Re: Living and dying with Inaccurate History

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 02 Mar 1997 09:54:17 -0600

At 12:19 AM 3/2/97, Rodney Dunning wrote:

>I agree that if by "history" or "journalistic" we mean "that which really
>happened," then only those accounts that truthfully answer the
>journalistic questions are "historical" or "journalistic."
>But I must apologize, because I was using the word "history" in a different
>way in my question. I meant history in the sense of the nature of the text
>itself. The quality I had in mind is simply that imparted to the text when
>the author wishes us to believe that he is conveying actual events. If he
>does so truthfully, then his document becomes "history" in the sense you
>thought I meant, as well.

If "history" includes any text that the author intends the public to believe
what he has written, then the YEC books would most certainly be "history".
But, as Ludwig Wittgenstein would say, this is a funny use of the word

It is a historical fact that the Dallas Morning News reported that McVey
admitted to his lawyers to having driven the truck with the Oklahoma City
bomb. The lawyer's notes are said to have that in them. That does not mean
that it is a historical fact that McVey did drive the truck nor that those
are valid lawyer notes. Although the Dallas Morning News intends us to
believe it.

>My question is, how can we tell if a given text, say Genesis, possesses
>this quality? Is answering the journalistic questions necessary and
>sufficient to convince us that the author intends to convince us that we
>are reading about actual events?

George and I discussed the Gospel accounts. With the account of Luke, we
have clear indication of the intent (assuming you can believe what the
author says [see below])

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV) Many have undertaken to draw up an account of
the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were
handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses
and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have
carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed
good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most
excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the
things you have been taught.

Luke says he believes what he wrote and intends for the reader to believe it.

With Genesis, the situation is not that simple. But consisder the
polytheistic background against the statement,

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Did the author intend you to believe that single statement? Is God the
actual creator? Did the author intend us to believe that? I can not know
what his intent is, but if that statement is not a historical fact (i.e. the
statement that God created the universe) then who or what are we worshipping?

One can never objectively judge intent.I don't listen to words of praise my
bosses give me because of this fact. Actions are the only things that count.
Words are cheap. Twice just before major layoffs, at two different
companies, I was told not to worry, I was too valuable to the company and I
was too good at what I do. I was let go in both cases.

In 1994 when I was Manager of Geophysics for the Western Gulf of Mexico and
a reorganization was about to happen, they ranked all the geophysical
managers in the offshore. My boss told me I was ranked #1. A week later,I
was removed from management the #2 guy got my job, a guy in my group was
given a management slot. In 1995, I was on a list to be laid off from my
company in the next re-organization. A particular manager wanted to get rid
of all ex-managers, which I was at the time. They made me Manager of
Geophysics for the entire Gulf of Mexico instead of laying me off. Last
year, the entire management team, my boss,my peers, and I were chewed out
successively by every level above my boss all the way to the chairman of the
board. I was not exempt from the chewing outs. I figured I was going to lose
my job. I am now the sole technical manager survivor from last year's Gulf
of Mexico management team. All the others have been demoted. What were the
intents of all these people in telling me what they did?

(Everyone in the oil industry over the past 12 years has similar stories as
this above. This industry is a cruel business and hard on people. A dry
hole can spend as much as $20 million of the investor's money and we may
drill 7 dry holes for every producer. Rightfully so, dry holes don't make
people happy.)

Intent is impossible to determine and in some sense irrelevent to whether
the account is fact. I can conceive of situations where the author makes
something up and it turns out to be fact. The only example I can think of
is the eery similarity of a book written early in this century about an
unsinkable boat named Titan, which struck an iceberg and sank, This book
was clearly intended as fiction yet the Titanic almost fulfilled the account.


Foundation, Fall and Flood