Ham-Handed Hermeneutics V: Some Inconclusive Thoughts After Reading Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis

Having just finished reading Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, I offer some inconclusive thoughts on this little work. My comments are inconclusive because Augustine himself is far from conclusive on this subject.

Now, the original impetus for this series of posts was to test the assertion of Ken Ham, founder and spokesperson for the YEC movement Answers in Genesis, that the church has always interpreted the early chapters of Genesis “literally.” In the article that occassioned my response, James R. Mook writes,

In its first 16 centuries the church held to a young earth. Earth was several thousand years old, was created quickly in six 24-hour days, and was later submerged under a worldwide flood. (Page visited 11/23/2015)

Having made this bold claim, Mook immediately acknowledges that three of the most significant and influential church fathers Augustine of Hippo, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Alexandria read these passages allegorically. In addition, he notes that from 600-1517, or the Middle Ages, the church largely followed Augustine’s lead. (I will eventually look up Aquinas view, if he gave one.) So, Mook’s bold claim about “the church” holding to young earth and interpreting Genesis 1 as referring to six 24 hour days must be softened a bit, don’t you think? Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics V: Some Inconclusive Thoughts After Reading Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis”

What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright

A common tactic of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) is to attack fellow Christians and accuse them of being “compromised Christians.” In the process, if they don’t outright misrepresent these men and women (mostly men), then they most certainly under represent their significant and valuable contributions to the Church and yes, even to, the Academy.

Most recently, Simon Turpin, one of the UK spokespeople for AiG, has aimed his crosshairs at the distinguished Biblical scholar and former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright. (Click for AiG article.) Wright has devoted his entire life to the service of the Church and the Academy. Moreover, he is of that all too rare and special breed of scholar who is not only able to write to his academic peers but to translate that work into simpler, more accessible, popular books. Indeed, he helps his reader by using the name N.T. Wright on his more difficult and erudite books and Tom Wright on his more popular works. In addition, he is an incredible public speaker and is among the best preachers I have had the privilege to hear.

Later in this post, I will address Turpin’s misleading portrayal of Wright. For now, it is enough to suggest that even Wright’s “secular” colleagues and critics would be amused to hear him described as compromising and seeking their approval. Indeed, if they read Turpin’s descriptions, they would likely mistake his descriptions as ironic or satirical like when you name an elephant Tiny. Having met Wright myself, I suspect this description would be met with a chuckle. Continue reading “What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 3: St. Augustine (354-430 AD) and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Vol I, Book 1.i-xvi)

The Ham-Handed Hermeneutics posts serve two main purposes. On the one hand, I seek to test Ken Ham and AiG’s claims that the Church has always interpreted the early chapters of Genesis in a literal fashion and in such a way that it entails a belief that the cosmos is approximately 7,000 years old. On the other hand, out of personal and scholarly interest, I seek to present thoughtfully and faithfully how the Church Fathers interpreted the early chapters of Genesis and their assumptions about the age of the universe. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 3: St. Augustine (354-430 AD) and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Vol I, Book 1.i-xvi)”

Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection

One of the strangest elements of the teaching of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (and that’s saying something when you are talking about people who insist human beings and dinosaurs co-existed) is that with all the fuss they make over the theory of evolution, their position entails the acceptance of an accelerated evolutionary model.

Ham and the folks at AiG insist that the earth (and, indeed, the cosmos) is less than 7,000 years old. The cosmos originated in 4004 BC or 0 anno mundi (See their time-lines.) In keeping with their literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and based on the well-known Noah story, they also insist that there was a global flood in 2348 BC. During this flood, Noah rescued 7,000 “kinds” of animals. Kinds should not be confused with the modern scientifc term species. Nevertheless, from these 7,000 kinds (which included some dinosaurs) all the land animals, aviary animals, and most of the amphibious animals are descended. Continue reading “Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection”

Genesis 3: What is the man doing? or Adam discovers the scientific method.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)

After a series of close-ups involving the serpent and the woman, the camera pans back and reveals that her husband has been present all along. So, what was he doing? Why did he not intervene? Why did he not answer the serpent or better send it scurrying for speaking inappropriately to his wife, the queen of Eden? Continue reading “Genesis 3: What is the man doing? or Adam discovers the scientific method.”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 2: Reading the Church Fathers II: Theophilus of Antioch (Bishop of Antioch ca. 169-181 AD)

Answers in Genesis (AiG) are consistent in a few things. For instance, they are consistent in their assertions that every geological and archaeological discovery that seems to suggest an old earth can be explained by a global flood. Second, they are consistent in their general inconsistency. (In a future post, I will write about the inconsistency of Ken Ham and AiG with respect to adopting a “biblical scientific worldview”.)

Related Posts & Pages: Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 1: OrigenHeresy of HamHow to Teach Genesis 1Why Seven Days?Cosby’s “Interpreting Biblical Literature”How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth

ken-ham-dinosaur-getty-creation-museumOn the one hand, they decry those who appeal to “the traditions of men” whenever those traditions seem to contradict their raison d’etre. Yet, on the other hand, they are quite prepared to appeal to those same traditions when it suits their purposes. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 2: Reading the Church Fathers II: Theophilus of Antioch (Bishop of Antioch ca. 169-181 AD)”