Thinking and Believing
It’s important to think carefully on any subject, and many subjects have unique rules to properly consider them. Even the rules within disciplines can vary.
In addition to the discussion about science, here’s a second example—an oblique example that comes alongside our consideration of Christian faith’s reasonability: It is unfair and irresponsible to hold ancient historical literature, e.g. the Bible, to the standard of modern historical literature.
Let me explain: Modern historical method (which was a significant part of my university studies) is greatly influenced by scientific methodology, i.e. the inductive reasoning we consider standard today when recording history. But scientific methodology didn’t surface until the middle part of the thirteenth century as part of the Enlightenment Age—and it wasn’t accepted practice until at least the sixteenth century.
This short-sighted pondering leaps to the “obvious” conclusion that the Bible is a myth.
Whether you are assessing the Bible, or Caesar’s writings, or Homer’s stories, or any other document prior to the Modern Age, it is grossly dishonest to hold ancient writers to the same standard of those writing and creating since 1800. If some guy 200 years from now writes a scathing evaluation of this article based upon some twenty-third century standard, how should we evaluate his objectivity?
Can you see how unfair it is when someone denigrates the Bible, or any other ancient source, because the reasoning in its pages do not adhere to [modern] historical methodology. In fact, this disposition is blatant arrogance when you think about it. But sadly, this perspective and opinion is common, especially among those who fancy themselves educated.
In the case of the Bible, this short-sighted pondering leaps to the “obvious” conclusion that the Bible is a myth because it isn’t scientific and isn’t sequenced according to modern historical method. It is disingenuous to view yourself broad-minded and thoughtful while thinking no farther than the lens of your current worldview. In fact, there is a word for this: bias.
When I was at the university, I studied ancient history with numerous world-renowned professors who taught us the methodology they were taught, i.e. the modern historical method. Inevitably, the Bible failed to withstand modern scrutiny.
With book after book collapsing under the rigor of modern scientific and historical method, the conclusion was obvious: The Bible is a mythological book composed of multiple myths. Although there wasn’t room for personal opinion within the stringent demands of historical research, the implication was clear: What reasonable person is going to believe an ancient mythology should govern life here and now?
As those of the neo-orthodox method taught, they distinguished themselves as new thinkers, and implied the old thinkers were misinformed.
But the academic positioning went a step further. It was clear that high regard for the Bible (and other ancient texts, but since the Bible is the most complete book of antiquity, it was our primary source of study), was suffering immeasurably under modern scrutiny. Whether scholars felt they needed to justify themselves or what, I don’t know. But within the field of history especially, it takes a great deal of hutzpah to undermine those who proceeded you. It’s kind of the height of arrogance unless you can truly prove you are right and those who came prior were wrong. So, the new historians and theologians advancing a modern orthodoxy based upon scientific methodology called themselves, neo-orthodox.
A name is only a name, however, unless it is branded and distinguished. As those of the neo-orthodox method taught, they distinguished themselves as new thinkers, and implied the old thinkers were misinformed. The latest thought was held aloft as superior, educated, and enlightened—implying those not buying neo-orthodoxy were inferior, uneducated, and not as bright.
It is foolish to go to school, be enlightened, and remain in your ignorance.
There were many days where I shuffled down a snowy sidewalk after class torn between ignorant stupidity anchored in faith and educated enlightenment built upon modern methodology. I almost succumbed—thousands of students do—but slowly I gained my bearings and found my way through. Interestingly enough, this enlightenment transpired by doing exactly what my professors required. I studied, but that’s a discourse for another day.
When science is improperly applied, it becomes a narrow-minded justification to avoid the more abstract world of consideration, the world of faith. Faith is a discipline just as science, law, medicine, and art are disciplines.
In the case of the Bible, faith has bearing. It can’t be proven in a laboratory, but it is not a leap into the abyss.
Mature human beings have the ability to think abstractly, draw inference, assess implication, and come to conclusions that are then used to command thought, emotion, and behavior. That this is not wholly within the confines of scientific methodology is neither here nor there. To claim otherwise is like disregarding pancakes because they doesn’t belong on the table with lasagna and Greek salad.
In the case of the Bible, faith has bearing. It can’t be proven in a laboratory, but it is not a leap into the abyss as though jumping from an airplane believing God will catch you. There is a version of faith that is a real stretch, but the faith put forward by the Bible is a reasonable faith.
Next up: Before we exercise faith and either toss the Bible or embrace it, are there other sources to consider? I don’t mean, should you start reading Josephus and Thucydides. These are great sources, but what I mean in more reasonable terms is whether or not there is a supporting cast for faith’s validity that are all around us? I think there are, but I’ll let you see what you think next time.