Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Keith Miller, the Christian geologist whose words were so egregiously misrepresented by Paul Nelson recently, has an interesting post to the ASA listserv (the ASA is the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of predominately pro-evolution Christian scientists) about Jonathan Wells. Wells is a DI fellow, ID advocate and a Moonie. Miller writes:

I have just learned of a new book by Jonathan Wells — “The Politically Incorrect guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.” In that book he has a chapter entitled “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity.” In this chapter, Well’s presents himself as a defender of “traditional Christianity” ! Here is a prominent member of Moon’s Unification Church who believes that Jesus’ death on the cross was a failure of his mission, and that Sun Myong Moon is the messiah come to complete Jesus’ failed work, speaking as a defender of traditional Christianity! In this chapter he specifically condemns the theology of people like Ken Miller and John Haught! Wells writes: “In other words, a Darwinian who really, really wants to be a Christian can be a Christian of sorts — just not a traditional one.” No person who accepts evolution can be a traditional Christian — but someone who rejects the centrality of
the death and resurrection of Christ can!

This is beyond words!

Indeed it is.

Comments

  1. #1 Dav
    August 29, 2006

    I would say they are both right. Those who accept evolution as a primary as opposed to a secondary cause, as well as Moonies, are not traditional Chistians. The adjective traditional renders this a trivial question. The juicy debate is not whether either of these two groups is traditional, but whether one or both fall completely outside the pale of orthodoxy. In other words: Are they Christian at all?

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    August 29, 2006

    The phrase “accept evolution as a primary as opposed to a secondary cause” is far too vague. What exactly does it mean?

  3. #3 Julia
    August 29, 2006

    Thanks much for pointing this out. It’s good to know the Moon connection is being discussed.Wasn’t Wells’ Icons the basis for some of the biology lessons provided for high school students in Ohio under the “critically analyze” language?

    Many of the criticisms I’ve read of ID lump Wells together with the others as the “Christians” behind this movement. I’ve said before that I think that’s a mistake in that many Christians would be horrified to learn of his connection with Moon.

    Some of the Christians I know have become much less inclined to support the teaching of ID in public schools when they discovered that they could be exposing their children to Moon’s version of the messiah.

    Those opposed to ID in schools need to point out to as many Christians as possible the incompatibility between the views of Wells and the views of “traditional” Christians. Christians who see no problem with teaching “both sides” suddenly change their minds when they realize that the “other side” may not be a reflection of their own beliefs at all. They may suddenly understand what the problem is in allowing somebody’s religious beliefs to be presented to a captive audience of public school children. That same enlightenment can come when Christians realize that ID can open the classroom doors to what they consider to be the occult (in the form of astrology and space aliens).

  4. #4 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Ed:

    The phrase “accept evolution as a primary as opposed to a secondary cause” is far too vague. What exactly does it mean?

    Sorry, it has a rather well understood and precise theological usage.

    At any rate: If your view of evolution is that it was a process not under God’s control, or that at no time did God intervene, whether because he couldn’t have or perhaps only because he would never want to – if you have any sort of admixture of these positions, then the most “theistic” that you can be, in regards to creation, is deistic. It goes without saying a deistic position, in regards to creation, is not traditional Christianity. Traditional Christianity has always held that God was the primary cause, as well as attributing to him a continuing, direct involvement. I would argue that this borders on the obvious, and so, once again, the use of “traditional” makes this an argument without bite. The interesting question remains whether someone who holds such views can be Christian at all.

    It should be contrasted with “theistic” evolution, which acknowledges that, at least in principle, God can play the master genetic engineer as he sees fit, but for practical purposes we must still approach the question of the diversity of life, scientifically speaking, from an evolutionary perspective.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    August 29, 2006

    Julia wrote:

    Thanks much for pointing this out. It’s good to know the Moon connection is being discussed.Wasn’t Wells’ Icons the basis for some of the biology lessons provided for high school students in Ohio under the “critically analyze” language?

    Yes, much of the language of those lesson plans was taken directly from Wells’ book. In early versions, the book was directly referenced, but when that became controversial they just removed the reference – but left in all the claims from it, so as to hide its source. Thankfully, the Ohio BOE voted to remove those lessons in February after what happened in Dover.

  6. #6 386sx
    August 29, 2006

    Wasn’t Wells’ Icons the basis for some of the biology lessons provided for high school students in Ohio under the “critically analyze” language?

    That, and they directed the kids to some creationist web pages for further “research”. That, and, after they tell the kids that our understanding changes as new data comes in, they recommend a bunch of old books.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    August 29, 2006

    At any rate: If your view of evolution is that it was a process not under God’s control, or that at no time did God intervene, whether because he couldn’t have or perhaps only because he would never want to – if you have any sort of admixture of these positions, then the most “theistic” that you can be, in regards to creation, is deistic. It goes without saying a deistic position, in regards to creation, is not traditional Christianity. Traditional Christianity has always held that God was the primary cause, as well as attributing to him a continuing, direct involvement. I would argue that this borders on the obvious, and so, once again, the use of “traditional” makes this an argument without bite. The interesting question remains whether someone who holds such views can be Christian at all.

    Can you name anyone who calls themselves a Christian who actually takes the view that God could not have intervened in the process of evolution if he chose to? I know of no one who takes that position. I know lots who take the position that while God obviously could have intervened, as God is all powerful, but that there is no evidence that he did, nor any need for him to do so. Further, they take the position that God created the universe and the laws that govern it and that those laws specifically allowed for the evolutionary development of life. Is that not “primary” enough? I don’t think it’s enough to say that “traditional Christianity” posits or requires of God a “continuing, direct involvement”. Certainly, no one (at least today) suggests that God must have “continuing, direct involvement” in the process of star formation, or in making sure that hydrogen and oxygen bind together to form water. Such things happen because the physical laws, which according to all forms of theism God set up for a purpose, allow or mandate that they happen. Certainly Ken Miller or Keith Miller (no relation) would argue that God’s “continuing, direct involvement” is in the lives of his followers, not in the everyday operation of the physical laws he set up. Indeed, I suspect they would argue, as Van Till does, that such a conception implies that God did such a bad job of setting up the physical laws and initial conditions of the universe that he had to keep intervening to make things go the right way. None of this has any bearing on my own position, of course, but I think I detect a straw man version of their position being built and knocked down.

  8. #8 386sx
    August 29, 2006

    Certainly, no one (at least today) suggests that God must have “continuing, direct involvement” in the process of star formation, or in making sure that hydrogen and oxygen bind together to form water.

    Actually, I think you might (unfortunately) be wrong about that.

  9. #9 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Ed,

    Certainly Ken Miller or Keith Miller (no relation) would argue that God’s “continuing, direct involvement” is in the lives of his followers, not in the everyday operation of the physical laws he set up. Indeed, I suspect they would argue, as Van Till does, that such a conception implies that God did such a bad job of setting up the physical laws and initial conditions of the universe that he had to keep intervening to make things go the right way.

    They may indeed argue that–and that’s sort of the point–but is their view consistent with traditional Christianity? It would in some sense hinge on whether or not they rule out the possibility–if they do they are more deistic, with at least a sprinkling of Gnosticism, that traditional Christian. If they rule out God’s direct involvement, on the basis of Van Till’s position as you describe it, then they are not in the camp of traditional Christianity.

    It is a poor argument that God never intervened in the physical realm because, being God, he would never have to — and that if he did that makes him a lousy creator because he must have screwed up the initial conditions. It is a very poor argument indeed, because it presupposes that God never planned to intervene, and that, as far as creation is concerned, God wanted something akin to deism. But God’s sovereign plan, from time zero, could have included, and traditional Christianity teaches did include, direct intervention, not as a response to things gone awry, not because he was inept, which is what the argument you attribute to Van Till suggests as the logical conclusion from an intervening (in the physical world) god, but because he chose to operate in that manner.

    In other words, traditional Christianity would allow that God may introduce, however rarely it may be, discontinuities, and it can happen at any time, even today. The most obvious case is the example of the fall: traditional Christianity, couched in modern terms, would generally be in agreement that man’s genetic makeup was radically changed, in the blink of an eye, by the fall — through divine intervention, not via evolution.

    Traditional Christianity has always taught that God can and does intervene in the physical realm, not just the spiritual. Not to correct his blunders, but because it is his pleasure to do so.

  10. #10 Julia
    August 29, 2006

    The interesting question remains whether someone who holds such views can be Christian at all.

    This “interesting question” must be one you ask yourself, as it is no question to me. I am a Christian, and I believe that God is and always was able to do anything including arrange the world so that it functions according to scientific principles including those in the theory of evolution. In my own personal view, it is an act of supreme arrogance to declare that God must or should have a certain sort of relationship with nature.

    Science is endlessly fascinating as it reveals what the physical world is like, and whatever God chose to make it like is fine with me. If God chooses to confine his ongoing involvement to simple permission for the original plan to continue, that’s also fine with me. I think that accepting that whatever God’s planned world is, is right, and that accepting humbly that the most we can ever do is use our limited human resources to learn more about that world is exactly the “Traditional Christian” point of view.

    I think I detect a straw man version of their position being built and knocked down.

    Exactly. When Wells attempts to get Christians judging each other on their opinions about scientific issues, it’s just another kind of wedge to be used in a power struggle over who gets to define everyone else’s religious positions.

  11. #11 Jim Lippard
    August 29, 2006

    “Traditional Christianity” is an interesting term, considering that fundamentalism originated in the late 19th century, Protestantism with Martin Luther, and if you go back to the teachings of Jesus (not Paul), “traditional Christianity” is Judaism.

    Christianity has had a great deal of diversity since its origin, and probably never more than now–but most of those who would call themselves advocates of “traditional Christianity” are probably adherents to one of the more recent branches that have evolved. And even those sects with longer lineages have changed significantly in the last few centuries.

  12. #12 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Julia,

    it is an act of supreme arrogance to declare that God must or should have a certain sort of relationship with nature.

    I’m confused–are you not declaring that God has a “hands-off” relationship with nature? I don’t see how your view is less arrogant or more humble than any other. It’s your view, and you’re welcome to it, but it certainly is a specific perspective.

    and that accepting humbly that the most we can ever do is use our limited human resources to learn more about that world is exactly the “Traditional Christian” point of view.

    Agreed, but it has nothing to do with what we have been discussing–which is what traditional Christianity has taught, as a matter of historic record. I would agree that traditional Christianity advocates using our senses to study creation. That is, it advocates science. Reference the writings of Augustine and Aquinas. Christianity holding an anti-science position, to the extent that it does today, is not traditional, it’s an aberration.

    Let’s try another example: traditional Christianity has repeatedly affirmed spectacular divine interventions in which the physical laws were momentarily, radically, and locally suspended: i.e., the miracles. Parting of the Red Sea, walking on water, commanding the weather, stopping the sun, water into wine, feeding the thousands, etc.

    In these cases, it is traditionally taught, the miracles occurred not because they were “built into the initial conditions” and God watched as the differential equations did their job, but because God personally and directly intervened. Do Miller and Miller affirm the miracles? If not then, rather trivially, they are not aligned with traditional Christianity. Same with anyone posting here–to deny the miracles as God’s direct intervention into the physical realm is a denial of the majority view of Christianity throughout history.

    It goes without saying that this, in and of itself, does not address whether they are Christians, period. One could certainly argue whether or not one could be a nontraditional Christian, but that is a separate question.

  13. #13 RBH
    August 29, 2006

    Julia asked

    Thanks much for pointing this out. It’s good to know the Moon connection is being discussed.Wasn’t Wells’ Icons the basis for some of the biology lessons provided for high school students in Ohio under the “critically analyze” language?

    Yes, it was, and one of the State Board members most vehemently opposed to that lesson plan grounded his opposition in Wells’ Moonie connection, saying (a very close paraphrase) “I don’t want my grandchildren taught by some damned Moonie!”

  14. #14 Jeremy Mohn
    August 29, 2006

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    I know lots who take the position that while God obviously could have intervened, as God is all powerful, but that there is no evidence that he did, nor any need for him to do so.

    I think most theistic evolutionists would acknowledge that any intervention by God would be impossible to disprove. If God is truly all powerful, then God could work both in conjunction with and/or in opposition to natural processes. A supernatural cause, one that is completely unrestrained by nature, is of little use as a scientific explanation because it could potentially be used to explain everything.

    Some theistic evolutionists believe that God voluntarily limits divine intervention in the universe, similar to the way that parents limit their actions to allow a child to grow up and gain understanding through experience. Nevertheless, they believe the universe continues to exist only because of God’s sustaining presence that is poured out into it. In this view, God is still intimately involved in the ongoing existence of the universe.

    David Heddle wrote:

    Traditional Christianity has always taught that God can and does intervene in the physical realm, not just the spiritual. Not to correct his blunders, but because it is his pleasure to do so.

    I’m not sure how you define “Traditional Christianity,” but I think it is important to remember that the Biblical authors saw evidence of God’s intervention in rainbows, seasonal changes, lightning and thunder, snowstorms, etc. Today, these phenomena have well-understood natural causes. However, unless you put limits on how God can interact with creation, the existence of a natural explanation for a phenomena does not rule out the possibility of God’s involvement.

  15. #15 Raging Bee
    August 29, 2006

    The interesting question remains whether someone who holds such views can be Christian at all.

    This question is only “interesting” to people who are looking for excuses to brand others as “non-Christian,” “anti-Christian,” or “heretical.”

    Also, Mr. Heddle, on what documents do you rely for your interpretation of what is or is not a “traditional Christian” view? Something that is “traditional” should be well documented over a long period of time, no?

    And what’s the point of even discussing a “traditional Christian” view of natural and scientific phenomena? Our understanding of the material universe is based on a constant input of new information, and most Christians updated their view of it accordingly over the centuries. Even if a “traditional Christian” view could be shown to exist, wouldn’t it be made obsolete and useless by new information? What’s the effing point?

  16. #16 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Raging Bee,

    Is your objection to the term “traditional Christianity” aimed at me or at Keith Miller, the source of the phrase for the current thread? After all, as my original post indicates, I agree that the use of the term renders his comment rather pointless.

    That said, I would argue that “traditional Christianity” is as well defined as traditional “anything”. One can study what has been taught through the years, weighing the earlier more, on a given aspect, in this case creation and God’s intervention in the physical. It’s mostly, though not perfectly, objective. Did the church traditionally teach that God intervenes? It sure did, right up to the modern era. But don’t take my word for it, go to the library and read.

    As to what documents I rely on to define what was traditional Christianity, those would be the proceedings of the ecumenical councils, encyclicals, catechisms, historic creeds and confessions, and the writings of theologians who have achieved mainstream acceptance. Is that not obvious?

  17. #17 Uber
    August 29, 2006

    I doubt one could come to consensus on any ‘traditional’ view of Christianity. As Jim Lippard mentions you follow the chain far enough back and you’ll find alot of diversity.

    All the councils and such mean little if they themselves where just meldings of diverse groups at the get go, and they are. Thats the great thing about Christianity, it is so vague as to accomadate virtually any belief.

    Having said all that I do find Ken Millers view of evolution and the thinking he provides very muddled when it comes to his religion. It is clear from the religion that God does intervene in his creation and his hands off approach ignores this angle. Frankly who cares what the majority have thought in the past? This changes with the wind.

    Now it is equally clear to me these ‘interventions’ are in all likelyhood mythological events dreamed up by superstitious folks. So he’s correct on the science and he can believe whatever he chooses.

  18. #18 DougT
    August 29, 2006

    David H. said

    The most obvious case is the example of the fall: traditional Christianity, couched in modern terms, would generally be in agreement that man’s genetic makeup was radically changed, in the blink of an eye, by the fall — through divine intervention, not via evolution.

    While I can’t take issue at all with the notion that traditional Christianity asserts that some sort of major intervention by God happened at the time of the Fall, it seems to me an enormous stretch to say that traditional Christianity would make any specific mechanistic claims about how He intervened. As Ed and others have pointed out, as an omnipotent being, He would have not been constrained to work through the mechanisms we would currently deem most likely to influence aspects of the human phenotype. If you believe in the Fall, you are basing this belief on claims of divine revelation through scripture. If you believe that God tinkered with human DNA (and that of other species- everything was supposedly affected by the Fall) you are making a statement that is neither supported by science nor revealed by scripture. Where does it come from?

  19. #19 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    DougT,

    At some level, for the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter if it is supported by scripture. The question is what was traditionally taught. It is always possible that what was taught traditionally was also wrong and unsupportable.

    But at any rate I’ll answer your question. It has always been taught that man was both spiritually and physically radically corrupted by the fall, that the curses in Genesis imply a degraded body suddenly susceptible to disease and death.

    I projected, from experience, that even the most fundamentalist of Christians with whom I have discussed this do not object to the theorizing that one way God might have altered man at the fall was to alter his DNA. But that is pure speculation, and not critical to the argument.

    Obviously there is nothing in the bible to support that specific mechanism, but there is support for the traditional belief that man was one way, and suddenly, not gradually, he was another. That is rock-solid traditional Christianity. Without question, in traditional Christianity, God supernaturally intervened in the physical realm and altered life, in a way that is not describable by evolution.

    The only way to avoid that conclusion is to deny the traditional account of the fall, and indeed to renounce any belief in the miracles. That is anyone’s prerogative, but it is not traditional Christianity. Hence back to my main contention: belief in non-theistic evolution is not aligned with traditional Christianity, nor from simple Christology are the followers of the Rvd. Moon.

  20. #20 goddogit
    August 29, 2006

    Some interesting debate, until that stinky bore HEDDLE showed up! I’m gonna wash my hands and eyes…

  21. #21 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    goddogit,

    Some interesting debate, until that stinky bore HEDDLE showed up! I’m gonna wash my hands and eyes…

    In this case that is hard to see, since I was the first commenter. Exactly who was debating before I showed up?

    At any rate, it’s not your blog. If Ed agrees with you, he need only ask that I stop posting, and I will.

  22. #22 Julia
    August 29, 2006

    “I’m confused–are you not declaring that God has a “hands-off” relationship with nature?”

    As I see that question was addressed to me earlier in the day, I’ll go ahead and answer it:

    No, I’m not.

    I’m not “declaring” anything at all about God’s relationship with nature. As I said, “I believe that God is and always was able to do anything INCLUDING arrange the world so that it functions according to scientific principles including those in the theory of evolution. In my own personal view, it is an act of supreme arrogance to declare that God must or should have a certain sort of relationship with nature. ”

    “It goes without saying that this, in and of itself, does not address whether they are Christians, period.”

    Thank you for acknowledging that. We are in agreement.

    “One could certainly argue whether or not one could be a nontraditional Christian, but that is a separate question.”

    Nearly two thousand years of Christians never included the process of evolution in their thinking because they never heard of it. That doesn’t mean the absence of an acceptance of the theory of evolution is a requirement for being a Christian, traditional or otherwise. Until very recently Christians longing and praying for relief from illness never heard of antibiotics either, but that doesn’t mean that someone who use antibiotics stops being a traditional Christian. As for the miracles you mention, people in the past had no scientific explanation for them, and I don’t either; but I think that a religion based on a belief in this physical event or that being somehow forever unexplainable by science is really no more than superstition, transferring a belief in God into a belief about science.

    The thread focused originally on Wells as a traditional Christian. Miller’s comment implying that Wells probably “believes that Jesus’ death on the cross was a failure of his mission, and that Sun Myong Moon is the messiah come to complete Jesus’ failed work” make clear that “traditional Christian” in this context means one who believes that Jesus was successful in his mission of providing a way to reconcile people with God. Very few Christians, I’m guessing, in any age or time, would accept the Moon-as-Messiah belief as being integral to traditional Christianity.

  23. #23 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Julia,

    As for the miracles you mention, people in the past had no scientific explanation for them, and I don’t either; but I think that a religion based on a belief in this physical event or that being somehow forever unexplainable by science is really no more than superstition.

    Then, plain and simple, you are not a “traditional Christian.” (That is, if I understand correctly that you are denying the miracles as supernatural. Again, I am not in any way, shape or form saying that you are not a Christian.) There is no way to deny that the overwhelming majority of Christians designated certain events as once for all beyond the explanation of science, past, present, or future. Affirming miracles, even in light of modern science, has always been a part of traditional Christianity. To say otherwise, is simply to say that the phrase “traditional Christianity” has no meaning whatsoever.

  24. #24 Chance
    August 29, 2006

    If you believe in the Fall, you are basing this belief on claims of divine revelation through scripture

    What possible reason could one possibly have to believe that, given the evidence we have about our world, a state of perfection ever existed and B. that anything man could do could throw such a thing out of whack.

    that even the most fundamentalist of Christians with whom I have discussed this do not object to the theorizing that one way God might have altered man at the fall was to alter his DNA. But that is pure speculation, and not critical to the argument.

    That is a near hilarious paragraph. Adults sitting around pondering whether or not an invisible being altered the DNA of humans because they ate an apple or did something wrong. Good grief.

    But I do agree with David on one aspect, evolution does real damage to Christianity from many angles of argument.

  25. #25 Uber
    August 29, 2006

    To say otherwise, is simply to say that the phrase “traditional Christianity” has no meaning whatsoever.

    I vote for this version.

    I think Julia is correct, if not in terms of this discussion(of which I feel a correct answer is impossible to discern) but in reality. People believe in miracles today that are proven to be non supernatural all the time. It was certainly so when the bible was written as well. To resume because they are written in an ancient book that they are somehow above what occurs today is rather odd.

  26. #26 Ed Darrell
    August 29, 2006

    Heddle said:

    The most obvious case is the example of the fall: traditional Christianity, couched in modern terms, would generally be in agreement that man’s genetic makeup was radically changed, in the blink of an eye, by the fall — through divine intervention, not via evolution.

    Heddle, I had thought you were about to start making sense, but then you popped out with this stuff.

    Sin isn’t in the genes, David. Stick to physics. Nothing in scripture supports a claim that anyone’s or anything’s genetic makeup was altered as a result of the Fall. There is no indication that any serious “theistic evolutionist” scientist has ever suggested such a thing, and most theologians simply admit it’s out of their area.

    The Fall deals with sin, not genetics. Sin is not transmitted father to son, in the genes.

  27. #27 386sx
    August 29, 2006

    The Fall deals with sin, not genetics. Sin is not transmitted father to son, in the genes.

    Right. Traditional Christianity should stick with scripture and with the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, but not with the things that are clearly seen. Hey, wait a minute…

  28. #28 David Heddle
    August 29, 2006

    Y’all are beginning to drift into attacking traditional Christianity–which is certainly your right, but of little relevance to the discussion at hand. Whether the miracles are myths is irrelevant–it is only important that traditional Christianity accepts them as supernatural events.

    The fall certainly does deal with sin and not genetics, but in traditional Christianity it (the fall) also deals with the corruption of man’s physical state. Traditional Christianity also teaches of primary vs. secondary causes (need I provide references?) So it would (a) absolutely affirm that God did alter man physically and supernaturally and (b) not rule out that God might have done that through secondary means. No secondary means could have been conceived in biblical times, but today we can imagine that one possibility is that God altered the genes. Such speculation is accommodated in traditional Christianity–what is not tolerated is speculation contrary to scripture or to demand that one’s speculation be treated as binding. On issues where scripture is silent, traditional Christianity has not prohibited speculation. You can find all manner of speculation in the writings of the church fathers regarding creation–none of them (that I have read) ever argued that if it doesn’t say so explicitly in the bible, one must not speculate. Even the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura does not go that far, it states only that all necessary revelation is contained in scripture.

  29. #29 JimC
    August 29, 2006

    On issues where scripture is silent, traditional Christianity has not prohibited speculation.

    It’s hardly quiet on this issue. It tells you exactly what happened. You can choose to believe it or not. But don’t say it’s silent.

    It says right there in the passages with the talking snake and eating of the forbidden fruit.

  30. #30 Ed Darrell
    August 29, 2006

    Oh, speculation where scripture is silent is allowed, sure — but traditional Christianity does NOT speculate that the nature of man changed fundamentally, at the genetic level, at the fall. The concept that humans changed physically at the Fall is a concept of modern fundamentalism, not traditional Christianity. The idea that no one died prior to the Fall is another modern, non-traditional concept.

    And, that modern conception came with a rejection of the traditional Christian view that the stories of creation were metaphorical, leading up to the grand language of John 1, and not scientific fact in any sense.

    In fact, most of what P.Z. and others are complaining about here is modern Christians’ rejecting the use of reason, claiming through some odd twist of logic that the Bible should be considered superior especially where it is scientifically wrong.

    Aquinas warned Christians: If it sounds crazy, don’t defend it as religion. Modern fundamentalists have rejected that wise counsel, adopting instead a position of “If the religious position sounds crazy, then science that provides a reasonable explanation of what really happened is evil.”

    Heddle, Adam and Eve should have noted something was amiss when the snake tried to persuade them to eat the apple. THAT is the Fall — being persuaded by crazy things. Wells is nothing but a talking snake. Anyone who defends craziness instead of reason is a talking snake. If one gets no other lesson out of Genesis, it should be this: When a snake talks, beware!

    Taking the advice of talking snakes leads to trouble, Heddle. Don’t try to argue around it to the point that the next talking snake misleads you, too.

  31. #31 Caliban
    August 30, 2006

    Boy, all this “what is a traditional christian?” hair-splitting sounds suspiciously to me like “who is a true Scottsman?”

    Are the Christians of the Dark Ages who tortured and murdered thousands of women for “witchcraft” traditional or non-traditional?

    It seems to me that the historical record of religous barbarity has a much longer history to track than the more tolerant versions of Christianity practiced today, thereby making the overwhelming majority of today’s Christians non-traditional in important respects.

  32. #32 DougT
    August 30, 2006

    Chance asked about my statement

    If you believe in the Fall, you are basing this belief on claims of divine revelation through scripture

    Chance, it’s quite simple. I don’t believe in the fall. I’m not a Chrisitan, and I don’t believe in God. My statement was made in the hypotehtical- note that it begins with the word”if.” Since there is no physical evidence that the Fall happened, one is left with divine revelation as the only plausible reason that one can give for holding that belief.

    David

    My point was not to suggest that a belief in profound physical changes involving life on Earth as a result of the Fall is somehow an optional feature of orthodox Christianity. Of course it is. My point is that citing specific mechanisms of divine intervention is not an essential feature. Your statement

    I projected, from experience, that even the most fundamentalist of Christians with whom I have discussed this do not object to the theorizing that one way God might have altered man at the fall was to alter his DNA. But that is pure speculation, and not critical to the argument.

    Is all well and good, I suppose, except that it doesn’t get you anywhere. God could have bombarded the planet with xarthon rays (we haven’t discovered these yet). He could have removed the protective influence of a subatomic particle called the deiton by deleting the existence of all of them from the universe. So what? None of this reveals anything about the nature of God or of the world. None of it can be tested. So why is it relevent?

    IMHO, the most traditional Christian view of this question is to say that God works in many ways that people don’t understand and may never understand. Faced with this. Christians continue to believe that He did and continues to do certain things that govern their lives. I believe that the technical term for that positon is “faith.”

  33. #33 DougT
    August 30, 2006

    David,

    There is a typo in my last posting. In my first parpagraph to you, I meant to say, “of course it isn’t. Oops…

  34. #34 David Heddle
    August 30, 2006

    Caliban,

    Leaving aside the veracity of the claim thousands were murdered in the Dark Ages for witchcraft, it is crystal clear that while killing people for apostasy did occur, it is not traditional Christianity. If the historic creeds of the church taught “kill the infidels” you might have a point. The very term “traditional Christianity” presupposes that there are distinctive aberrations, and murdering in the name of Christ is one of the most unfortunate. Do you think flying planes into buildings is “traditional Islam?” I don’t.

    And any reference, even obliquely, to the overused “true Scotsman” fallacy is very misplaced. You might go there (it would still be wrong to do so) if I stated that “Moonies are not true Christians” (I believe that, actually) but not if I say “Moonies are not traditional Christians.” The latter, especially in extreme cases such as the Moonies, is not even arguable. What Christians have believed has been written down, and it’s a simple matter to verify that the Moonies are not in the same zip code.

    By the way, personally I don’t view the term “nontraditional Christian” pejoratively. It would be kind of silly, since I am not a traditional Christian. I believe in an old universe, and while the six-day view of creation has never been the uniform view of the church, it would be hard to argue that it is not the traditional view. I hold to a postmillennial eschatology which, though better grounded in church history than the “left behind” view so popular today, is definitely not the traditional view–that honor goes to amillennialism. So am I guilty of the true Scotsman fallacy even when I claim that I am not a true Scotsman?

  35. #35 Julia
    August 30, 2006

    Boy, all this “what is a traditional christian?” hair-splitting sounds suspiciously to me like “who is a true Scottsman?”

    Excellent point.

    Ed began by giving us a quote that pointed out how a man who believes that Jesus failed as a messiah is trying to define traditional Christianity to include that rejection and exclude anybody who accepts the theory of evolution. David then continued along the same lines as Wells by defining traditional Christianity as to exclude me, and of course by implication anybody else who accepts the theory of evolution and/or does not insist that the physical events of the miracles he mentions can never, ever, ever have scientific explanations.

    Of course, scientific explanations were unknown to all those hundreds of years of Christians, and many Christians today (as well as non-Christians) still have no real idea what science is. In other words, “traditional Christianity” here is being defined not according to its central core belief that Jesus provided a way to reconcile God and people, but according to the ignorance of Christians on various subjects.

    This whole exercise in defining traditional Christianity can act to make some Christians, especially those who know the least about science, suspicious of those Christians who accept evolution. In other words, the “one true Scotsman” argument supported by many of David’s comments acts as just another political/social move to exalt ID and its followers as somehow the “one true Christian” tradition and lends credence to Wells’ presumed position that the Jesus is not the central and sole defining fact of Christianity, traditional and modern.

  36. #36 Caliban
    August 30, 2006

    David, the impetus to burn witches and heretics did not arrive to the Christians of the dark ages out of thin air. All the activity that was committed during that roughly 800 year period which we condemn today on moral and ethical grounds, was, back then, justified on biblical grounds.

    “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” May not be intrepreted litterally today, but it certainly was in the past and would no doubt be seen as a part of “traditional Christianity” from thier point of view.

    I would also point out that killing heretics (especially other Christians) has a long history dating back to the first Christian Roman Emperor. Such intolerances, again, did arrive out of thin air but were inspired and justified by a litteral interpretation of the bible.

    Which, to me, seems the obvious defintion of Traditional Christianity. For 95% of the history of Christianity the bible was largely interpreted litteraly. Non-litteralist approaches to the bible are more a product of relatively recent (modern) history than anything “traditional”.

  37. #37 David Heddle
    August 30, 2006

    Caliban,

    For 95% of the history of Christianity the bible was largely interpreted litteraly. Non-litteralist approaches to the bible are more a product of relatively recent (modern) history than anything “traditional”.

    No, just the opposite is true. The most literal bible hermeneutic ever devised is dispensationalism, which is only about a hundred years old. It has had enjoyed widespread acceptance and influence. The majority of evangelical churches are influenced by dispensationalism. You must be aware of the “left behind” phenomenon –millions of Christians awaiting an imminent pretribulation rapture –this is a new view resulting from the extreme literalism of dispensationalism. As a general rule Christians do not, today, read the bible with less of an inclination toward literalism, but more.

  38. #38 Caliban
    August 30, 2006

    David, Sorry to nit-pick, but i don’t think modern foundamentalists are greater litteralists than thier forbears. The entire notion of “the Rapture” is a modern phenomenon, but it arrives from a rather subjective, overall intrepretation of Revelations. Modern day evangelicals approach that particular book as a kind of subjective “code” who’s “real” message is unlocked with the “right” interpretation of it’s contents.

    The litteralism Chritians have historicly placed on the rest of the bible, particularily in reguard to the killing of witches, gays, heretics, and the treatment of women, children, slaves, etc. -are all exprestions of litteralist readings.

    The modern “liberalisation” of reading such passages non-litteraly today are a stark contrast to the kind of Christianity as practiced by Christians for the overwhelming duration of its’ history.