Philip Clayton and Harvey Cox both have new books out and they are taking them out on a blog tour. One of the blog tour stops will be here, and as you can see below they will be making their rounds over the next month.
They will wrap things up in Montreal at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting where they will be joined by a top notch panel including Eric Gregory, Bruce Sanguin, Serene Jones, Frank Tupper, and Andrew Sung Park to share a 'Big Idea' for the future of the Church. These 'Big Ideas' will be video tapped and shared, and I'll post a link when they are ready.
Clayton's new book is Transforming Christian Theology for Church & Society and Cox's is The Future of Faith. Both are worth checking out at one of the many tour stops. If you can't wait you can listen to them interview each other. I am currently working through Cox's The Future of Faith, and hope to have several posts on it in the near future.
Here's the blog tour list if you want to follow what's going on:
Joseph Weethee , Jonathan Bartlett, The Church Geek, Jacob’s Cafe, Reverend Mommy, Steve Knight, Todd Littleton, Christina Accornero, John David Ryan, LeAnn Gunter Johns, Chase Andre, Matt Moorman, Gideon Addington, Ryan Dueck, Rachel Marszalek, Amy Moffitt, Josh Wallace, Jonathan Dodson, Stephen Barkley, Monty Galloway, Colin McEnroe, Tad DeLay, David Mullens, Kimberly Roth, Tripp Hudgins, Tripp Fuller, Greg Horton, Andrew Tatum, Drew Tatusko, Sam Andress, Susan Barnes, Jared Enyart, Jake Bouma, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Blake Huggins, Lance Green, Scott Lenger, Dan Rose, Thomas Turner, Les Chatwin, Joseph Carson, Brian Brandsmeier, J. D. Allen, Greg Bolt, Tim Snyder, Matthew L. Kelley, Carl McLendon, Carter McNeese, David R. Gillespie, Arthur Stewart, Tim Thompson, Joe Bumbulis, Bob Cornwall
This Tour is Sponsored by Transforming Theology DOT org!
[Note that while I did edit this to my own satisfaction, this was a suggested announcement post for the blog tour, and may look strangely like other announcements for the tour at other sites]
A few days ago, Todd Wood (one of the leading creation biologists today) made a medium-sized splash in the blogosphere with this post. In it, among other things, he said:
Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.
This was followed by another post which clarified some of his statements. The whole post is interesting, and I'll include a snippet here:
I think you've already figured out an important corollary to this line of thinking, that squabbling over low level theories has very little to do with the acceptance of the high level model. Scientists can argue over the effectiveness of natural selection without ever questioning the high level concept of common ancestry. Likewise, new fossils can be heralded as "changing our understanding of evoluion" in the sense that low level theories have to be modified. The strength of the high level model is relatively impervious to these changes.
Understandably, this post generated quite a bit of reaction among Creationists and non-Creationists.
So, is there evidence for evolution? Certainly if you read most anything from Answers in Genesis or CMI, it certainly seems the answer is "no". So what's up? Why is Todd thinking there is lots of evidence and AiG and CMI saying there isn't any?
I think that, ultimately, the reason is that they are speaking to two different questions.
The question that Todd probably often faces as a researcher is this - "is evolution a useful and helpful heuristic for my scientific research?" Or perhaps something like "is there a lot of corroborating evidence for evolution?" Or maybe even "are there legitimate reasons for a person to accept evolution as a fact?" The answer to all of these have in fact been a resounding "yes" for a lot of people - a lot of smart, educated people who are familiar with the data.
But that's not the end of the story.
There is a difference between something being a rational choice, and something being the only rational choice.
The problem is that many people not only use evolutionary theory as a valid framework for their own lives, research, and work, but that they require others to follow along or shut up. That is, they don't allow for other people to have come to different conclusions, and say that doing so is simply irrational.
I hope you can see that having valid evidence for yourself is different than having compelling evidence for others. Most people who are evolutionists believe that not only are they right, but that the evidence is compelling enough that you should think the same way, too.
And that, I think, is what AiG and CMI and the like are responding to. When someone says "there's no evidence for evolution," I think most people who say that are really saying, "there's no evidence for evolution that is publicly compelling." By "public" I don't mean the quantity of people who believe it, but rather that the nature of it is not universally compelling.
In the case of evolution, I would agree 100% with those people who say there is no evidence for evolution that is publicly compelling.
Now, of course, the question is, "what do you mean by evolution." If, by evolution, you simply mean "things change", well, that is obvious. If, instead, you mean "evolution by natural selection", then not only do I think that there's no evidence, I think it is logically unsound. If, though, you mean "universal common ancestry", then I think that while there is plenty of corroborating data, there is no piece of data that is externally compelling.
Todd, in fact, does us the favor of listing the basic reasoning for evolution:
Take for example the idea that species evolved from a common ancestor. This is a very simple high level idea that lots of people thought of before Darwin. There are several observations that support this model: (1) the "progress" recorded in the fossil record, (2) comparative biology (e.g., comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, etc.), and (3) the biogeography of species of high affinity. If you like, you could add the philosophical "consilience of induction" of common ancestry to explain many types of data. In my estimation, and I think most evolutionary biologists would agree, these evidences are sufficient to support the common ancestry of all species.
I would agree, especially having read some of the papers from the 1900s time frame. The main evidence for evolution is basically that (a) homologies exist, and (b) different fossils are found in different layers. While I can certainly see why these facts might lead people to believe in evolution, there is nothing in them that would be publicly compelling.
Without even getting into young-earth Creationism, changes in the fossil record are also consistent with multiple acts of creation, multiple origins of life, and probably a number of other possibilities. In fact, if you look at the major phyla of life, there is really nothing that would make someone think that there was a common ancestor to them.
In his post, Todd separates out neo-Darwinism from common ancestry, pointing out that even if neo-Darwinism fails, it would do nothing to detract from common ancestry. I agree with him if he is talking about personal reasons to believe in common ancestry. However, the key point of neo-Darwinism is that this was the idea which is used to cover the ground between personally-valid beliefs about the nature of evidence, and publicly-valid conclusions which we should all reach.
Before neo-Darwinism, there was no mechanism to link the different stages of fossils. Generally, if we know of a mechanistic method A of producing B from C, we tend to use A as the explanation for B when it occurs. When we find bullets in someone's body, we do not presume of an unorthodox way for the bullet to have gotten in there - we generally assume, unless there is specific evidence to the contrary - that the bullet was fired from a gun.
Thus, by this common mode of reasoning, many people used neo-Darwinism as the link to make personal views about evolution publicly compelling. Because, as the logic goes, we now have an experimentally-verified mechanism (so they said) of how evolution works, we now can say that it is publicly compelling that the way in which the fossils in layer A gave rise to the fossils in layer B was neo-Darwinism.
Now, of course, the neo-Darwinian mechanism never showed any such thing. Finally in the last few decades it has been realized that there is a fundamental difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. People in evolution say that macro-evolution is no less proven. However, I think that this confuses the boundary between personal validity and public validity. The evidence for macro-evolution is the fossil record, but without a clear mechanism demonstrably capable of performing that task, the evidence is not more publicly compelling than any other explanation.
Now, of course, some people may say that nothing is publicly compelling. I disagree, because there is a difference between being publicly compelling and being true. The fact is, if we have schools, we have to teach something in them. If we have a government, we need to have laws. So the point of a point of fact being publicly compelling is that, as far as the public goes, it is taken as a likely truth. This doesn't mean that it must be true or that you can't have a private disagreement, but that it doesn't carry much weight publicly.
And this leads us to why anyone cares in the first place. Most YECs, OECs, and IDists don't really care that scientists work using neo-Darwinism as a foundational truth. You don't generally find right-wing Christians picketing evolutionary biology labs. I've met a lot of creationists, but I've never met one who wanted to prevent a biologist from using evolution in their own work.
However, the fact is that science is currently a publicly-funded enterprise. It is taught in publicly-funded schools. It is used as an assumed truth in courts. So in these and other areas, what happens with science turns public.
Therefore, if evolution is to be used to the exclusion of other ideas in these areas, then it must be publicly-compelling, and not just personally so, or personally useful. It's one thing to teach evolution (which I think that there are publicly-compelling reasons to teach evolution. It's another thing to teach that it is true. It's one thing to allow evolutionary research. it's another thing to only allow evolutionary research.
So, in the case of Todd's blog post, he says this:
I'm motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure. People who say that are either unacquainted with the inner workings of science or unacquainted with the evidence for evolution.
I don't know who Todd is speaking of, but I'm tempted to agree with both Todd and his clueless, well-meaning friend. Evolution has been very successful at producing a framework which has been useful to a number of people. Evolution (either as neo-Darwinism or universal common ancestry) has also been an utter failure in providing publicly-compelling evidence for its operation.
One concession I will make, though, is that, even as a Young-Earth Creationist, I think that the arguments for an old earth are publicly compelling. I disagree with them, and think that the evidence from history and scripture (as well as many interesting parts of the geologic column) points to a global flood. However, radiometric dating provides just the kind of evidence I pointed to above that makes something publicly-compelling. There are hints that radiometric dating is not the whole story, and it is my personal opinion that in the future we will find additional mechanisms by which radioactive rates can be dramatically altered, along with an understanding of how this fits in geology. The RATE group has made important progress, but they have not yet achieved a result that I think is publicly compelling. I find this information to be personally compelling, but I think that so far radiometric dating puts the question of the age of the earth as being publicly-compelling for an old earth.
Interestingly, that's also why I like academic freedom. As I pointed out, publicly-compelling is not the same thing as true. The freedom of conscience is always vital because even our most precious and seemingly self-evident assumptions about life are not guaranteed to be true. But the public sphere must be operated on some basis, and that is why it is important to distinguish things from being personally or publicly compelling, and why both Todd and the person he was frustrated with are probably both right.
The Little Light House is one of the best ministries I've ever been involved with. They are a Christian, private, tuition-free school for special-needs kids. That's right, the kids who go there don't have to pay anything at all.
This isn't day-care - it's an intensive, customized program for each child. The school day lets out at 1PM, and the staff spends the rest of the day planning each child's next day. When a child gets to school, they have a card of things that they are going to work on that day. It's both extremely fun and extremely helpful for the children -- and the parents.
While our oldest son, Danny, was alive, he attended the Little Light House. His world expanded so much while he was there. His ability to play with others and interact and do new things hinged upon the teachers at the Little Light House and their love and their help. Danny had to be fed through a tube, received many, many, many medications at specially-timed intervals, and, if everyone was lucky, he only threw up three times a day. Yet the Little Light House had no problems seeing to his every need while he was there, and providing every manner of therapy. At the Little Light House, they have physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and probably a lot of other therapies I'm not so familiar with. And everything is done in a specifically Christian way.
Isaac had the same genetic defect that Danny had, and, had he lived long enough, would have enjoyed the services of the Little Light House as well. As soon as we discovered his condition, we reserved him a spot there, because we knew that their help was the difference between night and day for us.
Below are pictures of Danny learning at the Little Light House. Also, for those of you who didn't get to know Danny or Isaac, I pasted their memorial videos below. In any case, please consider helping out the Little Light House - they have been a huge blessing to us, and to many, many, many other children.
You can donate now by going here.
Here is Danny's Memorial Video:
Isaac's Memorial Video:
A few pictures of Danny at the Little Light House if you don't have time for the video:
The picture below might look like playtime to you, but this was actually crucial for Danny. He had problems touching a variety of surfaces - many different textures made him cry and gag and puke (yes, really). The Little Light House worked with him to help him adjust his senses to be able to touch and play with a huge variety of textures.
In the last post, we talked about why gay marriage is an inappropriate Christian option. Now I want to focus on gay marriage as part of a society, and whether or not it has an appropriate place.
So, first off, why does the government say anything about marriage at all?
There are many reasons. Modern social thinking tries to view humans as discrete individuals whose actions, in general, affect no one but themselves. In fact, if your actions happen to affect someone else, this is often considered a bad thing.
But in reality, humans live in relation to each other. Therefore, if the law is to treat people like humans, it has a stake in certain relationships.
The worst argument I have ever heard of for gay marriage is that "if you disagree with same-sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex" (warning, explicit language!). The argument is that gay marriage only affects the people getting married. Unfortunately, our society's view of marriage has degenerated so low that people actually buy this argument.
The fact is, in marriage, one of the MAIN POINTS of getting married is precisely so that SOCIETY will treat you DIFFERENTLY. Note that it is society that is the one who is now bound to do something when someone gets married. Primarily, when someone is married, it is encumbant on the society to treat them as a unit, rather than as individuals.
Here are a few examples of the ways in which society's rules change for people who are married. Note that this is just scratching the surface:
In addition, marriage law sets a norm of practice in many areas. Many policies stem from marriage law, including:
So, as you can see, marriage law has VERY LITTLE TO DO with what people do as individuals, and VERY MUCH TO DO with how society is expected to respond to those who are married. Therefore, the argument that "whether or not gay people get married doesn't affect you" is simply false. Marriage is an important societal institution, and as such it very much affects all of us. The decision of how we decide who gets recognized as married is a decision that affects all of us.
If two people want to take part in a religious ceremony that DOESN'T implicate the rest of society, there has never been anything stopping them. I am not aware of any law that prevents a marriage ceremony. However, marriage itself is not like that. It not only requires things from the people getting married to each other, it also requires things from society at large as well.
Before we examine gay marriage from sociological views, I think it is most important to examine it from a Biblical view.
Of course, there are the basic rules, laws, and admonitions against homosexual sex in the Old Testament and the New Testament. This should be the first clue that gay marriage may be improper, but it is not definitive. Certainly Biblical admonitions against certain things may be cultural or contextual, so it is always important to discern the operating principle to determine if the rule applies generally.
First of all, Biblically, sex should occur inside the confines of marriage. I hope I don't have to convince you of that, and am going to assume that I don't have to. So then you have the question, can homosexual couples get married? To determine the answer to that one, we need to ask the question, "what is the purpose of marriage"?
Many people say that the Biblical purpose of marriage is children. That is simply not true. The Bible certainly places a high importance on children (Psalm 127:3-5), but it does not list it as the reason for marriage. In fact, the Bible is explicit about why marriage occurs.
Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Therefore? Whenever you see a therefore in the Bible, you should take a look and see what it is there for.
The story is about the creation of woman. Why was woman created?
"Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)
Here's the deal - man is incomplete without woman. The purpose of marriage is the completion of God's creation. That is why, Biblically, gay marriage isn't appropriate - it doesn't complete humanity, but instead represents and incomplete picture of God's creation.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you can only be complete inside of marriage. The Bible also gives another form of completeness in humanity - that of being completed by God Himself. Therefore, single-ness can be appropriate, but only if it God's completion of you is treated as seriously as a marriage.
So, for Christians, it should be clear why gay marriage isn't appropriate. In future posts we will talk about the social case against gay marriage in a plural society (i.e. a society which is not exclusively Christian).
I'm going to do a series of posts on the topic of gay marriage, discussing it from theological, sociological, and political perspectives. But for starters, I thought I'd share a cartoon which fairly well sums up the difference between the way people often perceive the issue, and the way reality works (warning - cartoon is a little vulgar):
One thing that is frustrating about the conservative movement, is the tendency in the last century to practice what I call "shallow apologetics". Shallow apologetics is an attempt to defend the scripture or practice of the Church using the simplest means available. It often means memorizing formulas or answers to questions.
Now, on its face, this has some value. It builds up the congregation by providing answers to questions, and doing so at a level which is comprehensible to the largest group of parishioners. But I will argue that this sort of benefit is largely temporary, and in fact is one of the reasons we are losing the culture war.
So what is the alternative? The alternative is "deep apologetics". Deep apologetics is looking into the faith in a way which engages the mind on a deep level, and is not satisfied with shallow answers. This usually produces some of what I consider to be shallow apologetics, but the difference is that deep apologetics does not view the formulas and answers as the final goal, but rather looks at discovering the order of God's Creation as the final goal. The fact that it can provide near-term answers is an added bonus.
The shallow apologists are looking to refute something, while the deep apologists are looking to learn something. Notice that in shallow apologetics, it is the skeptics of the faith who set the agenda, while in deep apologetics it is the faithful who do so. This is why shallow apologetics, if it is the main feature of the apologetics enterprise, is destined to lose. Eventually someone is going to figure out that the shallow apologist is not producing anything of value, but merely holding on to what he has. Think of the parable of the talents. The shallow apologists are the ones who simply bury their talent it in the ground, and dig it back up when God asks for it. Shallow apologetics does not bear fruit, precisely because it does not aim to. Deep apologetics provides a harvest for the future precisely because that is where it aims.
This used to be known as "academics." Unfortunately, in the current academic environment, anyone who starts their reasoning from scripture, or norms their reasoning by scripture, is considered unacademic. That is a travesty of the highest order. The very institutions which were established to provide a harvest for the future of the faith have excluded faithful reasoning from their repertoire. And so, when we wonder where is the intellectual harvest of the Church is, we find that the institutions charged with its production have decided to simply do something else.
We need to return our minds to the task of understanding God's world - scientific, political, cultural, sociological, and historical, from a perspective that is explicitly and intentionally Christian. Since others have burned the crops which the Church has contributed to, we must begin in earnest rebuilding the storehouse of faithful reason for the future of the faith.
Ancient Hebrew Poetry has a great post about reading scripture. The point as a whole is that (a) we always read scripture in the light of our existing cultural norms, and we can't get away from that, but (b) we should always be allowing our cultural norms to be informed by and judged by scripture.
The two poles that are often setup for us are:
But the really important thing is that Augustine sees Scripture as norma normans (the norm that norms all other norms) which nevertheless gives rise to norma normata (norms normed by it and derived from it, such as the Nicene Creed) which in turn serve to focus and provide criteria for the interpretation of the norm.
So, imposing an exterior hermeneutical criteria is not necessarily anti-scriptural, so long as that hermeneutic is itself open to revision from scripture.
As if I needed another book to read, this one has me itching to pull out my check card:
It's edited by Ronald Numbers, so it should be a worthwhile read.
There are lots of definitions of Fundamentalism floating around. A lot of people in the Church are quick to say, "oh no, I'm not a fundamentalist!" I got that sense, for instance, reading N.T. Wright's The Last Word. He wanted to distance himself from the "fundamentalists" while at the same time holding many positions many people think of as fundamentalist. The reaction is understandable - the term "fundamentalism" is used by many people in academia and public policy as a reason for not listening to someone - if you can be labelled as a "fundamentalist", then you simply don't count as a rational human being. You can be set aside with other sorts of crazies and ignored for all practical purposes. Plantinga has a great little section about Fundamentalism in this sense (from his book Warranted Christian Belief which I have not yet read but should).
The fact is, most people from the left who use the term "fundamentalism" to discount people's ideas, actually use the term for anyone who believes in a God who answers prayer. This includes many Christians on the left who use this term (they are essentially deists, but maintain some aspects of Christian tradition and practice). So, the first reason why I'm proud to hold the title fundamentalist is that I try not to set my rule of faith based on what other people want me to believe. The fact is that most people are cowering from the term fundamentalism simply because of the negative connotations that others are giving it. But if we let our detractors set the standards for our beliefs, what good are they, or are we? We cannot let others redefine ourselves into their image based on what others are willing to believe.
So what are the reasons for being a "fundamentalist"? Well, there are two main areas which I want to explore.
First of all, the term "fundamentalism" comes, at least for the most part, from the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the beginning of the 20th century. Probably the best book on the subject is Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. Although some people claim that there were a set number of fundamentals, the fact is that there was no agreed upon number. The 5 fundamentals that most people consider to be characteristic of fundamentalists (and I won't disagree) were established by the Presbyterian Church in 1910. Before reading them, I want to ask you, are you a fundamentalist by these beliefs? Here they are:
Now, be honest, based on those beliefs, how far are you, really, from being a fundamentalist? So when someone labels you a "fundamentalist", for the most part what I interpret them as saying is that anyone who believes any of these notions is stupid. From this list, for my Christian friends who eschew the label of "fundamentalist", the only one of these beliefs they might have a problem with is inerrancy. Yet, if you use Machen's description of the Christian belief about the Bible, it would include anyone who believes that the Bible is uniquely inspired, whether or not it contained any errors.
But the reason that I like the term fundamentalism goes a little deeper than that - it goes more to the heart of what fundamentalists were trying to do than the specific set of beliefs they came up with. I consider fundamentalism more as a mode of thought than anything. And the other mode of though it usually stands in contrast with is "progressivism". Now, before I describe their differences, keep in mind that I don't totally hate progressivism - there are certainly some very good aspects of it which I think are important - but rather I think fundamentalism is a better default mode of thought.
I define these two terms - progressivism and fundamentalism - in terms of the primary question that they are asking. The progressive thought is "Here we are, let's decide where we want to go and make a plan to get there from here". As I said, there are many things to like about progressivism. But let's look at fundamentalism's basic attitude - "Here we are, what was the purpose in our coming here, and why did we bother with this path? What was our goal and how are we doing in achieving that?"
Fundamentalism attempts to connect with past generations and try to understand where they are in relation to the goals and dreams of the past. In addition, it looks at the current situation and asks, "what are we doing here, and how does it align with our mission?" Progressivism attempts to rewrite the goals in every generation, while fundamentalism attempts to live in continuity with the past, and tries to understand the goals deeper and deeper every generation. We don't always succeed in that :) But that is the difference as I see it between the two.
To give an example, I want to refer us to the Internet bubble in the stock market around the turn of the millenium. In terms of financial practice, you had the "fundamentalists" which evaluated businesses based on a historical criteria of earnings and earning potential. On the other hand you had the "progressives" who thought that the old way of thinking was out of date in the new markets, and that instead of looking to the "fundamentals" we should be looking at "mind-share". This was profitable for a time, but eventually we found that looking at the fundamentals of a company didn't cease to be important just because it was unpopular. The fundamentalists would ask the question, "what was the point of starting a company? Oh yeah, to make money - let's do that" while the progressives would ask, "okay, we're in a company, what do we really want to do instead?"
Again, there is a place for progressive thought. But, in general, I think that our default mode should be to remember why we are here and what our purpose is, in continuity with the purpose of the Church historically. Our new pursuits should always be done by asking the question of how this fits in with the historical purposes and guidelines of the Church. That doesn't mean we can't ask good questions about the Church's historical purposes, goals, and beliefs, but that our general baseline should be to live in continuity with them, and we should take extreme caution in any fundamental revision we make.
And that is why I am happy to be a fundamentalist.