Re: Herodotus' Mice and the need for historical verification

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Sun May 05 2002 - 13:23:06 EDT

  • Next message: Dr. Blake Nelson: "Re: Herodotus' Mice and the need for historical verification"

    I will focus on the necessary points of clarification.
      If you want me to come back to something, let me

    First, I dont have a double standard with Herodotus
    and the Resurrection. The resurrection is attested to
    by each of the Gospels, by Pauline epistles, and other
    epistles, moreover it is attested to by the reality of
    the continuance of the Church down through history
    from the Easter proclamation and the experience of
    Christ in the lives of countless Christians over two
    millenia. There are mutiple indicators for that

    I only used Herodotus as an easy example that some
    things are reported as "history" by ancient writers
    that do not seem to fit our preconceptions well or
    that are readily believable to us. That does not mean
    that they are false. My point is, even if small parts
    of a recollection may be inaccurate, the recollection
    as a whole may still be accurate.

    I think the point where we differ is how successfuly
    the Bible, sans the Church, is as an apologetic
    device. I tend to think in this age of cultural
    relativism the battle over authoritative texts is lost
    as an opening into why something is true. That is
    simply how a large segment of society is, if you say
    that someone or something says something is true, they
    will reply "so, what?"

    > One thing which I think comes into play here is that
    > you are working
    > strictly within a Judeo christian set of
    > assumptions. When you have worked
    > around the world, as I have, both living and
    > traveling to various places and
    > seeing other cultures, you realize that your
    > personal set of assumptions my
    > not be true.

    I am not this culturally myopic, I understand this.
    It is because I understand that Judeo Christian
    assumptions do not hold that the OT cannot be relied
    upon as authoritative as an apologetic. I think it is
    important to try to correct people's misunderstandings
    of what Genesis, for example, means (thanks to YECers)
    and thus think the kind of thing you are doing is good
    in that regard, but that is my point throughout. You
    disagree with YECers interpretation of Genesis. You
    still say, Genesis is true, even though the YECer
    version is false. You thus have a hermeneutic that is
    not scientifically based. You are trying to reconcile
    an interpretation of Genesis with science (which I am
    not saying cannot be done). But that reconcilliation
    differs from other reconcilliations (YECers). Why
    should your interpretation be considered right?
    BEcause it agrees with science? Maybe you are being
    deluded into doing that because you want to continue
    to believe? (I am not actually saying that that
    statement is true, I disagree with YECers and if you
    are going to go through Concordism exercises, then you
    have done a very fine job.) I just doubt whether it
    will be persuasive to those outside the Judeo
    Christian tradition who may view it as ad hoc jiggery
    pokery, because the likes of Asimov have already
    debunked all the Genesis "myth" in the prejorative
    sense. That is my point. There are lots of attempts
    at doing this, and who is right, you, Duane Gish,

    > Assumptions in the US
    > (especially among evangelicals) about such a society
    > would believe that
    > there would be crime in the streets and a society
    > falling apart. That isn't happening.

    I tend to think this is due to the residual of Judeo
    Christian ethics that underlies society.

    I actually feel safer here than in the
    > US. What I say above is
    > looking at the higher level assumptions you have,
    > which is that Christianity
    > is correct and therefore all we have to discuss is
    > the finer details of
    > Christian theology.

    That isn't the case. I am not big on too systematic
    of a theology for reasons I have already said. I
    think a lot more good would be done in protestant
    circles by focusing on the mystery of God, rather than
    trying to define God. I forget which of the Church
    fathers said something to the effect of everyone who
    prays is a theologian. It is the personal experience
    of God that helps us understand the meaning of our
    life, rather than propositional logic statements about

    > whole wider world of
    > possiblities.

    Having had a keen interest in comparative religion and
    mythology from my youth, I am well aware of the wider
    > Now, this you need to explain. In normal views of a
    > non-divine creation,
    > the vacuum seems to be the underlying substrate out
    > of which the universe
    > arises. Or maybe the branes in the most recent
    > theory du jour. Whatever
    > this substrate is, did God create it? If he didn't,
    > then it is co-eternal
    > with God or co-created with God. If God did create
    > it, then I see no room
    > for it NOT to be ex nihilo.

    Well, panentheists would argue that whatever it is is
    an essential part of God, thus it would not be created
    ex nihilio but out of God's being. The shape that
    universe takes would be marked by divine providence
    and choice, but not the substrate of the universe
    which is part, but not the sum of God. I do not
    describe myself as a panentheist, but this seems a
    plausible non-ex nihilio beginning that is still
    dependent on God.

    > I agree. Once again, you are assuming that I fit
    > into some Platonic
    > idealistic mold out of which concordists are
    > stamped, fully formed all with
    > the same set of beliefs.

    I do not assume, I simply want to make certain that
    you aren't. Again, the question that recurs -- as a
    general question -- whose concordism is right, and how
    should I judge between concordist views. All I am
    saying is that for those outside the tradition,
    concordism can be lumped together as an exercise in
    the futile. Why should I believe YOUR interpretation
    of Genesis? (And I am not saying I don't.)

    > Want to discuss Wheeler's
    > ideas of pre-geometry?

    Sure. I do not underestimate you in the slightest.
    Really, I don't.

    > It goes back to something a
    > YEC friend once told me (not everything YECs say is
    > false). He said, if God
    > can't be creator, how can he be savior.

    In my middle age, I am now constantly wary of such
    propositional logic statements about God. Heck, even
    when I was in high school, I realized that the mistake
    everyone made in dialogue with Socrates was accepting
    his premises. :)

    > If God has no power,
    > then how can he have power to raise Jesus from the
    > dead?

    You are making a logical leap about God having no
    power. An interesting thing that you do not address
    here is something that scientist-theologians like
    Peacocke, Polkinghorne, Barbour, Russell, et al. have
    been examining, the causal joints through which God
    may work. After all, at some point you have to
    address Hume's (mis-)characterization of what miracles
    are, even in concordism.

    > Then I think both of us would agree that God's
    > sustanance is not testable
    > and not scientific.

    It is not testable. Not everything that is scientific
    is testable (string theory, Hartle-Hawking, Tegmark's
    all possible worlds exist argument, etc. in
    cosmological physics alone are not currently or in
    some cases ever testable). You can say does the
    universe have characteristics one would expect if
    divinely endowed.

    > But I would contend that part of caring about people
    > SHOULD be the concern
    > that they find the truth, both morally and
    > theologically.

    Yes, but not necessarily scientifically. As Rustum
    Roy commented about the discussion of God in cosmology
    -- what a small God that is -- the Creation event in
    and of itself is of little meaning to the average
    person in their daily life. It is the God who is
    involved in daily personal life in what is meaningful
    to people that is worthy of worship, not a deistic
    God. Quite frankly, the workings of theoretical
    science (as opposed to applied technologies) mean very
    little to most people in their daily life.

    On a totaly tangential note to this, if you have read
    Origins, that set of interviews with cosmologists, I
    was frankly shocked and a little horrified by some of
    the responses that came from some of these folks.
    Several were of the variety, "of course life is
    meaningless and purposeless, meaning and purpose are
    naive anthropomorphisms. The universe is absurd,
    EXCEPT for the study of physics, which really makes
    life worthwhile, and I don't know how other people can
    go through this meaningless existence doing jobs that
    don't matter like being lawyers or growing food".
    While that is a pastiche of the response, it was
    certainly the upshot of a good dozen or so
    cosmologists, at which point you have to feel sorry
    for the degree to which they have become myopic and
    narrow and only find meaning in what they do and
    reject meaning in much of anything else. Talk about
    delusion, those answers seem to me more deluded than
    the worst of the "wish fulfillment" attacks on
    religious belief.

    === message truncated ===

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