Monday, August 29, 2011

The Hoax of Scientific Creationism



The title, no doubt, evokes initial alarm for some and curiosity for many and that is my hope because, if you will bear my introduction, I will quickly get to the point. As to the title itself, it comes from John W. Robbins’ (1948-2008) essay The Hoax of Scientific Creationism, published by The Trinity Foundation which, though a little over two decades has passed since its issue, still speaks with a pellucidness not reflected in what appear to be arguments by certain theological novitiates commanding attention today in some circles of Evangelical Christianity. And so, of course, I have linked to the article with the intent of encouraging any and all to take time and read the entire presentation since here I am only going to highlight a few pivotal issues. But it is intriguing, is it not, to find scientific creationism called a hoax by a rather prominent conservative evangelical who holds to a literal Adam? Well, let’s observe what he has to say.

With some prefacing remarks about the 1980’s Louisiana creationism in public schools case and its adjacent concerns of academic freedom, Robbins immediately seizes upon one of the fundamental problems surrounding the topic:

Yet the American people, and especially American Christians, have not been so perspicacious as the federal court. They have been fooled by the scientific creationists, who rely on American Christians for their funding. The American people, particularly American Christians, have been fooled by the word "creation." They tend to think that all people who use the word "creation" are talking about the same thing, namely the Biblical account of creation…The scientific creationists’ notion of "creation" is as different from the Biblical doctrine of creation as the reincarnationists’ notion of the "new birth" is different from the Bible’s teaching about regeneration.

What Robbins is saying is that creation scientists do not always have the highest interests of Biblical creation in mind. And a Biblical creationist, who bases his or her creational framework from theology, and a scientific creationist, who bases his or her creational framework from science, is not one in the same. Something we all ought to consider before we join creationism crusades and considerations of mandated public teaching of such. It might not be what you think nor can it be what you wish it to be.

The Modern Impetus

The modern thrust of the scientific creationist movement, as Robbins cites, “began about 25 years ago with the publication of The Genesis Flood by *Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb.” Since this article was published in 1987 that would place it in the early 1960’s. I, myself, recall reading one or two of Morris’ works in which he displays his scientific acumen. And from this many have sought to amplify the case made in The Genesis Flood.

The Modern Problem

While earnest, Robbins points out that Morris and company were misguided in the foundation of their approach. That is, they believed that science could prove the Genesis account. Robbins states more thoroughly:

But Messrs. Morris and Whitcomb never quite got the logical situation straight. They have never quite understood what proves what. And if this failure is embarrassing in high school geometry, it is absolutely fatal in theology. Morris’ and Whitcomb’s method seemed to imply that scientific evidence could prove the truth of Genesis. But at least Messrs. Morris and Whitcomb kept fairly close to the Scriptures and were concerned to defend the accuracy of the Biblical statements. Unfortunately, their very concern with Scripture is what obscured the irreparable flaws in their apologetic method. In the past ten years we have seen that incorrect method carried to its logical conclusion. That conclusion has been the transformation of Biblical creationism into scientific creationism.
As the quotations from the scientific creationists that I have already read demonstrate, Morris’ and Whitcomb’s early fidelity to the Scriptures has been jettisoned as the implications of their apologetic method have become more and more clear. The scientific creationists have declared their independence from the Bible. Scientific creationism does not necessarily involve "religious concepts, a creator or God, creation from nothing, catastrophism, a worldwide flood, the recent inception of life, or ‘kinds’ of plants or animals." Science is capable of discovering truth, according to these men. One need not start with the Bible at all. This is one of the most prevalent superstitions of the twentieth century.
The development of the sort of non-scriptural, even anti-scriptural, scientific creationism that we have been discussing is a logically inevitable result of the belief that science is not a handmaiden to theology, but an independent enterprise that can prove some vague notion of creation.

And this is what is at issue-constantly-with regard to theology and science. If the Scriptures teach of a Divine Creator (and not only do they teach this but as well, they present a singular and specific Creator) then science can, at best, work in an ancillary manner to the account of Scriptures. That is, science with all of is vast potential, remains subordinate to our faith which is based on the perspicuity and perspicacity of the Scriptures.

Now it is true that one may have theological ineptness which encourages scientific blindness and denial and so on but that is not the fault of the Scriptures, rather that of the student or Teacher whose interpretative bandwidth has led them astray. Our framework is within the account of Scripture and therein lies most of our problems, essentially.

What I mean is that, while science may get some facts wrong from time to time and of course wrongly interpret what they find because of obfuscating problems stemming from incomplete data or agenda driven professionals and their acolytes, science is not our problem. Darwin clearly made some discoveries but his narrative as to their cause and condition was fundamentally wrong (Darwin’s evolutionary view). And though Darwin was wrong as to his narrative, his discoveries themselves were not, they were what they were.

This brings us to another practice in which scientists engage and which is quite fanciful and imaginative at times, namely providing a narrative for their data (often argued, however, as fact or solid enough to be treated as proven fact). Narratives are part of science since they give body or framework to findings but quite often scientists go far beyond what is certain and become very creative in their interpretations lending themselves to colorful narratives of unproven events in a way that is forwarded as factual. And in a way, Morris et al., succumb to the formula that science can provide the narrative. It cannot.

When we seek to prove the Genesis account or any Biblical account based on science we are reduced to scientific narratives. Now, am I suggesting science cannot discover what is Biblically declared? Clearly I have already addressed this and made clear that indeed science may augment the Biblical narrative(s) in a most fantastic way. But our views must stem from our theology first. And again, often, it is our theology that may be getting in the way, not our science.

Is the Problem Science or Your Theology?

It might be that science is not your problem at all; instead it is your theology. This consideration is one that is missed by many. Most believe their theological grasp, particularly with respect to creation, is more than sufficient and if science does not reflect their theology, maybe even in the most obvious way, there is something wrong with the science. At times science may err but every time there is a conflict between theology and science? Really? Every time?

I hold to a more recent humanity and a very old earth but not because of science but because of my exegetical and theological persuasion. Science does reflect this view but long before I worried about the scientific views I developed a theological certainty.

Now it is true, for example, that one of the tenets I hold to regarding creation is that before the reconstitution of the earth for humanity’s presence and history, the earth existed for other divine purposes that are reflected in Scripture. One of those purposes was angelic history which includes a subsequent universal judgment by God. With this in mind I consider one of the fundamentals of science which is that of observation. And with this scientific technique I am able to see, all across the universe and here on earth, signs of a universal judgment that predated the reconstitution of the earth for humanity and is part of the angelic rebellion and its consequence referred to in Scripture (which is why I hesitate to fully endorse Robbins article because science, with regard to theology, is not as distinct and separate as Robbins seems to wish it).

Science may have some bearing on whether or not I consider my theology as succinct as it should be because conflicts will arise which call for the need to audit my views. Still, in the end, it is not and cannot be science dictating or attempting to prove my view of creation. However, if my theological understanding of creation errs it is little wonder that science cannot reflect (where it is legitimately able to do so) much, if any at all, of one’s creation theology. So maybe part of your problem is theological error, but it couldn’t be I am sure.

One of the best things for everyone to practice is that if you are not certain of an interpretation then lay off the dogmatic posturing on the matter. You’ll only become your worst enemy, regardless of scientific matters.

What Role Does Science Have in Regard to our Faith and Theological Expression?

It would be absurd to imagine that our theological understanding is forbidden from being magnified by science but it is also an error to believe that science must validate our faith. Science certainly cannot discover God under a microscope but it can discover evidence of God’s work. However, where Robbins points out, it is here that the arguments of Morris and others extend beyond their aid and venture into making science what it cannot be, namely a proving ground for God. And it appears, in quintessence, the main approach is, "Here is what the Bible teaches now watch me prove it scientifically" and this appeal, in my view (obviously in Robbins') is not as effective and certain as it seems.

Again, and to the credit of Robbins, he acknowledges that Morris and early proponents of this school exerted efforts of fidelity toward the theological narratives of creation. However, they seem to believe that science, itself, can make proving arguments for God, Himself, when in fact, like all scientific arguments they lack one thing no matter how much evidence is offered, namely the direct declaration that this is by and from the God of the Bible

Science might appeal to evidence of a creator but it cannot substantially argue the case of The Creator. Instead, the Word of God makes that argument and therein lays the difference between Biblical creationism and scientific creationism and in scientific creationism, pick your creator, even a flying spaghetti monster.

The Matter of Philosophy

Robbins includes the consideration one’s philosophy on the matter in his brief. In other words, how one approaches the issue itself or what frame of mind is predominant, will precipitate one’s treatment and expression of the matter. He states:

There are two basic forms of Christian apologetics: evidentialism and presuppositionalism. The evidentialist form holds that Christians ought to try to prove the existence of God and the veracity of the Bible on the basis of premises that all men will accept, such as the reliability of sense perception. The presuppositionalist method holds that the existence of God and the inerrancy of Scripture are to be assumed as indemonstrable axioms; they cannot be proved, and it is both impious and stupid to try.

I am not fully along with Robbins on this view of evidentialism but I am sympathetic. I do believe there is validity to some tenets of evidentialism. However, if it is found as articulated here, in a narrow form, then I believe his rejoinder of presuppositionalism must lead in the process, even in accepting some tenets or practices of evidentialism.

Conclusion

John Robbins wraps up with a challenging consideration, one I believe is sincere in its view and earnest in its desire but with which I am not completely comfortable though I feel is worth adding here:
It has taken only a decade for Biblical creationism to turn into scientific creationism. Many Christians are not yet aware of the change. The scientific creationists have a pecuniary interest in keeping them uninformed of the change. But the ramifications of the change are extensive, and its implications are lethal. Once the axiomatic acceptance of Scripture as inerrant is abandoned, the surrender to pagan ism is sure and swift. The Bible and the Bible alone is the source of truth. It is in the Bible alone that we read about creation. Neither science nor Aristotle has anything to say about it. Science is ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth.
And let those who call themselves Christians return to the faith they profess and defend it as it ought to be defended: as God’s truth, and nothing less.

I agree that science cannot trump the Bible and Robbins’ stalwart view is an essential unimpeachable property that we must all claim as foundational in our approach to understanding biblical creationism. However, I do believe that science has a contribution which manifests itself in augmenting (in whatever valid way it may) the case of the Biblical narrative. So when he says, “science is ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” I hope that Robbins is referring to that of spiritual light and not natural truth, which is of course, divine in origin but able to be ascertained naturally. Indeed, science should not be the intended source for sustaining our arguments about God or His creation, rather Scripture. But let’s hope we aren’t betraying ourselves with misinterpreted Scripture, thereby denying what ancillary contributions science has to offer in the whole of our understanding. 

*Henry Morris distinguished himself, serving as a Professor of both civil and hydraulic engineering during the first one third of his career and during the rest of his life as co-founder and President of Christian Heritage College and Institute for Creation Research. Morris also published a book titled Biblical Creationism in which he sought to stress, again, fidelity to the Biblical narrative as he understood it. And this is important to acknowledge in light of Morris receiving significant reference by Robbins and being faulted for what might be a point toward emphasizing science to champion the Biblical narrative. Hence, he should not be considered in the company of those who are either evangelicals which are egregious in this trend or those who have extended this to the scientific creationism view which does not seek fidelity to the Bible, rather to simply an unspecific creator or even further in their diminishing of Biblical certainty.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Casey Anthony: Why the System Worked



Some weeks ago, a month maybe, a nationally reported (and widely followed) murder case ended with the defendant, Casey Anthony, being found not guilty of all felony charges and only guilty of misdemeanor charges of which time served was the final adjudication. The system worked just as it should have.

Of course if you heard the cries of television personalities everywhere and no doubt gossip kings and queens in every circle of America their claims are opposite, at least by a substantial majority from what one can tell reading on the internet and taking an informal survey of the pros and cons. The speculative majority claim that it was a case of justice failing, of the system failing and of a great injustice taking place of which we must redeem ourselves (I pity the next 5 big news murder cases where the innocence of the defendant dare not be presumed in order to assuage the collective public conscience).Maybe there is a point to redeeming one's self with failure but the failure is not due to the system.

With television's biggest personalities such as Bill O’Reilly and venomous Nancy Grace (no irony is wasted on her name and even now pointing out the obvious with Grace and her personality is still justified) one would have thought the collapse of America’s justice system had ensued, but in fact it was anything but that. No, the system did not fail and no, justice was not thwarted. Rather what occurred was the very design of the justice system we have being executed just as it should.

No where is it written that our justice system guarantees perfect justice. In fact there is only one place of perfect justice and that is with God. Our system has an architecture which seeks to preserve the sanctity of testimony, facts and evidence as well as giving the fullest opportunity for defendants to have their cases heard by as impartial as possible juries. In fact the system goes to great lengths to insure that as little bias as possible, if none at all, is present in the minds of the jurors.

And it is just this, the necessity of minimizing of any bias which secures our track record as a nation, when it comes to jury trials, which is rather outstanding. It insures that people like television personality and commentator, Bill O’Reilly, who concluded long before the jury trial that Casey Anthony was guilty, do not get to render verdicts by O’Reilly Factor fiat or hysterical personalities such as Nancy Grace be given predominance over juries and attempt to bully them into a verdict she demands.

The system keeps many, though not all, free from justice capitulating to hysteria or bourgeois mobs of ill-informed crusaders. Many a man or woman has come to trial with great social prejudices and been found not guilty, later to learn their innocence indeed was a fact when, after more discovery, facts demonstrate this and point to another perpetrator.This is because the system is a great one that is designed to resist such infiltrations.

However, in some cases public opinion has pressured juries and the justice system to prejudice itself to the injury (and no doubt execution) of innocent men and women. It is always, always, and always a bad thing when prejudice of any kind enters a courtroom no matter how convinced the public or its talking heads are of the guilt or innocence of a man or woman. They simply do not, and rarely will, have all the facts.

The system under which we live and prosper and find our safeguard works, consistently. Outstanding and spectacular exceptions do not negate its high percentage of accuracy. I understand that this does not address abusive police, prosecutors and judges, nor does it make them go away but this is not about that, rather about the system as a whole and whether or not this exception, as some claim in exasperation, prove that the system failed. It did not.

The system worked as it should. Obviously it did not have the results many suspected would come, one I even thought seemed obvious per reports but then again, I was not seated at the trial and did not hear all the evidence or lack thereof and the arguments being made. Ultimately what the jury said is that they agree she appears and seems guilty but the failure lay at the feet of the prosecutors who were in a rush to build a case and did so without the necessary thoroughness the jury needed.

I want justice for Caylee. But the American justice system does not guarantee results. What it does do, however, is to seek to provide what is most essential and has been denied to many defendants down through history which is the greatest amount of fairness and opportunity for both sides when a case is being tried. And friend, one day you may treasure that far above your opinion about Casey Anthony and the results of her trial. The system worked, just as it was designed to work and you would want the same if ever you found yourself subject to its mechanisms. Do you want Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace or some half-informed public adjudicating your case? I doubt it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

There is No Such Thing as "Theological Tension"


Ever heard the claim by theologians of theological tension? If you have not encountered this as a student of the Word, at some point, you will.

Essentially theological tension refers to two or more ideas/concepts in the Scriptures which appear to function in conflict with one another. The most well-known alleged conflict in theological circles is that of divine sovereignty/human volition. For many Teachers the only end of these two teachings is theological tension. That is, according to their definition of both truths (the existence of divine sovereignty and human volition) there is an unresolvable theological tension at work that does not enable us to explain their dual existence which entails, to them, the appearance of certain conflicts or contradictions. Yet, they will clearly state that the one cannot contradict the other so instead of saying what they know they may not say (that there is a contradictory teaching in the Scriptures) they have made up a term which allows them, in effect, to go around the obstacle.

Yes, basically to avoid having to admit they cannot answer the issue(s) or are unwilling to admit they believe in a contradiction, they simply create an escape route. And it is a convenient one indeed. I tried it a few times and it leads to nowhere. And in truth, it reflects something much worse, specifically a man or woman who is unwilling to audit themselves and their views or do further study on a matter.

The truth is, there is no such thing as theological tension as has been described here and certainly there is no place of theological contradictions with which we must put up. The problem stems from the understanding of the Teacher, not the declarations of Scripture. One should consider two main steps when encountering theological territories where there is potential claim of theological tension:

1. Avoid following those in this area who make such assertions because they are leading you to empty space.

2. More pertinently, do not attempt to take a position on any matter until you have resolved what doctrinal/conceptual conflicts exist in your mind.

Really, it is not that difficult. Maybe what is more difficult is being willing to admit you simply do not have the answer at the moment. No doubt for those who wish to portray the image of being the smartest person in the room this option is dreadful at best but you'll get over it and be the better for it.

Show me a man or woman that believes thelogical tension is a legtimate explanation and I will show you a man or woman who cannot provide you a proper explanation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Al Mohler: Restates His Case, This Time Without "Homophobia"


At his blog, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, writes on Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is of significance is the contrast of this most recent article to the somewhat disconcerting acquiescence by Mohler back in June to the language of the aggressive homosexual lobby in his use (thereby legitimatizing) of the term homophobia. Mohler described some in the SBC of being guilty of homophobia. A rather strong reaction since then has ensued and no doubt much of it landed at Mohler's email, snail mail, telephone and in person doorstep(s).

The word, homophobia, is a weapon in the hands of pro-active homosexuals who have constructed and employ a meaning to the word that is foreign to either its parts or the sum of its parts. Homophobia to this sub-culture and its sympathizers (mostly to those on the social/political/religious left but unfortunately to gullible and naive do gooders on the right as well) is not a clinical term as it pretends itself to be or as those using it feign in their application, rather it is a derogatory term that seeks to produce a context of claims whereby others are charged with some form of bigotry or social hatred. It seeks to induce, to those listening, the view that homophobes are hate-filled bigots.  In reality, of course, the word itself should only refer to someone with an irrational fear of homosexuals. But it is never used that way because that is not the intent.

Later, Al Mohler attempted to qualify his use by stating that his actuation of the word homophobia was not based on the definition and use of those described above but another meaning, more in line with what it would or should be by its construct. Which brings me to and his most recent article.

Perhaps Dr. Mohler has had time to consider all things on the matter because his current rendering on the issue reflects a far more thoughtful treatment and possible adjustment on the use of homophobia or homophobic to describe some of his Southern Baptist brothers and sisters that may have failed to exhibit the highest order of biblical protocol on the issue and those involved. And specifically here is a statement from the article that I suspect is intended to speak volumes and address this (bold mine):
Christians cannot avoid the debate over reparative therapy, nor can we enter the debate on secular terms. We must bring to this conversation everything we know from God’s Word about our sin and God’s provision for sinners in Christ.
This is a strong articulation and a needed one.

Al Mohler, though demonstrating a tendency toward improvidence recently in the handling of a public issue concerning one of his co-ministers from T4G, as well as having a disappointing record of heavy politcs, is nevertheless a very exceptional teacher. His grasp of not just basic doctrines but intermediate and advanced issues is wonderfully complimented by his skill as a writer in which he is able to transfer his theological mastery to paper and manage to do so in a manner which allows all spiritual pedestrians the full strength of his observations and teaching without suffering through the very complex processes that no doubt takes place in his mind. Clearly this does not mean everything you will always read by Al Mohler will be to your satisfaction but his giftedness cannot be denied and this article is an example of his thoroughness and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Currently the Greatest Dog on Earth

 

Yes friends, as far as I can tell this, currently, is the greatest dog on earth. :)