Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Redefining Theology, Goldstein and Genesis

There was an interesting comment over on the Spectrum Magazine blog concerning Clifford Goldstein's March 2012 article in the Adventist Review, the subject of my previous article. In the comment section one atheist/former (you have to know his history of comments to know this fact it is not present in this comment) Adventist writes:

“All of you seem to have skipped Cliff's challenge: "For years I’ve been asking someone to give me a reinterpretation of the texts, based on the Darwinian worldview, that doesn’t undermine almost everything we believe: the trustworthiness of the Bible, the origin of sin and death, the character of God, and the meaning of the cross."

In the interest of not repeating the same old arguments and posts we've seen so many times before, why not seriously address his point. Cliff's argument is not with science per se; his point is that he is not willing, under any circumstance, to give up on the Christian gospel. If evolution allowed him to keep his faith intact, he would be happy to acknowledge the science behind it, if I read him correctly. The reason I think he is so angry at you is that he believes that you're eroding the ground upon which Christianity is built.”
I think this raises an important observation, Goldstein has not seen anyone produce a theistic evolutionary response that leaves in tact all of Goldstein's theological assumptions. No one really tries to answer Goldstein because it can't be done and contain all of Goldstein's assumptions that make what Goldstein considers the gospel. In brief what does his view of the trustworthiness of the Bible mean. Well he means that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are literal and historically accurate. Something no theistic evolutionary accepting Christian would accept. So to Goldstein to deny the literalness denies the trustworthiness of the Bible. But for those of us who accept theistic evolution trustworthiness is not based upon literalness.

The origin of sin and death is not really the topic of the first chapters of Genesis. Sin is not even mentioned until the story of Cain and Abel. Death is mentioned as a consequence of actions. Because of Adam and Eve's actions the tree of life is removed from their access. The story is hardly about the origin of sin and death, even Adventists seem to acknowledge that sin originated with Satan and Satan is not even mentioned in the Genesis story. He is a later addition to Jewish thought and then attributed to be the serpent of old in the book of Revelation. So even to the Adventist the subject is not the origin of sin.

What Goldstein means by the character of God I don't know, I would guess from his article he is thinking; how can God create through a system of death where animals and plants grow change and die and evolve. Apparently it is OK for God to make animals become predators upon others and virus and plants to attack and kill a host because God is upset by human sin. But he has to draw the line somewhere and he choses the evolution of nature to be somehow contrary to the character of God. Personally I don't see any problem with death before Adam and Eve, the assumption that it is not involved in the Genesis story seems wrong to me as the people in the story eat. So they are destroying cellular material and that is death. This is not a real problem unless you take the perfect world idea to it's logical conclusion, bacteria would grow and exponential rates and cover the earth in less then a week (maybe even 24 hours) if there was no death. The story is not trying to tell us there was no death, that is something people like to read into the story. Goldstein's assumptions are part of the things read into the story and he wants them maintained when they should be let go.

Last is his meaning of the cross. Goldstein is a forensic atonement person. I don't accept the substitutionary atonement, so I really would not find my meaning of the cross to be the same as Goldstein. In fact I think the substitutionary atonement theory speaks terribly about the character of God.

So can anyone do what Goldstein wants done? No, because what he wants is to find his beliefs encompassed with a totally different understanding of theology. His view is traditional but that hardly makes it correct. Traditions come and go, they are constantly adjusted and changed and just because they are traditional does not prevent their evolution. But that is what Goldstein wants; his tradition to be maintained, if not he can't accept anything else. But that really does not leave him in the position of authority in rejecting other views. It only means he won't look at anything other then the way he sees things.

The atheist commenter on Spectrum wants us to admit that the idea of evolution destroys the gospel. It does not, it destroys the fundamentalist or the traditionalists gospel. But is that really a bad thing?

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