Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Conversion Class

Saturday's class started with an explanation of Minimalists and Maximalists, and how those points of view strongly influence a person's reading of the Biblical text.

First off, definitions.
Maxmialists believe that the Bible is literally true.  This group includes most clergy, Christians, and traditional rabbis.  The extreme maximalists will discount and/or attempt to discredit scientific discoveries in order to preserve their position.
Minimalists believe that the Bible is not 100% accurate as a historical document.  The extremists believe that the Bible was a created history.  These people place a high amount of value on recent archeological discoveries.
Now, the relevant part.
The Rabbi believes that minimalism and maximalism can be seen as a continuum.  He said that Reform (and Conservative) Judaism stand close to the middle of the continuum, attempting to find a balance between the traditional stories and the archeological record.  I can identify with that position, because I never could completely grasp the fundamentalist Christian point of view in that regard.

Speaking of which...
One of the tenets that the maximalist camp uses to justify their position is called "appearance of age", and believes that when the universe was created, it was created as if things had already aged and evolved, and light just appeared and didn't have to move at the speed of light to get from the stars to earth.
Of course, the Rabbi disagrees, and here's why.
Light was, as you may well know, created on the first day.  The sun, moon, and stars weren't created until three days later, on the fourth day.  He explained that this means that the depiction of the creation story was meant to be a poetic depiction.
On the first three days, God created things that are inanimate realms.  Day one was adding light to the darkness which already existed.  Day two was separating the sky from the sea, which apparently already existed.  Day three was rising the dry ground out of the sea, again, ostensibly pre-existing.  It is believed that vegetation came into the picture somewhere between days three and four, because it has some inanimate qualities, but is still somewhat animated.
On the second three days, God created things that move.  Day four was the sun, moon, and stars, which appear to move through the light and the darkness which we were given on day one.  Day five gave us fish and birds, in that order, which is a poetic reversal from the way things are described in day two, where we have the sky mentioned first.  Day six gave us land animals and humans, which rule over the dry land.

There's just no way the creation story is literally true.  It's completely illogical.  We get light before we get the source of that light.  We get vegetation before we get the sun that plants depend upon for life.  It just can't happen that way, not even for a day or two.

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