In this episode John and Greg to discuss a recent discussion John had with his parents around NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope. While discussing the first chapters, John referred to some ideas Gregg has put forth.
John was surprised when his father suggested that, “It’s great that Gregg has those ideas, but you have to figure out your own ideas here.” The idea being that John needs to do his own study of the Bible. As the discussion continued, John realized that his father’s knowledge and proficiency regarding the Bible was quite pronounced. From this, John wondered: Can one become this proficient if the impetus for doing so is simply duty and obligation?
In other words, John speculates that his father’s reason for becoming so familiar with the Bible is because he wanted to and questions whether someone could become so proficient driven only by obligation or duty.
Gregg responds that he is concerned that he himself will not have enough time during the course of his life to get to become as knowledgeable and proficient in terms of the biblical languages, for example. In Gregg’s view, however it is possible to make significant gains in terms of one’s knowledge and proficiency concerning the Bible on one’s own.
John worries that if this is a concern for Gregg, how much more so for others (who said we do not have the time, the inclination, or the resources to be studying the Bible as intensely as he has)? Gregg responds on the one hand, that it takes very little to embrace an orientation that is “basically Christian.” So Gregg believes that, when it comes to doing your “due diligence” relative to Christianity, a lot has to do simply with starting.
Yet on the other hand, Gregg notes that one’s skill, available time and resources, and the social implications of investigating Christianity all need to be considered. John agrees: he notes that even the Bible itself is a very long book ( commentaries and other books aside). Yet John also speculates that investigating the Bible at slow and steady pace may be the best approach.
Having begun reading the Bible John wonders about whether some of these early biblical figures actually lived as long as is recorded in the Bible? Similarly, John wonders at what point those who interpret the early parts of the book of Genesis poetically would believe that the book as reflecting real states of affairs—things that actually happened?
Gregg replies that determining the accuracy of ages of biblical personages is really not within our grasp. Yet can the idea of doubting Adam’s age or especially Adam’s historicity (as being a real human being who existed as the first ancestor to all of humanity) destroy the fabric of the entire biblical story? Gregg argues that it does not. The Bible is both historical / historiographical and, as a story, has the power to transform our understandings (of God, self, and world) and so empower us to see and live differently.
Gregg views the above as a reductionistic approach to the Bible that is actually being idolatrous: the claim that we, as human beings, can know the intention and meaning of what is written without relying on the Bible’s textuality (such as genre, use of literary devices, etc.) and without relying on its linguistic, historical, and cultural components in order to guide our reading (and so inform our interpretations). This would amount to overriding given norms of literary coherence, significance, and meaning and replace them with our own!
Rather, Gregg sees the thrust of the Biblical texts being toward truth-seeking, and so pushing its readers actually to be open to all manner of questions (including Adam and Eve’s historicity) with a spirit not of destructiveness but of openness, in order to seek more truth.
So Gregg believes that the potency and truth of the account of Adam and Eve is not harmed by these two not having been actual, live human beings. In terms of Paul references to Adam in Romans 5, Gregg notes that good work has been done on this without any broad consensus on a way of seeing this yet having been adopted. However, this does not mean that Christians can shut their eyes to the mass of evidence that is all around them (through geology, anthropology, etc.) and idolatrously read the text in a recipe-like fashion.