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Monday, October 27, 2008

Reaction to the Faith-Science Beliefnet Debate

FROM KARL GIBERSON: I just read the 12 responses to my last post in the Beliefnet debate with Ken Ham. Most discouraging. They all assaulted me for suggesting that science had its own integrity and might be a useful corrective in interpreting the Bible when it speaks of the natural world. Living in Boston and working at two colleges (Eastern Nazarene and Gordon) that are far from the fundamentalist fray, I have forgotten the intensity of the biblical inerrancy controversy.
The inerrancy controversy has developed its set of canonical responses, which are trotted out by very uninformed people who think they are saying something profound and unassailable:

–If you can't trust every sentence in the Bible then you can't trust any.
–If you can't be absolutely certain, then you can't have any confidence whatsoever
–Because an argument against absolute truth would have to be absolute to be valid, such an argument collapses under the weight of it own circularity. Therefore, we do have absolute truth.
–Conclusions are just extrapolations of starting points, so anyone who arrives at a belief in evolution must have started out with a total rejection of the Bible to get there.

And then there is the amazing but vacuous confidence that young-earth creationism has a lot of solid science behind it. This conversation is so self-contained and the debate partners so vilified that the position has become immune to correctives from outside. It seems there is nothing that can be said of any consequence to these true believers.
And, of course, there is the final arrow in their quiver: You aren't really a Christian if you think like this.
My guess is that every one of the posters is Protestant and evangelical, labels that I wear with increasing discomfort. The Protestant tradition has allowed the most fanciful and ungrounded
views of Scripture to take root and flourish and, absent a genuine magisterium to address them, they remain healthy and continue to do their work of making it hard to be a thinking Christian.


Kurtis Biggs said...

All these people that are posting will someday be dead and probably take their beliefs to their graves with them. You've had much more experience with this than I have, but I've noticed adults (especially on religious matters) rarely change anything fundamental about the way they think.
Though you may not be able to convince them, what you have been able to do is reveal to the next generation how stupid fundamentalism looks. At least in my experience and that of many of my friends, education makes much of their fundamentalist upbring look down-right foolish at times. (No disrespect to parents and their Christian tradition and personal faith.)
Thanks to your teaching and writing, and that of others, my generation and ones to come will be able to google "creation evolution" to find more than uninformed garbage written by Christians like Ken Ham, Lee Strobel, etc. They'll also be able to find your books.
Maybe I'm just being naive, but I would be greatly surprised if Protestant Fundamentalism survives the next 3 generations or so. OK, maybe that's a bit optimistic; you never know. :) But I can say that ENC will be graduating future parents and voters who have at least loosened their grip on a literal interpretation of Genesis and hopefully found interest in some more important aspects of what it means to claim Christ.
The people who post comments are the ones who've already decided about this stuff anyway. Anyone reading and really engaging it are too busy thinking to post.

Mel Schriver said...

Keep the faith (not that you weren't but I just want to be encouraging). We are out here and we are reading, listening and waiting, always waiting for the shouting to stop. It may seem to moderate evangelicals that they are isolated and small in number but in fact the numbers are probably on our side. A drowning person does not care who they hurt and will not listen to reason. In some cases the best a lifeguard can do is maintain a safe distance until the drowning person is weak enough to be pulled to safety. C.S. Lewis said that Christian intellectuals must exist so that Christianity has a response to non-Christian intellectualism even if our Christian brothers play David to our Uriah. It must suck to be at the base of the wall having arrows shot at you by your "friends" while your enemies are pouring burning pitch on you. If it makes any difference we are still reading, thinking and appreciate your work.