RE: Ramm's flood

George Fisher (
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 12:55:09 -0400

At 09:29 AM 4/10/96 -0400, jeffrey lynn mullins wrote:
>This is something that needs to be pointed out. It needs to be made
>clear that historicity does not depend upon reporting in time-ordered
>sequence. The events of the gospel of Matthew all happened whether all
>of the material included in the "Sermon on the Mount" occurred at the
>same time or not, for example. The key is that it all happened, the
>words are of Jesus, and the events and words were not made up by others
>after the life of Christ.

I'm sorry, Jeffrey, but I feel strongly that this needs more than being
"pointed out". Many biblical scholars disagree with the statement that all
of the events in the gospel of Matthew happened, and would argue that many
_were_ "made up" much later. If you are arguing on grounds other than simple
faith that they must have happened, you need to state what those grounds
were. As just one example, if you accept the account of the Ressurection as
told in Matthew, how do you interprret the very different accounts of the
Ressurection in the other three Gospels?

>There is an analogy in the case of interpreting "literally". The
>layperson (and critics of Christianity, or those ignorant of Christian
>theology) often do not understand that to have a literal hermeneutic is
>to take poetry as literally poetry, metaphor as literally metaphor, etc.
>It is authorial intent that counts.

Again, I disagree -- many, many modern literary critics would argue that it
isn't authorial intent at all that counts -- it's the interaction betweeen
the _reader_ and the text, as delimited by the critical community (or, if
you like, the faith community) in which the reader is situated, which counts.

For example, you (it seems) interpret Matthew literally; I don't.
Consequently we get somewhat different messages from a reading of Matthew,
both of which are meaningful (to us). We don't really have any idea at all
what the intent of the author was, or even who really was the author.

For an exploration of these ideas, see Stanley Fish's book "Is there a text
in the class", among others.

>One final thought: we must determine which part of Scripture is of which
>genre, but we dare not determine which is true and which is not, or what
>portion of the record of Christ's words and deeds are historical and
>which are not.
Again, I disagree -- for me it is precisely to this kind of interpretation
that we are called. It seems to me that one of our greatest gifts as humans
is the abililty to think analytically and intelligently. To ignore those
abilities is (for me) to scorn one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.

Please understand -- I'm not saying that your statements above are _wrong_;
they are your opinions, and are valid (I'm sure) for you, and for probably
for many on this list. But I do feel strongly that your statements need to
be identified as opinions, and that you must respect the fact that many
intelligent people who consider themselves Christians have very different
ways of interpreting scripture, and that those ways are valid for them.

It seems to me that one great opportunity presented by a list such as this
is the opportunity to learn how, and why, others of different opinions feel
as they do, and to let our own ideas resonate with those of others. In that
way, I hope, we can all develop a deeper and richer sense of the
multi-faceted reality of God.

George Fisher
George W. Fisher, Professor of Geology
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore MD 21218
Phone: 410-516-7237 FAX: 410-516-7933