Friday, December 7, 2012

Why All These Uncivil Christians?

Among the things I’d like to see before I die is a climate where Christians can have reasonable, informed, civil, and illuminating conversations about evolution and creation without all the unreasonable, uninformed, uncivil, and obfuscating clutter that seems to accompany such things.

Allow me to recount a sample, fictional conversation:

Evolutionist:
 I don’t have all the answers but I join most scientists in a belief in evolution as the explanation for much of what we see today.

Conservative Christian:
You are an idiot.
Darwin was an idiot.
Scientists are idiots.
You don’t know science.
Evolution is an atheist plot.
It's all a Satanic conspiracy.
You couldn't possibly be a Christian and believe evolution
 Of course, God loves you and I do too.

Evolutionist:
Goodbye.

Conservative Christian:
Wait, I need to tell you some things you don’t know and no one else will ever tell you about evolution.

Evolutionist:
No thanks.
__________________

There are serious, polite, highly educated Christians and many who are well educated in the scientific disciplines and who are creationists. These have the temperament and knowledge to approach a conversation on the subject without rancor, incivility, caricatures, or condescension.

I just do not run into many of them.

Most of the creationists I run across are rude, know-it-all, pseudo-intellectuals who have an excessive, perhaps obsessive, interest in the subject coupled with an appalling ignorance of virtually all of the matters of substance that touch on it. The main goal seems to be to present as poor an image of a follower of Christ as can possibly be put forward.

Maybe I’m around the wrong crowd.

My guesses as to why we have a poor public image are:
            1. Intellectual inferiority complex.
            2. The poor example of the creationist movement leaders most of
                 whom excel in polemics rather than reasoned dialogue. These
                creationists seem to have goals that include. (a) the utter
                humiliation of those who disagree, (b) the throwing of red meat 
                at those who agree so that they can raise funds, and (c) just
                pure meanness, all in the cause of Christ, of course.
            3. Creationists of this stripe are loath to admit that there is any 
                possibility of being wrong or that true Christians may stray from
                the dogma of young earth, six day, creationism.
            4. These creationists appear to have the subliminal belief that
                young earth creationism is an addendum to the Gospel itself.

I am well into my seventh decade and have been a serious lay student of such things for about thirty years. I am not expecting to see a change in the atmosphere on this matter. While there are some sensible voices in all this, it appears to me that the divide has grown and not diminished the last decade or so.

Too bad.

To sanitize this entire rant of mine, I offer one example of a reasonable, civil approach: I dare you to read Andrew Snelling’s Earth’s Catastrophic Past and Davis Young’s The Bible, Rocks and Time side by side.

I recommend that.


21 comments:

Bill said...

Dave Miller: Please post this at Voices.

Anonymous said...

Though there is not too much evidence on the subject, relatively recent polling suggests that positively related to belief in evolution is education, although religion tends to attenuate to some degree the strength of the relationship. Concerning evolution, some people use faith statements to argue scientific process, which to a scientist is a non-starter, thus there is no basis for conversation; and you are correct, once the scientist has, then, suffered all manner of insult from his or her opposite, who would desire to continue such a conversation? For some, it appears, in matters of science, Sunday School (more typically, conservative churches) tends to trump the Academy.

The argument is much like that of inerrancy; that is, inerrancy, a theory of scripture, is open to empirical review, but when evidence does not fit theory, theory needs to adapt. Contrary to this, the current practice of inerrancy supporters is to deny the empirical evidence as being relevant (or some even denying any such relevant evidence exists). The way around this for those that believe in inerrancy is to assert that the things which are inerrant are the things that we do not have. From a faith perspective, the scientist is not concerned, but from a science point of view, the theory is not falsifiable, thus for the scientist as scientist, inerrancy can neither be affirmed, either.

Given evolution, scientists do not assert that r = 1 (thus search and research continues), but it is clear from the evidence that r = 0, by far, either, which the latter is the creationist position. Evolutionary theory undergoes change as evidence emerges, and as such, the basis for believing in evolution is stronger now than it was in Darwin’s time. We have not heard the last from evolutionary theory and I look forward to the questions that it will lead us toward. Yet even so, from this Christian’s point of view, belief in God is not lessened, but subsequent theological reflection does include some interesting questions. Whereas I am not prepared to go the same distance as Gordon Kaufman, I do not think he should be dismissed or that his thoughts are without substantial value.

Jerry Corbaley said...

William,

Christians who are actually following Jesus' example do not drag others down to make themselves look better. Yet this is a "human condition" and while many who profess Christ are no better than those who don't; those who don't profess Christ are no better than those who do. "Dragging down another" is part of the human condition.

I was wondering this morning how hundreds of demons could dwell in a man ("we are legion") and speak with one voice, yet we who speak as Christians don't.

I also recommend Snelling's "Earth's Catastrophic Past". It is a great read that deals with issues with civility and reason.

I have it in my short-stack to read again.

Anonymous said...

From SBC Voices, an example follows that underscores a point of the post.

cb scott: "... I am amazed that some ... give any credibility to the theory of evolution and ... denies ... Scripture ... We cannot answer all of the questions of the universe, nor do we ... make such an effort. We affirm ... Scripture by faith and ... let the devil take the hindmost parts ... Why? Because the rest ... comes from the pit of hell ....

Bill said...

Anonymous:

I disagree with CB on this topic, but at least do him the courtesy of providing the whole quote, and not a heavily edited version that makes your point.

RLBaty said...

I am one of the "heretics" who have dared to challenge leaders and lesser sorts who promote young-earth creation-science and, being but a tyro, I have had quite a bit of success; my YAHOO! discussion list just completing 10 years of operations.

Young-earth creation-science promoters, in my experience, are a pretty rough crowd and while I have typically taken the higher road, I have been competitive in my dealings with my "uncivil" adversaries.

I have found their hypocrisy regarding such things is made manifest when one considers such references as Matthew 7:1,2 and James 3:1.

Anyone interested in a fuller discussion of such things is welcome to make their appearance at my place.

William Thornton said...

I thought the SBCV discussion was rather tame and far from the worst example of this.

RLBaty said...

I just read Keathley's recent article that was referenced here.

He seems to propose there is some complex, difficult matter that explains the difference between the two positions.

I don't think so. The answer is one I try to emphasize in my criticisms of young-earth creation-science and its one that Ken Ham has codified in his AiG statement of faith.

It goes something like this and explains why young-earth creation-science promoters have failed in their scientific pretensions and legal challenges:

> By definition, no apparent,
> perceived or claimed evidence
> in any field, including history > and chronology, can be valid if > it contradicts (Ken Ham's
> interpretation of) the
> scriptural record.

The parenthetical is added for clarification. It can also be paraphrased as:

> We, Ken Ham and Andrew Snelling,
> have our interpretation of the
> Bible regarding the age of
> stuff and that trumps any other
> evidence and its interpretation
> to the contrary.

For us tyros, understanding that makes it a lot simpler to figure out why young-earth creation-science promoters have failed in their scientific pretensions and legal challenges.

And for making it that simple for us tyros, I have been on the receiving end of quite of bit of the "un-civility" which is the subject of the present column here.

Anonymous said...

Bill: I disagree with CB on this topic, but at least do him the courtesy of providing the whole quote, and not a heavily edited version that makes your point.

anonymous: The "editing" does nothing to inflate or deflate the post; it is simply an efficiency measure.

William: thought the SBCV discussion ....

anonymous: Not pointing to the SBCV discussion, only a post pertaining to it. Shared that the counter perspective is from hell is not tame, rather it is very extreme. Other posts, however, may qualify as tame.

William Thornton said...

Robert, as an OE creationist, when I encounter some settled YE folks such as you describe, I recognize the futility of discussion, since the YE position may not be altered by any physical evidence...so I just pass unless Bible interpretation becomes the subject and even then alternate interpretations are ruled out,of bounds.

But...we can discuss the weather or football or other mundane topics.

Kevin said...

Mr Thornton,
Did you become a OE Creationist b/c of Biblical evidence or scientific(ie rock ages, half-lives, star distances, etc)? Would you hold to the Scofield interpretation of a type of re-creation after the fall of Lucifer?

William Thornton said...

Since the Bible does not state the age of the earth, even a young earth must be derived from passages and rest on disallowing alternative interpretations, I think the evidence is sufficient to conclude that it is beyond the 10k limit of the YE adherents.

I haven't consulted the SB someone left behind at church and it became mine, in years. There are several possibilities for an old earth.

Kevin in Vegas said...

" I think the evidence is sufficient to conclude that it is beyond the 10k limit of the YE adherents."

By this, do you mean fossil, scientific, or what in particular?

I am also interested into whether an OE creationist believes whether humans have been around for millions of years, or just the earth? It seems apparent to me that given the chronologies and genealogies in the Scriptures that millions of years is not the case. Interested in your thoughts from an opposing position. After all, "disallowing alternative positions" cuts both ways no matter which view one holds as they are not all true simultaneously.....Thanks

William Thornton said...

The many lines of scientific evidence all lead far beyond the 10k.

I'm not up for an in-depth analysis here. Perhaps later. The issues are many and complicated. What is meant by 'humans'? Are the genealogies meant to represent the entirety of the created universe? Literal days, etc.?

There are difficulties on both sides.

I look forward to reading the two books Keithley mentions above and will doubtless learn some new things on both sides.

RLBaty said...

Kevin in Vegas suggested that:

> It seems apparent to me that
> given the chronologies and
> genealogies in the Scriptures
> that (nothing is more than a
> few thousand years old).

That points to the fundamental issue I try to center on.

It's theology and not science, as I previously noted with reference to Ken Ham's codified standard.

So, if you come up with a theological claim about the real world (i.e., sun goes around the earth or nothing is more than a few thousand years old), is it possible that such a position can be falsified with reference to the real world evidence and its interpretation independent from your theological text and your interpretation thereof?

Ken Ham says "no"!

Others say "yes"!

That's one reason why my adversaries have been so antagonistic towards me and my "Goliath of GRAS" exercise in critical thinking with emphasis on young-earth creation-science promoters and why they have failed in their scientific pretensions and legal challenges.

RLBaty said...

As I indicated earlier, young-earth creation-science is one are of special interest that my YAHOO! discussion group specializes in.

Folks are welcome to join the discussion there, to the extent of their interests.

My "Goliath of GRAS" exercise awaits any who may dare to "come out" and engage in a simple, critical thinking exercise with emphasis on young-earth creation-science.

You don't have to be a member to post there and the archives are public.

You can just send an email to:

Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com

and follow the discussion via the website that is linked to my ID above.

Of course, membership on the list does have its benefits.

See y'all there, or not!

Tom Parker said...

William:

I think we all need to be reminded as Christians that we can turn people off from the Gospel as well as turn them to the Gospel especially as it relates to our behavior and the telling of someone as to whether or not they are a Christian.

Whether it is evolution, inerrancy, baptism, etc. our behavior must be Christ like and yes that includes my own.

Tom Parker said...

William:

If CB Scott did in fact say the following whether in quote or summary:"cb scott: "... I am amazed that some ... give any credibility to the theory of evolution and ... denies ... Scripture ... We cannot answer all of the questions of the universe, nor do we ... make such an effort. We affirm ... Scripture by faith and ... let the devil take the hindmost parts ... Why? Because the rest ... comes from the pit of hell .."

Would you classify this as an example of the uncivility you are speaking of in this post?

Jonathan said...

Conservative evangelical leadership culture is one focused on monologue, not dialogue. We prepare arguments, deliver them with passion, declare victory over our rivals, and then walk off to the standing ovation of the choir. Then we're stunned that no one with an opposing view actually paid attention.

This mindset of dismissiveness is endemic. I commend folks to do the due diligence in making sure to have an answer to every question in advance. But tossing out those answers as though they will be seen as self evident truth and/or above questioning reveals the over reliance on the act of preaching.



Moses Model said...

When I talk to YECs, I try to find common ground. For example, we both believe that we descended from something like Homo erectus. They just believe that Homo erectus built the Tower of Babel and such.

RLBaty said...

What a coincidence!

Ken Ham's Mark Looy posted a message at my place today attempting to deal with a matter Ken Ham has been evading for quite some time now.

You can check it out in the recent public archives at my place:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Maury_and_Baty/

Ken Ham/Mark Looy pretend its a matter of civility, or lack thereof, on my part that explains their evasion.

I happen to think otherwise.

If you would like to contribute to that conversation there, simply address your email to:

Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com

and follow along.

See y'all there, or not!