What ARE we doing on this list server?

Sweitzer, Dennis (SWEITD01@imsusa4.imsint.com)
Mon, 13 May 96 08:34:00 EST

Dave Netzly wrote>>>
>>>>>Glenn wrote "we are related to the apes". I want to caution you about
seeming so absolute about relative data (science) and so relative about
absolute truth (Bible). ........Though you speak as though you want to
harmonize Scripture with Science, it appears that Science holds the
absolute, supreme hand. Instead of harmonizing science with Scripture, it
appears you are harmonizing Scripture with Science, as though Science is
your God. I want to encourage you that our God was THERE and He has told us
His account
of what happened.

Dave Netzly raises a valid point. Our discussion could appear to belittle
scripture as something to be shaped to fit the circumstances. Part of the
problem is the advocacy nature of our discussion--we take sides and hammer
each other with facts. Brotherly (& sisterly--or siblingly?) love is not
always apparent, especially to those who instinctively associate debate with
hostility. By dwelling on ambiguities in scripture, we can appear to doubt
the clarity of scripture.

On the "milk-to-meat" scale, our discussion is steak. From a well exercised
cow (i.e., little fat, and tough). I think it's safe to say that new
believers--and many an old believer--would break their teeth on what we are
chewing here.

We have to keep in mind what our goal is in these debates:

Our goal, as I see it, has been to hammer out what could have possibly
happened based on two data sources: (1) the language of scripture. Which
is not English, but is ancient Hebrew or Greek.. And (2) the evidences from
science. Which has it's own set of philosophical baggage.

First, language of scripture.

Has anyone seen the skit where the supervisor of a nuclear power plant was
retiring? Everyone was concerned about how they would cope after he left.
His last advice was, "Just remember, you can never put too much water in a
nuclear reactor". Things went fine until they parsed the sentance. Did he
mean you more water is harmless (or even necessary), or did he mean you must
never put too much water in the reactor (and would lead to dire
consequences)? Needless to say, the result was comically tragic.

Language is not algebra, and there can be an enormous amount of imprecision
in the simplest statements. Likewise, the mapping between any two languages
(like English and Hebrew, or English and American, for that matter), is
certainly not isomorphic (i.e., precisely matched between meanings).

Sometimes the Bible is precise in a selective way: Genesis 1:1, "In the
beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth", is a precise statement
about ultimate causality, but says nothing about mechanisms. It strikes me
that God is precise about what he needed to be precise about (i.e., the
means of salvation--Jesus Christ, and the ultimate causality of the
universe), and more vague about peripheral issues (like the age of the

Sometimes translators merely mistranslate--according to either what they
think is obvious, or because they had to make a judgement call between two
similarly compelling choices. For instance, the fact that the word 'eres'
was translated in the story of Noah's flood as 'Earth' instead of 'Land',
even though both are valid and the word 'tebel' specifically means 'the
whole expanse of the earth'. (Thanks Dick, for explaining that so well).

Second, the evidences from science.

Dave wrote>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
shots" of a dynamic situation. What links those "snap shots" (fossils)
together is our philosophy, not science. <<<

First, I would classify the links between "snap shots" as more than
philosopy, as well as expanding the "snap shots" to more than fossils. It
is a matter of whether we believe that God rewrote the laws of physics (&
chemistry & biology) at some point in history. The laws of physics, etc.
have been discovered by carefull experimentation and theorizing. Figuring
out what happened long ago, which presumably happened within the constraints
of these laws, is a tricky business.

So we have:

"snap shots" (fossils) -- direct pieces of evidence from the past.

philosopy -- basic principles of how we classify & organize information,
which is the definition that I've always used.

I would add "collateral evidences" as well, which are observations of how
nature "behaves" in directly observable or controlled situations. This is
what good science is about--the chain of evidence.

For instance, the young earth camp likes to say that one explaination (i.e.,
theirs) is as good as another (i.e., secular scientists), and that the only
difference is the underlying philosophy. They tend to neglect the large
amount of evidence.

On the other hand, many a secular scientist have lept from evidence into
metaphysics, essentially claiming that, because we have not found
experimental evidence of God, that God must not exist. They have forgotten
the limits of evidence.

In our debates, we probe the boundaries of what could have happened, under
the constraints of the "laws of nature" (i.e., how water behaves, how
information is transmitted through history, how much brain volume is
necessary in a functional human being, etc.). The reason that we have to
debate it is that not one of us (not even Glenn Morton or Dick Fischer) have
all the evidence.

The goal is to establish a set of alternatives that are viable under the two
different data sources. Conceptually, if scripture allows theories {A, B,
C, D}, and science allows {B, D, E, F}, then B and D are the views we should
go with, even if A is most popular among Christians, and E is most popular
among scientists, AND even if we can't definitively decide between B & D.

Too many Christians take offense at introducing serious scientific
discussion (because they don't understand the chain of evidence underlying
scientific reasoning), and too many scientists take offense at introducing
theistic discussion (because they often have a very restricted concept of
how God would work in nature).

I speak, er, type, in all brotherly love. I find our discussions very
refreshing, stimulating, and edifying--AND I feel closer to the Lord because
of them.

But I can see how to some people, this could fall under 2 Tim 2:14 "Warn
them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value and only
ruins those who listen", rather than 2 Tim 2:15, "...present yourself to God
as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who CORRECTLY
HANDLES the word of truth."--which is what this list server is ultimately

Anyway, I felt that it would be good to back off of the debates for a moment
to remember our goal, not so much for the sake of the "old pros", but for
all the "newbies" how find this contentious, and all the "betweeners" who
may find themselves too wrapped up in taking sides.

Grace & peace,

Dennis Sweitzer