Posted on Leave a comment

Misreading Genesis (Part 5 of 8)

The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the earth in 7 days.  Can that be interpreted through a scientific viewpoint?  Ben Spackman will answer that question.

Ben:   So Genesis 1 is supposed to be set against this contextual background that the Israelites knew because they were living through it. Once you remove that background, fast forward 2,500 years, generate all kinds of questions about the age of the earth in Darwin and evolution and things like that–the questions we are asking Genesis 1 to answer are not within its scope whatsoever. The cosmology we find there is an ancient cosmology that God used and adapted to teach these other things that were far, far more impressive and important to them. So, in some ways we are deeply misreading Genesis when we read it through a scientific lens, whether that is saying it matches science and young-earth creationist way or it’s really talking about like solar system formation and the long period. Both of those are deep misreadings regardless of the way you try to reconcile them.

We also talk about various theories about the creation of man.

Ben: You go back to 1656 and you’ve got a guy named Isaac La Peyrère who is the one who says Genesis is about the Jewish people and non-Jewish people existed before Adam. This is 1656. He’s not talking about fossils. He’s not talking about evolution. He’s just trying to figure out how do we make sense of where all these different groups of people all over the world come from?

GT:  Where do Chinese and blacks and Native Americans come from?

Ben:  Yeah, all this stuff. That idea has been given the term polygenism that is–you’re generated from multiple places as opposed to monogenism, that is Adam and Eve, and everyone comes from this one prototypical couple. Polygenism solved certain problems, it created others.

So in the 1800’s, you start seeing science settling into distinct fields and it is professionalizing. You also start seeing what is called scientific racism. That is, you have people who are actual scientists as we would think of them, start thinking scientifically about what accounts for different races and polygenism meant that if these people were created by God, but those people evolved, well then maybe those people aren’t fully human, and we can totally justified treating them as slaves. It led to scientific racism. I don’t know how much it played into the German stuff in the 1930’s. That’s, that’s something that is often overplayed by young-earth creationists that Darwin leads directly to the Holocaust and Nazis.

He mentions another theory too.

Ben:   …at first it was called the Babylonian Genesis, the Babylonian creation account. The idea that they were really concerned about, “Where did matter come from, how did it get created?” led to transposing our view of Genesis as a creation account focused on materiality, onto the Babylonian creation account, focused on materiality. But more study of that led to understanding that it wasn’t really concerned with creation per se at all. You can see this in the titles of papers analyzing it over the last hundred years. Today, people don’t call it the Babylonian creation account or the Babylonian Genesis. Rather, it’s become known as the, oh gosh, I’m blanking.

There’s a young god in it who becomes the king of the gods name Marduk. The whole thing from beginning to end is about how Marduk becomes king. It’s the elevation of Marduk. It’s the story of Marduk’s rise to power. The creation stuff in it is a very subsequent to that. It’s part of the story. It’s not the thrust of the story, it’s not even a secondary aspect of the story. It’s just a necessary part of the story to tell, to explain and justify how Marduk came to power.

Check out our conversation…

When we try to read science into Genesis, Ben Spackman says that is misreading Genesis.
When we try to read science into Genesis, Ben Spackman says that is misreading Genesis.

Check out our previous conversations with Ben!

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

Posted on Leave a comment

Where, When, & Why Did the One-Drop Rule Originate?

In our next conversation, we’re going to talk to Dr. Matt Harris of Colorado State University-Pueblo.  We will talk about the “one-drop rule.”  How is it that Mormons determined blackness, especially if they were biracial families? We’ll also talk about a Supreme Court decision in the 1960s that legalized interracial marriage.

Matt:  What is interesting about this is that depending on the state, these laws are very fluid in the early 20th century.  I tell my students, we teach civil rights and we talk about this.  In fact, we discuss the book Loving vs. Virginia, which is the Supreme Court case that strikes down these miscegenation laws, declares them unconstitutional.  This is 1967.

But anyway, what’s interesting is that in the early 20th century these miscegenation laws are very fluid.  One state might say it’s one-quarter.  Another state might say it’s one-eighth, or one-sixteenth.  I joke with my students sometimes that on Monday, a black man can marry a white woman because they fit within the parameters of the law, but then they change the law on Wednesday and now it’s no longer constitutional.

Don’t forget to check out our previous conversation with Matt, and you might want to check out our interview with Dr. Paul Reeve, where we talk about where Woodruff incorrectly quotes Brigham Young referring to anyone with “one-drop” of African blood not being eligible for the priesthood.  (The quote is NOT accurate.)  Check out our conversation…..

How do you determine blackness? Is one-drop enough?
How do you determine blackness? Is one-drop enough?

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Before 1978: LDS Policies for Bi-racial Families in Brazil & South Africa

I’d like to introduce Dr. Matt Harris in our next conversation.  He has done a lot of Mormon history work and he’s not very well-known, but I think he will be, especially after he finishes his upcoming books.  We will talk about some of these books that he has published, as well as his future books.  We’re also going to talk about the history of the ban.  With the 40th anniversary of the removal of the ban coming up here in just a few weeks, this will be a very timely interview.  Dr. Matt Harris has some really interesting insights and it is going to reveal some really cool, historical information.  It’s one of my favorite interviews yet.  Now, let’s ask a little bit about how he is going to talk about Brazil.  What did the church do with missionaries there?

Matt:  In Brazil, they were kind of trendsetters, if you will.  They did what are called lineage lessons.  The mission president instructed the missionaries, and the mission president I should say got approval from Salt Lake to do this lineage lesson.  But it really was just mostly practiced in Brazil, rather than other places with African populations.  But anyway, these lineage lessons stipulated that if missionaries were out proselytizing and they came across somebody who had African ancestry, who had a parent that they felt would be a prime candidate for the restriction.  They were supposed to come to the door, knock on the door, recognize that they were under the ban and they would just say, “Can you tell us we’re in the neighborhood; we are trying to find this general store or other church. Can you tell us where it is?”

If they weren’t sure if this couple had African ancestry, then they would come in and ask questions about their genealogy, trying to determine through discussion if they had African roots.  Sometimes they would even ask to look at their photo album.  They were discrete about it.  They weren’t going to tell people this is what we are looking for, but this shows you how difficult the burden was in determining the bloodline.  J. Reuben Clark recognized this as early as 1938 and expressed skepticism that the church could confer the priesthood on Brazilians without violating this policy.

There were similar issues in South Africa.  What happened there?

Dr. Matt Harris talks about how LDS Church dealt with racial issues in Brazil & South Africa before the 1978 revelation.
Dr. Matt Harris talks about how LDS Church dealt with racial issues in Brazil & South Africa before the 1978 revelation.

Please support Gospel Tangents by purchasing a transcript of previous conversations here on our store:

If you would like a copy of this transcript as soon as it is available, please purchase a subscription for just $10/month to get this and future transcripts.

Check out our conversation…..