mercredi 26 juin 2013

When Should a Story be Believed?

When you consider a certain story or other « set of facts » as true, why not also consider « how do we know it is true ? » not as in « I know it because teacher told me » but in « how did the people who taught the teacher come to know about these truths being true ».*

When you consider it as false, but know that other men consider it as true, why not ask yourself also « how did this mistake come about », like not just « how did Christians / Darwinists / Muslims etc. » (whoever it is you consider wrong) « that I personally know come to be raised as C. / D. /M. » but primarily, whichever two of the three you consider wrong, how did they come about in the first place ? (Or if you are something totally other, how did the three get it wrong in the first place?) Preferrably not by simply saying « they are more stupid than we » of course.*

Let us make such an exercise about Genesis Creation story, assuming for the moment Darwinism were right and Creation story false.

There may have been once upon a time when people who made stories up came to think these stories were true if accepted by everyone else in the tribe. Even if they knew they had made them up, they forgot that or counted themselves as inspired prophets as soon as their story was accepted by everyone else they knew.

I do not know of any such culture or of men with such a conscience (I suppose if you got one now, he would be classified as mentally deranged – once you were sure that was his game). But this need not stop us. We do not have written records of Cro-Magnon man, and some are not sure that same skull shape means exactly same quality of brain. And even if Cro-Magnon were ruled out, there is also Homo Erectus, whose skull shape seems to be at least somewhat different.

So, one of these guys presumably made up the creation story when someone asked the kind of questions that very developed brains such as Dawkins’ would consider malformed questions. He did not know the answer, he did not remember he only made it up once the others who did not know the answer either protested not one bit against it, so it stuck. Precisely as much later – i e in most of mankind as we know it - stories stick when honestly and accurately observed, honestly misunderstood or honestly believed on the word of some liar who knew he was a liar.

It was inherited by people who would not have acted that way. One of these was some Hebrew, so he took away polytheistic or animistic traits, leaving at the end only one creator God. Herein he did not think he was making up, only that he was correcting someone else’s mistake. And this stuck with the Hebrews, and it stuck with the early Christians, and with the Christians of the Middle Ages as well, not forgetting the Renaissance or the Seventeenth C. Nobody of all these thought even once they were repeating a lie come true to the liar by the consensus it met by very, very, very ignorant people who could not distinguish truth from falsehood or guess from knowledge. And yet all of these – we knew sufficiently of their lives for that claim – would have been incapable of making such a gross mistake on their own.

That is not all to how the mistake – if such it was – was made. You see, if you believe that God spoke to Moses, and if you believe Christ that Moses spoke truly (thus prophetically) of Himself, you must somehow explain why this God who in Moses’ time foreknew the coming of Christ did not realise how this « primitive myth » would be a liability for Christ’s Church some 1800 and more years from its founding, when scientists found the truth out. The God who took Israel out of Egypt somehow would have forgotten to take Hebrew imagination out of Paleolithic Stone Age originating mistakes. And Christ who said He came « for one thing : to testify to the truth » would have failed that mission.**

The kind of background modern specialists would like to give the Creation Myth turns out to make perfect sense to an Atheist, but not very much sense at all to a Christian.

Now, let us make the opposite assumption about Genesis 1 and 2 : it is true. Adam and Eve existed. God created the world in six days, in 144 hours. If that is true, how do we know it ?

Adam’s and Eve’s existence would have been known to their children who handed down the knowledge to their grandchildren, or whichever was the first generation not to see them because they were dead. Birth, age when giving birth to male heir, age of death was duly noted in an oral version of Civil Register. Important events, such as Adam naming beasts, getting sleepy, finding Eve (and God telling them what to do), or such as God’s command and their disobedience, or such as Kain’s kinsmurder were duly added to this sketchy outline of history as they happened. And so on for events just before or after Flood, and so on for the generations of Abraham, Isaak, Jakob and his sons – but with lots of more events noted in those generations.

Moses was heir to this knowledge, and as he set out to redact it, God gave him a vision of the very beginning and of the six days.

Since Moses made or duly announced sufficient miracles to qualify as sent by God all of this was believed, and rightly believed, by the Hebrew nation that was heir to Moses’ Pentateuch.

Since Jesus Christ was born into the Hebrew nation which had the right and correct idea about the Creation, there was never in Him any kind of conflict between what He could humanly know of it and what He knew and eternally, from eternity to eternity knows as God the Son. And hence the Church in His earliest followers, in the Church Fathers, in the Middle Ages and so on, made no mistake either when accepting the Creation story as literally true.

Now, that is why as a Christian I accept it.

If you want to know not why I am a Christian but why you should be, I suggest you make a similar exercise about the story of the Resurrection. If it was false, how could it be accepted as true ?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bibliothèque Audoux
Sts John and Paul Martyrs: brothers,
in Rome, under Julian the Apostate

* I was going to ask you to make for yourself this exercise between discrepant views of Jesus in Gospels, Talmudic literature (unless you avoid it as the calumny it is) and the Fifth Surah. Both (or all three) cannot be right. Which accounts are likeliest to be wrong and still accepted without the stance of those accepting it involving a miracle of stupidity?

** And yes, before paleontology, as was the case in Moses' day and in Jesus' day, only a revelation from God could have given the Hebrew and Christian traditions any correct idea of evolution and deep time - if that idea had been correct. It would have been God's responsibility, if Genesis 1 and 2 were factually wrong, to not have them included into His Word or to have made a totally and exclusively non-literal reading (historically wrong but theologically right as it were) at least a clear and clearly licit option from at least the start of Christianity. Either God is a liar, or does not exist, or Christianity is not His thing and Judaism is not His thing either, or, the true alternative, God told Genesis 1 because it is in every way, historically (that is factually) as well as allegorically (prophetically, christologically, morally) totally true.

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