RE: Black Sea Flood

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Sat May 04 2002 - 22:26:58 EDT

  • Next message: george murphy: "Re: Black Sea Flood"

    I think I see where we are talking past one another.
    Let's see if I can state it one more time. I do not
    think you wrong. I think requiring a concordist view
    of everything in scripture as the only basis for
    "rational" faith in Christianity wrong. That is my
    point and we seem to disagree there.

    My ongoing point is not that we need to liberalize
    theology. In fact, I think the depradations of
    someone like Spong are silly, because Spong has
    adopted a pastiche of modern scientific methodology to
    scripture which is unwarranted and only barely misses
    adopting a completely materialist metaphysic. IMHO,
    those folks, generally, do as much harm to
    Christianity as the YEC crowd.

    I think I agree with you about the point of Genesis --
    that Jehovah created the world as we experience it and
    know it now. I think you would possibly insist on an
    ex nihilio hypothesis, but I dont see that Genesis has
    to be read as ex nihilio creation and in some ways
    could be interpreted not to be ex nihilio.

    I think one of the best discussions of the
    nonimportance of the scientific how of how this
    universe came into being (other than it being
    dependent on God), is George Ellis's Before the
    Beginning. Thus, I do not see the Big Bang as
    providing considerable confirmation of the fact that
    the universe seems to be a created universe.

    >So, then take the question of Genesis 1:1 (which is
    >what I limited most of
    >my comments to before). Let's push it to the
    >extreme. If the universe
    >isn't created, then it is a product of natural,
    non->divine forces the origin
    >of which we do not understand.

    Depends what you mean by created. Genesis clearly
    indicates that the form of the universe we have is
    dependent upon God. I tend to favor an ex nihilio
    understanding, but if the universe were somehow
    demonstrably eternal (such a thing cannot be
    demonstrated within science), I would still have no
    reason to doubt the existence of God on that datum.

    > How would we test whether or not God created
    >the universe by doing as you say, pushing it to its
    >extreme limits.

    No, I was saying that a rule or principle may be
    pushed to its limits. Obviously, the only way to test
    whether God sustains the world in existence is to take
    God away and see if the universe still exists. This
    cannot be done.

    >One way to be sure that God created would be for that
    God to
    >inspire a simplified,
    >but true story of how it happened.

    Sure. But this smacks of Carl Sagan's (I think)
    question about spiritual experiences (could be UFO
    abductions, but someone said it about NDEs or
    spiritual experiences), why don't they ever bring back
    information like some new law of physics? Personally,
    if God is concerned about relating scientific laws to
    people, that is not a God that means much to me, even
    though I have scientific training. It is the personal
    God that cares about individual people that is the God
    I see attested in scriptures.

    >What never seems to register with those of your

    I do take exception to this in that you are presuming
    and not telling me what you presume my belief to be.
    It may be that you are completely wrong about my
    belief, whatever that may be. I cannot infer from
    your statements what that belief is.

    > is that a poem can
    >contain not only historical truth (Homer)

    So, the gods on Olympus worked against one another,
    some on the side of the Trojans and some on the sides
    of the Greeks? You are making my point. I do believe
    there are several kernels of truth in the Illiad.
    There are other things that are highly likely to be
    false, such as disputes and direct intervention among
    the gods, the actual horse itself, etc., etc. Because
    there are things in the text I believe likely to be
    false does not lead me to believe that nothing in
    Homer is true.

    >but also >scientific truth as
    >above. Poems are merely a means of conveying
    >information (in the colloquial
    >sense of that word), be it true knowledge or false

    Sure, and I have never said anything against the truth
    that Genesis imparts about the dependence of universe
    on God. If the universe is not in some sense
    dependent on God, then God is meaningless, sure. But
    there is no way that proving the entirety of Genesis,
    except for the existence of God, to be true in every
    respect that the proposition that God created the
    universe is true. God's creation of the universe is
    not, in a strict sense, either provable or testable.

    >The thing I fail to understand about your side of the

    Again, we may be more on the same side of the fence
    than you think. It is rigid assertions that put me to
    the other side of the "fence" where ever it may be
    located, because I do not believe that most things are
    subject to rigid requirements.

    >is why God, with
    >all that power to raise a dead man, make a fellow
    >walk on water, change
    >water to wine,

    I would differentiate the revelation of Jesus the
    Christ from all other revelations of God. IN that
    life and in that life alone, God is most fully
    revealed to us. Yes, so I would expect greater
    indicia of divine power in that respect.

    But, you put words into my mouth that I have never

    >can't even have the ability to give >the poor Hebrews
    a true
    >poem about their origins!

    The words are that I have never said that Genesis did
    not contain truth. We only differ as to WHAT in the
    poem must be true to consider the whole poem true. I
    tend to be a minimalist in this regard to avoid the
    problems that lead to YECers. That does not mean that
    I disagree with the bulk of the content of the text.
    You have asserted that Genesis must be true in order
    to believe the Gospels. I reject that. That does not
    mean I do not consider Genesis true. I do. It is not
    a litmus test for the veracity of the New Testament.
    Neither is every particular part of Genesis a litmus
    test for the truth of everything in Genesis. That is
    my point, which you seem to either reject or ignore in
    alternating moments.

    >And that it doesn't seem to >bother anyone is even
    more amazing to me.

    It does not bother me, because it is not how I view

    >This is the logic which makes me view Genesis in the
    >way I do. I think
    >that either we have an impotent God, a God who
    > doesn't care what people say
    > he did (and thus allowed them to make up the
    > story of creation which lacks any
    > truth value),

    I never said this. Never even implied this.

    >or we have the wrong God. But what I see is that no
    > matter what God had said, people would say it is
    > a great story which is true.

    A pedantic, but important point, the chronicle of
    creation does not say it is being dictated by God.

    How about a God who wanted His glory and presence
    known and inspired His people to write a story in
    terms they understood that contrasted his reality
    against the proclaimed false reality of man made gods
    of those peoples whom His people knew? That's one
    possibility. An apologetic from God, stressing
    fundamental truths about His nature, but not intending
    to be an exhaustive or accurate scientific set of

    > If God had said the world arose from 2 salamancers
    > mating we would defend it as theologically true!

    Why? What is the theological content? As I pointed
    out above, God did not say, in the beginning I
    created... It is being reported by people.

    I do not see how your counterfactual salamanders
    examples give us any handle or traction on the
    problem. Then God would be saying He wasn't
    responsible for Creation and if he said nothing else,
    would not be important theologically or in any other
    way to us. I do think Genesis is unique in avoiding
    the problem of things such as the dualism of myths
    that existed about creation at the time. I believe
    this to be true and distinctive of Genesis.

    >We give God no way to be wrong no matter what he
    >had said.

    As far as I can tell, his quoted words are very few in
    Genesis 1. Mostly it is a description of His actions.
      To me, the central importance is that the world is
    dependent upon and shaped by God. That seems to me to
    be enough.

         At the extreme limits, I don't
    >think the necessity of "truth" claims that you try to
    >make hold up. You seem to agree by trying to
    >differentiate cases. We disagree as to how far and
    >what extent something can be read as a truth claim.

    >How far back in Genesis do you believe is actual
    >history? Let's start there.
    >Tell me why that chapter has history and the previous
    >one doesn't.

    On one level, I can assert that I do not have enough
    data to sift what is historical in a modern sense and
    what is not. I believe that the writer(s) of Genesis
    were trying to tell a story about their received
    understanding of the Genesis of the world. As a
    general principle, you can see the hallmarks of
    historicity in some books of the Bible more than
    others, and the NT is filled with the hallmarks of eye
    witness accounts and remembrances. I can discuss at
    length some of the different methodological approaches
    historians use to try to get at this exact thing, but
    I view these methodological approaches as not deriving
    an absolute truth just in the same way I view
    hermeneutics or form criticism as all relying on
    assumptions that are not provable and are subject to
    considerable dispute. I don't think it worth the
    bother since our disagreement stems more from the
    rigidity of your assertions that it has to be
    concordistically "true" as historical or scientific
    fact in some strict sense (although you and YECers
    disagree in the degree to which you must concord).

    In fact, I do not claim any of Genesis is not
    historical. I do claim that there is no reason to
    reject scientific understandings of the universe
    because of Genesis or vice-versa. We must
    fundamentally understand the limits of our different
    types of knowledge. Scientific knowledge, deep down,
    can never disprove or prove the kind of God attested
    to by the books of the Bible. It simply cannot go
    there. Ellis, Polkinghorne, Buber, all sorts of
    people have discussed this at length. Not all truths
    are scientific and historical.

    The God of the Bible provides a witness to the
    experience of a God who can only be understood and
    related to personally. As William James has
    discussed, it is only be choosing to believe that you
    can determine the validity of the personal nature of
    God and Jesus. The God of the Bible is not a God of
    science or philosophers, but that does not mean that
    either science or philosophy conflict with Him, they
    do not. But you can only see what the stained glass
    windows really depcit from the inside, not the

    The God of the Bible is a God of mystery a God that
    has mystical aspects. It is not a God that can be
    circumscribed by our ratiocination (not to say that we
    should not try).

    As I said before about your poor deluded friend, one
    can only take the validity of Christianity by the
    degree to which each of us who professes it is
    transformed by it.

    >"England revolted against George Washington and
    >earned their freedom
    >from American tyranny," is a demonstrably false
    >statement which in no way is
    >in a system requiring precision. I simply can't
    >believe you are advocating the above view!

    LOL. Actually, as a Yank, I would agree with that
    statement. But what I was saying is that the Bible is
    not a set of propositional statements. Not everything
    in the Bible depends on each and every aspect of it
    being historically or scientifically accurate.

    >I have read Herodotus, know of this story and think
    it is really
    >interesting. Having seen films of rat swarms in
    >Australia, where they
    >covered the ground--literally-- I could believe such
    >an event. What do
    >find objectionable to such a story's history?

    It would be the only recorded event of mice causing a
    military defeat and thus highly improbable.
    Especially since battles were rather common in the
    area where it is thought to have occurred and those
    little buggers are not reported as having chewed away
    the bow strings of other invading armies.

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