Thursday, August 18, 2016

Do you want to read something interesting about "efficiency"

Lately I have been spending a lot of time trying to better understand the early chapters of Genesis and the nature of sin. This is because it appears so critical to the foundations of writers of technology from a Christian perspective. In part this involved taking a class with John Walton  at Regent College this summer.

I won't go into it much here but Walton is becoming known for is his recent work outlining his understanding that the early chapters of Genesis are not primarily talking about the creation of material matter. Instead, he claims that the chapters are outlining a view that God creating an orderly functional home for humans and animals. As he states in his book "The Lost World of Adam and Eve" this is the difference between a House and a Home story. We have for a long time read Genesis as a house story - structure, plumbing etc. Walton wants us to see it as a home story - order and function. God creating an ordered place for animals and humans. 

Now, in attempting to understand the extent to which Walton has extended what has already been discussed about Genesis, I started to read what other OT Hebrew competent scholars would say of Genesis 1, so I got hold of "The Search For Order" by Dumbrell. Dumbrell was a Prof at Australia's Moore College - hardly a 'liberal' seminary.

Any follower of the topic of Christianity and technology would be familiar that for Ellul (as one example) one of the big problems is that the drive for technology as he perceives it is that - it is all about efficiency. I think his view exaggerates its significance but I won't pursue that here.

Anyway, what I want to highlight in this post is the following quote from Dumbrell.
The word ţôb (good) has a very broad range of meanings, and the translation of it must depend entirely on the immediate context. The adjective, which can certainly mean aesthetical or ethical good, need not be understood in terms of perfection in the context of Genesis 1. However, ţôb would be the word to use if one wanted to convey the concept of ultimate perfection (whatever that would mean, since it presupposes a standard of comparison). If ţôb in Genesis 1 conveys the concept of a perfect universe, the concept is without parallel in the Old Testament. In the context of Genesis 1:31 the meaning of ţôb is best taken as “efficient” (Kohler and Baumgartner 1958: 349). Thus, the emphasis in the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 is upon the complete correspondence between divine intention and the universe, which was suitable to fulfil the purpose for which it was brought into being (1994: 20-21). 
I can't help but see this at the very least as humourous and heading towards a large dose of irony. The devastating criticism of modern technology by Ellul was that it was efficient. 

However, it seems like when you read in Genesis 1 "and it was good" we could equally translate it as ... "and it was efficient"

So God saw what he had made and saw that it was functional and efficient - oh dear.....

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