Re: St. Basil's 400AD view of the Days of proclamation
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 16:17:05 -0400

Glenn Morton wrote:

> You are correct, we need to make the claim. But making a claim and
> providing some supporting evidence is better.

This fascinating thread deserves to be pursued further. One direction it
might go is deeper into the philosophical presuppositions that are implicit
in the two viewpoints.

As I understand it, Morton emphasizes historicity -- or more precisely the
claims of historicity -- as the foundation for verification of the Bible and
the Gospel. In this position he stands with, for instance, Francis
Schaeffer, who came to emphasize the concept of "Genesis in Space and Time"
as a major and necessary basis for all the subsequent Bible history and
claims. He talked about 'a tick of the clock' when Adam ate the forbidden
fruit, etc. Morton correctly characterizes this viewpoint as 'concordism'.

In our modern scientific mind-set, the need for evidence as justification
for claims certainly seems reasonable, but one can trace this emphasis back
to the Age of Reason, when John Locke attempted to establish a 'reasonable
faith' based on historical and scientific facts. Newton, Descartes, Kant,
Leibniz, Pascal and other thinkers of this period attempted to do the same
kind of thing; they were theists but wanted to find some rational or
scientific apologetic to justify their theism in the face of critics like
Hobbes and Hume.

With the final collapse of rational empiricism and the principle of
verification in the 1960's,
it has become widely recognized that -- as Polanyi put it -- all knowledge
is personal knowledge, which from the 'inside' is described as assured
truths but 'outside' as only claims or allegations. This seems to be the
root of postmodernism (not to say relativism). It is more a critique of
philosophical justification than a claim of relativism or any other kind of
positive claim.

In Christian circles I think one of the best exponents of this view is Nick
Wolterstorff, who, in 'Reason Within the Bounds of Religion' tried to show
up the problem with what he called 'foundationalism' from a Christian
perspective. (Recall that this title is a reversal of Kant's 'Religion
Within the Bounds of Religion'). I read it a long time ago, but I remember
that Wolterstorff's conclusion is that neither science nor the Bible
provides us with a foundation of indubitable propositions from which to
establish the Bible's main claims. We have to begin with faith, and end
with faith. This does not equate to fideism -- mere faith in faith --
because we still have reason as a tool. However, it does change the
starting point of philosophy, from 'reason' in the Cartesian [humanistic]
sense of 'Cogito ergo sum', to Augustine's 'Credo ut intelligam' -- I
believe in order that I may understand.

To apply this to the present discussion, I would say that on the one hand,
it would be folly and wrong to say that the whole Bible is merely a bunch of
arbitrary stories disconnected from history. On the other hand, it would be
humanistic and philosophically unjustified to say that every Biblical claim
has to be founded on historical or scientific grounds. The debate swings
between these poles.

Paul Arveson