Re: The Tower of Babel - Less Confusing

Date: Sat May 17 2003 - 02:03:11 EDT

  • Next message: George Murphy: "Re: The Tower of Babel - Less Confusing"

    In a message dated 05/16/2003 5:23:51 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

    > Again, I don't challenge your scholarship. I have found it
    > right on target. I probably wasn't specific enough in my
    > post. Part of that is that your reasoning on Genesis seems
    > so odd to me that I have a difficult time stating your
    > position.
    > You want to say God provided inaccurate information to
    > the Hebrews because they couldn't handle accurate information.
    > I really can't justify such a position. As for reason,
    > I find it keeps me from error.

    Well, my reasoning (and George's, though slightly different) seemed odd to
    Glenn Morton. He kept saying the same thing you are saying here. I believe
    this inability to understand comes from being deeply ingrained with a
    paradigm, so deeply ingrained that it is very difficult to get out of the
    box. The paradigm says, If God spoke Genesis, then everything he said,
    science as well as lessons on faith and morals, would have to be accurate,
    true. It could not be any other way.
    This assumption, paradigm, is rooted in reason. It is not that one should not
    be reasonable or jettison reason, but that reason is an inadequate and often
    misleading SOURCE of true knowledge. That is Rationalism, using reason as a
    source, is the error. The Greeks were famous for distrusting empirical data.
    They wanted absolute truths, and the only way they felt they could get them
    was to go from observations to reason. Not to experiments with the physical
    world, but to abstract reason. The loved math. It is that love of rationalism
    that gave us the dictum that if one dropped a heavy weight from a high
    location and a light weight at exactly the same time, the heavy weight would
    hit the ground first. This is a perfect example of rationalism. Human reason
    is quite satisfied that, of course the heavy weight would hit the ground
    first. I have even posed this question to college graduates who majored in
    some liberal art, but had little scientific training, and they are very
    skeptical when I tell them that both weights will hit the ground at the same
    time. I especially remember one gal who graduated from UC Berkeley. When I
    told her the weights would hit the ground at the same time, she said very
    emphatically with strong doubt in her voice, "Are you sure?"

    Similarly the perfectly reasonable assumption that God would not say anything
    which was not true is from Reason. As a rule of thumb for the revelation
    which God intended to make in Scripture, I accept his word as true, but it is
    not an absolute: it is not true for everything found there. My position is
    not that "God provided inaccurate information to the Hebrews because they
    couldn't handle accurate information." God did not provide the cosmological
    ideas in Gen 1 or even the Flood story. Those ideas were already present in
    the culture when he decided to speak through the writer of Genesis. They were
    apparently inherited from the patriarchs. In any case they were already
    there, just as the right to divorce a wife for any reason was already there.
    In the latter case the hardness of heart of the Israelites prevented God from
    supplying the pure truth. At least that is what Jesus thought, and I agree.
    In the case of the stories in Gen 1-11, I think providing a truer account
    would have at least made the communication of the theological truths more
    difficult. I think the Israelites would have been forced to stumble if they
    had been asked implicitly to set aside their old ingrained prehistory. Also,
    it seems clear to me both from Gen 1:26-28 and the history of mankind, that
    God has delegated the discovery of scientific truth to humankind.
    Accordingly, he does not reveal his knowledge of scientific truth. He does
    not provide accurate information in that realm even to his chosen people, and
    my study of Scripture shows me that all science in the Bible from Gen 1 to
    Rev 21 is the science of the times.

    As the OT shows, God had his hands full just trying to communicate
    monotheism, holiness, etc. to the Israelites It would have been
    counterproductive to add trying to teach them science, and there was no need
    for it. In fact, Gen 1-11 is implicitly a polemic against the theology of the
    times. It the basic prehistory had been set aside, the polemic and witness to
    the true God would also have been undermined. It was written in the thinking
    of the times because that is the way it would speak most forcibly to people.

    So, instead of relying on Rationalism to tell me what God must do or must
    have done, I just look at the empirical facts. They tell me he has not
    corrected their ingrained prescientific prehistory, and it is equally clear
    to me that the prehistory comes essentially from the Mesopotamians. In that
    part of the world it is the science of the day. For the readers it was
    scientifically up to date.

    So, God did not provide inaccurate information. Nor is he of such a
    rationalistic frame of mind that he feels compelled to correct all they
    believed. He implanted curiosity in humankind and gave them the task of
    correcting the science---which we have done and are continuing to do. God is
    a father and a teacher, and the OT is a tutor, Paul says, for the people of
    God in their youth. God adapted his revelation of true theology to the
    ingrained prescientific mentality of the times. For example, they believed
    the sky was a solid dome, and the Babylonians said it had been put up by
    Marduk after a terrific battle with the sea-goddess Tiamat. In order to
    correct the bad theology, God takes up the concept of a solid sky, but
    reveals that the Creator did not have to battle any goddess or anyone else to
    make the sky. Indeed, the sky is presented as a completely natural part of
    the universe, not attached or ruled by any god except the God who created it.
    You want to see the divine revelation here? It is in the setting forth of the
    sky as a completely natural part of the universe. No other peoples at that
    time could even think like that. There is more revelation than that, of
    course. But, I am just illustrating that God did communicate true revelation
    to the Israelites, but via their preexisting ingrained scientific

    If I write anymore I will have a book here. So, I hope you can see my
    approach to Genesis is perfectly reasonable but at the same time perfectly
    honest. I don't have to distort the Bible or the sciences, and the
    recognition that the science in Gen is ancient is based on the empirical
    evidence showing that it is found in the ancient Near Eastern writings. The
    recognition that the theology is indeed a divine revelation is based on the
    witness of the Holy Spirit , yes, but also on the fact that the theology
    stands in strong contrast, indeed in some places apparently purposeful
    contrast to the theology of the times; and it is superior to that ancient

    Think about this. It is a different paradigm, just as reasonable as the old
    rationalistic one, but it flows from the data, not lording it over the data.


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