Friday, May 30, 2008

Tobias Haller on Genesis

Tobais Haller is consistently posting real gems. His latest post on the relationship of God to creation, and the implications for morality, is no exception. I strongly urge you to read it here.

I won't even begin to summarize or even "highlight" Father Haller's argument--it is to rich for even that. Instead, I want to focus on his take on reading the Genesis narratives in a post-Darwin world view. I found this quite insightful:

Genesis is not history — certainly not natural history — but sacred story. Much theological thought, even in the post-Darwinian era, and even among non-Fundamentalist thinkers, has been hampered by neglect of this distinction. This does not mean that the story is to be discarded or disregarded; language, which is based on symbols, is essential to communication. The moment we move from things themselves to the names we give them we have stepped into a symbolic world; how much more with larger concepts for which no underlying “thing” can even be said to “exist.” We cannot escape the story, nor should we, as long as we are aware that it is to be used as story and not pressed into use as natural history. The “freedom from myth” agenda of some theologians is both doomed (as language itself partakes of symbolism) and to some extent pointless, rather like translating poetry into prose. Poetry bears truths that prose cannot articulate; but at the same time, to press the symbols into service as facts is to mistake their purpose and their meaning.

Natural science assures us, beyond reasonable doubt, that there was no age of perfection from which humans fell through sin. Rather than seeing the Genesis accounts in that way, it is more helpful to see the story of origin, as other theologians on closer reading have done, as a kind of “upward” fall from innocence through knowledge: the place where the wages of sin and the cost of freedom merge. Seen in this light, there is a deep truth behind the sacred story (or rather stories) portrayed in Genesis, consistent with the truths revealed in natural history, and the two ways of knowing shed light upon each other, as I will demonstrate.



This may be of especial interest to Dr. James McGrath and the others that are trying to explain modern theology to atheists. As Haller points out, the creation myth still has great menaing even if it is not taken as natural history.

Again, read the whole post here.

3 comments:

Gary said...

Since Genesis is the foundation upon which the Bible rests, if Genesis is not history then none of the Bible is. That means Jesus is a myth.

This writer prefers the fallible thoughts of men to the infallible word of God.

James F. McGrath said...

Gary, your argument is not logical. To suggest that the question of whether there was a king Jehu or a Jesus depends on whether the first two human beings were really in a garden with a talking snake shows little understanding of how historical investigation works. Every piece of evidence is evaluated on its own merits. In the case of the Genesis creation stories, the facts are as follows: (1) we have more than one story in Genesis 1-3, which is presumably the compiler of the book giving us a clue about this not being historical narrative, (2) we have scientific evidence from genetics, paleontology, and other sources showing that we evolved from earlier forms of life and are not literally made from soil/dust, (3) we have clues within the story that this is mythic storytelling, such as the talking snake, the main character names Human, and the aetiological elements.

But as long as the "Christian" fundamentalists (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and the atheists agree on debating the story in terms of its factuality or otherwise, we'll have an ongoing battle between two sides that have missed the point of these stories entirely.

Robert said...

It hardly follows that if Genesis is not history that Jesus is a myth. In fact, I don't find any place in Genesis even claiming that it is an accurate historical account.


Robert