RE: Archaeology and Mormonism (incidental to liberal theology)

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Thu May 16 2002 - 15:59:16 EDT

  • Next message: Michael Roberts: "Re: Archaeology and Mormonism (incidental to liberal theology)"

    Okay, I'll bite briefly, merely to try to once more
    dispel the either/or demand.

    --- Glenn Morton <> wrote:
    > Moorad wrote:
    > >Does anyone take seriously any claims made in the
    > Book of Mormons
    > >regarding historical or archeological events?
    > Moorad
    > I waited a day to see if anyone would stand up for
    > this book. It appears
    > that everyone believes it is historically and
    > archaeologically false.
    > Therefore, it must teach great truths about God and
    > his dealings with
    > people. That is my one-liner for today.

    I don't think anyone has said this.

    I agree with you more than you might want to admit,
    but you sort of read around those points and caveats
    in my posts.

    My point has been and continues to be that particular
    details in some books of the Bible are not dispositive
    of the truth of the Christian message. There are lots
    of theologians, rightly or wrongly, who find the Old
    Testament important only because it was scripture to
    those who composed the early Church, including Jesus.

    I do not belong to that camp, although by the same
    token I do not hold that were large chunks of the OT
    demonstrably false that that would invalidate per se
    the New Testament witness to the life and resurrection
    of Jesus.

    I completely agree that if a book, which purports to
    be a unitary book and make truth claims about
    something is demonstrably false, then that would
    undermine the entire contents of the book. (Gasp,
    surprise). I have not studied the Book of Mormon, but
    if they have the history and archaeology of
    pre-Columban America wrong, that would be a serious
    blow to the claims of the rest of the book.

    However, my points about the Bible and Concordism are
    of a different variety. If I were to try to formulate
    a principle of verification it would be that of
    multiple measures and indicators or triangulation if
    you will to assess the veracity of something. This
    leans more to social science methodology that deals
    with messier things than the hard sciences, like human
    behavior. I think religion falls into this category.
    I eschew using only one measure to try to assess
    something simply because I don't think any one of our
    particular measures are very good. Therefore, you
    look for correlations between your multiple indicators
    to see if things add up. I could formulate it more at
    length, but that is the general gist.

    My main points continue to be:
    1) There is no basis for considering that Genesis 1
    was written as a scientific document, so treating it
    as such runs a danger of assuming too much or too
    2) The New Testament witness to Jesus is of
    predominant importance to the Christian faith.
    3) If some parts of the Old Testament are
    demonstrably false (and I have never said that I think
    they are), that does not mean that Christianity or the
    Christian conception of God is false.
    4) The unique revelation of Christ as discussed in
    the New Testament introduces some very new ideas about
    God that on their face seem to go against what some
    Old Testament prophets believed God to be, e.g., a
    suffering Messiah (anticipated primarily by Isaiah),
    rather than a conquering Messiah. I do not see that
    this makes those parts of the Old Testament that
    predict a conquering Messiah wrong, merely partial or
    5) There is no such thing as a literal meaning to any
    of the texts we have -- without succumbing to
    post-modernism -- the point is well taken that
    depending on how you approach certain texts, you will
    get different answers. This is simply how language
    works and how people form meanings from language.
    6) The Bible, as an historical witness of God by many
    people, is a compilation of a variety of multiple
    indicators from a variety of very different
    philosophical perspectives. Ecclesiastes is
    practically nihilistic. Other parts are triumphalist,
    etc. There is something to be gleaned from God viewed
    through these different human lenses on the nature of
    life and God's outworking in history. All the
    descriptions of God do not have to be and indeed,
    should not necessarily be, interpreted through the
    same exegetical lens.
    7) For all the foregoing reasons, the Bible cannot be
    treated as a unitary document, as it is a cannonical
    assemblage of texts by the Church.

    What is illogical is to require one particular
    criterion or set of criteria to judge the veracity of
    a religious tradition. With something so complex, the
    question is one of multiple indicators.

    > Have a nice day. I won't respond cause I want
    > to merely think about
    > the above illogic as applied to other religious
    > books.
    > glenn
    > see
    > for lots of creation/evolution information
    > anthropology/geology/paleontology/theology\
    > personal stories of struggle

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