Friday, March 9, 2018

A Call for a Return to Theology as a Science

Theologian Richard Hooker was one of the most influential English Clergymen of the 16th Century. King James I was quoted by Hooker's biographer as saying, "I observe there is in Mr. Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil." John Locke quoted Hooker repeatedly in his Second Treatise on Civil Government and was greatly influenced by Hooker's staunch defense of reason.

It is Richard Hooker who defined Theology as “the science of things divine.” And indeed the very word “Theology” contains the same suffix used in many branches of science, such as biology and geology. The suffix “logy” is in fact a latinized form of the same root as the Greek “Logos”. Logos is translated “Word” in the first chapter of the gospel of John when it says “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” but I need hardly tell this distinguished group that it means so much more than “word”. It refers to the very essence of rational discourse which is a hallmark of science.

Even though we speak of what we do as “Science” historically the study of the universe and the biota and material things in it have been considered to be the “Natural Sciences”. This is in contrast to the “Social Sciences” which include such things as Sociology. I might as well throw in the “Applied Sciences” such as Engineering.

My point is that “Natural Science” was not originally and should not be now the only kind of science which exists. Disciplines of study which use the Scientific Method to ascertain truth can and once were considered to be forms of science. The Scientific Method consists of noticing some puzzle or problem, or paradox, and proposing a hypothesis which is offered to solve or explain it. This hypothesis is then tested in some way which either confirms or rejects the hypothesis. The conclusion is based on the results so obtained. Often the conclusion calls for more testing to further refine our understanding. Reason is the primary tool used at each step of this process.

Back in Richard Hooker’s day, Theology was considered another branch of science. This was because the approach to truth discovery was in essence the same, in particular before experiments in Natural Science became more systematized. Many institutions of higher learning, even to this day, offer degrees in the “Science of Theology”.

The natural sciences studied the physical universe. Theological Science studied God and His Word. Both areas of science had their premises- starting points which were not challenged but rather assumed to be true as a necessary pre-condition to their work. For example, in natural sciences we assume events in the natural universe happen in accordance with laws which are discoverable and unchanging. If we didn’t believe that, none of our tests would be worth doing- they would not bring us any useful information. We assume some things about the universe are true. We assume the universe reflects the true state of reality and is not lying to us, though we can misunderstand it for a very long time. This is a part, the less objectionable part, of what is called “Methodological Naturalism”.

The Science of Theology also has its premises. That God exists, that the Bible is divinely inspired, that the three great Creeds of the Church are true. Like nature to the natural scientist, scripture also reflects the truth of reality, a higher reality, and it is not lying to us, though we can misunderstand it for a very long time. These are the premises of Theology, at least they were in Hooker’s day.

Now the natural sciences have made a great deal of progress in explaining and understanding our natural world since the 16th century. Though they kept the same premises in those four or five centuries, their particulars were constantly being challenged and refined. Sometimes they wound up changing course abruptly if new insight or new evidence demanded it. But because the practitioners did this, as time went on they got closer and closer to the “actual” truth. Their course corrections are legion but they get smaller and smaller as time goes on.

What I fear has happened to Theology is that many corners of the church have quit it altogether. Oh they may still use the word, but the “logy” has left it. The process by which the truth is honed and refined is long absent because the particulars are too seldom challenged from the inside even as the premises are being increasingly and unfairly savaged from the outside. In the natural sciences challenging and improving on existing particulars is strongly encouraged. In the clerical institutions conformity to what has been handed down is the singular pathway to advancement.  

One of my great fears for natural science, as science becomes more systematized and standardized, is that too many particulars will be shoe-horned into posing as premises. Then less and less will be on the table for improvement and natural science will risk becoming stagnated, however long its good run. We must have our premises, but to declare everything we think that we know a premise is to risk an end to further rational inquiry in that area even if it turns out not to best way to describe reality. Most ideas ought to remain particulars.

I do not suggest that the Church re-think its premises any more than I would suggest those of us in the Natural Sciences waste time continually re-examining our premises. But I would urge the church to re-think some of its particulars, just as practitioners of the natural sciences have done to great effect for the last few centuries. At least some in the church should have the calling, and the duty, to see if they might bring the particulars of their fellowship into greater and greater conformity with the reality of the subject matter- in this case the Word of God.

I am calling on some of you to become the Richard Hookers of our generation. I am calling for a return to the Science of Theology in order to improve humanity's understanding of God’s Word in light of the new things we have learned, both about scripture and about the natural world in the last four centuries. There is a great need of you. As Natural Science has raced ahead over the last four centuries theology has become stagnant. I believe its premises are still true, but its particulars have not improved through the rigors of the proto-scientific method which was so characteristic of the men who founded the great strains of Christian thought.

There are presently some findings from natural science which have troubling implications to some particulars of most of the church regarding Adam. I do not view these challenges to the particulars as upending the premises of the Christian Faith. When scientists get an unexpected result in one of their experiments in the natural sciences, they remain confident in their premises even while they re-consider a given particular. So should the church.

Of course Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology already has scripture-grounded solutions to the problems I refer to. What we need from you is to do theological science. To examine these and other proposed solutions, and compare them to your own observations from the text. Then reject, accept, or refine them according to a reasonable accounting of scripture.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Babel: All Families of Noah, or Just Some Hamites?

What to make of Genesis chapters ten and eleven? I have suggested that the chapters are not chronological. That is to say, chapter ten describes where the Families of Noah wound up after the scattering at Babel and chapter eleven records the event which scattered them. Others, including Middleton, have suggested that they are in chronological order and chapter eleven refers to just some of the Hamite clans associated with Nimrod. Some evidence has prompted me to reconsider this question.

I understand the need for more time in some views of early Genesis. If they place the events of the tower of Babel in the early second millennium B.C., or even more recently, then that is too late to make a case that all of those other nations listed in the table scattered to their respective locations subsequent to that event. For example a model with a flood date of even 2,900 B.C. and a tower of Babel around 1,000 years later does not line up with the historical record for the founding of some of these nations. The Christ-centered model doesn't have those limitations. I calculate the flood date to be around 4,500 B.C. and the scattering at Babel with the sudden end of the "Uruk Expansion" at around 3200-3100 B.C. The extra time is not strictly necessary in my model, but it wouldn't hurt either.

I would say the three strongest points for Middleton's view are that 1) the chapters would be in chronological order, 2) Nimrod is associated directly with Babel, and 3) the same word for "scattered" is used in 10:18 ("afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad") and in the Babel account.

Number three is the strongest point in my view, so I want to look at it in detail. Let me point out though that the evidence which makes point #3 strong also undermines point #1 insofar as it must be viewed at least in part as referring to things which happened after the events of chapter eleven. On further consideration, a synthesis of these ideas is that chapter ten is a record of events over a long period of time, perhaps starting before the tower account but also describing things which occurred after it.

Let's look at point #3 supporting the idea that the "they" in Chapter eleven is restricted to some members of the Cushites from whom Nimrod came, and the Canaanites.....

Verse 18 of chapter ten says that "afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad". The word used for "scattered" is just that Hebrew word used in chapter eleven verses four, eight and nine- connecting the two accounts. In other words, what the men were afraid would happen (11:4) is that they would be "scattered", and what the Lord did was just what they were afraid of- He scattered them (11:8-9). And the table of nations reports that the descendants of Canaan were "afterward scattered abroad." After what? If the event the "afterward" is referencing  in 10:18 is the tower of Babel, then it supports the idea that chapter eleven is talking about just the clans of Cush and Canaan.

In this view the other clans split off from them earlier. Canaan was under a curse from Noah. Maybe the clan was held in low esteem by the others. So they went their own way with those who would band with them- the clan of Cush which assumed a leadership role. Nimrod tried to hold these clans together but in the end the Canaanites left his empire and many of the clans of Cush did as well.

That all makes sense, and it may have been what happened. I am still mulling it over. Especially a modified view of the theory that has the Japathites alone going their own way with "gentiles"- other peoples in the northern and western hills- while the sons of Shem and Ham stuck together longer. The text of chapter ten does seem to treat the Japethites as being especially associated with the far-flung "iles of the Gentiles" and it mentions them doing so early in the chapter. But that is just Japheth, here are some things from the text against the idea that it was only the Cushites and the Canaanites in Babel....

1. Asshur is a son of Shem yet in 10:10-11 it says he went "out of Shinar" where Nimrod's kingdom was, to build Calah.  So this Shemite clan appears to have been working with Nimrod from the start.

2. The lands of the other sons of Shem except for Lud (the Lydians) are all close to Shinar. Asshur secured the ground to his north. Aram took the land to his west (Arameans or Syrians), Arphaxad (Chaldeans) to his south, and Elam (Elamites) to his west. It looks like Nimrod had the center and his Shemite kin took the lands around him, almost like satellite states.

3. Genesis chapter eleven says that they journeyed from the east and found a plain in Shinar. It doesn't say there who the "we" is but notice that none of the clans wind up far to the east of Shinar. They are either at the eastern edge of it, or further west. So this indicates all clans could have been a part of the group that found Shinar, even if only two of the three families of Noah then settled it.

4. There were no chapter divisions in the originals. Chapter eleven should be read as a continuation or a connected account of ten, and the last verse of chapter ten references all of the families of the sons of Noah. I concede that it could have been part of another tablet (I hold to a modified tablet theory), but even that does not imply that the "they" in chapter eleven is anyone different than whoever it was talking about in 10:32. Only that it could be. That it is not specified to start the account lends weight to the idea that it was the families of Noah discussed earlier (though perhaps not many from Japheth).

5. Verse 11:5 identifies the "they" as "the children of Adam". It seems to me that if this were just the descendants of Ham here then it could have said that. Especially if it were just the Canaanites who were under Noah's curse and some Cushites. Instead, they are identified with a moniker which applies to all of Noah's offspring (but not the gentiles according to the Christ-centered model).

6. By tradition, the families of Noah stayed in a region near the ark landing until Noah died. But that was only 100 years after the flood. Then they "journeyed from the east." How many of them were there after only 100 years? Surely less than three hundred. Why split up in a dangerous world?


In conclusion, I can't go as far as the Middleton Hypothesis but just considering it has opened my thinking to a modification of the view which I previously held.  Perhaps the clans of Japheth mostly stayed to the north from the beginning as they journeyed "from the east" and wound up entangling themselves with the foreign peoples in that region (gentiles originally meant "foreigners"). So they split early from the others and mostly did not settle Shinar. The clans of Shem (save for Lud who went with the Japhethites) and Ham settled in the plain of Shinar.

When Nimrod did his empire building he divided up the land among his kin. The other four sons of Shem took up positions on his flanks and he ruled from the center with the Canaanites who likely had a subsidiary role. When things went bad, the Canaanites scattered.The Shemites were already somewhat physically removed so they actually did not run as far from Nimrod as the clans of Canaan (and the other clans of Ham) which were closer to him and thus more under his thumb.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Question on Date of Woolley's Flood at Ur

I think the flood of Noah was local, and north and also a bit east, of its traditional center in southern Mesopotamia. I also place it earlier than most, at around 4,500 B.C. Of course, I would expect a flood like that to have produced a lot of sediments and have substantial repercussions down river, even if that was not the main area hit.

Sir Leonard Woolley made great excavations in the ancient city of Ur back in the early nineteen thirties. What he found was a layer from the early dynastic period- around 2,700 B.C., and a few lesser things below that. Then he found a 3.75 meter layer of what looked to be flood deposits. Beneath that layer he found artifacts belonging to the Late Ubaid period.

I have seen a number of sources go to great contortions to try and push the date for the flood which laid these sediments up to around 3,000 B.C.. This one even mis-labels the Uruk period as the Ubaid. This source is better and says that the flood deposits at Ur go back to "at least 3,500 B.C." This one is closer still, dating them between 3,600-4,000 B.C.  If this deposit was laid by the waters of the flood receding from the mountains then I would say they are not far off, but should look further back still.

The Ubaid period endured for a long time in this region, which was close to its point of origin at Eridu. It lasted from 6,000 B.C. to 3,800 B.C.  Even the Wiki article gives a time frame of "4,500-4,000 B.C." as the window for the last phase of this culture. Thus a date of 4,500 B.C. is very consistent with artifacts from the "Late Ubaid Period", which were found directly beneath these deposits. I call for more study on this question from a qualified archaeologist who is not determined to move the date up as so many seem intent on doing.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lake Urmia Hints at the Location of the Flood of Noah

Lake Urmia is a large but variable salt-water lake just inside the Iranian border from Turkey. Those of you who have read Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology know that I argue that the flood of Noah was local in extent. It still would have been global in effect because it would have eliminated the line of Messiah who would redeem the world. I also argued that it was an eastern highland flood, not something that happened in primarily in what would be Babylon or Sumer. Taking the genealogies from a calendar-patriarch perspective puts the flood at 4,500 B.C., or just over 6,500 years ago.

The only problem was that I had no evidence of an eastern highland flood. I was just going by how I read the text of scripture, not evidence from the natural world. So I started looking. I figured a key area would be Lake Urmia, and its mentioned several times in my book as a reference point in the flood. An Aras River valley flood would wash out there.

That led me to this paper (click on the "full text PDF" button on the upper right). On page 15 (study page 658) just above conclusions it notes: "The Holocene record is unavailable due to the loss of the upper 4.5 m of sediment." What? How did 4.5 meters of sediment get washed away right around the time I was interested in?

Look at the chart on page 13 (study page 656) closely. They took core samples corresponding to 200,000 years. Only once before in all that time was a layer of sediment lost from Lake Urmia. That was around 100,000 years ago and it was only about 1/10th the sediment lost in the Holocene. What happened in the last 10,000 years that took 10 times as much sediment as was taken in the last 200,000 years?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Original Sin- We Don't Get Our Sin Nature by Inheritance from Adam

There is a lot of theology which is not actually in the Bible when it comes to Early Genesis. For example, the idea that we get our sin nature because we are physically descended from Adam. It is a misunderstanding which hinders people from understanding the cosmology of early Genesis.

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The Sons of God and the Nephilim

A cryptic reference in Genesis chapter six has produced a mass amount of speculation and spinning yarns that are not really attested to in the Bible. The less-fantastical truth about this passage fits very smoothly with the Christ-Centered model laid out in Early Genesis the Revealed Cosmology.

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Comparing the Reasons to Believe Model to the Christ-Centered Model of Early Genesis

Reasons to Believe is a fine apologetics organization. I have a lot of respect for their work. But their model for creation, their view of early Genesis, is someone different than the Christ-Centered model I present in the book "Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology.

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The Flood Did Not Kill All Humans on Earth!

An earlier video explained scriptures within the flood account itself. This video discusses textual evidence immediately after the flood account which shows there were other survivors besides the clan of Noah.

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The Bible Does Not Teach that Adam was the Father of All Mankind

The Bible does not teach that Adam was the progenitor of the entire human race, only the line of Messiah. The reason some passages in Genesis sound like there were already other people around is because there were! Talk based on the book "Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology.

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When Was Adam?

An explanation of the "long" way to read the genealogies (yet still without time gaps between generations).

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Time Above and Time Below in Early Genesis

Apparently some readers could benefit from a little supplemental material about what I was saying about how time passed at two rates in the six days of creation. Here it is.