RE: Seely's Views 2

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Wed Sep 08 2004 - 22:14:34 EDT

Hi Dennis

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of Innovatia
> Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 1:07 PM
> 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.

This is absolutely true, it is theorem 11 in the original Shannon paper.
But, the problem is that with God's original communication to mankind, I
have not heard anyone discuss what kind of error checking can be done.
In the communication discussion I have noted that there are no parity
bits. A parity bit is a bit put in to detect an error. If I choose odd
parity, then a binary number 0111 will have a parity bit of 0. A binary
number of 0011 will have a parity bit of 1. It makes the number of 1's
in the sent sequence an odd number. So the two numbers would appear as
00111 and 10011 where the first bit is the parity bit. If the computer
were to receive a number 00011, it would know that an error had occurred
and it needed to ask for that packet again. This is the principle.

But we have none of that with God.

> 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.

That is the entire point of my protests about accommodation theory. You
said it much better than I ever have.

> 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.

Past the initial inspiration, the scribes did engage in error
correction. But the issue of accommodation, as I understand it is that
it the accommodation occurs at the point of initial inspiration, not in

> 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?

If it is our accommodations, I have less problem with the concept. We
are obviously wrong in our theological positions in many areas. But
that isn't what is being communicated to me about accommodation. It is
that the accommodation is on GODS part. That presents real problems to
Received on Wed Sep 8 22:40:54 2004

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