Mormon Researcher Of History Of Christianity Says Last Five Centuries Suggest Truth Of Creation Story In Bible

Rhett Wilkinson - Author

Mar. 23 2018, Updated 9:10 a.m. ET

OREM, Utah – A black box.

That was Ben Spackman’s description of the device that scriptural text enters.

“And out comes interpretation,” he remarked.

That yields “face-value readings,” Spackman added, which are “problematic, especially if you are father removed from where they came from.”

“So if the interpretation is inevitable and contingent upon the assumptions of the interpreters, then we need to look at interpretive assumptions,” Spackman said.

Spackman’s remarks figured into his description as to how developments in world history for the past five centuries indicate that the Creation story in the Book of Genesis is divine, suggesting that he thinks it is one of the “revolutions” in history.

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“Revolutions in ways of thinking are in many ways the most influential and far-reaching of all revolutions,” Spackman said last week at the 2018 Mormon Studies Conference at Utah Valley University, where he and biology professors, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were peppered with questions about Mormonism and science.

Spackman, who is working on a Ph.D. in the history of Christianity at Claremont Graduate University, made that remark after citing Alan Kors, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Then he said, “One of the hardest of the hardest things to convince students of in general is that ideas and ways of thinking and ways of understanding the world have a history.”

“Although most generations and cultures view their own ways of thinking about the world as somehow ‘natural,’ ideas, including our most fundamental ways of thinking, change over time and have a particular history,” Spackman said.

An example he used is reproduction.

“Up until 1875, they had some very strange ideas,” Spackman said. “This is why I love what’s called intellectual history … you realize that things you take for granted are really not all that obvious.”

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Spackman also mentioned those who say that the solar system is in Genesis and that that’s based on “Concordist assumptions.” Concordism “refers to the position that the teaching of the Bible on the natural world, properly interpreted, will agree with the teaching of science … and may, in fact, supplement science,” according to the Dictionary of Christianity and Science.

That line of thinking emerged five centuries ago.

“The 1500s were really interesting,” Spackman said to giggles from professor Jana Riess.

As for the fight regarding Charles Darwin, who evolution folks have interpreted as a threat to their faith for centuries?

“The problem is the assumptions you bring to the data,” Spackman said.

Spackman then used the example of Isaac La Pierre’s proposal that the people in Genesis were the ancestors of the Chinese and Native Americans.

“These ideas that are still discussed today go back to 500 years of these new discoveries of new data,” Spackman remarked.

Spackman then presented one of his conclusions on the matter.

“If science has reformed our readings of Genesis … by super-concordance assumptions … science also fixes it,” Spackman said. “How so? [Genesis] is entirely believable … as a believer and not a concordist.”

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Also, to the question, “Do you think the Israelites were stupid?” given Spackman’s Genesis takeaway, Spackman said, “that’s really ignorant of history.” Israelites composed what we now know as the Book of Genesis. He also talked about the Protestant Reformation, the scientific revolution, and Enlightenment, each of which happened within the last 500 years as having “contributed” to the understanding of Genesis.

“The empirical, the rational, the basis for justification of belief … changed,” Spackman added. “Since knowledge had to be scientific and historical, religion had to require scientific and historical shoring-up to be accurate.”

So, in the 18th century, “the Bible’s apologists changed the basis of belief (from) … the Holy Ghost … to empirical evidence,” Spackman said, following that remark by saying that Ken Ham, a “young-Earth Creationist” who built the Creation Museum in Kentucky, has “rearranged (his) beliefs” to “literal readings.”


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