Re: Apologists and other salesmen

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 03 Nov 1996 09:18:28

Geoffrey Horton wrote:

>In addition to being (at best) direct, my missent note really didn't do a
> good job of saying what I was trying to say. What I was getting at was that
>I don't think there is any objective rule, based only on textual analysis, by
>which we can differentiate that "mythical" material which contains little
>"historical" truth from that portion of the same "mythical" material dealing
>with the patriarchs, which I think you and I both agree is largely historical
>fare. (The quoted "mythical" is designed to remind the interested reader
>that "mythical" does not have to mean false, nor did I intend it to in this

I have a question about "mythical". When the oil industry collapsed in 1986,
I found myself without a job or an industry. For a very brief time I worked
as a manager of marketing selling seismic data. I learned a little about
sales. Would you buy a can of fish labeled "Horse Mackerel"? Sounds awful to
me. In point of fact you probably do purchase and eat Horse Mackerel but you
do it under the name of Tuna Fish. Back in the 40's the Horse Macerel
fishermen decided that people weren't buying their product because of the name
so they changed it.

In the case of "mythical", why would we use a word which has the connotation
of "lack of truth" to describe something if we believe it is true? This seems
to be a poor sales tactic to me. Why theologians want to use this technical
term of Myth, when the masses always think you are talking about fairy tales
when it is applied, is beyond me.


>GM> Since there is no clear context with which the
>> author states that it is an allegory, or it is defined that way be being a
>> quotation from someone, I see no clear break demarcating the allegory part
>> from the historical part. I simply beleive that style wise, and
>> strategically Christians would be better off treating Genesis 2-11
>>historically. I am not saying anything about how other parts of the
>>scripture are best to be interpreted.
GH>I think we're getting back to the core problem here. I will pass for now
> on the stylistic criterion--you may be right, and I will have to study the
> portions in question before I attempt to reply. But strategically--that's
>the problem.

I am operating under the general principle that it is better to have a
religious book tells us true things rather than false things. If the Bible
told us that the earth was riding on the back of a turtle swimming in a cosmic
sea, in light of modern knowledge what would we say about the value of that
part of the religious document? If our document said something like that,
would we quickly do what modern Christianity has done with Genesis? (i.e. say
that it is scientifically/historically false but contains deep truth?). That
approach can save any false statement from being false and allows me to
believe anything I want to at all.

The earth on the turtle view (or things like it) presents a big problem for a
religion. Religion is supposed to be a communication between God and man
(especially in Christianity where God took the initiative to start the
communication). If God did communicate the idea of the earth being on the back
of a turtle, then that god doesn't know what he is talking about. If God
didn't communicated that, then it is nothing more than gobbledy-gook written
by a human. This is a terrible place for a religion to find itself.

The reason I raise the strategic issue is that all our "evidences" that I
could lay before my friends at work, for God's involvement in Christianity are
rather weak. It was suggested the other day that the rapid spread of
Christianity shows God's hand. But Islam has spread quite rapidly also and is
now in process of conquering Europe (something Suleiman was unable to do).
Miracles? All religions have them including the Ba'hai whose Bab escaped
execution for a brief spell so he could finish telling a disciple a story. (It
has been a long time since I read Ba'hai documents so I hope I am not
mis-remembering). The only real way to strengthen a religion is to find out
that the documents relate things which could not have been known by the
ancient writers of the documents. That would mean something like how the
world was created or events in the distant past.

To say that our creation and flood stories have no more reality than the story
that the earth is riding on the back of a turtle, places our documents on the
same logical level as theirs. It turns these tales into things made up by
humans. The only reason we discount the flood story is because Christians
have generally not believed that it happened in the way the Scripture relates
(and a Mesopotamian flood which pushes the ark away from Ararat into the
Persian Gulf within one week can not be that flood described by Genesis and
there is no geologic evidence of a global flood). Applying the same logic to
the criticisms of the Passover (no historical mention of it in Egyptian
documents) and the Exodus (no evidence of such a movement) then one could say
that the entire story is false up to the establishement of original Jewish
state. This would throw out all of the Pentateuch and the events related

Strategically this is bad because who would believe any of it if the entire
Pentateuch were fable? This is why I believe that the best strategy is to
find some type of historical verification for something prior to the Exodus.
While creation is not verifiable, the flood story IS most certainly
historically verifiable and falsifiable.

>The truth does not mold itself to fit our strategic needs. That's what St.
>Paul was talking about with the stumbling block and folly bit; it would have
>been much easier for him to preach something else. If Genesis 2-11 is
>allegorical, it doesn't matter that it makes evangelism harder by being so.
I agree with this.Truth does not come to fit our strategic needs. But, what
if there was a possibility of verifying a flood acount which exactly matched
the Biblical record? Why would one not want it? Is this any different than
wanting verification for the existence of Jericho whose walls fell down? or
wanting verification for David's existence? or wanting verification of the
Exodus? Surely verification of these events is better for our religion than


>Because the truth of the Old Testament in general flows back from the truth
>of the Risen Christ. I am not a Christian because I believe in any of the
>Old Testament (or new). I am a Christian because of my relationship with the

>Crucified and Risen Christ. Because he testified to the worth and truth of
>the Old Testament, I will look there for truth too. But Jesus proves the
>truth of the Old Testament for me, and not the other way around.

This is an interesting twist. If you were an Old Testament Jew you would have
no certainty in your religion? Or better yet, if you were a modern Jew with
modern knowledge, would you have no certainty of your religion?

>I think this is a much better presentation of the argument I was trying to
>make the first time around. Thank you, Glenn, for asking some very good
>clarifying questions. Though we may never agree, I hope you're finding this
>discussion as useful as I am.

I always enjoy these things and find them very useful. I find the flaws in my
own arguments, and work to strengthen them. Hopefully, I learn how to
communicate better and learn what the most influential arguments are.

Foundation,Fall and Flood