Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ignoring Anthropologically Significant Data

Alice C. Linsley

The website of the American Scientific Affiliation has papers from the ASA journal, or presentations given at ASA meetings, or works by individuals associated with the ASA that address Genesis 1-3. The authors generally agree that these chapters must be understood in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE), specifically Mesopotamia. None have explored the older Nilotic background of the material, which is indicated by the Genesis 10 designation of Abraham's ancestors as descendants of Kush. We find Abraham, the son of Terah (priest), in Mesopotamia because his ancestors were part of the Kushite dispersion that has been verified by DNA studies, anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. The marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Kushite rulers drove expansion out of the Nile Valley.

James Henry Breasted (1865–1935), director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, in his 1916 textbook, Ancient Times: A History of the Early World, included the Nile Valley as part of the "Fertile Crescent," a term he coined. The crescent was fertile because it included major water systems that were interconnected during the African Humid Period. However, a Nilotic context for Genesis 1-3 is not considered by any of these ASA writers:

James D. Bales
Richard H. Bube
John C. Collins
Dick Fischer
Terry M. Gray
Daniel C. Harlow
Armin Held
Charles E. Hummel
Conrad Hyers
Lee Irons
Thomas Key
Meredith Kline
Denis O. Lamoureux
Paul Seely
William F. Tanner
Edwin Walhout
John Walton
Davis A. Young
G. Douglas Young

All of these scholars would describe themselves as "Evangelicals" who take Scripture seriously, yet they ignore anthropologically significant data provided in Genesis.

Related reading: The Themes of Genesis 1-3; Rightly Reading Genesis 1-3; The Fertile Crescent and the Cradle of Civilization; Abraham's Ancestors Came Out of Africa; Abraham's Kushite Ancestors; The Genesis King Lists; Denis Lamoureaux's 2013 ASA Lectures; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective; Alice C. Linsley's posts at ASA Website; Water Systems Connected Nile and Central Africa; Dick Fischer's ASA 2015 Presentation: Adam According to Mesopotamian Tradition


J Eppinga said...

Irons is a disciple of Kline and defends Kline's Framework View. From what I can tell, the Kline school from WTS sort of fell into disfavor after Lee's wife published a paper in 2003 supporting Same-Sex Civil Unions (Google, 'Misty Irons Conservative Case Same Sex'). This caused a stir in Lee Irons' denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Unsure of how to censure Lee's wife, the presbytery censured her husband. He went halfway through the discipline process and then begged to be released from the OPC. Last I checked, he got his doctorate and then landed on his feet in the PCA; the OPC apparently "qualifying" that it was okay with them. Odd and odd.

Kline's agenda was different, as his wife didn't write provocative online articles. I think his motives were more pure. He tended to be against such things as postmilenialism and Theonomy, but didn't let such things dominate his time (much to the chagrin of the latter group). I know two people who were blessed to have taken Pentateuch from him at WTS. They pointed out how his prayers were long and rich.

1) Kline isn't a Theonomist;
2) Irons really, really, really REALLY (really) isn't a Theonomist.
3) Kline at one brief time in his life, read people like Rushdooney, so he could respond to them and then get on with his life;
4) Irons reads people like Rushdooney and Matthew Vines and from what I can tell, believes that he has to choose between the two.

In my own very limited layperson's opinion, Kline is the better scholar. Were he alive today, I think he would be open to at least a dialogue regarding Nilotic features in Genesis. I do know that he corresponded with the astronomer H. Van Til for a while; though the two did not see eye to eye on VT's "creationomic perspective. "

Alice Linsley said...

These were the "experts" to which the American Scientific Affiliation looked in the 1980's. Both considered the Genesis narratives in the context of covenant theology. Today the ASA organization appears to be listening to "experts" associated with Calvin College in Michigan, like Daniel Harlow, Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos, and her husband Loren Haarsma. The biology department of Calvin College issued this statement on May 7, 2010: "We teach evolutionary theory as the best scientific explanation for the dynamic diversity of life on Earth.... We teach biology from an evolutionary paradigm." So it is not surprising that Harlow and the Haarsmas hold to theistic evolution and the claim of common ancestry of apes and humans. This tenet of Darwinian evolution is contrary to the claim of Genesis that humans are a special creation and were fully human from the beginning. Again, we have a case of Evangelicals who claim the authority of Scripture ignoring an important assertion of the Bible. Neither does the theory of common ancestry align with the findings of paleoanthropology.

Alice Linsley said...

At the 2013 ASA annual conference in Nashville, I had a chat with Loren Haarsma about ancient human fossils and he claimed that Lucy could not have been human because her brain cavity was so small. I was surprised by this poorly informed response. Lucy's brain cavity/skull was proportional to her body size, and the size of the brain is NOT an indicator of the complexity of thought. Complexity of thought develops out of a binary framework. It is obvious that binary systems lead to greater complexity of meaning and function than unary or monadic systems. After that conversation, I wrote these pieces and posted them at my blog Biblical Anthropology:

Does the Binary Feature Signal Greater Complexity?
The Binary Aspect of the Biblical Worldview

J Eppinga said...

My very poorly stated thesis being, 'watch for the Back-Story.' Another person I respect very much put it this way (talking about a different issue that looks a lot the same as this): "People aren't ideas with feet."

Kline was an OPC churchman and faculty member at two conservative Reformed seminaries. His back-story resides in those considerations that were very much important for him.

Irons is a husband. He also has other things (e.g., churchman, pastor, student) floating around as (imo) secondary considerations.

Regarding Calvin College, this alumnus would wager that there is something of a backstory operating with their current footsy-playing with Theistic Evolution, as well.

Howard Van Til received a free-pass with his Creationomic Perspective. Another fellow who had been an OPC elder (back when the CRC, Calvin College's sponsoring denomination, still had a fraternal relationship with the OPC and the PCA) who was also a Calvin prof put forth about the same time a theory that supposed that "dust of the ground," referred to an animal pre-human progenitor. The latter man was put on trial by his parish (OPC) session. He was subsequently drummed out of Calvin College.. because of the OPC session's actions.

So, we have one professor who got the free pass; another who did not. And then a Reformed denomination that starts moving leftward and finds itself isolated from more conservative Reformed denominations.

This is the backstory for the Haarsma thing, up to about the early 1990's. There has been more story going on for certain since that time, which I am not at all privy to.

I encourage you to be patient. The situation is not as static as it is with our 6/24 brethren. ;)

Alice Linsley said...

There is always a backstory.

Good advice... patience, patience, patience!

DManA said...

I don't know why we are still fighting this stupid 6000 vs 13 billion year battle nearly 100 years after Einstein showed us the universe can be BOTH 6000 years old AND 13 billion depending on the frame of reference you are talking about.

Alice Linsley said...

Frame of reference? Let's face reality, which is objective and can be empirically investigated. Otherwise scientists might as well pack it in and go home. The Earth, human existence, human technologies, religious rituals, ceremonial burials, shrines and temples, navigation, the priesthood... all are older than 6000 years. PERIOD.

J Eppinga said...

I hope Alice doesn’t mind me chiming in. But the Twin Paradox thing got me thinking. I actually have never thought of Genesis 1 in light of the Twin Paradox, and it does make me stop and wonder the same question.

The problem with time is that within one’s reference frame, it matters to the observer in that reference frame. This is the difference between the existence of two trillion Stone-Age artifacts and saying, “oh well .. maybe God aged the carbon in these seeds so that they SEEM old .. you know, Apparent Age.”

Back in the days when I was suspicious of the Day-Age view, I debated a DA guy who pointed to something Augustine said. I forget the exact quote, but he (Augustine) felt that miracles were an acceleration of natural processes. Being an engineer, I took both of them to task for that .. and showed analytically that even if grape vines were made out of high-strength steel, they could not accommodate an acceleration of the natural processes required to make grape juice. Hence, the Miracle of Cana could NOT be due to an acceleration of natural processes.

It was during the same debate that I began to question my cherished views of 6/24 Creationism. At the same time I was questioning things my Day-Age counterpart was saying, I was (unbeknownst to him) questioning some of the things I was saying. “That can’t be right!” After that exchange, I sort of drifted into a self-imposed agnosticism, where I was sure about the Creeds, but unsure about the mode of creation.

But as you rightly point out, time is such a weird creature. The Hafele–Keating experiment proved that Einstein’s so-called “paradox” isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Our very universe – and indeed the very world we live in, has time behaving nonuniformly; and it depends on where one is, “right now.”
Time is less certain, ‘over-there,’ than it is, ‘here.’

And so, the debate matters as long as there is a here. 