John Burgeson wrote:
> Me: " Glenn: Having never read the book of Mormon, I'll still venture an
> > observation that we can use it as such a tool, just aswe sometimes use
> > Aeslop's fables. Or the book "Ben-Hur." Etc.
> Glenn: "Sure you can Burgy, but is that all you think the Bible is? A book
> of morals
> for good teaching? I hope it is more than that. If the Bible is merely a
> book of good morals, we might as well read The Book of Virtues instead."
> I don't believe I said that was all the Bible is. We both agree it is much
> more than that. As a
> matter of fact, I would assert that morality is not its primary teaching.
> Maybe it is my Lutheran
> upbringing (55 years ago at this point) but I'd say its primary purpose is
> to point us to the cross and to Christ.
> All the other stuff is in third place (no second place).
You are 100% correct about the purpose of the Bible - & get extra
credit for a Lutheran upbringing! But the fact that this has to be pointed
out explicitly, even though everybody (I hope)
on this list agrees with it, brings out one of the basic problems with most
Christian discussions of
religion-science issues: They are _not_ connected with the cross and Christ.
Though "the cross and Christ" of course involves important historical
claims it is much more than that. What we mean by saying that it's the
Christian message is the belief that the one who was born & died & was raised
is the Son of God, that forgiveness of sins & reconciliation with God are
given in him, & that he is the agent & purpose of creation. Those are not
statements which can be verified by historical investigation.
Now if that is indeed the heart of Christianity, discussions of
relationships between Christianity and science ought to begin there. Very few
of them do. Among Evangelicals they are likely to begin with trying to prove
that the Bible is true, that miracles can happen, that Adam & Eve & the Flood
were real, &c &c. Those discussions generally get bogged down & no connection
ever does get made with the cross and Christ.
It's true that attempts are sometimes made to connect them: "If we
don't believe in a literal Adam & Eve [or Jonah, or whatever] then we [or our
children &c] won't believe Jesus rose from the dead." But this is manifestly
false, as demonstrated by millions of counterexamples. What the statement
often means, I think, is, "I was brought to Christ via belief in the
historical truth of the Bible, the Garden of Eden, Flood, &c, so if I didn't
believe that those things were real historical phenomena, I wouldn't believe
in Christ." But:
1) The steps by which one initially comes to faith, like the
steps by which a scientific theory is developed, need not have permanent
value. Once classical electromagnetic theory had come to full flower with
special relativity, all the mechanical models of the aether which had been
helpful in its development could be seen as historically influential models
which were, however, not "verifiable." Some people may have come to living
Christian faith via Pascal's "wager" argument but that argument is, as one of
Pascal's translators puts it, "doubtfully orthodox."
2) The fact that one method of evangelization or apologetics has
worked in some cases doesn't imply that it's the only method, or even the best
method. That doesn't mean that we should eliminate traditional ways of
reading Genesis &c entirely. When you tell the stories about Adam & Eve &
Noah & Jonah &c to a 3-year old you don't (if you have any sense) preface them
with the statement that they are not "history as it really happened." But
when they start asking whether there were dinosaurs in the Garden, or how Noah
got all the animals on the ark, you should begin to introduce them, in age
appropriate ways, to a better understanding of the accounts. It's a
disservice to them to try to keep them at a 3-year old level. Much less is it
justifiable to present an intelligent non-Christian adult either explictly or
implicitly with the notion that all the events of the Old Testament must be
accepted as "history as it really happened" along with the cross and Christ as
a package deal.
With such an adult I suggest again (& again refer to my recent
PSCF communication) that we ought to _begin_ with the cross and Christ. You
have to begin somewhere - there are no presuppositionless arguments. (_Nihil
ex nihilo_ does hold here!) It makes as much or more sense to start with the
cross and Christ as with some supposedly neutral philosophical position from
which one can never get, without some qualitative transition, to the gospel.
Traditional evidentialist apologetics certainly has had some
successes but it has serious limitations & I suspect will become increasingly
unfruitful as time goes on, especially among scientifically literate people.
If that approach is to be used, the focus ought to be on the evidence for
cross & Christ, not Genesis 1-11: Paul seems to have been able to convert a
lot of Gentiles without giving much instruction about the Garden of Eden, much
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