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Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6c - Andrew Bramhill

3. Evolution does not threaten inspiration

Even worse is his assertion that unless one accepts a literal reading of the creation narratives, the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible is at risk:
“Failure to accept the account of Genesis 1-3 as the inspired word of God means that we would be at variance with the clear teaching of scripture that all scripture that all God’s word , including Genesis is inspired.”
Ignoring the tawdry implication that evolutionary creationists (and old earth creationists) do not believe in an inspiration because they reject a literal reading of Genesis 1 that posits recent creation of the entire universe in six literal consecutive twenty-four hour days, bro. Bramhill has conflated interpretation and inspiration; an surprisingly facile exegetical error for the editor of a major magazine to make. One can believe in an inspired Bible without believing that it must be literally true, a point that C.C. Walker made over a century ago when he recognised that “Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood" [1]

A ‘plain’ reading of Genesis 1 as I have pointed out elsewhere teaches the reality of a solid firmament, while a consistent literal reading of the rest of the Bible would teach geocentrism, and even a flat Earth. If bro. Bramhill was truly consistent with his claim that the Bible provides facts about creation, he would champion a flat fixed earth covered with a solid firmament.

In fact, the position bro. Bramhill is taking is exactly analogous to the position taken by a brother T. Griffith who around 100 years ago wrote to the magazine claiming that to belief in a spherical Earth was to reject the clear teaching of the Bible, and calls into doubt the inspiration of the Bible:
Seeing that the veracity and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures are denied by many on the basis of the revolving globe-earth theory, even to the extent of rejecting the ascension of Jesus into the heaven of heavens as a “geometrical impossibility.” the matter surely cannot be set aside as of no importance, and beyond the province of a magazine devoted to the defence of Biblical teaching and the overthrow of pagan and papal dogmas.
The globe-earth theory is essentially pagan in its origin, and no amount of ingenuity has yet succeeded in harmonizing it with the cosmogony of the Bible.
It is supposed that the theory was first introduced into Europe by Pythagoras, in the sixth century b.c., and he was a rank pagan. It was afterwards adopted by Plato, and latterly modified to its present form by Aristarchus of Samos, “who went to the length of ranking our green world as a planet revolving yearly round the sun.” Through Copernicus and Galileo the theory has acquired a distinct Romish taint.
We may blame the author of “Lead Kindly Light” for following the glimmer of Rome’s magic lantern, instead of bringing his mental difficulties to be solved in the light of the word of God; but what about those who allow themselves to be led by the vapourings of scientific theorists while pondering over the plainly worded inspired narrative of creation? . . .

There may not be much danger of a brother being led astray by the perusal of modern rationalistic literature, for in that case he is prepared to antagonize the fallacies of modern thought, but morsels of error, in the form of “scientific” tit-bits, daintily wrapped up within the covers of a Biblical magazine, devoted to the defence and advocacy of Scripture doctrine, may not give rise to suspicion that there is anything wrong. The wrong is there all the same, and its effects become manifest when he who has swallowed the morsel finds, as the logical outcome of an adopted bastard theory, that the Bible and modern science are at variance, and verbal inspiration a farce. . . . [2]
The parallels between Griffith’s condemnation of the ‘globe earth theory’ and bro. Bramhill’s rejection of evolution are clear and disturbing. C.C. Walker’s response to Griffith’s argument is masterly, and damningly represents the sort of clear, rational, thinking on origins that has been lacking in the explicitly anti-science articles in this series by The Christadelphian:
Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood. He speaks of “the heaven and the earth” as being in existence “in the beginning;” and therefore it does not seem to be inadmissible to suppose that “the host of heaven” was likewise then in existence. Moses’ testimony was given to Israel in what might be called the infancy of the world, when men did not know the extent of the earth, let alone that of the sun, moon, and stars. And, as we believe, it was given (by God through Moses), not so much to instruct Israel in cosmogony in detail, as to impress upon them the idea that The Most High God is the Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Gen. 14:22). And this against the claims of the gods of the nations, as was abundantly proved in Israel’s history. As to “the fourth day,” we do not know of any “day” in the literal sense apart from the sun and its motion. And, therefore, if the “days” of Genesis 1. are to be taken as literal days, we feel bound to admit the sun as the origin of the “light,” and “evening and morning” that were the characteristics of “the first day.” How can you have “evening and morning” without the sun? We must settle up “the plain testimony” of verse 5 with that of verses 14–19. As we said before (The Christadelphian, 1910, p. 269), “If we understand Moses as saying that the sun came into existence on ‘the fourth day,’ we make him contradict himself; we make him present us with day and night, evening and morning, without the sun upon which these things depend.” [3]
Both Walker's statement that a literal reading of the creation narratives can be problematic, and his recognition that the main purpose was not to provide a scientifically accurate account of creation but a polemic against competing mythology, a view not only consistent with inspiration but also one maintained by evolutionary creationists and many old earth creationists stands in sharp contrast to the naïve fundamentalist view advanced by bro. Bramhill. A century ago, the then editor of The Christadelphian argued against fundamentalist exegesis and science denialism. That the current editor of The Christadelphian is now attempting to make these errors of exegesis normative for our community is tragic, and indicative of how far our community has departed from its origins with respect to rigour of scholarship.

References


1. Walker CC "Is it 'Wrong' to Believe that the Earth is a Sphere?" The Christadelphian (1913) 50:346-348
2. ibid, p 346
3. ibid, p 348