Archive for July, 2012

Blogging Controversy: A Triperspectival-Methodological Analysis

There is currently some controversy regarding certain blog posts floating around the “blogosphere” (when is this not the case?). As seems my fate, I wish to address not the content of this controversy but what I see as the way in which people have interacted in this and other such controversies. Attempting to hurt as few feelings as possible, I have presented this analysis in as general a manner as I can. And, since I’m somewhat of a Frame-fan, I’ve used his three perspectives: the normative, the existential, and the situational (this post contains a brief explanation, and here is Frame’s).

My generalized, boiled-down version of the blogging controversy goes as follows:

Given: P and Q are mutually exclusive positions about what the Bible normatively says.

Person 1: I think the Bible says P (for exegetical reasons W, X, Y). People who do not behave in accordance with the Bible are sinning.

Person 2: You’re wrong, because my experience and observations of the world lead me to believe Q is much more likely. Furthermore, claiming that the Bible says P is oppressive, because that means I’m wrong, and that would mean you think I’m sinning. Besides, you didn’t even appeal to experience and observations to make your argument.

Here is my analysis:

Person 1 makes a normative argument for P.

Person 2 responds with existential/situational arguments for Q. He then claims that normative arguments are not allowed. All claims must be established by existential/situational arguments.

Person 1 should always clearly present his exegetical reasons. If he doesn’t, he is at fault. He should do so with a sensitive eye toward the existential and situational.

Since the argument is over what the Bible normatively says, Person 2 should have responded with exegetical arguments instead of arguments from experience and observation. He has been offended by Person 1’s claim that one must behave in accordance with P in order to avoid sinning. Perhaps he does not realize that Person 1 is making a normative argument or even that normative arguments are important to make. However, this does not change the fact that the topic at hand is a normative one. Person 2’s critique of Person 1 is not valid, because Person 2 has made a category error; he has presented existential and situational arguments against a normative argument. His claim that Person 1 didn’t appeal to experience and observations is exactly right, because normative arguments are not based on experience and observations. This is the same category error that caused Person 2 to give the wrong kind of arguments in the first place.

I apologize if the over-generalized presentation of this situation made it difficult to follow, but I really don’t want to argue about the specific content of this present controversy, as it involves people accusing other people of holding positions that lead to horrific things. And, if you disagree with the way I’ve generalized the situation, it may be because we are starting from different assumptions (which is kind of the point of Vern Poythress’s new book, Inerrancy and Worldview, which the authors of Getting Legs and their friends will be reading and discussing in the coming weeks). In any case, it’s my conclusion that the “Person 2” side of this particular argument is arguing incorrectly. I also happen to think that, if they were to use a normative argument, they would be unsuccessful, but that’s beside the point of what I’m trying to say.

What I’m trying to say is that blog posts in general could use a bit more careful reasoning. But that much has been obvious all along.

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Creation Week

The Creation Week:
Day 1 = Light from Darkness
Day 2 = Water separation/heavens and earth
Day 3 = Land separation, plants
Day 4 =  Heavenly lights/rulers
Day 5 = Fish and Birds
Day 6 = Land animals and Adam -> Eve
Day 7 = Sabbath Rest

It has been argued that the Creation week is the structural undergirding of the entire Bible (not exhaustively such, but truly such nonetheless). I don’t think that is an arguable point, though I believe many would argue against it anyway. DISCLAIMER: I believe it was 6 24-hour days only about 6000 years ago. I know… crazy me… ANYWAYS!

Here are couple examples of the Creation week structure in micro and macrocosmic use in the Bible:

Genesis 2 – Adam’s Pre-Fall Story:
Pre-Day 1 + Day 1   v. 5,6 – When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up (= void) for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground (=formless) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the face of the ground (waters covering the face of the deep?). Then the Lord formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed (=Spirited) into his nostrils the breath of life (Spirit of life), and the man became a living creature (one might say enlightened!) And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the East, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the Garden, and tree of the knowledge of good and evil (God saw the light was good and called it Day and the darkness He called Night)

Day 2  v.10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the Garden, and there it divided and became four rivers… (water dividing).

Day 3a  v. 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep/guard it. (Separating Adam from where Adam was made and placing him in another place, like separating the Land from the Sea.)

Day 3b  v. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Bringing forth vegetation and seed-bearing trees according to their kind, separating one tree from the rest according to its kind.)

Day 4  v.  18  Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Co-rulers of the Day and Night)

Day 5  v.  19,20  Various animals named by Adam (creation of birds and fish, shown under dominion of Man)

Day 6  v.  21-25 No helper fit for Adam -> Creation of woman (paralleling creation of Man in the Creation week after creating beats of the field with a “let us make Man in Our image” as Eve is made in Adam’s image see 1 Cor. 11:7 “Woman is (image and) glory of man”)

Day 7  v. Adam looks at Eve (the crown of Creation) and sings a song “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Adam makes a judgment call (like God on Day 7) and says, in effect “very good” and there is a sort of “FINALLY” feeling about it. Adam did all that naming “work” and FINALLY he can name Eve WOMAN and they are both blessed and holy (both naked and not ashamed).

Not convinced? That’s okay… It seems forced at points, but I think the overall structure hold ESPECIALLY if you understand the symbolic weight of the usage of terms as they develop in the Biblical record.

Let’s try again on a bigger scale, though…

Covenant of Grace:

Day 1 – Genesis 3:15 (Calling light out of a Dark situation)
Day 2 – Noahic Covenant (WATER!)
Day 3a – Call of Abram to the Land of Promise of a Seed that will bear much fruit according to its kind
Day 3b – That self-same seed bore much fruit in Egypt, and Israel left a great nation, eating bread from the ground.
Day 4 –  Judges and Kings ruling the Heavenly people (as the stars of the heavens)
Day 5 – Time of Gentile dominance, the birds and fish have won (swallowing Jonah and his nation), Assyria like an eagle, read your prophets if this doesn’t ring a bell etc.
Day 6 – Return to land, But then Jesus comes and brings us home to the Tree of Life, the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil in His Cross. Adam in all of His glory, stabbed in the rib to form a new Eve from water and blood, His Church. Thus ends the Day of Adam….
Day 7 – Rises from the dead bringing a Sabbath rest to Creation (the work is done!) and is declared very good (vindicated at the Resurrection) given rule over the new Creation (ascends to heaven and sits at the right hand of Power). Inaugurated Eschatology, Sabbath rest brought to our time from the Eschatological Sabbath. (yes I affirm an Eight-day model in use by the Apostle John, but ALAS! a point is being made here!)

This could go on and on with nearly every Bible story.

What does this tell us?

The world images the God that made it in time. The beautiful thing about Creation is that it takes place in time, sequential events. God keeps on repeating these sequences structurally throughout His redemptive purposes. This reveals the character of the God we profess.

He calls light into our lives by the prevenient work of His Spirit as we behold the face of Christ from glory to glory,

He Baptizes us with heavenly water, bringing us through the watery firmament to his heavenly throne,

He separates us from the world around us, He causes us to bear fruit according to the measure of grace He has given, according to our kind,

and he makes us rule with Christ in heaven, judging angels, as stars in the midst of a twisted and dark generation,

saving us from every people, nation, tribe, and tongue, us watery Gentiles are brought near and made to fly like eagles, eating some fish with our resurrected Maker in a New World, becoming fishers of men,

and all of this to the end that the Image of God, the Mature Man, Jesus Christ, is renewed in us, as he breathes His Spirit into our nostrils and we live eternally with Him, becoming like Him in his death-sleep that we can be glorified as His bride,

finally entering the Sabbath rest He has prepared for His people and Himself, when the last enemy is defeated and the great “Church victorious becomes the Church at rest”.