Friday, January 18, 2008

When religion gets in the way

"Subsequent studies by Jon H. Roberts, David N. Livingstone, and me have undermined Moore's sweeping claim about the uniqueness--or even the salience--of Calvinism, though none of us denies that distinctive theological convictions sometimes influenced how people viewed Darwin's theory. In a new introduction to his meticulously researched Darwinism and the Divine in America (1988), Roberts argues that 'the great majority of American Protestant thinkers who remained committed to orthodox formulations of Christian doctrine actually rejected Darwinism; indeed, they denounced the theory of organic evolution in any guise that described speciation in terms of naturalistic agencies.' The 'crucial determinant,' he maintains, 'was their conviction that the theory of organic evolution could not be reconciled with their views of the origin, nature, and 'fall' of man, the nature and basis of moral judgment, and a number of other doctrines--all based on their interpretation of the Scriptures.' My own research bears this out." Ronald Numbers, Science and Christianity in Pulpit and Pew. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 5.

I'm not necessarily putting a plug in here for Darwinian evolution and that it should force evangelicals to abandon inerrancy. Warfield, for example, famously bought into inerrancy and yet found that he could still be a proponent of theistic evolution. I'm simply wondering aloud, "How many times does a commitment to scripture get in the way of learning something important?"

"'Although we live in a very enlightened century, wherein all arts and sciences have been elevated nearly to their summit,' wrote a Dutch Copernican in 1772, 'one still finds many, even wise and prudent people, who cannot believe the motion of the earth...They feel that it is contrary to Scripture.'" (pp. 12-13)

How many times has inerrancy caused it to be the case that evangelicals could not even join in to a constructive conversation, much less learn some new truth?