Re: Something must change

Glenn R. Morton (
Sat, 22 Aug 1998 13:13:36 -0500

At 07:34 AM 8/22/98 EDT, wrote:
>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.

While I agree that ancient people probably held the coherence theory of
truth, one can be internally consistent but very wrong. Each of the great
philosophers from Spinoza to Descartes, to Hume to Liebnitz, Kant, Hegel
etc were internally consistent but they all contradicted each other on
numerous things. So their views were coherent, but incompatible. By the
coherent view of truth, they were correct, all of them. But since they are
incompatible, all but one had to be wrong.

I think the best way to discuss the inapplicability is by reference to the
only novel I have read 3 times, the Lord of the Rings. By the coherence
theory of truth, Middle Earth is a real place with real hobbits. Middle
Earth even has a written history, the Silmarillion, and peripheral
literature (Tom Bombadil poems) But of course it is totally ficitional,
having sprung from the very ingenious mind of Tolkein.

Is Middle earth true in any real sense? Only in our heads.

>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
>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
>. 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?

I find the argument that Biblical writers couldn't have understood modern
views a really weak argument because many, indeed most, cultures believed
in evolution back then. So we know that in simplified forms many cultures
believe that mankind arose from the earth which would be consistent with
evolution. In fact I think the fact that God ordered the land and sea to
bring forth life is evolutionary teaching in the Bible.(Genesis 1:11, 20)
The land and sea did the 'bringing forth'.

>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.
>cannot identify with such a story? By the coherence theory of truth the
>of the flood is as true as is the truth of the Newton's laws of motion

Tolkein's stories are an epic struggle between good and evil--evil is
eradicated the dropping of the ring in the volcano did that. It is
consistent with the story of Bilbo Baggins who found the ring, and his
struggles with Golem. Bilbo, Frodo and their friends are saved and
victorious. This is as true as the laws of Newton and Einstein. I just
wish I could find out how to get there.So where do I go to find Middle Earth?

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

We can and should do the same for Middle Earth.

>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.

But this is what I think a lack of history in the Scriptures does. Without
history, what function does the Bible serve OTHER than the soothing of
psychological needs?

Adam, Apes and Anthropology
Foundation, Fall and Flood
& lots of creation/evolution information