Re: [asa] on "baconianism" & American evangelicals

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Mar 06 2007 - 20:24:12 EST

I don't think Barth can be classified as anti-theoretical. Whether or not he's really "anti-system," it's doctrine in theology that corresponds to theory in science. (Cf. the 3d volume of McGrath's A Scientific Theology.) & Barth certainly wasn't anti-doctrine when he was writing the Church Dogmatics.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Rich Blinne
  To: George Murphy
  Cc: Ted Davis ; David Opderbeck ; ; Carol or John Burgeson
  Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 7:32 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] on "baconianism" & American evangelicals

  On 3/6/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
    1st, as we've increasing come to find since Huxley's time as
    the phenomena with which we deal get farther and farther from everyday
    experience, our observations of "facts" are theory-laden. Without some
    theoretical framework we couldn't get from a network of bubble trails to a
    reaction of hadrons, leptons &c. .

  You see the lack of appreciation with theory with the current "evolution is just a theory" complaint. To a modern scientist the response would be, "What do you mean just?" because theory means something completely different technically versus popularly.

  I have a thought with respect to the timing. Ted please let me know if I am all wet here. I don't believe that this was the attitude of evangelicals until the 20th Century even though the core ideas came from the 18th. The reason why I say this is from the first chapter of Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Here Hodge makes the following analogy. Science is to nature as theology is to the Bible. Without the theoretical and systemetizing underpinning neither the Bible or nature make sense and are just "brute facts". Contrast this with Barth's Church Dogmatics, his anti-system system if you will. This brings a question does neo-orthodoxy or post-modernism have an influence on evangelical thought on science? Does the explanatory power of theory come too close to meta-narratives for pomo tastes?

  So, the question with respect to the theoretical nature of both science and theology was Hodge behind or ahead of the times with respect to evangelical thought? Or to put it differently, was Hodge's movement away from the Scottish Common Sense school representative of 19th Century evangelical thought? If yes, then the 20th Century is a resurgence of this thinking. If no, then evangelicals did not change. In either case, Old Princeton/Westminster appeared to follow along the same lines where philosophical idealism (I mean this in the technical not popular sense) became the warp and woof of their apologetics system. This could explain the lesser hostility towards modern, non-Baconian science (the methodology of science but not necessarily the conclusions) by neo-evangelicals than traditional ones. Any thoughts, Ted?


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Received on Tue Mar 6 20:24:58 2007

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