Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Working through Discernment

Working through Discernment

By Benjamin P. Glaser

As anyone who reads this blog semi-regularly knows I am in a period of discernment and prayer as to what my future in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be for me and my family. As part of this discernment process I have decided to work out some central passages in which I differ from the majority of my colleagues in seminary and the general view of the PC (USA). It is important to remember when reading this that these writings are not intended to be full treatises for publication and may seem not to be fully exegeted, that is not my goal. My goal is to test my beliefs against a subjective audience and see if what I believe is so outside the denominational witness that a move is necessary both for the health of my own conscience and my ability to give an honest witness to what Scripture is teaching.

My plan is to do this bi-weekly and in a systematic and chronological way. Therefore the first question I will begin with is Adam and Eve and the majority belief in the Old Testament scholarship of the PC (USA) that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are separate accounts and are disconnected explanations of the creation of man. (cf: documentary hypothesis).*

*- It should be noted here that not all positions will be covered but just the main position of the PC (USA)

1) Man and Woman created in Genesis 1:26-27

2) “Adam” and “Eve” (Man and Woman) created in Genesis 2:7,18,21-22

Now modern PC (USA) (and all mainline) Old Testament scholarship gives the following explanation for this supposed “double creation” event.

1) Gen. 1:26-27 was written by the Priestly Source and Gen. 2:7,18, 21-22 by the Yahwist

2) Both accounts arise out of other near east creation texts. Therefore the text is not meant to be “complimentary” but necessarily conflicting. In other words Genesis 1 is the view from God’s perspective and Ch. 2 is Man’s perspective.

Here is where I disagree with this hypothesis. The mention of the creation of humans in 1:27 in no way makes the second mention in chapter two “contradictory” or even competing. While it has been the recent tradition of OT scholarship since Wellhausen (and to a lesser degree Spinoza) to make these two statements I believe the second statement to be easily refuted. Not only throughout Jewish tradition have these two chapters been treated as one narrative but Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 quotes both from Gen 1:27 and 2:24 in one thought (as well as attributing Mosaic authorship to the whole of the Torah in Matt 8:4, 19:7, 22:24, Mark 1:44, 7:10, 12:19, 12:26, Luke 2:22, 5:14, 16:19, 20:28, 20:37, 24:27, 24:44, John 1:17, 1:45, 5:45, 5:46, and 7:23). Now one may say here that Jesus is just following his ritual, not necessarily giving credence to the view of chapters 1 and 2 being of the same tradition. In other words the critique says that Christ’s use of both chapters; giving equal voice to both 1 & 2 as if they are telling the same story, does not necessarily mean that both speak with the same voice or having the same author. Christ, since he had voluntarily emptied himself of divine knowledge (as seen in his not knowing the Day of Judgment), and had “forgotten” or even more implausibly Jesus chose not to share with the apostles the truth he knew about the writing of Genesis 1 and 2 thereby quoting from both honestly outside of the truth we now hold.

I cannot begin to describe how this view does damage to Chalcedonian Christology. However in the interest of giving a more thorough understanding of how dangerous this last statement is to historical orthodoxy let us look at one example of how this critique breaks down orthodox foundations of how we see Christ.

Chalcedon says:

The distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved

Now if according to the last critique that by emptying himself Christ necessarily gave away his knowledge of past events-which is what is being said by those who deny the Mosaic (or singular if you will) authorship of Genesis 1 and 2-it is then illogical to say then that the divine nature is not affected by the bodily nature, which in and of itself denies historical Christology.

1 comment:

Chris said...

As a prologue, understand that I agree with you to a large extent and (currently) find myself in the camp of the short-day creationists. That being said, two things:
1) I think it is possible that the "competing" creation accounts are really part of a larger "narrowing in" scheme of Genesis. The book begins with the account (toledot) of the creation of the universe. It focuses in on earth. Then it focuses in on humankind (which is where the story picks up in ch. 2). Then it narrows its focus to the family of Seth. Later, it narrows in on the family of Noah (hey...who else is left?). Then the focus is narrowed to the descendants of Shem. Later still, it narrows in on the family of Abraham. From there, it narrows in on the family of Jacob/Israel. From there, it narrows in on the Twelve Tribes. That leads us naturally to the events of Exodus and Numbers. I'm a modified documentary hypothesist - I believe there are sources that Moses left behind which were arranged and edited by Levites (some Aaronic, others through the prophetic schools of Samuel and Elijah). I also believe Moses had access (most likely only through oral tradition) of accounts dating all the way back to Adam (written sources - notice the Book of Adam or Sefer Toledot - in Gen 5:1).

2) I don't agree with the limitation of divinity you argue for in Christ's "misunderstanding" of the "sources." First, I don't believe he misunderstood anything about it. Second, I don't believe that a limit to his knowledge dissolves the unity of his person or diminishes the divine nature. After all, it was through the Spirit that his flesh was enabled to do what it did (see WCF 8).