Re: YEC Destroying Faith

From: Douglas Barber <>
Date: Thu Apr 22 2004 - 11:15:51 EDT

Howard J. Van Till wrote (in part):

> Now, as I have said before, I treasure the biblical text for what it
> can tell me about the beliefs and practices of the ancient Hebrews and
> the early Christian community, but I see no warrant whatsoever for
> this concept of biblical inspiration.

I take this to be similar to the position of Episcopal Bishop John Spong
(who I think is the source of the "What the mind cannot assent to, the
heart can never worship" quote). If I understand it rightly, it leads to
a position from which the reader searches the biblical text, and other
sacred texts, for the purpose of identifying beliefs expressed by its
human authors which show particularly profound spiritual or theological
insight. And to me, this raises the question, "What standard[s] are we
to apply, in order to distinguish such insights from parts of the text
which lack such insight?" In the absence of any intersubjective
standard, it seems to me that the only standard actually being applied
must be "Select those parts of the text which you find emotionally
satisfying, classify them as 'having spiritual insight', and classify
the rest as lacking in such insight." The only way out of this trap that
I can see, for a person who holds to a position like Spong's, is to
maintain that God inspires (or enables, whatever verb you prefer) the
reader to sort these things out.

Now it seems to me that a Christian holding to an "orthodox" Reformation
view that the Bible is the universe of evidence pertinent to the testing
of proposed moral and theological truths, faces a similar problem when
answering the question, "Why regard the Bible, and not some other
so-called sacred text, as the unique source?" It seems to me that
Calvin's ultimate answer to this question is that God (the Holy Spirit)
inspires (enables) the reader to recognize the Bible as God's word,
which I don't guess is any more epistemologically satisfying than the
justification I hypothesize for Spong's position above.

The difference between the two positions, in one sense, is that Spong's
position requires that each reader receive countless "little
inspirations", while Calvin's requires one big one. In another sense,
the difference between the positions seems to me to be like the
difference between a man who finds emotional satisfaction moving finely
carved objects around a checkered board in any way he pleases, and a man
who finds it more emotionally satisfying to limit the way he moves the
pieces in accordance with the formal rules of a game called "chess".

If there is a way - and I believe there must be - to ultimately ground
our beliefs about God in anything other than the degree to which a
proposed belief or system of beliefs emotionally satisfies us, I have
not yet discovered it in any way that I can clearly articulate, and it
seems to me to be something of the utmost importance.

Doug "Blackwater" Barber
Crisfield, MD
Received on Thu Apr 22 11:16:27 2004

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