I know it’s been kind of a one-trick pony around here for a bit, but I can’t get this stuff out of my mind right now.
If you’ve followed this discussion over the age of the universe, one thing you’ve likely noticed is the prevalence of a particular view of truth. This view is the one that permits people to say that Genesis 1 is religiously, but not historically, true. Essentially this is Kant’s old epistemology, dividing the world of truth into the noumenal and phenomenal, where things we see and can reason out and know by science are phenomenal truths on the one hand, and on the other we have religious truths, emotional truths, things like love and spirituality, and these are noumenal truths. I don’t mean to condemn by association, but it is helpful to refer to Kant since he did such a good job of explaining his philosophy. And so, Genesis 1 (and Genesis 1-11, all too often) are said to communicate noumenal, but not phenomenal truths.
One of the frequent defenses of this kind of thinking is that a lot of people will never believe in Christianity if the Bible is allowed to make the historical claims that it makes. Ignorant people might believe it, but people who are in the sciences will know better and not become Christians, because they know these things in the Bible could not possibly be true. So we need to protect the Scriptures by not trying to make the Scriptures do things they’re not intended to do, like teach science or history.
Whenever you hear someone referring to these stories in the Old Testament as “myths”, but try to say that that doesn’t mean they think they’re false, just true in the mythological sense, this is essentially what they’re saying. Genesis 1 is a myth in the sense that it communicates religious but not historical truth.
This concern to protect Christianity from the attacks of modernity was just what motivated Kant as well. He was unable to answer the empiricism of Mill and Hume, and so to preserve some realm of truth, he did what was essentially a tactical retreat, conceded the world of the logical and rational to science (the “phenomenal”), and carved out for himself a realm called the “noumenal” where Christianity could be safe. If Christianity is made to be essentially subjective and irrational, then science could never get it. It was safe.
To put it another way, he thought Christianity was like the good china- really pretty and nice, but not up to the rigors of everyday use. So you put it up in the china cabinet and look at how pretty it is and bring it out for special occasions, but you really didn’t use it for all the day-to-day stuff.
One of the big problems with this view (besides the small matter of being completely unscriptural), is the fact that rationalism is never content with the treaty. They keep grabbing more territory. Over time, more and more things that were said to be matters of the noumenal have been seized by the phenomenal. It’s like thinking Hitler will be content with the Sudetenland. We gave them science, the understanding of the rational world, and then they came for the miracles. At first those were a matter of religion, but David Hume wrote “On Miracles” and we had to give them that. Then we said morality was a matter of the noumenal but along comes Freud and we had to give them that. Spirituality, right and wrong, love itself- what is there that the rationalist doesn’t say belongs to him?
But what Kant failed to realize is that Christianity is not the good china. Christianity is an all-purpose tool and it doesn’t need to be protected. It’s rugged, durable and very useful. If it talks about history, then we can trust it. If it talks about science then we can trust it.
The doctrine of inspiration does not teach that God’s truth is contained in Scripture. This it the way of liberalism. The doctrine of inspiration says that all of Scripture is the very words of God- God-breathed. So if the Bible says that Seth lived five hundred years and then begat Enos, then God says that Seth lived five hundred years and begat Enos. And if we say that people have never really lived for five hundred years, then we’re calling the Holy Spirit a liar. Otherwise, the Bible isn’t the Word of God, it just _contains_ the word of God, and it’s every man for himself to decide which bits are true and which bits aren’t. And guess what the next part to go usually is- the resurrection.
The Word of God is a light to our feet. The Word of God is our strong shield and buckler, a high tower, a rock of defense. The word of God is bread and water, a life giving stream. It’s not some fragile thing that can only be used for a few delicate tasks but for the most part has to be kept safe up in the china cabinet. Throw it out into the business of life. Use it in every occasion. Get comfortable with it, like your favorite pair of shoes or your work vehicle. Use it all the time for everything you do. You might be surprised at how durable it actually is. It’s like those commercials for Ford trucks where they show them doing all kinds of crazy things, in the mud, in the snow, climbing up crazy rock piles. Built Ford tough. That’s the word of God, only more so.
If the word of God addresses the origin of the universe, then we can trust it completely. If it addresses the sinfulness of homosexuality, we can trust it completely. If it addresses the history of the Egyptian nation or the decrees of Emperor Tiberias or whether or not a certain man in a certain time walked on water, we can trust it completely. And just as the Allies eventually realized Hitler wasn’t going to stop and had to go to war with him, eventually we are going to have to realize that there is no compromise with rationalism. We must cede no territory at all to it. We are going to have to go to war whether we like it or not, because rationalism is at war with us.
To use another example, it’s like wondering whether a chair will really hold your weight if you settle down on it. Those in the sciences, with scientific backgrounds, too often don’t seem to think that the chair can really bear their whole weight. So they say, It’s really just ornamental, like those old chairs that Dutch people hang on their walls. Useful once upon a time, but now just a reminder of our heritage. I’m challenging you- take the chair down and sit on it. See if it holds your weight. Start doing science assuming the Bible is true in all its details and see where it gets you. Trust His word- I triple dog dare you.
The problem of the scientist is not unique. They seem to think it is, but it’s not. All of us have problems trusting it. Are God’s ways really the best? Is homosexuality really a sin? Should wives really submit to their husbands? Does it really matter if I go to church or give tithes? Did Jesus really die for my sins and rise from the dead? Is He really coming again?
The problem here is faith. Do we really believe what God said? Can we really trust it?
Proverbs 30: 5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
I think that pretty much says it all.