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

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Mar 07 2007 - 13:41:29 EST

I respond to the following post by
>>> "Rich Blinne" <> 03/06/07 7:32 PM >>>

You see the lack of appreciation with theory with the current "evolution
just a theory" complaint. To a modern scientist the response would be,
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
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
post-modernism have an influence on evangelical thought on science? Does
explanatory power of theory come too close to meta-narratives for pomo

So, the question with respect to the theoretical nature of both science
theology was Hodge behind or ahead of the times with respect to
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.
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
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?

Ted answers:
My own sense is that Hodge *was* a common sense realist in his approach to
the Bible: It could be read clearly and effectively by the ordinary
believer, without clouding things up by getting into "theories" about how
the Bible came to be written (for example). In science, Hodge was a
"Baconian" in the sense I defined it. He understood (correctly) that Darwin
viewed his own theory *as a theory,* that is, as a higher level inference
from a wide variety of observations that was not itself subject to certain
demonstration. Thus, for Hodge, it did not qualify as genuine science.
This, as much as his (accurate) understanding that Darwin viewed evolution
as unguided and without design, led Hodge to reject evolution.

I don't really see Hodge as lying outside of the tradition I was


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Received on Wed Mar 7 13:42:18 2007

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