Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Noah and the Preachers

(Warning: intemperate rant follows.)

One of the leading Missouri Synod clergy-bloggers has posted the following lectionary gem for November 29 about the Old Noah the Ark Builder.
Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.The world had become extremely corrupt, so God instructed Noah, the son of Lamech (Genesis 5:30) to build an ark to provide security for his family and selected living creatures from the waters of a devastating flood that God warned was coming (Genesis 6). Noah built the ark, and the flood came soon after its completion (Genesis 7). The entire earth was flooded, blotting out “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. (7:23)”
What's wrong with this potted bio? Well, nowhere here is there any indication that the Noah story is anything other than a tall tale, an elaborate fiction, crafted in a pre-modern age to explain the origin of - among other things - rainbows. Nor is there any indication that this high-ranking clergyperson is aware that it's used goods from start to finish, a retelling of even more ancient Near Eastern tales, the best known variant being the Epic of Gilgamesh. How exactly do you get away with living in the twenty-first century, and still read this stuff as literal history?

But here's the weird thing. Whereas this guy, a dyed in the wool literalist, seems to believe what he writes - or cut 'n pastes - there are clergy of a more progressive stripe and more refined literary sensibilities who also wouldn't blush to write this same drivel. Among such enlightened types it's perfectly okay to parrot these claims (and yup, claims they are) as long as - nod, nod, wink, wink - those in the loop know that it's not what it seems. Shall we tell the dumb sheep? Not directly; gently does it, we wouldn't want to offend anyone. Let 'em live with their treasure trove of beddy bye stories undisturbed. Let's sing them a liturgical lullaby while sharing knowing adult glances with "our kind" of Christians.

It's a strategy for people - however progressive and metaphorically-minded they might be when in the privacy of their own studies - who have clearly mistaken deceitfulness for subtlety, patronising behaviour for sensitivity, duplicity for depth. If you truly love and honour the scriptures, you're not going to lie about them, not even via the time honoured method of conveniently omitting full disclosure lest the troublesome truth rise up and bite you back. To hide behind sophisticated 'theologising' is just contemptible. Some of these individuals could wrestle theological profundities out of the telephone directory!

Even the Missouri Synod blogger, who I'm sure knows all about "sins of omission", has more integrity than that.


  1. Yes, yes, yes. I recall the Art of Dissembling being taught in nearly every class in seminary. The reasons given were that you don't want to upset the faithful and you don't want to give people any cause to think you don't believe your vows.

  2. How true, but where are these church pastor types and what kind of church do they end up with?

    You know, "well if that's not literally true, then is this not literally true either?"

    Critically thinking pastors, (would you become one if you were in your youth?) leave in stages or finally reach critical mass of non belief where one more step and they may as well give up the paycheck. I have seen some pastors do a great dance and keep the career lifelong though they believe little of it literally. Usually they have written enough books to keep themselves from starvation once the magisterium catches on.

    I admire a Bart Ehrman who can believe little or none of it and teach theology in a university setting, to some who want to pastor! What a gig!

    The first 11 chapters of Genesis are pure myth or at least rewrites of Sumerian tales. I still wonder what the Sumerians were conveying and is there any kernel of a distant memory in them. But if we are only left with possible kernels, then I doubt not believeing or understanding them will lead us into an everburning hell.

    A real Deity bent on informing us all would update, restate and clarify once in awhile to make up for transmission problems

  3. In other news, PBS is airing The Story of Jesus, which suffers from a bit of professing Christian theologianizing and the usual gory death-worship fetishization...but at the least the re-enactments have opted not to go for the clean-shaven, white, long-haired fairy idol...they couldn't quite commit to the full-length beard, though.

    Can't find a link to the video on the PBS site, sorry.

  4. Kind of ironic that the actual route Christ took to carry his cross-beam, is on the other side of town from the "traditional" idolatrous route taken by professing Christians....and the actual route? Runs through a carpark. Buddy talking on the teevee right now is bemoaning the fact that professing Christians can't accept the fact that Christ was/is/will be "fully man and fully God."

    Are you listening, Junior?? HWA WAS RIGHT. Even your Evangelical bedfellows are starting to admit it....

  5. Buddy talking on the teevee right now is bemoaning the fact that professing Christians can't accept the fact that Christ was/is/will be "fully man and fully God."

    IOW, Jesus was in it for 200%. You know, what with 100% being "fully" and all.

    Don't worry "it's a mystery" and we'll understand it, by and by, when we die.

  6. Eh? Something wrong with your math there, Corkster; "Fully God and fully man" does not equal "200%" -- and to say it does is just reducing the semantics down to the ridiculous.

    I note that you have also not addressed the point that the professing Christians are starting to actually agree with the Church's teachings that they declared "unorthodox" fifteen years ago, attempting to destroy all of our (eternal) lives in the process.

    But that's OK, the Americans haven't addressed that point, either...something tells me they're going to live to regret it, if they don't....

  7. Hey Corky,

    It seems very odd to me that you are bringing the professing Christian trope of "afterlife/Heaven" into our (friendly, I hope) debate here, when neither one of us believes in either concept.

  8. Velvet, I can't speak for anyone else, but I find it really irritating when you refer to "the Church" - meaning the WCG/GCI - as if we're all aware of what you mean. A good proportion of folk who drop by here have no past involvement in this group. It sometimes seems to me that you're still locked in the closet, unaware you can open the door from the inside. Your commitment to the old paths isn't in question, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I gotta tell you, commitment doesn't require blind, defensive bias.

  9. While it is fairly obvious that some parts of Genesis are allegorical, there is an excellent possibility that the "Flood" did indeed happen, as the result of a comet impact in the Indian Ocean.

    While it is not physically possible for the entire land mass of the planet to have been inundated (simply not enough water), it is quite possible that the entire known world (ie, the Middle East and environs) could have been.

    The important aspect of the story is that Noah was forewarned and took action.

  10. "there is an excellent possibility that the "Flood" did indeed happen, as the result of a comet impact in the Indian Ocean."

    Evidence Larry, evidence? Or is this just the usual apologetic strategy of clutching at straws while crying 'hallelujah'?

  11. Masse has come up with a date for the comet impact based on several different factors: May 10, 2807BC

    More info: news/4882516528.html

    Is this evidence? No, it isn't perfect. But, it is probably as good as you can get, considering that you are talking about a cataclysm that might have destroyed every coastal city on Earth. And, there weren't that many literate people at the time anyway. Most of those would have been killed.

  12. Hey Velvet, I wasn't worried about the correct exegesis of the bible concerning the nature of Jesus, no one agrees on it anyway - and never have.

    Personally, I doubt that Jesus ever even existed and I know from the contradictory and mythological nature of the gospels that the magical Jesus of the gospels didn't exist.

    Jesus, if he existed, was a man and not a god-man. That's the stuff that myths are made of and there were plenty of god-men already around in those days.

    Nope, I don't believe a devil was foreshadowing Jesus by inventing those myths either.