RE: The Problem of Liberal Theology

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Fri May 10 2002 - 09:44:41 EDT

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    George wrote:
    >> I am not a liberal - a statement I make not to clear my
    theological honor but because the theological truth that I think the Bible
    conveys includes a great deal that many "liberals" wouldn't be interested in
    defending (resurrection, Incarnation, &c). <<

    I agree that you and I agree on more things than we often let others see.

    >> Having said that - your argument just won't do. Because the
    really important things that the Bible claims - that God is the creator of
    the universe, that God got Israel out of Egypt, that Jesus is truly divine
    and truly human, that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
    everlasting life" &c - are not things that can be verified. You can make a
    good scientific case for a temporal origin of the universe, but not that God
    created it. You can make an historical argument for the Exodus, but not
    that God acted in any distinctive way to bring it about. <<<

    Here I think we have a problem. I don't think you can make a good
    historical/archaeological argument for the Exodus. And if not, what does
    that say about the veracity of Scripture. Look at the Israeli archaeologists
    who doubt the entire story! The physical evidence isn't there. And that is
    the same problem with the traditional interp. of Genesis 6-9. The physical
    evidence isn't there for a Global flood nor is it really there for a
    widespread big local flood in the Mesopotamian basin, nor is it there in the
    Black Sea.

    I agree with you that I can't prove that God was behind an event. But I can
    prove that the event has no evidence (which is not the same as proving it
    didn't happen) and I CAN prove that an event HAS evidece that it occurred.
    Lacking that evidence raises doubts about the occurrence of the event,
    regardless of whether God was behind it or not.

    >>>You can make a convincing argument for the historical character of a lot
    in the gospels, including the basic fact of the resurrection - but you can't
    verify that Jesus was God Incarnate. And you can't prove historically or
    scientifically that God justifies sinners for Christ's sake. <<

    Agreed, but never have I tried to prove that God was behind the events of
    Genesis 1-11. I just want to see if they really happened in ANY fashion at
    all. Same with the Exodus. THere simply isn't the data, historical or
    archaeological, to support the reality of the story.

    Shuan, does this sound like a fundamentalist here?

    >>> & no, you have never said that you could prove these things. But
    the point is that after verifying to your satisfaction that the flood, or
    the creation of humanity, or whatever events you wish really happened as the
    Bible says - you are still faced with theological claims which cannot be
    verified. >>>

    Ah thanks for acknowledging that I never said I could prove those things.
    The problem I see is this, George, we base our theology upon what God did.
    We believe God is behind events X, Y and Z. But we find that X, Y and Z
    never happened at all! So, what becomes of the theology? Was God really
    behind the occurence of NON-events? I don't like resting a theology upon
    such ephemeral and tenuous foundations, especially in a historically based
    religion like Christianity.

    When I look at Mormonism, they claim that God was behind the events
    described in the Book. But what if those events never happened at all? (and
    I think they are utter nonsense and imaginary) Am I still to believe that
    God is behind the battles described in that Book?

    >>> Certainly some degree of historical accuracy of scripture is
    important for faith in Christ because scripture is our basic witness to
    Christ. But in that case why not deal with the NT documents, which are
    closer & more germane to the Christ event? Even if you can provide a
    convincing argument that the events of Gen.6-9 really happened 5 x 10^6
    years ago, it's a tremendous stretch to claim that you've provided any
    additional reason to belief the theological claims made in the NT. <<<

    Agreed, but one can significantly undermine Jesus' claim to be descended
    from Noah if Noah never existed. And one can seriously undermine the claims
    of Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb--a reflection of the passover, if the
    passover never happened.

    >> The bottom line is that it is the theological claims that are
    important, whatever percentage of accurate historical narrative you think
    scripture contains, & those claims are ultimately matters of faith, even
    though they refer to historical events. You might be able to verify that
    Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate but not that the Son of God did>>

    As you might expect, I would characterize it a bit differently. :-)
    Theological claims are important only if they represent reality of the
    theological world. The theology of Molech, we hope, isn't real. And I know
    you agree with this. And given that the theological claims are based upon
    God acting in history (the Exodus), if the history didn't happen, why should
    I beleive the theological claim? And yes, we can say that these are stories
    designed to convey theological truths rather than referring to historical
    events, can we say that of the Exodus also? Frankly, I find the evidence for
    the Exodus to be as shaky as evidence for the global flood.

    (once again, Shuan, this isn't sounding very fundamentalist is it?)


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