> -----Original Message-----
> From: Howard J. Van Till [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, November 07, 2000 1:15 AM
I wrote of the flood:
> > My concern in this whole area began with the flood.
> Geologically, there is
> > absolutely no reason that if there had been a flood, Mesopotamian,
> > worldwide, or otherwise, that there would not be evidence left
> of its impact
> > on the earth.
> Agreed. We're off to a good start.
> > This then became a point of verification for the validity of
> > the early scripture.
> No, I think it would be a point only for the verification of one
> reading of Genesis 6-9 (through the filter of modern Western culture).
I disagree. Regardless of what kind of flood it was, be it Mesopotamian,
Caspian, etc, there would still be geological evidence left. Let's say that
the Mesopotamian flood was true and that it consisted of some
extraordinarily large flood. The sediments for such an event should be
apparent throughout Iraq. But there are no widespread Quaternary layers. I
have seen some people try to say that they have been eroded away in the past
few thousand years. But that is as unlikely as meeting a little green man
on the corner. The Lake Missoula floods of Washington State 20,000 years ago
or so have left plenty of geologic data for us to verify the event. And
there is another one from a similar time in the Altai Mountains of Russia:
"Pleistocene glacial outburst floods were released from ice-dammed lakes of
the Altay Mountains, south-central Siberia. The Kuray-Chuja lake system
yielded peak floods in excess of 1 x 10^6 m3 s-1 and as great as 18 x 10^6
m3 s-1. The phenomenallly high bed shear stresses and stream powers
generated in these flows produced a main-channel, coarse-grained facies of
coarse gravel in (1) foreset-bedded bars as much as 200 m high and several
kilometers long, and (2) degradational, boulder-capped river terraces.
Giant current ripples, 50 to 150 m in spacing, composed of pebble and cobble
gravel, are locally abundant. The whole sedimentary assemblage is very
similar to that of the Channeled Scabland, produced by the Pleistocene
Missoula Floods of western North America." ~ A. N. Rudoy and V. R. Baker,
"Sedimentary Effects of Cataclysmic Later Pleistocene Glacial Outburst
Flooding, Altay Mountains, Siberia," Sedimentary Geology, 85(1993:53-62, p.
All these events left evidence of themselves, but the Mesopotamian flood
left no evidence yet we want to say it is true. Why? So that we can have a
kernal of truth in the flood story. But the lack of such evidence leaves us
So is the proper response then to say that the story is true anyway? or is
the proper response to look elsewhere for a site? Or is the proper response
to simply conclude that the story is false? The first option seems
illogical to me and that is what I think many people are doing. The story is
true regardless of how falsifying the data is.
And of course, after taking this illogical leap, we then turn around and
tell the YEC and anti-evolutionist that he must pay attention to the data
that falsifies his position. To me that is a big piece of--well I won't use
the word because I did once and got severely pounded for it. And it isnt a
> > I have said that
> > pre-flood accounts must be historical or the Scripture must be
> wrong. This
> > is true regardless of whether or not the account can be verified. Why?
> > Because there is only one standard of truth.
> That either/or concept and the assumption that there is only one type of
> truth is, I believe, a vivid illustration of the modern post-Enlightenment
> perspective that I was talking about.
The problem with using other kinds of measures of truth mean that we must
allow for beliefs in all sorts of things. If someone tells you that
leprechauns exist we must allow it because they can clearly claim that you
can't apply this scientific either/or concept because there are other types
of truth. Those involved in the New Age movement use exactly the same
logic--they have a different type of truth also. To me, the danger of not
using the either/or concept is that we must then agree that any sort of
nonsense is within the realm of possibility. What is to stop us from being
forced into accepting all sorts of nonsense?
> > I simply can't go with this
> > view that there are various types of truths for events that sound like
> > historical events.
> To say that the narratives of early Genesis "sound like historical events"
> is already an interpretation that is characteristic, not of the
> Ancient Near
> Eastern culture in which these narratives were crafted, but of the modern
> Western culture in which we are now immersed.
One of the things that anthropology is finding is that many of the
traditions of native peoples is real and factual. This distinction between
them (ignorant peoples who don't care about true history) and us (who
supposedly are sophisticated enough to care about true history) is merely a
21st century arrogance. Consider:
“We know that some of the folk memories of modern Australian aborigines are
at least 8,000 years old: they tell of once familiar landmarks that were
submerged after the last ice age and have now been rediscovered by modern
divers, just as the native Australians described them. Their memories of
mythical beasts-bunyips and the rest may well allude to diprotodonts and
their ilk.” Colin Tudge, The Day Before Yesterday, (London: Pimlico, 1995),
> > If we can claim that historically false events are really
> > true, then fairness says that we have to allow for the Muslims, Mormons,
> > Hindus and everyone else to claim that their false accounts are
> true. And
> > this would apply no matter how bizarre the account
> is--including the mating
> > of salamanders for the creation of the earth.
> No one is saying that "historically false events are really
> true." However,
> you know well that illustrative narratives (that may not be in one-to-one
> correspondence with actual events) can be powerful conveyers of truthful
> insights about God, the human condition, etc.
Alright, here is the crux our difference. If we take this approach, then we
must allow that the Hindu totally different theology, expressed via their
stories, be as good a set of conveyers of truthful insights about God as is
the Bible. The standard for who's religion is really true is lost by this
approach. How do you avoid the obvious consistency which requires that even
the Book of Mormon tells us valuable insights into God's nature, the human
BTW, you never did answer the question concerning if you think Christianity
is the only way to God. (I don't want you to think I didn't notice).
> > While one can say that I am a scientist (one addicted to
> scientism), I see
> > nothing wrong with that.
> A scientist is not necessarily "addicted to scientism." Scientism is the
> claim that only that which can be empirically verified is worthy of being
> called a 'truth.'
No, I would disagree with that. As a christian, I believe many things that
can't be scientifically verified. THe resurrection is the most important
thing that can't be verified that I believe. But what I do insist upon is
that things which ought to be capable of verification be subjected to it.
Things like the exodus (for which currently there is no evidence).
> > The alternative is to allow oneself to believe that
> > which is false or contrary to evidence.
> Sorry, that's a serious non sequitur. The alternative to scientism is to
> accept that there are many important kinds of truths that cannot be forced
> into the Procrustean bed of "empirically verifiable propositions."
I love the word 'Procrustean' as it is always applied to ones philosophical
adversaries. It is a wonderful word of immense use as who wants to be
procrustean. Indeed the sound of it almost makes one think of procrustacean,
which is probably the utmost in reactionaries.
Of the 'truths' of which you speak, do they include things like crystal
power, pyramid power etc? They can't be forced into such a procrustean mode
either. How can you show me that pyramid power is false while showing the
truth of an empirically unverifiable story from the Bible is true? Take
Balaam's donkey as an example. In what sense can it be true and crystal
power be false? I would love to see how this works. I don't think you can
make the proof work without the assumption that the Bible is God's word and
therefore true, which, of course, then begs the question.
> Propositions of the specific sort that are amenable to empirical testing
> should be tested that way. I agree with you that empirically testable
> propositions that fail the test should be rejected.
Then why do we not reject the Mesopotamian flood which fails every test for
correspondence between the observational data and the account? We have lots
of people who say that even if the details don't match, it must be true.
That is a non-sequitur also.
> [skip a bit]
> > Frankly, I am very tired of seeing that Christians can't deal with data
> > without mangling it. What sort of people are we? Are we so immune to
> > observational data that we must either deny it or deny that the
> Bible says
> > anything real about the world?
> Glenn, I think I would have a right to say with equal conviction,
> I am tired of seeing that Christians can't deal with Ancient Near Eastern
> religious literature without mangling it."
And one could respond as you did above--that mangles one *particular
reading* of Ancient Near Eastern religious literature. This is exactly the
response you gave to the flood issue above. Why does it apply above but not
to your own position.
> > This [my paraphrase of Huston Smith's lecture thesis] sounds
> very much like
> > Carlos Castenada's _A Separate Reality_--a
> > reality in which we feel rather than think. And if that is what
> religion is
> > all about, you can have it.
> Glenn, you know that neither I nor Huston Smith is saying that religion is
> ALL about feeling. So, why construct so many of your responses in
> this "all
> or nothing" format? It makes civil and fruitful conversation very
I am not trying to be difficult, nor am I uncivil. I am only seeing the
implications of what you are suggesting and trying to point out the
conflicts between what you suggest the the traditional beliefs of
Christianity. If Christianity is such a fuzzy thing that one can't get
anything objective out of it, why on earth is it any better than crystal
> Religion is, in part, about feeling. We know, of course, that
> there is much
> more to it than feeling, but I see no need to deny that it is one
Agreed. there is much of feeling to religion. But, if that is all, then we
might as well feel the spirits on the ether for all the good it will do us.
> Yes, this recognition moves us outside of the restricted category of
> "empirically verifiable," but I think that's a step in the right
Don't miss the fact that I have clearly stated that there is much that I
believe that can't be verified in Christianity. Feelings can't be verified.
I have experienced feelings in worship services and in devotions. However,
shamons in New Guinea feel their religion every bit as intensely as any
Christian glossalia participant. But feelings don't tell us which of the
two religions is true----only objective data can do that.
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