JEPD Evidence

Polycarp66 at Polycarp66 at
Mon Dec 20 10:20:55 EST 1999

In a message dated 12/20/99 5:12:00 AM Central Daylight Time, 
peter_kirk at writes:

 May I ask you a question? Suppose that a student of yours presented a 
 well argued discussion of some Biblical passage concerning a 
 miraculous event, and concluded that this was an actual historical 
 event in which a divine being acted in a supernatural or miraculous 
 manner. (The beliefs of the student are here irrelevant - there are 
 well attested cases of unbelievers who have studied the resurrection 
 of Jesus and concluded that this was a real supernatural event.) Would 
 you accept that as a valid conclusion, or would you rule it out a 
 priori (no matter how good the arguments) and fail the student? If the 
 latter, I think that you would be the one illegitimately bringing into 
 the matter your own personal beliefs, in the non-occurrence of 
 supernatural events (I am of course only guessing at your personal 
 beliefs here). It is irrelevant that your beliefs happen to correspond 
 to those of one 18th century German and his followers.

How would one go about proving a supernatural event?  By its very nature it 
would not be subject to the laws which normally govern phenomena.  The 
closest one could come would be to say that it cannot be explained.  There 
are, however, many events which cannot be explained given our current 
knowledge.  That it cannot be explained may simply mean that we do not know 
the explanation -- not that it doesn't exist. 

I personally was raised to accept the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.  I 
no longer find that position credible. Nevertheless, someone should be able 
to accept that principle and still be considered a member of the scholarly 
community.  The problem arises when this commitment is allowed to determine 
the outcome of his investigations a priori. This leads to a dishonest 
treatment of the evidence. As a matter of fact, one cannot approach a subject 
of any kind without some faith commitment -- even if that is simply that you 
don't accept the traditional faiths.  The only real question of importance is 
whether you will deal honestly with the sources.

Please, don't anyone think that I am accusing any individual of anything.  I 
am simply ruminating about the relationship of one's faith commitment to his 
scholarly activity. Perhaps it would be good for me to state my own position 
so that everyone may know where I'm coming from.  I was raised a 
Fundamentalist.  When I left for college and seminary, I espoused traditional 
Reformed theology.  In seminary I began to doubt everything.  I finally 
concluded that, although a good deal of what I had always accepted as fact 
was in fact mythology,  this mythology was true and important in its own 
right. In many ways I am an unreconstructed Calvinist, but I don't interpret 
everything quite so literally.  So now you know the background for my 
position -- take it for what you think it's worth.



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