Re: "charismatic" theologies and science

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 20:40:48 EDT

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    Hi Rich

    Thanks for these insights. There is not enough heard of specifically
    charistmatic and penttecostal responses to science and theology.

    How hostile is the PCA to science? My experience with reformed churches in
    Australia is that some sciences (and applied sciences) are OK, even respected -
    physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and medicine. In my experience
    the hostility of some charismatics towards science stems from several
    sources: a
    God of the gaps theology that expects, even demands, divine intervention as a
    sign of God's presence and action, rather than seeing God at work in
    everything. In particular with respect to miracuolous healing there is the
    common opinion that to seek healing through medicine is a sign of
    lack of faith,
    as is a career in medicine. This near hostility to the most respected of
    applied sciences seems to carry over to other sciences.


    Rich Blinne wrote:

    > 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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