Re: Descendants and Thomas Trap

George Murphy (
Fri, 20 Nov 1998 07:49:53 -0500

Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> At 09:42 PM 11/19/98 -0500, George Murphy wrote:
> >> So how many people believe the Bible today because of Dante's book?
> >
> > Utterly irrelevant. I never said people would believe the Bible because of
> >Dante. I said his poem conveyed some truth. I realize you don't think
> poetry can do
> >that. You're wrong.
> Here you are wrong. I cannot recall ever having said poetry can't convey
> metaphysical or allegorical truth. I absolutely agree that it can. I don't
> agree that Genesis is conveying that type of information. That is very
> different. I have never said that poetry can't convey historical truth.
> What I have said is that Genesis 1-11 reads in the same historical form as
> Genesis 12-50.

It's clear from all you've said in previous discussions that you feel that the
type of truth conveyed by scientific statements is superior to that conveyed by
parables, theological statements, and poetry. The implication has been that if
Genesis isn't truth in the first sense, it's worthless - as below. If that's not what
you believe, I'm happy to be corrected. This could make your apologetic efforts much
more effective if applied properly.

> > First and most importantly, the creation of the universe is not "an act in
> >history" because it is the creation of the whole framework in which
> history is possible.
> >As Augustine said, "God did not create the universe in time but with
> time." Saying that
> >creation must be an act "in history" is like saying that the writing of a
> novel must be
> >part of the plot of the novel.
> I think you are escaping the conclusion with pedantry. If God did no
> actually create the universe, then whether in time or with time or outside
> of time or under time or over time or through time or what ever, Genesis
> 1:1 can not be a statement of God's relation to the universe. If God didn't
> create the universe then the PROPOSITIONAL statement of Genesis 1:1 is a LIE!

My "pedantry" is simply insistence on paying some attention to what we are
talking about and speaking about it carefully. I have said repeatedly that I believe
God to be the creator of the universe and that Gen.1:1 states that. But by its very
nature such creation cannot be an act "in history" or even "in the universe". Since
history studies events in history & science studies events in the universe, neither can
have the creation of the universe as part of its subject matter.

> In another note tonight you wrote:
> > Well, if someone finds a skeleton unmitakeably identifiable as that of Jesus
> >of Nazareth there would be such a misfit.
> That is an easy bullet to dodge. There is no way ANY skeleton could ever
> be unmistakeably identified from that time. Lets say we found a tomb with
> the inscription Jesus of Nazareth. C14 dated to the 1st century. Is this
> OUR Jesus? Was Jesus the ONLY guy named Jesus (Yeshua) from Nazareth at
> that time? The odds are against it since Yehoshua was a common name. So
> what are you going to use to 'unmistakeably' identify the skeleton? mtDNA?
> DNA fingerprinting? Fingerprints? photos? This is something that can
> never happen. And because it can't happen it is a meaningless gesture. I
> would ask again what could possibly falsify the Bible for you? this
> skeleton business simply can't do it in any way, shape or form.

The Easter message is that Jesus is alive. The way of disproving it is to
demonstrate that Jesus is dead.

> > But my approach to apologetics is more fundamental and more distinctively
> >Christian than the one for which you argue. It makes use of the fact that
> one must
> >begin with presuppositions, and then evaluate those presuppositions _a
> posteriori_
> >from their results. That is the way science works. Einstein didn't first
> "prove" that
> >c is the same for all observers. He _assumed_ it and then showed that a
> coherent theory
> >could be developed which explained observations better than the older
> theories. E
> >should do the same thing theologically and, in particular, proceed in this
> way in
> >apologetics. Instead of saying "I'm going to prove to you that Jesus is
> God Incarnate
> >who was crucified and is risen, I would say, "I invite you to look at the
> world and at
> >your own life on the assumption that the crucified and risen Jesus is the
> one "in whom
> >all things hold together."
> Exactly what evidence do you present to prove to me that Jesus is the one
> in whom all things hold together? This is a question I can hear my current
> and former atheist bosses asking me if I told them the above? If all we
> offer the world is an assumption, we will have few converts indeed.

1) Please re-read what I said earlier. One explores the consequences of this
(Note of course that the "assumption" is not pure fantasy: Historical,
literary, &c reasons for the _plausibility_ of the apostolic claims have a place, so
that people can reasonably be asked to be willing to look at the world in their light.
But this isn't the same thing as "proving" the resurrection a priori.)
2) Maybe some people will not be converted. When people refuse to hear the
gospel, we eventually reach the point at which we should shake the dust from our feet
and move on, not continue to belabor them with arguments. Ultimately it is the Holy
Spirit who brings & sustains faith.

> >> Why are the Disciples allowed to gather further evidence and we aren't?
> >> Where does it say that in the Bible?

Rather than respond in detail to the rest, let me return to Thomas. You've
simply missed the point of his story, a point given to it not by me but by the gospel
writer: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not
seen and yet believe."
Then lest there be any doubt, the purpose of the whole book follows - "That you
[i.e., all to whom the gospel comes, including us] may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." He does not say
"That you may go and find further evidence before you believe."

George L. Murphy