Re: Apologists and other salesmen

Murphy (
Mon, 28 Oct 1996 11:09:17 -0500

Paul Arveson wrote:
> Amen, Glenn. I too have seen enough of attempts to "please God with a lie" as
> Francis Bacon put it.
> The Protestants, when they severed ties with Rome, did so because the Pope was
> wrong about some things. But ironically, in doing so they lost the ability to
> provide safeguards to protect their own message from becoming corrupted. As a
> result, we now have a situation where:
> a) anyone can publish materials for church people without passing any peer
> review process;
> b) the apologetic message of the Church is being co-opted and manipulated by
> shrewd politicians and other salesmen;
> c) innocent lay people in the churches are taught all kinds of nonsense --
> anything will be accepted as long as it is made to appear consistent with the
> Bible.
> d) the Bible itself is being crowded out by the pretentious commentaries of
> authors who load such verbose footnotes into the pages that they look -- and
> function -- more like the Talmud.
> If Christian apologists cannot be trusted on scientific matters, who will
> believe their reports about the Gospel? This is a problem that Augustine wrote
> about in the 5th century. After all this time, apologetics is still in such
> sorry shape that I feel that it often does more harm than good.
> "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
> Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."
> W. B. Yeats
> Do we need an "Evangelical Council of Scientific Accountability" to police
> ourselves on scientific matters?

In referring to 16th century divisions of the western church,
Paul gets at this problem at a level prior to its scientific aspect. A
basic difficulty is lack of any sense of catholicity of the church,
including any teaching authority of the church, among most of the heirs
of the Reformation. (Roman Catholics need more attention to "protestant
principle" too, but I assume I'm probably speaking more to other
Christians in this forum.) We cannot deal with the problem of authority
just by saying "scripture alone", for when critical questions arise, the
_church_ needs to be able to speak authoritatively, not to add something
to the Bible but to state how the church has understood the Bible in the
matter in question. That is what happened at Nicea, Chalcedon, etc. If
there is ever an eighth ecumenical council before the eschaton, some of
the science-theology issues will need to be near the top of its agenda.

I agree that there is far too much amateur, outdated, and/or
just incompetent science being used in apologetics. Theologians need to
know about real science at something like a _Scientific American_ level.
Aquinas would not have been at all surprised at such a suggestion. On
the other hand, a Christian who is a scientist is not _ipso facto_ well
prepared to be a Christian apologist. There is also far too much
amateur, outdated, and/or just incompetent theology being used in
apologetics. It may be even harder to root this out than it is to get
rid of bad science. Too many Christians think that just having an
English translation of the Bible gives them all the religious authority
they need - a reflection of the basic problem I noted above.
George Murphy