Re: Revelation redefined? (was: RE: Seely's Views 2)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Sep 03 2004 - 22:40:58 EDT

I already apologized for the use of the term "fundamentalist" if it was in
fact inapplicable. (It isn't in fact clear to me that it _is_inapplicaple
in its classical sense - Warfield et al - but I'll let that pass.) The
basic point that I raised - that texts can be true without being accounts of
history "as it really happened" - is being ignored by both you and Peter.
Even though Glenn disagrees with me on this (& is wrong :)), he at least
understands the point I'm making. I'm not sure you do.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bob Barnett" <>
To: "'Peter Ruest'" <>; "'Glenn Morton'"
<>; "'Don Winterstein'" <>;
"'George Murphy'" <>; "'Paul Seely'" <>
Cc: "'D.F.Siemens Jr.'" <>; "'John Burgeson'"
<>; "'Moorad Alexanian'" <>;
Sent: Friday, September 03, 2004 8:49 PM
Subject: RE: Revelation redefined? (was: RE: Seely's Views 2)

> Peter,
> Thanks for your comments. My contribution to this debate centers on the
> trustworthiness of Scripture as an authority for our lives. When Dr
> called me a fundamentalist, I took the label as a pejorative manner to
> declare that anyone who maintains the classic evangelical position of
> Scriptural inerrancy is backward and has disengaged from scientific
> exploration and culture. If labels are necessary, I would categorize my
> theology as "Evangelical" and "Reformed" rather than "Fundamentalist," a
> fact I briefly discussed in a separate email with Dr Murphy.
> My position is that the Bible is inerrant, verbally and plenarily
> and free from error in all that it teaches and affirms. This
> of inspiration maintains that the Bible is authoritative, but not
> exhaustive. Scripture does not attempt to give all scientific or
> answers, but does address these topics sufficiently for the will of God
> man to be discerned. Certainly the progress of scientific investigation
> allowed humanity to better understand and interpret God's general
> in nature and history. General revelation of God is open is available to
> everyone regardless of faith and is discerned primarily through empirical
> observation (Rom 1:19-20). On the other hand, special revelation is given
> outside of ourselves by God's inspiration and must be understood through
> work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:12-16).
> WE evangelicals adhere to the principle of sola Scriptura - biblical truth
> must always govern and take absolute prominence over reason, tradition and
> experience - means that the Bible provides all that is necessary for faith
> and godly living. ASA's statement of faith affirms this idea: "We accept
> the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in
> matters of faith and conduct."
> The trustworthiness of the Bible is undermined if God's special revelation
> in Scripture is said to contain error, falsehood, or myth. The source of
> authority in Christianity is made open to subjectivism and declares divine
> revelation as contrary to the Lord's character - God does not lie. A
> of the Bible's trustworthiness is a contradiction of the claims Scripture
> makes for itself in that every part of Scripture has a divine origin (2
> 3:16). For example, this view expanded in Packer's "Fundamentalism' and
> Word of God" and Warfield's "The Inspiration and Authority of The Bible."
> The problem in the current debate seems to rest in how God accommodated
> Himself to reveal truth to ancient readers who in their capacity to
> understand science and history (or for that matter, to us as moderns who
> still struggle in understanding and knowledge!) A high view of biblical
> inspiration certainly allows for the use of observational language to
> natural and historical phenomena. The observations of the ancient writers
> were true, but not adequately understood or explained. The classic example
> of course is the observation by biblical writers that the sun rises in the
> east and sets in the west - an observation that not mythological, but true
> from the perspective of the writer, but certainly not an accurate
> description of the phenomenon.
> Calvin's understanding of accommodation in biblical revelation helps
> this apparent discrepancy. He rightly asserts that when God reveals truth
> in the Scripture he accommodates this to the limitations of his human
> hearers and uses terms that can easily be understood. Scripture "proceeds
> at the pace of a mother stooping to her child, so to speak, so as not to
> leave us behind in our weakness" (Inst 3.21.4). However, as Geisler & Nix
> put it in their introductory work on the Bible: "Just because God
> condescends to man's level to communicate His Truth to them does not mean
> that He has to compromise His Truth in doing so. Adaptation to human
> does not necessitate accommodation to human error. God uses
> anthropomorphisms when speaking to man, but He does not use myths (II
> 1:16)". The problem arises when we carry the idea of accommodation so far
> as to say that God used lies and pagan mythology to communicate His
> attributes and nature, such as using the Gilgamesh Epic from Babylonia to
> explain divine cosmology.
> Would the God of all creation have to resort to pagan mythology to
> communicate what He wanted us to know? I think not. We "fundamentalists"
> or "evangelicals" maintain that God give the creation account to Moses as
> accurate and historical account of creation - certainly not adequate as a
> scientific explanation, but nonetheless true. If we try to explain away
> Genesis account as a fiction used to contain God's truth, we are forced to
> follow Bultmann's pattern of 'demythologizing' the Bible in order to get
> back to the what God intended to say.
> Rather, I think we need to accept that God's Sovereign activity is evident
> in preparing the writers of his Word through their lives and experiences,
> well as their vocabulary, to write exactly what he wanted writing.
> (who believed in literal interpretation, but defended a form of theistic
> evolution) used a classical illustration: of a stained glass Cathedral
> window. The window, far from distorting the pure light, rather fulfils the
> design of the architect in producing exactly the effect that he desired.
> In Christ,
> Bob Barnett
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Ruest []
> Sent: Friday, September 03, 2004 2:16 PM
> To: Bob Barnett; Glenn Morton; Don Winterstein; George Murphy; Paul Seely
> Cc: D.F.Siemens Jr.; John Burgeson; Moorad Alexanian;
> Subject: Revelation redefined? (was: RE: Seely's Views 2)
> Bob Barnett wrote: "If we allow for imperfection in God's revelation in
> Scripture, then we open a door that I don't think we want to enter...."
> and Don Winterstein answered: "The Bible itself witnesses that it is
> imperfect."
> Bob's statement: "We assume inerrancy in the biblical text - that
> everything claimed by Scripture to be true is indeed true!" was
> countered by George Murphy with: "& of course like all fundamentalists
> you assume that 'true' = 'accurate historical narrative,' an assumption
> manifestly at odds with many parts of the biblical texts as well as
> common sense. This contributes nothing useful to the discussion."
> As an answer to Glenn Morton, Don wrote: "Glenn, coming as you do from a
> YEC background, you seem to have swallowed the 'Wonderful One-Hoss Shay'
> view of the Bible common to some YECs, namely, that every part of the
> Bible is perfectly created and is as good as every other part."
> What is imperfect - God's revelation in Scripture, or our understanding
> of it? And are there only the two extremes of seeing Scripture as either
> God's verbal dictation or as an odd collection of writings whose "level
> of divine inspiration" is subject to the whims of the readers? At this
> point, the exchange of views seems to have again degenerated to the
> level of black-and-white painting.
> I don't remember having seen any earlier posts of Bob Barnett, but I
> would agree with all he wrote on 31 Aug 2004. It's up to him to tell us
> whether George's characterization is adequate. I would certainly object
> to being answered in such a way, as it would be a distortion of my
> views. I also object to George's use of the term "fundamentalist" in the
> perverted sense it is used by some journalists.
> As for Glenn, I know him from many earlier contributions of his, and so
> I know he is certainly no longer guilty of the type of YEC absolutism
> Don is charging him with. If I understand both Glenn's and Bob's quests
> correctly, it is to make sure our acceptance of any biblical statements
> or teachings is not dependent on our own whims.
> Hardly anyone would doubt that the Scriptures are imperfect in the sense
> of giving incomplete information about any subject (as any text of
> limited size is bound to do). But they can still be perfect in the sense
> of transmitting to us exactly what God wants us to have under our eyes.
> So, are they perfect or imperfect? Perfection is not identical with
> completeness of information, nor with formulation in accordance with
> some preconceived idea (like modern scientific language).
> What does it mean to say they are "inspired by God"? It certainly is
> qualitatively different from Dora Lazurkina being inspired by Lenin! How
> do we know what is inspired? The existential aspect of God's Spirit
> directly bearing witness with our spirit (Rom.8:16) must not be equated
> with some subjective feeling, and it can never be independent of the
> text of God's written Word. This text is the only thing we objectively
> have in hand. Of course its interpretation requires sound exegesis.
> How does God reveal the truth? In Christ, he did it by making "himself
> nothing" and "humbling himself" (Phil.2:7-8). In the Scriptures, he used
> fallible writers, copiers and translators making mistakes, and a
> canonization process by fallible theologians. In creation, he left it to
> fallible scientists to find out the nature and history of "the heavens
> and the earth". In a sense, each of these self-disclosures has a certain
> amount of ambiguity - presumably required to foster a personal love
> relationship between humans and himself, requiring a free-will decision.
> Yet nothing of this can be accounted for in a merely "natural" way,
> without God's active intervention. Jesus could not be nothing but human.
> The Bible cannot be understood if treated as a merely human book.
> Creation resists "nothing-buttery" (MacKay) explanations.
> Just as God has (due to quantum uncertainties) countless possibilities
> of guiding "natural" processes without touching his "natural" laws, he
> has countless possibilities of guiding a writing prophet without
> overpowering his personality and thinking, and of guiding the
> canonization process. When interpreting a biblical text, we must take
> into consideration the possibility of finding concordances with truth
> (reality) going beyond what the writer "could know at that time". After
> all, there are also plenty of genuine prophecies in the Scriptures.
> Is "accommodation" to human errors (of fact and ethics) really needed?
> Looking for anthropomorphisms and ambiguities in language, unknown
> circumstances, and incompleteness of accounts is a must before we too
> easily call for divine accommodation.
> I am deeply troubled by the way Bob's and Glenn's central claims are not
> being understood, or not being respected. Treating large parts of
> Scripture as often erroneous opinons of ancient writers (myths etc.),
> with God "accommodating" to them, begs the question of understanding
> God's intentions behind the texts as we have them.
> So, what is inspiration and revelation?
> Peter
> --
> Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
> <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
> "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Fri Sep 3 23:06:13 2004

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