Monday, July 18, 2011

Adrian Miller, Part 3: What Wiser Christians Have Said

To recap, an Anglican Priest the Reverend Adrian Miller, claimed his biblical gloss known as YECism was supported,
”Because we recognise the importance of revelation in our approach to knowing.”

And he knows this because, "In the past God spoke through prophets and now He speaks to us through Jesus." with textural support from the opening lines of The Epistle to the Hebrews.

The first revelation of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, demands that the physical universe is co-equal with the textural revelation. The second revelation, the New Testiment, generally affirms the old revelation regarding the revelation of nature (eg. Romans 1:20) with the added bit that “Jewish fables and genealogies” are expressly to be ignored as they are “unprofitable and worthless,” (Titus 3: 9). That pretty much finished the YEC cult “revelation” right there.

But, this was not my original insight. (Well, I learned later that it was not my original insight). There is a strong recent effort to salvage Christian theology from the YEC cult in the Christian Clergy Letter Project, which states,
“Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

Over 12,746 Christian clergy in America have affirmed this statement as of 6/24/11. But of course, THE PERFECT HOLY PREIST ADRIAN is far more pious, Christ-like, and educated than any of these thousands of clergy. But these are not new efforts to save Christianity from derision and irrelevance. For example, consider the following:
"If sound science appears to contradict the Bible, we may be sure that it is our interpretation of the Bible that is at fault." (Christian Observer, 1832, pg. 437).

That was a fairly recent admission occasioned by the scientific discoveries, not of Darwin, but of geology. It was in turn anticipated by,
“Tis a dangerous thing to engage the authority of scripture in disputes about the natural world in opposition to reason; lest time, which brings all things to light, should discover that to be evidently false which we had made scripture assert.” Telluris theoria sacra (1684 English edition, “The Sacred Theory of the Earth” Preface, pg. 10), Reverend Thomas Burnett (1635?-1715)

But that is recent still as we have the testimony of Cardinal Baronius (1598) for the statement, "The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." This was cited by Galileo, not that it did him any good.

Still earlier we have John Calvin (1509 – 1564) writing on Genesis,
"For to my mind this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy and the other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.” And later he stated, “It must be remembered, that Moses does not speak with philosophical acuteness on occult mysteries, but states those things which are everywhere observed, even by the uncultivated, and which are in common use. (Genesis, I, 79 & 84 (1554).”

Why can’t Mr. Miller follow the logic of Calvin when he observed,
“ Lastly since the Spirit of God here opens a common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose those subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer inquires respecting the actual dimensions of the stars, he will find the moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his discourse to common usage.” Calvin J., Genesis, Vol. I, Part 3 (1554).

I should hope that all YEC cultists give serious attention to Thomas Aquinas on science and faith, who wrote,
"In discussing questions of this kind two rules are to be observed, as Augustine teaches. The first is, to hold to the truth of Scripture without wavering. The second is that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing." Thomas Aquinas, c.a. 1225 - 1274, Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q68. Art 1. (1273).

Aquinas refers to the Christian father, Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) who advised Christians trying to interpret Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge in his work “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim). The following translation is by J. H. Taylor in "Ancient Christian Writers," Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. {Augustine here has referred to 1 Timothy 1.7}”

Here we enter back into the Revelation that Mr. Adrian Miller wants to vouchsafe over the work of science. But, as before we find that this revelation rejects Mr. Miller and his YEC cult. Why did Aquinas, and Augustine warn against making “obstacles be placed to their believing?” They were warning any Christian who would try to enforce a denial of the physical revelation to support a false biblical interpretation. They were making a direct reference to Luke 17:1. (Jesus) said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2. "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Also, Matthew 18:7. "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

I hope you, Mr. Miller, will read these Scriptures in their broader meaning and then give full consideration of my current favorite Scripture;

James 3:1. Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

Personally I feel fine about this. If I were you Mr. Miller, I would shit my pants with terror because you are preaching lies. But, I don’t think you really believe any of this at all. Preaching is just easier than a real job.

(Edited 18 July to tone down what I think of Mr. Miller.)

1 comment:

RBH said...

. But, as before we find that this revelation rejects Mr. Miller and his YEC cult. Why did Aquinas, and Augustine warn against making “obstacles be placed to their believing?” They were warning any Christian who would try to enforce a denial of the physical revelation to support a false biblical interpretation.

And one can commend Proverbs 4:7 ("Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.") and 20:15 ("There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.") to Rev. Miller's attention. Paul's anti-intellectualism in Romans 1:22, recently cited to me by a fundamentalist Christian as a reason to reject modern science, is a snare and a deception.