Re: [asa] Truth

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed May 30 2007 - 16:39:05 EDT

Charles -- how do you manage in the discussion on something like this in a
Sunday School group? Do you find you're able to introduce some different
perspectives without putting others off or being overly critical of the
whole enterprise?

On 5/30/07, Charles Carrigan <> wrote:
> I've been through the DVDs and some group discussion with our Sunday
> School group about the Truth Project. Some of it was quite good, other
> parts, especially the part on science, were not so good. In the end, I
> found it disappointing. The science portion essentially takes the view of
> TDI that evolution is false, and partly because it leads to all kinds of bad
> things in the world. It did not promote a YEC agenda, but neither did it
> allow for a TE viewpoint. Very much anti-"darwinism". But, it did attempt
> to provide an integrated Christian worldview, which is sadly lacking among
> many Christians who seem to think their beliefs have no impact on anything
> else in life.
> _______________________________
> Charles W. Carrigan, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor of Geology
> Olivet Nazarene Univ., Dept. of Physical Sciences
> One University Ave.
> Bourbonnais, IL 60914
> PH: (815) 939-5346
> FX: (815) 939-5071
> "To a naturalist nothing is indifferent;
> the humble moss that creeps upon the stone
> is equally interesting as the lofty pine which so beautifully adorns the
> valley or the mountain:
> but to a naturalist who is reading in the face of the rocks the annals of
> a former world,
> the mossy covering which obstructs his view,
> and renders indistinguishable the different species of stone,
> is no less than a serious subject of regret."
> - James Hutton
> _______________________________
> >>> Merv <> 5/30/2007 12:35 AM >>>
> James Dobson has kicked off an outreach called the "Truth Project"
> It has polished multimedia flash & bang, and is apparently exciting small
> group audiences around the nation. While I gravitated to the "science"
> lesson first to note the celebrated correlation between evolution & evil in
> the world, I did find their first lesson (veritology) to be truly thought
> provoking. Truth, Dr. Tackett tells us, is that which accurately mirrors
> reality. I found myself in full agreement with that statement (who
> wouldn't be?), but with some inexplicable troubling of spirit. I am
> re-reading "Being Reasonable About Religion" (2006) by William Charlton (the
> book I am supposed to be submitting a review on one of these days.) and it
> provided an interesting counter-point to this "mirror" truth assertion that
> made me wonder where I stood. Partly inspired by the "Truth Project" above,
> and mostly drawing on influence from having read "Being Reasonable...", I
> composed an essay to organize my thoughts. (This is NOT the book review,
> but only draws on Charlton for inspiration.)
> For any who care to read several pages worth pasted in below and give
> feedback -- thank you.
> Truth & our approaches to it
> Truth has been defined by some scientific thinkers and Christians alike,
> as "that which mirrors reality". It is an empirical approach that places
> high value on actual observable reality, and measures the truth of any
> statement by how well it matches that reality. And very few, outside
> perhaps a few modern sophists, would bother to question this. And even
> among self-styled post-modern cynics, we could argue that, despite their
> attempts at universal skepticism, they don't really question this when it
> comes to practical choices of life.
> Some, of the "softer" sciences and humanities have attempted a revenge on
> "harder" sciences by demoting them to "just another" category of thought
> that could have no more claim on truth than any other. And to this, a
> physicist may respond with all the vehemence of any religious apologist
> defending absolutes: "but these effects are directly and repeatedly
> observable! –airplanes fly, electricity shocks you... here, let's measure it
> together!" And, of course, on the Christian side of things, we are just as
> eager to see that same defense of Christian doctrines, and we take up arms
> along side the physicist, albeit while fighting for an expanded set of
> truths. But on the question: "should truth be (at least in principle)
> empirically observable to everybody?" we seem to be in full agreement.
> I don't wish to challenge the above assertion, but I want to expand on
> it. Such empiricism, began to be embraced at beginnings of modern science
> in Galileo's time. (And even then, academia fought it tooth and nail.) As
> this conflict found its way into religious/scientific controversies of the
> nineteenth & twentieth centuries, something of empiricism was "smuggled"
> into Christian thought (particularly those who would describe themselves as
> Biblical inerrantists) that failed to register on their radars and might
> have merited their critical objection if they had noticed it. And that
> loaded assumption is this: All truth claims must be subject to empirical
> testability (at least in principle) or such empirical evidence as what a
> historian or archaeologist can muster. I.e. truth (if it is to earn that
> label) must match empirical reality in every way we can possibly observe.
> This is not to say such Christians believe empirical methods can reveal all
> truth. But, they accepted the empiricists' claim to absolute veto power.
> E.g. if a Scriptural claim or promise is given, and our direct
> observations contradict that claim, then our observations trump our
> understanding of Scripture, and it is our understanding of Scripture which
> must change. Hence, the importance of the "science" label to creation
> science promoters. This granted "veto power" given to empiricism is not
> a bad thing, except that it has significantly changed the answer to "what is
> truth". We have swallowed empiricism with a vengeance, and it has become
> our measure (and more importantly – our limiter) of truth. I am using the
> term 'empirical' in a slightly wider sense than the physical scientist
> would, by including such things as historical scholarship.
> So on a question of, say, the account of Job, or of Jonah, while it may be
> noted that the accounts seem mostly beyond our historical-empirical
> investigation, nevertheless, inerrantists have allowed empirical thought to
> frame how they think of those events. The over-riding question is the
> literal truth of those accounts. If it was the case that one of these
> accounts did not happen in the way described (i.e. it is either wholly or
> in part "merely a story"), and some overwhelming evidence compelled the
> inerrantist to accept this, then it would be a severe (maybe even fatal)
> blow, in his estimate, to Scriptural integrity. The literal historical
> truth of the story is the only truth that counts, because this is the only
> kind of truth that (again – in principle) is empirical. Any other "truth"
> or theological teaching to be found in the story is a lesser truth because
> of its subjectivity and its immunity to empirical verification. But an
> inerrantist believes all accounts (which are not explicitly labeled as
> parables) must be historically accurate as well as true in every subjective
> sense, so any empirical challenge to any of it is a challenge to the whole
> enterprise. Either it is true, or it is not. –that could be the
> empiricists' battle cry.
> The literal inerrantists' hostility towards non-empirical interpretations
> of Scripture is very understandable, since such subjectivity invites the
> believer to "spiritualize" away any account that is deemed miraculous or
> incredible – right up to the resurrection of Christ himself. This is a very
> real danger that will often be referred to as a "slippery slope" by those
> who maintain their position solidly on literal inerrancy. And anyone else
> who does not maintain such a stand should acknowledge the intellectually
> attractive & progressive nature of these doubts. It is much simpler, though
> not necessarily easier, to maintain one's stand on one extreme or the
> other. Those on the "it's just a story" extreme probably have lost any
> faith except in a pragmatic sense of "what works for me" as they attempt to
> retain the benefits of a social club that occasionally recites extraneous
> ritualistic words.
> But on the other side, the literalist must be careful in their readings
> (and even in their study of Scripture itself) that any apparent
> discrepancies in even the minutest details must be resolved so as to
> preserve the literal truth of the whole. The reader is then, forever the
> detective on the lookout for any difficulties at the literal level & how to
> resolve them, which often distracts from the intended message.
> It is also hard to maintain any position between these extremes, as one is
> always pulling against the tempting slippage towards more and more
> marginalization of God's work in this world until He is not seen, by our
> estimate, to have ever done anything spectacular in any observable sense.
> That cannot be a faithful reading of what Scripture tells us. There is no
> easy answer to this for a mature Christian who wishes to delve into
> Scripture and ask all the hard questions of it. But we aren't called to be
> intellectually lazy.
> I agree that truth is a mirror of reality provided that the said "reality"
> is not limited to the empiricist domain. Christians accept that there is a
> God who is not (like the Greek gods) a mere part of the universe, but who
> caused it to be. So there is at least one truth a Christian must hold
> beyond empirical reach (let alone angels, demons, spirits, our own souls...)
> that require us to consider that the Bible speaks of more than just this
> world. In 1 John 4 we are asked, if we cannot love our brother whom we can
> see, how can we love God who is unseen? Faith alone reaches some places
> where empiricism must drop by the wayside. Scriptures speak of this world,
> to be sure, and what empirical truth we can know does rightly influence how
> we understand Scripture. But our understanding of many passages should not
> be limited to mere empirical truth which, by itself, is the wisdom of this
> world. It isn't that some deeper Truth may contradict empirical truth.
> Logically, that is impossible. Rather, Scriptural Truth may sometimes go in
> directions where empirical truth cannot follow. And that may be where we
> have the most to learn about a world that makes this world look like the
> grass of the field which is here today and gone tomorrow.
> Have I, as some would accuse, simply smuggled in a "let's be
> intellectually respectable" card that will allow me to pick and choose what
> I want to consider physically true so as not to have to believe anything too
> embarrassing? Well – I believe God raised Jesus from the dead (both in the
> physical sense and more). And I believe God created the universe and
> everything in it, and did (literally) many other miraculous things described
> in the Bible. If He can do that, then obviously it isn't a question for me
> of what He can do. It is a question of knowing, through accurate
> understanding of Scripture, what He *has done*.
> We also are much in need of correction in our false assumption that God
> only acts in special cases we call miracles. Actually, God causes the sun
> to rise and the rain to fall... He does it all whether we can give a
> natural explanation for it or not. Providence within God-given natural laws
> is not to be disdained. If, for example, it was strong wind that brought &
> removed the locusts on Egypt, it is still no less an act of God (Exo 10:13,
> 19). If he mediates his actions by working through natural laws, He is
> still just as sovereign in that event. But that is all a departure from the
> main subject of this essay, though it does show precedence for God choosing
> to operate within natural laws – giving at least some Biblical endorsement
> to the speculation that He may prefer to work that way most of the time.
> For understanding we have much direct & indirect empirical knowledge on
> which to lean. And just as importantly, we have the Word, the Holy Spirit,
> & the body of Christ (i.e. ALL Christians whatever their views on these
> issues) all working in combination to teach and admonish us regarding not
> only this world, but also in a domain that empirical knowledge can't reach
> that must remain in the eyes of faith until such time as it can become
> knowledge. That requires a certain humility of readers to realize they may
> not yet have the last word on how a passage is significant. But it also
> requires us not to hide behind that humility as an excuse not to witness
> confidently of God's work in this world. That is the excuse I am too prone
> to raise.
> --Merv Bitikofer

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Received on Wed May 30 16:39:33 2007

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