I love the sound of a catfight in the morning, especially when it involves two Christians hissing and spitting over whose theology is better. Over at The Christian Post, Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, religious macher, and flat-out evolution denier, takes on Karl Giberson’s accommodationist theology in “Science trumps the Bible?” Mohler is clearly cheesed off by Giberson’s (and his organization BioLogos‘s) assertion that theology like Mohler’s, which sees the Bible as the literal word of god, is primitive and unsophisticated.
Coyne argues that religious ideas are ancient and resistant to correction, and he identifies science as the only qualified correction. Giberson rejects Coyne’s argument that religious beliefs are a fossilized set of ideas that reluctantly give way to scientific advance. Giberson retorts that religious beliefs change from within religious communities and that scientific advances often refute previously held scientific opinion.
At this point, Giberson’s argument gets really interesting—and really dangerous. “I am happy to concede that science does indeed trump religious truth about the natural world,” Giberson writes. “Galileo and Darwin showed this only too clearly, even if it is completely lost on Ken Ham and Al Mohler.”
Well count me in as being lost to the assertion that science trumps the Bible “about the natural world” or about anything else. In his original response to Jerry Coyne, Giberson made the argument in more striking words: “Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly.” That statement, with its reference to “revealed truth,” is even more shocking than the first.
In the economy of a few words, Giberson throws the Bible under the scientific bus. We should be thankful that his argument is so clear, for it puts the case for theistic evolution in its proper light—as a direct attack upon biblical authority.
Now it’s not all beer and skittles getting praised by a fundamentalist evolution-denier. Accommodationists like to use this stuff to show that atheists, in their dogmatism, resemble religious fundamentalists. We’re both so strident and inflexible, don’t you know, that clearly the right strategy must be somewhere in the Mooneyian middle. But such a claim misses the huge difference between Mohler and those atheists who embrace science.
Mohler argues that science and faith are compatible using a circular sleight of hand: he takes real science to be that which is compatible with the Bible. If what we know about evolution contradicts a literal reading of Genesis, then into the dustbin with it. Science is simply overlooking, or missing, the evidence for an instantaneous creation, Adam and Eve, and the great flood. In contrast, I and others argue that science and faith are incompatible because of their disparate methods of studying reality, and that religion is at bottom incapable of giving us a handle on reality. Evolution is clearly true, and Mohler and his minions are blinded by their faith.
But so is Giberson. Where Mohler and I agree is this: Giberson isn’t all that convincing when he claims that his own liberal and theistic faith is theologically purer than Mohler’s Baptism. Yes, people like Giberson are more likely to be our allies in getting creationism out of the public-school science classes, and that’s good. But in their worship of a god for which there’s no evidence, their insistence on miracles like the Resurrection, and their endless and amusing attempts to comport science with the Bible (as in their wrangles about the meaning of Adam and Eve), Giberson and Mohler are much of a muchness. As P.Z. Myers said, “Note to BioLogos: squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.”
And don’t you just love stuff like this?:
In Giberson’s view, anyone who holds to the truthfulness and historical character of these biblical texts is simply intellectually backwards and unsophisticated. I can only wonder if the parents who send their offspring to Eastern Nazarene College have any understanding of what is taught there—and with such boldness and audacity.
In the last article in his series, Giberson makes the argument that the Christian faith “is rooted in unique historical events that were recorded by the early church as they tried to make sense of their encounters with the risen Christ.” Is that the sum and substance of Professor Giberson’s view of biblical inspiration—that the Bible is the record of the early church’s attempt to “make sense” of Christ and “unique historical events”?
We do know this: Professor Giberson asserts that to believe in the truthfulness and historicity of the entire Bible is to paddle in an “intellectual backwater.” Christians committed to biblical authority should ponder that statement deeply, even as they keep paddling.
The hardest task for acccommodationists isn’t to reconcile the atheists and the liberally religious. It’s their crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler. All the respectful and humble dialogue in the world won’t move them an inch, for they’re not nearly as clueless as Giberson thinks.
p.s. If you need more evidence for the futility of BioLogos’s “dialogue” with fundamentalists, check out the report at The Panda’s Thumb about how Darrel Falk, BioLogos president, had agreed to participate in a “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” conference with the fundies, hoping to achieve some sort of rapprochement about science. I warned him about this, but Falk argued back that science would surely win when put side by side with Biblical literalism. And he got pwned, of course. The whole thing was a set-up designed to discredit science. (To Falk’s credit, he didn’t participate in what would have been a catfight.) See also Steve Matheson’s post for more on BioLogos and the myth of Christian unity.