Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Stupidity in Louisville

Intelligent Design advocate William Dembski is coming to town to teach at Southern Seminary and launch the Center for Science and Theology. Dembski has Ph.Ds in philosophy and mathematics and will soon begin teaching young pastors to challenge the fantasies of Darwinian orthodoxy.

Rather than welcoming Dembski to town, his appearance has been greeted by scowls from shrill Darwinists looking to protect their shattered faith from challenge. (Here is a sampling of letters published by our scurrilous local rag, the Courier Journal.)

Meanwhile, the University of Louisville has endowed a chair on Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality and has decided it would be a swell idea to bring Angela Davis to town.

Who are these people, and why exactly should I take them seriously?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Darrell,

I'm often struck with what seems to me the senselessness of the war that has raged for so long between Evangelicals and the world of science. Certainly, in one sense, the protagonists represent competing rationalisms, one, a kind of positivism of the bible and the other, that of the scientific methodology. There is never, it seems to me, on either side, the thought of context. The Evangelical dilema would appear to stem from its nominalism, it's extrinsicism, it's understanding that man and God are related legally but not in any real sense. The problem of the secularist, not dissimilarly, also would seem found in a kind of extrinsicism, albeit one so radical as to identify man as self enclosed.

There is a context to these things. Reason, as things are with everything else in Creation, is derivative. The question is not so much a matter of reason or faith as it is reason in faith. There is a place for reason, even for the hypothesis offered by the theory of evolution, provided that it is referred to its context: Truth, which is not merely an attribute of God, but His very being itself. The error of scientism is to see itself as isolated from Truth, yet, peculiarly, attempting to discern it. But is this not the self same dilema of the Evangelical, to see Scripture as a recitation of facts that though given by God, are in an important way received quite apart from Him as propositions, principles and the like? Would not a more contextualized view be less exclusionary? I think so.

John Lowell

11:40 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Interesting thoughts, as always.

If you would be so indulgent, I would ask if you believe the nominalism, positivism, rationalism, etc., that you mention are endemic to all of Protestantism? In other words, do you assume that there is something of a straight line from Calvin and Luther to contemporary Evangelicalism on this question?

I ask because it seems that in a purely historical context, it seems hard to define the early Reformers as hostile to science. So I would be interested in knowing where and when you think Evangelicalism hopped the tracks.

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Darrell,

It seems to me that you are quite right to raise this question with history as a reference and to answer it without mentioning the subtle changes that have occurred in Protestant treatment of the use of Holy Scripture over the centuries would be to fail utterly in providing an answer.

The Reformation took place at a time and in an environment where nominalism was ascendant in the schools. The older, modified realism of St. Thomas had been edged aside. It would be very difficult to deny that nominalist thought forms influenced both Calvin and Luther profoundly. Indeed, Luther would seem to have acknowledged this point quite specifically. If one begins by thinking about the God/man distance in nominalist terms, the development of an entire theology distinct and apart from what preceeded it becomes possible. And, of course, that is precisely what emerged. Although these foundations, these presuppositions if you will, are poorly grasped by Protestants generally and rarely, if ever, noted, they are its common inheritance over the centuries.

It is my feeling that this elemental nominalism set the stage for the eventual encounter of modern fundamentalism with Enlightenment science and it weakened Protestantism's ability to hold up it's own end in the ensuing debate. But, somehow, I cannot quite see John Calvin making the arguments brought by today's Evangelicals regarding the theory of evolution, and that - and this comment may surprize you - simply because his understanding of the nature of the authority of Holy Scripture differs so profoundly from their own.

It's essence: An important point of departure occurred within Protestantism with the coming of the Hodge-Warfield theology. Introduced at this juncture were building blocks so different from the Calvinism that preceeded it that today, the two can be perceived as only vaguely related. Consider, for example, this passage from Hodge's Systematic Theology:

"The infallibility and divine authority of the Scriptures are due to the fact that they are the word of God; and they are the word of God because they were given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost."

And this passage from the Westminster Confession:

"We may be moved and induced by the the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God ; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

Clearly, the imporant difference between these two statements is found in the unapologetic objectivising by Hodge. To Hodge, the Scriptures come to us from the outside as inspired, as a kind of object as it were. The inspiration is a given and should be accepted on it's face. The Confession, however, sees the authority of Scripture as something authenticated by the Holy Spirit. But it is Hodge and his disciple, Warfield, that have been decisive for modern Evangelicalism, not the Confession.

Hodge substituted a doctrine of inspiration for the witness of the Holy Spirit and in doing so provided an apologetic for a wholly new way of doing Christianity: The employment of Scripture as an object and the extraction from it of propositional truths to be lived-out quite externally by the reader. The sense of Scripture is determined in much the same way as are the truths of science: By an examination of an object - in this case the Bible - as a mere fact, albeit a holy one. This unfortunate trivializing and its implications for a meaningful engagement with the world of science become obvious. In an important way, Hodge succumbed to the regnant rationalism of his time leaving to his followers an uneven fight. The Scopes Trial becomes his legacy.

I'm sure that these comments raise as many questions as they answer, Darrell. At best they're offered in a hurry.

Yours In The Holy Trinity,

John Lowell

3:01 PM  

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