A BETTER WAY (7) The Consequences of An Idea …

I have throughout these articles insisted that no one take my word for anything. I purposely titled them “A Better Way” to read and understand the Bible. I did not call it “The Best Way.” All I have ever asked is for people to open their minds and think. Take what I have written and falsify my conclusions. Prove me wrong.

Today, and in following articles, I want to start to explain what I believe is a better way to approach the Bible and why I believe that to be a better way. But before I can do that, I want to bring in some history which, I believe, will help to put this whole matter into context. We will have to spend some time thinking about where the ideas we are dealing with come form, how ideas are transmitted from one mind to another, about the consequences of ideas and what a tremendous responsibility to use the very best, most careful means of approaching any discipline of study – and especially God’s word. It is in the area of Bible study and understanding that we must use the utmost care because the souls of many people are at stake.

There is no easy way to do Bible study. You have to get down and do some hard work. But when you learn how to read the Bible, you will be amazed at how much it will open up to you. We have to learn how to listen to what God is telling us in the revelation he has given us. And there, I think, is the crux of the problem. We assume we do, but we don’t know how to listen to him. I say that because I have been where so many are today. We don’t understand because we have put on dark colored glasses with warped lenses that dim and distort the light that passes through them. Part of that distortion is our own assumptions and biases and part is due to what some think of as merely a useful hermeneutical tool.

The CENI paradigm isn’t what many think it is. Some have insisted that that is just the natural way we think. That is not the way God gave his revelation to us, requiring inductive reasoning to discern the truth he put into it. (We will address this later). He doesn’t address humankind in a modern 19th, 20th or 21st century manner of speaking. CENI is “natural” in the same sense as the people of whom Paul spoke in Ephesians 2:3 were sinners by nature. All mankind “once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Being children of wrath by nature does not mean they were born that way. It means they had practiced sin so long that it was, as we would say, “second nature” to them. It was habitual with them, they were inured to it. (inured: made tough by habitual exposure; “hardened fishermen, hardened criminals”).

CENI had another name before it was adopted by our restoration forefathers. In other venues it is still known by its original name. It was/is known as the “scientific method.” There is, in fact, no other way to do science. Investigation into the realm of nature involves biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, etc. I believe God reveals himself in nature as Paul states in Romans 1:20-23 and as David so beautifully puts it in Psalm 19:1-6. Francis Bacon who originated the scientific method said of the two ways God reveals himself to man: “God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.” (Francis Bacon 1561-1626).

The German astronomer Johannes Kepler is credited with saying that through his study of the Universe, he was “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” The realm of nature is called “general revelation” because it does not specifically reveal to man how to relate to God as he does in the Bible. We can only know that from a careful study of the Bible in the way God addresses himself to man. To approach it in any other way is guaranteed to lead us away from him and into the ways of man.

In science one must gather data, test it and draw inferences. With scientists, the conclusion that is reached at this point is called a “theory,” as in “theory of evolution.” What comes next when the scientific method has been applied and the first inferences drawn resulting in a theory? It must be falsified! The testing of evidence must be repeated over and over with the same results shown. It must be peer reviewed and shown to be based on a valid procedure and adequate testing. Was the data adequate and the testing done correctly?

And then there is the little matter of the competency of the scientist who produced the results. The qualification of the scientist is generally assumed on the basis of the his educational credentials and experience, but even this does not prevent a personal bias from entering into the way he tests and how he draws his conclusions. There have been numerous instances of people deliberately skewing their test results to get a product on the market or in order to receive a higher grade in case of a student. A poor scientist does science poorly.

Let me hasten to add here that the scientific method has brought mankind tremendous good. Discoveries through science have brought us new medicines, treatments, technologies, advances in transportation, education, information technology including the computer and the internet and on and on. It has also brought both the good and bad applications of nuclear power, the development of weapons of mass destruction, and the deadly chemical agents of death that have been used in some instances in warfare in attempts to exterminate entire populations. Thus, the method, while neutral in it’s inherent nature, is a double-edged sword. In most circumstances it leads to things good and useful, but sometimes to very evil, horrible, deadly applications in the hands of careless, incompetent people, and sometimes evil people, and when picked up by motivated people – people with an agenda – it has led to the worst possible consequences.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I believe this will help us see the seriousness of the issue we are talking about. Take the case of a fellow everyone knows – at least by reputation. The man I am talking about is none other than Charles Darwin, a man whose conclusions have profoundly affected the world to this day. Darwin may never have intended his theory to be interpreted as it came to be. But look at the results of the misunderstanding/misapplications of his theory.

“The theories of the Galapagos’ most famous visitor have highly influenced western thought inspired over 150 years of biological research. And it was the Galapagos Islands, after a visit of only four islands in five weeks, which were to have a resounding impact on the formations of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection…

“A rather unmotivated and failing medicine scholar, Charles Darwin was the second choice of Captain Robert Fitzroy as a travel companion and naturalist on the HMS Beagle. (Darwin had also dropped out of seminary, mr) …

“Among those (different, unique animals, mr) that struck Darwin so greatly were the finches, with such varying diets as cactus and seeds, fruits and blood that are now named in his honor. Darwin would later base some of his thought from the supposing that these finches were all descendents of the same lineage.” (Galapagos Islands website).

In those comments alone there is enough to cast serious doubt on Darwin’s credibility as a scientist. But as if that were not enough, there is another line of evidence that indicates that he went into his research with a biased outlook.

Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, “one of the leading intellectuals of eighteenth century England was a man with a remarkable array of interests and pursuits. Erasmus Darwin was a respected physician, a well known poet, philosopher, botanist, and naturalist.”

Here is a sample of grampa Erasmus’ poetry.

Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs’d in ocean’s pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.

Erasmus Darwin. The Temple of Nature. 1802.

Sounds a lot like ol’ Charlie may have just been plagiarizing gramps! Charles, however, seems not to have borrowed as much from LaMarck as did Erasmus, but it was organic evolution nonetheless. We will look at the consequences of Darwin’s theory as worked into and applied through atheistic philosophies and thence into society.

The scientific method is not a shortcut to good science. As practiced by good scientists today it has safeguards (retesting for falsification, peer review) to insure as best as is humanly possible that the conclusions drawn from the work done are valid.

The scientific method, when followed to the end to which it will inevitably lead, brings man to the conviction that there has to be a creator. Scientists, particularly in certain disciplines are coming to the conclusion that there has to be a designer behind the universe. One example of this is Dr. Michael J. Behe, Ph.D. Professor Biochemistry at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Dr. Behe, in 1996 published a book, “Darwin’s Black Box” in which he argues convincingly the impossibility of life having evolved from lower forms into higher and higher forms. He argues this on the basis of what he terms the “irreducible complexity” of living organisms. Those who look for such evidence of a designer through science believe in “intelligent design.” While these investigations can show that there must be a God, science can never tell us who he is, nor can it give us a knowledge of how we must live in order to fulfill his design for our lives.

Only from special revelation – the Bible – can we know that. And just as the scientific method cannot reveal who God is, neither can it explain the Bible to us. We must approach the Bible, God’s revelation to us, on his terms.

Next: Consequences of An Idea (Cont’d)

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3 Responses to A BETTER WAY (7) The Consequences of An Idea …

  1. Phil Pulliam says:

    Max-It seems to me that many people for years have misunderstood the interpretation of the scriptures. That may account for the unnecessary variety of religions in our nation and around the world. It is hard for me to believe that our Lord would hold us responsible to His word and then make it impossible for anyone but a “scholar” to understand it clearly. The fault lies with us, it seems. CENI, as a process, has been banged up by many people who have an agenda or a system of belief that would be invalidated by the simplest method of interpreting the scriptures. I can understand and applaud the need for each generation to make their own decisions about what God has said to us. Nevertheless, I don’t think all of tradition or previous work is wrong on “CENI” as it is known. A friend of mine, Doy Moyer, gave me permission to copy one of his articles that explains it well. Please look this over and let me have your thoughts. Thanks / Phil Pulliam / Lexington, KY.

    Does CENI Come from God or Man?

    by Doy Moyer on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 3:23pm

    One of the criticisms we hear of CENI (Command, Example, Necessary inference or implication) is that it is just a man-made hermeneutic. We have already challenged this point on two grounds:

    1. It is simply the formal, specific expression of how all communication works — what we have termed “Tell, Show, and Imply” (TSI). This is logically self-evident, for any time anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason will try to communicate will, it will be done in one of those ways. There is no way around it, and anyone who wishes to object should try to do so without telling, showing, or implying anything. It simply cannot be done.

    2. Because it is foundational to all communication, it is not really a hermeneutic as much as it is the material that is interpreted. Without something being told or shown, for example, what exactly is there to interpret? One might argue that inferring something is interpretation, and this is true. However, often, our interpretation simply builds on what is inferred to begin with (whether some inferences are justified is another discussion).

    So, that reiterated, some still may think that all of this is just the product of human reason, and therefore is still suspect as a binding principle. Let’s examine that for a moment.

    1. While human reason alone can be filled with problems (logical fallacies abound), we need to remember that God is the one who gave us the ability to reason. If human reason is never to be trusted, then what are we saying about the God who so equipped us? Just because some human reasoning is flawed does not therefore mean we cannot trust any human reasoning (that would be fallacious reasoning, for the very argument that concludes human reason can never be trusted would have itself been reached by flawed human reasoning, and therefore should not be trusted as a conclusion).

    2. Some principles are so fundamental to the process of reason, logic, and communication that to deny them is to be self-contradictory. For example, what is often termed the “law of non-contradiction” recognizes that anything cannot be both what it is and what it isn’t at the very same time and sense. This would be logically contradictory. It’s also just plain common sense. The point we are making about “Tell, show, and imply” is that these are so fundamental to the communication process that to deny them is to be self-contradictory. Most people just take them for granted and do not need to spell them out. The reason we are spelling them out is because of the continual debates over CENI, most of which seem to miss this fundamental point.

    3. Since self-contradiction does not come from God, then we should recognize that anything that is logically self-evident (and thus cannot be denied without being self-contradictory) does, in fact, come from God, who is the epitome of all logic and reason. Not everything is self-evident, of course, and this is why we make arguments and offer further proofs. Something that is self-evident is true in itself; it really needs no further justification because of how basic it is.

    4. Since it is logically self-evident that the communication of will involves some form of telling, showing, or implying (which may be derived through what is told or shown), then this communication process comes from God. It really needs no further proof.

    5. Scripture itself, which is God’s communication, is given through the same process of communication. God tells (through direct statements and commands), God shows (through both positive and negative examples), and God implies (by leading us to conclude the necessity of various principles). This cannot be reasonably denied. Every page of Scripture verifies this.

    Will people differ over the applications that may come from this? Yes. But at least we should be agreeing on the fundamental communication process — a process that is rooted in the divine.

  2. Phil Pulliam says:

    By the way Max, you can reach me at mrxphil at gmail dot com. Thanks for hearing me out / Phil Pulliam

  3. dlray says:

    Phil, the problem with CENI is not that people abuse it. The problem is that God does not address us in a manner that requires that we must first be trained in logic and the intricacies of the scientific method before we can understand him. God’s word is not fragmented into atomistic bits that require us to piece them together into what we think the church of the first century looked like.
    The CENI approach to Bible study leaves the majority of Christians at the mercy of a few people who claim to be able to correctly use it to tell them what the Bible really means. This has resulted in a “priest/prophet” office who, when they have done all their “correct” deducing and inferring must be trusted to be almost if not altogether infallible. If this is not so, why do people get so upset and even angry when someone kicks their “sacred cow?”
    CENI discourages independent thinking. The conclusions reached by previous generations are not allowed to be questioned. Should anyone do so they are immediately suspected of being subversive, liberal, wanting to destroy the church and a whole list of other evil things while not being heard out as to whether their objections are valid.
    All Doy Moyer is doing is renaming the elements of CENI. He is not changing a thing. You remember Juliet’s words about a rose by any other name? Well, manure by any other name stinks just the same also! (I grew up on a farm, so pardon my barnyard illustration!) Max Ray

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