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An Incomplete History Narrated by the Bible? Part II

November 6, 2011

Part I of the post “An Incomplete History Narrated by the Bible?” makes the observation that all major Christian frameworks for understanding the Bible,  along the full range of conservative to liberal and including the rising “Narrative Theology” (NT), work from some pre-modern assumptions.  What are these? I will focus just on a single major one briefly introduced in Part I.

It is the assumption that human civilization is quite young–no more than several thousand years old.  Part I left off speaking about the fact that most of the scholars of the 16th through 18th centuries, including those we now consider scientists, were part of either the Roman Catholic Church or one of the more newly formed Protestant or Anglican Churches.

Indeed, while theology was still “queen,” most scientists were also well-educated theologically, and it was often they who helped lead the Enlightenment move to a “critical” (analytical, historical, etc.) study of the Bible.  Joseph Priestly is a good example in the latter stages of the Age of Reason, working first in England and then the U.S.  He was a big influence on the post-presidency thinking of both Adams and Jefferson, who discussed his theology in many later-life letters between them.  It was a key early part of their reconciliation after what was probably a more nasty, personal-attack presidential campaign (which then-vice-president Jefferson won) than any seen recently.

There are plenty of reasons to question or disallow the assumption of Narrative Theology (and all prominent Christian theologies) that the full history of human civilization is in view within the Bible, covering less than ten thousand years.  NT focuses on the “story” or “drama” of divine-human interaction in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as if it were the full story.  It assumes the Bible touches on all the major developmental points in Adam, Cain/Abel, Nimrod, etc. to Noah and then to Abraham and “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).”

I won’t go into the various disciplines and many data points providing strong evidence to the contrary (partly because it is often buried or “forbidden” information even within those supposedly scientific or “objective” fields such as archaeology, and thus marginalized). Suffice it to say that there is a world of in-depth information available, and some decent beginnings of more explanatory and very helpful models that indicate a much longer (and quite complex, sometimes mysterious) story. Do a few Google searches, pursue books via Amazon (even the reviews can be very instructive), search academic databases, etc.

Pretty soon one realizes that the entire Western set of assumptions and boundaries, methodologies, etc. for not only the former queen of the sciences, but nearly every other discipline emerging in the Renaissance/Reformation/Enlightenment period has a strictly limited set of parameters. They are taken mainly from Greek, proto-orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Mediterranean/Persian-oriented thinking and traditions.

These parameters have blinded us to our much longer human history, at most just hinted at in the Bible.  This is over-simplification, yet it represents at least one main reason we still operate within this ridiculously recent (and wrong) time-line and related assumptions. And what it entails distorts the much broader and very important “story” within which the Bible is only one recent chapter — not the full story of God’s saving interactions with humanity.

Oh… a pretty important “by the way”… there is every likelihood, with this, that the “rapture,” Millennial Kingdom, literal physical re-creation of the world after destruction by fire, etc., are all humanly-generated, though nearly universal, symbols… Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and their millions of  Premillennial cohorts, Amillennialists, Postmillennialists, and all of us and our grandchildren will likely be gone before any of this happens (though earth catastrophes  do occasionally happen), so we’d best take all the care of our environment that we can…. Even if history is “linear,” as they claim, it started a lot earlier and will likely last a lot longer than is so commonly thought.)

What are your thoughts and observations?

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