The Fallout

This is the eighth and final post in a series on inspiration, inerrancy, and hermeneutics.

So anyway what about the Fall? If no one human is the cause for our sinful natures, what is?

Depravity for me is summed up by self-centered living, which is inexcusable for a species that has achieved consciousness of the divine. We are all sinners because we all start off life living for ourselves, which, after early childhood and the awareness of Otherness sets in, becomes sin. Sin is a state of estrangement from God. Over long eons, God brought His children up biologically so that mankind became sentient and came to know that it had a Maker. At that point, God chose a different means to mature our species. We still struggle to subdue and tame our own biological impulses that lead to our detriment and God’s displeasure, but we master them not through natural selection, but by the overcoming power of the Spirit of God. Christianity is the next (and final?) phase in the evolution of God’s creation.

After all, one common interpretation of the Fall is that every human is born with original sin in the sense of a predilection for sinning, but retains free will so that he is responsible for the actual sins he commits. Now, what if I told you that “original sin” is a biological condition? What if that tendency to look out for ourselves was used by God to create us? Think of it this way: when animals strive for their own survival, in some cases killing other animals not only for food but to extend their territory and in other ways simply doing what we would characterize in humans as “living for themselves,” are these animals thumbing their nose at God? Would we consider this self-centered living to be rebellion against the Creator? Is God going to hold them accountable for their actions? No. Why? Because God has not revealed Himself to these animals and told them that self-centered living is against His plan for them. The survival of a being without God-consciousness is dependent on this sort of behavior, a behavior we would call narcissistic in humans. God brought our forbears along in this way until a point at which we became aware not only of ourselves, but of something – Someone – higher than ourselves. It was at this stage that we became human. However, whether there was a stage of humanity that was aware of God and not in rebellion, as C.S. Lewis believed, or whether, as I suspect, the very first humans aware of God were unable to walk with God in full communion, the fact remains that self-directed living was no longer acceptable, and has remained thus as the bane and chief failing of our species.

Thus my position on the Fall and depravity works in tandem with my conviction that the vast majority of scientists Christian and otherwise have not all gone off their rockers, and neither are they opposing God with a massive conspiracy. In short, I believe that the prevailing scientific consensus on the origin of species is on its way to accurately describing how we got here. Despite warrantless accusations to the contrary, science does change, evolving as it is challenged and improved upon, so I’m not about to say that the current understanding of the mechanics of evolution is complete or wholly accurate. Neither would most evolutionists. But most of the basic premises are not likely to need overhaul any time soon.

The God that used evolution to birth, nurture, and shape His creation is a patient, masterly, and above all, sovereign God. Natural processes are not naturalistic, not godless, and not ultimately susceptible to the winds of change: the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. When our ancestors were microscopic organisms, He knew each of our names, and knew how He was going to get us here. I find this scheme even grander and more miraculous than Creationism.

I’m not going to wax eloquent on this issue. If you’re at all interested, see the applicable links on the right to encounter evolution from a Christian perspective.

A Necessary Qualification

I have been asked, “Is there a legitimate reason that we can or should use these stories differently from the way the apostles and writers of scripture did?” There is, in fact, very good reason: our mission is to interpret correctly, no matter who interpreted incorrectly. There is an underlying assumption in that question that everything the NT writers believed was accurate – but I would turn around the question and ask if there is a legitimate reason that we should take their word on how to use these stories unquestionably. Were they not fellow travelers? Their close exposure to the Word Himself didn’t automatically correct all the misconceptions they might have held about anything, including the OT. Do we really believe these men were infallible? Even the men who shared Jesus’ life for three or four years didn’t understand the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God, despite Jesus’ explicit teaching on the matter; in fact (as we preterists argue) most of the Christians who lived through the destruction of Jerusalem apparently did not even notice the coming of the Kingdom right under their noses! Even in the NT, we are forced to re-evaluate the authors’ understandings and intents and not incautiously accept everything they believed. Of course this can be taken too far, and so let me temper this with a necessary qualification.

Because I have spent so much time talking about the errancy of Scripture, I fear that some will exaggerate my view out of an overreactive reflex. I am not saying that most or even much of Scripture is incorrect in scientific or historical detail. On the contrary, we have no reason to doubt that they truly believed everything they said, and moreover, that the NT writers especially had very good reason to believe it. They had no reason to fabricate any of the science, history, or doctrines expounded in the New Testament out of thin air. They were liars and hypocrites indeed, if these men whose leader proclaimed Himself the Truth willfully disregarded truth in order to concoct testimony and gain a following; if deceivers, they were underachievers, because there are definitely points at which their fabrications could have been a bit more comprehensive and coordinated. No, for honest testimony related by humans capable of unintentional error, our Scriptures certainly bear the expected signs. We should not expect to see error without having good cause.

I may be accused of devaluing the place of history in unforgivably post-modern fashion. Actually, I view history, and specifically the history of our Lord made flesh, as the centerpiece of the faith. The record of His actions in the Gospels (perhaps this is why we have four of them) and Acts are actual photographs, whereas everything else in the Bible ranges from stylized and caricaturized medieval paintings to the crudity of cave drawings in comparison. The Old Testament and the epistles are but interpretations, each part a believer’s honest but ultimately subjective impression of the Lord Who appeared.

The actions and teachings of the historical person of Jesus comprise easily the single most reliable and important subject of Scripture. No one person can recover all the truth within a passage of Scripture; indeed, some passages seem to defy any attempts at extracting spiritual insight. Yet if all else were to fail, we have been entrusted with the historical testimony to the Word incarnate. This is why He and only He is the Word of God. Even if (and I emphatically reject this) Paul is wrong in all his intepretations, we believe that Jesus the Son of God died for our sins and rose after three days! This is the basis of the faith and of the gospel, which is the only truth that someone needs to enter a relationship with God. This, not the inerrancy of the Bible, is the bedrock of the faith, and it is very nearly idolatry to place undue faith in any other device.Commonly, we see those who have what may be truly called a low view of Scripture making attempts to blame unpopular doctrines on an author’s erroneous beliefs (e.g. Paul on feminism or homosexuality). We cannot guard strongly enough against throwing something out just because we don’t happen to like it or understand it. When certain of the Witnesses’ theological beliefs appear erroneous, surely it is arrogance to do anything but assume ignorance on our part unless we know a reason why they would have been sincerely and honestly misled on those issues. I can’t think of a reason to discount Paul’s views on walking in the Spirit. Nor can I imagine why his view of eating food offered to idols might be incorrect. The assertion that by Jesus the worlds were framed cannot be attributed to anything but revelation or speculation, and that last possibility is too incendiary to be entertained without its own evidence. There is, however, good reason to believe that Paul was mistaken about the Fall, because the reasons Paul would have believed the story was historical are apparent: it was the belief of all Jews at the time based on a Hellenized interpretation of the erstwhile Ancient Hebrew myth adopted as Hebrew Scripture.

If we can’t trust their historical, scientific facts, how can we trust their spiritual teachings? If an accomplished professional plumber wrote a plumbing handbook in which he shared his vocational expertise, but peppered it throughout with his speculations on the history of plumbing, his views on politics, etc., would inaccuracies in these last two cast doubt on how he says to proceed in choosing piping for your new bathroom addition? Of course not – you bought the book because you wanted to know about his area of expertise, and the value of his book for its primary purpose rests ultimately on his credentials as a plumber, and would not be tainted by the fact that he has erroneous beliefs in unrelated subjects!

Similarly, the men who wrote the Bible were experts, licensed to practice by God Himself, and the theological Better Business Bureau called the Church has given them its seal of approval. Note that these commendations stop shy of making the Witnesses infallible. Yet it is foolishness and arrogance to claim that they were wrong on any spiritual matter without good cause. This is the same way historians read all first-hand accounts. An historian reading Julius Caesar can assume that the main content of his accounts are true, whether he embellished, downplayed, or simply missed some details. If we hold the Gospel writers to at least the same standard as scholars hold most ancient historians (and why shouldn’t we?), we have at least Christ’s resurrection on the concord of four separate first-century documents; we also have the testimony of extra-biblical history, which attests the meteoric rise of a religion that turned the world upside down within a generation’s time originating in a two-bit territory under Roman occupation, not to mention the otherwise unexplainable willingness to be martyred on the part of the apostles. No wonder Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 lays the weight of the whole gospel upon Christ’s resurrection — notice he didn’t have a canon to appeal to, and yet was more than confident in the legitimacy of his faith based upon that one event.

I am deeply disturbed by one reaction my view of inspiration receives: indignation that leads to a virtual charge of blasphemy. Articulating a view of Scripture that denies inerrancy and affirms its nature as a work of literature is considered by many to be tantamount to heresy. Those who aver that the whole Bible is divinely-revealed truth come dangerously close to blasphemy; the person and work of Jesus show Him to be the definitive divine revelation, the Word of God, and the Bible is a testimony to the history of revelation by men of God given to us, in which we do catch many a glimpse of divinely-revealed truth. My recognition of the limitations of the authority of men’s testimony is also why I cannot be a part of the Catholic Church: because (even redeemed) humanity is flawed and fallible, no segment or institution of humanity, however historically well-grounded, can wield authority to the degree that Catholics claim for their leadership and tradition.

I have come to the unsettling conclusion that Christians want the Bible to be proved completely and utterly inerrant so that this will justify their beliefs to themselves and unbelievers. Any claim that questions inerrancy is seen to undermine the credibility of the whole Bible. In effect, it’s the equivalent of a two-year-old who’s been given one piece of candy and who, when denied another piece, throws down the one he has in defiance. We want our Bible to be the Word of God, dadgummit, and we won’t settle for any less! I’m convinced that another reason many Christians cannot let go of their belief in inerrancy is that they prefer to be on the us side of an us vs. them debate, and if need be they will manufacture such a debate: they hold unpopular beliefs because they think that what is true must necessarily be unpopular among unbelievers, and because inerrancy, young earth creationism, and certain other doctrines are hated by non-Christians, this somehow bolsters their odds at being correct. These sorts of mindgames are needlessly devisive, and prohibit anyone who is not predisposed to explain away and deny the warts they see when they look at the Bible from drawing close enough to hear the words of truth and life contained within.

Conclusion

This view is one that makes the acknowledged and calculated leap of faith that men have met God and that God has wanted to leave us a record of their interactions. With that in mind, of course there is the possibility that we may go too far and take their word for something that they were incorrect about. But one of the benefits of having an inspired Scripture is that even when we accept every thought within it uncritically, God is still able to communicates a truth practical for our Christian life. I view this serendipity as part of God’s commitment to ensuring all Scripture as profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; behind every misconception of a truth there is nonetheless a real, unassailable truth; behind every blurry view of an object, that object exists regardless. This is why we are able to note something like the God-man struggle pattern out of Paul’s likely belief in a Fall that probably never happened in the way he understood it.

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  • Hi Steve,
    A very interesting post. I think you have articulated a path that impressively navigates through issues of science, history, and how we should interpret the Bible. I am sure that some people will be uncomfortable with it because it argues against many of the absolutes that evangelicals have clung to, but it rings true to me.

  • Hi Steve,
    A very interesting post. I think you have articulated a path that impressively navigates through issues of science, history, and how we should interpret the Bible. I am sure that some people will be uncomfortable with it because it argues against many of the absolutes that evangelicals have clung to, but it rings true to me.

  • I appreciate you weighing in, Vance. There’s a seat-of-the-pants quality about it that makes everyone, me included, feel like someone took the training wheels off the bike. Here the process of undeception is much more uncomfortable than believing this way in the first place: if we Christians didn’t always talk about the Bible as though it were an inerrant epistle written directly by God and delivered on the wings of a dove, seeing it the way I’ve argued would seem perfectly natural.

  • I appreciate you weighing in, Vance. There’s a seat-of-the-pants quality about it that makes everyone, me included, feel like someone took the training wheels off the bike. Here the process of undeception is much more uncomfortable than believing this way in the first place: if we Christians didn’t always talk about the Bible as though it were an inerrant epistle written directly by God and delivered on the wings of a dove, seeing it the way I’ve argued would seem perfectly natural.

  • Oh, man. I never thought I’d get to this point, but I think I have. I’m in complete and total agreement with you on your view of the Bible’s nature and purpose. I’ve just never been able to articulate what I’ve been musing over for a long time now.

    The training wheels are, indeed, off the bike. And I’ve never had a freer ride …

  • Oh, man. I never thought I’d get to this point, but I think I have. I’m in complete and total agreement with you on your view of the Bible’s nature and purpose. I’ve just never been able to articulate what I’ve been musing over for a long time now.

    The training wheels are, indeed, off the bike. And I’ve never had a freer ride …

  • I wrote the last few of this series (”The authority of Scripture” through to this one) all as one essay that I was planning on presenting at TruthVoice 2007. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me to go (my son ended up in the emergency room for a false alarm).

    The process of writing this last year about this time and editing it for this blog helped serve as a chance for me to remove the training wheels for myself, and when I didn’t fall down on my face, I figured it was worth presenting to others. Now I’m glad to see some others responding to it positively — the originally intended audience at TV wouldn’t have liked it so much 🙂

  • I wrote the last few of this series (”The authority of Scripture” through to this one) all as one essay that I was planning on presenting at TruthVoice 2007. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me to go (my son ended up in the emergency room for a false alarm).

    The process of writing this last year about this time and editing it for this blog helped serve as a chance for me to remove the training wheels for myself, and when I didn’t fall down on my face, I figured it was worth presenting to others. Now I’m glad to see some others responding to it positively — the originally intended audience at TV wouldn’t have liked it so much 🙂

  • Steve,
    Your stated views on Inspiration line up very well with my own thoughts on the subject. I appreciate your contribution to this very important discussion. Those who overstate the doctrine of the Bible are just as dangerous as those who understate it. It is time we take the Bible just for what it is. And love it for what it is! It is unique and remarkable! But it is not perfect. Thank you for making the case so well.

  • Steve,
    Your stated views on Inspiration line up very well with my own thoughts on the subject. I appreciate your contribution to this very important discussion. Those who overstate the doctrine of the Bible are just as dangerous as those who understate it. It is time we take the Bible just for what it is. And love it for what it is! It is unique and remarkable! But it is not perfect. Thank you for making the case so well.

  • Cliff, thanks for dropping by! I’ve appreciated your input on Mike’s blog.

    Those who overstate the doctrine of the Bible are just as dangerous as those who understate it. It is time we take the Bible just for what it is. And love it for what it is! It is unique and remarkable! But it is not perfect.
    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Cliff!

  • Cliff, thanks for dropping by! I’ve appreciated your input on Mike’s blog.

    Those who overstate the doctrine of the Bible are just as dangerous as those who understate it. It is time we take the Bible just for what it is. And love it for what it is! It is unique and remarkable! But it is not perfect.
    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Cliff!

  • Hi Steve, great series! A few months ago, I was working on a manuscrupt for a Children’s book that told the Gospel through the lense of Natural History — weaving our spiritual history as God’s people into what we know about our natural history. This included things like “the fall”, our need to make sacrifices to the “gods”, our tendency to worship the creation, God revealing Himself to His people, and the incarnation of Christ to end the bloody system of sacrifice that God allowed his people to keep for a time.

    Well, that project got derailed by another writing project currently taking most of my spare time, but I made a video using some of the the material from the children’s book. You might find it interesting.

    Keep up the great work! –GJG

  • Hi Steve, great series! A few months ago, I was working on a manuscrupt for a Children’s book that told the Gospel through the lense of Natural History — weaving our spiritual history as God’s people into what we know about our natural history. This included things like “the fall”, our need to make sacrifices to the “gods”, our tendency to worship the creation, God revealing Himself to His people, and the incarnation of Christ to end the bloody system of sacrifice that God allowed his people to keep for a time.

    Well, that project got derailed by another writing project currently taking most of my spare time, but I made a video using some of the the material from the children’s book. You might find it interesting.

    Keep up the great work! –GJG

  • Thanks for coming by, Gordon! I visited your site a while back and really appreciated it.

    What a magnificent video! Macro universe history and Heilsgeschichte all rolled into nine minutes — unbelievable. One misgiving I’ve had with my conversion from anti-evolutionism to evolutionary creationism has been with how I would explain the Bible and science to my young children. This is exactly the sort of thing we need and I hope you get back on track with your children’s book soon!

  • Thanks for coming by, Gordon! I visited your site a while back and really appreciated it.

    What a magnificent video! Macro universe history and Heilsgeschichte all rolled into nine minutes — unbelievable. One misgiving I’ve had with my conversion from anti-evolutionism to evolutionary creationism has been with how I would explain the Bible and science to my young children. This is exactly the sort of thing we need and I hope you get back on track with your children’s book soon!

  • I added your site to my blogroll. Would have done it sooner but I just found out about it through Steve Martin’s last post.

    My wife and I are both artists, and we will pick up the pieces of the children’s book someday. Have you ever taken your kids to a Museum of Natural History? Living outside of DC, we regulary make visits there (it’s also free). When we feel like spending money, we take them to the American Musuem of Natural History in NYC or the Baltimore science center. I have found that questions naturally arise, and it provides great opportunities to explain things while looking at great exhibits.

    The museums I mentioned are all organized in such a way that they tell the story of life’s progression. You can literally walk right through the story. Kids will often ask about how Biblical events relate to the timeline, and they are amazed to see what “latecomers” we are to the scene. I also find it easier to describe significant “non-scientific” events like the appearence of imago dei in man, the fall, man’s invention of religion (ie: man’s feeble attempt to connect with the gods), God revealing Himself, God accommodating himself, and God submitting Himself to the cross to put away man’s feeble attempt to connect with God (religion) and bridge the divide once and for all. None of it seems nearly as threatening when done walking through a musuem.

  • I added your site to my blogroll. Would have done it sooner but I just found out about it through Steve Martin’s last post.

    My wife and I are both artists, and we will pick up the pieces of the children’s book someday. Have you ever taken your kids to a Museum of Natural History? Living outside of DC, we regulary make visits there (it’s also free). When we feel like spending money, we take them to the American Musuem of Natural History in NYC or the Baltimore science center. I have found that questions naturally arise, and it provides great opportunities to explain things while looking at great exhibits.

    The museums I mentioned are all organized in such a way that they tell the story of life’s progression. You can literally walk right through the story. Kids will often ask about how Biblical events relate to the timeline, and they are amazed to see what “latecomers” we are to the scene. I also find it easier to describe significant “non-scientific” events like the appearence of imago dei in man, the fall, man’s invention of religion (ie: man’s feeble attempt to connect with the gods), God revealing Himself, God accommodating himself, and God submitting Himself to the cross to put away man’s feeble attempt to connect with God (religion) and bridge the divide once and for all. None of it seems nearly as threatening when done walking through a musuem.

  • I like that idea about the museum. I wish we had something like that nearby. But the principle of arranging discussion in chronological order is transferable to other media than museums. The use of story is so helpful for explaining things to children. Simple. I like it.

    As for the blogroll addition, appreciated and reciprocated!

  • I like that idea about the museum. I wish we had something like that nearby. But the principle of arranging discussion in chronological order is transferable to other media than museums. The use of story is so helpful for explaining things to children. Simple. I like it.

    As for the blogroll addition, appreciated and reciprocated!

  • Doug Moody

    Hello Steve (a friend I don’t know well – yet)

    I can claim myself as a newcomer to your blogs, so there is some “history” that I have not developed with you yet. Nevertheless, I feel qualified to weigh in on this subject, and wish to take issue with your views.

    First though, let me state that your writing style is awesome. You are a true communicator, and you are able to turn a phrase with the best of them.

    Nevertheless, you have turned a few too many phrases I fear to your own hurt. Namely, their is a certain inconsistency in your logic on this subject!

    The biggest inconsistency is that you equivocate scripture as being, on the one hand, inerrant on the subjects which you deem inerrant, but then you reserve for yourself the privilege of deciding which parts of scripture can be considered “opinions” of fallible men. Tell me then, which “side” should I listen to when I hear YOUR interpretations of something that is in error; the bible, or you? You too are a man, but there isn’t any First Stephen, is there?

    I think you know the answer to that. This isn’t simply whether I believe you or the bible. It is whether I can bet my salvation on your interpretation, or the bible’s.

    I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the Son of God, but also that God the Father is who decided that He would communicate with me through that same written Word. There is far more in there than salvation issues, but even the t hings that are not salvific in nature still are themed such that they point to Jesus one way or the other. That very same bible that was written to me was (and is) written to all other men throughout time, so God decided not only WHO wrote the bible, but WHAT they said as well. There is also great evidence that the ones who wrote the bible were the same ones who vetted it and canonized their own writings. Do you think that in that process, God would have allowed anything to “fall through the cracks” in what He wanted to communicate to man?

    Your imperfect knowledge (or mine) of what the writers of the bible meant by what they said really isn’t up for debate. If it were, then there are no rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims. I might as well make this entire claim as an Ad Hominem attack upon Moses, or Paul, or Daniel, or whomever I choose! That way, I could feel just fine riding my bike without training wheels. Taken to the extreme, I could decide to write my OWN bible, because, after all, I am a fallible man, just like the bible writers were.

    You have stated what you believe, but you haven’t given me a hermeneutic FROM THE BIBLE that governs why I ought to accept of reject certain passages. You only made your argument based on what you personally consider true or not. So, logically, in order for my faith to be consistent in ANY part of the bible, I must consistently believe ALL the bible and its inspiration by the direct hand of God. To do anything else is to undermine my own faith in Jesus.

    I think what you have confused here is your desire for the bible to make sense in all aspects, and if it isn’t, then you are free to reject that which doesn’t make sense. Oh, true enough that you said “some” of the bible isn’t in question. But if you start with some, it is all too easy to go down the slippery slope of creeping incrementalism.

    I am not mad, or even hostile to what you wrote. I am saying however, that you open yourself up to all manner of falsehoods if you persist in this idea – and I would hate to see that happen to anyone – especially a brother in Christ.

  • Doug Moody

    Hello Steve (a friend I don’t know well – yet)

    I can claim myself as a newcomer to your blogs, so there is some “history” that I have not developed with you yet. Nevertheless, I feel qualified to weigh in on this subject, and wish to take issue with your views.

    First though, let me state that your writing style is awesome. You are a true communicator, and you are able to turn a phrase with the best of them.

    Nevertheless, you have turned a few too many phrases I fear to your own hurt. Namely, their is a certain inconsistency in your logic on this subject!

    The biggest inconsistency is that you equivocate scripture as being, on the one hand, inerrant on the subjects which you deem inerrant, but then you reserve for yourself the privilege of deciding which parts of scripture can be considered “opinions” of fallible men. Tell me then, which “side” should I listen to when I hear YOUR interpretations of something that is in error; the bible, or you? You too are a man, but there isn’t any First Stephen, is there?

    I think you know the answer to that. This isn’t simply whether I believe you or the bible. It is whether I can bet my salvation on your interpretation, or the bible’s.

    I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the Son of God, but also that God the Father is who decided that He would communicate with me through that same written Word. There is far more in there than salvation issues, but even the t hings that are not salvific in nature still are themed such that they point to Jesus one way or the other. That very same bible that was written to me was (and is) written to all other men throughout time, so God decided not only WHO wrote the bible, but WHAT they said as well. There is also great evidence that the ones who wrote the bible were the same ones who vetted it and canonized their own writings. Do you think that in that process, God would have allowed anything to “fall through the cracks” in what He wanted to communicate to man?

    Your imperfect knowledge (or mine) of what the writers of the bible meant by what they said really isn’t up for debate. If it were, then there are no rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims. I might as well make this entire claim as an Ad Hominem attack upon Moses, or Paul, or Daniel, or whomever I choose! That way, I could feel just fine riding my bike without training wheels. Taken to the extreme, I could decide to write my OWN bible, because, after all, I am a fallible man, just like the bible writers were.

    You have stated what you believe, but you haven’t given me a hermeneutic FROM THE BIBLE that governs why I ought to accept of reject certain passages. You only made your argument based on what you personally consider true or not. So, logically, in order for my faith to be consistent in ANY part of the bible, I must consistently believe ALL the bible and its inspiration by the direct hand of God. To do anything else is to undermine my own faith in Jesus.

    I think what you have confused here is your desire for the bible to make sense in all aspects, and if it isn’t, then you are free to reject that which doesn’t make sense. Oh, true enough that you said “some” of the bible isn’t in question. But if you start with some, it is all too easy to go down the slippery slope of creeping incrementalism.

    I am not mad, or even hostile to what you wrote. I am saying however, that you open yourself up to all manner of falsehoods if you persist in this idea – and I would hate to see that happen to anyone – especially a brother in Christ.

  • Welcome back, Doug!

    Do you realize how long I’ve had this post up, and you’re the first person to give me any flack on this stuff? I have been surprised by the lack of pushback. The sincerest of warm thanks for expressing your dissent 🙂

    First off, thanks for the compliment; I am very pleased with your high opinion of my writing style. 😳

    The biggest inconsistency is that you equivocate scripture as being, on the one hand, inerrant on the subjects which you deem inerrant, but then you reserve for yourself the privilege of deciding which parts of scripture can be considered “opinions” of fallible men. Tell me then, which “side” should I listen to when I hear YOUR interpretations of something that is in error; the bible, or you? You too are a man, but there isn’t any First Stephen, is there?

    What I think you’re asking for here is that God provide us with a silver bullet – an empirically epistemological dead-ringer of sorts that garrisons the Christian’s faith. The “consistency” you demand from me is only necessary if I share your assumption that there must be proof positive of some aspect of the faith to warrant our trust in it; it would be inconsistent of me to insist that we should not trust any of what I have called “peripheral matters” while proclaiming that we have good, solid, empirical evidence to believe the core matters. But I do not believe that, for whatever reason(s), God meant to provide us such an unassailable form of proof. It’s not a matter of, “Trust the Bible or trust Stephen,” but rather a matter of “Trust God to sovereignly work through broken vessels or insist that He give us proof positive before we believe anything at all.” I actually find it odd that you think my position makes some claims on your salvation since I’ve already affirmed the Bible’s accuracy on those matters.

    Also, I find it ironic that you claim some “straight to the source” way of interpretation by juxtaposing “your [Stephen’s] interpretation” with “the bible’s”, as though no middle man is necessary. What you really mean is to compare my interpretation with your interpretation. There is no “inside track” that avoids bibliological and hermeneutical evaluation.

    Your statements imply that there is some default hermeneutic and systematic treatment of the Bible’s theology to which anyone rejecting my beliefs should fall back on, disregarding the evidence I laid out that everyone interprets the Bible differently. God could have easily compiled an unanalyzable series of propositions, but He did not – this is my evidence that God wanted people to interpret Scripture, saw it fit to tolerate the possibility of variation in those interpretations, and chose a vessel to convey truth that is less than airtight and entirely systematic. If you agree with this last sentence, it is “inconsistent” of you to insist that we draw an arbitrary (non-Scriptural!) line between what’s unfiltered truth and what’s not at a location with which you feel most comfortable. In no way do I believe that I have the final say in where to draw the line, but I am simply insisting that we all do already draw the line somewhere, and I think we have some Scriptural evidence to where we draw that line: “. . .for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    There is a right way to interpret Scripture, just as there is a right way to get at the truths behind a newspaper article, but in exactly the same way we have to acknowledge that we can’t just unquestionably believe whatever we read in the newspaper without knowing where the information is coming from and who is delivering it. Due to my belief in God’s sovereignty and the honesty of the Bible’s authors, I will expect to find truth rather than inaccuracy, but when I do find evidence that one of the author’s misconceptions (not lies) has crept in, I don’t feel like God is lying to me. Do you deny that there are “errors” in the strictest sense? If not, I’d very much like to hear your disputation of the examples I presented in this series.

    Do you think that in that process, God would have allowed anything to “fall through the cracks” in what He wanted to communicate to man?

    I do think that He could have, but I do not think that He would have. It’s my belief in His character as conveyed by the testimony of His witnesses and tested by my own observations of His activity that leads me to the presupposition that God did not intend to have any of the points He wanted to communicate fall through the cracks and was able to prevent this from happening. I hope you didn’t think I was arguing for that.

    Your imperfect knowledge (or mine) of what the writers of the bible meant by what they said really isn’t up for debate. If it were, then there are no rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims.

    What I am saying is that there is no philosophical, theological, or just plain logical necessity that we have “rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims.” Would it be nice? Yes. But God is under no obligation to provide us with such verification; if He is in fact under such obligation, it seems, as I have attempted to demonstrate, that He has gone about it half-heartedly.

    You have stated what you believe, but you haven’t given me a hermeneutic FROM THE BIBLE that governs why I ought to accept of reject certain passages.

    First off, demanding a hermeneutic strictly “FROM THE BIBLE” begs the question at hand: you presuppose that there is an obvious, unquestionable Scriptural hermeneutic that explains how we are to interpret every passage of Scripture. If so, why is it so well hidden from us, and why do some people believe that it is so obvious? Instead, I believe that humble study will help us interpret the Scripture properly, just as with any literary work. Secondly, I did provide you a couple Scriptures as starting points: 2 Tm 3.16b-17 and 1 Co 7.12. The first tells us what we should be looking for (information on spiritual matters) and the second stands as a stark reminder that the mode of delivery was humanity. But wait: why humanity and not a mode that could have provided pure, raw truth needing no translation or interpretation? Some will say, “Well, God works in mysterious ways,” which is true, but when you factor in the demonstrable errors in the supposed “pure, raw truths,” you risk painting God as a liar at least, and a lazy editor at worst. My position parallels human authors with human interpreters.

    You only made your argument based on what you personally consider true or not. So, logically, in order for my faith to be consistent in ANY part of the bible, I must consistently believe ALL the bible and its inspiration by the direct hand of God. To do anything else is to undermine my own faith in Jesus.

    You have made an argument based on what you personally consider true, but I am pointing out that this, like my view, is a presupposition and no more useful as definitive proof for Christianity than you wish my position held.

    I appreciate your concern for where this view leads. I am fully aware of the slippery slope argument, but the fact is that the position I argue for here actually stands as a platform (what I consider ground level) somewhere between oxygen-deprived fundamentalism at the top of the hill and agnosticism, deism, or atheism at the noxious valley bottom. See, when I came across evidence that the Bible contains information that contradicts reality, I had to either 1) chunk the Bible along with all my experience with God or 2) seek to understand how this might have been part of God’s plan and fall in step with where He’s going rather than where I always assumed and (still) wish He’d gone. You can see that I have chosen option two; ironically, attempts to undermine this position without providing a viable third option is likely to leave me with the first as my only choice. And insisting on the scientific inerrancy of the Bible isn’t going to get very far with me.

    I’ll leave you with a question: what evidence from Scripture do you have that backs up your position on the nature of the Bible? When does it talk about itself as a whole, and what besides presupposition makes you believe what it says about itself?

  • Welcome back, Doug!

    Do you realize how long I’ve had this post up, and you’re the first person to give me any flack on this stuff? I have been surprised by the lack of pushback. The sincerest of warm thanks for expressing your dissent 🙂

    First off, thanks for the compliment; I am very pleased with your high opinion of my writing style. 😳

    The biggest inconsistency is that you equivocate scripture as being, on the one hand, inerrant on the subjects which you deem inerrant, but then you reserve for yourself the privilege of deciding which parts of scripture can be considered “opinions” of fallible men. Tell me then, which “side” should I listen to when I hear YOUR interpretations of something that is in error; the bible, or you? You too are a man, but there isn’t any First Stephen, is there?

    What I think you’re asking for here is that God provide us with a silver bullet – an empirically epistemological dead-ringer of sorts that garrisons the Christian’s faith. The “consistency” you demand from me is only necessary if I share your assumption that there must be proof positive of some aspect of the faith to warrant our trust in it; it would be inconsistent of me to insist that we should not trust any of what I have called “peripheral matters” while proclaiming that we have good, solid, empirical evidence to believe the core matters. But I do not believe that, for whatever reason(s), God meant to provide us such an unassailable form of proof. It’s not a matter of, “Trust the Bible or trust Stephen,” but rather a matter of “Trust God to sovereignly work through broken vessels or insist that He give us proof positive before we believe anything at all.” I actually find it odd that you think my position makes some claims on your salvation since I’ve already affirmed the Bible’s accuracy on those matters.

    Also, I find it ironic that you claim some “straight to the source” way of interpretation by juxtaposing “your [Stephen’s] interpretation” with “the bible’s”, as though no middle man is necessary. What you really mean is to compare my interpretation with your interpretation. There is no “inside track” that avoids bibliological and hermeneutical evaluation.

    Your statements imply that there is some default hermeneutic and systematic treatment of the Bible’s theology to which anyone rejecting my beliefs should fall back on, disregarding the evidence I laid out that everyone interprets the Bible differently. God could have easily compiled an unanalyzable series of propositions, but He did not – this is my evidence that God wanted people to interpret Scripture, saw it fit to tolerate the possibility of variation in those interpretations, and chose a vessel to convey truth that is less than airtight and entirely systematic. If you agree with this last sentence, it is “inconsistent” of you to insist that we draw an arbitrary (non-Scriptural!) line between what’s unfiltered truth and what’s not at a location with which you feel most comfortable. In no way do I believe that I have the final say in where to draw the line, but I am simply insisting that we all do already draw the line somewhere, and I think we have some Scriptural evidence to where we draw that line: “. . .for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    There is a right way to interpret Scripture, just as there is a right way to get at the truths behind a newspaper article, but in exactly the same way we have to acknowledge that we can’t just unquestionably believe whatever we read in the newspaper without knowing where the information is coming from and who is delivering it. Due to my belief in God’s sovereignty and the honesty of the Bible’s authors, I will expect to find truth rather than inaccuracy, but when I do find evidence that one of the author’s misconceptions (not lies) has crept in, I don’t feel like God is lying to me. Do you deny that there are “errors” in the strictest sense? If not, I’d very much like to hear your disputation of the examples I presented in this series.

    Do you think that in that process, God would have allowed anything to “fall through the cracks” in what He wanted to communicate to man?

    I do think that He could have, but I do not think that He would have. It’s my belief in His character as conveyed by the testimony of His witnesses and tested by my own observations of His activity that leads me to the presupposition that God did not intend to have any of the points He wanted to communicate fall through the cracks and was able to prevent this from happening. I hope you didn’t think I was arguing for that.

    Your imperfect knowledge (or mine) of what the writers of the bible meant by what they said really isn’t up for debate. If it were, then there are no rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims.

    What I am saying is that there is no philosophical, theological, or just plain logical necessity that we have “rules for deciding whether to accept or reject the bible’s claims.” Would it be nice? Yes. But God is under no obligation to provide us with such verification; if He is in fact under such obligation, it seems, as I have attempted to demonstrate, that He has gone about it half-heartedly.

    You have stated what you believe, but you haven’t given me a hermeneutic FROM THE BIBLE that governs why I ought to accept of reject certain passages.

    First off, demanding a hermeneutic strictly “FROM THE BIBLE” begs the question at hand: you presuppose that there is an obvious, unquestionable Scriptural hermeneutic that explains how we are to interpret every passage of Scripture. If so, why is it so well hidden from us, and why do some people believe that it is so obvious? Instead, I believe that humble study will help us interpret the Scripture properly, just as with any literary work. Secondly, I did provide you a couple Scriptures as starting points: 2 Tm 3.16b-17 and 1 Co 7.12. The first tells us what we should be looking for (information on spiritual matters) and the second stands as a stark reminder that the mode of delivery was humanity. But wait: why humanity and not a mode that could have provided pure, raw truth needing no translation or interpretation? Some will say, “Well, God works in mysterious ways,” which is true, but when you factor in the demonstrable errors in the supposed “pure, raw truths,” you risk painting God as a liar at least, and a lazy editor at worst. My position parallels human authors with human interpreters.

    You only made your argument based on what you personally consider true or not. So, logically, in order for my faith to be consistent in ANY part of the bible, I must consistently believe ALL the bible and its inspiration by the direct hand of God. To do anything else is to undermine my own faith in Jesus.

    You have made an argument based on what you personally consider true, but I am pointing out that this, like my view, is a presupposition and no more useful as definitive proof for Christianity than you wish my position held.

    I appreciate your concern for where this view leads. I am fully aware of the slippery slope argument, but the fact is that the position I argue for here actually stands as a platform (what I consider ground level) somewhere between oxygen-deprived fundamentalism at the top of the hill and agnosticism, deism, or atheism at the noxious valley bottom. See, when I came across evidence that the Bible contains information that contradicts reality, I had to either 1) chunk the Bible along with all my experience with God or 2) seek to understand how this might have been part of God’s plan and fall in step with where He’s going rather than where I always assumed and (still) wish He’d gone. You can see that I have chosen option two; ironically, attempts to undermine this position without providing a viable third option is likely to leave me with the first as my only choice. And insisting on the scientific inerrancy of the Bible isn’t going to get very far with me.

    I’ll leave you with a question: what evidence from Scripture do you have that backs up your position on the nature of the Bible? When does it talk about itself as a whole, and what besides presupposition makes you believe what it says about itself?

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    (just as an aside, I think its interesting that your first and last names are the names of my blood brother and myself. Well, interesting to me anyway 😉 )

    Thanks for answering so rapidly. I am sometimes like a dog on a bone when an idea or proposition comes my way, and I get sometimes way too intense. On some forums, this tendency of mine comes across as an attack, and people bow out quickly, or they hunker down and just start slugging. But you don’t seem to do either, and I appreciate that.

    In any case, I like to chunk my answers into bite size pieces, so as to facilitate digestibility of the mind. Therefore, I will start with your last question, and try later to get to the others. This might cause a digresion, and maybe we won’t get back to the main argument, but, so be it…
    You said:

    I’ll leave you with a question: what evidence from Scripture do you have that backs up your position on the nature of the Bible? When does it talk about itself as a whole, and what besides presupposition makes you believe what it says about itself?

    First off, I think we both agree on the nature of what the bible is. It is NOT a textbook. In fact, it isn’t a book at all. It is a collection of many books, with references to other now non-existent books and sayings peppered within. There is even a statement in the New Testament about Jesus that if all the things He said were writen down, then all the books could not contain them.

    John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    That statement alone, as a statement of “fact” would seem to prove your point, wouldn’t it”? That is, it is a deliberate exaggeration for effect to say that ALL books could not contain everything Jesus said. If I wanted to make a straw man argument out of that one statement, I could, couldn’t I? Give me one hard disk, and if I knew all Jesus said, I am sure all his words would fit easily on a hard drive of today. In fact, given enoug time, enough scribes, and enough vellum, it wouldn’t take too many years to have recorded all Jesus said, would it?

    Yet, the writer of that statement, John, had an opinion, didn’t he? He also let that color HIS statement in the book by his name. So, from that “fallacy” can it be inferred that we should not trust anything else John wrote, lest John’s “opinion” would detract from the purity of his other inspired writings? No, of course, not, and I think this is from where you are arguing.

    But that is the real essence of and the beauty of the “inerrancy” of the bible. We can state with a lot of confidence that probably all of what Jesus said and did COULD be written down, if it was known. Say, for instance, that Jesus came in our lifetime of video recorders and we had some kind of travelcam that followed Jesus 24/7. Such a thing is technically possible, and it would indeed record all He said and did, wouldn’t it? And yet, hidden even in that “unfactual” statement of John’s there is still truth.

    For example, Jesus said “They have eyes but they do not see” If such a person was reviewing the tape of Jesus life, and Jesus did or said something that is obviously a spiritual lesson, and yet the person watching the tape did not discern that lesson, would it have been truly been recorded by the camcorder? My point is that even in those things which don’t “seem” to be factually true, there is (and this is my humble opinion) still always a reason it was inserted and that reason is always based upon truth. It is never a lie, it is always true.

    Why is it always true? Because of the source from which it came – namely, God Himself. It is impossible for God to lie, and His method for revealing Himself to us is the bible. In the natural world (which He also made and which is also a testament to Him and which also communicates His truth) we have something called natural revelation. It isn’t a mysterious thing. In fact, Romans says that the things of God may be discerned via nature by even the most hard hearted if they will just look at it and have an open mind and heart.

    Can you tell me there is error in God’s revelation from nature? I don’t think so. If there is error, it is in the eye of the beholder, not the author.

    To sum up what I am saying, you can find error on the surface of the text in the bible. But, error has many levels of perception. If your level of perception (or mine) is defective, then of course you would conclude that the text is in error. You can even find error in nature (if that is your desire)

    You asked for scripture to back up what I am saying? How about these? (emphases mine)

    1 Cor 3

    1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
    5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
    10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. [this implies that God’s purposes can still be achieved even with inferior quality (maybe even inferior biblical texts), doesn’t it]14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
    16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
    18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; 20 and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” 21
    So then let no one boast in men.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    (just as an aside, I think its interesting that your first and last names are the names of my blood brother and myself. Well, interesting to me anyway 😉 )

    Thanks for answering so rapidly. I am sometimes like a dog on a bone when an idea or proposition comes my way, and I get sometimes way too intense. On some forums, this tendency of mine comes across as an attack, and people bow out quickly, or they hunker down and just start slugging. But you don’t seem to do either, and I appreciate that.

    In any case, I like to chunk my answers into bite size pieces, so as to facilitate digestibility of the mind. Therefore, I will start with your last question, and try later to get to the others. This might cause a digresion, and maybe we won’t get back to the main argument, but, so be it…
    You said:

    I’ll leave you with a question: what evidence from Scripture do you have that backs up your position on the nature of the Bible? When does it talk about itself as a whole, and what besides presupposition makes you believe what it says about itself?

    First off, I think we both agree on the nature of what the bible is. It is NOT a textbook. In fact, it isn’t a book at all. It is a collection of many books, with references to other now non-existent books and sayings peppered within. There is even a statement in the New Testament about Jesus that if all the things He said were writen down, then all the books could not contain them.

    John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    That statement alone, as a statement of “fact” would seem to prove your point, wouldn’t it”? That is, it is a deliberate exaggeration for effect to say that ALL books could not contain everything Jesus said. If I wanted to make a straw man argument out of that one statement, I could, couldn’t I? Give me one hard disk, and if I knew all Jesus said, I am sure all his words would fit easily on a hard drive of today. In fact, given enoug time, enough scribes, and enough vellum, it wouldn’t take too many years to have recorded all Jesus said, would it?

    Yet, the writer of that statement, John, had an opinion, didn’t he? He also let that color HIS statement in the book by his name. So, from that “fallacy” can it be inferred that we should not trust anything else John wrote, lest John’s “opinion” would detract from the purity of his other inspired writings? No, of course, not, and I think this is from where you are arguing.

    But that is the real essence of and the beauty of the “inerrancy” of the bible. We can state with a lot of confidence that probably all of what Jesus said and did COULD be written down, if it was known. Say, for instance, that Jesus came in our lifetime of video recorders and we had some kind of travelcam that followed Jesus 24/7. Such a thing is technically possible, and it would indeed record all He said and did, wouldn’t it? And yet, hidden even in that “unfactual” statement of John’s there is still truth.

    For example, Jesus said “They have eyes but they do not see” If such a person was reviewing the tape of Jesus life, and Jesus did or said something that is obviously a spiritual lesson, and yet the person watching the tape did not discern that lesson, would it have been truly been recorded by the camcorder? My point is that even in those things which don’t “seem” to be factually true, there is (and this is my humble opinion) still always a reason it was inserted and that reason is always based upon truth. It is never a lie, it is always true.

    Why is it always true? Because of the source from which it came – namely, God Himself. It is impossible for God to lie, and His method for revealing Himself to us is the bible. In the natural world (which He also made and which is also a testament to Him and which also communicates His truth) we have something called natural revelation. It isn’t a mysterious thing. In fact, Romans says that the things of God may be discerned via nature by even the most hard hearted if they will just look at it and have an open mind and heart.

    Can you tell me there is error in God’s revelation from nature? I don’t think so. If there is error, it is in the eye of the beholder, not the author.

    To sum up what I am saying, you can find error on the surface of the text in the bible. But, error has many levels of perception. If your level of perception (or mine) is defective, then of course you would conclude that the text is in error. You can even find error in nature (if that is your desire)

    You asked for scripture to back up what I am saying? How about these? (emphases mine)

    1 Cor 3

    1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
    5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
    10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. [this implies that God’s purposes can still be achieved even with inferior quality (maybe even inferior biblical texts), doesn’t it]14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
    16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
    18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; 20 and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” 21
    So then let no one boast in men.

  • Doug,

    I don’t disagree with a thing you said there. Well stated – can I use this as part 9 to the series? 😉 Am I missing something? I have argued chiefly that although men may have been wrong on non-2 Tm 3.16&17 stuff, and although their misconceptions may show up in Scripture, there is no need to discard the Bible as useless on matters of faith and practice. The message God intended is conveyed, despite of the misconceptions of the authors He chose to write Scripture.

    In part 6, I even said the following:

    Moreover, if we believe God chose the stories to be included in the Bible, we must assume that His sovereign hand ordains them beyond the author’s intent, so that although the author’s intent is valuable for understanding it in its original context, its continuing, cross-contextual usefulness is assured only through God’s intent for it.

    This says almost the same thing you were saying, does it not? My rationale for not jettisoning the whole 66 books as human twaddle is the presupposition I named in part 6:

    First, I affirm that God intended the whole canon of Scripture for His Church’s use.

    Your comment above made it sound like I did not believe this. I suppose I’m not sure where you’re coming from in your disagreement.

    Enjoying the dialog…

  • Doug,

    I don’t disagree with a thing you said there. Well stated – can I use this as part 9 to the series? 😉 Am I missing something? I have argued chiefly that although men may have been wrong on non-2 Tm 3.16&17 stuff, and although their misconceptions may show up in Scripture, there is no need to discard the Bible as useless on matters of faith and practice. The message God intended is conveyed, despite of the misconceptions of the authors He chose to write Scripture.

    In part 6, I even said the following:

    Moreover, if we believe God chose the stories to be included in the Bible, we must assume that His sovereign hand ordains them beyond the author’s intent, so that although the author’s intent is valuable for understanding it in its original context, its continuing, cross-contextual usefulness is assured only through God’s intent for it.

    This says almost the same thing you were saying, does it not? My rationale for not jettisoning the whole 66 books as human twaddle is the presupposition I named in part 6:

    First, I affirm that God intended the whole canon of Scripture for His Church’s use.

    Your comment above made it sound like I did not believe this. I suppose I’m not sure where you’re coming from in your disagreement.

    Enjoying the dialog…

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    If you feel anything I said is worthy of your blogs, then of course use it! 😛

    Your comment above made it sound like I did not believe this. I suppose I’m not sure where you’re coming from in your disagreement.

    When people use “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” they sometimes use it ignorantly, supposing that “ALL” means every jot and tittle. Of course, we have both been saying the same thing. I certainly DO believe all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, but the problem comes in finding out what, exactly is “scripture” as opposed to what is the bag the scripture is carried in.

    Perhaps the best I can come to illustrating this is in the differences in translations of the bible. There are some poor souls who will argue to death that the King James is the ONLY bible that has authority. They will brand the NIV as heretical, etc. etc. And yet, cannot salvation come just as well through, say, the Reina Valera (the Spanish version of the bible) as it can from the King James? To deny this is to say that you can’t be saved unless you speak English!!

    Of course, the people who read Spanish as their native language, under conviction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will see past the actual words in print and will discern, with God’s help, what is really being said. This has often been my personal experience in bible classes in college. The professor said one thing, but in my “inspired margin” as I listened to the prof, I wrote what the verse meant to me at that moment. Years later, I am often astounded to find out sometimes that what the professor said (and what is common dogma) was really wrong, but the thing I wrote in my margin was what was correct. This means, in my opinion and to me, that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my soul, and past the mere words on the page. I think you have had the same experience perhaps?

    Yet my radar goes up when people make claims that the bible isn’t written the way God intended, and that they have the right to discern what is and isn’t “God Breathed”. I would much rather say that the bible IS the way God intended, warts and all, but that fact doesn’t give them the “right” to decide what is right and wrong about it. Instead, it is much better to say that the bible, as God decided it should be written, is indeed inerrant. That’s simply because the vehicle in which it is packaged and the means by which it is communicated were imperfect. That fact alone speaks volumes about why the bible, alone of all books, could only have come from the mind of God!

    Perhaps my radar was seeing phantom images of your intent. If so, I apologize…Mea Culpa

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    If you feel anything I said is worthy of your blogs, then of course use it! 😛

    Your comment above made it sound like I did not believe this. I suppose I’m not sure where you’re coming from in your disagreement.

    When people use “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” they sometimes use it ignorantly, supposing that “ALL” means every jot and tittle. Of course, we have both been saying the same thing. I certainly DO believe all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, but the problem comes in finding out what, exactly is “scripture” as opposed to what is the bag the scripture is carried in.

    Perhaps the best I can come to illustrating this is in the differences in translations of the bible. There are some poor souls who will argue to death that the King James is the ONLY bible that has authority. They will brand the NIV as heretical, etc. etc. And yet, cannot salvation come just as well through, say, the Reina Valera (the Spanish version of the bible) as it can from the King James? To deny this is to say that you can’t be saved unless you speak English!!

    Of course, the people who read Spanish as their native language, under conviction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will see past the actual words in print and will discern, with God’s help, what is really being said. This has often been my personal experience in bible classes in college. The professor said one thing, but in my “inspired margin” as I listened to the prof, I wrote what the verse meant to me at that moment. Years later, I am often astounded to find out sometimes that what the professor said (and what is common dogma) was really wrong, but the thing I wrote in my margin was what was correct. This means, in my opinion and to me, that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my soul, and past the mere words on the page. I think you have had the same experience perhaps?

    Yet my radar goes up when people make claims that the bible isn’t written the way God intended, and that they have the right to discern what is and isn’t “God Breathed”. I would much rather say that the bible IS the way God intended, warts and all, but that fact doesn’t give them the “right” to decide what is right and wrong about it. Instead, it is much better to say that the bible, as God decided it should be written, is indeed inerrant. That’s simply because the vehicle in which it is packaged and the means by which it is communicated were imperfect. That fact alone speaks volumes about why the bible, alone of all books, could only have come from the mind of God!

    Perhaps my radar was seeing phantom images of your intent. If so, I apologize…Mea Culpa

  • Doug,

    I agree with almost everything you said but want to clarify the following:

    This means, in my opinion and to me, that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my soul, and past the mere words on the page. I think you have had the same experience perhaps?

    Perhaps, but I attribute the Holy Spirit’s means of speaking to primarily intellectual processes. In fact, the cases in which I can say “the Holy Spirit showed me” are nonetheless times in which He revealed something to my mind, and possibly through natural neurological processes of my brain; I am as hesitant to attribute those “insights” (some of which have turned out to be false) to the Holy Spirit’s special revelation as I am to say that God “specially” made it rain last night and circumvented His own natural processes in order to do so. He, as sovereign Lord, is solely responsible for the mechanistic processes of my mind (neurons firing) that have resulted in accurate understanding on my part and hence I cannot boast of any true understanding I have, and will guide even the simpleton into truth as He wills.

    Yet my radar goes up when people make claims that the bible isn’t written the way God intended, and that they have the right to discern what is and isn’t “God Breathed”. I would much rather say that the bible IS the way God intended, warts and all, but that fact doesn’t give them the “right” to decide what is right and wrong about it.

    I agree, although I can’t recall ever having heard anyone say this, at least in those terms. Any examples, or alternative ways they would frame that belief?

    Well said, again. The Bible was written exactly the way God intended it; He simply didn’t intend it the way the Fundamentalists think He should have.

  • Doug,

    I agree with almost everything you said but want to clarify the following:

    This means, in my opinion and to me, that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my soul, and past the mere words on the page. I think you have had the same experience perhaps?

    Perhaps, but I attribute the Holy Spirit’s means of speaking to primarily intellectual processes. In fact, the cases in which I can say “the Holy Spirit showed me” are nonetheless times in which He revealed something to my mind, and possibly through natural neurological processes of my brain; I am as hesitant to attribute those “insights” (some of which have turned out to be false) to the Holy Spirit’s special revelation as I am to say that God “specially” made it rain last night and circumvented His own natural processes in order to do so. He, as sovereign Lord, is solely responsible for the mechanistic processes of my mind (neurons firing) that have resulted in accurate understanding on my part and hence I cannot boast of any true understanding I have, and will guide even the simpleton into truth as He wills.

    Yet my radar goes up when people make claims that the bible isn’t written the way God intended, and that they have the right to discern what is and isn’t “God Breathed”. I would much rather say that the bible IS the way God intended, warts and all, but that fact doesn’t give them the “right” to decide what is right and wrong about it.

    I agree, although I can’t recall ever having heard anyone say this, at least in those terms. Any examples, or alternative ways they would frame that belief?

    Well said, again. The Bible was written exactly the way God intended it; He simply didn’t intend it the way the Fundamentalists think He should have.

  • Doug Moody

    Well said, again. The Bible was written exactly the way God intended it; He simply didn’t intend it the way the Fundamentalists think He should have.

    Yes. Amen.

    Perhaps, but I attribute the Holy Spirit’s means of speaking to primarily intellectual processes.

    But this I cannot agree with. To say such a thing is to reduce the specialness of humanity to just mechanical processes. It lends fuel to the argument of atheists that the vision we had last night was just gas from a bad burrito, and therefore the religion of the God of the bible has no more specialness than the Hindu or Buddhist.

    Our bible makes some special claims that are communicated through a “God channel” that is not accessible except as God reveals it through His Spirit. God IS Spirit, and they who worship Him MUST worship in Spirit and Truth. 2 Tim 1:7 says that God has not given us the “spirit of fear”, and Genesis makes the special claim that when Adam was formed, God breathed into him and he became a living soul. That “nephesh” is not the same soul of an animal.

    When God stimulated the neurons of Baalams ass, do you suppose that the wiring of the ass was equipped to handle human thought and reasoning? No. The ass was merely a vehicle for the spirit of God. It was the channel, but as soon as God was finished with it, the ass took back upon itself its real nature.

    Or consider when Nebuchadnezzar had his mind taken away for 7 years and he acted as a beast. Was that simply a lack of neuronic stimulation, or was it rather the withdrawal of the soul (spirit) which God gives every man?

    My point here is that reducing man to impulses (even if you do attribute those impulses to God) makes us all puppets on strings, incapable of original thought. Our “divine spark” is a blessing unique from other animals, and it what makes us able to be called sons of God. That is also why Jesus was able to be fully man and fully God. The gulf between flesh and spirit is great, but we know that the spirit without the flesh is incomplete. We are not ethereal creatures trapped in a body. Our bodies are, in some mysterious way, much more than random mixtures of DNA. We were all formed by the hand of God before the foundation of the world, and are designed to function as spirits, but within the constraint of a body which is at best imperfect.

    So to attribute God thought to anything less than a divinely imparted spiritual process (that happens apart from the firings of neurons) I believe erodes away at the very foundation of what we are as humans. Revelation happens in the spiritual realm, not in the physical.

  • Doug Moody

    Well said, again. The Bible was written exactly the way God intended it; He simply didn’t intend it the way the Fundamentalists think He should have.

    Yes. Amen.

    Perhaps, but I attribute the Holy Spirit’s means of speaking to primarily intellectual processes.

    But this I cannot agree with. To say such a thing is to reduce the specialness of humanity to just mechanical processes. It lends fuel to the argument of atheists that the vision we had last night was just gas from a bad burrito, and therefore the religion of the God of the bible has no more specialness than the Hindu or Buddhist.

    Our bible makes some special claims that are communicated through a “God channel” that is not accessible except as God reveals it through His Spirit. God IS Spirit, and they who worship Him MUST worship in Spirit and Truth. 2 Tim 1:7 says that God has not given us the “spirit of fear”, and Genesis makes the special claim that when Adam was formed, God breathed into him and he became a living soul. That “nephesh” is not the same soul of an animal.

    When God stimulated the neurons of Baalams ass, do you suppose that the wiring of the ass was equipped to handle human thought and reasoning? No. The ass was merely a vehicle for the spirit of God. It was the channel, but as soon as God was finished with it, the ass took back upon itself its real nature.

    Or consider when Nebuchadnezzar had his mind taken away for 7 years and he acted as a beast. Was that simply a lack of neuronic stimulation, or was it rather the withdrawal of the soul (spirit) which God gives every man?

    My point here is that reducing man to impulses (even if you do attribute those impulses to God) makes us all puppets on strings, incapable of original thought. Our “divine spark” is a blessing unique from other animals, and it what makes us able to be called sons of God. That is also why Jesus was able to be fully man and fully God. The gulf between flesh and spirit is great, but we know that the spirit without the flesh is incomplete. We are not ethereal creatures trapped in a body. Our bodies are, in some mysterious way, much more than random mixtures of DNA. We were all formed by the hand of God before the foundation of the world, and are designed to function as spirits, but within the constraint of a body which is at best imperfect.

    So to attribute God thought to anything less than a divinely imparted spiritual process (that happens apart from the firings of neurons) I believe erodes away at the very foundation of what we are as humans. Revelation happens in the spiritual realm, not in the physical.

  • Doug,

    You might find it counterintuitive that a crucial part of my answer to the objections you raise is to be found in my posts, “My position on the origins question” and “Chance and diminishing domains“. Suffice it to say that I don’t see God’s work in the natural and supernatural as in perpetual competition. In no way do I deny miracles (defined as the suspension of the laws of nature) or the spiritual realm, but my default position is not to attribute any more to the miraculous (defined as above) than necessary, because I believe that God’s sovereign purposes being worked out without miracles (defined as above) is the more “miraculous” (defined in the popular sense as anything “mind-blowing”). I buck against an essential (which is not to exclude a practical) bifurcation of the spiritual and the physical.

    What I am trying to do with the quote you took issue with is to allow for a degree of humility and agnosticism about which interpretations are wrong because they merely result from a strange train of thought and which are truths the Holy Spirit wanted me to pick up, a distinction I’m sure you’d affirm; that is, I doubt you’d claim that every note you wrote in your margin was a divine revelation from the Holy Spirit. We’d both agree that at times the Spirit illuminates your Bible-reading, but whereas you see it necessary to attribute such divine activity to the non-natural, I would not. I believe He controls the weather, the earth’s orbit, and my heartbeat, and find it no intrusion upon – and in fact an enormous augmentation of – His control of the universe to have Him work through proximate causes.

  • Doug,

    You might find it counterintuitive that a crucial part of my answer to the objections you raise is to be found in my posts, “My position on the origins question” and “Chance and diminishing domains“. Suffice it to say that I don’t see God’s work in the natural and supernatural as in perpetual competition. In no way do I deny miracles (defined as the suspension of the laws of nature) or the spiritual realm, but my default position is not to attribute any more to the miraculous (defined as above) than necessary, because I believe that God’s sovereign purposes being worked out without miracles (defined as above) is the more “miraculous” (defined in the popular sense as anything “mind-blowing”). I buck against an essential (which is not to exclude a practical) bifurcation of the spiritual and the physical.

    What I am trying to do with the quote you took issue with is to allow for a degree of humility and agnosticism about which interpretations are wrong because they merely result from a strange train of thought and which are truths the Holy Spirit wanted me to pick up, a distinction I’m sure you’d affirm; that is, I doubt you’d claim that every note you wrote in your margin was a divine revelation from the Holy Spirit. We’d both agree that at times the Spirit illuminates your Bible-reading, but whereas you see it necessary to attribute such divine activity to the non-natural, I would not. I believe He controls the weather, the earth’s orbit, and my heartbeat, and find it no intrusion upon – and in fact an enormous augmentation of – His control of the universe to have Him work through proximate causes.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    “…proximate causes.”

    Well, yes I suppose that is ‘a’ method of looking at things. But think too about the irony of a guy (you) who has put so much stock in non-literal and metaphorical interpretations of the bible turning around and trying to explain [seemingly] miraculous events as just another “augmentation” of the natural.

    Personally, I have been pretty metaphysical all my life, seeing God in things where maybe God was not. I do know that I have sometimes seen Him where He was not, but at many other times I am personally sure He WAS where I thought He was. And by that I don’t mean to imply that God isn’t in EVERY thing – because He is! My point is that when serendipity happens, was God “reaching down” and doing something special He didn’t do to, or for, my neighbor sitting right next to me, or was my neighbor just as able to partake of it as I was? That is, are there “things” happening all around me and the only reason I see it as miraculous is because my mind is attuned to seeing miracles, or is God the “personal” God that I think scripture says He is.

    If God is truly “personal”, then miracles (by that I mean true suspensions of consequences or interventions of the Divine in my life) ought to happen fairly regularly, as my will is bent to His. But if God is aloof, then He is simply the causative agent behind all we see, and when we see a “miracle” we are just seeing ourselves lining up with a great cosmic (but impersonal) force.

    I personally prefer the former, and IMHO, more biblical, approach to seeing miracles.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    “…proximate causes.”

    Well, yes I suppose that is ‘a’ method of looking at things. But think too about the irony of a guy (you) who has put so much stock in non-literal and metaphorical interpretations of the bible turning around and trying to explain [seemingly] miraculous events as just another “augmentation” of the natural.

    Personally, I have been pretty metaphysical all my life, seeing God in things where maybe God was not. I do know that I have sometimes seen Him where He was not, but at many other times I am personally sure He WAS where I thought He was. And by that I don’t mean to imply that God isn’t in EVERY thing – because He is! My point is that when serendipity happens, was God “reaching down” and doing something special He didn’t do to, or for, my neighbor sitting right next to me, or was my neighbor just as able to partake of it as I was? That is, are there “things” happening all around me and the only reason I see it as miraculous is because my mind is attuned to seeing miracles, or is God the “personal” God that I think scripture says He is.

    If God is truly “personal”, then miracles (by that I mean true suspensions of consequences or interventions of the Divine in my life) ought to happen fairly regularly, as my will is bent to His. But if God is aloof, then He is simply the causative agent behind all we see, and when we see a “miracle” we are just seeing ourselves lining up with a great cosmic (but impersonal) force.

    I personally prefer the former, and IMHO, more biblical, approach to seeing miracles.

  • But think too about the irony of a guy (you) who has put so much stock in non-literal and metaphorical interpretations of the bible turning around and trying to explain [seemingly] miraculous events as just another “augmentation” of the natural.

    Hm. I fail to see any irony, as they seem wholly unrelated to me. Interpreting the Bible as a natural work of literature that makes copious usage of features of genre such as metaphor is not far away from my view of the supernatural that lies behind, rather than fills the holes between, natural events. I don’t try to explain all miraculous events as merely the natural on steroids as it were. I tend to see providence instead of a miracle behind every bush, and in that providence I recognize a remarkable divine mystery that is, in the end, not much different than the miraculous you are arguing for.

    And by that I don’t mean to imply that God isn’t in EVERY thing – because He is!

    But that’s just where an overly magical view of the universe leads. If He just answers the unanswerable, I lose my need for Him the more answers I gain.

    That is, are there “things” happening all around me and the only reason I see it as miraculous is because my mind is attuned to seeing miracles, or is God the “personal” God that I think scripture says He is.

    Ok, this makes me think that you misunderstand me. As I have said repeatedly, I see God’s activity ubiquitously and in the same things that you probably see them – I only understand His methodology for expressing Himself differently.

    If God is truly “personal”, then miracles (by that I mean true suspensions of consequences or interventions of the Divine in my life) ought to happen fairly regularly, as my will is bent to His. But if God is aloof, then He is simply the causative agent behind all we see, and when we see a “miracle” we are just seeing ourselves lining up with a great cosmic (but impersonal) force.

    I’m not sure that this follows. Having a sovereign God who breaks His own laws rarely doesn’t make Him less personal, only less of a magician.

    All this reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that I read in Language of God:

    God does not shake miracles into nature at random as if from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they are found at the great ganglions of history – not of political or social history, but of that spiritual history which cannot be fully known by men. If your own life does not happen to be near one of these great ganglions, how should you expect to see one?

  • But think too about the irony of a guy (you) who has put so much stock in non-literal and metaphorical interpretations of the bible turning around and trying to explain [seemingly] miraculous events as just another “augmentation” of the natural.

    Hm. I fail to see any irony, as they seem wholly unrelated to me. Interpreting the Bible as a natural work of literature that makes copious usage of features of genre such as metaphor is not far away from my view of the supernatural that lies behind, rather than fills the holes between, natural events. I don’t try to explain all miraculous events as merely the natural on steroids as it were. I tend to see providence instead of a miracle behind every bush, and in that providence I recognize a remarkable divine mystery that is, in the end, not much different than the miraculous you are arguing for.

    And by that I don’t mean to imply that God isn’t in EVERY thing – because He is!

    But that’s just where an overly magical view of the universe leads. If He just answers the unanswerable, I lose my need for Him the more answers I gain.

    That is, are there “things” happening all around me and the only reason I see it as miraculous is because my mind is attuned to seeing miracles, or is God the “personal” God that I think scripture says He is.

    Ok, this makes me think that you misunderstand me. As I have said repeatedly, I see God’s activity ubiquitously and in the same things that you probably see them – I only understand His methodology for expressing Himself differently.

    If God is truly “personal”, then miracles (by that I mean true suspensions of consequences or interventions of the Divine in my life) ought to happen fairly regularly, as my will is bent to His. But if God is aloof, then He is simply the causative agent behind all we see, and when we see a “miracle” we are just seeing ourselves lining up with a great cosmic (but impersonal) force.

    I’m not sure that this follows. Having a sovereign God who breaks His own laws rarely doesn’t make Him less personal, only less of a magician.

    All this reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that I read in Language of God:

    God does not shake miracles into nature at random as if from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they are found at the great ganglions of history – not of political or social history, but of that spiritual history which cannot be fully known by men. If your own life does not happen to be near one of these great ganglions, how should you expect to see one?

  • anthony

    I know this thread is very past, and it is likely that no one will see this. So I leave it here.

    This discussion between Steve and Doug started out fairly interesting and grew increasingly silly until Steve’s wrap up. Doug’s position is religiously valid but not rationally defensible. Doug has a sort of psychedelic outlook on the world and God. I have to question how completely he has read the Bible, or retained what he read. There is no hermeneutic in the Bible to define what is canonical or to give directions on how to identify inerrant propositions. Doug may think it is there, but he was not able to come up with it when asked. His quote from a highly rhetorical passage in Paul cannot be seen as a hermeneutic even in Doug’s very fanciful interpretation. Without a credible external authority to provide the correct hermeneutic and the correct canon, the Bible is a book like any other. The church is always accepted de facto as that external authority, even by those who claim to deny the validity of tradition.

    Steve. on the other hand, in his initial post, also begs the question by asserting in his Necessary Qualification that some books of the NT are to be regarded as photographically accurate, and that all others in the OT and NT are not. From this he can step by step derive what parts of the other books are true or are meant to be true propositions. This is just as arbitrary an expression of raw faith as anything Doug said. There is plenty of evidence to put it in question, familiar for centuries. So the whole discussion turned into an argument between two varieties of fundamentalism.

    Doug’s miraculous view of reality is very commonly held, especially by New Age disciples. The people who like to say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” He calls it a metaphysical outlook (as in “a metaphysical bookstore” I guess), I prefer the term mystical. I can’t say it is invalid prima facie. It is non-rational, so it cannot be discussed by logic, only on the level of feeling and intuition. An intuitive method of reading the Bible goes along with it. But though Steve kept saying he was in agreement with Doug, or largely in agreement with Doug, he really wasn’t at all, and that gradually became clear to both. I am mostly in agreement with Steve, for my own part, but I think Steve needs to take a little bigger leap of faith to have confidence in his own premises and not occasionally undermine them with dogmatics.

  • anthony

    I know this thread is very past, and it is likely that no one will see this. So I leave it here.

    This discussion between Steve and Doug started out fairly interesting and grew increasingly silly until Steve’s wrap up. Doug’s position is religiously valid but not rationally defensible. Doug has a sort of psychedelic outlook on the world and God. I have to question how completely he has read the Bible, or retained what he read. There is no hermeneutic in the Bible to define what is canonical or to give directions on how to identify inerrant propositions. Doug may think it is there, but he was not able to come up with it when asked. His quote from a highly rhetorical passage in Paul cannot be seen as a hermeneutic even in Doug’s very fanciful interpretation. Without a credible external authority to provide the correct hermeneutic and the correct canon, the Bible is a book like any other. The church is always accepted de facto as that external authority, even by those who claim to deny the validity of tradition.

    Steve. on the other hand, in his initial post, also begs the question by asserting in his Necessary Qualification that some books of the NT are to be regarded as photographically accurate, and that all others in the OT and NT are not. From this he can step by step derive what parts of the other books are true or are meant to be true propositions. This is just as arbitrary an expression of raw faith as anything Doug said. There is plenty of evidence to put it in question, familiar for centuries. So the whole discussion turned into an argument between two varieties of fundamentalism.

    Doug’s miraculous view of reality is very commonly held, especially by New Age disciples. The people who like to say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” He calls it a metaphysical outlook (as in “a metaphysical bookstore” I guess), I prefer the term mystical. I can’t say it is invalid prima facie. It is non-rational, so it cannot be discussed by logic, only on the level of feeling and intuition. An intuitive method of reading the Bible goes along with it. But though Steve kept saying he was in agreement with Doug, or largely in agreement with Doug, he really wasn’t at all, and that gradually became clear to both. I am mostly in agreement with Steve, for my own part, but I think Steve needs to take a little bigger leap of faith to have confidence in his own premises and not occasionally undermine them with dogmatics.

  • Anthony,

    As you noted, this conversation is a bit old and rusty. 🙂 It’s the nature of blogging that allows drifts in beliefs to be visible through the various stages of the process. I have certainly changed my opinions about the “photograph”, although of course no one denies that some of the events depicted actually do mirror real events. But when I wrote this series, I was holding onto various pieces of furniture as I felt my way through the dark room, occasionally leaning on what has since crumbled away. We’re probably much more on the same page nowadays than I was nearly two years ago when I posted this series.

    I must say, though, that I think chalking up even the too conservative beliefs in the post above to “fundamentalism” stretches that term beyond all usefulness. The worst that can be said is that I compromised the rigor that brought me to my position by not giving proper weight to scholarly biblical criticism. I was clinging to something that might make my findings have meaning without compromising the enduring meaning of the Gospels. I see now that such fideism about the Bible’s theological accuracy is indeed arbitrary: please read this post for a better view of my current understanding.

  • Anthony,

    As you noted, this conversation is a bit old and rusty. 🙂 It’s the nature of blogging that allows drifts in beliefs to be visible through the various stages of the process. I have certainly changed my opinions about the “photograph”, although of course no one denies that some of the events depicted actually do mirror real events. But when I wrote this series, I was holding onto various pieces of furniture as I felt my way through the dark room, occasionally leaning on what has since crumbled away. We’re probably much more on the same page nowadays than I was nearly two years ago when I posted this series.

    I must say, though, that I think chalking up even the too conservative beliefs in the post above to “fundamentalism” stretches that term beyond all usefulness. The worst that can be said is that I compromised the rigor that brought me to my position by not giving proper weight to scholarly biblical criticism. I was clinging to something that might make my findings have meaning without compromising the enduring meaning of the Gospels. I see now that such fideism about the Bible’s theological accuracy is indeed arbitrary: please read this post for a better view of my current understanding.

  • anthony

    Steve – thank you for responding. I was aware that this was an old post, and in fact I thought you might well have gone on from it to a more consistent outlook. But I wanted if only to get my own thoughts clearer, to critique the discusssion in front of me. AS for the veracity of the four gospels, for me they have total veracity inasmuch as they are sincerely what they were intended to be, that is, not history in the modern sense or even the ancient sense, but preaching of the church’s understanding of the significance of Jesus’s life and mission.

    I came upon your blog only yesterday, through a comment you left on a recent post on Nutshell (Damian), which also I reached for the first time yesterday via a response by Damian to a Clayboy post. I am delighted to find your blog. The topics you discuss and your thoughts about them are so valuable to me at the present time that it is my intention to read every post from the beginning. So I will catch up to your current thinking. It addresses many of the exact points I am trying to find out the truth about, in my retirement project of discovering what is going on.

    I am right now focusing on the role of mind in the universe. I am approaching this first through investigating theology that takes serious account of scientific theory, especially in the areas of evolution, origins of life, microbiology, particle physics, and cosmology. These all lead to difficult questions about mind and intelligence, which (though the scientists wisely steer clear of it) Intelligence with a capital I. I am not doing this a path to Christianity necessarily, but trying to find out the truth. I guess that the existence of truth is my premise and assumption. My ability to find it out before I die (or even after I die) is definitely not a given. So, this has been a long explanation of why I am delighted to find your blog. I am not a creative thinker, just relying on the words of those like yourself who are.
    I understand your point about my use of the term “fundamentalist”. I file the type of thing you and Doug were saying in my internal “Fundamentalism” file, but in future I will be more nuanced in my use of such an inflammatory term. Anthony Willard

  • anthony

    Steve – thank you for responding. I was aware that this was an old post, and in fact I thought you might well have gone on from it to a more consistent outlook. But I wanted if only to get my own thoughts clearer, to critique the discusssion in front of me. AS for the veracity of the four gospels, for me they have total veracity inasmuch as they are sincerely what they were intended to be, that is, not history in the modern sense or even the ancient sense, but preaching of the church’s understanding of the significance of Jesus’s life and mission.

    I came upon your blog only yesterday, through a comment you left on a recent post on Nutshell (Damian), which also I reached for the first time yesterday via a response by Damian to a Clayboy post. I am delighted to find your blog. The topics you discuss and your thoughts about them are so valuable to me at the present time that it is my intention to read every post from the beginning. So I will catch up to your current thinking. It addresses many of the exact points I am trying to find out the truth about, in my retirement project of discovering what is going on.

    I am right now focusing on the role of mind in the universe. I am approaching this first through investigating theology that takes serious account of scientific theory, especially in the areas of evolution, origins of life, microbiology, particle physics, and cosmology. These all lead to difficult questions about mind and intelligence, which (though the scientists wisely steer clear of it) Intelligence with a capital I. I am not doing this a path to Christianity necessarily, but trying to find out the truth. I guess that the existence of truth is my premise and assumption. My ability to find it out before I die (or even after I die) is definitely not a given. So, this has been a long explanation of why I am delighted to find your blog. I am not a creative thinker, just relying on the words of those like yourself who are.
    I understand your point about my use of the term “fundamentalist”. I file the type of thing you and Doug were saying in my internal “Fundamentalism” file, but in future I will be more nuanced in my use of such an inflammatory term. Anthony Willard

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    I don’t recognize your name as a poster here, so I assume you are new. If not, forgive my oversight.
    I had to go back and re-read the thread to figure out where my mind was when I wrote what I did. In the intervening months, I have come to understand better what Steve means by “inerrancy”, and even what he doesn’t mean. One of his latest posts even makes the point that he wishes the word “inerrancy” was something better descriptive of what he really means. I do too!
    That said, I scratched my head trying to figure out what my “psychedelic” outlook on God is! Care to explain what you mean by that? I have no idea where you are coming from in that expression, as well as your statement that I had a “fanciful interpretation” Fanciful as compared to what? What would be a good “non-fanciful” interpretation to you? I would like to know, because as I mature, (and this is my personal observation only) I cannot see anything in Christianity that is really agreed upon completely, except the need to depend on Jesus Christ as one’e personal savior and that we have no personal righteousness that will save us. (Well, maybe I shouldn’t even say we have total agreement on those points either!)
    In any case, you made broad sweeping statements about where you thought I am spiritually, and tried to pigeon-hole me as some kind of new age mystic. Nothing could be further from the truth, if you really knew me, so I am mystified where you got your ideas about me from what I wrote.
    Perhaps it comes from your own preconceptions about what is true about the bible, hermeneutics, and truth, because you say I have this or that attitude without proof of your claim. The closest you came to telling me what YOU believe was:
    “The church is always accepted de facto as that external authority, even by those who claim to deny the validity of tradition.”
    Oh really? And what church would that be? Is there some kind of church I am to attend to receive such authoritative counsel? Maybe I should accept Catholicism, because, after all, they claim such authority, and a claim to have authority is valid because it is “traditional”, right?. Oh, wait, didn’t Jesus have something to say about “traditions” of church elders?….hmmm
    Can you really know my approach to the bible or the kind of person I am from a few paragraphs I wrote on a single subject?

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    I don’t recognize your name as a poster here, so I assume you are new. If not, forgive my oversight.
    I had to go back and re-read the thread to figure out where my mind was when I wrote what I did. In the intervening months, I have come to understand better what Steve means by “inerrancy”, and even what he doesn’t mean. One of his latest posts even makes the point that he wishes the word “inerrancy” was something better descriptive of what he really means. I do too!
    That said, I scratched my head trying to figure out what my “psychedelic” outlook on God is! Care to explain what you mean by that? I have no idea where you are coming from in that expression, as well as your statement that I had a “fanciful interpretation” Fanciful as compared to what? What would be a good “non-fanciful” interpretation to you? I would like to know, because as I mature, (and this is my personal observation only) I cannot see anything in Christianity that is really agreed upon completely, except the need to depend on Jesus Christ as one’e personal savior and that we have no personal righteousness that will save us. (Well, maybe I shouldn’t even say we have total agreement on those points either!)
    In any case, you made broad sweeping statements about where you thought I am spiritually, and tried to pigeon-hole me as some kind of new age mystic. Nothing could be further from the truth, if you really knew me, so I am mystified where you got your ideas about me from what I wrote.
    Perhaps it comes from your own preconceptions about what is true about the bible, hermeneutics, and truth, because you say I have this or that attitude without proof of your claim. The closest you came to telling me what YOU believe was:
    “The church is always accepted de facto as that external authority, even by those who claim to deny the validity of tradition.”
    Oh really? And what church would that be? Is there some kind of church I am to attend to receive such authoritative counsel? Maybe I should accept Catholicism, because, after all, they claim such authority, and a claim to have authority is valid because it is “traditional”, right?. Oh, wait, didn’t Jesus have something to say about “traditions” of church elders?….hmmm
    Can you really know my approach to the bible or the kind of person I am from a few paragraphs I wrote on a single subject?

  • anthony

    Doug – it will take me a while to answer all the questions you posed. But I will try to do so as time permits. But I want to address your last question right away.

    You asked: “Can you really know my approach to the bible or the kind of person I am from a few paragraphs I wrote on a single subject?” No, of course I can’t know the kind of person you are from your posts. All I know is what you argued in your posts. You did, however, adumbrate an approach to the Bible in your posts, and that is what I was discussing. If I misunderstood it, I’m open to correction. If you have moved on from that position, like Steve, so much the better, IMO. Later, Anthony

  • anthony

    Doug – it will take me a while to answer all the questions you posed. But I will try to do so as time permits. But I want to address your last question right away.

    You asked: “Can you really know my approach to the bible or the kind of person I am from a few paragraphs I wrote on a single subject?” No, of course I can’t know the kind of person you are from your posts. All I know is what you argued in your posts. You did, however, adumbrate an approach to the Bible in your posts, and that is what I was discussing. If I misunderstood it, I’m open to correction. If you have moved on from that position, like Steve, so much the better, IMO. Later, Anthony

  • anthony

    Doug said: “I don’t recognize your name as a poster here, so I assume you are new. If not, forgive my oversight.”

    I am very new, and was greatly interested in your long dialogue with Steve. My second response to Steve, #23 November 16, above will give you some info about where I am coming from and what I believe on the current topic, as you requested. Reading back over it, it makes me seem sort of a dingbat, but i am not quite as much a dingbat as I may appear. The thing that led me to this blog was the discussion on several current blogs of the relation of natural selection to man’s perception of sinfulness in himself and in the world as a whole. I have to pursue this line of thought. I am not a biblical interpreter or a biblicist of any kind. I am also studying the question of whether the set of real numbers can be used as a basis for a so-called argument to design. So you know that if I say something is fanciful, I know whereof I speak. Anthony

  • anthony

    Doug said: “I don’t recognize your name as a poster here, so I assume you are new. If not, forgive my oversight.”

    I am very new, and was greatly interested in your long dialogue with Steve. My second response to Steve, #23 November 16, above will give you some info about where I am coming from and what I believe on the current topic, as you requested. Reading back over it, it makes me seem sort of a dingbat, but i am not quite as much a dingbat as I may appear. The thing that led me to this blog was the discussion on several current blogs of the relation of natural selection to man’s perception of sinfulness in himself and in the world as a whole. I have to pursue this line of thought. I am not a biblical interpreter or a biblicist of any kind. I am also studying the question of whether the set of real numbers can be used as a basis for a so-called argument to design. So you know that if I say something is fanciful, I know whereof I speak. Anthony

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    Interesting how you are looking for evidence of design in numbers. I have studied that somewhat, and allow me to share with you my conclusions…
    Basically, I believe God cannot be proven by anything physical. That’s not to say you don’t have evidence – even evidence that would pass muster in a court of law (preponderance of evidence, or “beyond a shadow of a doubt, etc…)
    Nevertheless, just because there is EVIDENCE does not mean one has PROOF. To me, proof is a moving target, depending on the person who is interpreting the proof. What is enough evidence to me to be considered proof, may not be enough to convince you.
    In scientific circles, the hunt for (bit T) truth is never over. That’s because every new discovery brings with it a new set of questions that themselves must be “proven”. That exercise knows no bounds or time limit, which is why I believe there can never be “proof” for the existence of God within the realms of physical things – and that includes numbers. Although numbers are quantifiable, they are only quantifiable witin the set of the physical universe as we know it.
    But God lives outside the parameters of time and space.
    That’s why I have slowly come to the conclusion that, as scripture says, without FAITH it is impossible to please God. God is not looking for someone who believes in Him because the evidence PROVES Him. Instead, in my opinion, He wants people who can exercise a certain level of childlike innocence in coming to Him. If we are able to “prove” everything about God in the physical, then our God would be no bigger than the physical, would He?
    Instead, we must take a “leap” of faith in some things. I believe the physical can only reveal so much about God. What that means to us, individually, is personal and varies from person to person.
    In the end, it will all boil down to our faith. There will never be a level of proof strong enough to convince someone who doesn’t want to believe in God.
    Its not that your quest isn’t noble. It is!. Its just that a devout nonbeliever is probably not going to be convinced. Good hunting!

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    Interesting how you are looking for evidence of design in numbers. I have studied that somewhat, and allow me to share with you my conclusions…
    Basically, I believe God cannot be proven by anything physical. That’s not to say you don’t have evidence – even evidence that would pass muster in a court of law (preponderance of evidence, or “beyond a shadow of a doubt, etc…)
    Nevertheless, just because there is EVIDENCE does not mean one has PROOF. To me, proof is a moving target, depending on the person who is interpreting the proof. What is enough evidence to me to be considered proof, may not be enough to convince you.
    In scientific circles, the hunt for (bit T) truth is never over. That’s because every new discovery brings with it a new set of questions that themselves must be “proven”. That exercise knows no bounds or time limit, which is why I believe there can never be “proof” for the existence of God within the realms of physical things – and that includes numbers. Although numbers are quantifiable, they are only quantifiable witin the set of the physical universe as we know it.
    But God lives outside the parameters of time and space.
    That’s why I have slowly come to the conclusion that, as scripture says, without FAITH it is impossible to please God. God is not looking for someone who believes in Him because the evidence PROVES Him. Instead, in my opinion, He wants people who can exercise a certain level of childlike innocence in coming to Him. If we are able to “prove” everything about God in the physical, then our God would be no bigger than the physical, would He?
    Instead, we must take a “leap” of faith in some things. I believe the physical can only reveal so much about God. What that means to us, individually, is personal and varies from person to person.
    In the end, it will all boil down to our faith. There will never be a level of proof strong enough to convince someone who doesn’t want to believe in God.
    Its not that your quest isn’t noble. It is!. Its just that a devout nonbeliever is probably not going to be convinced. Good hunting!

  • anthony

    Doug, I haven’t answered all the questions in your previous post (#24), I have been caught up in other things for a day or two, but I will get back to them. On your most recent post (#27), I would like to ask, since you mentioned you have looked into this question, if you know of any sources for thought on the question of numbers as evidence for design? I have plenty on the philosophy of mathematics and the ontology of mathematical objects, but it is all from the standpoint of epistemology rather than theology.

    I know that you are far ahead of me in regard to a faith journey, and I concur with what you say about the nature of proof in relation to faith. There are some things you said that I find it hard to unconditionlly accept right now, but maybe I will get to that point. I agree that deductive reason alone cannot define the transcendent, and that that point has been firmly established by eighteenth-century European philosophy, without any reference to faith. In my personal opinion, faith alone cannot provide that definition either, because faith is relational, not propositional. So I search inductively through what people think and what they have thought in the past about this question, trying to put together some understanding. Informed by my own experience and reflections.

    I am aware of the defects in Plato’s thought in this connetion, but they say that all mathematicians are Platonists, and study of Goedel strenghtened my belief in the reality of numbers, while convincing me that mathematics cannot ultimately be a firm basis for knowledge of truth. I think it was Kant along with others who disproved the proof from design. I am just trying to see how an argument could be made. I do not think numbers are material, as you appear to. But the set of real numbers is something we are able to conceive and yet is in some ways transcendent. Could this give us some kind of a bridge? My guess is that it can’t but I want to find out what others think about it.

    Did God create numbers? Could he have created different mathematical truths? My feeling is no to both. I need to go all the way back to Augustine on this one (not that he would necessarily agree with me.)

    So I am not trying to “prove God in the physical.” That has already been attempted by Spinoza and others, but most people do not regard their proofs as definitive. I am not really looking to “please God” either, nor expect that He is looking for something from me. I am looking for some understanding but because of my intellectual limitations and my limited remaining lifespan I would be wasting my time to approach this other than by sitting at the feet of the wise and learned (not always the same thing). Thank you for taking me seriously. I appreciate it. Anthony

  • anthony

    Doug, I haven’t answered all the questions in your previous post (#24), I have been caught up in other things for a day or two, but I will get back to them. On your most recent post (#27), I would like to ask, since you mentioned you have looked into this question, if you know of any sources for thought on the question of numbers as evidence for design? I have plenty on the philosophy of mathematics and the ontology of mathematical objects, but it is all from the standpoint of epistemology rather than theology.

    I know that you are far ahead of me in regard to a faith journey, and I concur with what you say about the nature of proof in relation to faith. There are some things you said that I find it hard to unconditionlly accept right now, but maybe I will get to that point. I agree that deductive reason alone cannot define the transcendent, and that that point has been firmly established by eighteenth-century European philosophy, without any reference to faith. In my personal opinion, faith alone cannot provide that definition either, because faith is relational, not propositional. So I search inductively through what people think and what they have thought in the past about this question, trying to put together some understanding. Informed by my own experience and reflections.

    I am aware of the defects in Plato’s thought in this connetion, but they say that all mathematicians are Platonists, and study of Goedel strenghtened my belief in the reality of numbers, while convincing me that mathematics cannot ultimately be a firm basis for knowledge of truth. I think it was Kant along with others who disproved the proof from design. I am just trying to see how an argument could be made. I do not think numbers are material, as you appear to. But the set of real numbers is something we are able to conceive and yet is in some ways transcendent. Could this give us some kind of a bridge? My guess is that it can’t but I want to find out what others think about it.

    Did God create numbers? Could he have created different mathematical truths? My feeling is no to both. I need to go all the way back to Augustine on this one (not that he would necessarily agree with me.)

    So I am not trying to “prove God in the physical.” That has already been attempted by Spinoza and others, but most people do not regard their proofs as definitive. I am not really looking to “please God” either, nor expect that He is looking for something from me. I am looking for some understanding but because of my intellectual limitations and my limited remaining lifespan I would be wasting my time to approach this other than by sitting at the feet of the wise and learned (not always the same thing). Thank you for taking me seriously. I appreciate it. Anthony

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    I am not where I can give you the names of books I have read on this subject, but when I get there, I will.
    In the meantime, allow me to discuss my faith.
    Sometimes, people think that faith is “blind faith”, meaning that there is no reason to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you ask me why I believe, why I have faith, I would tell you that it is because there IS evidence that informs my mind. Yet, the level of what it takes for ME to be convinced, versus what it might take for YOU to be convinced, differs.
    Jesus said of the Pharisees that if one were even to rise from the dead, THEY would not be convinced. In point of fact, the greatest attestation to truth that ever came to earth was Jesus in the flesh. The reason for His miracles was so that there would be no doubt that He was who He claimed to be. And yet, in spite of direct visual evidence, those who did not want to believe did not believe. I think this is the nature of man. People see what they want to see. And, that principle (of seeing what you want to see) carries forward to all aspects of life, including the physical realm.
    I think its ironic that the enemies of Christianity will and say “People see what they want to see”, and disiss christianity because Christians “see what they want to see” Of course, Christians call it “faith”. Yet, my point is that the kind of faith detractors of Christianity is not the same kind of faith that a real Christian has. That is, a Christian has an INFORMED faith, not a blind faith.
    Of course, that’s not to say that there isn’t an element of “blindness” in faith. Otherwise, why would we call it faith? Scripture tells us that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) We are also told that without faith, it is impossible to please God. I conclude then that there must be something intrinsic about faith that God is seeking. My opinion is that faith has a power embedded within it that is beyond the power that mortal man possessses on his own. God is desirous that we have that power, so He urges us to go to the source of that power (Himself) without seeking it from ourself. We must seek it outside of ourselves, otherwise, we will rely on human power alone. That is not sufficient strength to live forever in the supernatural world. That is why God wants us to choose to have faith.
    Anyway, I hope my comments will help you on your journey.

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,
    I am not where I can give you the names of books I have read on this subject, but when I get there, I will.
    In the meantime, allow me to discuss my faith.
    Sometimes, people think that faith is “blind faith”, meaning that there is no reason to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you ask me why I believe, why I have faith, I would tell you that it is because there IS evidence that informs my mind. Yet, the level of what it takes for ME to be convinced, versus what it might take for YOU to be convinced, differs.
    Jesus said of the Pharisees that if one were even to rise from the dead, THEY would not be convinced. In point of fact, the greatest attestation to truth that ever came to earth was Jesus in the flesh. The reason for His miracles was so that there would be no doubt that He was who He claimed to be. And yet, in spite of direct visual evidence, those who did not want to believe did not believe. I think this is the nature of man. People see what they want to see. And, that principle (of seeing what you want to see) carries forward to all aspects of life, including the physical realm.
    I think its ironic that the enemies of Christianity will and say “People see what they want to see”, and disiss christianity because Christians “see what they want to see” Of course, Christians call it “faith”. Yet, my point is that the kind of faith detractors of Christianity is not the same kind of faith that a real Christian has. That is, a Christian has an INFORMED faith, not a blind faith.
    Of course, that’s not to say that there isn’t an element of “blindness” in faith. Otherwise, why would we call it faith? Scripture tells us that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) We are also told that without faith, it is impossible to please God. I conclude then that there must be something intrinsic about faith that God is seeking. My opinion is that faith has a power embedded within it that is beyond the power that mortal man possessses on his own. God is desirous that we have that power, so He urges us to go to the source of that power (Himself) without seeking it from ourself. We must seek it outside of ourselves, otherwise, we will rely on human power alone. That is not sufficient strength to live forever in the supernatural world. That is why God wants us to choose to have faith.
    Anyway, I hope my comments will help you on your journey.

  • anthony

    Doug, Thank you for your kind reply. I have trouble using statements of the New Testament as a basis for what you refer to as an “informed faith” in the truth of other statements in the New Testament. I am willing, subject to scholarly correction, to grant the sincerity of the NT authors. This I suppse is a kind of faith. It is an entry point for seriously studying the various NT views and teachings.

    You say that a secular view of faith is that people believe what they want to believe. In other words, secularists think faith is based on emotion. I have to agree with them when we are talking about a “will to believe,” a willed faith. I do not deny that willed faith can have value for morality, community life, mental equilibrium, health, bringing up children. William James wrote immensely convincing pages about it. But an “informed faith” implies to me that it has a basis in knowledge. I concur that different people may have different thresholds for moving from knowledge to a faith experience.

    Your description of an informed faith is something I have to work on. I must explore what sort of knowledge could serve as a basis for an experience of faith. My primary goal is knowledge. I do not seek a faith experience, though I am not averse to such a thing. It has also been argued that faith is a path to knowledge. Credo ut intelligam. I should review that approach. Your view seems to be that faith is not so much a path to knowledge as a path to some sort of “power” that God wants us to have. I find this idea intriguing but don’t quite understand it.

    This discussion is wildly off topic. I hope Steve doesn’t mind. Best wishes in this Advent season. Anthony

  • anthony

    Doug, Thank you for your kind reply. I have trouble using statements of the New Testament as a basis for what you refer to as an “informed faith” in the truth of other statements in the New Testament. I am willing, subject to scholarly correction, to grant the sincerity of the NT authors. This I suppse is a kind of faith. It is an entry point for seriously studying the various NT views and teachings.

    You say that a secular view of faith is that people believe what they want to believe. In other words, secularists think faith is based on emotion. I have to agree with them when we are talking about a “will to believe,” a willed faith. I do not deny that willed faith can have value for morality, community life, mental equilibrium, health, bringing up children. William James wrote immensely convincing pages about it. But an “informed faith” implies to me that it has a basis in knowledge. I concur that different people may have different thresholds for moving from knowledge to a faith experience.

    Your description of an informed faith is something I have to work on. I must explore what sort of knowledge could serve as a basis for an experience of faith. My primary goal is knowledge. I do not seek a faith experience, though I am not averse to such a thing. It has also been argued that faith is a path to knowledge. Credo ut intelligam. I should review that approach. Your view seems to be that faith is not so much a path to knowledge as a path to some sort of “power” that God wants us to have. I find this idea intriguing but don’t quite understand it.

    This discussion is wildly off topic. I hope Steve doesn’t mind. Best wishes in this Advent season. Anthony

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,

    Your sincerity and search for truth shines through in your words. Not often do I meet someone who is truly self-critical to teh point of knowing, caring, or willing to admit the flaws in his own reasonings.

    I readily admit that my own search for “truth” has taken me many places, and in fact has many more places to go. What is consistent throughout, however, is an implicit idea that God was at the center of my search. Perhaps that is not a given for you. I respect that. In fact, the faith I was talking about earlier would never truly be the kind of saving faith you need unless you have already asked and answered the question about the existence and personal effect God has in your own life. That is because such a “non-grounded” faith is not really a faith at all. It might be called a “feeling” or a ” assurance”, but it isn’t the kind of certainty God desires.

    You stated your journey isn’t about faith anyway – that it is instead a search for knowledge. Well, knowledge in and of itself is a worthy pursuit. With knowledge does indeed come a sort of “power” that illumines the darkness of ignorance. Out of such illumination has come great movements, such as the Renaissance, or the Age of Discovery, or even the Industrial Revolution. A quest for knowledge is noble indeed. Men and women of past illuminated ages have been well-rounded individuals who believed that theology as well as science were inseparable. They lived lives where the two must reach agreement before they could be considered “true”. Unfortunately, that same mindset also set back true science. Witness the witch hunts from the Catholic church towards Galileo. It turns out the church was wrong and Galileo was right. The problem there was bad THEOLOGY, not bad science.
    That attitude is still alive and well today, both in theology AND science. And, it all comes from presuppositions. When one presupposes that something is true, then all hypotheses flow out of those presuppositions. As a final result, the conclusions must be faulty, because the foundations upon which the “science” or the biblcal “study” was done was flawed to begin with.

    So I cannot sit here and wax eloquent about faith unless and until I have walked the walk you are attempting now. Being that I don’t know you well enough to know the kind of journey you are on, I can only offer generalities. The one that most easily comes to my mind is that you must first prove the existence of God. Then you must explore the nature of God’s purposes in our existence. If you can answer those two questions, you will be primed to take the next step of your journey.

    If you do not base your search for truth first upon God, then your search will only uncover the amount of truth that is discoverable by human senses. Such discovery does indeed have its own rewards, but those rewards stop at death. The kind of informed faith I am speaking of transcends death, and the “power” I referred to earlier is the kind of power that puts one’s self in the back seat and allows God to drive. It is sort of like being the son of a powerful and rich man who can command others to do his bidding. You don’t possess the power yourself, yet you do, because of your association with the one who DOES have the power. That, by proxy, gives you power too.
    Well, I have gone over my time limit. If my words have any value for you, then please use them in your search for truth. I am happy to share what I have found.

  • Doug Moody

    Anthony,

    Your sincerity and search for truth shines through in your words. Not often do I meet someone who is truly self-critical to teh point of knowing, caring, or willing to admit the flaws in his own reasonings.

    I readily admit that my own search for “truth” has taken me many places, and in fact has many more places to go. What is consistent throughout, however, is an implicit idea that God was at the center of my search. Perhaps that is not a given for you. I respect that. In fact, the faith I was talking about earlier would never truly be the kind of saving faith you need unless you have already asked and answered the question about the existence and personal effect God has in your own life. That is because such a “non-grounded” faith is not really a faith at all. It might be called a “feeling” or a ” assurance”, but it isn’t the kind of certainty God desires.

    You stated your journey isn’t about faith anyway – that it is instead a search for knowledge. Well, knowledge in and of itself is a worthy pursuit. With knowledge does indeed come a sort of “power” that illumines the darkness of ignorance. Out of such illumination has come great movements, such as the Renaissance, or the Age of Discovery, or even the Industrial Revolution. A quest for knowledge is noble indeed. Men and women of past illuminated ages have been well-rounded individuals who believed that theology as well as science were inseparable. They lived lives where the two must reach agreement before they could be considered “true”. Unfortunately, that same mindset also set back true science. Witness the witch hunts from the Catholic church towards Galileo. It turns out the church was wrong and Galileo was right. The problem there was bad THEOLOGY, not bad science.
    That attitude is still alive and well today, both in theology AND science. And, it all comes from presuppositions. When one presupposes that something is true, then all hypotheses flow out of those presuppositions. As a final result, the conclusions must be faulty, because the foundations upon which the “science” or the biblcal “study” was done was flawed to begin with.

    So I cannot sit here and wax eloquent about faith unless and until I have walked the walk you are attempting now. Being that I don’t know you well enough to know the kind of journey you are on, I can only offer generalities. The one that most easily comes to my mind is that you must first prove the existence of God. Then you must explore the nature of God’s purposes in our existence. If you can answer those two questions, you will be primed to take the next step of your journey.

    If you do not base your search for truth first upon God, then your search will only uncover the amount of truth that is discoverable by human senses. Such discovery does indeed have its own rewards, but those rewards stop at death. The kind of informed faith I am speaking of transcends death, and the “power” I referred to earlier is the kind of power that puts one’s self in the back seat and allows God to drive. It is sort of like being the son of a powerful and rich man who can command others to do his bidding. You don’t possess the power yourself, yet you do, because of your association with the one who DOES have the power. That, by proxy, gives you power too.
    Well, I have gone over my time limit. If my words have any value for you, then please use them in your search for truth. I am happy to share what I have found.