RE: Another thing people can throw rocks at

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Sat May 11 2002 - 23:44:29 EDT

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    Okay, here's something that I would not have said a
    mere three years ago.

    --- JW Burgeson <> wrote:
    > Glenn wrote: " I would merely ask here, how you used
    > the scientific method
    > to determine that a non-historical poem is
    > theologically true? I don't
    > really think that is possible--i.e. to use science
    > or a scientific mindset
    > to determine theological truth. Could you explain
    > how this is done?"

    You assume that Christianity is meant to be a
    completely rational religion. Sadly, for our modern
    ethos, it is not. Not that it is irrational, but it
    is either suprarational or arational depending on
    whether you follow the mystics or William James.

    The only way to know God theologically, is through
    prayer and meditation. As the Orthodox tradition
    holds he who prays is a theologian. God is only truly
    known personally. As I get older, I believe this to
    be more true. Skeptics can say that this is
    psychological self-delusion, but Burgy puts it well as
    follows, and I concur.

    > I do not think it is possible either, my friend. As
    > george puts it -- start
    > with the cross. My conviction that Jesus is the
    > Christ comes from the HS
    > working on me (after I asked). All else flows from
    > that.

    Jesus is experienced in the transformations of our
    personal lives. This is where I think that the
    scientific method departs from religion. Rationality
    can only take you so far, up to the precipice, if you
    will. It cannot give you certainty about God or His
    nature or Jesus. It can only give reasonably good
    probability. I am able to doubt all my beliefs to a
    huge extent, including the existence of the desk that
    this computer is perched upon and (despite Descartes
    assertion to the contrary) my own doubt. At rock
    bottom, there is no real certainty. Epistemology is a
    matter of faith. Pure and simple. The only way one
    can evaluate a system of belief is not merely by
    evaluating the edifice from the outside, but from the


    > Christ is Lord of all -- or He is not Lord at all.

    Or more aptly, Christ is the Lord of all who accept
    Him. Not meaning a Calvinist limited atonement, but
    merely that God is not a tyrant. No one is saved
    except by Christ, who is the Lord of all Creation, but
    God will not compel anyone to enter the Kingdom of
    Heaven against their wishes.

    > But in one sense you are quite right. I do not use
    > science (scientific
    > techniques and mindset) to apprehend God. That does
    > not work. I see you as
    > trying to use the scientific technique to apprehend
    > God -- this is probably
    > what I meant when I said you had the "YEC mindset."
    > ANd I think that
    > technique is doomed to failure. Apprehending God is
    > much more mystical.
    > William James seems to have a good handle on this in
    > his 1902 lectures later

    I second this whole heartedly, as my above comments
    indicate. More to the point is James' "The Will to
    Believe" (which he later should have titled The Right
    to Believe). Christianity, despite modern
    Protestantisms' and Scholasticisms best efforts to the
    contrary, is a mystical religion. That does not mean
    it is irrational. It is arational. I think in their
    very different ways both Hans Kung and John
    Polkinghorne (although Polkinghorne perhaps goes too
    far on ratioanlity) show that reason can give you
    motivated belief. What it cannot do is prove faith.

    > Apprehending God is not the only human activity that
    > cannot (or should not)
    > be approached with a scientific mindset. Marriage is
    > one that comes to mind.
    > An artist painting a sunset. The courtship of a man
    > and a woman. The
    > nurturing of a baby by its mother. Listening to
    > Handel's Messiah. Etc etc.

    Excellent and well taken points.

    > "I think you miss my point. The theology of
    > salvation to which I refer does
    > not consist of the set of Christian theologies.
    > Don't limit the
    > possibilities to merely those within Christianity. I
    > refer to the set of all
    > religious theologies. If Molech is truly God, then
    > I may be in trouble
    > because I didn't sacrifice my son, Daniel, to him
    > when Dan was a baby. It is
    > 29 years too late for me."

    But what is it about Molech that would make one think
    he may be true? When you pray to God and seek to know
    God, do you think, I should kill my son? Hopefully
    not. I do not know of a mystical tradition that
    emphasizes sacrifice of humans to appease God.

    Your point, it seems to me, is largely one where an
    authority tells you to believe one God has a certain
    set of characteristics or another. I think all such
    systems are flawed for reasons I have discussed
    before. I do not believe that God is subject to our
    propositional logic in such a way that we can
    circumscribe God's attributes. Why should I not
    believe the priests of Molech? Because, my experience
    of God is loving and merciful.

    Why is my experience a valid check? Rationally, it is
    not. My experience is not transferable to someone
    else. Just as the experience of my wife or friends or
    parents is not transferable to someone else. It is
    not subject to scientific verification, but those
    experiences and relationships are the most meaningful
    and important things to my life.

    I also do not seek to appease or garner favor with
    whatever God there may be. I think an attitude toward
    God as a slot machine or giver of favors or something
    to be appeased to avoid wrath to be fundamentally
    flawed. Sacrifice to Molech falls into these
    categories. It is this kind of wish fulfillment and
    thirst for power or avoidance of pain that seems to me
    the epitome of wish fulfillment, not the
    self-sacrificing, other centered love of Jesus.

    I try to earnestly seek God, not to achieve my ends,
    but to divine His and my role in His will. As I have
    grown older, I understand that the God who is
    witnessed in the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ,
    calls me out of the way I used to think and the way
    that society thinks about many things. It is this
    transforming power of the Crucified God that is real
    in my life. I also understand in that humility that I
    can only imperfectly apprehend the nature of God. The
    scripture illumines the example of Jesus of Nazareth
    as the revelation of God and the New Testament
    attesting of the life of Jesus is central to
    Christianity. While the patriarchs may be fine and
    dandy, and the history of the Israelites testify to
    God's work in the world, Christ so eclipses these
    elements that all things, both old and new must be
    judged against the standard of Jesus of Nazareth.


    Here's where the scripture would invalidate itself.
    If it presented itself as a way to gain power, curry
    favor with God, appease angry spirits, get ahead in
    business, make money or otherwise put myself at the
    head of the line (apologies to healt, wealth, and
    prosperity tele-evangelists -- NOT) I would not
    believe a word of it. What I am amazed at is the
    self-sacrifice, other centered love which goes against
    both my own instincts and the culture that tells me to
    get ahead, accumulate stuff, tear experiences from the
    world to paste in my scrapbook. It is only by
    following Jesus, letting Him into my life that I
    realize that the things that the culture tells you to
    do are not the ways to live a fulfilled life, suffused
    with God's nature.

    I can rationally believe in the Christian God all week
    long and twice on Sunday and not be transformed,
    unless I seek to take up my cross and follow that
    example of Jesus in my life.

    Likewise, if my salvation makes me smug and complacent
    and happy to go about my myopic life knowing I am
    saved, I have serious doubts about the efficacy of my
    faith and salvation.

    > "The first message does have a lot to do with
    > history and science. The
    > universe came into being either as a result of
    > eternally existing natural
    > forces alone or as the result of eternally existing
    > divine will."
    > Or maybe both.

    Yes, the point is, it does not matter compared to the
    life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

    > " By universe I mean all that there is. If God came
    > into being with the
    > universe, then he is part of the Universe and not
    > the creator of it."
    > But who here (or anywhere) is arguing that? Nobody
    > that I know. Not even the
    > Process Theologians.

    Actually, the only person I knows who argues that is
    Richard Dawkins. Indicating how epistemological
    blinders dictate our metaphysics.

    Your definition actually has to be tighter, if by the
    universe is, God, whom naturally exists, means that
    God is part of the Universe, even if he created ex
    nihilio, because God exists, and therefore is part of
    your definition of the universe.


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