Sunday, June 30, 2019
The Power of Knowing: Why is Historicity in Scripture Important?
The Power of Knowing: Why is Historicity in Scripture Important?
by Glenn R. Morton 2019
People ask me all the time why is it important for early Genesis to be historically real. The reason is the power of knowing. If you know something happened that changed your life, then you make decisions, arrange your life around that event. A good example of this comes from the 1977 movie Contact which is old enough not to worry too much about spoilers. Ellie Arroway had gotten in a special machine, whose plans had been transmitted to earth from some alien civilization, and she had traveled to meet them. But, while she thought the trip took days, people on earth never saw her even leave earth. She passed through the machine in about 2 seconds and landed, asking what day it was. Of course, there is an inquiry and the dialogue between two examiners and her goes like this:
"Dr. Arroway you come to us with no evidence; no records, no artifacts, only a story that, to put it mildly, strains credibility. Over a half a trillion dollars were spent. Dozens of lives were lost. Are you really going to sit there and tell us we should just take this all on faith?
Please, answer the question, doctor
Is it possible it didn't happen? Yes. As a scientist I must concede that; I must volunteer that.
Wait a minute, Let me get this straight You admit that you have absolutely no physical evidence to back up your story?
You admit that you very well may have hallucinated this whole thing.
You admit that if you were in our position that you would respond with exactly the same degree incredulity and skepticism ?
Then why don't you just simply withdraw your testimony and concede that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place?
"Because I can't. I had an experience. I can't prove it; I can't even explain it, but everything I know as a human being; every I thing I am, as tells me it is real.
While she could doubt the experience, she couldn't disbelieve the experience and stood up to the second examiner telling him that she couldn't disbelieve what she knew to be real.
This illustrates the power of knowing. Dr. Arroway would stand against the world and proclaim that what she observed was real. That is what knowing does for you.
Have you ever considered why the disciples were so powerful? They began the change which overtook the largest empire on earth in 300 years. Within a month of the resurrection there were thousands of believers. People could see that they really believed what they were saying. They had had an experience! They KNEW that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead, which was a big change from their initial reaction. At first, when the women told the disciples that Jesus had spoken with them, none of them believed it. It was not rational to believe that a crucified man got up out of his grave. Crucifixion was a method of death that ensured the person was D-E-A-D! Doubting Thomas got bad press. He was just one of 12 apostles, all of whom initially doubted the reports. Thomas was nothing special. But now, they knew that Jesus Christ was who he said he was. They lived their lives based upon that knowledge.
There is a story about John the disciple risking his life for one backslidden young man who had turned into the chief of a band of thieves. When John found out he got a horse and a guide and went to find this young captain of the bloodiest band of thieves around. Clement continues:
On coming to the place, he is arrested by the robbers' outpost; neither fleeing nor entreating, but crying, "It was for this I came. Lead me to your captain;" who meanwhile was waiting, all armed as he was. But when he recognized John as he advanced, he turned, ashamed, to flight. The other followed with all his might, forgetting his age, crying, "Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thy father, unarmed, old? Son, pity me. Fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death, as the Lord did death for us. For thee I will surrender my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me." paragraph 42,St. Clement of Alexandria Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-richman.html
John caught up with the man who wept bitterly and repented. John did this because he knew what the young man had left and what his future was and he knew that Jesus had died and risen for him. Thus he was fearless in front of the badest group of bad thieves around.
Consider the effect and cost that knowing had on all the other apostles. They all risked death and many faced it. Andrew, some say, might have been the first martyr. He was Peter's brother and was killed in Patrae, Achaia, which is part of Greece. An apocryphal count of Philip's death said Phillip preached in Phrygia and was crucified in Hierapolis. He was nailed to a tree by his feet, hanging upside down and then was eventually beheaded. Tradition, has been partly confirmed, archaeologists recently excavated the Apostle Phillip's tomb in Hierapolis. James the son of Zebedee was killed by the sword around 44 A. D. at the order of Herod Agrippa I to make the Jews happy. James the Lesser was thrown from the temple onto the street below, and because he survived that fall, they stoned him to death, bashing his brains out with a fuller's club. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome Jude was martyred in Iran and Thomas probably in India. Some lived to old age, but they all were insistent on dedicating their lives to Christianity because they knew what they had seen.
The disciples were able to impart that assurance to the second generation of Christians, and maybe them to the third, as time went on, people lost that absolute assurance and as a result the church has become weak. We need to know that our faith is true. One way to partly know is to have a scientifically valid/ historically real interpretation of early Genesis. If we can know God did what he said, and have no doubt there, it is much easier to transfer that trust to what God did at the resurrection.
I want to tell two more stories about knowing; one from the bible and the other from personal experience.. The Biblical story in John 9 is told a little loosely from the strict account, but it captures what knowing does to a person.
A blind beggar in Jerusalem was sitting along a street and Jesus came up to him, as his disciples were asking for whose sin is this man blind. Jesus told them that it was nobody's sin that caused the blindness but it was to show the works of God. Jesus spit on the ground, made a bit of mud, put it on the eyes of the beggar and told the beggar to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Note, the beggar had not asked for anything; Jesus just did it. When the man followed the orders, and washed the mud off, he could see. This man knew one fact; he had been blind but now could see.
This event caused quite a stir in the neighborhood because it had taken place on a Sabbath when people were not supposed to work. The neighbors argued amongst themselves about whether or not this was the same guy. Some said it just looked like the blind beggar but it was a doppelganger. The beggar told them that he had been healed and that he was the former blind beggar. Some of the neighborhood nannies tattled on the beggar by bringing him to the Pharisees because this sort of stuff didn't happen.
The exchange with the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders, was fascinating. They began by asking what happened, and the man told them, Jesus put mud in my eyes, told me to wash in the pool of Siloam and voila, I could see. Some of the Pharisees said Jesus couldn't have done it because Jesus is not of God because he broke the Sabbath. Others asked how a sinner like Jesus could do this miracle? So they asked the blind man what he thought of Jesus and the now seeing man said that Jesus was a prophet. That made the Leaders decide that if anyone proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, they would be thrown out of the synagogue.
Now skepticism arose among the Pharisees. They figured they were being scammed so they sent for the parents, asking is this your kid who received sight? The answer was affirmative, so the Pharisee's asked the parents how he received his sight?. The parents were as perplexed as anyone and said, "Hey, we don't have a clue what happened. Our son is an adult, ask him. "
So they did ask, but prefaced their remarks by letting the man know that he better not like Jesus and signaling that they weren't going to accept any answer that didn't agree with their current opinion. They said,
Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
And the beggar answered:
He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” NASB.
This was the thing the beggar knew! By saying the above, he had realized he had an absolutely firm stake in the ground, a stake that could not be moved. He KNEW he now could see and he knew who gave him sight. And this certitude gave this uneducated man the courage to stand up to the religious leaders of the day. When they asked again, effectively he said, "If I tell you again, will you become his disciples?" The religious leaders reviled him saying you are His disciple and we are disciples of Moses. They said that God had spoken to Moses and they didn't know where Jesus was from or what his credentials were.
What the blind man knew gave him the courage use logic and to say,
Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. "We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” NASB
And the courageous man was kicked out of the synagogue. Knowing gives power. Not knowing leads to weakness.
When I left young-earth creationism, I left because I could no longer hide from myself the severity of the observational issues saying the world was old. This sent me into a 12 year long crisis of faith in which I was questioning everything there is to question about Christianity. I even called my son who at that time was a college minister and told him I was really going wobbly on Christianity. One day at work I called my wife at home and said I needed to talk to her about something important that night. She said,"you are going to tell me you have become an atheist." I answered, "Not yet". I was on the razor's edge. But I knew something. Something I couldn't get past. I had had an experience and knew God answered a remarkable prayer. Like a burr under the saddle, it constantly made it hard for me to leave Christianity. It was my Turkish translator experience.
I am telling this for two reasons–first Christians need an observational reason to help them through the doubts, at least I did. Secondly, I have hoped for years to find the 3rd person in this drama, the woman who came up to us that night. She would be in her late 60s or early 70s by now. Down to the dash was written years ago, below that I have added some things.
The first time I went to Dallas, I was 19 years old. I went to a Campus Crusade Christmas conference there. My best friend and college roommate was with me. His name is Wayne Sparkman… He went into the Ministry and Im not entirely sure where he is right now. That night we had heard a sermon on ‘Pray specifically,’ Don’t pray for the missionaries in Africa, you won’t know if your prayer was answered. Afterwards, around, at 1 AM on a Thursday night in Downtown Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel, a girl walked up to us and asked us if we knew where she could find a Turkish translator. Of course, at 1 AM most folks are asleep and we weren’t from Dallas. Wayne asked why she wanted one and the girl replied that they were trying to witness to a Turkish fellow but he didn’t know enough English and they didn’t know any Turkish. What made me say this, I don’t know but I said, “lets pray about it.” I was actually shocked I said that.
I must tell you that there were two desks at the Adolphus at that time (they have changed it), one ran east west and the other north south. I prayed that the Lord would bring us a Turkish translator to the north-south desk in 10 minutes. (Once again, I don’t know why I was brazen enough to pray that particular prayer). When we finished, Wayne said, ‘Lets look around.’ I said (once again to my own surprise) lets wait, we have another 8 minutes. We waited. In 10 minutes a guy walked in from the street and went to the north south desk. Wayne told me to go ask the fellow if he spoke Turkish. I told Wayne that I couldn’t do it. (I chickened out!) Wayne had the courage to walk up and ask that guy if he spoke Turkish. He did!
Wayne brought him to the girl who took him over to where they were witnessing. Wayne and I were amazed. So we hung around till they were through using the translator to talk to the translator. The guy was a short order cook in downtown Dallas. He got off at 12:30 and had never gone home the way he chose to go that night. He ran out of cigarettes and came into the hotel to get change so he could buy some(who said smoking was bad?). He had been with the Air Force at Adana, Turkey (I recall) and worked as a translator. He wasn’t a Christian so he got witnessed to that night also.
About a year later, I was working at the Okla. University Research Institute in the Oil Information Center. We put oil production statistics into the computer. They decided to branch out and help Wycliff develop their first computer translation helps. A Dr. Joe Grimes (I believe) was the liaison and I asked him how many people in the U.S. spoke Turkish. He said that about 5000. He said 90% were in the New York area. When you figure out what percentage were probably asleep at 1 AM and what percentage were in Dallas, it was truly amazing to find one of them in a 10 x 3 foot area of Dallas after that 10 minutes had passed.
-end of old account–
One has to know that back in 1971 there were very few Turkish people here in the US. It was only was only a few years since Congress had changed the immigration law allowing more into our country. (not interested in an immigration debate, this was just the way it was.)
The interesting thing was that I don’t think this event meant as much to Wayne as it did to me. In the past when I have been in contact with Wayne, I have tried to get him to put his account on paper and all I ever get is 'I remember it about like you tell it."
I don’t know who the woman was who first asked us about a translator, and would love to find her, I doubt at this late date I will ever know who she was. She had introduced herself that night but I don't recall anything she said.
I know the ‘scientific’ explanation is that this was a fluke. I calculate that the odds of this happening by chance are about the same as winning the Powerball lottery, 1 x 10^-15. But there is a difference between the Powerball and this, at least operationally. When millions of tickets are sold eventually someone will win the Powerball, but this situation isn't like that. It was like, in all the world, only one ticket was sold to this drawing. It was sold to three people who shared the cost, no other tickets were sold, and they won the Powerball. Someone might think the game was rigged if that happened in real life.
One could get slightly different numbers by changing my assumptions but it is still going to be very difficult to make this a probable event. In a casino, if I won even 100 times more than I should, they would think I had rigged the game somehow, but with numbers like the above, some still say it is a fluke. I have shared this on lists where there were lots of atheists, all of whom of course pooh-poohed this as a fluke. Some liken it to running into your cousin in Moscow when you didn't even know your cousin had left the US. Well, it isn't like that at all. You didn't pray for your cousin to be in Moscow at this street lamp in 10 minutes. That is a big difference.
There is one other thing I know about this experience that doesn’t come across in the mere statistics. When I shocked myself by saying, “let’s pray about it” it was almost like those words escaping my lips were produced involuntarily. I don’t have a clue why I said that–I was a physics major and at that time in my life taking that kind of risk was not me. If I had thought about it, it wouldn’t have happened. They say Jesus is both the author and perfector of our faith. I can assure you the faith at that moment was not mine. I know what was going on in my thoughts and it was “oh o what did you do?”
And again, when I said we have 8 minutes left, again, it was almost like I didn’t say that. It was bizarre and maybe for the worse, it has never happened again to me.
I know how the words came out of my mouth and that makes it less likely to be a fluke in my opinion. Of course, that is a subjective experience. But I am like Ellie Arroway at the end of the Movie Contact, where she said, "I had an experience" and only the weird amoral preacher and those who saw 18 hours of static on the recording devices believed her. This thing I knew gave me the strength to get through my doubts and maybe that is why it meant more to me than to Wayne. He didn't need it; I did.
Below, starting with Quantum Soul, showing the existence of the immaterial soul, I have laid out a path for Christians to see Genesis asperfectly historical and perfectly scientific. This work started when I was 19 years old, a physics student and new Christian. I told my roommate, who was Wayne, that I was going to find a solution to the creation/evolution area--note, not THE solution. There may be other solutions but in my book a solution must match the facts of both the Bible and science. Trying to solve the issue, as accommodationalism does, by proclaiming the Biblical account to be accommodated to the false beliefs of those Neolithic peoples, is not a solution in my book. Doing that is merely agreeing with the atheist that the Bible is false. A solution that matches both the Bible and scientific data has been presented below on this blog. If you haven't read them, start with Days of Proclamation and work up--that is the proper order.
These articles are my life's work and purpose. It took a lifetime to get to this point. I have posted these posts on boards with lots of scientists and they didn't really chastise me much for the science. I got a couple of complaints which I responded to on the Babel post but mostly I got things like, "Why would anyone want to do what you did?" or "God is not talking about science", or "I think of the books of Moses as first grade textbooks", meaning I guess, that God told Santa and Easter bunny stories to us. If that is true, that God told us faerie tales, then we would know that the Bible isn't historically true in Genesis, so why would we have a firm faith in what God says about the resurrection? Is it too a faerie tale? This is the most crucial reason for having a historically/scientifically accurate interpretation of Genesis.
To those who wonder why such a view is necessary, I would furthr respond that I know too many young-earth people who became persuaded that young-earth views don't match scientific data. Too many of those ex-YECs go straight into being atheists. I was amazed at how nonchalant many accomodationalists were with the idea that these people would become atheist. I also have observed how gleeful atheists are when this happens. The accommodationalist's disdain for young-earth creationist becomes very clear at in their nonchalance about YECs become atheist. I think it would be nice to help them during their struggles. By giving struggling ex-YECs a historically/scientifically accurate way to interpret early Genesis, they would have something to hold onto during their struggles. I know how hard those struggles can be. I went through them.
Secondly, the power of knowing is faith enhancing. Maybe the power of knowing that early Genesis can be historically real will keep you firm in times of your doubt.