Re: Something must change
Sat, 22 Aug 1998 07:34:25 EDT

Glenn and all the other contributors to this thread.

I have lingered over this thread without diving in because it takes me a long
time to sort things out, like the story of Noah and the flood. I appreciate
the vigorous treatment of the subject by the contributors. It is an exciting
discussion. Let me see if what I contribute here makes sense.

It seems to me that Glenn holds to a rigid *correspondence theory* of truth.
A correct theory must correspond to objective reality. Our culture today,
especially among scientists, is dominated by the correspondence theory. Thus
a biblical story must correspond to the historical, archeological and
geological facts, or it is not true. Noah's story does not meet this
criterion, so it is false. But God does not lie, so there must be some other
flood scenario that corresponds to the objective historical, archeological and
geological facts. Hence Glenn's ingenious Mediterranean flood theory.

Let me pose another scenario. I suggest that the Bible was written during a
long cultural era in which the *coherence theory* of truth was fully as
important as the correspondence theory, if not the dominant truth-theory of
the time. The coherence theory, as I understand it, refers to the degree to
which a given theory coheres with other accepted theories. In the biblical-
era culture, a story which agreed with other cultural and biblical stories,
and was coherent with the way people saw the world, was fully as true as one
that fit the objectively determined facts.

It was undoubtedly easier in the Middle East culture to determine the truth of
a story by the coherence theory than by the correspondence theory. How would
the writer of Genesis determine whether the flood ever happened? It is not by
accident that modern science is such a late comer in the history of the world.
It is extremely difficult to determine truth by the correspondence method.
The correspondence theory as used in modern science did not even exist in the
biblical era. So the biblical writers had to rely on the coherence theory.
That's the way the flood story was written, and it is true because when it
was written it fit, and still does fit, the coherence theory of truth.

Today the coherence theory is considered weaker than the correspondence theory
. But what about a time before the correspondence theory existed as we know
it today in modern science? What else could the writers call upon? Should
God have inspired the biblical writers with the correspondence theory which
would probably have bewildered them, and didn't come into full flower until
many millennia later?

By the coherence theory of truth, the story of the flood is wholly true. It
is coherent with the Fall, the Tower of Babel, the many biblical examples of
evil in the hearts of human beings, such as expressed by Lamech in Gen. 4:
23-24. Evil is present in the world and needs to be eradicated. The flood
does just that. Moreover, Noah, the good guy, and his family are saved. Who
cannot identify with such a story? By the coherence theory of truth the story
of the flood is as true as is the truth of the Newton's laws of motion today.

Our task, it seems to me is not to try to account for the flood story with the
correspondence theory, but rather to see how it coheres with other Biblical
stories and the cultural beliefs and norms of the time.

The Bible is a mixture of accounts, some of which are best treated by the
coherence theory of truth, and some of which fit the correspondence theory.
It's up to us to sort them out. That's a big job. I suggest that the story
of the flood is consistent with the coherence theory whereas the account of
the genealogies in Gen. 11 is more consistent with the correspondence theory.

There are two errors to avoid. One is the rigid correspondence-theory-error
in which the historical accounts of the Bible are subjected throughout to
scrutiny by scientific methods. Are they consistent with historical,
archeological, and geological facts? If not, throw them out. The other is
the rigid coherence-theory-error in which the Bible is explained away as
arising solely out of cultural and psychological needs of the writers.