Posts Tagged With: Myth

A Good Parent Condescends, God Does too

You probably won’t answer your son as elaborately as the dad in this commercial, but I wonder if you condescended in a similar way when your 4-year old asks where babies come from. Why do you do that? Why don’t you just come on out and talk about sexual intercourse and all the things around it? Well–duh!–he’s four years old! It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to learn about all the aspects of human sexuality (which you, of course, have mastered)! I’m not a child psychologist but I think I know why you might do it:

-For one thing, he won’t really understand what you’re talking about.
-It will introduce him to concepts that are either inappropriate or irrelevant to his current lifestyle (let’s hope!).
-Also, he might not be emotionally ready for full-disclosure on the topic.

So maybe you’ll just be as vague as possible. That’s a safe move. You don’t want to bring out the textbooks and talk anatomy. You don’t want to use dolls for any illustrative purposes. You’d rather not use specific terms. The main thing you try to do is condescend to your son. You want to put complex matters into understandable terms. And why would you do such a thing to your son? Are you trying to lie to him? Confuse him?

Just the opposite, actually. You want to answer his questions in a way that is relevant to his life experiences and his current mental acumen. This is a little heavier than working with fractions and pie charts, after all.

As you explain some things, you’re holding back. You’re not being dishonest or deceptive. You are giving him the amount of information that he can handle. He uses some terms that are not technically correct, but you’ll overlook that and actually use his terminology to communicate the main point clearly. As he grows up, you’ll talk about these things more and correct some of his misconceptions.

So we condescend to our children because we love them and want them to understand matters that are relevant to their current situation.

In the same way, God the Father is the best dad of all (Matt. 7:11) and condescended to answer people’s questions. The ancient Hebrews wondered where they came from and where they were going. God answered with the creation narrative–Gen. 1-3. The Hebrews weren’t asking questions about science–at the time, nobody was! So God answers their questions in ancient symbols that they would understand. He could have told them how old the earth was. He could have described the creation in much more scientific detail. He could have explained how there could be light before any sun existed, or how a day could pass before the sun even existed (Gen. 1:14). But apparently, those things didn’t matter to the Hebrews.

Instead they asked, “Are we special?” And God said that he created them in His image and ordained them to rule the earth in his place. They learned that they are included in a divine struggle between the serpent and God. They learned that their disobedience leads to separation from God. They learned that sacrifice would be necessary to cover their shame before the Almighty. God was answering their questions based on the terms and knowledge they had. That’s what a good dad does. God condescends, he does not lie.

Categories: Biblical Studies, Creation, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Ancient Cookie Crumbles

cook•ie  n. 1. A small, usually flat and crisp cake made from sweetened dough (American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed. 1996).

Half a dozen home-made cookies. Ingredients: b...

Half a dozen home-made cookies. Ingredients: butter, flour, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Français : Demie-douzaine de cookies fait-maison. Ingrédients: beurre, farine, sucre en poudre, œufs, vanille, soda, sel et grain de chocolat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When someone mentions cookies, I get hungry.  Even if I’ve just finished up at a Chinese buffet, I ask if I can have one.  I prefer chocolate chip, if you’ve got ’em, and freshly baked.  If not…I’ll take one anyway.  And I must say, raisins in a cookie is always a disappointment!  I’ve been eating cookies for as long as I can remember.  Growing up, I experienced all sorts of phenomenon around cookies, and I loved all of it.  I, too, freaked out like Cookie Monster in front of a bunch of chocolate chip cookies!  When I saw a massive oak tree in the woods, I sometimes thought that elves might baking some snacks inside (probably not the best place to cook things).  And don’t get me started about Oreos!  There was whole culture around cookies that is still going strong.  During the 1980s, there were only two recognized definitions for the word.  One had to do with this wonderful snack that made me add notches to my belt, the other was a slang use of the term (“She’s one smart cookie!”).

cookie ■ noun

4 Computing a packet of data sent by an Internet server to a browser and used to identify the user or track their access to the server (Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th ed. 2004).

I’m older now, and there is a new kind of cookie on the block.  It’s the kind that works on my computer and the internet–the thing that collects basic information about you and the websites you visit.  I’m not as familiar with these cookies because I have only recently cared to understand them; and let’s face it, they haven’t a single chocolate chip.  I’m learning about these internet cookies because they have implication regarding my time on the internet.  To me, both the soft, delicious chocolate chip cookie and the ice-cold string of internet-based text have relevance to my daily life.  They are a part of two cultures: culinary and technological.  I can work with both and understand what they represent, but I have a deeper connection with the one I stuff in my face than the one that is hidden in my hard drive.  I think that’s because I grew up with one and not the other.  I naturally absorbed the concept of edible cookies while I grew up.  The other one took time and work.

My father, on the other hand, has gotten on the internet maybe twice in his life.  As you can imagine, he has no idea what an internet cookie is because it has never been a part of his daily conversation or routine.  Since the internet has never been a part of his life, he may never know what an internet cookie is.  If I tried to have a conversation with him about them, he would have little interest because it has no direct bearing on his life.  I would mention a cookie and he would hand me an Oreo (I need to try that).  The internet has little to do with his culture, and so internet language has little meaning to him.

But I know what internet cookies are!  …sorta.  If you compare what I know to most teenagers, I’d be in the dark.  Many teens these days have grown up around and (in a way) in the internet.   The internet and computers are simply part of their daily lives.  So, I may be learning about it, but in many ways they have a better handle on it than I do.  To them, the internet may be the next thing to home.

culture noun  2  the customs, ideas, and social behaviour of a particular people or group (Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th ed. 2004).

Let’s take these concepts to Genesis 1-3.  Since it was written to an ancient people, the words and concepts were befitting to them.  It’s no coincidence that the Hebrews’ creation account parallels others from the ancient Near East.  They were quite familiar with the creation stories of their neighbors, so we should expect that they would use words and concepts found in those stories.  It was how they understood creation stories overall.

There are a few implications here.  First, a modern reader of the biblical creation account must read it in light of other ancient Near Eastern ideas in order to read it accurately.  People often force their own ideas on Genesis 1-3 without even knowing it, and one of the biggest problems is the imposition of modern scientific concepts onto the text.  As moderners, that is the way we think, but it is certainly not the way they thought. If we expect God to speak with any relevancy or meaning to his ancient audience, then the text must be replete with ancient concepts.  To put it another way, in order for the text to be relevent it must not be scientific.  When we assume that it is, we rob it of it’s original intended meaning.  It is like my father talking to me about cookies, and I assume that he means internet cookies.  He has no idea what internet cookies are and really doesn’t care, but I keep insisting that he does. You can imagine how frustrating that conversation would be to both of us!

The second point addresses a certain accusation that folks have brought against the Genesis creation account.  I have heard the flippant comment more than once: “The writers of the Bible just stole concepts from other ancient people to make their own creation story.”  But let’s not forget that all ancient Near Eastern creation stories have striking parallels!  They didn’t steal from each other.  Rather, the concepts were common to Mesopotamian culture.  Just as the youth these days are automatically familiar with computer terms without even trying, so was any ancient Near Easterner automatically familiar with creation myth concepts from his neighbors.

I really appreciate John Walton’s works which have helped me recognize a similar idea.  The video below makes one of his points, that the Hebrews weren’t as concerned with how they were created from a scientific/material point of view.  Instead, they were interested about which god created them and for what purpose.  They wanted to know why things in their world were so messed up and why YHWH was so good to them.  When we read the text trying to find a scientific point, we are looking for internet cookies while the text only mentions chocolate chips.

Categories: Creation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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