Re: Lack of Apologetical predictions

Glenn R. Morton (
Fri, 06 Nov 1998 15:48:53 -0600

At 12:36 PM 11/6/98 -0500, George Murphy wrote:
>Glenn R. Morton wrote:
>> Hi George,
>> Well, here it goes. Now I am really going to get people mad at me.
> Probably not as mad as you think!
> Excuse the relative brevity of my reply. Among other things, my daughter is
>getting married tomorrow & I've just been down at church trying to see
that the light
>fixture over the altar which was broken this morning gets fixed. So it goes.

No problem, Congrats to the Father of the Bride and I wish her and her
husband all the happiness in the world.

> ..................
>> At 09:02 AM 11/5/98 -0500, George Murphy wrote:
>> >But YEC theories contribute nothing at all to the matter because they make
>> no prediction
>> >about the amount of moon dust to be found. If we _had_ found lots of
>> dust, YECs could
>> >have simply said "It was created that way 6000 years ago."
>> I can't resist this one (the devil makes me do it).
> Or Ymir - see below.
>>The problem with all
>> modern apologetics is precisely that they make no predictions. In fact
>> they go out of their way to avoid making predictions. And what this does is
>> make the Bible irrelevant to the real world we live in. And expecting YECs
>> to make predictions when other apologetical systems don't either, seems
>> inconsistent to me.
> You confuse several types of activity here.
> 1) My criticism of YECs applies to their claim to be natural science, a
>competitor of evolutionary theories. The lack of predictive capacity is
crucial there,
>& is why I said that position is _scientifically_ vacuous.
> 2) Apologetics is at best a preliminary activity whose purpose should be to
>remove unnecessary obstacles to the gospel getting a fair hearing. It
should not be
>(though it often has been) seen as an activity of "proving" Christianity.
> There are various ways to do apologetics. One approach is to argue for the
>historical accuracy of the Bible with a view to convincing people that the
>claims about Christ are worth considering. That is not the only approach,
& I think it
>is a risky one. It tends to assume the validity of independent natural
theology &
>making the gospel dependent upon alien standards of truth,
"reasonableness" >&c. I think a much better way to address unbelievers,
especially >intellectuals, is to
> a. Point out the need for unprovable fundamental presuppositions in
> any activity, &
> b. Invite them to look at the world and their experience from the
> standpoint of the cross & resurrection of Christ as the basic
> revelation of God, & suggest that that provides broader and deeper
> explanatory power than alternatives.
>3) Apologetics can be merely a preliminary to proper Christian theology,
>is the effort to understand and explicate the faith _from the standpoint
of >faith_. As to its predictive capacity, see below.

I view apologetics more as a means to avoid people leaving Christianity
rather than to getting people to enter Christianity. Apologetics is not a
great evangelical tool, but the lack of it has lost many a soul to the
ranks of the atheists. And this too is something that I always fail to
communicate effectively. I have never beleived that apologetics is or
should be used as an evangelistic tool.

>First, I wasn't talking about an apologetic use of Genesis. & 2d, I didn't
>quite say that theological statements I based on Genesis had no predictive
>capacity at all. The distinction between God and the world (which I
didn't >list above but should have) means that it isn't sacrilege to
investigate the >world. Together, these ideas lead to the idea that we can
understand and have >some control of the world - i.e., that science &
science-based technology are >possible. & in fact, as many authors have
argued, these activities arose only >within a culture informed by the
Judaeo-Christian tradition. So there seem to >be some observable
consequences of this view of creation.

But I notice no actual predictions based upon Genesis in the above. A
prediction that science can be carried out is not made in any specific form
and is kind of a nebulous prediciton at best.

> But it's certainly true that many theological statements do not lead to
>predictions in the same way that Schroedinger's equation does. E.g.,
>doctrines of providence speak about God's activity in the world (for my
>proposal see my article in this past summer's _Zygon_), but they don't
predict >what will happen in the way that Newton's laws tell you how a body
will move >under given forces.

While I fully agree with you that many theological statements lead to no
observable consequence, others do. The flood, for instance, the Exodus.
Both of these events have been controversial as to their historical
verification. The nature of how animals were created, the days in
Genesis--all these are statements that can be verified, modified or falsified.

> For that matter, what about the predictions of your own approach? You
>think, e.g., that the apparent connections between present-day languages
>verifies Genesis (to put it briefly). I agree that this is a very
interesting >line of research & is _consistent_ with the type of unitary
origin of the >human race which I believe Genesis points to. BUT - the
combination of >Genesis 2 & 11 in fact yields no unique prediction.

>Granted, Gen.2 implies an original common language.

That is a prediction!!! Genesis 2 and 11 do make the prediction you just
mentioned. And we can then go look at the linguistic data and show that it
is or isnt possible. I believe that the data Ruhlen has presented does
make it possible. Or at least is consistent with a common origin of language.

>But Gen.11 doesn't tell us how badly human languages were "confused".
differences >between English and Dutch (which would have been enough to
foul up Project >Babel) or a radical disruption which would leave no traces
of connection >between many languages. Thus _whatever_ modern linguists
find could be
>consistent with a relatively straightforward reading of Genesis.

Yeah, I will have to grant that point assuming that one reads Babel to have
applied to the whole human race. But this does not invalidate the whole
approach that I have taken in other areas. Scientific data has invalidated
the match up of Mesopotamia with the Noachian flood, and if we are to find
any evidence of it we must look elsewhere or say it wasn't true.
> Theology provides the context in which geology and all of the other
>sciences are able to provide any information about the world. Among other
>things, a theology that takes seriously the goodness of the material world
(see >above) says that geological evidence is real evidence, and therefore
the >aparent age arguments have to be rejected.

Context is not prediction. What specifically does theology say about
geology, not the context. What you are describing is epistemology, not

> I think that geological, archaeological &c evidence are germane to
>theology. The fact that we know with a fair degree of certainty where
Jesus was >crucified (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, NOT "Gordon's
Calvary") is >significant. But horrible as it would be, the utter
destruction of Jerusalem by >nuclear weapons would not destroy the basis of
faith in cross & resurrection.

But what you cite here says nothing about geology. It says something about
history, and it only has a slight connection with archaeology.

> In response to the rest, let me ask you a question. I assume you believe
>that in some way God was involved in providing what you had for breakfast
this >a.m. - i.e., you have some theology of providence. The atheist says
that food >is entirely the result of solar energy, weather, soil chemistry,
etc. He/she >can predict things about what grains will grow &c. What
predictions about >breakfast does your doctrine of providence make?

I don't think there are any predictions the Bible makes about my breakfast
this morning. But the Bible does say that there was a flood that happened
to a man that appears to be real. The Bible does say that there was an
Exodus, which so far has not been verified by archaeology. Those statements
can be verified. As you said above not all theological statements lead to
observable prediction. Providence does not lead to prediction. The flood,
the exodus do.

> Well, no. The creation of humans from maggots produces an entirely
>different image from the creation from the earth.

Not necessarily, the image you have is a cultural image of maggots. Maggots
have been used to treat gangrene for millenia in folk medicine. Maggots in
those contexts are very good.

> Since you've said before that you're not interested in poetic imagery &c
I >expect that you'll say "Why?" & I'll be in the position of trying to
explain >music to a deaf person.

Being hard of hearing, I know that there is a beauty in music I don't
understand. Once in a while with brand-new hearing aids I get a small
glimpse of what it must be like.

> I don't mean that to sound like a put down, but I'm trying to take
seriously >what you've said earlier about attitudes to literature.

I don't take it as a put down.

>> This of course raises the question of why one should consider Genesis
>> rather than the Bhagadvadgita as the divinely inspired account. One
>> certainly can't state that Genesis is divinely inspired because my
>> parents/seminary/pastor/friend says it is. One must have a more substantive
>> reason for believing something which is that important; something more than
>> 'Someone told me so'. And subjective feelings do not seem entirely
>> trustworthy. I thought I was right (subjectively) when I was a YEC and I
>> know Mormons who tell me that the spirit bears witness to their spirit that
>> they are right. And I doubt that Koresh's followers thought they were
>> wrong. On the contrary, they felt that the spirit was telling them to give
>> their lives for their cause. Subjectivism does not lead to truth!
> Because Genesis is part of the witness to Christ.

Not if it isn't true and the only way to tell if it is true is via what it
says that one can verify.
> Your basic problem here is that you want to ground Christian faith in
>something more fundamental than Christ. _Logically_ your program can't
work >because you must make some presuppositions. _Theologically_ it's bad
because >the presuppositions you in fact make are ones external to
revelation. Theology >is faith in search of understanding, not the other
way around.

No, my basic problem is that I want to avoid tautological belief systems.
And I would say that the Disciples themselves grounded their belief system
on something other than jesus himself. They grounded it on the physical
evidence they were privileged to observe. They touched, saw and heard the
Resurrected Jesus. They didn't simply believe things because they believed
things. And Thomas was the worst one because he claimed he wouldn't believe
without that evidence.

John 20: 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with
them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But
he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails,
and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his
side, I will not believe.

I do not believe I am doing anything different from what Thomas did. And I
think Thomas was the most rational fo the disciples.

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which
we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and
show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was
manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may
have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and
with his Son Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once;
of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.


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