Re: is faith necessary to understand the Bible? was Re: [asa] a creationist on the hiddenness of God

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 22:16:21 EDT

I don't know how serious Einstein was when he made this statement. Even toward the end of his life he was doing some new things mathematically with development of the EIH approximation & his attempts to use non-Riemannian geometry in a unified field theory. & the way of specifying the "strength" of a system of field equations that he described in his final appendix to The Meaning of Relativity turned out to be a novel way of describing the necessary initial data for the system.

But of course the more serious point has to do with your speculation of about St. Paul, & that's all it is. You have no justification for "supposing" this. I can "suppose" that he would say "Yeah, that's what I meant."

I have little patience with this kind of blanket condemnation of "modern theologians." What it really refers to is simply "modern theologians I don't agree with."

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <alexanian@uncw.edu>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 7:10 PM
Subject: RE: is faith necessary to understand the Bible? was Re: [asa] a creationist on the hiddenness of God

> Cameron,
>
> Thanks for your illuminating post. “Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.” Quoted in P A Schilpp, Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist (Evanston 1949). I suppose St. Paul would similarly say, “Since the modern theologians have invaded Scripture, I do not understand it myself anymore.”
>
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow [wybrowc@sympatico.ca]
> Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 2:41 AM
> To: asa@lists.calvin.edu
> Subject: is faith necessary to understand the Bible? was Re: [asa] a creationist on the hiddenness of God
>
> Moorad:
>
> In two of your recent posts, you've made some good points about the way that
> the Bible is studied in the academy, ones which I can verify from
> experience.
>
> A good deal of modern Biblical scholarship, from the 19th-century on, has
> taken as its premise that supernatural events just don't happen. At first,
> such claims tended to be narrowed to Old Testament miracle stories, leaving
> the New Testament untouched. (This is understandable, given that many of
> the early Biblical scholars were teaching in German seminaries which
> required professions of Christian faith.) Nonetheless, over time the New
> Testament proved not to be immune, and you later have scholars like Renan,
> who just assume without proof that miracles do not happen, and interpret the
> life of Jesus as if they never did. There have continued to be good New
> Testament scholars, even in secular universities, who maintain the divine
> inspiration of the Bible and even accept most of the miracles at face value.
> But in my experience, in both secular universities and in seminaries of the
> "mainstream" denominations, such scholars are increasingly a minority. Of
> course, my observations may reflect the more secular general culture of
> Canada, but your note reminds me that "the Jesus Seminar" is geographically
> centered in the U.S.A., so I suspect the phenomenon is widespread.
>
> Another thing you have to take into account is schizophrenia. Many
> genuinely Christian professors of New Testament -- and here I'm referring to
> the Christians who teach in secular religion departments, and who publish
> mainly in the great organs of secular scholarship, not to those who teach
> and publish exclusively or mainly in more obviously sectarian or religious
> venues -- studiously keep out of their articles and books all claims which
> would not be accepted by the mainstream of Biblical scholarship (which
> includes many Jews, agnostics and atheists). So it is often hard to tell
> what a professor of New Testament believes about the Deity of Jesus, the
> historicity of the Resurrection, or Biblical inspiration, based on his or
> her writings for the Harvard or Oxford University Press. Such professors
> want to be accepted as "good Biblical scholars" according to the canons of
> secular scholarship, and tend to express their views fully only in the
> private moments or in their Church life; or, if they express their views in
> their classrooms, they generally bend over backwards to make sure that they
> are not to be understood as proselytizing, and to affirm that secular
> conclusions are just as valid as religious ones, from a scholarly point of
> view. For such Christian professors, their theological views proper become
> an optional private add-on to their "scientific" views, and therefore can be
> withheld whenever that seems to make working with secular colleagues easier.
> So there emerges a sort of double-truth notion: the truths that can be
> ascertained by secular scholarship, i.e., by the use of assumptions granted
> by Christians, Jews, agnostics and atheists alike; and the truths which are
> asserted by Christians qua Christians. The first set of truths tilt
> strongly toward a de facto atheism, but they are the lingua franca of
> Biblical "science" in the
> Oxford-Harvard-Cornell-Chicago-Columbia-Yale-Toronto religious studies
> world. Thus, there is a sort of "methodological naturalism" practiced by
> some Christian New Testament scholars, in which no assumption of divine
> inspiration is made. Were this form of MN not practiced, it would be
> impossible for Christian and non-Christian NT scholars to work together
> without directly addressing each other's private theological positions, and
> since that is considered bad manners in the academic world of religious
> studies (and again, I'm speaking of religious studies, not theology proper),
> the Christian NT scholars of the sort specified adopt the atheist/agnostic
> playing field for the bulk of their scholarship.
>
> One of the difficulties I am having with George Murphy's position -- and I
> take it for granted that George is a sincere Christian who believes that the
> Bible is inspired, so I am not questioning his motivation -- is that I don't
> think it's all that easy to accept the key premises of modern Biblical
> scholarship and then "control" their results by an appeal to the Trinity or
> to Christ crucified or to any other such principle. Modern Biblical
> scholarship tends to break through any such theological controls placed upon
> it. And I don't think that this is simply a result of atheist Biblical
> scholars going beyond what "Biblical science" can justify; I think it is
> inherent in the methods of Biblical scholarship itself. You can't be a
> modern Biblical scholar without questioning the validity of certain
> traditional interpretations of the texts; and that means you can't be a
> modern Biblical scholar without demanding the freedom to criticize, say,
> Luther's reading of Paul. Similarly, as modern Biblical scholarship has now
> universally accepted the principle that Christianity cannot be understood
> without knowledge of its Jewish roots, modern Biblical scholarship cannot be
> legitimately prevented from inquiring into Paul's understanding of "the
> Law". Now suppose a very good, very sensitive, very careful Biblical
> scholar concludes that Paul misunderstood "the Law". What then? The
> interpretive control of the Church over Biblical scholarship cannot be
> sustained in such a case, because the Biblical scholar in question has in
> effect decided that the Church made a major error very early on, by
> accepting Paul's misunderstanding of the Law. (There is in fact a
> world-class Pauline scholar who has argued this.) And the chain of events
> which have led to such potentially destructive Biblical scholarship flows
> directly from Enlightenment notions of Biblical texts, of progress in
> religious thought, of historical approaches to religion, etc., much of which
> George accepts.
>
> I am not saying that I have any answer to this problem, because I do not.
> But simply as an observer of the academic scene, let me state that I do not
> believe that modern Biblical scholarship will brook any interference by the
> Church, any more than neo-Darwinism will. If we say to biologists, "You
> have the Church's blessing to ask the question, 'Could human beings have
> emerged through a random process?', and to answer it in the affirmative, if
> that is where the evidence leads", can we say with a straight face to
> Biblical scholars: "You may not answer the question 'Has Paul misunderstood
> the Law?' in the affirmative, even if that is what the best modern
> scholarship on 1st-century Judaism suggests"? George appears to grant to
> biology an autonomy that he is not willing to grant to philological and
> historical Biblical scholarship, and I cannot for the life of me see how
> such a distinction can be maintained once the Rubicon of the Enlightenment
> has been crossed.
>
> Cameron.
>
>
> ***
>
>
> George you are quite right. However, his dealing with Scripture was his
> starting point with supposedly no further assumptions made, which we know is
> not possible. For instance, he related how Scripture would lead to doubt the
> virgin birth. Of course, from my standpoint, the virgin birth is peanuts for
> a Creator; however, he would not accept such logic.
>
> This professor of religion may be not typical of the formal or academic
> theologians but it seems that the whole Jesus Seminar group seems to
> represent the views of modern theologians. Is this so?
>
> Of course, you did not indicate if a starting point with the notion of the
> existence of the supernatural is necessary for good, or better correct,
> Biblical exegesis.
>
> Moorad
>
> ***
>
> I was talking to a Greek professor of religion from our campus who studies
> the New Testament. I realized the difference between formal or academic
> theology and the theology that results from faith. Surely, the data is the
> same, viz. Scripture, however the prior information that we analyze the data
> with, is very different. His approach was based on not inferring anything
> supernatural from the data, whereas I supposed from the outset that there is
> a supernatural aspect to Nature with humans being little supernatural
> beings, with God the Big Supernatural Creator. That is to say, humans have
> some aspects of the supernatural but we ourselves are not Devine. Obviously,
> the conclusions we arrive at is totally different. Who is right?
>
> Moorad
>
>
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Received on Mon May 11 22:17:15 2009

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