everyone" really? Do we really know that there was never a worldwide flood from geology and biology? Or do you mean, instead, that we have not yet found evidence of such a thing? You see, behind your claim is an argument to ignorance (a logical fallacy).
How would geology show evidence of a worldwide flood? If it was all rain, then there would be a heck of a lot of erosion until (but not after) the land being eroded was covered with water. But if most of the water was added to Earth in the depths of the oceans (created, transported, gated a la 'Star Gate,' etc.), then geologically, there might be little or no evidence. And if little, then there is a possibility that such evidence has not yet been found. Arrogance suggests that we've found everything there is to find, so the flood never happened.
What if we find pockets of salt water in the Greenland ice sheet or Antarctic ice sheet for 28,000 BC? I guess we'd have to be lucky to core at that exact place. Would the scientists even notice? Would they report it, or would it merely be a messy detail overlooked in their neat and tidy report?

Problems with the Flood

Certainly, the Flood has many problems. Where did the water come from and go (more than 2x the amount currently on Earth)? How did freshwater fish find their way back to their streams and lakes after surviving months in salt water? How did plants survive the long inundation? How did coastal species survive (they depend on their ecosystem, near the surface)? How would glaciers fare the inundation? How did one man gather all species? After 300 years of classification, we're still discovering thousands of species a year!

Where God is Concerned

Science does great in the realm of the study of nature. It deals with elements and qualities of "continuity." Creation, however, is discontinuous in nature. Things like forgiveness, inspiration, walking on water and parting the sea are all acts discontinuous in nature. They ignore the continuity of physical law (not science). Physical law is not science; this is what science studies. Continuity gives science something to study.
Where God is concerned, all physical law is subject to suspension, revision or outright breaking. Water from a rock in the desert, manna from heaven and similar miracles break with the continuity that science studies.
So, what really happened in Genesis 6-9? We could say that it's all myth and leave it at that, but where's the fun in that?
Did God use a force that looked like water? Did He use actual water, but took care of all of the apparent problems we see from a scientific angle? Yes, the Flood story could be entirely myth and a morality tale -- a warning wrapped in symbolism. But where God is concerned, all options are on the table.

Scientific Paradigm

The bottom line is, we don't know what it means or if the Flood really happened.
What happened to good old scientific skepticism? You have to realize that skepticism can be aimed not only at the Flood, but also at the attitudes toward the Flood; i.e. skeptical of one's own skepticism. Too many conclusions are drawn in the name of skepticism and that's just poor logic and poor science. Regrettably, scientists do it all the time. The "Clovis first" dogma is only one example. Scientists have egos just like everyone else and lose sight of the fact that skepticism is the wrong paradigm.
Scientific method warns against bias. This includes preconceived notions. And yet science seems to cling to skepticism as their number one tool. Skepticism contains the very potent bias of doubt. This tool has proven useful, at times, but it's a very sloppy and imperfect tool.
What's the right tool? The right paradigm? Restraint and humility! Don't jump to conclusions. Hypothesize by all means, but skepticism -- the way most use it -- has conclusion written all over it. It's got "I've concluded this, but you can prove me wrong." And when skepticism turns ugly, it becomes completely and entirely subjective -- unsupported dismissiveness (as in arguments to ignorance), and self-indulgent ridicule (as in the treatment of scientists who dared dig below the Clovis horizon).
The Flood never happened? Perhaps it did happen, but we simply have as yet found only one piece of evidence: a species which died out at the real Flood date -- a species which matches the Genesis 6 description of "daughters of men." And if we understand God's reason for something like the Flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, then we might understand why it was necessary to wipe out one very specific species.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 208 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-20-2012 2:50 PM New Cat's Eye has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 211 by jar, posted 03-04-2012 2:24 PM Lone77Star has not replied
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