Re: St. Basil's 400AD view of the Days of proclamation

George Murphy (
Sat, 28 Aug 1999 18:09:31 -0400 wrote:
> HI George,
> You and I do agree on the importance of the historicity of Jesus and the
> crucifiction as being the most important as far as historicity is concerned.
> At 08:42 AM 08/27/1999 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> > I don't see the historical character of the Flood as nearly so central to
> the
> >biblical story. The Flood story is important, but as part of the material
> which
> >expresses a connection of the history of Israel (& thus Jesus) with
> universal history.
> >I think that there is an historical basis (Mesopotamian floods - which I
> know you
> >consider unsatisfactory but [see below] I'm not sure you can make a
> distinction >between "minor" & "major" adequate to justify your position).
> I agree with your assessment that the flood story is not central to the
> gospel. In fact, one could make the claim that we would be better off
> without that story. The unfortunate reality is, there is a story of a
> flood in the Scripture and to dismiss it as non-historical or relegate it
> to a setting that in nowise matches the description given in the account
> seems to be an easy cop out so we don't have to think deeply about how to
> solve the historicity problem for that story.
> I am not sure I understand what you are saying about minor and major
> distinction here. Please explain. (don't answer, see below)
> > Sure. But I think you're not willing to admit that there are fictitious
> >elaborations of history, much less straight fiction, in Scripture.
> > AND - the question of how one distinguishes between "minor" & "major" is
> still
> >left open.
> Ok, now I see what you are meaning by major and minor. I would define major
> as those things that attest to either the centrality of the gospel story or
> the veracity of the documents. AFterall, if the story is all fiction, no
> amount of theological truth can be squeezed out of it.

We agree on "centrality of the gospel story" but our whole disagreement concerns
just what is meant by "veracity of the documents." I do't agree with your final
sentence here & just don't see how your position can be sustained. Here we come to what
I said when I jumped ahead too quickly a couple of exchanges ago. Whether or now Jonah
or the Good Samaritan happened, their theological messages are quite clear.

> >
> > But here I'd ask the Mormon, "What do you mean 'theologically true'?" - &
> would
> >try to turn the conversation to the cross & its implications, Trinity &
> justification.
> They do believe that Jesus arose from the dead. They believe he came to
> america after the resurrection. So it is really difficult to point to the
> cross for them. They will agree with you.

There is good reason why the Mormons don't have crosses on their buildings.
When I asked a Mormon missionary about this he said, "If someone killed your brother,
you wouldn't put the gun he used to do it on your living room wall would you?" They
don't agree with orthodox Christianity on what it means.

> And by theologically true, I assume they mean the very same thing you mean.
> It is a true theological statement about the metaphysical reality of God's
> cosmos.

But we don't agree on what that "metaphysical reality is" - which includes a
Trinity & justification & the fact that we can't & don't need to become "gods" by our
own efforts.

> >There we'd be talking about issues in comparison with which the question
> of whether or
> >not any Indians spoke Hebrew is relatively trivial. The fundamental
> problem with
> >Mormons isn't what they think about American history but the fact that
> they believe in
> >polytheism and salvation by works.
> Why is that a fundamental problem except from the presuppositional position
> you have taken. Remember, they don't accept your assumptions. THey have a
> different set of assumptions.

Sure, & if they're unwilling to at least try looking at things from a Christian
standpoint then they'll never see the truth of it. We aren't talking here _simply_
about abstract presuppositions of philosophical theology but about matters which have to
do with basic existential questions - guilt, mortality, meaning, &c. Do you [the
Mormon] really believe, when you're lying awake at 4 a.m., that you can become a god?
Take a look at Ezekiel 28. It's that kind of thing that a genuine theology of the cross
(grounded in the belief that the true God really died on the cross in human history)
gets at.

>They can point to the polytheistic statements
> in Genesis (although I haven't ever had one do it to me) and there are some
> protestant groups that come awfully close to believing salvation by works.
> So other than by assuming that your theological position is the correct
> theological position, how to you condemn their views? They do the very
> same thing to you. They assume their theological position is true and then
> doubt your theological correctness, wondering why you don't believe in
> polytheism and the concept that you too can become a god. Other than by
> each side telling the other that they have the correct set of theological
> assumptions, there is no data to use. UNLESS YOU USE HISTORICAL/SCIENTIFIC
> DATA. You can hit a Mormon hard when it comes to their view of archaeology
> of the New World. But you can't hit him by saying 'you don't accept my set
> of assumptions and therefore you are wrong'. That gets you no where.

I don't say "You don't accept my set of assumptions and therefore you're wrong."
I explain my beliefs, inclus=ding the historical grounding for them, and say why I think
they address issues of the human condition that other assumptions don't. I invite them
to at least a willing suspension of disbelief, to look tentatively at their life & the
world from that standpoint.
Certainly it may be appropriate to talk about the lack of historical &c evidence
for the Book of Mormon. I think what's most effective has to be decided on a case by
case basis.

> >
> >> What exactly allows you to say that Mormonism is
> >> wrong if it isn't in the lack of historical support for their views. I
> >> would like to see you tell me why Mormonism is wrong without any reference
> >> to history or science.
> >
> > I just did.
> No, you told me your theological assumptions were the correct assumptions.
> If I don't accept your assumptions, I am not bound by your conclusions. You
> didn't tell me any reason why your assumptions are correct. No data, no
> chain of reasoning that would grab a person whose assumptions are different
> than yours. Sure, if the Mormon suddenly decides to accept your assumption
> then he will say "AH I see you are correct George". The problem is that he
> doesn't accept what you assume. He doesn't accept that polytheism is wrong,
> he doesn't accept that works is a bad way to be saved. This is what I find
> so frustrating about theologians (and my middle son is starting semitary, I
> mean seminary). They tend to assume that their theological assumptions are
> somehow unassailable and thus expect that everyone should accept what they
> derive from their assumptions. That just isn't the way the world works.

I don't know what seminaries or theologians you're familiar with but this would
be a complete misrepresentation of ones in my branch of the church.
Again I refer to my paper from the ASA meeting. Just as in science, one can't
evaluate theological presuppositions by whether or not they have some a priori
plausibility. You have to work out there consequences & see if they correspond with
experience. In the case of theology, that means considering how well they address both
personal existential concerns and knowledge of the physical world, history, &c. If
you're not willing to get into the system far enough to see what the consequences of the
basic presuppositions are, of course you'll never believe them. If you refuse even to
consider the possibility that the speed of light is the same for everyone then you'll be
a Newtonian all your life.

> > As I noted above, crunch time - especially with Muslims - really comes
> with the
> >cross. We can make a solid claim for historical accuracy here - though
> Muslims are
> >generally immunized against serious historical analysis here because of
> belief in the
> >absolute truth of the Quran. Moreover, this is our central theological
> claim. I think
> >the thing to do is simply to make that claim - as in the ASA paper which I
> sent you
> >earlier. Of course that may not succeed in converting a person, but
> that's ultimately
> >up to the Holy Spirit.
> You are correct, we need to make the claim. But making a claim and
> providing some supporting evidence is better. I have changed the minds of
> many young-earth creationists. Converting them is harder than converting a
> muslim. But with time, patience etc if you make claims that they are wrong
> and at the same time give them data that doesn't fit in their worldview,
> you can then make progress with them. Just telling someone they are wrong
> seldom gets you very far.

Here the matter is somewhat different because Muslims don't believe that Jesus
died on the cross. & that isn't because of historical study but because Islam, like
the Judaism of Paul's time, could not imagine a crucified Messiah who "died in
weakness." In fact, a great deal of what passes for Christianity would just as soon
get past the cross as quickly as possible and move on to Easter. Muslims have a way of
avoiding the cross entirely. & the problem isn't so much with willingness to apply
historical criticism to the gospels - they're quite happy to do that - but with the fact
that they're completely unwilling to apply it to the Quran.

George L. Murphy