glenn morton wrote:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: george murphy [mailto:email@example.com]
> > Sent: Thursday, November 02, 2000 10:33 PM
> > Glenn, you often present quite penetrating insights into
> > the arguments
> > and fallacies of others. It's unfortunate that you don't seem to
> > be able to see
> > that your argument here, which reproduces what you have often
> > said on this list,
> > depends in a critical way on illegitimate use of words like
> > "everything" and
> > "only", as in "If everything in the OT was wrong" or "only a book
> > of morality
> > tales." Neither Howard nor I nor anybody on the ASA list that I
> > can recall has
> > ever expressed such views of Scripture. You are belaboring a caricature.
> If I am defending a caricature, George, then outline right here and now,
> exactly the events in the Genesis 1-11 that you say are historically
> accurate and thus capable of detailed verification. Detailed verification is
> the hallmark of objective data. We apply this to science, we apply this
> standard to the Book of Mormon, but won't apply it to our own Bible.
> So, what exactly do you say is capable of detailed verification in Genesis
> 1-11. A list would be very nice. Failure to provide such a list would imply
> that nothing is verifiable.
1) You didn't say "If everything in Genesis 1-11 was wrong" but "If
everything in the OT was wrong." These discussions of origins get so sharply
focussed on those chapters of Genesis that they may seem like the whole of
Hebrew scriptures but they aren't. They are an important but small part of the
OT, & arguably not the most important.
2) To say that a text expresses truth different from the kinds of
truth conveyed by accurate historical narrative isn't to say that it's "wrong".
So I think the term "caricature" is accurate.
As to verifiable historical material in Gen.1-11, I think there's
some but not a great deal. 2:10-14 is a small part of the 2d creation account,
in a sense a minor detail, but it serves the important function of indicating
that this theological account is about the world we live in. The flood story
probably carries memories of Mesopotamian floods. (Yes, yes, I know the details
don't fit.) 11:1-9 refers to historical Babylon. Some of the names in these
chapters may refer to real historical figures - certainly Abram & maybe others
near the end of Ch.11.
Not a lot you say? Maybe not for your purposes. But some of the
very important theological statements are, by their nature, not ones that you
can verify by historical research. E.g., the repeated claim in Gen.1 that
creation is "good" - how would you verify that by such research? & that claim
is far from being common religious property - there are plenty of
> > A second, & distinct, point: You seem unwilling to differentiate
> > between morality and theology. The morality taught by many other
> > religions does
> > indeed have a great deal in common with that of the
> > Judaeo-Christian tradition.
> Now, you are reading me wrong. I most assuredly agree that the morality
> taught by other religions is worthwhile. No doubt about it. But if you claim
> that your theology is so great, upon what is that claim based? It seems to
> me that it is based upon nothing more solid than personal and cultural
> prejudice favoring the Christian religion. Why can't the advocates of other
> religions make the same claim that 'christian morality is great, but their
> theology stinks'. It seems to me that this results in a standoff.
It's a standoff only to the extent that "For Christ's sake God forgives
you your sins" and "You'll go to Hell if you don't earn God's acceptance" is a
I emphasized (below) that the heart of the Christian claim has to do
with "the historical
reality (N.B.) of the crucifixion of Jesus." Just this historical reality is
disputed by Muslims, something that shows their unwillingness to pursue any
historical investigation of religious issues. BUT - the
theological claim associated with the cross - that the Crucified is the Son of
God whose death reconciles us to God - is, like the goodness of creation, not
something one can verify by historical investigation.
> > The same cannot be said for understandings of God and God's
> > relationship with
> > humanity and the world. The belief that God is revealed in the historical
> > reality (N.B.) of the crucifixion of Jesus as the Trinity is not even
> > approximated by other religions.
> What you have presented above is your belief system and your personal and
> cultural prejudices, but you haven't really presented evidence for those
> beliefs. A muslim can claim that his religion's theology isn't even
> approximated by other religions. Big deal, we have two people making
> unsubstantiatable claims. Objective data is the only way out of this
This is incorrect. Muslim claims that the Qur'an is God's ultimate
revelation tend to obscure for outsiders (& for many insiders) the fact that
Muhammed thought he was proclaiming the original religion of humanity & makes a
number of appeals to God's revelation in nature &c. Adam, Abraham, Jesus &c
were all supposed to be good Muslims! Jews & Christians are, of course,
thought to "approximate" Islam, but to err by introducing various distortions &
especially by not recognizing Muhammed as the seal of the prophets.
Similar things could be said about other religions. Hindus & Buddhists
can find an honored place for Jesus as an avatar, &c, only excising the
inconvenient parts about his uniqueness & crucifixion.
Of course the distinctive character of Christianity doesn't prove that
it's true. But it is not simply a "religion" in the same category with Islam,
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