June 7, 2007

Bad thinking

Ethics Daily has a column about Al Mohler's take on evolution and the creation museum. Mohler said that Christians couldn't possibly find evolution convincing. Instead, he

said last week on his call-in radio show that theistic evolution--the middle ground between belief in evolution and that God created the world directly--is a "lie"--and that Christians can't have it both ways.
But Mohler presents bad thinking here. He confuses the basics of what we know and how we know it, and what we believe and why we believe it. It is the essential battle between facts and faith--and historically Christians have found ways to negotiate between the two. What bothers me most now, as I have said many times, are Christians imposing faith, not when the answers are beyond our human limitations, but when the factual evidence suggests something they don't want to accept. I would suggest that is not faith.

But back to Mohler. During his radio show, he read an email from a listener:
"Why do you insist on driving people away from organized religion?" the e-mail said. "I am a 60-year-old Baptist chemist, science educator, Sunday-school teacher, parent and grandparent. I believe in evolution, the how of life, and I believe in God, the why of life, and see no conflict in these beliefs. I understand that God had a hand in creation of the world and all the life in the world, and science helps us to understand more about those processes every day. When organized religion forces me to choose religion or science, I will no longer participate in organized religion. This is just one more reason that young adults are rejecting organized religion."
Yes, science. It does not do everything right. But science allows us to grapple with things like an evolving flu virus, or even to conquer previously devastating diseases.

But Mohler is not convinced, and his response says as much as any I can think of.
Mohler described the e-mail as a challenge, and he took it. "You choose between belief in God and belief in evolutionary theory," Mohler said. "If you write something like this, either you don't understand evolution, or you don't understand what it means to affirm that God created the earth, because there is nothing that is reconcilable between those two propositions."
I am sure that Al Mohler is a smart man. But I just love the minister (M Div, and Ph.D., in Theology) lecturing the chemist. I just love that. The chemist has had to address the complexity of our material world, but according to Dr. Mohler, he "doesn't understand evolution" and Mohler does. Huh? How does he do that?

Maybe Mohler has made a critical error here, assuming that the way of knowing that gives us evolution is markedly different than the way of knowing that gives us a belief in God. He uses "belief" in both terms, as if they are the same kinds of process.

What's more, Mohler suggests that his faith is incredibly vulnerable to factual evidence.
Then there's the issue of the Edenic fall. "You have to explain why sin entered human experience," Mohler said. "You have to explain why the earth is in the condition it now is."

"If you don't have Adam and Eve, you don't have the story," he said. "You've got no starting point. You've got no basis."

Mohler continued: "And furthermore, if we're not all literally the descendants of Adam and Eve, then there's no explanation of how Adam's sin was imputed to us. And without that you have no need for the imputation of Christ's righteousness. You have no explanation of the cross. You have no need for this."
Amazing what power Darwin's idea has. It can destroy the faith of millions of Christians? If the stories in the OT are not literal, then the entire belief system crumbles? Wow.

This bothers me, both as a Christian and a quasi-scholar. It is this kind of thought that puts contemporary Christians in an awkward position where they have to choose between accepting factual information based on how it relates to their faith. I have read elsewhere on the web where people have read OT passages literally to say that the earth does not revolve around the Sun because the Bible says so. An extreme example, but not that far from where Mohler is headed. We all have to explain those facts in a context, but we tread on dangerous ground when we decide to simply not accept factual evidence because we choose not to believe them.


Anonymous said...


You said, "Amazing what power Darwin's idea has. It can destroy the faith of millions of Christians? If the stories in the OT are not literal, then the entire belief system crumbles? Wow."

I have a better one for you than that. There is one story in the NT that, if it's not true, the whole belief system crumbles—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That's a real WOW!

Streak said...

Anonymous, I am not sure I follow your point.

ubub said...

It seems that Anonymous is conflating points of doctrine with core beliefs.

Bootleg Blogger said...

Streak- I would challenge Anonymous' assertion that the "resurrection of Jesus Chris" has to be historically true or "the entire belief system crumbles." I love how some people are unable to say "MY entire belief system crumbles" as opposed to "THE entire belief system crumbles". So often we dictate for others the limits of faith, what God will and won't do, what will and won't get a person along the "way". Thankfully, whether or not God exists isn't based on the historical accuracy of our biblical accounts. Any belief system that rests solely on the specific historical occurances recorded 2000 plus years ago being absolutely historically correct is setting itself up for some disappointments (IMHO). That doesn't lessen the truth therein, just some of the details. I was raised in a system that was very "all-or-nothing" i.e. either it's all true or none of it is. Thankfully, I'm no longer under that type of theo-stress anymore.- Later-BB

steve s said...

I would say that there needs to be some level of accuracy. Is there evidence that the resurrection of Jesus is not true?

On a completelt unrelated note, I was listening to the Bob & Tom show and they had a story on the creation museum. Apparently there is a problem because the actor that plays 'Adam' in one of the videos had been featured on a website called 'erotic acrobatics', or something like that.