Re: "charismatic" theologies and science

From: Rich Blinne (
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 12:34:56 EDT

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    Subject: Re: "charismatic" theologies and science
    Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 22:06:33 EDT

    >As Jon mentioned most charismatics are not sufficiently educated
    >scientifically to espouse evolution, and are therefore generally YECs. At
    >the same time, there are some who are both charismatic and believers in
    >evolution, such as Denis Lamoureaux who has one Ph.D in theology and
    >another one in evolution (of the jaw in particular). It is primarily a
    >matter of education, but at the same time it is my experience that those
    >with a fundamentalistic theology who are more experience-oriented in their
    >Christianity (which is more common amongst charismatics) are not as prone
    >to be upset by interpretations of Genesis which do not hold to a rigid
    >literalistic view. I think this goes back to whether God or a book is
    >ultimate for them on a practical level. I know that John Whitcomb said that
    >his next priority after promoting creation science was to attack the
    >tongues movement. So, there seems to be some kind of correlation between
    >openness/closedness to evolution and openness/closedness to charismatic

    There are two strains within charismatic theology (or other more
    experience-oriented theologies) that work against each other with respect to
    their attitude towards science.

    The first which goes against science is the greater stress on first causes
    over second causes. Science lives in the second causes realm. A "God of
    the gaps" appeals to the direct agency of God in the affairs of His
    creation. Knowlege is immediate through the Spirit and knowledge mediated
    by the creation is more suspect.

    The second which ironically is a consequence of the first goes in the other
    direction. This is the belief that Scripture while inerrant and
    authoritative is not the exclusive locus of knowledge. Careful theologians
    in the charismatic camp such as Wayne Grudem are quick to point out the
    knowledge derived outside of Scripture is subordinate to Scripture. In
    Grudem's case, he points out that latter-day prophesy is not as
    authoritative nor of the same kind than prophesy found in Scripture. This
    is no different than the qualification usually made by scientists who are
    also Christians. Both charismatics and scientists hold to the Augustianian
    notion of all knowledge meets at the top regardless of the source of it.

    So, charismatics by and large are thus ambivalent to science. Some
    anti-charismatics, however, can be hostile to science. The source of this
    is a consequence of an extreme form of the doctrine of the sufficiency of
    Scripture. Since Scripture is sufficient both (naturalistic) science and
    the latter-day charismatic gifts are adding to what God has forbidden us to
    add to. This is the source I believe of the correlation that Paul saw.
    This correlation is not necessary, however. For example, the best-known
    anti-charistmatic polemic of the twentieth century was B.B. Warfield's
    Counterfeit Miracles. Yet, Warfield also was not anti theistic evolution.
    My own convictions line up with Warfield both on science and the charismatic
    gifts. This split difference is not common within the Reformed portion of
    evangelical Christianity, however. (I speaking to this because this is the
    group I have the most personal experience.) You either get the Presbyterian
    Church in America (PCA) which for the most part hostile to both science and
    the charismatic gifts and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) which is
    tolerant to both. This correlation is also historic. Back during the First
    Great Awakening those who were more receptive to what was called at the time
    "experimental relgion" such as Jonathan Edwards also practiced science.
    Edwards did a study on the balloon spider as a teenager and died being a
    voluntary subject to the smallpox vaccine. (It is this receptiveness to
    things empirical that makes the writing of the Puritans, and Edwards in
    particular, popular amongst charismatics.)

    In conclusion, it would be reasonable to expect more hostility to science
    from anti-charismatics than from charismatics. Nevertheless, both groups
    are diverse enough that that factor alone will not predict whether an
    individual in the group will be pro- or anti- science (with myself being one
    of those outliers).

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