Re: [asa] Question for all the theistic evolutionists

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Feb 26 2007 - 22:33:25 EST

*I used this as a launching point to try to counter the main criticism of my
approach to the scripture. I am often accused of being a literalist. I am
not, but, if the account has no 'reality' to it, I am in the same boat as
Burgy was that day.*

There are so many logical, philosophical, and theological problems with this
that it's impossible to rehash them all. Just a few key ones:

1. There is a huge difference between "no" reality and appreciating
different aspects of a rich and ancient tradition. Even the most staunch
"accomodationist" would never say there is "no" reality in scripture.

Maybe a brief analogy will help illuminate this. I believe in America. I
believe it is a historical fact that the U.S.A is a nation and further I
appreciate the ideals of democracy and freedom for which America at its best
stands. Nevertheless, I recognize that many of the founding myths about
America are not entirely based in strict, rigid fact. George Washington
never chopped down a cherry tree, and he probably told his fair share of
lies. This doesn't shake my belief in America, however. I'm mature,
thoughtful and educated enough to understand that even "secular"
historiography isn't always exact. And of course, I believe a great many
things about many ancient cultures on relatively scant evidence and despite
persistent mythologies. I believe, for example, that Rome became a great
empire in part because of the resourcefulness and character of its leaders,
even though I don't think the myth of Romulus and Remus is literal history.

2. There is no justification for an epistemology that requires complete and
completely consistent evidence on every point before a belief can be
justifiably held. Not even positivism is that positivistic.

3. Strict empiricism and positivism are self contradictory. There is no
reason to accept the atheist's epistemology, and indeed, it is
self-defeating to do so.

4. Never in its 2000-year history has any main stream of thought in the
Church held a doctrine of revelation and scripture that completely elides
scripture's human components. Even today's most ardent inerrantists, at
least the serious ones, allow that scripture is mediated through the culture
of its human authors. Further, even today's most ardent inerrantists
recognize that scripture must be interpreted, including considerations of
literary context and genre. It is self-defeating and theologically
dangerous to argue as though a balanced and appropriately nuanced doctrine
of scripture is irrelevant.

5. A balanced approach requires an appreciation of the limits of natural
theology and of how conversion happens. It is not surprising in the least
that the sometimes difficult questions presented by our incarnational faith
-- with a God who condescends to speak to us from within our human
frailties, indeed to become one of us in Christ -- present a stumbling block
to people who fancy themselves wise. Without the illumination of the Holy
Spirit, none of this will make sense to anyone, period. This is exactly
what the scriptures tell us will happen, so why expect otherwise? While we
can give reasons for belief and try to patiently explain what we believe
about the incarnational nature of scripture, a common response will be
rejection, mockery, and even persecution. That is a badge of honor
according to the scriptures, not something to run from.

On 2/26/07, Glenn Morton <> wrote:
> I want to thank people for the answers. Sadly, they were about what I
> expected would be said. I want to correct a misunderstanding.
> Keith Miller wrote, but several others expressed the same idea:
> >Firstly, I do not see the e-mail medium as an effective context in
> >which to engage in substantive debates. In fact, public debates in
> >any context are rarely useful. The depth of issues and positions are
> >rarely explored, and participants are more interested in making
> >points than in listening and forthrightly addressing the issues at
> >stake. So, I avoid engaging in such debates.
> And Bill Hamilton wrote:
> >Keith has made some great points. Our human impulse is to engage people
> in
> >arguments and try to win them over by our logic. (And I am as guilty of
> this as anyone)
> >Think back, though, to when you first made a commitment to Jesus Christ.
> Did He
> >argue you into submission? In my case He simply presented Himself to me
> --
> through
> >contacts with Christians primarily, not insisting that I immediately
> surrender, but simply
> >making Himself known to me. As if He were saying, "I'm not forcing you,
> but I'm not
> >going away." A former pastor of our church said that the best thing you
> can
> do for an
> >unbeliever is to pray for him. And after you've done that, you present
> Christ in a loving
> >way -- both by what you say and what you do for him/her. I've had
> interesting
> >discussions with both Will Provine and Phil Johnson. Both have gotten my
> goat on
> >occasion, but reacting in anger would not have solved anything -- would
> have damaged
> >a relationship.
> Without wanting to give offence, the above actually represents a bit of
> linear thinking-one input; one output. Taking on atheism may not merely
> have one purpose-to convert the atheist-there might be other
> purposes-indeed, that is what I had in mind One of the things I have been
> very slow to notice is that YECs think of us TE's as toothless lapdogs who
> would rather bark at the YECs than attack our masters, the atheists.
> Because of this view, they don't really want to listen to us on things
> concerning evolution. We are seen as part of the problem rather than a
> fighter alongside them against the increasing secularization of the
> society.
> By standing with our YEC brothers against the atheists, we can do several
> things. If our arguments against atheism are better than the ones they
> have,
> we earn their respect and the right to be heard on other issues. We also
> will occasionally make the atheist think-not the primary goal of the
> debate,
> but an occasional nice piece of lagniappe (Go look it up. This is a word I
> picked up in a foreign country I lived in called Louisiana).
> We also can make it intellectually valid for people to resist the
> secularization of society which is eroding church attendance, traditional
> morality, and marriage. This is a phenomenon, I feel is largely due to the
> perceived lack of reality to our world view. All we offer are myths,
> poetry, allegory or false science. Hard to see why someone would reject
> that offering!
> When Burgy visited Houston in January, we had lunch and he told me his
> story. (Burgy, you can correct this if it needs correction) One of the
> things he said was that he took a class on christianity at a church and at
> the end, they had a test. Burgy was the top student.(Burgy is smart) The
> pastor asked him if he wanted to join the church. Burgy said "no" The
> surprised pastor wanted to know why. Burgy explained that he had mastered
> the material, but that it didn't have any 'reality' to it.
> I used this as a launching point to try to counter the main criticism of
> my
> approach to the scripture. I am often accused of being a literalist. I am
> not, but, if the account has no 'reality' to it, I am in the same boat as
> Burgy was that day. Indeed, society is currently in that boat. The YECs
> tell a bunch of falsehoods about science and expect everyone to become a
> Christian. But the rest of us tell them that the Bible is really not real
> history, and then we expect everyone to become christians in spite of that
> unreality.
> Atheism and secularism are spreading. Fewer go to church because they
> feel
> that there is nothing there except myths, poetry, allegory and/or false
> science. I can't fight the myth issue, but if I can get the YECs to see
> me
> as a brother, they might listen to my arguments about the falsity of their
> 'science'.
> Thus, there are more reasons to argue with atheists than the linear
> thought
> process would illuminate. We might get the YECs to pay attention to us;
> we
> might win an occasional atheist over and we might slow or reverse the
> secularization of society. From the responses I have seen, few are willing
> to do much against the atheists directly. Kudoes to those who are willing
> to
> fight.
> The question of what do we stand for is one of immense importance. Last
> year two Fox News journalists were kidnapped in Gaza. They were told to
> convert or die. (unfortunately the video has been removed) They converted
> to
> Islam and it was big news in the Islamic world because it was proof that
> the
> westerners stood for nothing and were willing to give up their culture so
> easily. Now, I don't know what I would do, and don't want to find out, but
> if one doesn't stand for something, someone else will.
> One thing I have learned in my life is that those who don't fight usually
> lose. This is one of the things which began to bother me about the ASA and
> why I have said it is a dying organization. We are insular and talking to
> ourselves. Usually people who talk to themselves are called mad. I don't
> want to spend my time talking to the converted anymore-time is too short;
> too short indeed. (No doubt this will tick people off again, but not to
> worry).
> With this, I am off the list again. Thanks for the fish, and thanks for
> the
> answers.
> glenn
> They're Here: The Pathway Papers
> Foundation, Fall, and Flood
> Adam, Apes and Anthropology
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Received on Mon Feb 26 22:34:14 2007

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