Fw: Seely's Views 2

From: Innovatia <dennis@innovatia.com>
Date: Tue Sep 07 2004 - 14:07:02 EDT

From: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>

> Making the Bible have a signal to noise ratio of 1 we won't be able to
> separate truth from fiction.

I missed the info-theory discussion to which you referred, but I recall a
discussion I once had with Donald MacKay (who was mentioned by Peter Ruest)
about
this. He cited another information theorem well-known to electronics
(communications) engineers, that it is possible to transmit without error a
message on a noisy channel as long as the bit (or symbol) rate does not
exceed a certain relationship to the channel capacity. (EEs talk about
bandwidth, etc. instead, but it is the same principle. And it's done with
error detecting and correcting codes - in effect, sufficient
structured redundancy.) MacKay's point was that with sufficient conceptual
redundancy, the pure message from God can be transmitted to us through
error-inserting media. I think he was referring to the transmission of the
biblical
texts moreso than the concepts within the texts. The present discussion
centers on the latter, but the principle still applies.

Whether God did leave us with the additional challenge of filtering out
noise at a conceptual level (and not only at a textual level) is a question
that at least involves our views of the kind of God communicating to us. If
God indeed has given us sufficient information, though accommodating what
for us is culturally-based error, the question then is whether we can
recover the message. The Christian answer must be to the affirmative or the
Bible is indeed a Rorschach inkblot, and an excerise in relative truth.

Error correction can only occur if the communication is structured for it.
The Bible seems to have some of the right properties; it is highly redundant
(Chronicles, Kings; multiple gospels, repeated themes), is expressed in
known human languages which themselves contain much redundancy, contains
instructions and advice for how to recover truth from it, and is illuminated
as to meaning by external history. The accommodationists seem to be arguing
that the Bible is sufficient for recovery of the message despite conceptual
errors.

In taking this route, we at least need to be careful not to undercut the
scriptures and the truth they do contain -
however they contain it - with claims of conceptual error without qualifying
the prospects, and hopefully, methods, of message recovery from error.

As I see it, what lies at the root of this issue and discussion is not
scriptural falliblity or errancy but the nature of the evolution of divine
revelation. Does God tell us anything that is independent of culture, or
does he expect us to take the cultural reference-frame of a given revelation
into account? Does the fact that cultural views change with time of itself
imply that there are no fixed truths?

Just as our understanding of truth must presuppose that absolute truth
(Truth) exists (or we cannot even think logically), at the same time, our
personal grasp of it is tentative, culturally conditioned, and evolves. God
could have given us a theory textbook which was timeless in its claims, but
instead he communicated his truth to us within history and culture. I think
he did that because that is where we are. He uses our theoretical framework
for communication with us, just as in the incarnation, he became one of us.
It is one of the evidences that God "shows up" in our world.

Who knows what Christians of a more advanced culture will make of the
putative accommodations? Maybe they are something other than scientific
errors?

Sometimes all of us become too exasperated in demanding that scripture
reveal to us all its eternal truths. Giving up on it is the other extreme.
This entire exercise does, in the end, leave us empty and exhausted without
a personal knowledge of the Revealer himself. It is not a trivial aspect of
the search for truth that we must be led by the Spirit of truth. In this
discussion about scripture, here is some of what scripture itself says:

John 14:15-18 (ESV)
    "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. [16] And I will ask the
Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, [17]
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither
sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in
you.
    [18] "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 8:31-32 (ESV)
    So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my
word, you are truly my disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free."

Deut. 4:29 (ESV)
    ... you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search
after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Jeremiah 31:25 (ESV)
    For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will
replenish."

2 Thes. 3:13 (ESV)
    As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

Dennis Feucht
Received on Wed Sep 8 16:40:39 2004

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