The Book of First Chronicles
Rector’s weekly letter to the congregation for Sunday, June 2, 2019
The Book of First Chronicles
The two books of Chronicles were once one book as were the books of Samuel and those of the Kings. The books of Chronicles were written to the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon after the Persian king, Cyrus, released them and allowed them to return to Judea. The Babylonians, the original captors of the Jews as per 2 Kings 25, had been defeated by the Persians.
The returning Jews were faced with the titanic task of restoring a country left unattended for decades. There was a lot of debris from buildings that were crushed by the Babylonians during the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and a countryside overgrown with thick vegetation. The temple was no more and Jerusalem itself was a heap of ashes. Many of the returnees had never been to Judea and had only heard about it from others. They returned with enthusiasm and the desire to obey God who had announced through Jeremiah that His people would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years and then return (Jeremiah 25:11). But life was hard to start from scratch. There was disillusionment, despondency, and loss of purpose.
The writer of Chronicles took on the task of retelling the story of what life was like in Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity. A lot of material in both 1 and 2 Chronicles is also found in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. But there’s also material unique to the books of Chronicles. The Chronicler wrote to encourage the people not to give up on God. What befell the nation was due to the people’s sin, not to God’s unfaithfulness or unconcern. God desired to bless His people, but they deserted him and locked themselves into idolatry and rebellion. If the returnees, remained faithful to the covenant, the nation would thrive, the Chronicler labored to tell the people.
First Chronicles divides into two sections. Chapters 1 – 9 lists the genealogies of the people of God right from Adam to Abraham, and on to the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel) and their descendants. Zebulun is mentioned as Israel’s son, but his genealogy is not recorded. The order of the sons is as follows:
1. Judah (2:3 – 4:23);
2. Simeon (4:24 – 43);
3. Reuben (5:1 – 10);
4. Gad 5:11 – 22);
5. Manasseh – East (5:23 – 26);
6. Levi (6:1 – 81);
7. Issachar (7:1 – 5);
8. Benjamin (7:6 – 12);
9. Naphtali (7:13);
10. Manasseh – West (7:14 – 19);
11. Ephraim (7:20 – 29);
12. Asher (7:30 – 40).
One can imagine the kin interest the original readers of 1 Chronicles would have in such lists of names, poring over every one of them to identify one’s lineage.
The second section is chapters 10 – 29. These chapters tell about David’s preparations for the building of the temple and Solomon’s ascendency to the throne. The section starts out with the rejection of Saul by God because of his unfaithfulness to God. David becomes king and is shown to be deeply committed to God. But his successors to the throne later became unfaithful to God, leading to the demise of the nation. However, the returnees were now the small group through which God’s promises to Abraham would be fulfilled.
The book of 1 Chronicles is clear in reminding us that for restoration to take place for the individual and for the nation, there has to be humility and repentance. With those in place, God will raise His strong hand to protect and to provide even in the face of opposition from overwhelming earthly power of any kind, political, economic, or military, or social.
Protestant Christian Evidences
by Bernard Ramm (1953:49 – 51)
(continued from last week)
B. The second objection of science is that miracles do not fit into the universe scientists work in. The bodies of the astronomer do not imitate the events of the long day of Joshua [Joshua 10:12 – 14]; there is no parthenogenesis in the higher forms of life; and sick people are not instantaneously cured of major illnesses, such as leprosy. The question at issue is whether the scientific method is valid enough to pass all possible occurrences in the universe, and the Christian theistic answer must be in the negative. To begin with, such an extension of the scientific method to pass on all conceivable occurrences is far from being made within the boundaries of strict science. It is a metaphysical dictum, clear and certain. To state: “We scientists have not discovered parthenogenesis among homo sapiens” is one thing; but to state: “No virgin birth is ever possible” is bald metaphysics. It may be correct metaphysics, but the point we make is that it is not science.
If the conflict between theologians and scientists in bygone ages was over matters of geology and biology, today it is over pan applicability of the scientific method in which science is converted in metaphysics, as in logical empiricism, naturalism, new realism, and modern materialism.
II. ANALYSIS OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
This contention of the theologian with scientism involves at least a passing analysis of the scientific method. There are at least five leading notions to the scientific method.
A. Science endeavors to state qualities in terms of quantities. Colors are reduced to wavelengths; masses to pounds or tons; motion must be stated in terms of time and distance; planetary motion in terms of the law of gravitation. Science tends as much as possible to deal with nature quantitatively which means it emphasizes the measurable. Further, the emphasis on the quantitative is mutatis mutandis an emphasis on the mathematical. An emphasis on the mathematical is mutatis mutandis an emphasis on the abstract. Thus, the more science advances the more it becomes abstract and quantitative.
B. As much as possible, science endeavors to predict. Some have been so bold as to state that prediction is the chief test of a hypothesis. But predictions in turn based on sequence, and sequence only has meaning if the words “causal” is smuggled into it. Causality is the root notion of prediction.
However, although the principle of prediction may not be the sole test of scientific hypothesis, and although causality might be difficult of formulation, nevertheless prediction is one of the central notions of science.
C. Science deals as much as it can with the stable, and what is unstable is treated by some means to give it quasi-stability. This is another way of stating that science deals with the repeatable. Science does not deal entirely with the repeatable, as some have insisted, as this is not strictly possible in astronomy and geology. But science does seek stable elements of nature.
If something is apparently “unstable” science endeavors to bring stability in by statistics. In atomic physics where the specific prediction of the pathways of single particles is impossible, statistical formulations bring in a form of order. Although the date of the death of any particular person is of difficult determination, yet mortality tables impose sufficient order to permit the solvent operation of huge insurance companies.
D. Science deals with observables as much as possible. True, there are some things scientists never see directly, e.g., force, gravity, electrons, and fields. But as much as he is able the scientist endeavors to describe observables in connection with what is observable. Because no observable data could be obtained on the ether drift, the concept itself was rejected. If a drift would have been detected—and there was the claim that later experiments did detect it—the ether, though invisible, would have been accepted as existing.
E. Science endeavors to unify as much data as it can under general principles. The goal of a universal law of gravitation is to explain all phenomena of motion from atoms to stars. Einstein’s newly proposed unified field theory is perhaps—in its paper form—the most generalized theory ever to be propounded in the history of science. But in all such procedures there lurks the danger of reductionism. In the effort to unify as much territory as possible under a general principle, that which is actually dissimilar is cut to fit the Procrustean bed. This is exemplified in the current passion of some philosophers to reduce all science to physics.
When these goals of the scientific method are examined, the limitations of the scientific method to explain all reality or experience becomes (sic) apparent. Wherever the universe or reality or our experience moves in an opposite direction of the goals of science, then science cannot assimilate that factor in its system.
III. LIMITATIONS OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
A. Qualities are not quantities. Qualities can be stated in terms of quantities, but the quantity is not the quality. A deaf man can learn the physics of sound and may photograph the pattern of a given note of the scale and see it. Perhaps psychophysicists can tell us the number of impulses traveling along the auditory nerve. But motions and impulses are not qualities. Until further mysteries of consciousness are fathomed, qualities are not comprehended within the scope of the scientific method.
B. Whatever is genuinely novel or unpredictable is not capable of genuine scientific treatment. One of the features of the universe that Bergson has made apparent is its novelty. Evolutionary theory faces a most serious problem at this point. If there is no genuine novelty, there is no real epigenesis. If there is real epigenesis there is a genuine novelty, and genuine novelty science cannot comprehend. Human activity is, at the present stage of actual comprehension, laden with novelty. The continuous stream of advertising schemes is eloquent testimony to this. As soon as one notion wears out or is exposed a new one must be presented to the public.
C. Science cannot handle what is transtemporal or trans spatial, i.e., a genuine inobservable. For this reason, science may talk of the empirical soul, but not of the transcendental soul; science may talk of the empirical mind, but not pure mind; science may talk of empirical energy, but not of creative energy; science may talk of empirical teleology, but not metaphysical teleology.
[To be continued next week.]