Re: Believe it even if it isn't true theology

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Mon Feb 20 2006 - 02:07:54 EST

> DAvid Opderbeck wrote:
> >Glenn, I used to be a trial lawyer, and this is the kind of unfair
> question trial lawyers ask. It's not a "yes or no" question. >Period. You
> haven't addressed the point I made the first time you brought up the "green
> slug / Mormonism" hypo: in the >context of the faith tradition in question,
> is there a historical theology and a historical tradition of interpretation
> that
> >would allow the interpretation that accomodates modern understandings of
> science? If so, I would say "yes," a Green
> >Sluggist or Mormon could hold such views and be consistent with his / her
> faith tradition.
> Sorry David, I don't agree that it is an unfair question. Either a
> slugist can use the technique or he can't. The only reason you could
> possibly say it is more complex is if you decide a priori that one position
> is the preferred position. I would say the tradition of interpretation is
> utterly irrelevant because even within Christianity, there was a first case
> of a person using the 'interpretation that accomodates modern understandings
> of science'. Prior to that first case there was no tradition. That first
> person went against tradition and thus, your need for a tradition is
> irrelevant.
> But, thanks for answering the question (something some have spent months
> avoiding). If he is allowed to do it, does that mean the theology his
> religion teaches is true? How do you tell his true theology from our true
> theology? How does one in your view, distinguish true from false theology
> without a self-referential or begging the question approach?

I'd like to have a shot at answering Glenn's first question. Yes, of course
any set of beliefs can be accomodated to modern science by invoking the idea
that the "wrong science" was figurative. But I think the question is, if
not unfair, then at least it's of the "have you stopped beating your wife
yet?" category. There isn't any answer we can give that is going to be
satisfactory. In the end, faith is faith - and by definition it can't be
proved scientifically - one can point to evidence (e.g. evidence of the
resurrection etc) but at the end of it all, we've all made a step of faith
and said "I believe". That is inevitable.

But as far as "wrong science" is concerned, I'm reminded of a prayer meeting
I attended when at University. One of the guys in the prayer meeting, whose
subject was Physical Chemistry gave praise to God for the wonder of the
atomic energy orbitals. I guess everyone who is a scientist will
immediately have an image of those diagrams of wave function shapes that you
see in text books. But equally we're aware that this is in itself just a
pictorial metaphor. There isn't really a smeared out cloud of electron
density of specific shape, it's a probability distribution, and most of us
have difficulty imagining the probabilistic interpretation of Quantum
Mechanics (God doesn't play dice etc). So that prayer was uttered given a
limited understanding of the truth. But this is not to say God didn't
honour that prayer, or that the prayer wasn't inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Nor is it required that such a prayer should be accompanied by a prophetic
word that reveals the true nature of Quantum Mechanics - the true "Theory of
Everything" of which QM is but a small component . Take it back 100 years
or so and one might imagine someone similarly uttering a prayer of praise to
God for the orderliness of a universe where Force = Mass x Acceleration ,
again in fact an approximation to the truth, but the prayer isn't
invalidated by the fact that in the next century, to be strictly true we
need to take relativistic corrections into account, and God isn't beholden
to give the person praying a revelation of relativity.

My point is that anything written down in praise of God is within our
current understanding of nature - God doesn't (usually) give scientific
revelations. And the same is true of any belief system. There is no answer
to your atheist question here, let's be honest about it. And as Christians
we believe that to be born again we have to be convicted by the Holy Spirit
(John 3:6 - Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to

I know that's probably not a satisfactory answer to your question, Glenn,
but it's my best shot at the moment.

Received on Mon Feb 20 02:09:23 2006

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