Bryan College bleeding fundamentalists

I think I’ve posted about this once before, but the fracas at Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee (a fundamentalist college named after William Jennings Bryan, and located in the town where he had his Scopes Trial debacle and then died) is continuing, and is described at Inside Higher Ed in a new piece by Coleen Flaherty, “Too small a box.”

Bryan College has long had a “Statement of Belief,” which begins like this:

“the holy Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, is of final and supreme authority in faith and life, and, being inspired by God, is inerrant in the original writings”

and goes downhill from there. Every faculty member and all the staff have to sign this annually (I guess that’s to prevent change of belief).

Last February, the College’s Board of Trustees issued a “clarification,” which it claimed was really inherent in the original statement. The clarification read:

“We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.”

This, of course, was meant to counteract the new scientific evidence that modern humans never went through a bottleneck of 2, but remained at a size of about 12,000 (10,000 of those in Africa, the remainder those who left Africa about 60,000 years ago to colonize the rest of the world). The College’s explanation, which came with a threat, was this:

In an email, [President Stephen] Livesay, who formerly was a faculty member at Liberty University, said the clarification was necessary “to maintain the historical and current theological position of the college with respect to the origin of man.” Those faculty members who don’t sign the updated statement for next year will have “rejected” the college’s offer of employment, he said.

In other words, Adam and Eve talks, science walks. This caused at least two faculty members to resign, several others to leave for unspecified reasons, and the university’s faculty to give Livesay a 30-2 vote of “no confidence.” The student government also opposed this “clarification” on various grounds, including the claim that it isn’t really a clarification but a change in a statement that was supposed to be immutable.

Curiously, both Professor Ceiling Cat and Karl Giberson were interviewed for this (I suggested Giberson as an evangelical Christian who would probably oppose this), and we came to some kind of agreement. But he still doesn’t get to be called “Uncle”:

Jerry Coyne, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, has written extensively about creationism, including on his blog, Why Evolution Is True. He said he’d been following the Bryan case, and saw it as a larger trend among evangelical Christians to assert the historicity of Adam and Eve in a new kind of “Darwin moment,” facilitated by DNA and other scientific discoveries challenging the concept of humanity descending from just two individuals.

“It’s sort of amazing to see this clash between religion and science all over again, except that this is kind of sad,” he said. “As soon as you say something about the historicity of Genesis, science education is compromised.”

Coyne added that any kind of statement of faith was an affront to science, since it’s rooted in the exploration of new ideas, not swearing “fealty” to any particular belief.

Coyne is a declared atheist, but Bryan’s move has raised concerns even among Christian scholars. In an email from Brazil, where he is lecturing on the creationism debate, writer and physicist Karl W. Giberson called the new language “alarming.”

“[Religious] colleges should become more accepting of science, not less,” he said. “Bryan’s stance is quite extreme, requiring faculty to sign on to young earth creationism, which includes the belief that the earth is 10,000 years old.”

He continued: “In my opinion, schools like Bryan should lose their accreditation. There should be no government approval of any sort for an institution that forces people to affirm that the earth is 10,000 years old, when we know it is 4.5 billion. It is also unconscionable to expect a scientist who knows the earth is 4.5 billion years old to suddenly start believing it is 10,000. How is that supposed to work?”

Good for Karl! But he should have added that there should also be no government approval for an institution that forces people to affirm that humanity descended from only two ancestors described in the Bible.  After all, Giberson’s former home, BioLogos, takes no stand on historicity of Adam and Eve, an act of sheer cowardice (and capitulation to fundamentalists) on their part.

Finally, I told Colleen that it’s not unusual for religious schools to have oaths and belief statements that all faculty must sign, and that these are often in direct conflict with science. Here in Illinois, Wheaton College is also an evangelical Christian school, but one I thought was a bit more liberal than Bryan. But looking at its website, I found a “statement of faith” preceded by this (my emphasis):

The doctrinal statement of Wheaton College, reaffirmed annually by its Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, provides a summary of biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity. The statement accordingly reaffirms salient features of the historic Christian creeds, thereby identifying the College not only with the Scriptures but also with the reformers and the evangelical movement of recent years. The statement also defines the biblical perspective which informs a Wheaton education. These doctrines of the church cast light on the study of nature and man, as well as on man’s culture.

Again the annual affirmation to weed out those whose faith might waver! The statement itself is like Bryan’s, resembling the Nicene Creed, but also includes this:

WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness.

WE BELIEVE that our first parents sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death, and that as a result all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed.

And yet they not only teach biology at Wheaton, but have a course on ecology and evolution. How they can do this and yet affirm such a statement (it doesn’t mention a young earth or ex nihilo creation, though) is beyond me.

What is interesting, and which I mention in the piece above, is that the new genetic data on human population size is taking us back to the days of Darwin, when evolution threatened to bring down the edifice of Christianity. Thanks to the judicious manipulations of theologians, and the will to believe, it didn’t, but the Adam-and-Eve challenge is in some ways more serious than was Darwin’s book. For if they didn’t live, and weren’t humanity’s ancestor’s, whence original sin? And if no original sin, why Jesus? The fact is that if Adam and Eve weren’t real people and the parents of all of us, then the whole edifice of Christianity collapses like a house of cards. At least it does to rational people, but of course theologians are busy reverse-engineering this problem as I write.

Religion and science compatible? Clearly not in places like Bryan or Wheaton!

 

 

 

 

 

120 Comments

  1. Sastra
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Coyne is a declared atheist …

    Is this the new modifier? A “declared” atheist? As in “Ah do declare, Ah am an atheist.” Sounds like something out of Tennessee Williams.

    When will it just be considered sufficient to just say that someone “is an atheist” in plain language without it seeming necessary to reassure the listener that no, it’s not a slander the person admitted it?

    Religion and science compatible? Clearly not in places like Bryan or Wheaton!

    True. But when it’s clear it’s trivial. The sophisticates sneer at the need for any “literal” historic backup, as their capacity to stretch a metaphor is more infinite than God.

    But the size, scope, and directional import of the theory of evolution applied to both the God hypothesis and theological explanations in general? Less obvious, but imo more critical.

    • Curt Cameron
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Well, it’s better than saying he’s an “admitted atheist.”

    • Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I have to ask, “Oh…. you’re a declared Atheist major. What are you minoring in?”

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Pusses n’ boots, obviously!
        😉

    • Daoud
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      It would matter quite a lot living in many Muslim countries. I just read yesterday an interesting editorial in the Guardian about being a “Muslim atheist” in Muslim countries. Basically saying despite the infamous death penalty for apostasy in Islam, there are “Muslim atheists” in Muslim countries but they do not declare themselves. They can and do avoid fasting, going to Mosque and praying etc. but as long as they keep quiet about it, it’s normally tolerated. “Declaring” yourself an atheist is where they would get themselves into trouble.

      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/05/islam-atheist-saudi-arabia-terrorists-faith-muslim-world

    • H.H.
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      “…their capacity to stretch a metaphor is more infinite than God.”

      LOL!

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if it’d make any point to start calling the religious declared Christians, Muslims, etc.

  2. Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    And, of course, those who claim the compatibility of science and religion always expect science to capitulate to religion and not the other way around. Even for those who don’t demand that religious faith take precedence over empirical observations, there’s still the insistence that scientists mustn’t attempt to muscle in on religious turf; those magisteria shall not overlap!

    No; sorry. We will have a look-see at what’s behind that curtain, and we’re not going to pretend that the man we find behind it pulling the steampunk levers really has any sort of magical powers he clearly doesn’t have.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Kevin
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Endearing first paragraph. So much exposition I have had to devote to deaf religious ears of compatibilists who claim every modicum of success from science as their own and yet are unwilling to challenge their own beliefs with science that obviously contracts those beliefs.

      It is unparalleled illogical thinking. I call it the religious diode.

      • Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        I call it the religious diode.

        …and it’s obviously not the light-emitting type….

        b&

        • Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          Probably sinister, though…

          /@

          • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            Ah — the ones Marvin got saddled with on his left side?

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

              Damn it! I was trying to work out a good left side joke all night!

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

                Don’t let me stop you — go for it!

                b&

            • Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

              😉

          • Filippo
            Posted May 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

            An odious diode.

        • Posted May 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          A light quenching diode?

    • inkydisaster
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I thought the religious were capitulating by not burning us at the stake.

      • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        The way they get all hot and bothered when Jesus sends tsunamis to kill thousands of children because of Teh Ghey, you may well be right….

        b&

  3. Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The problem with accreditation is there are apparently now spurious accreditation agencies. (I forget details, but this came up in the contextof “alt med” stuff.) This isn’t to say it isn’t worth considering, but it might involve a wack-a-mole exercise.

    Is there any organization in the US that validates biology (geology, etc.) programs and such? It could happen at that level, too – refusal to accredit *programs* at schools with such doctrine. It would be mighty embarassing – I would think – to have a “nonapproved” program in such major fields.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Illinois’ Wheaton College isn’t alone in the state regarding its students and faculty to accept and adhere to a strictly evangelical, fundamentalist credo. Olivet Nazarene University (in Bourbonnais)recently fired a biologist because he was a theistic evolutionist. Not pure enough; too scientific.

      As for accrediting agencies, as a college who’s high up in the American Association of University Professors said to me, ‘they would accredit a ham sandwich.’

      • colnago80
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        It is my information that Wheaton College is a respectable institution of higher learning, despite it’s fundamentalist religions orientation. All right, it ain’t Cal Tech but it ain’t Liberty “University” either.

        • daveyc
          Posted May 6, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          I actually attended Wheaton as an undergrad for about 2 years. It is a good school by and large, and I can definitely confirm that many of the faculty do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, whatever document they might sign.

          • Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            I had done a couple job interviews at various catholic universities. That was a strange experience (as I am not a catholic). Besides being interviewed by faculty, the administrators seemed to be clergy, with the collar, etc. They were the ones at the top. But the interviews were just like at any other college, and the faculty seemed reasonably secular.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              Did the holy men freak you out? They always kind of freak me out. I think it is the outfits.

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

                Yes.. but they were nice.

              • michaelfugate
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

                My friend’s comment on her interview at a Catholic university where she now teaches,” I didn’t say F**K to any of the nuns.”

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                I know I’d accidentally blaspheme. I can’t help it, I’m a natural blasphemer since as an atheist it is just mild swearing & exclaiming to me. If I try not to do it, it just makes it worse like when Basil wasn’t supposed to “mention the war”.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Is there any organization in the US that validates biology (geology, etc.) programs and such?

      No, those are pretty much do-it-yourself disciplines. Which is why institutional accreditation probably won’t control this stuff, either. You define the outcomes.

      • Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        Hm, odd, since I know other basic science areas like chemistry I believe have such processes. (Philosophy does, I think. There have been cases of philosophy graduate programs kicked out of the APA for various infractions – usually adminstrative rather than content, but …)

        • Ken Pidcock
          Posted May 7, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          I have to say that I really don’t know for geology. But biology, no. Partly, this might be because biology has only been a coherent discipline since the modern synthesis.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Just curious – who accredits the accreditors?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        It’s accreditors all the way down. Careful where you step.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    What a misuse of the word “history” to claim that Adam and Eve are historical figures! Where were the rigors of academia in figuring that one out? Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways; you either accept academic rigor or you get out of the academic business

    • Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      What makes you think they were ever in the academic business to begin with?

      Quite the contrary, I’m pretty sure they’ve always only been yet another branch of the marketing department for Jesus, Inc.

      …of course, that involves pretending that they’re in the academic business, but….

      b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        The have the auspices of academia with the “college” designation. It should be taken from them and all schools that disregard facts.

        • Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          I’d agree with you, but that’s not how the educational system works in America. Anybody can set up any type of institution they want and call it whatever they want. Many moons ago, I earned a fair bit of dosh teaching all sorts of classes at Motorola University. Great gig, and it was a wonderful service Motorola offered to its employees…but it quite obviously wasn’t the same type of institution as the three state universities in Arizona — not even vaguely, and it didn’t pretend to be.

          Of course, Motorola wasn’t being fraudulent or deceitful in any way. One could argue that these Jesus schools are…except that they’re selling a service that people want and happily pay good money to get.

          Would I prefer that there be some sort of more stringent regulation on naming of these types of institutions? Probably…but even that might lead to some unintended consequences. It also wouldn’t stop the institutions from existing, at least not in a free society. They’d keep on doing what they’re doing, just with a different word at that place in the name. “Academy,” or “philosophical society,” or “association for education,” or the like.”

          Nobody ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the American public, after all….

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

            maybe I should refine my complaint. They shouldn’t be accredited as colleges or universities so grads don’t get a degree. They get oh let’s call it a “blessing” or something. 🙂

            • papalinton
              Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

              I agree, a ‘blessing’ would be appropriate.

              I think there is confusion between receiving a Certificate of Attainment [a degree] and a Certificate of Attendance [‘blessing’].

              Prospective students need to exercise ‘caveat emptor’ about the kind of certificate they wish for.

            • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

              But who accredits the accreditors? Mr. Bob Jones could start up Jonesin’ for Jesus Accreditation and Shoe Shine Service, and give Bob Jones University an A+++! rating.

              It’s a messy problem, one I’d love to see solved…and one I have no clue how to solve….

              b&

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                What an utterly pointless question. The accreditor is The Ground of Accreditation. It is the reason there is anything to accredit at all. The accreditor does not need an accreditor.

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

                I bet a sufficient length of 0-gauge copper would ground the Ground of Accreditation. Especially if we put a couple thousand amps through it….

                b&

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                That would come as a complete shock…

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                That would come as a complete shock…

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

                Looks like I hit the double post race condition again.

              • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

                Once Dad hears about this, you’ll be grounded for a week!

                b&

              • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

                It doesn’t bother me, so long as I’m sufficiently grounded, any charges you make will pass right through me.

                I think I just had a revealing insight into the mind of theologians!

              • Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

                With the right DA, those charges will stick like mayo to an ham sandwich.

                b&

  5. Richard C
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    One of the trickier parts of evolution to get is that there is no first member of a new species. No first human. No first primate. No first mammal. No first amphibian, or even first animal. Whatever caused DNA to first start fusing together from primordial nucleotides probably did it a bunch of times as made whole soups filled with DNA.

    It’s tricky. But I think when you figure that out is when you start to really get evolution.

    • Daoud
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      What came first, the chicken or the egg? Neither. Right? 🙂

      • Richard C
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        The egg, obviously, by hundreds of millions of years (defined strictly) or over a billion years (defined very loosely). 🙂 No “first” one though!

    • Sastra
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      I also think that when you figure that out — that there is no “first” anything when it comes to biology as it’s all a matter of degrees and debate — is when you start to get what is really wrong about supernatural explanations. It’s not just the magic.

      When you get down to it they’re all variations of “like comes from like.” The First Life/Human/Mind/Morals/Altruism is simply inexplicable because where was the original living/mental/moral/altruistic thing that it came from? It had to be made in the image of something — what then? The temptation to step “out” of natural progression and cheat with an Original First from Nowhere is strong.

      If we were somehow able to look back into history and view the very first beginnings of a “new” species or even life-from-nonlife I suspect the moment would be undramatic. It would feel like a cheat itself — and that’s because any observable event is going to have to be arbitrarily chosen as representing “the” moment. There’d be earlier stuff that’s critical and later stuff that’s also critical.

      A creationist would reject it for that very reason. They’re expecting drama. So are we … but we KNOW better. We learned beyond our intuitions.

      • Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        If we were somehow able to look back into history and view the very first beginnings of a “new” species or even life-from-nonlife I suspect the moment would be undramatic.

        Heh — you fell into the very trap you were warning others against.

        Just as “there is no ‘first” anything when it comes to biology,” there’s no singular moment associated with it, either. The closest you could get would be a sped-up time lapse view of the transition.

        Our brains, they hate us. They make us do stupid things, even when we know better, even at the very moment when we’re demonstrating that we know better….

        b&

        • Sastra
          Posted May 6, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I know there’s no “first moment” associated with biology; that was exactly my point. No matter what particular event we watched, it would be debatable on whether it fit the criteria or not. The drama is never discovered in a ‘moment.’

          Richard Dawkins called the tendency to place life, the universe, and everything into neat categories “the discontinuous mind.”

          • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            Of course, when it comes to the faithful, it’s more like the discombobulated mind. I’d be happy for mere discontinuity!

            b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          Teh internets agree that your brain is a jerk.

          • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            Teh innernets. Is there anything they don’t no?

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

              Know. Teh internets no it all.

              • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

                They even know how to know thyself…Biblically speaking. In fact, I think that accounts for the majority of the bits on the wire….

                b&

              • Filippo
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

                Gives a new meaning to the adage, “Know thyself.”

      • Richard C
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        “If we were somehow able to look back into history and view the very first beginnings of a “new” species or even life-from-nonlife I suspect the moment would be undramatic”

        Since a species is a group of critters unable to produce viable offspring with another group of critters, and every generation can reproduce with the one that came before, there is never the distinct birth of a new species.

        But maybe we could arbitrarily define a first “human” if we picked a single mutation event (out of the tens of millions separating us from our common ancestor with chimpanzees) and declared that one to be the “human” mutation. Then the first baby born with it would be the first “human”, though it’d outwardly appear to be no different from its siblings.

        And then you’d realize we all exist because that first human grew up and fucked a chimp.

        • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          But maybe we could arbitrarily define a first “human” if we picked a single mutation event (out of the tens of millions separating us from our common ancestor with chimpanzees) and declared that one to be the “human” mutation.

          The problem with that is that, of course, there are at least as many such mutations as there are single-nucleotide variations between humans and chimps….

          b&

  6. michaelfugate
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Science creates so many conflicts in the Christian community. It knows science is important and prestigious and wants to bask in that glory, hence the attempts to claim science is a Christian invention. Yet when science doesn’t give the answer it wants, faith and revelation are hauled out and scientism is invoked. It is like never having gained any more understanding of science than the bastardization that is 1st year Chemistry lab – where the correct is already known and if one doesn’t get it from the test, then it is solely due to operator error. It is all a sham and students at these schools should get their money back.

    • Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      First year Chemistry and Bio labs are likely cookbook labs, but their utility is to teach students basic soft skills for doing science. Learn the background material. Follow directions. Use hand-eye coordination. Watch out for that bunsen burner. Yes, that does remove some of the thrill of doing real science, but it is new for them and it is good training.

      • michaelfugate
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        That’s fine, but don’t sell it as doing science. It’s not – and the learning of techniques and doing science need not be mutually exclusive. I spend so much time convincing students that the point is to let the data tell them an answer not to let the answer tell them the data.

        • Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. It is not science. It is training, education, and it can still be very interesting. I know I was pretty thrilled when I was a student.

  7. Daoud
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I wonder if at Wheaton, at least in the science courses like the one mentioned, it comes down to a “dont’ ask, don’t tell” sort of reality, where they teach proper science and don’t make mention of the statement of faith or ask any questions about it (e.g. “how does it fit with what you’re teaching?”)

    Anyone here ever attend or witness these courses, or seen videos etc?

    But yeah, upwards and onwards American Taliban! …

    • daveyc
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I was an undergrad at Wheaton for a couple years. I didn’t take too many science classes, but I know that many of the faculty members are not Young Earth Creationists or anything like that, and many have no problems with evolution at all. For example, they have (or had – this was a decade ago) a physical anthropology class that uses a standard physical anthropology textbook. No creationist crap–at least, not of the YEC or much of the ID variety.

  8. colnago80
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    In some fairness, in the PBS 7 part series on evolution, the 7th episode included a segment on Wheaton College. As I recall, it was claimed that evolution was taught there much like it is taught at other such institutions of higher learning.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Right, which means that, every year, the faculty are asked to lie, explicitly, and to have this serve as a model for their students.

  9. Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Beyond Belief and commented:
    There is no end to what you can believe, especially if you sign an annual declaration of your faith.

    • Jeffery
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      There IS a big difference in simply “believing” something without any evidence for it, and believing that opposing viewpoints which DO have evidence for them should be suppressed or the teaching of them punished- in that strange sense, Wheaton’s practices are not entirely (?) illogical. Hypocritical? Yes.

      • Posted May 7, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that the “headline” I was adding to my reblog would be put here as a comment.

        It more pertains to the content of my blog than to the facts here, as Dr.Coyne is relaying them.

  10. eric
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death

    Hold on, I thought that standard Christian doctrine is that we all had immortal souls. I.e., souls that cannot die. Even us hellbound folk – aren’t we supposed to burn forever?

    I’m being a bit pedantic of course. In reality, the statement is mixing metaphors. “Incurred physical death” is meant to mean ’caused us to have non-eternal life spans’ (not literal instant death). “Incurred spiritual death” OTOH isn’t supposed ot imply anything about spiritual life-span, it’s just supposed to mean we were spiritually separated from God or got evil urges or something.

    But I think my pedantry has a point. This is a statement that professorial faculty are supposed to sign. And yet, the statements are metaphorial, convoluted, and could easily be taken in numerous ways. Poor writing makes for bad policy.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 3:49 am | Permalink

      Some of the 30,000-odd Christian splinter-sects claim to know that there’s no Hell, but that the Beard punishes the non-saved by snuffing out their souls (while the saved are condemned to an eternity of praising). Maybe that’s what they mean?

  11. Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    My Bryan College story: I was driving home from a math conference and decided to stop by the Dayton Courthouse to see the Scopes Trial exhibit and I visited Bryan College.

    There was someone at the front desk; I think that they were signing up adults for “degree completion” programs. He saw my Escher t-shirt and said “that’ an Escher design…you look like you are a seeker of knowledge.” I responded “I’d like to think so.”

    He went on to inform me that the main building was “in the same dimensions of Noah’s Ark”. I raised my eyebrows and said “ooooookkkkkaaayyy…interesting” and moved on.

    They had a display and it contained “works” such as “x ways the play Inherit The Wind differed from the Scopes Trial”. 🙂

  12. moarscienceplz
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “… the Adam-and-Eve challenge is in some ways more serious than was Darwin’s book. For if they didn’t live, and weren’t humanity’s ancestor’s, whence original sin? And if no original sin, why Jesus?”

    When I was attending services at the Methodist church in the ’70s (against my will), they were trying very hard to appeal to the “Sputnik Generation” by taking discoveries from science and tying themselves into knots to find a Christian message within. I don’t think anyone there ever asserted historicity for Adam & Eve. I always understood the Garden of Eden story not to mean that humans were tainted with Original Sin, but rather that it was a metaphor for the fact that we were inherently imperfect beings who pretty much couldn’t stop ourselves from sinning. So, the people who died before Jesus preached were not automatically damned. Jesus was more like a booster shot of godliness, at least that’s how I understood it.

    • Jeffery
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Another interesting thing to ponder about the Adam and Eve fable is that, when Eve committed the “original sin” (that is, going against God’s will) by eating the “apple”, we have to remember that this was the “fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Having no knowledge beforehand that what she was doing was a “bad” thing, could she be said to have consciously “sinned”, at all?

      • Posted May 7, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        +1!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, Eve was totally a patsy in this one. I’ve said that before – I think god only told Adam about the fruit being forbidden. He probably didn’t think he should bother talking to a mere woman.

  13. gluonspring
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This may be part of why in Christian fantasies like the movie God’s Not Dead they imagine professors trying to force students to sign statements of dis-belief. In their mind that’s how it’s done. That’s how they do it after all. They don’t see the the tactic as illegitimate, only the specific thing you are forced to assert. Similarly, Expelled imagines a conspiracy to overtly exclude science on ideological grounds instead of on scientific merit. Again, that’s what Christian institutions do unabashedly so it’s natural for them to imagine that thats reason they aren’t getting plum jobs at Stanford. In their case it is not even something they deny. They put their exclusionary dogma right on their websites. It’s an astounding case of the pot calling the bone china black.

    • michaelfugate
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      They really do believe that the only reason academics in public institutions accept evolution is because they are forced to do so under threat of expulsion. They have such a completely backwards view of what scientists think and do that if there weren’t examples of their behavior dotted all over the US one might think how could so many people possibly be so wrong.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      It is almost like, as a instruction or when Christianity likewise organizes itself, it doesn’t fit into modern, enlightened, democratic society. Openness is shunned, authoritative control is favoured and the rhetoric of double speak employed. It isn’t necessarily Bronze-aged but it certainly seems pre 19th C

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        D’oh – “instruction” = “institution”

      • Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        This is a comparison that I like to make regarding science, and how the devoutly religious view science. In science acts of dissent and criticism of authority (when done in proper form) is a sign of health and progress. Something good comes out of it. In religion, that sort of thing is frightening. This is why we so often hear them crow that evolution is a ‘theory in crisis’. They think that an argument over gradualism versus punctuated equilibrium means the whole thing is heading for a schism.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think you can limit it to just Chriatianity. ISTM that whenever you have a group that defines inclusion/exclusion based on a set of assertions that have no evidence to support them that you are bound to get an atmosphere of authoritarianism, paranoia, and conspiracy. Just look at how the Bundy ranch clowns are now pointing their guns at each other.

  14. Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I know this declaration sounds awful, but given the origins of Bryan College, I was cheered to see that two faculty members resigned and a huge majority of the others voted no confidence in the president. AND students too seem to be … well I want to call it “rebelling,” but that’s probably too strong. Let’s call it daring resistance. I mean, for Bryan it’s daring.

  15. Jim Thomerson
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    http://www.slu.edu/department-of-biology-home/statement-on-evolution

    Here is a link to the St Louis University biology department statement on evolution. I suppose they are accomodationists.
    They are a major center of the study of fish evolution.

    The universality of the genetic code strikes me as very strong evidence of a single origin of all life on earth.

    • eric
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      The genetic code is also a great example of how science is not dogmatic, because if we DID find a completely different genetic code, I think most scientists would readily accept a multi-origin of life on earth. Common origin is a conclusion based on the evidence, not any sort of philosophical assertion to which scientists are expected to pay homage. Unlike religion.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      There’s always an element of whistling past the graveyard in such statements, inasmuch as a thorough understanding of evolutionary theory tends to point to naturalism.

      By the way, I’d imagine the folks at SLU are pleased with current circumstances. In recent decades, Catholic universities have faced a lot of pressure to relinquish their independence. With a Jesuit at the helm, I’ll bet a lot of that crap eases up somewhat.

  16. Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help noticing the abyss between this literal interpretation of the bible and Hart’s “sophisticated” theology. I guess the vast majority of the believers wouldn’t understand much of that, in the unlikely event they would try to read it.

  17. Siaj
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of debates there’s going to be an Afterlife debate on Wed. Steve Novella & Sean Carroll vs Eben Alexander & Raymond Moody
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/afterlife-debate/

  18. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen this quite a few times …

    ““the holy Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, is of final and supreme authority in faith and life, and, being inspired by God, is inerrant in the original writings

    The “original writings” bit is actually a disclaimer. The ultimate out, as it were. Since we don’t actually have those “original writings,” (in particular the synoptic gospels) and when one is backed into a corner concerning a contradiction or piece of ahistorical bible “history,” one can always take this “out” and claim that the “original writings” are correct but man himself has corrupted Yahweh’s perfect word through bad translations or bad personal interpretations. It may not be an effective tactic to play on a skeptic but it can certainly ease the cognitive dissonance of the believer trying to salvage nonsense.

    • Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Interesting.

      But it makes me think, were there “original writings” or were there only written records of an earlier oral tradition? (Or traditions, in the case of at least Genesis?)

      /@

      • Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Multiple oral traditions, even in the case of the Gospels. If you squint hard enough, you can kinda pretend that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all come from the same common tradition. But John? Not a chance.

        And then there’re all the heresies — many of which date to the exact same time as the orthodoxies. Marcion’s Jesus was as different from the orthodoxies as John is from the Synoptics…and, to the Ophites, Jesus was a snake god….

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          Standard non-fundamentalist biblical scholarship holds that Matthew and Luke used two sources in writing their books, Mark and a compendium of sayings called Q. Hence the similarities.

          Of course, you’re absolutely right that there were lots of other gospels, too; one can find a volume of new testament apocrypha if one is really interested. You probably know that the official canon was decided at the council of Nicea in 325 CE.

          Question: did the Ophites have a snake god? Or a “snake” (wink wink, nudge nudge) god?

          • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

            There were actually a number of different ophite sects. They tended to be Gnostics, saw YHWH as the bad guy, and the serpent in Genesis as the good guy. Generalizations get murkier after that, I’m sure in no small part due to the general Christian tendency to burn books they don’t like….

            b&

          • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            trouser snake

      • Dermot C
        Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:27 am | Permalink

        Ant,

        Re: OT. In Genesis, scholars trace 3 sources. The J (Yahweh) source (Eden, Eve and the Fall, Moses, the exodus, Sinai, wilderness – written in Judah probably in the early 8th century BCE). The E (Elohim) source (Moses and the early patriarchs – written probably in Israel, before BCE 722). The P (Priestly) source (Sabbatical creation account – later 6th century BCE – the promise to Noah, the Flood, covenant of God with Abraham, Tabernacle, priesthood, laws of holiness and diet [Leviticus] bringing of people under God’s domination).

        There is a fourth source, D: the Deuteronomist historian(s) (7 books from Joshua to end of Kings, mid-6th century, written in exile Iraq, held fast to book of the Law found in Temple in BCE 622/1, misfortune is result of disobedience of God’s Law, fascinated by prophets, some Moses stories and speeches [like Thucydides]). D’s sources are inferred as prophets stories – Elijah and Elisha – and ‘the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel’ – primary sources, scholars think.

        J, E, P and D were worked on by a fifth unknown author and editor between c. 520 and 400 BCE, probably nearer to 400 BCE.

        Ezra, c. 460-445 BCE, was the first recorded person to read out the Pentateuch: this is the first sign that it had been bound together.

        Re: NT. John differs hugely from the Synoptics, whose wording is frequently identical. From memory, 95% of Mark is in Matthew: 50 % of Mark is in Luke. Nevertheless, John frequently has parallels in the Synoptics and sometimes the Gospel of Thomas, by which I mean he refers to the same events in completely different language. All references are to John. E.g. The Two follow Jesus 1:35-39, Philip & Nathanael 1:43-51, the Temple as Market 2:13-17, Destroy the Temple 2:19, Born of water & spirit 3:3-8, No respect at home 4:44, the Crippled Man 5:1-18, Honouring the Sender 5:23b. The list goes on…

        This seems to indicate some sort of common oral tradition to John and the Synoptics. Crossan posits a no longer extant Signs Gospel from which John gets his stories, although that is a controversial idea. Some in the early Church opposed John’s Gospel as heretical, probably due to the ease with which you can interpret it in a docetic fashion – Jesus only appeared human. Marcion the heretic held that view.

        Slaínte.

        • Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:49 am | Permalink

          Tx!

          • Dermot C
            Posted May 7, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            Ant,

            The question of when sources were originally written is based to a large extent on literary analysis and archaeological confirmation. My sources are the atheist Robin Lane Fox and Israel Finkelstein and Silverman.

            The first external confirmation of a Biblical character is of Pharaoh Shishak on Egyptian monuments (1 Kings 11:40) in the 10th Century Solomon’s reign. The first Jew mentioned outside the OT is King Ahab of Israel on a royal inscription of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III – probably the summer of 853 BCE.

            After Assyria’s campaigns in the north, Judah had a sudden demographic growth and social evolution becoming a fully-fledged state by the late 8th century. King Mesha of Moab is mentioned on a stone of black basalt – possibly contemporaneous with Ahab and his son Omri. Although the Biblical and basalt accounts differ radically in the outcome of the conflict, there can be little doubt that they refer to the same events. Assyrian inscriptions make Omri a landmark long after his death, contrary to the ideology of the Deuteronomist historian(s). Assyrian evidence fixes Jehu’s surrender at 843 BCE. Jehu is the only known OT king artistically represented by a contemporary (in the Assyrian king Shalmaneser’s sculpted relief) c. just before 842/1 BCE.

            The Babylonian kings’ source is a series of clay tablets dating from 547 BCE, I think, to beyond Alexander the Great, a secondary text, probably extracted from primary sources. The Biblical governor Tattenai in Jerusalem is matched with Taat(anu) in a Babylonian text from 502 BCE. The Cyrus Cylinder confirms that Cyrus favoured some of the displaced gods and worshippers in Babylonia, although the Jews are not specifically mentioned.

            In general these external references confirm the fact of some early Israelites’ existence, but they correct dates and tell a very different story to the self-aggrandizement of the Deuteronomist tale.

            There are also interesting external parallels: Amos, the earliest prophetic source c. 760-740 BCE is roughly contemporaneous with the establishment of Greek oracular shrines. In 620 BCE Draco drew up Greek laws and the Hebrew laws were ‘rediscovered’ in the Temple in 622/1 BCE.

            Josephus in the late 1st century CE tells us that the Septuagint was translated around 300 BCE and he mentions 22 OT books, 5 books of the Law, 13 of history to the time of Artaxerxes, 4 books of hymns and precepts for human conduct (Psalms, Proverbs, the Song and Ecclesiastes) – he knew of other books but these were ‘inferior’.

            Slaínte.

            • Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

              Although the Biblical and basalt accounts differ radically in the outcome of the conflict, there can be little doubt that they refer to the same events.

              See, that’s why people in the hard sciences don’t take PoMo-infested branches of the soft sciences seriously. You’ve got conflicting evidence, and your conclusion is that there’s no doubt that they support a single conclusion. No mention of maybe they were different events; maybe they were entirely fictional on both sides; maybe the other side is the one making it up; maybe it was an ancient joke — no hedging whatsoever.

              True academics are always skeptical. Only faith can even in principle bring the type of certainty you describe with respect to the evidence you actually have.

              b&

              • Posted May 7, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                The fact that they refer to the same events is no more to the point than holocaust deniers are referring to the same event as WWII historians or that young earth creationists are referring to the same event as cosmologists.

              • Dermot C
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                Chris, historically speaking, it is precisely the point that the basalt stone of the Moabites refers to probably the same event as that described in 2 Kings 3. It is not analogous to Holocaust deniers and WWII historians specifically because we have so few sources for the Israelite-Moabite conflict, and they have to be treated with care.

                Why is the stone, only deciphered in the 1870s, important?

                It goes to the reliability of the Deuteronomist historian(s). The Israelite version of the story appears in 2 Kings 3, written by the D historian(s). He/they are also the historian(s) who claim that the Israelites conquered Canaan. However, Finkelstein & Silverman, the archaeologists, tell us that there is no evidence for that invasion: they baldly state that the Israelites were the Canaanites.

                So, if the basalt stone didn’t exist, we would again very much doubt the Deuteronomist’s word on any event or person in history: but we have external confirmation of a conflict between the Moabites and Israelites, from the Moabite side. Names match. The outcome, according to the Moabites, was totally different. Which is what I said in the first place.

                So, historically speaking, the stone is of considerable importance: it tells us that there was in all likelihood a conflict between the Israelites and the Moabites. It gives us another view. And it sheds light on the world-view of the Deuteronomist historian(s): it reminds us once again that his/their history was an exercise in the aggrandizement of the polity. Theological propaganda, interpreting legend and real events, to promote Israel’s Chosen status.

                Slaínte.

              • Posted May 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for that clarification. Apologies, my last response was specifically to the last two statements by you and Ben and I was simply making a statement in the context of theists using this sort of evidence to back their claims. I realize you are not doing that. Research like this is clearly useful in arming oneself in knowledge about the subject area.

                I think this helps lay waste to theistic claims that we haven’t done our homework. Clearly, there is a distinction between addressing these types of arguments and ones that have zero empirical evidence of any type.

              • Dermot C
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

                De nada, Chris. Thank you for the graciousness of your response.

                I study this area because I’m interested in it and it hones one’s historical method. Sooner or later you’ll always end up with some ironic anti-theist point, but that’s a by –product. Go where the evidence takes you.

                Slaínte.

              • Dermot C
                Posted May 7, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

                Ben, you haven’t done the work. You can go and look up the sources and when you have all the facts in front of you, then it’s worth discussing.

                How tiresome it is to be accused of having faith (me, an atheist for 41 years) and in the next breath to be accused of being a post-modernist – the two are almost opposites.

                Don’t lecture me on the proper academic approach: lecture the odd Christian who wanders over here. But your tone is deeply patronising. Pack it in: go and research this area if you want, but stop dealing in easy generalities, the corollary of which, in true Po-mo fashion, is that we can be reasonably certain of nothing in history.

                Except for when it suits your argument: as in your dismissal of Josephus as an unreliable witness, despite your having previously cited Philo as connected to the Herodian royal family. Josephus is the source for the datum. And I bet you didn’t even know that. You used it because I told you of it.

                Slaínte.

        • Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

          It’s very much worth noting that all the dates come from literary analysis and tradition. The overwhelming majority of the actual source material dates from only a thousand or so years ago, and all of that with extremely questionable provenance. Before that, there’s a scattering of papyrus fragments and the like and then the Dead Sea Scrolls — with textual differences from the modern canon, often theologically significant. Extrapolating yet another half a millennium and more back from that, especially to place these events in a particular year, is an exercise in faith, not scholarship.

          The error bars on all of that need to be kept very wide, sufficiently wide as to include a reasonable possibility that even the broad outline is completely incorrect. Yes, the various texts have literary styles that indicate different authors and order of authorship and the like, but, for all we know, that could be the result of dueling factionalism in rewrites that occurred shortly after the Fall of Rome, or that it was all a new syncretic synthesis of the third century BCE, or any of a number of various other possibilities.

          There just doesn’t exist the hard physical evidence to warrant any great confidence in any particular theory.

          b&

    • Dermot C
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      RTT, your quotation – and I’d be interested to know where it came from – amounts to Christians admitting, at least in the case of the OT, that they do not know what the word of God was.

      The Hebrew Masoretic Text, dating from the 7th to 11th centuries CE, from which Protestants translate, is ridden with scribal errors, differences and interpolations as much as the NT texts. The Hebrew scribes have an unwarranted reputation for the accuracy of their copying. It is most definitely not an original writing.

      In crucial and theologically significant places, the Masoretic Text differs from some of the Dead Sea Scroll documents which pre-date the MT by 1,000 years. It also differs from the Samaritan Bible which it post-dates: as well as diverging from the Septuagint, which probably contains some earlier versions of stories which appear in the MT.

      The most striking example of different sources is the number of Commandments: some traditions have only the first two.

      If these Christians are serious about inerrancy in the original writings, then they would surely wish to find out which Decalogue convention is earliest. Could have big implications for whether robbing, adultery, lying, covetousness, weekend slacking and murdering are OK with God.

      Slaínte.

      • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        That particular quote, and I apologize for not making it clear as my opening remark made it sound otherwise, is taken from the OP. It’s directly from Bryan College’s “Statement of Belief.”

        It’s not the first time I’ve seen it however. While I cannot recall where, I’ve read similar statements from other organizations. Here’s an example from Answers In Genesis.

        “When we talk about inerrancy, we refer to the original writings of Scripture. We do not have any of the original “autographs,” as they are called, but only copies, including many copies of each book. There are small differences here and there, but in reality they are amazingly similar. One eighteenth century New Testament scholar claimed that not one thousandth part of the text was affected by these differences.”

        Googling the phrase “inerrant in the original writings” finds a plethora of results from religious institutions and apologetics websites taking exactly that tack.

        The Wiki page on Biblical inerrancy say the following concerning the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” …

        “Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, is the doctrine that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is accurate and totally free from error of any kind; that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”.[1]

        A formal statement in favor of biblical inerrancy, , was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1978.[2] The signatories to the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” assert that since there are no extant original manuscripts of the Bible, those which exist cannot be considered inerrant. The signatories also maintain that the existing manuscripts are faithful copies of the original manuscripts.”

      • Daryl
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Hi Dermot

        I’m not certain, but one of the first to use the ‘inerrant in their original autographs’ apologetic was Benjamin Warfield (early 20th century, I think.) An unfortunate side effect of this argument is that as we don’t have any of the autographs, we have no idea what they contained. They could have consisted of ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING.This then would reduce the notion of biblical authority to an exceedingly weak agnosticism,which you would think is of no use to anyone. Alas, the proponents of the ‘original autographs’ arguments don’t seem to notice this…

        • Dermot C
          Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:48 am | Permalink

          Thx, RTT and Daryl.

    • eric
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Its a disclaimer that completely undermines the idea that God’s message has been given to all people or that it’s easily accessible and easily understood.

      Now not all sects necessarily make that claim, but I think most of the mainstream sects at least imply that this accessibilty is part of their theology. The idea that God’s message is hidden or that seekers need to do intellectual discovery work before they will be saved is gnosticism, and generally rejected by the mainstream churches as wrong, because it implies that some people are going to go to hell just because they did not have the intellectual capacity to figure out the right answer.

      • Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        I notice the more “sophisticated” theologies like to use a lot of weasel words and ambiguous language in this regard, especially depending on the audience.

        For example, when I was a kid, I had priests tell me with no reservation that I had severed my relationship with God because I was consciously aware of the immoral acts I committed (implying naturally, that Hell is the punishment). I heard repeated accusations from clergy and lay people alike that I am risking my eternal salvation for acts such as sleeping with my girlfriend.

        Now, if you call these people out, they’ll weasel their way out of it by saying that God is the judge and we can pray for mercy, the Church does not declare any individual as definitely in Hell. (Why they routinely do the reverse with saints is yet another inconsistency, but that’s a different topic). So, no, we’re not specifically judging you to Hell, but God might and there’s good reason to believe that it could happen. For the lest sophisticated believers though, images of Dante’s Inferno will do just find to keep the flock on the straight and narrow.

        Offer a disclaimer about why the claims are not absolute or conflicting with evidence, then go right back to making absolute claims that conflict with evidence. This should be the First Commandment of Sophisticated Theology.

  19. Posted May 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    The Catholic Church isn’t afraid to take a stand on such matters. In the public sphere today, they’ll tell you there is no conflict between religious and science, unless of course you dig up gems like this:

    “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own”

    -Pope Pius XII

  20. papalinton
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I agree, a ‘blessing’ would be appropriate.

    I think there is confusion between receiving a Certificate of Attainment [a degree] and a Certificate of Attendance [‘blessing’].

    Prospective students need to exercise ‘caveat emptor’ about the kind of certificate they wish for.

  21. Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Okay, this bothered me when I read it yesterday, and I just remembered to return to it:

    … “the holy Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, is of final and supreme authority in faith and life, and, being inspired by God, is inerrant in the original writings” …

    Wrong, Bryan College. Your bibble is not “composed” of Old and New Testaments. It is “comprised” of them.

    Comprised means that the whole is followed by its constituent parts. Bibble – two testaments.

    Handy mnemonic: WC TP Whole Comprises The Parts

    Composed is defined as what makes up the whole, and those portions precede the name of the whole. For example, books compose the Testaments of the Bible.

    No charge for this service, Bryan College. You might consider endorsing the Grammar Girl in an official publication for the help she gave me here, though.

    http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/comprise-versus-compose

  22. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    The doctrinal statement of Wheaton College, reaffirmed annually by its Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff,

    Hang on a second – by “staff”, as opposed to faculty, they mean the cleaners, janitors, electricians etc?
    Is that legal? I can just about see some logic in having the Thought Police controlling the minds of those who come into contact with the impressionable minds of their students. It’s totally unjustifiable, but at least there’s some logic to the position. But can they actually impose a religious test on their non-teaching staff?


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