I Love Gellies

Mormonism, Evangelicism and Chaos Theory

Perceptions and Inerrancy

This post is dedicated to Darrell.

Dear Darrell,
After some of Tomchik and Clean Cut’s comments to you, I had an idea of how to illustrate the point I think we’re trying to illustrate.

Guys, let me know how helpful this is.

If you observe the earth going around the sun in a position stationary to the sun in a certain way, you can watch the earth orbit in what appears to be an almost circular path.

circular orbit

If you observe the earth going around the sun in a position stationary to the sun, but at a lower angle, you can watch the earth orbit the sun in what appears to be a fairly elliptical pattern.

An elliptical Orbit

An elliptical Orbit

If you observe the earth going around the sun in a position stationary to the sun, but in the same plane as the earth’s orbit, you can watch the earth orbit the sun in what appears to be a line.

linear orbit

All of these descriptions are correct depending on the point of view. Of course, God knows all of this. He knows how the earth orbits and precesses. The problem, is that He’s communicating with fallen intelligences, mortal minds. God’s mind is eternal, immortal, not limited by the same ways of thinking that we are. Therefore, it is MUCH like he thinks in multiple dimensions (like 3 or more) and we exist in many fewer (2 or less). He’s trying to communicate with us and not blowing our minds. We get glimpses of his revelation, but we can’t yet fully understand it all. It takes humility to not think we know everything when He’s just shown us one way for our 2 dimensional minds ways of seeing it.

Does this help anyone, or can anyone translate from crazy-PC speak to regular person speak?

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August 31, 2009 - Posted by | Religion

12 Comments »

  1. PC,

    Thanks for the post. I appreciate it and I don’t think we are as far apart on this point as you may perceive us to be. Really and truly I believe our disagreement may have more to do with biblical authority than with interpretation.

    Consigning all disagreements to “different yet equally valid interpretations or perspectives” leads to some pretty crazy things and, in addition, marginalizes the Bible to the point of being virtually useless. Afterall, if no one has the correct interpretation, what good is it? Personally, I don’t believe this is the case at all. Check out Stephanie’s comments and my response to her on Jessica’s blog this morning, for this is exactly what we are talking about over there.

    What is funny is I used this example not long ago in my Sunday School class. Another example that helps illustrate this point is one used to explain God’s perspective versus our perspective on time. Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line on it. No, put a dot right in the middle of that line. Imagine we are the dot and that the dot can only look two directions – up the line and down the line. Up the line is forward in time and back down the line is back in time. However, God is above the line looking down on it. Hold the paper at arms length and you can see the entire line at once: past, present, and future. God is looking at it from a different perspective from the one stuck on the line. Interesting.

    Again, check out Stephanie’s comments on Jessica’s blog.

    Have a good day!

    Darrell

    Comment by Darrell | September 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. I am having a hard time understanding what this has to do with inerrancy? I am not aware that inerrancy denies that “God’s mind is eternal, immortal, not limited by the same ways of thinking that we are.” I certainly agree that “It takes humility to not think we know everything when He’s just shown us one way for our 2 dimensional minds ways of seeing it.” But not knowing something completely does not mean you cannot know something truthfully, and God only revealing to us that which He is pleased to reveal does not mean that His revelation is in error. With the exception of your connecting God’s condescension to us in revelation to error there is nothing in this post that I would disagree with.

    Comment by gundek | September 3, 2009 | Reply

  3. Gundeck, You’re only missing the point because I haven’t expressed it clearly, to either you or Darrell.

    Darrell, I’m glad we share that viewpoint, but where I’m trying to go is a bit further than what you share.

    I’m trying to imply, that sometimes, Biblical statements are like the pictures of the earth orbiting the Sun. They aren’t incorrect pictures, but they are defintely incomplete. And we may have to combine many portions of revelation in order to get an accurate picture.

    It takes a certain amount of humility to not take our own interpretations of scripture as the final truth. Biblical data is but a picture of truth that God gave to past prophets, let’s not be dogmatic about it, but open to any new revelation God sends.

    Comment by psychochemiker | September 3, 2009 | Reply

    • PC,

      Your argument is not against inerrancy but sufficiency of Scripture. On this I have to go back to the teaching in the New Testament where the Jews in Berea were praised for testing Paul by the Scripture(Acts 17:11) or where the Church in Ephesus is praised for testing and rejecting false prophets (Rev 2:2). If someone claims a new revelation from God then they should be able to demonstrate how that revelation is in accord with the current canonical works.

      Comment by gundek | September 4, 2009 | Reply

      • Hi Gundeck,
        I’m not sure whether my argument is about reliability instead of inerrancy. The point I was going for was that no one single “scriptural” description claims to be the full picture. Neither does the Bible claim for itself a completely perfect picture. Neither does the Bible claim an ending, or sufficiency, inerrancy, or reliability.

        If you look at the Data that you quote, Rev 2:2, doesn’t describe the Church at Ephesus as testing the false apostles against the written scripture, but rather, only “testing them.” The text is incomplete for the standard evangelical interpretation of the verse. Note the very use of “false prophets” from this verse is non-biblical. The KJV correctly translates “apostolous” as apostles, not prophets.

        As For Acts 17:11, the Bereasns were praised by Paul for their willingness to accept NEW doctrine, in addition to searching the old. Read, in context, Acts 17 should lead to a different impression than the one you provided:

        in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

        So the Bereans both accepted knew doctrines, and then searched the scriptures to make sure they could understand how they fit. One must really assume whether they would throw out Paul’s teachings if they couldn’t make them fit or throw out the scritpures, the text doesn’t mention one way or another, and to insist that it was in the past as it is in your current viewpoint is to conduct the logical fallacy known as historical collapse.

        Comment by psychochemiker | September 5, 2009

      • PC,

        You are correct that Rev 2:2 does not tell us how the Church in Ephesus tested the false apostles (if you prefer) only that they rejected them. Of course the Ephesian Elders had been warned of “men speaking twisted things” and had been commended “to God and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20) by Paul so we know they were following his instructions. If you want to assume that they were using another means it is your prerogative, this may in fact be the case as they lived during the apostolic period and had the privilege of having apostles, unlike us.

        You can also assume that the Bereans would have accepted Paul if his message had conflicted with the Scripture, but the fact is Paul’s message did not conflict with the Scripture. We do not have an example that I am aware of where the Church is asked to receive a revelation that conflicts with past revelations. Leading me to conclude that God does not contradict Himself.

        I don’t quite follow your point concerning “historical collapse” for three reasons.

        (1)I have never heard of this logical fallacy and can find nothing on it.

        (2)For someone who is claiming that scripture is incomplete you have missed abundance of passages that tell us the Scripture testifies to Christ. It seems to me that with Scripture pointing to Christ you can claim that the canon is not closed and that there is the possibility of new canonical revelation, but then you need an explanation for the incarnation, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ as the ultimate revelation (all of Hebrews).

        (3)The Bereans were not accepting a new doctrine but a radically new interpretation of the Messiah, one based on Jesus Christ being the prophet, Davidic King ,suffering servant, sacrifice, and redeemer. These are all Old Testament doctrines.

        I could go on but you need to decide exactly what doctrine of Scripture you are rejecting.

        Comment by gundek | September 5, 2009

  4. PC,

    “They aren’t incorrect pictures, but they are defintely incomplete. And we may have to combine many portions of revelation in order to get an accurate picture.”

    This is where we may part ways. Let me see if I can explain. Some people define being open minded as always being willing to consider that other points/things may be true. However, I don’t believe that is the case. In some cases, being willing to ALWAYS consider that other points may be true is sometimes nothing more than just be plain stupidity. For example, let’s say I touch an oven that is heated to 350 degrees and find it is hot. Then a friend comes up to me and says, “No, that oven is not hot. Go ahead, touch it and find out.” Would it be open minded of me to consider that he might be right and touch it again? Of course not. That would be plain out stupidity and it would lead to me burning my hand.

    My point is this… there comes a time when we have enough information to make up our minds about what is right and what is wrong. Once we have enough information to make a decision it is not “open minded” to remain on the fence and not make up our minds. I believe Christ illustrated this point well when He said He prefers those who are either hot or cold and hates those who remain luke warm. I believe we reached that point a long time ago with The Bible. I believe God has provided us enough information in The Bible to teach us the essential Christian doctrines clearly and concisely. I don’t see these as being unclear… to me, they are like the hot oven.

    In addition, I do not believe that God gave us The Bible and then left us alone. He also gave us our mind and The Holy Spirit as a guide and that the Holy Spirit guided the early Church Fathers as they built the foundation we have today. I believe the Bible is complete in the sense that it is exactly what God wants us to have and it alone is sufficient for salvation. He has preserved it and His hand is all over it (24,970 manuscripts for the New Testament alone… #1 document in antiquity in manuscript authority and 2nd is a far cry back with only 670 manuscripts). Bear in mind I don’t close the door on further revelation. While I don’t believe God has yet to give us further scripture, I don’t close the door on that ever happening. However, I believe that any supposed new scripture would be in conformity with previous scripture. That is the problem I have with Mormonism. I believe its claims and the claims of many of its scriptures are not in conformity and in some cases outright contradict what God has clearly revealed to us – again, the hot oven.

    Darrell

    Comment by Darrell | September 3, 2009 | Reply

    • Yes Darrell,
      This is why I wanted to push the metaphor, because we do not see the same evidence when we look at the same pictures. While I agree that “once we come to a fulness of knowledge we don’t need to re-evaluate the truth” I don’t think that you or any other human being on this earth, including the LDS prophets have reached the level to which they will never gain new knowledge from God. So, it’s not the viewpoint I disagree with, but I just question the assumption for whether or not the preconditions that enable that viewpoint have been completed yet or not.

      About the oven. While your statement makes sense in the situation you’ve described, can I throw a wrench in your example. What if the oven isn’t a static oven, but one which the temperature can be turned up or down. Thus, while it may have been true, at one time, that one can come so close and not get burned, if the oven gets hotter, one must move further away. Or, if the oven is turned off, and cools off, one may touch all of the oven and not get burned. The problem is that a lot of the assumptions we bring to the text assume a form a static descriptors, that don’t take into account that God can change circumstances, and even commands. Further, since humans are smart enough to design materials that can keep us from being burnt by 350 degrees Fahrenheit, I expect God can too. Heck, as a biblical literalist, I should be able to expect you to believe God protected Shadrack, Mishack, and Abedneggo in the fiery furnace? Wouldn’t your example be purely anti-biblical?

      Re: Completeness: You’ve said the Bible is complete and it alone is sufficient for our Salvation. While it is true that you believe it, I hope you recognize that this is nothing more than your own (personal interpretation) of the biblical data. From my perception, it is like the elliptical view of the orbit of the earth, not wrong persay (Because I certainly believe the Bible is VERY important, and God certainly DOES want us to have it), but it is not the only thing God would want us to have.

      Comment by psychochemiker | September 5, 2009 | Reply

  5. “Consigning all disagreements to “different yet equally valid interpretations or perspectives” leads to some pretty crazy things and, in addition, marginalizes the Bible to the point of being virtually useless”

    Ambiguity doesn’t require that all interpretations are weighted equally – not even if one falls all the way down any slippery slopes. It does require deciding when two measures are functionally equivalent due to overlapping error ranges. I suspect some positions that appear universalistic may actually just be functional equivalencies.

    Ambiguous information can still be pretty useful. For example a sign pointing to the general direction to Denver isn’t “True” if it is off by a few degrees, but it sure is useful. Trueness therefore may need to get broken down into factual and practical dimensions. Accepting the human condition into the scriptural process just changes the precision one expects for the maintenance of sufficient reliability.

    Comment by sigo | September 4, 2009 | Reply

    • What a wonderful insight Sigo.
      It is certainly true that we must consider the weighting of different data points. Truth as we learn it is a linear combination of our experiences. Certainly the context will determine the weighting co-efficients for individual events.

      FWIW, I don’t know where the Bible claims to be useful outside of it’s context, so I don’t know why the Bible would be inherently useless when properly contextualized. Why would a God who appears to use natural order be made less of a God through it’s use?

      Comment by psychochemiker | September 5, 2009 | Reply

  6. “My point is this… there comes a time when we have enough information to make up our minds about what is right and what is wrong.”

    As most everyone here knows, Mormonism has a very similar position with regard to “testimony” and the witness of the spirit for some things. Typically this is applied to the restoration while many evangelicals apply the equivalent to biblical sufficiency.

    “Once we have enough information to make a decision it is not “open minded” to remain on the fence and not make up our minds”

    The challenge seems to be how do we get to a deeper understanding of what our own position and witnesses actually entail. A question both sides ask of each other is, “are you sure you haven’t overextended yourselves on your rallying point?” Allowing for multiple paradigm shits, at least for me, seems to be a good way to triangulating in on things. However true paradigm shifts require re-evaluation of what has once been considered fundamental and unquestionable. Mormons tend not to do this with their testimony of the restoration while I suspect many evangelicals tend not to do this with regard to biblical sufficiency.

    “I believe the Bible is complete in the sense that it is exactly what God wants us to have and it alone is sufficient for salvation.”

    How about saying the Bible alone is sufficient for salvation because it inspires things necessary to understand/recognize God. You say those things are mainly internal to a person, while Mormons just bump up communal aspects a bit. For example Mormon revelation can be viewed as just a bump up from the Protestant revolution, different in degree but not nature.

    Comment by sigo | September 4, 2009 | Reply

  7. “FWIW, I don’t know where the Bible claims to be useful outside of it’s context,” – PC

    Yes. Another part of the problem seems to be assuming it applies to every aspect of life equally as well because it is divinely inspired. I doubt its precision was really meant to be that pervasive. More precise here, less so there… equally as accurate when from a sufficiently balanced viewpoint.

    Comment by sigo | September 5, 2009 | Reply


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