God's Two Books (was: Feedback on Howell)

From: Steve Bishop (stevebishop_uk@hotmail.com)
Date: Mon May 05 2003 - 18:11:18 EDT

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    >From: "Michael Roberts" Now Steve why are you so dubious of the Two Books
    >metaphor? Can you spell out your reasons and then I will comment!
    >Incidentally the ASA lay educ project is based on a two books approach so
    >you obviously must be careful what you say.
    >I think you have raised a very important issue which needs clarification

    >From: "Michael Roberts" <michael.andrea.r@ukonline.co.uk>
    >Now Steve why are you so dubious of the Two Books metaphor? Can you spell
    >out your reasons and then I will comment!

    Hi Michael,

    (Apolgies for changing the subject line)

    As I have to be careful 8¬)) I’ll let others speak form me:

    Frank Manuel's comments in my original post to James sums up the problems

    "Those who inclined towards developing the idea of neutrality, or
    separateness, or autonomy, of science took a position that became epitomized
    in the metaphor of the two books, the Book of Scripture and the Book of
    Nature, both created by God as manifestations of His omnipotence and
    omniscience, but books different in character that had to be kept apart." F
    E Manuel The Religion of Isaac Newton (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
    1974) pp 27-8

    It seems to suggest that science is a neutral activity; and that science and
    religion are independent. I have dealt with both those “errors” (!) in my
    “A typology for science and religion” Evangelical Quarterly LXXII (1) (Jan
    2000) (if anyone would like a copy I can send a Word version – just ask).

    Why only two books? Isn't God active in history as well?

    And Newbigin has some pertinent things to say about it:

    "Graf Reventlow's [Henning Graf Reventlow, The Authority of the Bible and
    the Rise of the Modern World, London: SCM Press,1984] study shows how,
    during the latter part of the seventeenth and through the eighteenth
    centuries, while ordinary churchgoers continued to live in the world of the
    Bible, intellectuals were more and more controlled by the humanist
    tradition, so that even those who sought to defend the Christian faith did
    so on the basis that it was "reasonable", that is to say, that it did not
    contradict the fundamental humanist assumption. Reviewing the story, one can
    see how the defence moved through successive tactical retreats. There was,
    to begin with, the view that God has provided two ways of making himself
    known to us: the book which we call the Bible, and the book of nature.
    Truths which we cannot by the exercise of reason read from the book of
    nature, are provided for us as a sort of supplementary source, from the
    Bible. We are not, in this view, part of a story, a drama of creation, fall,
    redemption and consummation. We are in a timeless world where timeless
    truths, valid for all times and all peoples, are being communicated in two
    different ways. As the eighteenth century rolls on, we find that the really
    essential truths are available to us from the book of nature, from reason
    and conscience; the truths which we can only learn from the Bible are of
    minor importance, adiaphora about which we need not quarrel. But inexorably
    we move on to the point where the Bible is subjected to the scrutiny of
    reason and conscience and is found to be full of inconsistencies,
    absurdities, tall stories, and plain immorality.

    "What is striking about the books which were written, especially during the
    eighteenth century, to defend Christianity against these attacks, is the
    degree to which they accept the assumptions of their assailants.
    Christianity is defended as being reasonable. It can be accommodated within
    these assumptions, which all reasonable people hold. There is little
    suggestion that the assumptions themselves are to be challenged. The defence
    is, in fact, a tactical retreat. But as later history has shown, these
    tactical retreats can - if repeated often enough - begin to look more like a

    (Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, London: SPCK, 1989,
    pages 2-3)

    I look forward to your comments, Michael.



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