Saturday, April 17, 2010

Richard Phillips' comment on Waltke

Richard Phillips at Reformation21 commented on Enns and Waltke. I'll just focus on the latter. Phillips doesn't think Waltke make his case for evolution. Here are Phillips' charges:
1) Waltke does not present evidence for evolution as "a result of Biblical reflection."

2) Waltke's commitment to the inspiration of the scripture is fake because he said that Christians must adopt a creation account (theistic evolution) that is "alien to that of the Bible" in order to avoid being seen as cultists.

3) Waltke is unable to restrict the "hegemony of science over Scripture to the realm of creation issues." Once this hegemony is allowed, all other claims in the Bible will be questionable and hence incredible.
Here are my responses:

Phillips misses the point to think that Waltke is on a mission to show that evolution is true from the Bible. Waltke's work is to show how can we at present understand the creation account in Genesis. In other words, Waltke is not saying, "Hey guys, I'm going to show you from the Bible that evolution is true." Phillips is charging Waltke for something the latter didn't commit.

Phillips doesn't understand Waltke's notion of inspiration. He read his own idea of inspiration into Waltke and then charges Waltke's commitment as fake. To Phillips, the creation account in Genesis is divinely authored and inspired and therefore provides us the exact word-for-word, straight-forward description of the entire process of how our world came into existence. So if the Bible's creation account records 6 days, that means it is 6 days. Hence the Bible has no error. That is his notion of inspiration.

To Waltke, the Bible's creation account's record of 6 days is a multi-layer description of reality. He uses the illustration between water and gas in his white paper to BioLogos. He described that a half-full glass of water is rightly understood as half-empty as well as full of gas, visible and invisible. In the same way, the 6-days creation account consists of "two levels of literature: the historical story level and the interpretive, creative plot level. On the story level the accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 are historical; on the plot level they are creative representations of the historical reality." In this way, there is no error in the Bible*. Therefore, it is ironic that Phillips is reading an alien theology into Waltke and charges him as a fake. Of course it is fake since it is not Waltke's own idea in the first place.

It is naive to charge Waltke as favoring science over scripture. It is not the case that on one end there is science and on another there is scripture. We know that it is always a certain interpretation of science over against a certain interpretation of scripture (for eg. evolution in relation to the word-for-word, exact description of 6-days creation). Waltke opted for a combination of certain interpretation of science which does not run against a certain interpretation of scripture (evolution in relation to the multi-layer genre of the 6-days creation). Phillips is only "astonished by the naivete" of Waltke because he couldn't restrict the hegemony of his own choice of combination between certain interpretation of science and certain interpretation of scripture to himself but lord it over Waltke. Another irony.

Seems that Phillips has not commented on the real Bruce Waltke, but the one made from his own image.

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* Bruce Waltke thinks that there is no historical error in the Bible according to his understanding of the doctrine of inspiration. "A theory that entails notions that holy Scripture contains flat out contradictions, ludicrous harmonization, earlier revelations that are misleading and/or less than truthful, and doctrines that are represented as based on historical fact, but in fact are based on fabricated history, in my judgment, is inconsistent with the doctrine that God inspired every word of holy Scripture." (Bruce Waltke, 'Revisiting Inspiration and Incarnation' in Westminster Theological Journal 71, pub. 2009, p. 94)

11 comments:

nailkois said...

Hi. May I know what is your response on Waltke's statement?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi nailkois,

Which statement are you referring to? Waltke made a few statement.

nailkois said...

Regarding to Christians should adopt theistic evolution or they will be treated as cultist.
Do you agree with that?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi nailkois,

I disagree. Christians should not adopt anything just to avoid to be treated as cultists. Christians should be opened to the complexity of these discussions by recognizing that we cannot claim to have all the knowledge on the origin issue on one hand, and yet the story that we have about origin is nonetheless directive to us to understand ourselves bypassing the question whether is this story material or not on the other hand.

nailkois said...

Thank you for your reply. =)

Sze Zeng said...

You are welcome. How about yourself? What's your take?

nailkois said...

I do not agree with theistic evolution too. I believe in creation. I believe it involves a lot of hermeneutics issues in interpreting Genesis 1 (correct me if I am wrong because I am not a theology student). However, I am very interested in the creation/ evolution debate and trying to get more info on this topic.

Sze Zeng said...

Thank you for sharing.

You are right that there are many issues involved in understanding Genesis 1-3.

Allow me to clarify, I'm open to theistic evolution as much as intelligent design and old earth creation teaching. I think current discussion over the exact account of how human beings came to be still needs a lot of research and data before any conclusion can be drawn. So this is still an open issue. But I'm definitely not a 'young earth creationist'.

:-)

nailkois said...

OK. Let's wait for more posts from you on this topic. =)

Maybe one last question: Do you think God created a lion and lioness, or cubs, or cells which evolved into lion/lioness?

reasonable said...

"I do not agree with theistic evolution too. I believe in creation."

Christians who believe in Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Theism believe in creation too, in the sense that they believe God created the universe. They believe that God made use of evolution as a method of creation.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi nailkois,

Thank you for asking but I don't know.