Re: The forgotten verses

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sun Jun 08 2003 - 16:34:06 EDT

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    Vernon Jenkins wrote:
    > George,
    > I greatly appreciate your calm and logical approach to the matters under
    > discussion. You chose to address my three points in reverse order, and I
    > will do likewise.
    > VJ had said:
    > (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.
    > GM replies:
    > (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 true statement of who one's neighbor is.
    > VJ's response:
    > Please accept my assurance that the phenomena I describe are real enough,
    > and cannot reasonably be attributed to chance or human agency - facts you
    > may readily confirm for yourself. This inevitably invites the questions, Who
    > is responsible? and Why are they there? Because they are found in
    > particularly high concentration in the foundational and strategically-placed
    > Genesis 1:1 - the equilateral triangle (an obvious symbol of the Godhead)
    > being a recurring feature - we infer _divine authorship_ and _serious
    > intent_. I therefore suggest these are good reasons for believing the
    > observed geometries - and their many other numerical associations - are
    > intended to bring home to intellectual man that what He has caused to be
    > written in His name is to be believed - rather than challenged, as hitherto.
    > [I fail to see that your reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan is
    > relevant in this context.]

            The story of the Good Samaritan is a true and authoritative answer to the
    question "Who is my neighbor?" made by Jesus Christ. Whether or not a series of events
    actually happened that way - i.e., that a man really was going down from Jerusalem to
    Jericho &c - is utterly irrelevant to the truth of the story for the purpose for which
    it was intended.
            The relevance of this is that it shows that it is not necessary for a text to
    describe historical events as they actually happened (even though the text may be in the
    form of a narrative of events) in order for the text to be true and authoritative. This
    is the case even if the text is spoken by, or inspired by, God. Thus if God did indeed
    inspire the Genesis creation stories, it does not follow that they are accurate accounts
    of a series of events which actually happened in the history of the world. They are
    true, but they may be true in other ways, just as Jesus' parables were.
            Of course this does not show that the Genesis texts are _not_ accurate history.
    Having opened up the range of possibilities for their interpretation, we must now look
    at the internal evidence (the texts themselves and their context) and the external
    evidence (/inter alia/, scientific knowledge of the world) to decide how to understand
    them. An intepreter may decide that they are indeed accurate historical accounts, but
    is not justified in asserting /a priori/ that they are.
            You will note that your mathematical arguments don't come in here. They have,
    in fact, been taken out of play by my willingness to accept them for the sake of the
    argument. I am agreeing that the biblical texts are divinely inspired & true. But that
    doesn't determine what kind of texts they are.
    > VJ had further said:
    > (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?
    > GM replies:
    > (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
    > determine 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).
    > VJ's response:
    > But you haven't addressed the points I raised under this heading, viz to
    > what extent is science able to make sense of _miracle_? When the
    > supernatural is arbitrarily dismissed as _non-existent_ or _irrelevant_ how
    > can the Christian be completely satisfied with the pontifications of
    > scientists in respect of the Creation?
    > [Concernng YEC, I'd like to clarify my own position. It must be clear to all
    > that the numerical disclosures are as repugnant to proponents of YEC and ID
    > as they are to evolutionists - a contingent phenomenon which, I suggest,
    > confirms the biblical strictures referred to under (1).]

            If "miracle" means phenomena which are beyond the capacities of created agents
    even with divine cooperation, then (almost by definition) science can't explain them.
    But are the processes by which the universe came to its present state and life developed
    miraculous in that sense? Certainly science can't answer the question "Why is there
    something rather than nothing?" but beyond that I see no reason in principle why
    anything in the developmental history of the world can't be dealt with by science. In
    particular, scripture gives no justification for the view that the origin of life was
    miraculous. If anything, the picture of mediated creation of life in Genesis 1 points
    in the opposite direction.
            Notes: 1. I think the above definition of "miracle" too restrictive but I
    gather that this is more or less what you mean.
                    2. It's not clear to me that YECs would have to reject your mathematical
    arguments, but that's not to the point here. I put you in the YEC camp simply because
    you believe in a young earth.
    > VJ had again said:
    > (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.
    > GM replies:
    > (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).
    > VJ's response:
    > No, you miss the point I was attempting to make. When man's scientific
    > endeavours are _neutral_, ie not involved in trying to prove God wrong, or
    > non-existent, then all is well. That is science as it is properly
    > practised - and as you describe. On the other hand its use as an aid in
    > formulating a history of the earth which attempts to overturn revelation is
    > a completely different matter.

            One of the founders of modern scientific cosmology, who developed an early
    version of big bang theory was Georges Lemaitre, a Roman Catholic priest. Do you
    imagine that he was attempting to "overturn revelation"? Numerous other examples could
    be given. When science practiced in what you call a neutral manner is pursued in
    certain directions one naturally comes up with evidence which supports the view of an
    old and evolving universe. In the great majority of cases this is not the result of any
    attempt to eliminate God but simply a matter of honestly following a trail of
    observational and theoretical research.
            Moreover, one does not "overturn revelation" by presenting evidence that the
    earth is old. One overturns a particular interpretation of revelation. Again the
    discussion above on the nature of the Genesis texts is germane.


    George L. Murphy

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