RE: Seely's Views 2

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Mon Aug 23 2004 - 06:52:27 EDT


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From: []
Sent: Sunday, August 22, 2004 11:08 PM
Subject: Re: Seely's Views 2

PHS I am not trying to save what is false. The history as such in Gen
1-11 is largely false. This raises the question, Why did Moses use
unreliable Mesopotamian stories, traditions, and motifs as his basic
source for origin stories?
GRM: There are two reasons, one of which you reject for no clear reason
I can see. The first reason to use 'unreliable' stories is that Genesis
is not true in any way shape or form. That is the position taken by the
atheists, You seem to rule it out, but I don't see why. What possible
POSITIVE evidence can there be for the 'truth' in Genesis, if everything
it says is simply historically and factually false? I see no reason to
believe it has any deep theology other than mere fideism.

PHS: The question I am raising is why does a person trained in Egyptian
thought use Mesopotamian rather than Egyptian origin stories? But, never
mind my intent. You run off from the historical unreliability of Gen
1-11 to "everything it [Genesis] says." I clearly distinguished the
historicity of Gen 1-11 from that of 12-50 on the basis of the probable
sources, and I inferred that I take Gen 12-50 as based on more reliable
sources than Gen 1-11. Gen 1-11 reflects stories well known in
Mesopotamia long before the time of Moses. Gen 12-50 does not. The
stories about the patriarchs appear to come from the patriarchs. Unless
there is evidence to refute that, it is a reasonable assumption; and
skepticism is not evidence.
GRM: Above, I meant Genesis 1-11 not all of Genesis. I mis-wrote. But
that doesn't absolve the Bible of the fact that this divinely inspired
book, which claims to proclaim to the world that Jehovah is the creator,
doesn't know the simplest thing about what happened at the creation
according to your view. That means either
1. God is unable to inspire truth in a human writer and Genesis 12-50 is
merely history of the Herodotus kind
2. God wasn't there at creation
3. God does not desire to tell us the truth.
Which is it Paul?

PHS: The accommodation I am stressing is to the history/science, not
religion; so your examples from the OT are irrelevant. Indeed, I
mentioned the religious non-accommodation as evidence that there is
discrimination in the OT and not a willy-nilly acceptance of everything
found in the surrounding culture. Accommodation involves employing as
true something that is not true because the people to whom you are
speaking are not ready to accept the actual truth. Matt 19:8/Mk 10:5 is
the clearest verse that God sometimes employed accommodation. Most
commentaries on these verses explicitly use the word "concession" or
GRM: The restriction of accomodation to history/science is remarkably
ad hoc. It prevents the kind of collapse into theological solipcism I
have described. There is no coherency to that restriction.

GRM: It seems very troubling to me that if we let God misrepresent
things, then YEC very well may be true! After all, maybe God actually
did the global flood thing but accommodated the evidence to what we

PHS: For Moses and the Israelites, nothing was misrepresented. The
origin stories they told were accepted as true, God made no comment as
to what he thought about their historicity or science.
GRM: That won't wash. The Rialians accepted as true that if they drank
that magic potion they would find themselves on a spaceship. This
approach reletavizes truth. The literal hindu rejects the big bang
because they want an older earth. They accept their story as truth. Does
that make it true? Of course not.
PHS: They did not see these stories as God introducing ab novo His
account of creation and Flood, but using the accounts they already had
and believed. God made some changes for theological reasons, just as the
"divorce for any reason" cultural law they already had was modified to
include a written bill of divorce and no return to the divorced wife.
(As best as scholars can figure it out these changes were made to
protect the women.)
GRM: do you have any documentary evidence for these changes and for the
fact that God rather than some group of human nomads made the change?

We are reading over the shoulders of a simple people who lived 3500
years ago. What you are saying is that God should not have used the
stories they were familiar with and believed. He should have introduced
a new account that was closer to the actual facts. I prefer to think he
had a good reason for what he did.

Go back to the missionary who translated John 1:29, "Behold the Pig of
God." It was a very nice fit with their cultural beliefs, and the facts
(Lamb) would not communicate the lesson as clearly. Now go forward to
some generations later when some descendant of those primitive people
learns that the facts are different. That the text really says, "Lamb"
and that pigs in the OT are unclean and were not sacrificed. In the
light of that fuller knowledge, the translation "Pig" is scandalous.
But, you tell me, Was the missionary ignorant when he wrote, "Pig of
God?" Was he a liar? Was he a hypocrite? Or did "pig" communicate in a
particularly effective way the meaning of the passage?

And what would you make of a later generation New Guinea Morton
tribesman asking, Couldn't he have just used a plain vanilla word like
"small animal" thus avoiding the future conflict? After all, he was a
professed Christian whose primary task was translating the NT. Shouldn't
we expect an honest reliable translation from such a person? If he can't
do any better than put an unclean and utterly wrong animal in the place
of a spotless lamb, can we trust his translation for anything? Did he
really expect God to use a just plain false translation of the Greek
word amnos? Apparently, missionaries call this contextualization. They
say it was an accommodation to our ancestors to help communicate the NT
message to them. Well, I'm not cutting any slack for our ignorant
ancestors. Their IQ's were just as high as ours, and they could have
understood the truth. True is true, and false is false. These
"accommodations" just cause me to doubt everything he translated. We may
as well throw the whole translation out. And, don't tell me God uses
false statements to communicate truth.
GRM: The case of the PNG tribesman isn't the same as the creation. And
what you are saying is that God plays for the short term. He is not a
longterm thinker. God uses falsehoods to convey his story (amazingly
limited only to history and science, but never to theology itself) not
giving a thought to the fact that he should have foreseen that people
would find out how false that story was. He also didn't think about the
consequences of that action in which people would decide that he isn't
real because he didn't tell them the truth. That kind of thinking from
the creator and ruler of the universe isn't comforting. I wouldn't keep
a manager around who thought like that. One of the things I have learned
as a manager for the past 15 years is that supervision is called that
because we are supposed to have vision that sees further down the road
than others.We are at least able to do it somewhat. But God, with his
omniscience seemed unable to see a mere 4000 years down the road to the
problems his strategy would cause us. Simply a pitiful planning
process. Surely God can do better than that.Can't he?
Received on Mon Aug 23 07:10:24 2004

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