Re: YEC Destroying Faith

From: Douglas Barber <>
Date: Fri Apr 23 2004 - 10:49:27 EDT

D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:

     (Doug Barber wrote)<mostly snipped>

> 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,
> I agree that there must be a way to ground our beliefs. I believe that
> there is. Christianity is the ONE historical faith. I think it was
> Ramsay who intended to show up the errors in the New Testament by
> archeological evidence, and was forced to the conclusion that Luke was
> a first-rate historian. Then there was the chap who intended to debunk
> the resurrection, and became a believer. Can't think of his name, but
> I think the book was _Who Moved the Stone?_ Most of the New Testament
> was written by men who claimed to be eyewitnesses, and there appears
> to be mounting evidence that their writings existed in the first
> century. No time for myths to develop. No chance to deceive those
> still living who had also been observers.
> J. B. Phillips wrote that translating the New Testament was like
> rewiring a building with the mains energized. This can be dismissed as
> a purely subjective matter, but the similar effects across
> civilizations, peoples, tribes, cultures, etc., carries some weight.
> There is a transforming power in the gospel.
> Dave


That's a striking and illuminating quote from Philips.

Let me say a little about one way of reading a part of the argument you
make in the paragraph above that quote. I take it that a part of your
argument is that evidence which favors the historical accuracy of the
New Testament favors the beliefs about God which the New Testament
proclaims. If this type of argument is meant to stand in isolation (and
I don't presume that that's the way you mean it), it requires us to
assume that, before God reveals himself to us, we have some way of
knowing what must characterize God's revelation - historical accuracy,
in this case. Calvin denies that this type of discernment is possible,
and I've never been able to find fault with his reasoning here. [The
heart of the argument is in Book One, Chapter VI of the *Institutes*].
God, in Calvin's view, is not just "what we think is good (again,
'historically accurate', in this case), more perfectly expressed", nor
"what we think is powerful, but more so", but God is qualitatively
different than we are, and we have no valid way of intuiting what "good"
or "perfect" means, with respect to God, apart from what God tells us
about God. Even the statement, "I will not accept as God's
self-manifestation anything which is not at least as good as the best in
the human spirit", when that "best" is discerned without the use of
God's revelation as a guideline, must be disallowed. Further - Calvin
does not make this point, but I believe it is utterly consistent with
his argument - we must disallow the belief, when advanced prior to and
apart from what God tells us about God, that, were God's
self-manifestation to be contained in or pointed to by a book, that book
would have to be inerrant in every respect, because, again, we have no
way of knowing what *must* characterize God in any respect apart from
God's self-disclosure. In any case, Calvin, I think, self-consciously
avoids *basing* his belief that the Bible contains or points to God's
self-manifestation on any argument of the type just criticized, and must
instead rest that belief on God's testimony, within the heart of the
believer, to the fact that God's self-manifestation is in the Bible. He
certainly does not deny that, once that attestation has been made, the
believer may discern many other testimonies (such as the possible
testimony of historical accuracy) tending to confirm the truth of the
belief that the Bible is revelatory, which was already confirmed in his
or her heart by the Holy Spirit, and this is what I take to be the real
thrust of your argument.

I think, in further reflecting on my argument that you cited, that what
I'm sometimes chasing is a way of testing the validity of beliefs about
God which is intersubjectively compelling even to subjects who disagree
concerning where to look for God's self-manifestation, and that Calvin
shows (at least to my provisional satisfaction) that such a chase is
nonsensical. By the same line of reasoning, it would be nonsensical to
seek an intersubjective standard for evaluating the truth or falsity of
competing, contradictory claims to have received the inward guidance of
the Holy Spirit concerning where to look etc etc. I'm afraid that
sometimes, unlike Augustine, "I believe in order to be perplexed".

Doug Barber
Crisfield, MD
Received on Fri Apr 23 10:50:00 2004

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