Re: Seely's Views 2

From: Innovatia <>
Date: Sat Sep 11 2004 - 23:00:00 EDT

From: "Glenn Morton" <>

Again, I apologize to the list participants about my delayed responses,
coming out of the bush only 3 times per week to seek civilization (such as
it is in Belize!).

> > 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
> transmission.

Yes, the key question is the source of the error. Is it in the medium
(cultural ideas and human language) or in God? It cannot be in God or we
have the wrong worldview (wrong god). It must be human in source. I think
what the accommodationists are trying to say (at least I hope this is
basically it) is that human error runs deep, even to the extent that our
understanding of reality is a long way (even yet in our time) from ultimate
truth. Consequently, God does not wait for us to become perfected in our
understanding before telling us anything about himself (that we need to know
about him) but instead speaks to us through our (or the ancients') present
understanding. If God were to speak scripture to us today, it would probably
assume the physics we understand the world by, or else we would not
understand what God is telling us when it touches upon physical reality. Our
commitment to our scientific understanding causes us to see the world in a
way that makes sense to us and by which we recognize it as such. God enters
that conceptual framework in conveying to us other kinds of information
about himself.

God is good at communicating and sets a precedent for us as purveyors of the
gospel. I remember F.F. Bruce saying in a lecture in Portland, OR (maybe
Paul Seely was there - at Hinson Baptist, in the '70s) that we must convey
the gospel to non-Christians by building a bridge across the gap of
misunderstanding between us and them by starting at THEIR end. I think that,
in essence, is what the "accommodationists" are saying that God does. He
says in Genesis 1 something like this: "However you envision physical
reality - and here is specifically what I mean in your understanding of it
(split waters view) - I created it." To us, he might instead have said: "I
created space-time, in all its dimensions." In the far future, really
advanced physicist-Christians would debate whether God was the source of the
faulty view of reality conceived as multidimensional space-time.

> > 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
> me.

It is God accommodating our understanding in order for there to be a meeting
of the minds between us and him. Another way to think about scripture as
revelation is to see it as analogous to the incarnation. There is a similar
kenosis in God's revealing of information to us. God self-limits the truth
he reveals so that we will be able to respond to it in a way that suits his
revelatory purposes. This is not an exercise in tricking us but is the
necessary result of an infinite-bandwidth information source transmitting
through a limited-bandwidth medium to receivers with limited detection and
data reconstruction capabilities. We can only know so much, and even then,
we understand it in our developing conceptual framework that is limited and
faulty. So it is not the source (God), nor even the transmission
(revelatory) medium, but is in our conceptual disabilities where the real
error lies. God knows and accommodates that accordingly.

God's own mind is conceptually structured in a way that is (I assume)
incomprehensible to us. (At least scripture strongly suggests this.) To
convey anything to us that would be meaningful to us, he has to cross an
epistemological gulf by building the bridge from our end. He did that
directly by revealing himself to us as one of us. He does similarly in
scripture by speaking to us within the conceptual frameworks of those humans
through whom the revelation has come. What lies at the heart of our
frustration is our own human finiteness and fallibility in reaching God. He
partially overcomes that for us in our present creaturely frame by
indwelling us with his Spirit. To the extent we are open to the possiblities
of God "showing up" in our own lives (consciousness + external events), he
seems to do so.

Postscript: In the developing world (where I have been the last year), where
so many of the mental abstractions and distractions of the "real world" do
not exist, God is characteristically more to the point in "showing up". He
makes his presence known more bluntly than I have experienced in America.
It's hard to articulate, though others here recognize it too, such as Mark
Ludwig, who has a PhD in particle physics. I don't think we're psyching
ourselves out here in the jungle; something is going on, and we all seem to
conclude in our own ways that God is making himself known to us. Maybe the
different conditions in which we are living open us up more to God in a
certain way. My point is that there is also a tacit dimension to God's
revelatory activity that we discover only when we are open to the
possibilities that he has not stopped communicating ...

And no, I'm not even Pentecostal!

Dennis Feucht
Received on Mon Sep 13 13:16:51 2004

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