truth debate

Paul Arveson (
Thu, 5 Jun 1997 09:52:55 -0500

On 28 May 1997 Glenn Morton wrote:

I nearly became an atheist because of what Geology says about the flood. I
am sure that we can agree that what is taught by young-earth creationists
about geology is not satisfactory. But child like faith is what saves us.
I don't see child-like faith required for believing the events of the OT
like the Exodus or David being King etc. Must I have child-like faith that
no observational evidence can disprove anything in the scripture? I would
contend that the Young-earth creationists ARE displaying a child-like faith.
They allow no scientific fact to interfere with what they believe the Bible
says. I fear that my more liberal minded brothers in the Lord, will not let
any Biblical "fact" get in the way of what they believe the Bible says.
While what is rejects by each group is different the methodologies are
identical. If a fact becomes problematical, believe it out of existence and
all will be well.


On 29 May 1997 John P. McKiness wrote (in response to Glenn Morton):

I believe that we cannot force Scripture to the same standards as we expect
from modern (and post-modern) historians. As the Word of God, God's
standards apply not ours.


The dichotomy stands. As a Christian we have a different standard in our
faith in God and in God Statements than we do a scientists, historians, etc.
We stand like a person with one foot on the dock and one foot on the gunnel
of a row boat.
It is tough, but I for one would have it no other way. I will not detract
from the power of the scientific method nor will I allow it to establish the
validity of my belief in my God. ( I place more weight on the dock, the row
boat will have to take care of itself.)


This recent debate has been useful because of the sharply distinct positions
of John and Glenn. This debate has been seen frequently in discussions of
apologetics; it has been played out in excruciating detail in "Classical
Apologetics" by Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley.

When sincere people have such sharp differences of opinion, I assume
that they are both partly right and partly wrong. I have struggled with
this particular issue; it seems to resemble the debate between positivism
and relativism in philosophy. I have outlined this debate in my web site
on hypertheology (

I agree with John that we must be very careful to avoid a kind of
Lockean rationalism that would attempt to base our faith entirely on a
scientific foundation. That would be to put the cart before the horse,
if not idolatry.

But there is one point that has not been discussed in much in the debate
so far, and that is this: John seems to assume, as in the quotes above,
that God is God, and God's Statements are God's Statements. It would be
nice, and perhaps valid, if there were no alternative revelations. But
in fact there are numerous claims throughout history that 'this is God's
Word'. Some such scriptures antedate the OT by thousands of years. Some
are brand new. If there is no element of reason (including evidence)
involved in Christian faith, then to identify one of these revelations
as the only true one is a purely arbitrary decision. John may thus
consider himself 'lucky' to have chosen the right one, but that is all
he can say about it.

This is one of the problems with such 'fideism': it is
indistinguishable from arbitrariness and circular reasoning. Historically,
most Christian theologians have affirmed some rational grounds for their
faith. I urge
John to read Schaeffer's 'Escape from Reason' or Sproul's book on this subject.

On 30 May 1997 Gary DeWeese wrote:

Briefly, I have argued that (1) the Averroistic notion of two kinds of
truth is false; truth is a unity. And (2) that some of the disagreements
in recent posts on this thread may be due to equivocation on the concept
of truth. But there is one more point: (3) We should not confuse truth
and method.


Gary's point about the unity of truth is of utmost importance, and
it is certainly consistent with the Biblical God, who is both our Creator
and Redeemer. As theologians have said for centuries, there are TWO
books of God, the General and Special Revelations. They may be different
in many ways, but ultimately truth is one because both come from the
same Source. And therefore we can expect to find some coherence between

On 28 May George Murphy wrote:

3. God is willing sometimes to use means other than historical
chronicle or propositional statements to convey truth.


George's terse note is an important point that needs some elaboration.
Richard Bube's book 'Putting It All Together' makes an analysis of the
different ways that science and faith have been related. Based on his scheme
of 7 approaches, I would say that John McKinnis takes the compartmental or
dualistic approach, in which science and the Bible are talking about
different kinds of things. Glenn Morton's concordist view is that science
and the Bible say the same things about the same kinds of things. There is
a third
option here: that science and the Bible are saying different kinds of things
about the same things. That is I think what George is suggesting. There
are different ways of expressing 'truth' about something. There are even
different ways of describing history, though these different ways can
all be true in different senses.

For instance, lately people have been talking about the bombing of
the federal building in Oklahoma City as the time when America 'lost its
innocence'. Is this true? In what sense? What does it have to do with
the journalistic description? Which description is better, or does this
depend on what point one is trying to convey?

Regarding Genesis, I think the first question to be answered is, what is
the kind of knowledge God is trying to convey? This will determine what
genre the writing is, and what is appropriate or inappropriate to derive
from it.

Paul Arveson, Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 816-9459 (H) (301) 227-4511 (FAX)