Yesterday i brought up a similar issue to David Burke, since he has done some reading on this. After the talk, i think i get what Tien Fock is hinting on during the dialog. So, when i was waiting for MRT to arrived, i SMS Steven "God could use myth like d person called Jesus of Nazareth to save humanity from self-destruction. Thus Jesus don necessary nid to exist, neither does moses :)'
What underlies my thought is that the most important thing to one's ever-lasting searching for meaning of one's life in this world is through something called 'worldview'. Worldview is that which presents to us the best explanation of ours, others, and the world's existence. And it is through our worldview that we interpret our surroundings, and thus gaining comprehension.
Now, to relate that to the historicity of the biblical data, it doesn't matter as much if these data are not verifiable based on up-to-date archaeology. We might or might not know for sure whether did something like the Joshua's Conquest of Canaan took place. At best, with up-to-date archaeological findings, there wasn't such massive military conquest in the 15th-13th centuries BC. If that's true, it could be that the Conquest data is a propaganda made during King Josiah's national reform movement. Nonetheless, that does not preclude God working through such propaganda to bring about his message to fellow creatures.
Anyway, the below is a loathsome short-hand of the dialog in Agora Forum.
We cannot read the scripture with the assumption that it is historical and give it 'benefit of doubt until proven otherwise'. I think we shouldn't assume the historicity of the data recorded in the Scriptures unless proven to be true. Until then, we can neither say it is historically true or false. I agree with Niels Peter Lemche's statement:
Everything narrated by them [Scriptures authors] may be historical, but biblical text cannot in advance be accepted as historical source...It might be the description of the reign of David contained in the books of Samuel is historically correct, as seen from the perspective of its late author...However, it has to be proved that the narrative in Samuel is historically reliable as far as the tenth century is concerned. It is not something that can be assumed in advance. (The Israelites in History and Tradition, p.29. Emphasis mine)
1) Scriptures is an ancient document, which we can't interrogate its authors to clarify.
2) Scriptures contains data that are inconsistent with 'the modern experience'.
3) There are other similar ancient documents which contain such data which are inconsistent with 'the modern experience'.
The implications when one disagree with my contention:
1) One have difficulty to explain why the preference for the Bible than other similar ancient texts.
2) One either has to accept many other (not all) data which is not similar with 'the modern experience' from other ancient texts, or one be viewed as arbitrary in accepting only those alien data in the Bible and not data from other similar texts. In other words, one does not have intelligible and objective* reason to prefer the Bible than other texts as their canon.
3) It makes those who claim that the Bible is true looks like they are claiming it because it is only true to them. That means their claim for the exclusivity of the Bible over other ancient texts is just because it suits their personal taste (their worldview on the world etc) and nothing else.
*Objectivity does not entail a modernistic notion of a possibility possess pure objective judgment in all things [to discover facts], but, nonetheless, as John Searle argues 'social facts' are not inventions, or free constructions of the human mind. They are to be regarded as realities consisting objective facts. (McGrath, Science of God, p.138) Thus, when i use 'objective reason' here does not mean a pure judgment over all matters, but an objective measurement which is a social construct but nonetheless real.
Objections (some overlap with and derived from others and manifest in different ways):
1) We can trust that Scriptures are historical because ancient documents should be given benefit of doubt unless proven otherwise. If not, then we will have to doubt all histories.Thus one might as well doubt the historicity of Alexander the Great etc.
2) We can trust that Scriptures are historical because 'trusting tradition' is a norm in life. Everyday people exercise 'trust' to testimonies by others and ourselves. It's properly basic to trust testimonies even if it's testimonies from the past.
3) The 'modern experience' is problematic because it is not universal and in no way it is objective.
4) Skepticism is self-refuting because how sure can one be sure of anything? And since we can't get certainty in anything, thus we shouldn't be skeptical. In this case, we shouldn't be so skeptical to the Scriptures.
5) We need to read the Scriptures in the worldview of the Scriptures authors so that we can reach common ground. It does not yield any positive effect if we impose our worldview onto the Scriptures because we wouldn't rule out many points and in the end the Scriptures do not make sense to us.
6) We can't examined all claims, thus we will have to cultivate a trusting attitude towards authorities such as scholars who did the carbon-dating etc. If not we are left with no-knowledge.
7) We shouldn't wear a 'modern' (Enlightenment-anti-supernatura
8) We have to read the OT or any literature according to its genre instead of superimposed on the literature our own presupposition or worldview.
1) If it is to be our principle to give every ancient texts the benefit of doubt and regard them as innocent until proven otherwise, then our worldview will be heavily affected. We will be obliged to believed in all of the divinities mentioned in all the ancient texts. Thus, we shouldn't give ancient texts the benefit of doubt. We should approach each document with suspicion until our own discoveries convince us of their veracity.
2) Trusting our everyday experience and trusting ancient documents are two different things. It doesn't help if one confuses both and regard both trusting objects as the same, that is 'tradition'. Both are different. Our everyday testimony has the privilege to be checked most of the time, while the ancient documents does not. Other than the text itself and archaeological discovery, we have nothing much to refer to.
3) The 'modern experience' has already become part of our being. We are living in and with the 'modern experience' whether we are aware or not. There are people who do not yet come to know about the 'modern experience' but when they do, usually this new experience will prevail against other experience. This experience is most productive and effective in explaining the natural world, so no matter one agree with this experience or not, it persists to be a big influence to modern humans.
We can't move back to pre-Enlightenment, nor can we dwell ourselves with nihilistic postmodernism. Most human are born into the 'modern experience'. We use modern technology developed by the 'modern experience' in our daily living. To go pre-Enlightened will only make one naive, while the other end of nihilistic postmodernism make one irrelevant.
4) Being skeptical does not mean one embrace skepticism. The former is a critical way of seeing some particular things while the latter is doubting everything. There are events in life that we have reasons to doubt and there are events that require less or no doubt. With regards to ancient texts, i have listed 3 reasons above why we should be skeptical. Disclaimer: i'm not suggesting that everyone of us have to embrace skepticism, and thus be skeptical on everything.
5) This is tough one on hermeneutics. I think common ground is not establish by taking in the worldview of the 'Other', but rather being aware of it. If one already presupposes the worldview of a system, then one hardly able to criticize it from within. Usually when criticism arises, the critic is exposed to other than one's worldview.
6) I'm in total agreement with that. Here again, i would like to emphasize that i'm not saying we should embrace skepticism. I'm just asking us to be skeptical towards a particular object, that is ancient text which is contrary to the 'modern experience'.
7) If not of the modern lens, we will be believing many folklores and myths.
8) The problem is we hardly know what is the genre of an ancient text even if it is stated as a particular genre. Here, we have to be extra careful because we, given the 'modern experience', know that winners love (re)writing histories. A document can be claimed as 'historical' in genre, and if we believe blindly to this claim, then we risk ourselves as victims to these 'winner's histories'. This happened not only in the past, but also in modern time. The different is that, in modern times, we have technologies (global media, eyewitness, cross-checking etc) to help us 'neutralize' such agenda-laden histories. Regarding ancient documents, we dont have eye-witness to interrogate and neither can we do 'cross-checking' with others. What we have is only the texts. In some cases, we can do cross-checking, but in most, particularly the ancient texts, we have limited external evidents.