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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 14:59:38 EST

On Wed, 25 Feb 2004 17:04:44 +0100 Peter Ruest
<> writes:
> 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
Your first point confuses strict exegesis with hermeneutics and other
matters. For example, claiming that God's throne does not need something
solid to stand on has nothing to do with the meanings ofwords, but with a
set of assumptions that conflict with the biblical image. An infinite
spirit does not sit on a literal throne, but this is how Ezekiel
describes him.

Your second point covertly assumes that our interpretation of our
observations are correct. Unless you want to specify that our current
theories are the only correct ones, disposing of past and future
differences, you have to allow for the accuracy of earlier claims.
Therefore hyrax and hare chew their cud (Leviticus 11:5f). Or will you
claim that scripture has to be revised to exclude this claim? Is this
something that Satan slipped in, or a corrupted text? Or maybe the
creatures have changed in the last 3000 years. Your approach allows the
text to be massaged to mean anything you want.

A covert assumption in your third point is that scripture must be
inerrant--a 20th century addition to the Reformation claim that scripture
is the sure guide to faith and practice, not on other matters. My
citation above proves that the sacred text as it stands is not
unconditionally true, but I leave it to you to explain how to amend it.

As to your final paragraph, I do not see that Paul is exalting story over
scripture. Rather he is saying that biblical usage is determinative of
meaning. In contrast, your approach requires searching widely for a
meaning for terminology which fits your preconceptions. This is
eisegesis. It further requires ignoring the evidence within the text.
E.g., Genesis 1:20 says that birds fly under the firmament and you insist
that the firmament is the space in which they fly. You deny revisionism,
of course, but it is clear to this logician.
Received on Wed Feb 25 15:03:31 2004

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