Today, your faithful iMonk correspondent reports from the front lines of the “Creation Wars” about recent articles on issues related to science and Biblical interpretation.
Duck and cover.
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1. October saw Peter Enns move his blog to the Patheos evangelical portal. Enns dived right in and wrote about the ongoing debate on the Bible and evolution, with five posts analyzing Al Mohler’s positions on Young Earth Creationism.
- What Al Mohler Thinks about the Bible and Evolution (and why I am concerned enough to write about it)
- Al Mohler and the “Apparent Age” of the Cosmos
- Al Mohler’s Theory of “Apparent Age”: Two More Problems
- Al Mohler, Adam, and Evolution on NPR
- Al Mohler, Adam, Evolution, and NPR (final)
If you would like to listen to Al Mohler’s side, here is the link to his appearance on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” He sat down along with Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR’s religion correspondent, and Daniel Harlow, religion professor from Calvin College, and discussed the ongoing debate in the Christian community.
Why does Enns devote five articles to responding to Mohler?
My aim is not to cross swords with Mohler, put him in his place, go after him, score points, misrepresent, or any of the other types of tactics that tend to be employed when people disagree on the internet.
Those tactics are both tedious and sub-Christian, and I continue to be amazed at how easily theological watchdogs fail to watch their own theologies by their belligerent denunciations and mockeries of those who don’t interpret the Bible the way they do, thinking the Gospel is at stake at every turn.
Having said that, let me state clearly that I believe Mohler is dead wrong at virtually every turn in how he approaches the difficult subject of biblical Christianity and evolution. I also believe he is free to think as he choses and live with the consequences, and I am not writing to convince him otherwise.
I am writing, rather, for the sake of those who are living with the consequences of what Mohler says they must believe–those who feel trapped in Mohler’s either/or rhetoric, that to question a literal interpretation of Scripture concerning creation puts one on the path to apostasy.
Driven by his precommitment to biblical literalism, Mohler leaves his audience with an impossible false choice between a Christian faith that must remain in intellectual isolation in order to survive and an intellectual life that has no place for Christian faith.
Mohler’s rhetoric is spiritually harmful because it is intellectually untenable.
So, in the posts that follow, I will aim to express very clearly why Mohler’s views are simply unsupportable once one steps outside of the intellectual categories Mohler presumes are closed to discussion.
More importantly, I hope to give to the spiritually distressed some confidence to reject the intellectual demands Mohler makes of them.
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2. On October 18, Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens had an editorial in the New York Times called, “The Evangelical Rejection of Reason.” The argument is essentially an abstract of their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age. Some people find Giberson abrasive. I agree that he is direct and at times not as nuanced as he could be, but overall I find his positions reasonable and important.
Beginning with references to what they see as a climate of “anti-intellectualism” in the Republican presidential field, Giberson and Stephens write, “But evangelical Christianity need not be defined by the simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced.”
As an alternative, they assert: “Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary.”
They go on to build their case against the “parallel culture” evangelicalism has created by focusing on three representative evangelical personalities: Ken Ham, David Barton and James C. Dobson. In contrast to these charismatic popular leaders, they point us to men they consider more intellectually responsible: historian Mark Noll of Notre Dame, and Dr. Francis Collins.
Giberson wrote a follow-up piece in The Huffington Post called, “Why Christians Need a Secular World.”
As one might expect, Al Mohler was not impressed with Giberson and Stephens’ arguments. He responded with, “Total Capitulation: The Evangelical Surrender of Truth.”