Re: The Nature of Atheist - Christian dialogue

From: Iain Strachan (
Date: Thu May 01 2003 - 17:29:58 EDT

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    I'm not concerned with winning an argument with you about the value or not
    of the numerics. We're obviously going to disagree on this and I respect
    your opinions even if I don't happen to agree with them. I guess when we
    meet our Maker we'll know which of us was right & I'm content to leave it at

    But what I do object to very strongly is your persistent use of ridicule and
    to make your point; making funny parodies of Hopkins might get a laugh from
    people who agree with your point, but to those of us, like me, who don't
    agree, it does nothing at all to further it.

    Furthermore, expressions like "Pfaffing about" similarly add nothing. It
    reminds me of the story of the Vicar whose sermon text bore the margin note
    "AWSL". When asked what this meant, he said "Argument Weak; Shout Louder".
    If you have a valid point to make, you will do better to express it

    I couldn't agree more with you that we need more basic bible teaching,
    especially about the Cross and the basic message of the Gospel. But we also
    as Christians ought to show more love for each other because that is what
    Christ told us to do in John 13:34-35 (and no, I haven't worked out any
    numerical formula on that verse :-)

    I don't object to your use of the word "specious" (which, If I recall I
    didn't find necessary to qualify with the immoderate word "totally"); it has
    a precise meaning; impressive sounding but misleading. That is precisely
    how I found your arguments about Behe & I still do. Initially on reading
    your article I thought you had a valid theological point. But on further
    thought I found it to be a non sequitur. But I can't see how to put my
    reasons for saying this any more clearly than I have already, so I won't try
    and persuade you any further. We should be concerned with winning people
    for Christ, not with winning arguments.

    Concerning the fact that the maths is beyond most people. (Actually I
    disagree; it really isn't obscure at all to me & as I've indicated this kind
    of numerical geometry is taught to schoolchildren). However, just suppose
    it is hard to understand; so hard that indeed you had to have degree level
    maths to follow it. You make much of the fact that you have a Theology
    degree and taught it to MA level. I'm quite sure that many of the textbooks
    at this level would be quite beyond my limited intellect to understand (I'm
    just a dumb Computer Science PhD), and would have me running for the
    dictionary at every other word. I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and Long
    Words Bother Me. But that doesn't mean that I reject the validity of
    studying theology.

    BTW, where do you get the idea that Ivor Grattann-Guinness is related to Os
    Guinness? Or if that is some reference to an Os Guinness argument you'll
    have to enlighten me; I've no idea what this means.

    One final point. Despite what I've said, I actually like a lot of what you
    say on the list, and respect your opinion, when you're not resorting to
    sarcasm and ridicule. Please try and show some respect for mine. The path
    of exploration I have taken is one that I'm trying to follow with as much
    objectivity and honesty as I can, utilising the knowledge I've gleaned from
    my own academic studies.

    In Christ,

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Michael Roberts" <>
    To: "Iain Strachan" <>; "Dr. Blake Nelson"
    Cc: "ASA" <>
    Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2003 1:22 PM
    Subject: Re: The Nature of Atheist - Christian dialogue

    > I am the naughty boy who said that Vernon means that "you have to have a
    > PhD in Maths to get saved" My reason is that his arguments are so
    > and complex that they are beyond the wit of those who lack the maths. Sure
    > there is a little numerics in the bible but to find it everywhere and in
    > way that Vernon does is to conclude that the biblical writers were
    > to put it in this numeric form which most Christians have never realised
    > including all the leading biblical scholars of all ages.
    > Can you imagine that Luke's careful work in writing Luke-Acts also
    > complex numerics. If so he should have told us in Luke ch1 vs3. As he
    > I conclude that either he wasn't concerned or he was concealing his
    > from thick Christians like me. If the latter I lose respect for Luke - and
    > the rest.
    > I also reckon Vernon's approach makes travesty of the Bible as God's word
    > and its accessibility. It's no better than some of the nonsense on the so
    > called End Times nonsense. Stop messing around with and up scripture.
    > Further Ivor Gratten Guinness's (related to Os Guinness) argument can be
    > used to denigrate scripture as a numeric construct with a secret bible
    > and thus liable not to be reliable as the numerics exceed the history in
    > importance. If the controlling factor in writing the bible was
    > numerics, is what it says about God secondary? It sounds like it. Was Luke
    > really like that? We end up with all sorts of weird interpretations which
    > will make B Theiring seem quite mild.
    > I would point out that I do have a degree in theology and have taught up
    > M.A. level. I am pretty familiar with biblical commentators from the early
    > church until today. These do point out the numerics of 666 or 616 (there
    > a question which one is right) and 153, , 3, 6, 7 etc but none come out
    > such convoluted and obscure arguments as does Vernon.
    > I have pointed out that these arguments will convince no one and what is
    > needed today and especially in Britain is basic bible teaching. As we are
    > the Easter season surely the least important verse in John 21 is verse 11
    > the 153 fish? Hendricksen's comments in his commentary are wonderful -
    > "strange interpretations". Don Carson is less dismissive but questions the
    > value of numerics. So what about triangular numbers, the Trinity is more
    > important.
    > Hence no apologies but an appeal to concentrate on the core of the
    > Faith and not pfaff about with obstruse interpretations.
    > Finally to quote Iain I find Vernon's argument totally specious and hope
    > does not mind my choice of the word.
    > When it comes to Jim's problems, as far as I am concerned rejecting YEC is
    > the most important thing and whether you are Day-Age, Gappist, Framework
    > secondary and is not a primary issue. If I can persuade a YEC that them
    > earth is a million years old and he thinks the DAy age is right then I
    > rejoice.
    > Michael
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Iain Strachan" <>
    > To: "Dr. Blake Nelson" <>
    > Cc: "ASA" <>
    > Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 11:10 PM
    > Subject: Re: The Nature of Atheist - Christian dialogue
    > > Blake,
    > >
    > > Thanks for the comments. I also recall that things got pretty heated at
    > the
    > > time. Jim was posting very frequently to the list -often several times
    > > day-, and often getting pretty unpleasant with those who disagreed with
    > him.
    > >
    > > But at the time, my impression (my apologies to Jim if this is was
    > > completely wrong), was that if someone was posting that frequently to a
    > list
    > > and was so fired up about an issue (Day-Age), that they frequently got
    > > angry, that what was going on was a massive crisis of faith. Jim had
    > > booted YEC out by about a million light years, and perhaps wanted to
    > an
    > > alternative that would resolve the crisis. In those circumstances, I
    > really
    > > question whether the right approach was to systematically challenge his
    > > views (just as my views on ID and Vernon's numerics have been
    > systematically
    > > challenged by people who don't like them). It seems to me that people
    > just
    > > couldn't resist the temptation to show how the Day-Age view, with which
    > they
    > > didn't agree, was intellectually a non-starter. Was this really the
    > > Christian thing to do in the circumstances?
    > >
    > > Another point I recall here was that for a while, Vernon was prohibited
    > from
    > > posting to the group about Bible Numerics. At the time, the person
    > > proposing that this subject should be avoided, did have the grace to
    > mention
    > > that it was not Vernon who was responsible for the bad feeling, but
    > > who responded to him. It has been my observation that there have been
    > many
    > > very nasty and sarcastic comments made about Vernon's position, in this
    > case
    > > from people who were clearly not experiencing a crisis of faith. A
    > > example was the suggestion that "you have to have a PhD in Maths to get
    > > saved" (again, my fallible memory may have got the exact words wrong;
    > > certainly having a PhD in Maths was a major component). This was
    > > untrue on at least three counts, namely:
    > >
    > > (a) Vernon never implied you had to understand his work to get saved.
    > > (b) Vernon doesn't have a PhD in Maths. (Sorry, Vernon; hope I haven't
    > > blown your street-cred!! :-)
    > > (c) Schoolchildren at around year 7 or 8 in Britain are taught about
    > > triangular numbers (the major part of Vernon's work); it's part of the
    > > standard Maths curriculum.
    > >
    > > The poster in question ought have been well aware of much of this &
    > > therefore I can only conclude that he could not resist making a nasty
    > > sarcastic jibe. It is this kind of thing that every day makes me feel
    > like
    > > turning my back on the list. By all means one can make a reasoned and
    > > courteously phrased argument as to why one thinks the numerics are not
    > > helpful, or have an alternative explanation to the one proposed by
    > > (and to be fair some of the group have done this and we've had some
    > > constructive exchanges on it); but to resort to insults and ridicule is
    > yet
    > > another example of the depressingly unchristian behaviour I observe on
    > > list.
    > >
    > > I live in hope that we can all learn to function better as a Christian
    > > community, and can each benefit from the insights into our Creator and
    > > works that we each have received.
    > >
    > > Best wishes,
    > > Iain.
    > >
    > >

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