Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Bang! (IX) – Augustine’s advice

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It’s about time we hear from Augustine of Hippo again. We have built our case for reconciling the creation views of Bible and science on a particular interpretation of Genesis 1, which is one interpretation among many. In his Confessions, Book XII, Augustine dealt with such differing interpretations.

Having listened to all these divergent opinions and weighed them, I do not wish to bandy words, for that serves no purpose except to ruin those who listen. …If I confess with burning love, O my God, O secret light of my eyes, what does it matter to me that various interpretations of those words are proffered, as long as they are true? …Provided, therefore, that each person tries to ascertain in the holy scriptures the meaning the author intended, what harm is there if a reader holds an opinion which you, the light of all truthful minds, show to be true, even though it is not what was intended by the author, who himself meant something true but not exactly that?

A footnote in my translation of Confessions is helpful.

Augustine’s recognition that meanings other than those intended by the writer can legitimately be discovered in the sacred text is grounded in his conviction that the God of truth who inspired the writer and guarantees the text abides also in the minds of believing readers, and that though God makes use of human words, they are never adequate fully to express his mystery; there is always a “plus” of meaning.

Augustine further says, that we should exhibit

the charity which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and unfeigned faith, and I know what were the twin precepts on which our Master made the whole law and the prophets depend.

To summarize, from the frame of reference of an observer outside of the universe, six 24 hour days passed from creation to Adam. Evidence of the biblical clock is the cosmic background radiation, ticking away at a constant rate. For the earth-bound observer in a different frame of reference, the six creation days add up to 13.7 billion years. That’s my interpretation, with the help of friends Filippenko, Schroeder and Ross.

The idea that there can be true interpretations of Scripture other than mine takes a little getting used to, but I guess charity and humility demand that conclusion.

Dave, winding down.

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