Hi, Shans, and welcome. Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
Shans wrote:First, I'm more than aware that the Christian world that Norton represents is not and does not flow from the larger historical positions of the Church in general.
Christianity is always in a state of change. It has been so since Paul of Tarsus adapted the beliefs of a Jewish sect for the Greek world, and it is a process that continues today. There is a more-or-less unbroken line of progression of thought from the Reformation through to today. And based on this podcast, Norton sounds to me like a fairly standard mainline Protestant. His beliefs don't appear to be the slightest bit unusual or uncommon as far as Protestantism in the developed world goes.
Shans wrote:The Catholic church, for example, engaged the implications of Darwin's theory straight away and they quickly found antecedents from their past teachings. Mind you that was a very wide pool from which any and nearly all antecedents could be claimed.
Right. I have many gripes with the Catholic Church, but their willingness to support a wide diversity of thinking and engage with new ideas (even if they're sometimes a bit slow) is one of the things they seem to do well.
Shans wrote:Be that as it may, I was interested in Norton's revelation itself and how he would deal with these rich ideas. He seemed to come to the evolution idea reluctantly precisely because it conflicted with his understanding of the interpretation of the scripture. I would have been interested to hear him face the implications of further 'truths' vis-à-vis his doctrine. The greater church may have a handle on all the ramifications of evolutionary biology, but I've yet to see the Baptist church work it out.
Right, I may have misread that. You were interested in Norton's journey, rather than the wider history of Christian thought on the topic. Fair enough.
As to the later point, it depends on which Baptist denomination we're talking about, I suspect.
Shans wrote:Are you imagining that the church believed as a general principle that the Earth was millions of years old and did so before Lyell attempted to prove it?
What I'm saying is that the belief that Genesis is at least partly non-literal goes back before Christianity, and is the majority
opinion amongst the great theologians of history who have expressed an opinion on the topic one way or another.
It's true that before there was hard evidence, Christians did tend to go with the Biblical narrative right up to the point where the facts contradicted it. In the absence of a better explanation, it's probably even understandable. But it's also true that it has been pretty much always recognised that Genesis 1-2 couldn't possibly be entirely
Now that we have a pretty good scientific explanation for the origin of the universe, the Earth and of species, most theologians have adjusted their opinions accordingly. This is also
something that the church has almost always done as a general principle, with a few notable exceptions.
No, it's not all sunshine and puppies. In particular, in the last hundred years or so, scientific knowledge has expanded faster than some churches have traditionally had to cope with. It will probably take a few decades to sort this out, but in the grand scheme of things, it's nothing really new.
Shans wrote:Now you unjustly assume I do not find mythology to be a good thing – this is unfair. My undergrad is in anthropology and I fully appreciate the history, use, structure and ‘goodness’ mythology can bring to a society. Indeed all history retold is narrative used in cultures to instruct and reproduce society. At the same time mythology is used to control and restrict behavior – for the good? for the bad? Well that’s a whole other issue. [You will note that I have successfully resisted going off on a tangent.]
My apologies for misinterpreting you. And congratulations on avoiding the tangent.
Shans wrote:If by mythology you mean that it did not happen much like that at all, that the story has a teaching point and the details are not meant to be taken as true history, science, etc., then we have an issue or two to work out. But I mean to keep this short. Sufficed to say, Pastor Norton does not carry this view as you do.
Hang on a moment, is Norton a Pastor? I didn't think he was...
Anyway, Norton clearly believes different things about the nature of mythology than I do, but I strongly suspect his opinion on Genesis 1 is almost exactly the same as mine.
Shans wrote:My point was do you believe those who composed it and those who received it believed it to by non-history.
I believe you're drawing a line which those of the time wouldn't have recognised. In pre-Enlightenment times, the distinction between history and cultural mythology, just like the distinction between religion and art, wasn't as strict as it is today. Look at the modern equivalents, such the Australian Aborigines, and how they relate to their mythology. When they tell you a story about the rainbow serpent, they use the exact same phraseology that they would use if they were retelling literal history, even though it isn't and everyone knows it.
Somewhere along the line, we Christians lost that, but I think we still know it at a deep level. It's the same point I made in the Noah's Flood thread: The fact that we give Noah's Ark toys to children to play with is evidence that deep down we don't really believe that it's literal history. After all, we wouldn't give children toys of the Asian tsunami or the Haitian earthquake.
Shans wrote:But you have side stepped my question regarding Jesus and Paul. It is not enough to say both employed poetry and symbolism when applying the Genesis text – I was asking did they also believe it was true? Did Jesus believe there was a literal Adam and Eve? Did Paul?
I don't think it matters. Everything that Jesus or Paul said is 100% consistent with them believing that it is entirely allegorical. Yes, even that bit. It is also, to be fair, 100% consistent with them believing that it is literal, but with strong symbolism. The point is that it is the symbolism which they found important, not the historicity.
Shans wrote:I’m much more interested in understanding how the myths were used to control thought and behavior by the institution of the Church on both the general masses in Europe (and more recently in America) and higher learning.
I wish if the church had this all figured out before 1600 they would have let the rest of the world in on the notion. They could have saved a lot of strife and pain. Not to mention a lot of abuse of power.
That, indeed, is an interesting question, and it doesn't have an easy answer. When church and state aren't cleanly separated, both the church and
the state end up doing things that sullies the reputations of both for centuries. For what it's worth, I blame Constantine.
Shans wrote:On a personal note I come from a Christian back ground (Pentecostal and Catholic before that) and trained for the ministry but was ‘saved’ in my mid-twenties by reason.
For what it's worth, what I believe is pretty much what I was brought up to believe in my neo-Orthodox-to-liberal Christian church (which is, incidentally, the third-biggest Christian denomination in Australia). Christianity and reason are not inherently incompatible.