Re: [asa] pastors knowing science

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Tue Aug 11 2009 - 00:28:04 EDT

[Warning for John: this response is tangential to the subject heading,
and is just a spin-off from Cameron's post. If you find that
disturbing; don't read it.]

I give a hearty 'amen' to nearly everything you say, below, Cameron,
except that the well-deserved harsh tones you deliver to all those
"leftists" are equally deserved by the "rightists" who also have been
known to warp theology to meet their own social agendas; we have such
things as the prosperity gospel or nationalistic "Christianity" to show
for it now, and some of the leftist error can be understood (not
justified) as reactionary in that regard. I love the quote attributed
to Martin Luther, to the effect: After a drunk man fall off his horse
to the right, he remounts and then falls off the left side.

p.s. We had the interesting (& somewhat stressful) experience this
Sunday of listening to a visitor chastise our congregation during the
open sharing time that we had "never, ever once opened the Bible and
studied any scripture" during the entire service which was a sore
disappointment for him. He expressed his convictions rather
passionately and at some length (or so it felt ---I was the worship
leader at the time), but our congregation took it in stride and didn't
get too riled up over it. He knows he's still welcome back.
[technically we did have Scripture orally presented, though it wasn't
explicitly labeled as such ---and in our own defense, the service was a
necessarily unusual format on that Sunday morning.]. But we will
probably never satisfy him as being a "Bible" church since we don't do
extensive Bible study on Sunday mornings. (And yet your chastisement
still hits home for me, Cameron, that we don't have any current active
Bible study for the men in our church; though I would love that. I
should start one.) I doubt that our church's friendly but passionately
critical visitor would be interested in the same kind of Bible study I
am, though. Typically those who are most engaged in such studies want
the affirmation type of studies where a leader successfully fends off
any attacks and triumphantly presents the correct understanding to the
masses. Those who would rather attend a study that involves messy
wrestling with Scripture and open-ended possibilities left dangling
--they don't draw the same crowds. There may be a parallel in that for
YECism vs. deeper pursuits, and the apparent popularity of YEC thinking
in our country.

p.p.s. seen in a recent Pontius Puddle Cartoon
Pontius [a frog] is asked: "How was your Sunday school class this morning?"
His reply: "It was great! I refuted one false claim, debunked three
flimsy conjectures, and annihilated two entire belief systems!"
Listener exclaims: "Wow --I had no idea Sunday school was such a
contact sport!"

p.p.p.s. So can I pretend there is a new rule that rambling is allowed
after 11pm?
---okay, I'm done now. Thanks for your indulgence if anybody read this

Cameron Wybrow wrote:
> John:
> Perhaps it is because we are coming from different social and
> political backgrounds that we disagree over this. Canada, religiously
> and socially speaking, is much more like your "Blue States" than your
> "Red States". The threat to real Christianity in Canada is not, and
> never has been, Bible Belt literalism. Literalism, YEC and such
> things are a circus sideshow in Canadian Christianity. The threat
> here since about 1925 has been a gradual watering-down of the contents
> of Christianity until it is a just a thin veneer of sentiment covering
> a view of the world which is fundamentally indistinguishable from that
> of secular humanism.
> Thus, I find myself saying, in opposition to you, that "for ministry
> leaders to be effective", it is not belief in evolution, but basic
> Christian theology that they have to profess. That is, they must
> state what they take Christianity to be, and defend their statement on
> the basis of educated Biblical interpretation, deep familiarity with
> the writings of the Church Fathers and later theological tradition,
> and whatever else has been central to being Christian over the history
> of the faith. Yes, they must also be able to relate the Bible and the
> tradition to contemporary times as well, but you can't relate X to
> contemporary times if you yourself are barely cognizant of what X is.
> And a few survey courses and a smattering of Greek in a three-year
> seminary program that is mostly pop psychology and social work is not
> going to make a young minister cognizant of what Christianity is. A
> clergyman must be *immersed* in Christian tradition until he or she
> eats, drinks and breathes it, looks at all of life through its lens.
> Only in that way can a clergyman hope to be effective.
> The only churches that are growing in Canada are the sectarian
> Pentecostal and evangelical ones; the mainstream churches are all
> dying. And the overwhelming reason for the success of the first group
> is that its preachers and teachers appear to believe something firmly,
> to have a definite teaching that they do not apologize for, in a world
> where everything seems to be coming apart and people are looking for
> spiritual, social and moral stability. The mainstream churches
> (outside of the Roman Church, on issues such as abortion) seem to
> pander to whatever is the ruling opinion of the day, whether that be
> on the question of feminism, global warming, same-sex marriage, etc.
> Their public statements are thus treated with derision and contempt,
> not only by "fundamentalists", but by the more intelligent of the
> non-churchgoing agnostics, who recognize sycophantic spinelessness
> when they see it. Also, it is in the more fundamentalist and
> evangelical churches that the Bible itself is taken most seriously.
> Bible studies in such churches are standard, and are heavily
> attended. In the mainstream churches, Bible studies are almost
> unheard of, or where they exist, are curiosities for a few keeners
> rather than a core part of Christian life, and the only examples that
> many churchgoers get of Biblical interpretation are in the insipid
> liberal homilies delivered by the priests or ministers, which usually
> wrench a few words of the Biblical text out of context in order to
> support some left-wing social cause.
> If a Christian clergyman makes some errors in his scientific remarks
> about evolution, churchgoers can adjust to that; they know that
> ministers aren't trained in science and therefore know to take their
> remarks about science with a grain of salt. But they *expect*
> ministers to be experts in Christian theology, and therefore won't
> realize the need for skepticism when the minister talks about such
> matters. They assume that the minister has spent years studying
> theology and knows what he is talking about. Sadly, this is rarely
> the case. When it comes to theological matters, the typical minister
> these days is a borderline quack. Obviously there are exceptions,
> such as our own George Murphy; but George Murphys are as rare in the
> pulpit as unbiased articles about intelligent design are in the New
> York Times or the New Republic.
> The first duty of seminaries, a duty which most of them have
> shamefully failed to carry out, is to make sure that their graduates
> are firmly grounded in the Bible and theological study. The
> philological and theological requirements within seminaries should be
> upped, not continually lowered as they have been for thirty or forty
> years now, and seminaries should demand much stronger background in
> the basic humanities (history, literature, philosophy, and
> languages) from the people that they admit. An M.Div. should be as
> intellectually tough as an M.B.A. or or a Law degree or a Master's in
> any serious academic subject, instead of being what it is in most
> places now, which is essentially a second B.A. for a motley crew
> of students whose first B.A. could have been in literally anything and
> therefore has often not prepared them for graduate-level work in theology.
> If someone has very little interest in theology and wishes to become a
> minister only because he or she "just wants to help people", he or she
> should do a degree in social work, not divinity. There is plenty of
> valuable work in the wider world and within some church settings (as
> assistant pastors in charge of special programs) for Christian social
> workers. But the *head* minister or priest of a congregation has a
> theology to defend and articulate, and cannot do this without serious
> theological training. Equipped to speak with some authority for
> Christian theology, the minister may then have something intelligent
> to say about the relationship of Christian theology to evolutionary
> thought. Without such theological knowledge, the minister's remarks
> about evolution will be mere dilettantism, and of no value to anyone.
> Cameron.

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Received on Tue Aug 11 00:29:12 2009

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