Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dr. James Kennedy on Science

Earlier today, in the Colorado motel in which I stayed the last few days, someone had tuned the breakfast room TV to a Christian station, and I was treated to a Coral Ridge diatribe against Darwin and evolutionary science. Dr. James Kennedy was featured in a posthumous appearance in which he confidently presented his Intelligent Design view, quoting Michael Behe liberally. Some of the inaccuracies astonished me, and I felt like jumping up in the room to declare to the breakfast crowd that not all Christians think this way. But it occurred to me that whoever tuned in this broadcast was likely still in the room, and I restrained myself.

Among Dr. Kennedy’s assertions was this one: the scientific enterprise, for hundred’s of years led by God-fearing scientists, was “hijacked” by atheists in the middle of the 19th century, and that since that time science has been the domain of godless naturalists and materialists.

My take on this bit of history is quite different, as readers of this blog already know. It is my observation that, toward the end of the 19th Century, many Christians chose to retreat from science, and largely deeded over the scientific enterprise to non-believers. As I have noted elsewhere, Charles Hodge saw Darwinism as a threat to his theology, and chose to include the evolution issue in the already brewing fundamentalism—liberalism wars. His friend and associate B.B. Warfield, and other early fundamentalists (e.g. James Orr) saw this as a mistake. They accepted much evolutionary science, and saw no reason to oppose it. But in the end, Hodge won out, and the result was that the 20th Century saw the conservative wings of the church opposing the vast majority of scientists (among them, many Bible-believing Christians.)

Which of these views is correct? How do you see the last 150 years? Did the atheists wrench science away from Christians? Is science now held hostage by non-believers who use it as a club to attack belief? Or did Christians largely abandon science and deed much of it over to atheists? Please comment ...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Personal Note: Toledo Christian Fellowship

For those of you who do not know me personally, I have for the last 17 years provided leadership for a small fellowship in Toledo, Oregon. Toledo Christian Fellowship (TCF) is an all-volunteer church; I derive my personal support from my business. I have greatly enjoyed serving my friends as an elder and as the main teacher over these years. These pictures were taken three weeks ago at our Resurrection Day dinner, where we reenacted the Jesus story with a candle ceremony. The pictures might help to give you a feel for TCF, my church fellowship. 

In October of last year, I declared my acceptance of evolutionary biology to the TCF body, and spent some time explaining why Genesis 1 must be read in light of its Ancient Near Eastern cosmological context. I knew that many of my TCF friends were committed to YEC (I had taught YEC over the years!), I mistakenly believed that, on the strength of my endorsement, these friends would be open to considering the possibilities of evolution. However, for many of them, their commitment to YEC was much stronger than I had thought. I had hoped that TCF might be a place where various views could be openly discussed, where we could think suppositionally (asking the "what if" questions), and that we could serve as a model of how a church might deal with the difficult issues raised by science today, even if we did not all agree. Instead, I found that my revelations served mainly to inflict pain on my friends. Many, perhaps most of them, felt a sense of loss and betrayal, and a deep emotional wound which has still not healed. I now deeply regret the manner in which I presented my view on that day, a manner which, in retrospect, could be characterized as almost cavalier. I regret the deep pain I caused. Over the last six months, I have become convinced that it will be impossible for me to continue to lead this fellowship.

There is no question of my love for these friends, nor of their love for me. But when so many of my brothers and sisters believe that a YEC position is vital to Christian faith, it is too much to ask them to follow a leader who rejects YEC in favor of an Evolutionary Creationist model. So, last night, I laid down my place of leadership, and officially resigned from our eldership.

As the now well-established science of evolution settles down upon the fundamental and conservative evangelical wings of the church, the resulting paradigm shifts in Biblical and theological understandings are bound to be extremely stressful. I fear that the inevitable struggle will result in many broken relationships, and divided churches. Much evidence of this painful battle can already be seen and has been noted elsewhere. It was my hope that TCF could navigate these waters successfully, and help others to do the same. I still have hope this might happen; but it will not be under my leadership.