Radix Magazine's Phil Johnson interview

Allan Harvey (aharvey@boulder.nist.gov)
Mon, 08 Dec 1997 12:27:45 -0700

I know I said last week I didn't want to rehash old discussions about
Phil Johnson, but I do want to alert people to an interview with him in
the latest Radix Magazine (vol. 25, No. 2). Radix is a Christian
magazine of intellectual bent (motto: Where Christian Faith Meets
Contemporary Culture). It is published in Berkeley, and even has an ASA
connection as Walter Hearn is a contributing editor and his wife Ginny is
copy editor.

As is typical for Radix, the interview was on a moderately high
intellectual level. There was discussion of underlying materialist
assumptions in society, much of which I found myself agreeing with.
Johnson shares a little of his personal journey, which reminds me that,
wrong though I may think him on some issues, he is a brother. I was also
temporarily encouraged to see the following statement: "A creationist is
a believer in creation, that there's a Creator. The timing and details
are secondary." However, in the rest of the interview, it seems that
Johnson does not allow that a genuine "believer in creation" might, at
the "detail" level, allow for Darwinian evolution to describe the
Creator's actions.

Throughout, the underlying issue that separates Johnson from many of the
rest of us is his equation of evolutionary science with naturalist
metaphysics. He points out clearly and correctly that the two often go
hand in hand, but then, rather than reject that unfounded (and
atheism-friendly) linkage, he accepts it and proceeds from there.

I wondered if there would be some mention of the Christians in science
who disagree with Johnson's approach, not really expecting to find any.
However, there was a passing mention in the final paragraph (in response
to a question about how he liked "the battle") that I quote in full:

"And I have very few relationships of any lasting animosity. Most of
them, such as they are, are from accomodationists in the Christian camp.
With the atheists -- most of the people I argue with -- there are very
sharp exchanges, sometimes even angry ones, but no lasting bitterness.
Often my relationship with them turns into friendship."

This merits several observations:

(1) If there are Christians who are really behaving with lasting personal
bitterness toward Johnson, so much so that he feels better treated by the
atheists, those Christians probably need to try harder at loving this
particular brother.

(2) It is telling and sad that he labels the Christians who have concerns
about what he is saying as "accomodationists". I wish he would recognize
that for most of us the motive is not accomodation, but rather concern
for good theology and the health of the Body of Christ. He might
encounter less animosity if he chose a less judgmental label for his
Christian critics.

(3) Perhaps there is another reason why he encounters deeper hostility
from the Christians than from the atheists who oppose him.
"God-of-the-Gaps" theology is in the long-term interest of atheism, so
some atheists may see that it serves their cause for the church to follow
Johnson's ways of thinking. Or, at the very least, they would not
particularly care what the church thinks. Many Christians in science, on
the other hand, care deeply about the church and fear that Johnson is
leading it (in the words of another ASA list member) off an intellectual
cliff. So I wonder if what he is seeing is just a difference in the
intensity of the criticism, reflecting a deeper level of concern by the

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | aharvey@boulder.nist.gov |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | "Don't blame the |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |
| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | say, or vice versa." |