Re: [asa] Question from Nick Matzke

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 14:43:08 EST

Francis Shaeffer, as well, is the fruit of the Kuyperian/neo-
Calvinistic perspective. His roots are in the "fundamentalist"
conservative Presbyterians, the results of the fundamentalist/
modernist controversy in American Presbyterianism in the 20's and
30's. Westminster Seminary (under Machen) utilized significant talent
from the Christian Reformed Church (the American transplant of
Kuyper's movement) and similar influences from Old Princeton (Vos).
George Marsden is a direct heir (biologically and ideologically) of
this mixture of American Presbyterianism and Kuyperian Dutch
Calvinism. He grew up in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (the
denomination most closely aligned with Westminster Seminary) and
moved into the CRC while teaching at Calvin College, the college of
the CRC. Mark Noll, as well, has roots in the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church, although in the late 80's switched to the Evangelical
Presbyterian Church in a church controversy involving the Wheaton
OPC. Both Marsden's and Noll's account of these ideas (see also, The
Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) must be understood in this
intellectual mileau.

While some of the move beyond "fundamentalism" was begun by Carl
Henry, Bernard Ramm, and others, I think it has been hugely catalyzed
by Calvin College folks--I'm thinking here mostly of people like
George Marsden, Al Plantinga, Nick Wolterstorff, Richard Mouw, Louis
Smedes, and others. Thus, this neo-Calvinism strand is an oft
unrecognized force in the developments of American evangelicalism.

I want to comment briefly on David's mention of reconstructionism/
Dominionism simply because it arises from some of the same impulses
and institutions. The fathers of this movement (Rushdooney, North,
Bahnson, Jordan, Chilton) trace their roots to the OPC and neo-
Calvinism. Westminster Seminary and the OPC never fully embraced
these ideas or the direction they took. Interestingly, Gary North
gives credit to Whitcomb and Morris (The Genesis Flood) for
challenging him to think radically about the application of Biblical
principles to economics. Similarly, Jay Adams, while not of the
reconstructionist ilk, used the same approach in the psychology/
counseling field (Competent to Counsel). The common ancestor to all
of these strands of thought, including "mainstream" OPC thinking is
Cornelius Van Til with intellectual roots deep in the neo-Calvinism
of Kuyper, Bavinck, and Dooyeweerd. These were merged with the Old
Princeton of the Hodges and Warfield and Machen to give a fairly
unique brand of American Presbyterianism. (See Richard Gaffin's, "Old
Amsterdam and Inerrancy?" Westminster Theological Journal, Fall 1982
and Fall 1983).

As an insider of sorts, I did want to take minor issue with Nick
Matzke's characterization of fundamentalism. I think that the reality
is that by and large American Protestants were broadly evangelical
during the 19th century. What "exploded" on the scene was modernism
(or, if you will, theological liberalism) which involved higher
criticism and the questioning of all sorts of traditional Christian
orthodoxy, orthodoxy typically embodied in Reformation or late
Reformation era creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Early
fundamentalism reasserted orthodoxy, typically in a broadly
evangelical and confessional way. But, by and large, the modernists
"won" in all the mainline denominations. The conservative
Presbyterians that I am familiar with (OPC, PCA, RPCNA, RPES, etc.)
would not self-identify as "separatist fundamentalists" and self-
consciously distanced themselves from such groups although they share
much (authority of scripture, evangelical orthodoxy), even though
they were strong critics of modernism. The "separatist
fundamentalists" are often in the conservative Baptists, Pentecostal,
and Bible/non-denominational traditions.

No doubt I'm stepping on some toes on our ASA list, those who would
not demonize mainline denominations as much as I seem to be here.

Finally, I think that the hypothesis about ID and neo-evangelicals is
not really sustainable. I think neo-evangelical response to ID is all
over the map. I also think that ID adherents are all over the map
with respect to the neo-evangelical and separatist fundamentalist
divide. Frankly, I think that the ASA is firmly in the neo-
evangelical camp (as is evidence by Lindsell's critique in The Battle
for the Bible) and is very comfortable with an evolutionary creation/
theistic evolution perspective. But, as indicated in Mike Behe's
response to Haarsma in the new issue of PSCF, the choices are not
necessary evolutionary creation vs. intelligent design.


On Mar 1, 2007, at 11:05 AM, David Opderbeck wrote:

> This does seem like a pretty reasonable summary to me. I'd also
> suggest, though, that he go beyond ID as the "creationist" aspect
> of neoevangelicalism. I think that's partly true, but there is a
> more current dynamic which needs to be explored, which is the
> adoption within neoevangelicalism of a Kuyperian view of faith,
> reason, and the role of the church in culture. This is often
> called "neo-Calvinism." It entails a religious epistemology that
> accords a pretty high place to human reason and that sees in reason
> a common ground for disputation / apologetics with unbelievers,
> without specific reference to the scriptures. Very often, this
> view is improperly called "dominionism" and is confused with
> reconstructionism. I think ID has found many adherenents within
> this milieu, because it is seen as a way to make apologetic
> arguments about creation without resorting specifically to
> scripture. In this respect, the inclusion of Norman Geisler on his
> list is very appropos. Geisler is the paradigm of this rationalist
> apologetic.
> On 2/28/07, Pim van Meurs <> wrote: Nick
> Matzke asked me to forward his question to the ASA group as this
> group seems quite well positioned in answering his questions.
> Pim
> On Feb 26, 2007, at 5:41 PM, Nicholas J. Matzke wrote:
> >
> > Background to question:
> >
> > Hi ASA list -- I am working on a writeup of the history of
> > creationism and ID. I don't so much need advice on the creationism/
> > ID part, which I know plenty about -- I am looking for commentary
> > on the background history. One broad question has me puzzled,
> > concerning the terms "fundamentalist", "evangelical", "Neo-
> > Evangelical", etc. in the context of the 20th-century history of
> > American protestantism.
> >
> > Based on reading historians like Noll, Marsden, etc., one gets the
> > following basic impression of the 20th century (I am horribly
> > oversimplifying, of course) :
> >
> > 1. The broadly "evangelical" Protestantism, derived from the
> > revivals of the early 1800s, was widespread and a dominant cultural
> > force, e.g. most political leaders, colleges etc. were in this
> > tradition.
> >
> > 2. Major strains and splits had existed at least since the fight
> > over slavery, but in the 1910s-1920s "fundamentalism" exploded on
> > the scene, which explicitly emphasized Biblical inerrancy. Apart
> > from the fight over evolution in the public schools, fundamentalist/
> > modernist battles ensued in many denominations, seminaries, etc.
> > In general the modernists won, and the fundamentalists retreated
> > from the cultural battles to form their own seminaries, colleges,
> > media organs, etc. We can call the original, broader fundamentalism
> > "early fundamentalism" and the later (1930s-on) fundamentalism
> > "separatist fundamentalism."
> >
> > 3. In the 1940s-1950s, a group of conservative Bible-believers
> > distanced themselves from this separatist fundamentalism, and
> > started the "Neo-Evangelical" movement, which attempted to be a
> > broader, more inclusive movement that engaged the culture
> > politically. Notable features include the National Association of
> > Evangelicals, Christianity Today, and Billy Graham.
> >
> > Now, Henry Morris and most of the traditional "creation science"
> > advocates have (I think) usually been put pretty firmly in the
> > "separatist fundamentalist" group. I have seen Morris, at least,
> > write hostile things about the "Neo-Evangelicals".
> >
> > So, getting to my question: It is tempting to hypothesize that
> > "intelligent design" is to Neo-Evangelicalism what "creation
> > science" was to separatist fundamentalism. Is this wildly,
> > horribly wrong, or is there some truth here? On the one hand, ID
> > seems primarily to exist in the Neo-Evangelical sphere (it
> > primarily gets attention in those publications, etc.). On the
> > other hand, I get the sense that Neo-Evangelicals might just be all
> > over the map on this, e.g. (1) many ASA people like Francis Collins
> > would not have much sympathy for ID, while (2) on the other hand,
> > Ted Haggard, the head of the NAE, seems to have been a convinced
> > young-earth creationist.
> >
> > An alternative view might be that the old labels don't mean much
> > any more, and that the relevant categorization of (broadly
> > speaking) "evangelicals" these days is the Culture War. On the
> > Culture Warrior side we have creation science AND ID proponents,
> > all of them comrades in arms with the group of evangelicals
> > fighting the battles over abortion, sex education, school prayer,
> > etc. Perhaps people like Francis Schaeffer (viewed as a
> > revolutionary by many Neo-Evangelicals, but who called himself a
> > fundamentalist) can be seen as the intellectual founders of the
> > Culture Warrior tradition. On the non-Culture-Warrior side we have
> > the tradition represented by Billy Graham, Francis Collins, perhaps
> > many ASAers, etc., which seems less hostile to "secular
> > culture" (on evolution, church-state issues, stem cell research,
> > etc.). Arching over this we have things Christianity Today and the
> > NAE, where perhaps the Culture Warrior side has a good majority but
> > not an exclusive voice.
> >
> > An advantage of the Culture War theme is that the conservative
> > evangelical-conservative Catholic alliances make a lot of sense
> > within it.
> >
> > So I would appreciate comments/critiques/scathing critiques of the
> > above ideas, as well as references to scholarly work on this
> > question, since I'm sure others have thought about it much more
> > than me.
> >
> > Also, for those who feel that some/all of the above terms are
> > useful, I would be interested on where you would place various
> > theologians and institutions that are associated with the ID
> > movement. Specifically:
> >
> > Norman Geisler
> > Dallas Theological Seminary
> > J.P. Moreland
> > John Mark Reynolds
> > Biola University
> > Probe Ministries
> > Ken Ham
> > Answers in Genesis
> > Chuck Colson
> > Nancy Pearcey
> > Christianity Today
> > World Magazine
> > Phillip Johnson
> > Christian Research Journal
> >
> > ...and whomever/whatever else might seem relevant as datapoints.
> > (My view: All of the above are clearly on the "Culture War" side,
> > whatever else they may be. They would all be called
> > "fundamentalist" on a 1920s definition (where basically
> > fundamentalism = inerrancy). But once the Neo-Evangelicals start
> > distinguishing themselves from the fundamentalists, it all becomes
> > much less clear to me.)
> >
> > Thanks so much for whatever thoughts you have -- I am not planning
> > on making this a major part of my writing about the history of
> > creationism/ID -- really analyzing the Culture War would take (has
> > taken already) many books -- but I would like to make a few
> > generalizations about the evangelical context without screwing up
> > too badly.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Nick
> >
> > PS: Full disclosure -- yes, I am the anti-ID activist who works at
> > NCSE, and yes I am convinced that ID is pretty much worthless and
> > is clearly creationism relabeled. But I do understand there is
> > substantial diversity within creationism and within evangelicalism
> > and fundamentalism. In any event, at the moment I am more
> > interested in the above than in the specific ID=creationism
> > discussion.
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Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Thu Mar 1 14:43:59 2007

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