Re: Lack of Apologetical predictions

George Murphy (
Sat, 07 Nov 1998 08:47:04 -0500

Glenn R. Morton wrote:

> 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.

For YECs who are coming to realize that that view doesn't work but who still
think that Scripture can be true only as historical narrative, your approach may be
the best way to keep them from apostasizing. But that is because it has to be
accomodated to their rather limited idea of Scripture.

> >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.

It is no less nebulous than the prediction that human languages _may_ (note
discussion below) show some interrelations.
> > 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".
> >From >the text itself the confusion could have been as minor as the
> 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
> geology.

Obviously I didn't make myself sufficiently clear. While there are indeed
testable statements about history which arise from theology, I do not think that
its primary function is to make scientific predictions. Setting the larger context is
a crucial function.
This is not "epistemology" because theology doesn't tell scientists how to
do science. It is _theology_, which is a discipline in its own right.
In turn, science has things to say to theology. An obvious example is that
geology is one thing that shows the YEC interpretation of Genesis to be invalid. So
your fears that I want a complete separation of science & theology can be laid to rest.


> As you said above not all theological statements lead to
> observable prediction. Providence does not lead to prediction. The flood,
> the exodus do.

They do IF it is insisted that Scripture can be true only as strict historical
Let me repeat: I am NOT saying that there is no history in the Bible, that
it's all theological fiction, or anything like that. I believe that there is a lot of
historical narrative, and a lot of accurate historical, geographical, chronological,
biographical &c information. But it is not all material of that sort. & so the
interpretation of Scripture and comparison of what it says with the real world is more
complicated than just saying "The Bible predicts A & we find A so the Bible is true."
You may have to say "The Bible predicts B _if we read it as straight historical
narrative_ & we don't find B so maybe this part of the Bible _isn't_ straight historical

> >
> > 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.

Yeh, but those who use them don't want to be maggots. Leeches have been used
for a long time in medicine but being called a leech isn't a compliment.

> >> This of course raises the question of why one should consider Genesis
> >> rather than the Bhagadvadgita as the divinely inspired account. .................................
> >
> > 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.

Again, it ain't that simple. True in what way? I think that the patriarchs
were real people. But does that mean, e.g., that the story of the binding of Isaac has
to be historically accurate in order for it to point toward Christ? Gen.3:15 can still
be read as a promise of a savior (as in the wildly symbolic Rev.12) even if one doesn't
understand Gen.3 to be literal history.

> > 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.

Of course when I say "Christ" I mean the whole "Christ event" - born, teaching,
healing, crucified, & risen.

> 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.

You cut the text short!
John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are
those who have not seen and yet believe."

Sure, Thomas is rational. & he is not the only one who doubted, & Jesus
accepts those who have doubts (Mt.28:17). But through Thomas Jesus tells us that we -
i.e., later generations who are called to faith - are not going to have the kind of
evidence that Thomas demanded. We have the apostolic witness brought to us in
Scripture. We have enough historical evidence &c for it to be _possible_ to believe -
i.e., Jesus really lived, Pilate was governor, there is a real city of Jerusalem,
crucifixion was a common means of execution, &c. But we are _not_ told to withhold
believe until we can gather enough evidence to _prove_ that the one who was crucified
rose. We are dependent upon the biblical witness. As the Barmen Declaration puts it,
"Jesus Christ _as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture_ [my emphasis] is the one Word
we have to hear in life and in death."

George L. Murphy