Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Flat earth

I was preaching at a church a while ago and I got chatting to a man who told me he was a creationist and interested in the  subject. I was pleased to hear that as I am a creationist too. He then went on to talk about how he was increasingly attracted to the geocentric view. I clarified with him what he meant by that - rather nervous by now - and he was suggesting that in fact the sun goes round the earth!
Flat earth The History of an infamous idea by Christiane Garwood came out a few years back and is a fascinating read. Before she comes to the modern movement of the last 200 years or so she works hard to scotch the idea that before Columbus everyone thought the earth was flat. Her caution about that idea and the whole idea of the Dark Ages makes for encouraging reading. When we come to the modern flat earthers her thesis is more disturbing as practically all of them at least claimed to be in line with Bible teaching. Her willingness to then lump flat earthers in with creationists was annoying but understandable. What she could not see was that the new atheists make just as obvious targets.
The book also explained why some are so keen to accept conspiracy theories about why the moon landings never really happened.
As for my geocentric friend (geocentrism being an allied issue here - she says that 55% of Americans have no grasp of the solar sytem idea) I can see more clearly now why he might wrongly be draw in that direction.
Apparently kids under 10 are often not sure if the world is flat or not. The book was a reminder of how much we rely on  others and how there are man things we believe but that we cannot actually prove.
I would urge all creationists to read this book. It was so stimulating I wrote out some 15 conclusions that I will perhaps post another time. At over 400 pages it is a little longer than one would have liked but it is a pretty thorough job. See more here.

5 comments:

Paul Burgess said...

Thanks for reference.
I first came across the idea the "Dark Ages" were not so dark from Rushdoony and Otto Scott. Their thesis was that the rise of the modern secular nation state wrongly extrapolated that anything before was just ignorance and superstition. I remember them citing an example of the detailed and accurate maps of the world of the Ottomans.
I'm currently reading Genesis Unbound [http://j.mp/15NOeuC] by Sailhamer that I got onto via John Piper. Sailhamer's argument is that Gen 1:1 refers to the creation of the entire universe. Gen 1:2+ff into chap 2 is an account of God preparing the land [Eden] for man to live in and the creation of man. If correct the bible is silent on the age of the universe but clear about the fairly recent creation of man and the days are literal

Gary Brady said...

You'd love her prologue which traces the flat earth myth back to a piece in a book called The Boys and Girls Reader by Emma Miller (1919) which she says is based on Washington Irving writing on Columbus in 1828. She herself is relying on historian Jeffrey Burton Russell and his book Inventing the flat earth.

Sailhammer sounds like he's recycling the gap theory from the Scofield Bible. May be I'm doing him an injustice. See Gap Creationism on WIkipedia.

Paul Burgess said...

So there never was a commonly belief in a flat Earth?

You may not be doing Sailhammer justice as you say. He is adamant that he is not advocating a gap theory.

Gen 1:1-2 is NOT a heading for Gen 1:3+ff. In the "beginning" [a period of time that cannot be ascertained from the text] God created the heavens and the Earth. Platonic thought in the LXX has pushed translations toward "formless and empty". A pagan idea.

Genesis 1:3+ff has God organising a part of the existing creation for man who is now created. The land/Eden/Canaan is the promised land. Adam is driven out. The story of redemption is a return to that land and ultimately the redemption of all the land/nations.

For me personally this interpretation solves a number of problems I have with what appear to be very old structures in the universe and perhaps geological change that may have occurred over longer time periods than the 20 000 years max you can push the seven days back to. That doesn't make it correct but it is more satisfactory than Genesis 1 as simply a literary tool. Sailhammer critiques the view that Moses is critiquing Near Eastern creation critiques. The days are literal.

Gary Brady said...

You're a scientist and I'm not but I would have thought that if we agree that things were made looking old (if you chopped a tree down the day Adam was made and you counted the rings you'd get the wrong age) and that cataclysmic events can speed up processes that ordinarily take millennia then there is no real problem. It's good to know however that people are going back to the Bible and thinking things through afresh. SO how does he want to translate tohu wa vohu?

Paul Burgess said...

I find the "looking old" argument a little strange. I realise that natural revelation must be supplemented by Scripture but "looking old" position seems to be saying that God made a universe that looks old but then tells us it is actually young.

Cataclysmic [very nice word that has slipped into English as it means flood as you know] events will cause discontinuities and that is the whole problem with uniformitarianism...it is utterly deistic at best and leads to functional atheism. It is also interesting that in cosmology you cannot extrapolate back to a hot dense "young" universe without huge discontinuities. At the same time more distant galaxies are observably different. Similarly stars seem to classify fairly nicely if we take time as a variable. The "scientists" may be wrong of course but does special revelation deny huge age?

A few quotes from Sailhamer re tohu wabohu...

"The Hebrew expression tohu wabohu refers simply to a “wilderness” that has not yet become inhabitable for human beings. It is the “wilderness,” for example, where the Israelites wandered for forty years, waiting to enter the land (Deuteronomy 32:10)."

"After the time of exile, the prophet Jeremiah said of Israel’s land: “I looked at the land and it was formless and empty (tohu wabohu) and at the heavens and their light was gone…""

"...(Jeremiah 4:23–26). Note that the promised land after the exile is described in precisely the same terms chosen earlier to picture the land before God prepared it for mankind at creation—not “void and empty,” but “deserted and uninhabited.”"

And on reshit...

"The Hebrew word reshit, which is the term for “beginning” used in this chapter, has a very specific sense in Scripture. In the Bible the term always refers to an extended, yet indeterminate duration of time—not a specific moment. It is a block of time which precedes an extended series of time periods. It is a “time before time.” The term does not refer to a point in time but to a period or duration of time which falls before a series of events."

"In Job 8:7 the word reshit refers to the early part of Job’s life, before his misfortunes overtook him."

"When the Bible speaks of the reigns of Israel’s kings, the word reshit is used in a unique reckoning system. The first period of a king’s reign usually was not counted as part of the official length of his reign. An unspecified period was allowed during which the king actually reigned, but it was not officially counted as part of his reign. After that period—whatever its duration—the years of the king’s reign were counted in consecutive order."

"It was common in ancient Israel to begin counting the years of a king’s reign from the first of the year—that is, the first day of the month of Nisan. If the king assumed office prior to that day, as was frequently the case, the time which preceded the first of the year was not reckoned as part of his reign. That time was called “the beginning” (reshit)."

"According to Jeremiah 28:1, for example, the “beginning” of King Zedekiah’s reign included events which happened four years after he had assumed the throne."

"Such an understanding of the term “beginning” is essential to appreciating the meaning of the first verse of Genesis. When understood in this way, the text does not say that God created the universe in the first moment of time; rather it says that God created."

Btw I should emphasise that this is not a hobby horse of mine!