RE: Glenn's departure.

Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 17:56:50 -0500

Adam, et al.

You wrote:

"So what can we do? How can we respond? Glenn has cast doubt on all
> he has held true. He's in another epistemological spin dive into
> disbelief - are we going to merely stand-by? Can we at least give an
> account of our own solutions to the crumbling ground of truth that we've
> all encountered? Are we merely happy with a kind of agnosticism on the
> issues that concerned Glenn, or do some of us have real faith in their
> interpretations?
> I verge on agnosticism myself, but remain a believer only because of
> spiritual encounters that "verified" the reality of the Gospel for me.
> Else, with Sartre, I would declare God irrelevant and seek my own being.
> Anyone else in doubt like Glenn and I?"
I've been away for a while and have a pile of postings to go
through, but your question needs answering, so here goes:

As I've said, I haven't followed the thread that led up to your
latest posting, but let me give you (and others) a few of my thoughts.

As a teenager, I used to enjoy giving our elders who taught (tried
to teach) our catechism class a hard time by asking the kind of questions
that we ar asking here: where did the water come from during the Flood, who
did Cain get married to, why was he afraid enough of being killed that God
had to make him a "marked man," etc. I never had much of a problem with the
floating axe head (if God can raise Jesus (and others) from the dead,
floating an axe head should be a piece of cake, so to speak). As I got
older, I started to look at the biblical narrative as something that might
need a different interpretation than a literal one, although I was never
quite sure what this interpretation should be. This need for a different
interpretation became stronger when I took a course in geochronology.
Investigations into the Oklo natural nuclear reactor, to me, at least,
clinches the idea of a very old earth, but that's not necessarily at odds
with Gen 1:1. Placing Adam, Eve, and Noah into the earth's history in light
of the discovery of Neanderthal remains is a bit tougher and I am fascinated
by the work that Glenn has done on this topic.

I haven't got the time to delve into what the church fathers
(Augustine) and theologians (Luther, Calvin) had to say about an apparent
differences between special and general revelation. True, Luther and Calvin
knew nothing about geochronology, but they did know that metal axe heads
normally don't float. If they did, it would not have been a big deal for
Elijah (or was it Elisiah, haven't got a bible handy in my office so I can't
even check the spelling) and certainly not worth recording. So, unless the
prophet wanted to pull the wool over our eyes, we can reasonably assume that
something strange happened. But, is it remarkable because axe heads don't
float, or is it remarkable that axe heads usually sink? With that, I mean,
does God only interfere with a natural way of things, or does He "uphold
everything?" In other words, if He interacts in the world, he is as much
involved in making axe heads sink as making the odd one float; He is not
bound by the natural laws that we have extracted with our observations.

Another, related, thought: we tend to think that we are the first
ones to note apparent discrepancies and that previous generations were
either gullible or just dense. But surely others must have wondered where
the water came from during the Flood and where it went and yet, in spite of
their doubt, believed. That they would simply pass on a fraudulent story,
to me, is too cynical a view.

So, we have here a special revelation that appears to be at odds
with what we observe in nature. Yet, for 2000 years, people have accepted
the central message that, somehow, sin entered the world, God sent His Son
to die for us, and we will have salvation if we believe in Him. To me,
that's a miracle!

When I start to have doubts (and I do), I have two reactions:
One is to remember that the central message of the Bible is true;
the Gospels contain first and second hand accounts of the life and death and
resurrection of the Lord
Second is to concede that, maybe, we don't quite understand the
thrust of the OT writers. We don't know what or who Moses and others had in
mind when they wrote what they wrote.

Another thought: in Canada we have a constant struggle between
Quebec and the "Rest of Canada" (ROC). Part of this ongoing conflict is due
to the different perspective from which history is taught in Quebec and in
the ROC. Undoubtedly, similar differences exist in history taught in
catholic and protestant areas in Northern Ireland and perhaps between Union
and Rebel areas in the USA. Which one is correct? Probably neither in each
case. If we see the OT in that context, perhaps part of the goal of the OT
was to foster and maintain a sense of unity in the Israelites.

This response is not as coherent as I'd like. I, too, have the
occasional brush with agnosticism but then remember that, somewhere back, I
took a "leap of faith," a leap taken by Calvin, Luther, Augustine, et al.
and if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me. One event I
look forward to, is to be able to ask God eventually, "How on earth did you
do this?" "How did you create these enormous thick layers of volcanic ash
in New Mexico and Nevada?" and, "By the way, how did you manage to make the
sun stand still for a while?"

Hope this helps,

Chuck Vandergraaf
Pinawa, MB