Re: Seely's Views 2

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Fri Sep 10 2004 - 05:00:21 EDT

Glenn wrote:

"... It is that the accommodation is on GODS part. That presents real problems to me."

Scriptural inspiration does not involve accommodation on God's part. When God inspires writing, he is as true as ever. But the inspired writer cannot perceive God fully and accurately. His erroneous preconceptions and dare I say sin cloud his perceptions, so that what he writes is not the full truth but truth distorted by his own imperfections. His writing is nevertheless inspired by God in the sense that what he writes is closer to the truth than other versions of reality extant at the time of writing. Gen. 1-11 is far more truthful than the Babylonian stories of creation and flood, and it is truthful enough to enable the people of the time to come into a salutary relationship with God. If a more accurate story of creation had been necessary to maintain that relationship, then I trust God would have given them one. As it turned out, Gen. 1-11 was adequate and has been so until just yesterday.

God accommodates, but his accommodation is of persons: it lies in his willingness to accept people in their imperfections and misconceptions; and he clearly does not insist that they be perfect in order to come into a salutary relationship with him. I believe that if God had insisted that all the people back then had to have accurate info about him and his creation that he would have blown his prospects for relationship. That's not God's failure but evidence of human limitations.

Scriptural inspiration is basically a flawed, imperfect process; but it is not so because God is transmitting false info but rather because the inspired writers can't apprehend the full truth.

So how can we distinguish Truth from cultural artifact in Scripture? First of all, this distinguishing is not very important for one who lives in a salutary personal relationship with God. The important question for him is whether or not Scripture brings him close to God or separates him from God. But I know you hate that kind of answer. Another answer: through scholarship and research: We study the world and the texts and the environments in which inspired writers wrote, and we draw conclusions. Few such conclusions can be very firm, but they're probably the best that humans can do. So the "existential" route is far more satisfying. And more real.

How do we know that Islam is not superior? Well, the Qur'an contradicts important parts of the Bible, especially those pertaining to the divinity of Christ; so if one accepts Christ, he must accept that Islam is inferior. Still, Mohammed accomplished some things we might consider virtuous, such as the elimination of idolatry among his followers and the acknowledgement that the God of the Bible was the true God. I still think that the sons of Ishmael would on the whole have had a difficult time accepting a son of Isaac as divine, as the two lineages were forever fighting one another; but I won't pursue this further here. As to Jesus' statement that "...No one comes to the Father except through me," well, this obviously requires interpretation. For example, in what way did Elijah, Jeremiah, etc. come to God through Jesus? Jesus IMO was obviously thinking of himself as the Word, as one who was a human body but far more.

And let's not judge all Muslims by those who die by murdering civilians or children. We would not want Christianity to be judged by those pious Christian souls who instigated the crusades or carried out various inquisitions and murders in the name of God.

As to why I try to view Islam in the most positive light possible--if God is love, must he not have arranged to save more than a tiny fraction of humans? If we write off the 1.5 billion Chinese and the 1 billion Indians, let's try to squeeze in at least a few of the 1 billion Muslims. Perhaps the Word has spread farther than we think, and God has accommodated himself to more people than we suspect.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Glenn Morton<>
  To: 'Innovatia'<> ; 'ASA Listserver'<>
  Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 7:14 PM
  Subject: RE: Seely's Views 2

  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 Fri Sep 10 05:27:03 2004

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