Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the future)

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sat Jan 03 2009 - 11:48:49 EST

George -- maybe. Personally, I think "rationalism" in theology is a real
problem for both mainline and evangelical theology in North America. It is
a root cause of the split between liberal and conservative theology, IMHO.
At least from my perspective coming from the conservative side of the aisle,
an over-emphasis on the Bible as essentially simple, straightforward,
propositional, and systematizable led right form Old Princeton to
contemporary fundamentalism. I can also see, from a distance admittedly,
that rationalism drove some of the German higher criticism that led liberal
theology away from scripture as a normative. I think what I'm trying to say
here is actually very Barthian.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 11:21 AM, George Murphy <> wrote:

> David -
> I think the last sentence of your 1st paragraph belows points us in the
> wrong direction. No doubt Christians from Asia, Africa will be able offer
> important insights on issues connected with evolution. But it's important
> to recognize that modern science, "rationalistic" as it may be, has given us
> a tremendous amount of genuine knowledge about the world and the development
> of life in particular, & people from any culture who want to understand the
> real world need to take that knowledge seriously. If this be "colonialism",
> tough!
> Furthermore, there have been plenty of contributions from Christians (call
> them TEs, ECs or whatever) in western cultures who have offered ways to
> deal with evolution
> that are coherent with the Christian tradition. The fact that
> many Christians continue to resist evolution is due neither to "rationalism"
> nor a lack of good theological responses (though of course we don't have
> definitive answers to all questions that can be raised) but ignorance (in
> many cases willful) and stubbornness. Excessive rationalism is indeed a
> problem for those at the other end of the spectrum, atheists who insist that
> science is the only valid means of knowing, but progress must be made with
> them not by abandoning reason but by showing the limits of the reasoning
> involved in the sciences.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* David Opderbeck <>
> *To:* Preston Garrison <>
> *Cc:* asa <>
> *Sent:* Saturday, January 03, 2009 9:51 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the
> future)
> Preston, I think you're partly right and partly wrong. Obviously,
> integrating evolutionary science is an issue for all educated Christians,
> and the ASA properly has a role here. I wonder, though, if the assumption
> that the West will eventually deal with this most effectively is correct.
> Maybe some of our brothers and sisters from parts of the world that aren't
> so influenced by rationalism will some day offer some solutions that *we*will need to integrate.
> When we talk about "crisis," I always feel that we're ignoring history as
> well as theology. The Church has always faced major challenges. Responses
> always come, but they often take centuries of struggle. God is in control
> of His Church, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail. This
> doesn't absolve us of responsibility, of course, but I think it allows us to
> exercise our responsibilities with some humility and perspective.
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> This is true right now, but the whole world is becoming more highly
>> educated, particularly in places like China and India that are well into the
>> development of a modern economy that can afford more education. That means
>> that the intellectual problems that American evangelicals are facing today
>> about evolution, the relationship of descriptive and theoretical economics
>> to prescriptive economics (Biblical teaching, historical Catholic teaching
>> and other moral voices on economics), environmental issues etc. are quickly
>> going to be facing evangelicals all over the world.
>> As on many other things, they will look to the U.S. because we are both
>> highly educated and have a large evangelical population. It looks like to me
>> that the ASA has a large role to play, because we have a number of people
>> (some of them participate on this list) who have their lives centered on
>> Christ and who are very well informed in multiple areas including the
>> history of Christianity, theology and more than one area of science.
>> There do seem to be areas of science (areas that are only "soft" [meaning
>> not as mature as say physics or chemistry] because their subject matter IS
>> so complex) where the ASA is weak. I suggested that our leaders should look
>> at alliances with evangelical groups in these other areas because some of
>> these big issues obviously involve more than one science. A joint meeting
>> that included sessions on environmental issues with evangelical climate
>> scientists and economists would be fascinating and very useful, after you
>> got past the initial shouting that usually goes on between people speaking
>> different languages. I think simple minded biochemists like me would
>> probably go away thankful that we deal with things as simple and
>> experimentally tractable as mere enzymes and cells, but the long term
>> results for the church would be good. We should pay some attention to our
>> Catholic brothers and sisters, too. They have been doing this kind of thing
>> for a very long time.
>> Preston G.

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Received on Sat Jan 3 11:49:18 2009

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