Re: Something must change

George Murphy (
Mon, 17 Aug 1998 09:13:32 -0400

Robert L. Miller wrote:
> George Murphy wrote in part:
> > The basic problem to which Howard's post calls our attention is not the _truth_
> > of Scripture but the character or genre of biblical accounts. As long as Christians
> > keep thinking that the Bible can be true only if it is accurate historical narrative,
> > the church will be bogged down in fruitless concordism. (& to forestall a common
> > objection, I'm not saying that biblical accounts are _in_accurate history. Some of them
> > are not to be read as history in the modern sense at all.
> And I think the basic problem is who decides what the "character or genre of biblical
> accounts" is? Who decides which biblical interpretation is the correct one? What authority
> can we appeal to for the correct answer? We Christians have been having heated arguments
> (wars?) over just this point for almost 2000 years. Howard implies that we can settle
> questions by the community entering into sincere give and take discussions a la scientific
> discussions. But one man's historical narrative is another man's allegory. ( Were the
> characters in Luke 16:19-31 real people?) I suspect we will never come to agreement on
> biblical authority this side of heaven. How do we get out of this cul de sac?

It's true that we'll never have complete agreement on this, nor do we need to.
But a fundamental problem is the assumption which many conservative Christians, and also
many rationalistic atheists make - that accounts can be true only if they are accurate
historical or scientific accounts in the modern sense. With that assumption, Jonah can
be "true" only if Nineveh really was 3 days walk across, there really was a "King of
Nineveh", all the _animals_ of Nineveh really were covered in sackcloth, &c.
To put it bluntly, this assumption is wrong, & the only way of getting some
degree of agreement among Christians in this area is for people to stop making it. Then
we can debate the historical character of this or that account without the idea that
showing a biblical story to be fictional, or editorialized, or in any way not meeting
modern canons of strict historical accuracy, would make the Bible false.

George L. Murphy