Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Myth of Genesis One?

Last week I wrote about light and darkness and Genesis 1 and would like to continue on that theme in this post. After watching "Mission Impossible II" and "Unbreakable" in the last few months, this theme has been on my mind. In both movies, there is reference to ancient Greek and comic book myths that explore both tragedy and hope along with good and evil as represented in the contrast between light and darkness. These movies seem to hint at the hypotheses that good cannot be understood without evil and that the oral and written traditions of the ancient world seem able to teach us about both.

The main difference I have seen between cultures that emphasize oral rather than writtentraditions is that oral history seems to exaggerate to prove a point. This is essentially what the Samuel L. Jackson character says about comic books in "Unbreakable". He states that the super-heros are an exaggerated form truth handed down to teach us something. More specifically, of truly gifted people that fate, karma, or god has put on earth for some noble reason. His mission in life is to find the hero so he can learn about himself as the villain. Somewhere along life he became convinced that the weakness that caused him to break bones at the drop of the hat was a sign that someone else was out there with superhuman strength;
the super-hero.

He spent his life trying to create one disaster after another to find Mr. "Unbreakable"; thus finding purpose in his life. He thought his purpose was to be the evil in the world that would make clear the good. This is no different than the first few chapters of Genesis in my mind. It seems to me that perhaps centuries of church scholars have been wrong about Genesis in that they miss the purpose of the book. In my opinion, the purpose is either to provide a precise written history of creation, the origins of man, and the fall or it was to put into written form the oral traditions of the East about creation, the origins of man, and the fall. If it is the former, then much of the commentary on this book misses the original intent: To use exaggerated language to prove a point.

Perhaps it is much like the Renaissance art forms of Idealism and Realism. As the following quote seems to indicate, the more idealized(less literal) art gets the more the sublime is emphasized:

"The closer artists came to the High Renaissance art the more classical, monumental, and ideal figures became. Famous paintings in the High Renaissance had grandeur, idealism, and soft rendering of details. Some artists too became interested in the immediacy of the moment or how things looked in an instant of time. This led to an interest in the sublime, man fighting against man, good against evil to the death, and the action of the moment with all its expressions."

Sublime means the quality of greatness and would seem to point to perhaps the purpose of Genesis was not to record history but was a story much like a Greek myth designed to paint a snap shot of a moment to prove a point: That God is great. This line of my reasoning began in a post-modern type church meeting where one of the leaders of the meeting got up and stated: "Face it friends Genesis and Adam and Eve are myths." Not myth in the modern sense of lies but myth in the sense of oral tradition with the purpose of making a point. I rejected this at the time but a while later began reading the blog of a man named Henry Neufeld who is a friend of a man named Ed Brayton who blogs at Dispatches on The Culture Wars at He had studied the history of it and had come to the same conclusion. I was more open but still rejected this idea.

Then, when I had thrown out all the assumptions embedded in the form of Christianity I had been taught and began to think for myself, I watched these two movies and it finally clicked:
The whole point of the first few chapters of Genesis seeks to contrast the darkness from the light! This line of inquiry has led me to go back and read Thomas Aquinas and I started with his writings on the existence of God.

Guess what? People asked the same primary question back then: If God is everywhere and God is good how does evil exist? Maybe it is just like the comic books. Maybe evil has to exist to show the good. Maybe the villain has to has to show himself for the hero to be seen? I realize these presuppositions in this last paragraph that need to be explored but more on that next time....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thank You Dr. Frazer

I decided to do one final post in my response to Dr. Gregg Frazer to thank him and release him from this discussion. As I read over his response to some posts I made last Summer, I realized that we were starting to become redundant and covering ground that has already been fairly well covered. The idea of a blog like this is to promote debate that helps frame a topic for others to read about and comment on. I think that has occurred and most people who have read our exchanges know clearly where each of us stands on Romans 13 and submission to authority. I think this is important to a history blog in that our two positions more or less represent the two positions that have been argued about in Christendom for thousands of years including the time of the American Revolution.

I was going to respond in detail to Dr. Frazer but said about all I wanted to say in the comments section of Jon's post. I maintain the story of Othniel in Judges 3 clearly shows that submission is not absolute. Why would God give his Spirit to someone to rebel against a King that God had directly sent to have authority over Israel if rebellion is always wrong? I have heard Frazer's counter argument and do not buy it.

I think he takes a verse like Romans 13 that is difficult to interpret and should only be used to support other verses at best and makes it the key verse in his argument. Any argument someone makes from the full context of the Bible is refuted with him stating that Romans 13 says clearly what he thinks the text says and that is the end all. That fact is that there are other ways to interpret that verse using the text. Mayhew and Locke do this effectively I feel. I think Locke's interpretation is the most reasonable one I have heard. If anyone missed it I posted on it in August.

Anyway, I think my final comment on Jon's post sums up well my thoughts on this whole exchange and Frazer's bias:

"Frazer stated:

"If the God Who tells us to be subject withdraws that authority and changes that message, then our responsibility changes."


Submission to authority is not absolute.

Gregg, you cannot say for sure that Othniel had that revelation or Washington did not. You are right when you say that Hitler claimed this too. The North and the South both stated that God was on their side in the Civil War. England and the Colonies both said God was with them in the Revolutionary War.

My entire point to you is that SOMEONE WHO IS EMPHATICALLY SURE THAT GOD IS ON THEIR SIDE IS WRONG in each of these cases. This should humble us and cause us to be willing to re-evaluate our positions all the time. I would say this is especially true for those like you that come to the debate table with a laundry list of assumptions based on deep biases. I stipulate to none of your Calvinist assumptions and to be taken serious by non-believers you must stop assuming that you PHD gives you that right.

That is how it comes off even if it is not your intention. Tom is essentially neutral in this discussion between me and you and he keeps pointing this out to you as well. You assume that your position on Romans 13 is the correct one and that taints your historical look. In other words, you have a dog in that fight and cannot be totally objective."

With that thought I end this exchange, thank Dr. Frazer for all his time, retract my statement that he was hiding in a cave afraid to respond(some manipulation to get him to come back because I think he adds a lot when he comments on this blog), and allow him the final Calvinist word that I think sums up the biased assumptions that Frazer comes with to the debate table when discussing what the Bible and Romans 13 say about submission to authority:(he is quoting me here and then saying he does not agree)

"You say 'Just because something happens does not mean God intended it to be that way.' Here’s where we just fundamentally disagree."

I really do thank you Dr. Frazer and do respect the fact that you took the time to respond to my thoughts. You are now released from this discussion unless you wish to continue though I do not think it would be productive personally.