Conservative Theology

April 11, 2010

Religion and Science / (Almost) Believing in Divine Action


One thing that many people have always told me is that there is a difference between knowing something and believing it.  You only really believe something when that belief has practical consequences for your life.  I might know that God knows what's best for me, but if I continually act against His will, what does that say about my true beliefs about God?

In the same vein, I want to discuss Waltke's leaving Reformed Theological Seminary.  For those who don't know, Waltke is an evangelical who is also a semi-theistic evolutionist.  His recent comments in a Biologos video, indicating that those who "disregard science" are in danger of making Christianity a cult, got him in hot water, and I believe he resigned.

In any case, I wanted to look at some of the things Waltke says, and why, rather than help the cause of Divine Action in the world, they actually play right into the hands of the materialists.

Here is Waltke's summary of his position, and my comments:

1. [God] created all the things that are out of nothing and sustains them

This is fine, but it leads to nothing interesting.  That is, it doesn't have many practical consequences on its own.

2. incredibly, against the laws probability, [God] finely tuned the essential properties of the universe to produce ADAM, who is capable of reflecting upon their origins

This is still pretty vague. First of all, how does Waltke know how probable the universe is?  This is a pretty safe claim, precisely because it doesn't lead to any definitively positive statement about anything.

3. within his providence [God] allowed the process of natural selection and of cataclysmic interventions – such as the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, enabling mammals to dominate the earth – to produce awe-inspiring creatures, especially ADAM [by Adam he means the human race].

So did God do this or just allow it to happen.  If it is the former, what are the marks of the catastrophe, and how does it differ from natural acts?  How are we to understand, theologically, God wiping out the dinosaurs?  What was the reason for their creation in the first place, in order to wipe them out?  Why did God need to use a meteor, rather than just create humans?

4. by direct creation [God] made ADAM a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith

What are the properties of a spiritual being?  Are they biological in character?  Or is this just another nebulous claim? 

5. [God] allowed ADAM to freely choose to follow their primitive animal nature and to usurp the rule of God instead of living by faith in God, losing fellowship with their physical and spiritual Creator.

Where? When? How?  What did life look like before humans did this?  What was the effect of it happening?

6. and in his mercy [God] chose from fallen ADAM the Israel of God, whom he regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in connection with their faith in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, for fellowship with himself.

Well, finally, there we get something concrete.  Of course, this part has nothing to do with Creation.

So, do you see the pattern?  Waltke is painting all sorts of nebulous theological ideas, which are mere superficial dressing over evolutionary biology.  What happens to a lot of people is that they start out believing this, but then shortly realize that 1-5 are entirely superfluous!  The have no practical impact on anything.  If they were removed, you probably wouldn't notice.

God didn't do anything, He just allowed it to happen, or, if He did do something, He did it in such a way as to look just like He did nothing.

Here's the deal - I don't mind theistic evolution so much as I mind this complete capitulation to naturalism.  Might the belief in God have *some* effect on what you believe in science?  Behe, for instance, has tried to show explicit design in the world through Irreducible Complexity.  He might be right or wrong, but he is at least saying, this is something which is (a) different from a naturalistic belief, and (b) has practical consequences to biology.

Some people worry because, *gasp* what if it is proven wrong? Here's the deal - almost everything we think we know will probably be proven wrong at some point.  Deal with it.  We need to work with what we have, and take every thought captive to the knowledge of Christ.  That means that we should not engage science as materialists.  While Waltke claims he is not doing this, in practice he is.  Despite the fact that the scientific world is steeped in materialist thinking, Waltke provides no fundamental critique of their results.  One would think that having such a wrong starting point might cause their results to be off in some practical, identifiable way, not merely in some esoteric way.

So, while he does, at least in words, give a challenge to naturalistic thinking, *in practice* his view plays right into their hands.  Because one day his students will wake up and realize that all of the theologizing was superfluous window dressing, and it was the materialistic paradigm which was doing all of the heavy lifting.  Hopefully when this happens they will say, "how can we fix this?"  But I fear that Waltke's own teaching of deference to science on all questions of natural history will cause them to instead simply cast off the theology as irrelevant to reality.







April 11, 2010

Religion and Politics / Sam Harris Commits the Is/Ought Fallacy in Public


In a situation which must be as embarrassing as being caught with your zipped down (a situation many people have had to discreetly let me know about in my life), Sam Harris commits the is/ought fallacy in a public place, on an Internet-televised Ted talk.

If you're interested, I posted my critique on UncommonDescentAlan McNeil's post was also interesting.