Re: Something must change

George Murphy (
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 12:31:00 -0400

Glenn R. Morton wrote:

> We agree that Christ's inclusion and descent from the first adam are not
> trivial themes. That makes it all the more important that it be a real (but
> not necessarily complete) genealogy. It seems very difficult to me to see
> how it helps to have a false pedigree to prove relationship (like the
> Japanese emporer tracing his descent from the Sun God).

There is a human race, & such a genealogy, whether or not
historically accurate, is one way of stating a person's full solidarity
with the human race. There is no sun god.

> These are the categories of propositional truth. Aristotle didn't discover
> the laws of logic, he described what was already in existence. Statements
> are either true or false and that judgment is made against a backdrop of data.

I reject the claim that only propositions convey truth, on
the authority of Jesus, who tells stories. You said above that we
were through with the Good Samaritan. Alas, we're not. If you
really think that truth can be conveyed only by propositions which
can be checked "against a backdrop of data", stop being coy about
the parable and state clearly that you demand that it be historically

> As I have been thinking about my analogy in other notes with the Lord of
> the Rings, would it make a lot of sense for an English teacher to tell his
> class that the Lord of the Rings is "True but fictional"? How would a
> student evaluate such a statement? To appeal to a Wittgensteinian type of
> analysis, the 'true but fictional' phrase is a misuse of language. We
> don't use those words in that manner EXCEPT when it comes to the Bible. We
> Christians certainly don't use such language in relation to other religious
> books, such as the Koran, the Bhagadvagitta, or the book of Mormon. Is the
> Bhagadvagitta 'true but non-historical?'

In the news recently in this area was the story of a man who
hanged himself after calling 911. The police office had come to his
house, knocked & looked around but then went back to the station. If
he broken in he would have found the guy & saved his life. Turns out
the man - an alcoholic - had an extensive historu of calling 911 & then
hiding, &c.
The phrase which immediately leaps to mind is "The little boy
who cried wolf" & was used in the newspaper. The story of the little
who cried wolf is _true_ - whether or not it really happened at some
point of the past.
The Lord of the Rings conveys some truth in a way it wouldn't
if it ended up with Sauron winning. One reason (I don't say the only
reason) great literature is great is that it tells us things that are
true about the human condition. Homer can tell us a lot about ourselves,
whether or not Achilles, or Odysseus, or Agammenon, ever lived.

> > I note again that you ignore the statement that the _animals_
> > "shall be covered with sackcloth, and that they shall cry mightily
> > to God." This is a wonderful touch of exaggerated Jewish humor, the
> > inclusion of which is as good as a statement, "This is fiction."
> > You can certainly be consistent if you want & picture all (or 90% of)
> > the Ninevites dressing their cattle & donkeys & sheep in sackcloth if
> > you wish. How about it?
> > (Because some Christian take themselves so seriously, someone
> > is likely to accuse me of making fun of the Bible here. I'm not. I
> > think this aspect of the Bible is delightful. But it's a great
> > temptation to make fun of some interpretations of the Bible.)
> OK, If the Jews were laughing at the idea of a conversion of the Ninevites,
> then there is little of value I see there other than as a comedy. Having
> God save a man to do a Quixotic quest which is obviously funny to the
> reader (funny because fish don't swallow men, funny because the animals are
> covered and funny because the Ninevites wouldn't repent anyway) seems a
> strange way to view Jonah. Is the theological lesson of Jonah that God
> wouldn't or couldn't do anything for those gentiles over there in Ninevah?
You miss the point of this plot element & have written several
sentences without answering the question: Do you think all (or 90%)
of the animals of Nineveh were covered in sackcloth and commanded to
cry mightily to God? Is that historically accurate?

George L. Murphy