Re: asa-digest V1 #3214

From: George Murphy (
Date: Mon Mar 17 2003 - 09:04:30 EST

  • Next message: Dick Fischer: "Encyclopaedia on Creationists' Fraudulent Claims."

    Gary Collins wrote:
    > On Thu, 13 Mar 2003 05:20:01 -0500, asa-digest wrote:
    > >------------------------------
    > >
    > >Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 19:17:01 -0000
    > >From: "Michael Roberts" <>
    > >Subject: Re: test questions-old topic
    > >
    > [...]
    > >
    > >Pray for us Brits Ken Ham is on tour this month and I dont know whether
    > >anyone will turn him into a pork pie.
    > >
    > >Michael
    > >
    > We need it. He came to Brighton at the Weekend and gave 5 sessions
    > co-hosted by two churches, one of which was mine.
    > Oh dear. The word 'insidious' tends to spring to mind. Perhaps that's too strong,
    > he's probably sincere, but (IMO) mistaken, and will refuse to look objectively at
    > anything because of his worldview and _a priori_ assumptions.
    > The presentation was powerful, superb in its style but a mine of misinformation,
    > or at least of incomplete information which would lead people to erroneous
    > conclusions. Not that I would completely dismiss out of hand absolutely everything
    > he said - smoe things I feel I will need to look into. But I'm sufficiently aware of the
    > Creation/evolution debate to know that the young earth position is really not
    > tenable (much as I might like it to be otherwise - it would make things a lot simpler
    > if it were!)
    > Perhaps the thing I objected to most was his forceful insistence that unless
    > you accept literally the words of the Bible - and of Genesis 1 to 11 in particular -
    > you are undermining, or not accepting the authority of the scripture. I see this
    > as a slight not only on myself, but on respected conservative theologians such
    > as J.I. Packer and F.F. Bruce and I'm sure there are many more who could be
    > mentioned.
    > I feel I really need to write something to my pastor, but I'm not sure yet what
    > approach I should use. A scientific approach would be of no use, because
    > Ken said - and quite correctly - that interpretation of data is theory-laden, and if
    > I approach from this angle I expect it would merely be dismissed as "not looking
    > through Bible glasses" (any of you who have seen this presentation will know
    > all about this, and the emphasis put upon it).
    > The only approach I can think of that might be successful is to try to undermine
    > Ken's assumption that the literal interpretation is the only valid - or the most valid -
    > way to approach Genesis 1 to 11. I am thinking of drawing fairly heavily on Henri
    > Blocher's book "In the Beginning" to achieve this. Also, Alan Hayward (sp?) has
    > a useful section in his book "Creation and Evolution: The Facts and Fallacies."
    > I would value the advice of others, though; and especially if any of you have been
    > in this situation, I would love to hear from you and find out the approaches you
    > have used, and how effective - or otherwise - they proved to be.
    > I am not a scientist, theologian or philosopher myself - I have a basic science
    > education and have learned something about the other two subjects by
    > reading but no formal training. And as a Christian of quite a few years' standing,
    > I have a fairly good knowledge of the Scriptures themselves (though not in the
    > original languages!)
    > Sorry about the long post, but I had to do it now, while it's fresh in my mind, and
    > to get it off my chest a bit, and also to make sure that I really do take some kind
    > of action, however limited, rather than just sit back passively and do nothing at all.
    > PS: a couple of thoughts have occurred to me; this may be useful to anyone else
    > who finds themself in my position as a result of this tour.
    > Ken emphasized that whatever subject the Bible touches on - geology, astronomy,
    > anthropology, etc - it is completely reliable in every way. I think I will point out in
    > my letter that this is not so, and mention a couple of instances where this is clearly
    > not the case - the 'famous' verse in Kings from which pi=3, and the passage in
    > Hebrews which explains why Levi can collect the tithe: because when Melchizedek
    > met Abraham, Levi was "still in the body of his ancestor." (And even if this were in fact
    > true, the logic employed seems to be a complete _non sequitur_, since if Levi were
    > still in the body of his ancestor, it would follow that all his brothers must have been
    > as well, and so they also would already have paid the tenth through Abraham). I
    > must make sure to remember to include this in my letter!

            One problem in dealing with those who insist that everything in the Bible "must
    be taken literally" is that any attempt to provide counterexamples will be seen as an
    attempt to show that the Bible is "in error" and will be taken care of with various
    well-worn "harmonizing" devices. In order really to have a change of convincing the
    literalist, you need to be able to make it clear that there are other types of
    literature besides accurate historical or scientific narratives that can be true and

            One way of doing this, staying within the Bible, is to talk about the Psalms.
    No one in his right mind thinks that Ps.23, e.g., means that we are sheep and God takes
    us out to pasture. Some of the parables serve the same purpose since their historicity
    is quite besides the point & in the case Judges 9:8-15, e.g., preposterous.

            The reaction to that is likely to be "But that's poetry" or "But that's a
    parable." So what? There is nothing in the biblical text at those points that says
    "Warning: The following is a poem (or parable) and not to be taken literally." We make
    such decisions on the basis of both biblical context and external evidence. (E.g.,
    trees don't talk.) & those are also the criteria that lead us to believe that Gen. 1 &
    2, e.g., while true & authoritative, aren't to be read as "history as it really
            In another direction - I would hesitate to use the examples you cite from Kings
    & Hebrews. Pi _is_ 3 - to one significant figure. & the fact that the writer to the
    Hebrews introduces his statement in 7:9 with "One might even say" (NRSV) shows that he
    didn't intend for this to be understood as a strict proof.

    George L. Murphy

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