Re: The forgotten verses

From: George Murphy (
Date: Wed Jun 04 2003 - 22:54:45 EDT

  • Next message: Walter Hicks: "Re: The forgotten verses"

    Vernon Jenkins wrote:
    > George,
    > Writing to Dave, I had said:
    > "You appear to overlook the principal reason for my last writing to Michael.
    > It was to point to the fundamental matter of man's essential nature as it is
    > presented in the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures; and, arising from that,
    > whether it is reasonable to believe that his (man's) overturning of God's
    > account of how things actually began can possibly carry any conviction. I
    > suggest that until that matter is understood, and settled, no real meaning
    > can be attached to the detailed evidence driving the current debate. An
    > associated consideration, of course, is man's tendency to discount the
    > supernatural; to look only to 'natural' explanations."
    > Commenting on Dave's lack of response to this, you said:
    > " I think that the argument Vernon makes here has in fact been bypassed. I
    > don't think it's correct but it deserves to be noted & - I think - buried
    > with appropriate honors."
    > George, thanks for injecting a little gravitas into the discussion, and for
    > conceding the potential significance of the point I was making. However, I
    > believe the 'funeral arrangements' you envisage will need to be deferred for
    > a time, if not indefinitely.
    > You went on to say:
    > "As I understand it, his (Vernon's) point is that human sinfulness means
    > that our attempts to understand the age of the earth independently of
    > scripture are futile. I don't debate the reality or seriousness of sin, but
    > this argument won't work. Sin is primarily a distortion of the human
    > relationship with God. Even those who have argued most strongly for the
    > complete inability of unredeemed humans to do anything good vis-a-vis God,
    > such as Luther, have not held that such people cannot understand the way
    > the natural world works. & this is supported empirically by the successes
    > of science in many areas that have no direct connection with the age of the
    > earth, such as the details of atomic structure, nuclear reactions, genetics,
    > celestial mechanics, &c. It would be rather odd if our inability to
    > understand the world only kicked in when we tried to find its age.
    > "So one can't argue that our reason is so damaged that calculations of the
    > age of the earth are suspect on that account. Nor can one plausibly argue
    > that such estimates are due to a sinful desire to eliminate God or deny
    > scripture. Many of the founders of
    > historical geology were Christians firmly convinced of the truth of
    > scripture. Michael can give copious examples.
    > "A related mistake is the appeal to 'God's account of how things actually
    > began' in contrast to scientific accounts. This is a fundamental error I've
    > pointed out here several times, the assumption that the truth and authority
    > of scripture immediately
    > imply that all scriptural texts - and especially early Genesis - are
    > historically & scientifically accurate accounts of things 'as they actually
    > happened.' This skips over the whole question of what _kind_ of texts we're
    > dealing with. & Vernon's appeal to numerical patterns in scripture fails for
    > the same reason. These patterns are supposed to prove that scripture was
    > inspired by God and that every word is true. OK, grant that for the sake of
    > argument. It again doesn't settle the question of what kind of texts we're
    > dealing with. I don't deny the divine inspiration of Genesis 1. Whether or
    > not the Holy Spirit intended us to read it as a scientific account of events
    > that happened in a 7 day period a few thousand years ago is a different
    > matter."
    > George, just a few observations on what you have written:
    > (1) I seem to recall that we have argued before on the true nature of sin.
    > When you say "Sin is primarily a distortion of the human relationship with
    > God." you are, of course, correct. But I suggest your words do not
    > adequately capture the true nature of our problem. Sin, as the scriptures
    > inform us - and as I understand it - is not a _negative_ or a _neutral_
    > thing, but rather a very _positive_ anti-God attitude which can lead us into
    > all kinds of error. Jesus was well aware of it (Jn.2:25) - and it surely
    > follows that all who profess to follow him should be also. The words of the
    > Lord as spoken by Jeremiah can hardly be more damaging to our self-esteem:
    > "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can
    > know it?" (Jer.17:9). If that indeed be true - and I suggest experience
    > confirms it - then we are surely on sticky ground if we insist on
    > challenging the biblical account of how and when things began.
    > (2) You fail to distinguish between science as normally and legitimately
    > practised (with God's revelation and blessing) and its misuse in attempts to
    > analyse/question the _miracle_ outlined in the Creation narrative. Is it
    > your general view that any supernatural event is, (a) open to such
    > investigation and, (b) then capable of being completely explained in
    > scientific terms?
    > (3) You've twice used the phrase 'what kind of texts we're dealing with'.
    > When I point out that the 7 Hebrew words of the Bible's first verse conceal
    > a _standing miracle_ of numerical geometry and many other incontrovertible
    > wonders - including an accurate estimate of pi - surely that should alert us
    > to the kind of text that follows. Such clear evidence of His being and
    > sovereignty must remove all doubts about the literal truth of a recent
    > ex-nihilo creation.

    Proceeding in reverse order:

    (3) Grant (as I said) for the sake of argument that there are numerical patterns in
    Genesis which prove that God is its author. This emphatically does _not_ prove that the
    text which God has authored is a literal (i.e., historically and scientifically
    accurate) account of how and when creation took place. To imagine that this is so is
    like claiming (to use this example once again) that the story of the Good Samaritan
    "really happened" because Jesus told it as a trie statement of who one's neighbor is.

    (2) There is no sharp qualitative difference between the 2 types of science which you
    try to distinguish here. E.g., the types of arguments used to detrmine the distance to
    the galaxy in Andromeda are based on quite routine observations (properties of certain
    types of stars) and well-known laws (inverse square law for light propagation &c). No
    one has any objection when these are used to find that a cluster of stars in our galaxy
    is ~1000 LY away. But when they show that M31 is a couple of million LY away, YECs
    immediately start objecting. There is no difference in the procedures, the underlying
    assumptions, or the beliefs of the astronomers. But the results conflict with the YECs
    preconceptions - preconceptions traceable to the unwarranted assumption noted under (3).
    (1) I don't disagree about the seriousness of sin. But if you follow your argument
    here to its logical conclusion, you end up unable to have any confidence in any
    knowledge about the world. If our knowledge of the world is that severely distorted by
    sin then maybe the earth is flat. Maybe heat really flows from cold to hot. Who knows?
            But in fact the accurate correlations between our theories and observations can
    give us a great deal of confidence that scientific investigation - _without_ "God's
    revelation" - works quite well. And since (as I noted under (2)) there is no division
    between the type of science that raises no religious objections from YECs and that which
    does, YECs need to take a hard look at their presuppositions. Again, see (1).


    George L. Murphy

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