Original Sin – A Cultural History by Alan Jacob (Thoughts by Bill Peck)

 images

images-1

  • Genesis (chaps. 1 & 2) is an allegory describing Creation at a level the ancients could understand.
  • Before upright, bipedal primates (hominids) became fully human, they were mammals or animals.   Animals do not have the intelligence or conscience to avoid bad conduct.
  • When God, over millions of years, evolved hominids into full humans, they gained: a free will, a conscience and thus the intelligence to discern good and evil conduct.
  • The first symbolic humans, identified as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, may have been perfect for a while (as gods or angels) – however, when God breathed the Holy Spirit into selected, evolved hominids for the first time, they symbolically ate the forbidden fruit from the symbolic tree of knowledge of good and evil and they became aware of who they really were. They covered their nakedness. 
  • When the Bible states that mankind was made in the image of God, they attained the intellectual powers of reasoning and  realized they could choose between good and evil. 
  • To be fully human, mankind became imperfect (sinners) either because God made them that way, or an evil power (Satan) .. already on our primordial earth, came along as the symbolic serpent and infected Adam and Eve.
  • It seems convenient to blame the evolutionary events in the lives of Adam and Eve as the cause of mankind’s propensity to choose decisions contrary to the will of God. God selected to have mankind with the freedom of choices.
  • The title: “Original Sin” came from St. Augustine in the 4th century AD. He developed this doctrine from his studies of Paul’s writings primarily from the book of Romans.
  • Did Paul say: “When man is born, he is already born with death because he contracts sin from Adam?” meaning he contracts it, as though it were a disease!! This seems strange!
  • Augustine believed even new born children were inclined to original sins, and would be condemned to hell if they died before being baptized. How could this great Christian theologian believe this? All baptized persons are still sinners!
  • Was evil in the world prior to Adam and Eve or did the development and awakening of humanity initiate the presence of evil? It’s hard to conclude either way – since evil does not exist, except as an act between living creatures, or God acting through his natural laws that impact living creatures. One could conclude that the only evil of any consequences came with the evolution of mankind.
  • As we define what it means to be human, how could humanity exist without the free will to be imperfect?
  • Original Sin seems to be a component of the description of the criteria God set in place as he evolved his up-right, bi-pedal primates into fully accountable human beings.
  • What are the practical problems of the doctrine of Original Sin for modern Christians? These are my thoughts:
  • Mankind, knowing that we all have a natural propensity to be imperfect, rationalizes that humans cannot help being sinful.
  • Christians know they can be forgiven for their sins, so why sweat it?
  • By definition, to be human is to be imperfect so being imperfect is not so bad.
  • No one, including infants, is condemned to hell, simply because they have never been baptized.  I believe Jesus would approve of this statement.
  • The Adam/Eve act of disobedience, expressed in allegorical language, sets the stage for humanity to begin the life long struggle to move from being self centered to being God centered. This is one of the main reasons why the Christian church exists.
  • Could it be that modern Christians need to focus more on their commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ rather than worrying about the implications of the doctrine of Original Sin?
Advertisements

Why Does Evil Exist?

images

images-1

The Bible tells us that evil has existed since the beginning of time. Some interpret the devil (satan) as a fallen Angel from heaven. We are not sure how satan originated in the universe.

When God first breathed, what the Hebrews describe as the “Neshama”, into fully developed man, the potential for both good and evil emerged  onto the human scene. For to be fully human, mankind, by definition, gained the powers associated with free will, a conscience and knowledge of what is right or wrong. God decided what characteristics humanity would have and he introduced humanity to the world through the Biblical allegory of Adam and Eve. The story of their original sin initiated man’s ability and propensity to become self centered for the first time. From this beginning mankind grew in stature and knowledge of all of the good and evil choices that were available to them. And so, one possible nature of evil was created when God decided what it meant to be human.

A second possible source of evil dates back to Aristotle and beyond. The world exists within systems of “dualism” – light and darkness, love and hate, beautiful and ugly and good and evil. These are forces that exist in the world that cannot be explained. Evil is an entity that has existed since the beginning of time and its source is unknown.

Thirdly, God’s world and its evolution were allowed to grow, change, and be subject to the possibilities of chance. This means that although God created and continues to nurture our world, he does not orchestrate it with a heavy, high control hand. It is a part of God’s plan to allow his laws of nature and other innovative acts of mankind, to operate within boundaries, but with potential chances for success and failure, good or evil.

A fourth source of evil emerges from acts of nature such as earth quakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados and communicable diseases.  As far as we can discern, God allows events to happen in his universe that are guided by the physical laws of nature which God created. We do not fully understand it, but God allows violent acts of nature to occur in every part of the world – even as humans work through science and technologies to oppose these events. The rains fall equally on the just and the unjust, the rich and the poor.

Albert Einstein, during an academic debate in college explained that:

  • Darkness is not a substance – it is the absence of Light.
  • Cold is not a substance – it is the absence of Heat.
  • Evil is not a substance (or entity) – it is the absence of Goodness

Or better said, evil is the absence and the rejection of God.

Finally, we who are Christians believe in miraculous acts that defy God’s natural processes and laws. How, when and why some negative events and sufferings turn positive can only be explained as miraculous acts of God. On the other hand, God seems to follow the laws and natural processes he created most of the time. He either selects to limit his powers to intervene or he has limited powers to act in certain circumstances. We just really do not know. God cannot or will not:

  • Make 2+2 equal to anything other than 4
  • Stop a child from wandering out into traffic
  • Stop the sun from rising every morning
  • Stop a person from drowning who does not know how to swim.

It would seem that God represents all that is good and positive in our world but he does not intervene or micro-manage all of mankind’s actions.. Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is mankind’s responsibilities to understand, endure and oppose all forms of evil in God’s world.

 

God and Science – God’s Time Frame

god-science bigstock_God_vs_Science_debate_24430316-1-e1334077504910

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ” – these thrilling and dynamic words open the Christian bible and set the universe and the world in motion. For centuries scholars have analyzed and debated the meaning and methodologies surrounding God’s creation. The first chapter of Genesis presents God’s creative acts to form first the universe and then the earth, its atmospheres, vegetation, creatures and finally man. It is a seven event process described by Moses as “days” and yet our modern day calendar begins with the creation of Adam on the “sixth biblical day ” as day one of our modern calendar.  Could it be that God’s creative acts prior to the arrival of man cover a wider span of time than those “days” following the arrival of man? Our most learned scholars and scientist argue and are convinced that “Cosmic time” – God’s time frame is very different from our earthly time scale. It is amazing to read how scientists have learned about the universe, galaxies, planets and trillions of stars. In the last few decades science has progressed into interplanetary travel to prove we know how to compute distances between certain planets, their ages and  accurate measurements of  temperatures existing on stars located “light years” away from the earth. A light year is the distance light travels in one year at 186,000 miles per second. 

As we  enjoy and trust all of the marvelous scientific discoveries of a modern age – electricity, nuclear energy, jet propulsion  and  life saving medicines, to name a few, would it not seem reasonable to trust the research, analysis and conclusions of our best scientific minds on matters of cosmic time frames? And the thrilling part of it all is God  created and allowed modern science to evolve and become known in his wonderful world. Should we not believe it’s “Science and God” rather than “Science or God?”

Understanding Purposes

For centuries the best religious minds and the best scientific minds have been bitterly at odds over interpretations of God’s purpose and deeper meanings behind the Genesis report of “beginnings”. It would seem almost impossible to reconcile a historical religious faith with developing scientific facts. One is a statement of belief based on traditional biblical interpretation and the other is about the discovery of new scientific facts. It would help if both sides were more open and flexible in examining the changing pools of scientific information while still holding firmly to an unswerving belief that God did create the heavens and the earth! Science is not about understanding God’s purposes while religion is not about knowledge gained from the natural sciences – biology, geology, cosmology , chemistry, anthropology and archeology. And yet God has blessed us with all of these  marvelous abilities to understand and “subdue” his world.

History of Science

We need to be reminded that for centuries the best religious minds believed that the earth was the center of the universe. Then along came a Polish scientist Nicholas Copernicus who proved that the earth  revolved around the sun  and was not the center of the solar system.  While the most knowledgeable minds knew Copernicus was correct, the church held tight to its original position for centuries before finally changing. On the other side, science for centuries inherited a bad reputation because many of the earlier scientist were atheists who refused to acknowledge the existence of any God in the processes of  creation. There are still a few scientists who do not believe in God.

But progress toward reconciliation has been made particularly in the last fifty years.  More and more scientists have joined the ranks of Christians who have always believed through faith that God created all things. 

In the mid 1800’s a famous English scientists Charles Darwin presented his “Theory of Evolution” through several well read books that essentially postulate that life evolved by random chance and a process of natural selection. The scientific community was turned upside down for over one hundred years as many scientists joined the ranks of Darwinism. However, as more and more fossils were uncovered all over the world, it has finally been concluded by the majority of modern scientists that the fossil record supports a continuous and transitional evolution of fish to reptiles to birds to animals to mammals to humans.

Creationist and Time

 It has been proven and accepted by the vast majority of the formal scientific community that the physical earth is very old. Not only do we have the original geological “Carbon Dating” but many more sophisticated methods to prove that the physical universe and later the earth are billions of years old. However, this matter of “Dating” has proved to be one of the greatest sources of disagreement and debate between many religious groups and the scientific community. There is a substantial group of Christian believers known collectively as Creationist that insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis and a belief that the earth was created in six – twenty four hour days. They strongly believe that all of the vast geological  upheavals were caused by the deluge flood described by the story of Noah and his Ark. They are well organized and supported by a number of  educated scientists who have concluded that the earth was created in six days and have then proceeded to seek out scientific evidence to support their claims. Unfortunately, they form a closed organization that always agrees on the same conclusion no matter the scientific evidence.

How Real Science Works

Contrary to the Creationist the vast majority of the true scientific community work a little differently. True  natural scientists perform research, accumulate data, draw conclusions and present their findings to open forums of their peers world wide who examine the research, data and conclusions and analyze and debate the cases one by one. From these open forums come new ideas, agreements and disagreements that produces additional questions and more refined research. It is through the openness and scrutiny of the full scientific community that most scientific truths are formulated. Scientific creationist do not participate in professional forums in the evaluation of research performed by members of the universal scientific community. They feel that they are always right and their conclusions are not open to debate or scrutiny. They are well meaning religious fundamentalist disguised as scientists. Their hearts and minds are sincere but their vision appears to be limited. To them any interpretation of scripture other than a literal interpretation is blasphemy. How sad is this conclusion. 

The bible has been analyzed and reinterpreted down through the ages by the best minds of each era.  Taken literally, the Bible contains many  inconsistent  or contradiction of facts. And yet the revelation of God’s Word has served every generation very well even as new revelations are disclosed by God. Surely, God has not finished revealing his wisdom and plan for the whole world. And surely, each new revelation shall strengthen our faith  in God not diminish it!

Geological Evidence

One of the greatest testimonies for an old world is the Grand Canyon. Geologist have plotted sedimentary formations hundreds of feet thick with ages that far exceed any possibility that this magnificent structure could have ever been created by a single flood or even several floods. A careful study of the geology of this area reveals multiple strata each of which are estimated to be millions of years in age. One can theorize or speculate about certain fossils disclosed in soil and rock formations several billions years in age but geological data (physical finds) produce facts not theories or speculations.

While the fossil records are very “gap ridden” – (fossils are missing from certain geological ages), the record clearly shows from thousands of fossils collected from hundreds of digs across the world that life suddenly exploded on to the geological scene about 500 million years ago. It would seem that God chose to introduce all kinds of vegetation, animals and even upright creatures on to this earth within one geological time period. In terms of geological time, where the universe is estimated to be 14 billion years old and the earth about 3 billion years old, this happened relatively late in geological time. The case for a supreme architect is strengthened by this and many more later events.

The Emergence of Hominids

Even later, say one million years ago, fossils of upright creatures have been unearthed – many being found in east Africa. Many archeologists  have spent their entire lives unearthing, evaluating and dating these finds. In Europe similar upright creatures, typically named “Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal Man” have been discovered that lived several hundred thousand years ago. The evidence of human like traits such as gathering in tribes (groups), the making of stone tools and weapons, caring for families, burying their dead and paintings on the walls of caves suggests these creatures (generally known as hominids) lived almost as humans. These are facts not theories.

 Now some may try to explain away the facts disclosed by artifacts and fossils. They may argue that God planted these fossils, relics and paintings in the world for some reason. Well, anything is possible with God. However, such an act would imply God would be seeking to deceive man. Can any true Christian believe our God of love and redemption would try to deceive? This is not my God. How about you?

But maybe they were not yet human – for to be fully human requires one to have a spirituality – a soul – a sense of responsibility that only human beings possess. The Hebrews called it the “neshama”. Until God breathed the “neshama” into his created creatures – fully developed humans did not exist. Since we generally assume symbolic Adam was a full grown young man from his creation, could it be that he had attained the age of accountability – twenty one when God made him into a full human being? Could it be possible that prior to this divine act, Adam was only a well-evolved hominid? This rationale is totally compatible with the biblical account of Adam’s creation, which was estimated to have occurred between 4 and 5 thousand  years before Christ. 

The world is physically old but humanity is relatively young.  There are still many unanswered questions and mysteries regarding God’s creation. But there is no reason why mankind cannot believe in God, his revelations as written in the Bible and still probe further into the unknown in an effort to discover more  and strengthen our faith at the same time.

Thanks again for taking time to read my blog.  I appreciate your comments.

Written by

Bill Peck

How Mankind and Modern Civilizations Evolved


Adam and Eve

The book of Genesis in the Old Testament states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – and modern Christians believe this is true. Just how God accomplished creation has been debated for centuries. Most modern scientists believe the beginning of the universe and the earth is best explained by the “Big Bang” theory. Scientific evidence gathered from excavations all over the world disclose thousands (if not millions) of fossilized skeletons whose ages can be accurately established using a number of proven radiometric dating methods. Brain size developments over the last few million years show a pattern of progressive brain enlargements leading up to modern man. We know from detailed field excavations and scientific studies that man evolved slowly over several million years from up-right, bi-pedal hominids into homo-sapiens – modern man. At some point, in the development of humans, God chose to breathe his Holy Spirit into his developing creatures and they became fully human. To be fully human one must have the presence and intelligence to recognize a conscience, to exercise free will and to know the difference between right and wrong. The Hebrews call this the “Neshama” – the soul of man. Biblically, this first event by humans is represented by the story of the symbolic couple – Adam and Eve.

The time frame for this momentous event is uncertain. Scientific scholars report “homo-sapiens” entering Eurasia around 150,000BC. Some of them – like the Neanderthals were not fully developed as humans but they survived the frigid Eurasian climates for over 100,000 years and eventually  became extinct. The first fully human species –  the Cro-Magnons – appeared  about 50,000BC and lived to become our ancestors. We know that the first generations of homo-sapiens migrated out of Africa –  north into the middle east, India and the far East. They were still hunter/gatherers – nomads searching for a better climate, more edible plants and herds of moving animals. The beginning of our civilization starts in the middle East (Iraq and Iran) in the “Fertile Crescent” – from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers westward and then south along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  Why did it happen here? Why not in the Americas, in India or the Far East? It is a mystery to be solved.

The key factors supporting the transition from a hunter/gatherer to an agricultural  society was first, domestification of wild cereal grains into gardens and later, the domestication of herds of wild animals. The first crops were: emma wheat, econ wheat, barley, peas, chickpeas, bittervinch and flax. The deep rich soils of the”Fertile Crescent” and seasonal rainfall produced an abundance of wild plants for domestication. The Biblical story of the “Garden of Eden” symbolically describes the natural richness and variety of wild plants in this area. 

The first domesticated wild animals were: goats, sheep, pigs, cows and horses that thrived well on the flourishing plant life.

The last significant Ice Age (Younger Dryas) in the middle East terminated about 10,000BC. From that point forward humans occupied the Fertile Crescent and began the long transition from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural based society where bands of humans began to produce their own crops and herd their own animals. By 6000BC peoples in this area were completely dependent on raising their own food and domesticating herds of animals. Populations exploded as bands grew to chiefdoms to villages to towns and later into cities.

But why had not the earlier homo-sapiens in Africa start and produce this transition?  There are three basic reasons: first the extreme temperatures over most of Africa prohibited the growth of many edible crops. Second, there were few , if any, domesticable animals in south Africa. Zebras, Lions and Rhinos could not be domesticated. Third, there were wide gaps in water supplies across the African continent with over one third of  the land as a desert. It took a major effort for mankind to find their way north out of south Africa into the  more livable lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

So what were the advantages of settling in one location, farming and herding ones own animals? As agricultural production increased, more foods could be produced that could be sold to others – for the first time in history. This allowed a portion of the population to devote time improving living conditions, harnessing water, arts and crafts and developing special talents in medicine, law and military capability. Organized armies not only provided security for their populations but could exploit other surrounding areas and foreign populations. In 3000BC the first wheels were invented (discovered), horse and oxen drawn plows multiplied food production and the world changed as never before into a modern society.

The Bronze and Iron Age arose in the Middle East about 1200BC producing metal weapons and farming tools far superior to those anywhere else. Specialists in mining of metallic ores, timber and precious stones brought additional wealth and capabilities to these innovative peoples.

As populations in southwest Asia grew, the natural expansion of growth moved east and west along the latitudinal axis. To the East successful civilizations flourished in China but great distances retarded any technological exchange with the Fertile Crescent until much later. Most of the mideastern civilization moved westward following fertile lands and moderate temperatures that supported crops and abundant wildlife. 

Transfers in information and technology along longitudinal axis in every continent proved most difficult because of mountain ranges, oceans and seas, deserts and extreme temperature changes. Civilizations in the Americas flourished in individual areas but little progress was made in exchanging technology north and south because of these and  other   geographical configurations. Islands in the Pacific lived primitively in isolation for thousands of years before being exposed to civilizations’ advancements.

As populated areas grew, exposure to various diseases reached epidemic proportions and in some areas 70 percent of a population were eliminated by such killers as tuberculosis, cholera and influenza. Over time such Eurasian diseases as: syphilis, gonorrhea and cholera reached remote places like Hawaii from rats and fleas transported by merchant ships. As a result of Columbus travels, major populations of Native Americans were wiped out by Eurasian diseases. Later, the Aids virus originally found in monkeys in Africa was transported all over the world. And so, the building of modern cities brought power and wealth along with disease and death. In general, power and sophisticated technology shifted westward into Europe and later the Americas.

Modern societies in the Middle East created our alphabet and numbering systems and each geographic expansion brought new languages, beautiful art, music and paintings of enormous value. The establishment of formal religions, governments and powerful armies followed. Competition between nations and economies brought on industrialization, civil and world wars, suffering and domination of the weak by the strong. These same cultural characteristics thrive today.

In conclusion, one may ask: did our developing civilization follow a path carved out by people of a superior intelligence, or was it just blind luck? Was there some guiding hand that brought hunter/gatherers from tropical Africa to areas of moderate climates and plentiful rainfalls, planted an abundance of seeds for food and placed domesticable animals on this earth in special places? Your scientific knowledge coupled with your religious beliefs should help answer this question.

 Bill Peck

Reconciling Old Testament Biblical Stories with Current Scientific Knowledge

dn13620-1_300All Christians agree that God created the universe, the earth and all living creatures. However, the beautiful and exciting wording of Genesis (chap 1-3) leaves open how God’s processes of creation actually occurred. Biblical truths, express in broad terms, that our creator God caused it to happen and left later generations of theologians, historians and scientists to discover and interpret the details.

For at least the last two hundred years many process details have been uncovered by dedicated scientists from dozens of countries with specialties in geology, archeology, anthropology, paleontology and biology. Many theories along the way have been proposed to explain the evolution of creation. Some have been critically evaluated and found wanting, while others have, over time, been accepted by the international scientific communities – first as theories and later as scientific facts.

Multiple scientific excavations (known as digs) have been made at hundreds of sites in many European, African and Mid Eastern sites by scientific teams usually representing universities or other private organizations seeking to gain a better understanding of how humanity evolved. Literally thousands of artifacts, fossils and special human like skulls and bones have been unearthed, preserved and dated especially from major “digs” in South-East Africa. With careful precision and multiple checks and balances, a pattern has been established that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that prehistoric up-right, bipedal creatures (hominids) lived in Africa (and beyond) whose brain sizes  developed slowly over the last million years (or so) from 500cc to 1450cc – the current size of modern human brains. By some point in history, most experts say between 10,000BC and 5000BC, these almost human creatures had learned to:

  • Take care of their families
  • Defend their tribes
  • Make useful tools and vessels
  • Paint pictures on cave walls
  • Bury their dead
  • Domesticate food production and certain animals

In my NIV Bible footnotes, we find these words: “Make, create and form are used to describe God’s creation of both man and animals. Humans and animals alike have the breath of life in them. The Hebrew phrase here translated “living being” is translated “living creature” in Genesis 1:20-24. The words of Genesis 2:7 therefore imply that people, at least physically, have “affinity” with the animals”. One definition of “affinity” is: “a relation between biological groups involving resemblance in structural plan and indicating a common origin”.

At this point the symbolic Biblical story of Adam and Eve enters into the evolutionary picture. Absolute knowledge of how these developing homo-sapiens became fully human cannot be scientifically proved. However, both the Bible and current scientific facts point strongly toward God choosing to breath his Holy Spirit into these almost human creatures. The Hebrews call it the “Neshama” – (or nephesh) they gained a soul and a conscience and like the scriptures confirm, symbolic Adam and Eve, for the first time, gained self awareness- they became ashamed of their nakedness – after disobeying God.  They chose to exercise their free will for the first time, rejecting God’s commandment, became imperfect and thus fully human sinners.

For centuries the best theological minds and the best scientists have struggled to reconcile the Biblical truths presented in the book of Genesis with modern scientific information. Progress has been slow at best. One of our greatest Christian theologians, Augustine of Hippo, stated in about 400AD: “When interpretations of scripture face serious conflicts with scientific knowledge, it is time to reinterpret scripture”. (maybe not exact quote).

To the contrary, a significant segment of current Christians – generally identified as fundamentalist, (most in the United States), hold defiantly to the literal interpretation of all scriptures. They categorically reject the evolutionary conclusions of the vast majority of the international scientific community. These people are, for the most part, very fine conscientious, well meaning Christians. However, most modern educated Christians believe the Biblical story of beginnings can, and must be, reconciled with what the scientific world has established as facts.  Most well read Christians think such a reconciliation will greatly enhance the credibility of the Old Testament. Attached is a partial list entitled: “What are possible reasons why some Christians emphatically defend the literal interpretations of all scriptures.” Other reasons may exist. How do you feel about these reasons?

Why is this subject important for the future of the Christian church? Unless we begin to reconcile the Biblical truths with what we know as scientific facts, we run the risk that future generations of our most educated youth will continue to move away from churches that hold on to outdated interpretations of Old Testament scriptures.

As an active Sunday school teacher in a large Methodist church, I believe this is the most logical and inspiring explanation of creation ever written! Hopefully, this attempt at understanding God’s creation will help all Christians – especially young people, involved in academic learning, to better understand the beautiful story of “beginnings.”  God gave us in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Jesus said: “Yea shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

 
W.F. Peck   aka  Bill Peck

What are the Possible Reasons Why Some Christians Emphatically Defend the Literal Interpretation of Scriptures?

16356974-vector-question-mark
  • They have been trained since childhood to believe that the “Bible is God’s Word” rather than the more modern and accurate statement “The Bible contains God’s Word”. How could any thinking Christian believe God directed or approved of all the heinous acts in the Old Testament? They may have occurred as acts of man, but my God did not will them to be done.
  • They fear that to question or to assign portions of the Bible (especially in the O.T.) to allegorical or metaphorical interpretations is discrediting the Bible.
  • They hold rigid literal interpretations of God’s Word and are not open to considering new scientific information.
  • They feel that fundamental traditions are more valid than new scholastic interpretations of scripture.
  • They may feel that it is a sin to not except the entire Bible as it is literally written.
  • They may think they are better Christians by  accepting the Bible as written which also allows them to not deal with current scientific knowledge that may be complex and difficult to understand.
  • There may be other reasons.

My research resources include fifty books written by: scientists, theologians, historians and even some who are both scientists and theologians plus numerous conversations with senior Methodist ministers and several professors of Christian theology.

 Bill Peck
 

Understanding and Interpreting Old Testament Scripture

5262_78556

We must be careful how we assess and interpret Old Testament scripture. The Old Testament – for centuries thought to “be God’s Word” is today better described as “containing God’s Word”. If we believe the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament, we must think deeply and prayerfully about how the words are expressed in the Old Testament.  Our goal is to try and understand the many acts of violence that appear in the scriptures and how these acts fit into our understanding of who God is and what role does he play in the Old Testament.

We who are elder – lay theologians struggle mightily with many difficult and confusing sections of Old Testament scriptures. Here are statements regarding the Old Testament that should help relieve our “theological uncomfortableness “.

  • We must accept and respect the writings of the Old Testament (O.T.) as a series of stories that are intended to reveal God’s messages and truths – but not historical facts.
  • The ancient writers (1500 years later) did a marvelous job of compiling numerous oral versions of biblical stories passed down through families, scholars and priests. However, many times the stories were presented as allegories or metaphors in an honest attempt to convey God’s messages in language that the people could understand. For those who tend to accept the “literal words of scripture” as being the truth, this approach may add some confusion to biblical interpretations.
  • Many Senior Methodist theologians today support the following statements:

+   It is acceptable to disagree with unreasonable O.T. scriptures.

+   There are some statements in the O.T. that were not breathed by God.

 +   It is acceptable to relieve God from having said certain statements and assign them to the ancient writers.

 +   There are no Methodist seminaries that teach “the Bible is God’s Word”. 

       Baptist and most fundamental ministers are taught in seminaries that this broad statement is true.

+    Many acts of violence exist in the O.T. but it does not mean that God approves or orders harm to come to any people.  God does not support       acts of violence.

+    Some O.T. stories may be “divinely inspired” but not literally historical fact – because God’s truths are hidden behind the “allegorical words”.

+     Violent acts in the Bible were instigated by humans that sincerely believed they were doing God’s will.   i.e. the Crusades

  • The literal words of some O.T. scriptures make us feel uncomfortable because they are in conflict with our understanding of who God is. The answer to this conflict rests in our understanding that many of God’s messages (truths) lie behind allegorical words created by humans.
  • With a clearer understanding of how to interpret O.T. scripture, we can now address another broad and general statement: “The Bible is inerrant and infallible.” This statement is in error for reasons outlined above. We can now conclude that “God’s Word” is inerrant and infallible because we now know that all statements in the Bible are not credited to God. However, whether stated direct or as messages presented in allegorical form, God’s truths are indeed – inerrant and infallible! God’s messages (truths) in any form are without error.