Re: Hyers' Dinosaur Religion (was: HYAR'S...; Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop)

From: Peter Ruest <pruest@mail-ms.sunrise.ch>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 11:04:44 EST

Paul Seely wrote (23 Feb 2004):
< Peter wrote,
<< The use of Ezekiel's "raqia^" to prove a solid firmament is a red
herring. Why should God's throne require a solid support - and that in a
_vision_? >>
< ... Ironically, this resistance you show to follow even the biblical
evidence reveals that it is not the Word of God you are protecting, but
_your_ doctrine of inspiration to which you make the Word of God bow down...
>

Paul, you again stand the normal rules of evidence on their head.

There are (perhaps at least) three different realms of reality, with
different assumptions, different types of evidence, different kinds of
authority, different rules of interpretation, and different degrees of
reliability:

(1) God's revelation described/contained in the canonical books of the
Bible.
(2) God's physical creation.
(3) Human stories of very different types.

Each of these bodies of data, of course, requires an interpretation, if they
are to provide evidence. And more reliable interpretations should have
precedence over less reliable ones.

(1) Interpretation of biblical texts depends to an extreme extent on the
wordview of the interpreter. And this worldview, at least partly dealing
with the "invisible world" and spiritual realities, necessarily contains
elements which are not open to objective scientific verification or
falsification. This is why freedom of religion and conscience is a (probably
_the_) fundamental human right of every human individual, which has to be
respected by society, state and law. Public discussion of theological issues
is possible only on the background of specified belief systems of
theological axioms. For Christians, this should be the canonical texts in
the agreed-upon original versions. These texts are the data which have to be
interpreted - or as close as we can get to the data. There are some delicate
questions as to the reliability of the text's preservation, the amount and
importance of possible errors of transmission in the write-up of the
prophet's utterances or in copying these texts. Among ancient texts, the
biblical ones are unique in their reliability, by perhaps an order of
magnitude or more, even on the purely archeological level, even without
taking into account God's special care for them. But basically, if God is
using biblical texts at all as a means of revealing himself, such
differences in the details, whether a few letters, words, or even phrases,
must be insignificant in comparison with the inner consistency of the whole
biblical corpus. For theological reasons, the presumption of correctness of
the received text must be the starting point which cannot be seriously
mistaken. The relevance of such data of realm (1) is of course based on
faith in God - which cannot be justified by or reduced to anything else. It
must be an axiom. It corresponds, however, to a worldview which is
self-consistent and consistent with all other domains of knowledge and
experience.

(2) Interpretation of the physical creation is the business of science, with
its practice of public accessibility of all data, measurements, theories,
hypotheses and interpretations. Here, there are generally agreed-upon
procedures of testing hypotheses and theories, and the degree of reliability
of certain given conclusions can usually be worked out quite well by the
scientific community. Here, the data are physical objects, like rocks or
light rays, and their relationships. Delimiting between data and
interpretation is usually straightforward and is linked with estimates of
reliability, which often even can be calculated numerically. A trust in such
data of realm (2) cannot be justified by or based on science itself, but it
can be securely based on faith in the God known from biblical revelation,
realm (1). Science is not autonomous.

(3) Human stories, texts of any type are dealt with by fields like
ethnology, ethology, psychology, etc., with history, archeology, etc. as
providers of material. Although story texts, in their physical form (like
clay tablets, papyri, manuscripts), are data of realm (2), their _contents_
are not original data in themselves. They are already interpretations of
something, which in turn may be data or another interpretation. This adds at
least one more level of indirection and uncertainty to results and evidence
in this realm (3). Canonical biblical texts are also human stories in this
sense, but they are not _only_ human; therefore they must be treated in the
special way of realm (1). Of course, they may (and must) also be dealt with
by the techniques of this realm (3), but if the aspects of realm (1) are
ignored in so doing, the evidence derived will often be incomplete or even
completely false, and without considering realm (1), there is no way of
knowing whether such a partial treatment of a particular case is incomplete
or in error. The additional factor coming in for biblical texts is the faith
in God of realm (1) and its implications. The results of realm (3) share
with those of realm (2) their lack of autonomy, but they differ from them
fundamentally in that the probability of their reliability cannot be
securely estimated. Statistics of findings from a set of stories can
sometimes be formalized, but the reliability of each individual component of
such a set and the comparability within the set and of the set with reality
must be taken more or less on faith.

Comparing (1) with (2), the relationship is not symmetrical, as theological
results (1) cannot be judged by science (2), but scientific results (2) are
binding on interpretations of (1). This rules out the validity of both
scientism ( la Monod, Dawkins etc.) and young earth creationism. And how do
results (3) compare with those of realms (1) and (2)? There certainly cannot
be any priority or dominance of results (3) over those of (1) and (2),
because (1) is the only autonomous realm, and (2) is testable, whereas (3)
is neither. Optimally, it should be possible to harmonize (1), (2), and (3),
but this certainly cannot be done reasonably by giving (3) autonomy or
dominance over the others.

But you, Paul, are trying to make your results (3) autonomous and dominant.
Based on results (3), you form your hermeneutic of (1) and a priori rule any
concordance between (1) and (2) out of court. You have to accept that, for
reasons of (1) or (2) or both, your procedure and evidence may rightfully be
judged too insecure or even irrelevant.

Peter

-- 
Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<pruest@dplanet.ch> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Wed Feb 25 11:04:16 2004

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