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Monday, January 09, 2006

Dangerous ideas, the miraculous and EH Carr

Tere is a particularly interesting debate on potentially dangerous ideas in NT studies provoked by Loren Rosson. This has inevitably led to a discussion of the resurrection and the miraculous. I'm not going to say much more than I have in Loren's comments but needless to say I find it very difficult to accept that it is entirely fair for NT studies to be able to resort to the miraculous.

Anyway, I just so happened to be re-reading EH Carr's outdated but still useful book What is History? (pp. 74-75). Here's just some food for thought I though might be worth highlighting even if it might be worded a little differently these days:

'To be an astronomer is compatible with belief in a God who created and ordered the universe. But it is not compatible with a belief in a God who who intervenes at will to change the course of a planet, to postpone an eclipse, or to alter the rules of a cosmic game. In the same way it is sometimes suggesed, a serious historian may believe in a God who has ordered, and given meaning to, the course of history as a whole, though he cannot believe in the Old Testament kind of God who intervenes to slaughter the Amalekites, or cheats on the calendar by extending the hours of daylight for the benefit of Joshua's army. Nor can he invoke God as an explanation of particular historical events.'

Carr the goes on to quote Father M. C. D'Arcy who argues that the mundane explanations must come first and only then bring in the wider considerations. Carr then gives what I think is an important point:

'The awkwardness of this view is that it appears to treat religion like the joker in the pack of cards, to be reserved for really important tricks that cannot be taken in any other way.'

Carr also dismisses the idea of some supernatural 'purpose' behind history even if all the details of history are left to the secular. He concludes, 'I shall assume that the historian must solve his problems without recourse to any such deus ex machina, that history is a game played, so to speak, without a joker in the pack.' (My italics)

I also noticed this interesting quote from Polybius in a footnote: 'Wherever it is possible to find out the cause of what is happening, one should not have recourse to the gods.'


Blogger J. B. Hood said...

I guess that means Maradona is not the historian I thought he was...

James, you're ruining your evangelical credentials (i.e., the date of Mark). And to think, you could have been at ETS next year...

It's off topic, but I didn't comment on this earlier. On the date of Mark or other gospels, though, it's interesting to note that most evangelicals seem content to cite John Wenham and J. A. T. Robinson, then come up with a more realistic (to the bulk of scholars, anyway) date for whatever book. So you're probably looking at getting into some footnotes, but not a lot of interactive love.

And even more off topic, could United's second squad gain promotion from the conference?

January 09, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

Oh, I'll forgive Maradona for many things.

I think you are dead right on the date stuff. I can't help but think I'm creating no friends at all on all sides! I'm a bit of a believer in broader changes in numbers and general social context issues in changing a widely held belief anyway. Hang on, why on earth did I bother writing the book then??!? ;-)

As for United, well what can I say other than it was hardly Burton who almost won as Match of the Day would have us believe.

January 09, 2006


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