Thursday, November 23, 2006

Moses & Methodological Naturalism: The True Story

Moses & Methodological Naturalism: The True Story
By Moshe ben Jethro

It has recently come to my attention that an unauthorized biography of my life has been circulating in church circles for some time now.

Gabriel tells me that the only authorized edition was smuggled out of St. Catherine’s Monastery, with some money changing hands, and transported to Rome, where it’s been kept under lock-and-key in the lower basement of the Vatican Library for centuries.

Unfortunately, the unauthorized edition is full of legendary embellishments which no college educated, modern man of the 2nd millennium BC could possibly believe.

I apologize for having taken so long to set the record straight, but I’ve been out of the loop for the past 3500 years, so I only know what’s going on when a new informant arrives at the pearly gates.

Even then it can take quite a while for such information to filter down—or, should I say, filter up?—through the many layers of midlevel management, after each arrival is debriefed, completes orientation week, is assigned to public housing, and gets to know everyone.

Oh, and another thing—for those of you who are reading this, could you pass along a message for me? Please tell those damn higher critics to shut up!

I have to waste so much time correcting ministers and seminarians who are terribly confused when they show up here.

These critics act as if they were there. That they know what really took place. Who said what to whom. Who did what to whom.

Who in the hell do they think they are, anyway?

It gets really tedious having to straighten out the new arrivals.

BTW, don’t think I’m cussing or swearing.

The reason I ask you to pass along this message is that I never get to see Wellhausen or Gunkel or Barr or von Rad.

They all wind up in that “other” place. Shades of red.

So when I talk about those “damn” higher critics, and ask who in the “hell” they think they are, I’m being quite literal about this.

Okay, sorry about the digression, but when I have to put up with this century after century, it really begins to tick me off. Anyway, here’s the true version of events:

Once upon a time, when I was tending sheep on the far side of Mt. Sinai, I saw an optical illusion. A burning bush. Only it kept on burning, like it was fireproof. Unquenchable fire burning a fireproof bush.

Now, I realize that there are God-of-the-gap groupies whose first response is to slap a “miraculous” label on such an abnormal phenomenon. But I’m an educated man.

Back at the Royal Institute of Egyptian Studies, I took a course in the scientific method from Prof. Humenotep.

There we learned that resorting to miracles was a superstitious copout. Once you slap a miraculous label on some inexplicable phenomenon, you turn your brain off and stop asking questions.

What is worse, a miracle is a violation of Pharaonic law. Once you deny the uniformity of nature, why, you leave the door wide open for anything from a plague of darkness to a cloud of fire.

So, when I saw this here burning bush, I wasn’t about to be snookered into calling it a miracle. That would be unscientific.

No, it had to be an optical illusion. That’s the only scientific explanation.

Unfortunately, the explanation gets a bit more complicated.

As it turns out, the bush wasn’t really on fire. When I took a closer look, the fiery appearance was the result of something else.

I saw was what seemed to be an angel. It was the angelic aura that made the bush seem to be on fire. You know, like a halo enveloping the bush.

Of course, I don’t believe in angels. Primitive, old-fashioned folk still believe in spooks and spirits, but this was the 18th Dynasty, for crying out loud! What do you take me for?

So, not only did I see an optical illusion, but this was followed by a hallucination. That’s what so-called angelophanies really are, you know. Angels don’t actually appear to people, because they don’t exist.

Unfortunately, the explanation gets a bit more complicated. For the “angel” spoke to me!

So you have to add a hallucinatory audition to the hallucinatory vision.

But I’m proud to say that my faith in methodological naturalism remained unshaken. Once you allow a divine foot in the door, you can never make him leave. God begins to act as if he owes the joint. Refuses to behave like a well-mannered houseguest. Begins to forget who’s in charge. Unless you keep him in his place, things get totally out of hand.

Unfortunately, the explanation gets a bit more complicated.

There was also the funny business about a rod turning into a snake, and back again.

So, in addition to the optical illusion and the hallucinations, there was this conjuring trick. Sleight-of-hand.

To be sure, it was my very own hand, so how I could trick myself with my own legerdemain is a bit puzzling, but we need to keep our priorities in place. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

So there’s no need to get carried away with supernatural explanations. That would be unscientific. Everything has to have a perfectly natural explanation if you just look hard enough and don’t let your lying eyes pull the wool over your lying eyes.

I hope that clears everything up, once and for all.

Oh, and if you happen to see him, give my regard to Maimonides. He’s still alive, isn’t he? It’s hard to keep track of time up here.

The End

From The Lost Books of Moses (Pithom Press, 1445 BC). All rights reserved.