Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nuking Dawkins?

The Wittenburg Door (click on title for link) is a worthy magazine which claims to criticize Evangelicalism from the inside, from an internecine perspective. However, over the years The Door has increasingly revealed itself as having a liberal bias against Evangelical theology as a whole, not just against Fundamentalism.

I am not a fundamentalist. However, I am committed to a specific form of Evangelicalism that I believe to be the most orthodox and true. That form of Evangelicalism I call the confessing Evangelicals movement. Evangelicals who try to remain faithful to the Bible and secondarily to the Protestant Reformation and the resulting confessions or statements of faith such as the Westminster Confession, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Augsburg Confession, etc.

I greatly admire The Door for exposing the false doctrine and abusive tactics of many television evangelists from the health and wealth gospel. However, The Door, like Christianity Today, gets a lot wrong. In her article, "Stein Nukes Dawkins: Then Freaks Out," Heidi Martinuzzi, a self-confessed anthropologist, does what most scientists do: avoids admitting the human element in doing science. As a scientist, surely she would know about the critique of scientific paradigms offered by Thomas Kuhn in 1962? (See http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/kuhnsyn.html).

I posted the following comment on the page for her article:

"I find it strange that Heidi Martinuzzi fails to mention the seminal sociology/philosophy of science work written by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn clearly demonstrates that so-called 'objective' science is as much influenced by peer pressure, prevailing hierarchies of the scientific community, and generally accepted views in society at large as it is by the scientific method itself. In fact, even the process of choosing what subjects to study, what experiments to perform, and what results are expected are all subjectively selected. Hence, there is no such thing as a purely 'objective' scientific method or theory.

Science, like historiography, has been exposed as influenced by presuppositions and prejudices of those in power in the scientific community. In essence, science, like religious authorities, has dogma that cannot be challenged until a paradigm shift occurs when prevailing scientific dogma is challenged. It is at this point that all that was generally accepted as true before is now shifted and changed to a new prevailing theory or paradigm.

Any human endeavor is inherently subjective, no matter how objective the scientists involved try to be. A historical review of scientific theories and corrections is more than adequate to demonstrate this..."

One needs only to remember a time when the extinction of dinosaurs was attributed to slow environmental changes and their failure to adapt. At one time catastrophic events were considered "stupid" by scientists. However, since observing the collision of several parts of a comet with the planet of Jupiter in July, 1994, that opinion has changed dramatically and science underwent a paradigm shift. Suddenly, the idea that dinosaurs went extinct because of a huge meteorite colliding with earth became much more feasible. The deposit of the material known only to exist in asteroids and meteors, iridium, seems to support this view since there appears to be a layer of iridium separating the era of dinosaurs from the later periods, though this is by no means certain.

Anyway, Kuhn gives a much better overview of scientific paradigm shifts like the Ptolemaic, Copernican, and Newtonian views of the solar system and universe. Even Einstein's physics has been examined and fine-tuned since his death. Knowledge, even scientific knowledge, is constantly being corrected and refined. Thus, for science to out of hand reject all theories involving intelligent design is merely a power play. There is an inherent paradox in this. Scientific methodology seeks to avoid superstition by sticking to a strictly materialistic view of the universe and thus winds up being so anti-supernaturalistic as to become a form of materialistic atheism. The short of it is that from a scientific perspective these days, science, and hence atheism, is the only legitimate worldview. Religion is never to be trusted and faith and science can never be joined.

Of course, science must seek to be as objective as possible and it must clearly avoid superstition and supernatural explanations wherever possible. However, the limitations of science are such that we can only trust what can be directly observed and even that can be subjectively influenced. The various competing theories of the extinction of the dinosaurs is just one example of how uncertain science is when all we have is a reconstruction of the "facts." How life began on earth is and will for all practical purposes remain a mystery. The various theories of how the universe began, including the Big Bang and the point of singularity where the Bang originated, remain mysterious and beyond scientific explanation.

It is precisely at this point that Christians believe that special revelation from God through Scripture can inform us and lead us to truth every bit as much as science can lead us to true knowledge through a process of reasoning from general revelation in nature and epistemology in general. Personally, I find Dawkins' views the height of arrogance and hypocrisy. Furthermore, Miss Martinuzzi does not wish to acknowledge that materialistic atheism can lead to atrocities like the Holocaust. It is no more unreasonable to make this observation than to acknowledge that the crusades and the inquisition are bad marks against Christianity.

A healthy dose of humility is in order for both religion and science. Theologians and scientists need to acknowledge their own limitations and the fact that human subjectivity is part of the process of science whether it be the soft science of theology or the hard science of empirical investigation of the natural universe.

The great neo-orthodox theologian, Emil Brunner, makes an excellent comment on this point:

"The certainty that the contrast between science and faith will indeed always become actual, but that it is never based on the actual facts themselves, but only upon our erroneous conception of the matter, must hinder him both from regarding any kind of scientific view of the world as final, and also from the error of confusing the human formulation of the truth of God with the Divine Truth itself."

[Page 497, Emil Brunner, A STUDY IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS: THE DIVINE IMPERATIVE. English translation from German. (Westminster Press, Philadelphia: 1937).

While acknowledging that even our interpretation of Scripture is a fallible process, I am not certain I buy into a neo-orthodox or Barthian view of divine revelation or the doctrine of Scripture. However, Brunner's comment is worthy of consideration, especially in light of his disagreement with Barth's more presuppositional approach to revelation. Brunner thinks that science can indeed play a legitimate part in understanding God from below and through general revelation.

That being said, these days too much credit is given to the scientific worldview. The so-called "fact" of evolution is just one example of this. By "fact" they mean to reject intelligent design and all other attempts to harmonize science with mystery and revelation as inherently "stupid." While I can certainly sympathize with the paranoia of scientists and their wish to avoid compromising science with superstition, they should also acknowledge that a lot of good science came from men who were investigating God's creation from a theistic and even a Christian perspective. Newton, for example, did mathematics and physics trying to explain how God had set certain laws in place in the heavens.

A complete divorce of revelation from reason and from science not only ignores the historical development of science, it also ignores the limitations of science existing even today. Ptolemy and Galileo were Christians and Newton himself, though not orthodox, was a Christian theist as well. Many scientists today do not find science and Christianity totally opposed to each other. Scientists like Michael Behe and his theory of irreducible complexity in microbiology have come under fire for imposing a possibility for intelligent design for the origin of life on earth. But as Miss Martinuzzi has pointed out, Dawkins himself makes room for this view by saying that aliens could have started life here.

The inconsistency of logic pointed out in Dawkins' allowance for alien intelligence as a source of life on earth with his outright rejection of any idea of that "alien intelligence" being God, completely distinct and separate from the universe, is just preposterous given Dawkins' human fallibility and finite understanding of the observable universe, which is also limited.

I am no longer a fan of "creation science" (an oxymoron at best) or a literal six day creation view, since Scripture does not give a scientific account of creation but a theological account. However, the intelligent design view of the origin of life is not without merit when considered from either the scientific worldview or from a theological worldview.

Just my opinion.

May God have mercy on us all!!

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