Book Plunge: Faith Vs Fact. Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. Part 1

What do I think of Coyne’s book published by Viking Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s hard to really describe Coyne’s book on Faith vs. Fact. Two sayings that I was given fit it well. The first is that every page is better than the next. The second is that it is not to be tossed aside lightly but hurled with great force. It would be difficult to imagine a more uninformed writing on a topic unless one had read the rest of modern atheists today like Dawkins and Harris and others. I had even made a number of predictions before reading Coyne’s book that I was sure would take place. Lo and behold, my predictions were right. While the modern atheists consider themselves to be clear and rational thinkers, they pretty much just copy and paste what everyone else says.

It’s also important to point out that looking up references in this book is quite difficult. Coyne does not give page numbers or titles often and the end notes do not even have the page numbers nor are they numbered. Hopefully this will be taken care of in future editions.

It’s hardly a shock to see that Coyne starts early off with the works of Draper and White to show the conflict of science and religion. Of course, many of the claims in the book are known to be just plain false by historians of science. Some of them in White’s book for instance remain entirely unverified today. For much of this, I will rely on the work of James Hannam. It is noteworthy that Coyne never once brings up a book such as Galileo Goes To Jail. Numbers is a real scholar in the field and an agnostic. The book contains a number of agnostic writers and while there are Christians and other faiths as well, you cannot tell by looking at the chapters who is writing what. Coyne is holding on to a myth for atheists that should have been dispelled years ago, but like all people of faith, he has to hold on to those myths to support his belief system.

Now some might want to ask me about my own personal opinions at this point. That’s fine. I’ll clear it up. I am not a scientist and I do not discuss science as science. When it comes to evolution, it makes no difference whatsoever to me and I oppose Christians who have not studied evolution commenting on it. If they want to criticize it, well God bless them, but make sure that if they do, that it is a scientific critique. We do not need a critique of “The Bible says X.” I think too often we have read Genesis as if it was meant to be a scientific and material account instead of the functional account I believe it would have been seen to be by the ancient Israelites and others. If evolution is to fall, and that is not my call at all, it will fall because it is bad science. Either way, the question matters not to me. I am not saying it is unimportant, but that I do not have the time to study it and my interpretation of Genesis doesn’t care about the question.

It’s a shame however that Coyne and other atheists do not pay the same courtesy. While I am not an authority on science and do not thus speak on science, Coyne and others who are not authorities in the relevant field think they can speak on philosophy and history and theology. It is certainly amusing to read a book where it is claimed that Christians have overstepped their bounds (And indeed, too many do and I have strong words for them just as much) and yet Coyne regularly does this where he speaks on topics he has no expertise on and as we shall see later on, he quite frankly makes embarrassing statements that would make any scholar in the field shake their head in disbelief.

Coyne tells us on page 6 that it is off limits to attack religion. I must admit this was a newsflash to me. I suppose it must be news to the rest of the world. The new atheists have been publishing books since shortly after 9/11. Most every Easter you can see a new article or theory coming out claiming something crazy about Jesus that we’re just now discovering. I can go on Facebook and YouTube and see numerous people speaking out against religion. We have seen homosexual activists targeting people of faith, as we are often called. If it is taboo to go after religion, it is apparent that most of the world didn’t get the memo.

I am also confused as to what percentage of Americans are atheists. On page 9, we are told that nearly 20 percent of Americans are either atheists or agnostics or say their religion is nothing in particular. On page 12, we’re told that 83 percent of Americans believe in God and only 4 percent are atheists. Color me confused as to which one it is.

Coyne points to the National Academy of Sciences containing a large number of atheists, but why should this be a surprise? The question of God as we will see is not a scientific question, but is rather a philosophical and metaphysical question. Why should a scientist hold any sort of authority there? Of course, I will not accept the redefinition of science that Coyne gives later on. But why does the NAS statistic not trouble me? Let’s look at what their web site says.

Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations. Consideration of a candidate begins with his or her nomination, followed by an extensive and careful vetting process that results in a final ballot at the Academy’s annual meeting in April each year. Currently, a maximum of 84 members may be elected annually. Members must be U.S. citizens; non-citizens are elected as foreign associates, with a maximum of 21 elected annually.

The NAS membership totals approximately 2,250 members and nearly 440 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received Nobel prizes.

So let’s be clear. 84 members are elected a year. If we count Americans alone, how many scientists and engineers get Ph.D.’s a year? 18,000. Considering that’s from Scientific American Coyne should not have any trouble with that. What that amounts to is that NAS can become a sort of exclusive club where people can get other people who agree with them to come on board, which makes it hardly representative of all scientists. Consider it a sort of good ol’ boys club. That does not mean that the work they do is not valid, but it does mean it should hardly be considered a fair representation of all scientists.

On page 15-16, we have the notion from Coyne that we are increasingly realizing free-will does not exist. Supposing this was true, while Coyne says it would eliminate much of theology, it would also eliminate much of everything else. After all, if there is no free-will, Coyne does not believe what he believes because he is a champion of reason or anything of the like. That’s just the way that the atoms have worked together to make him think. He has no say in the matter. None of us should be convinced by anything he says either and if we are, it is not because of reason but because that is how our atoms responded to something somehow.

Coyne on page 20 refers to teleology as an external force driving evolution, at least from a more theistic perspective. Yet when we use the term teleology, this is not what we mean. Teleology comes from the four causes of Aristotle. The last is the final cause. The final cause was the purpose for which something existed or why it did what it did. Final causality exists throughout our world and it is the reality that an agent acts toward an end, be it intentionally or unintentionally. If an iceberg floats through water and cools the water around it, that is final causality. Aristotle considered this to be the most important of the causes.

In fact, as Gilson shows, this is a necessary aspect of evolution. Evolution did not dispense with final causes but itself has a final cause. The final cause is so the most fit species can survive for the passing on of their genetic information. Evolution, like any kind of competition, has the goal, and again this is not necessarily consciously, of producing the best end product. Unfortunately, Coyne does not possess a basic understanding of Aristotelianism at all so it’s not a shock that he makes a mistake like this. The sad part is his faithful followers who do not possess this knowledge will eat this up thinking that Coyne is right in what he says and not bother to check. I see it happen too often with all the bogus claims that atheists spread on the internet about the fields that I do study in.

As predicted, much of what Coyne says depends on his misuse of the term faith. It’s so easily predictable that Coyne will use this. Of course, absent is any interaction with Biblical lexicons or any study of the Greek language to see what the Bible means when it encourages us to have faith. Faith is for Coyne on page 25, the acceptance of things for which there is no strong evidence and of course, throughout the implication is any belief without evidence is faith. Is this what the writers of Scripture meant by faith? Not at all. For a man who later says fields like history are a science, one would have thought he would be more scientific in his approach, but he is not. Coyne has accepted yet another atheist myth. Had he consulted an actual work of scholarship he might have found this definition:

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

What this means is that faith is really a response to what has been shown. Aristotle would even use the work pistis, which is translated as faith, to refer to a forensic proof. Faith was the loyalty that was owed someone based on the evidence that they had given you. Okay. Well how does that comport with Hebrews 11:1? Very well, thank you. The notion that it is belief without evidence that the Bible espouses is really a myth that atheists throw around without evidence. It is apparent then who the real people of “faith” are.

Now do many Christians have a faulty view of faith? Absolutely, but are those the people Coyne should really go to to get the best of the other side, especially if he wants to be scientific and gathering evidence? Why not study what Christians throughout history have meant by faith? Unfortunately, this seems to be out of bounds for Coyne. Coyne will keep perpetuating this myth throughout his book as if when science came along that all of a sudden people decided that they should have evidence for their beliefs. Sorry Coyne, but numerous people, including Christians, reached that conclusion long before you did.

We can be pleased to see that Coyne says history is a science, but unfortunately as it will be shown later on, this is because Coyne deems to be scientific, any system that relies on gathering evidence for its claims. It’s easy to say that something is scientific in that sense if you just change what the words mean. In doing this, Coyne hopes to show the superiority of science later by saying that history is included under the rubric of science. Not really. History is its own field and it has a historical method just as much as there is a scientific method.

This is all the more amusing since in the book also Coyne says he was practicing science for thirty years and he had never thought about what science was. In fact, he tells us that until he started writing this book, his definition was false. Well it’s nice to know that Coyne is writing to tell us that science and religion are incompatible when before even starting the book he didn’t know what science was. Somehow he knew that whatever science was, it had to be incompatible with religion. Perhaps Coyne should have invested more thought into what it was that he was doing all these decades.

Coyne also speaks against those who claim we shouldn’t accept evolution because we do not see in in our time, to which he says we ignore the massive historical evidence in the fossil record and such. He tells us that if we only accept as true what we see with our own eyes in our own time, we’d have to regard all of human history as dubious. It’s amusing to know this same person will later say we have to be suspicious of miracles because we do not see them around the world today. (However, this claim is also false. Coyne has not shown any interaction with Craig Keener’s massive two-volume work Miracles. One would think that being scientific, Coyne would have wanted to look at the best work of evidence on the topic presented and no, when it comes to miracles there also isn’t even any response to John Earman’s refutation of Hume’s argument. Coyne should have been interested in this since Earman is himself an agnostic and says that Hume’s argument, which Coyne endorses, would be a science stopper if followed through consistently.) Of course, we will find that Coyne’s understanding of historical miracle claims is incredibly lacking, in fact, no doubt one of the worst moments of ignorance in the book.

I am also quite sure that David Bentley Hart would be surprised to find that he is listed as a liberal theologian. I am quite sure it’s because Coyne does not understand what Hart would mean by referring to God as the ground of being. While Coyne does have listed in the back Hart’s book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, he might have been better served by going to a book like Hart’s Atheist Delusions. But then again, never let not understanding what someone is talking about be a reason to stop you from speaking on what that person is saying.

Coyne also tells us that the Nicene Creed contradicts other faiths, which it does, as if there is some point to this. It seems odd to say that it’s an argument against a worldview that it contradicts all other worldviews. Of course it does. Coyne does tell us that the creed tells us Jesus is the Messiah and other faiths don’t accept this, including Islam. In fact, Muslims believe that those who accept Jesus as the Messiah will go to Hell. Well, this would certainly be news to most Muslims. As we find in Sura 3:45

(Remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word [“Be!” – and he was! i.e. ‘Iesa (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)] from Him, his name will be the Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.”

Did Coyne not do any fact checking? The Muslims are opposed to saying Jesus is the Son of God or the second person of the Trinity, but not opposed to saying that He is the Messiah.

Coyne also says literalism is not a modern offshoot, but rather is the historical way of reading Scripture. The only way Coyne could believe this is if he had no experience with the way the ancients read Scripture. Even before the New Testament, we have works like Longenecker’s showing the various ways many passages of the Old Testament was read by the apostles and their contemporaries at the time, such as the Qumran community. Had he moved on to later times, Coyne would have been able to find that the church fathers happened to love allegory, including Augustine who he refers to as a literalist. (For Coyne, it looks like if you believe in a historical Adam and that Jesus died and rose again, you must be a literalist, a rather naive way of approaching a claim.) Origen, for instance, was all over the place with his use of allegory. He could have also read Mark Sheridan’s work about how God was spoken of in the patristic tradition and passages were often not read in their literal sense because they had to be read in a way that was fitting of God, meaning He had no body or no emotions so those passages had to be read differently. A work like Robert Rea’s would have shown him that in the medieval period, there were four different styles of reading a text.

But since Coyne mentioned Augustine, let’s use a quote of his on interpretation.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

Augustine would probably be disappointed at the way many lay people handle the Scriptures today. By the way, if Coyne wants to know where this comes from, it comes from Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Augustine’s literal meaning was also that everything was created all at once instantly and that the days are laid out more in a framework type of hypothesis.

If this is so, why the hang-up on literalism today? To begin with, Coyne never defines literalism and if he means that every passage is read in a wooden sense, no one does that. Much of the Bible does have metaphorical language and figures of speech and hyperbole and the like. Yet one cause of it today is that we are seen as a Democracy and every man should be able to understand the basic position of Christianity and that means the Bible should be readily understandable by everyone. Well it’s not. As my friend Werner Mischke says in his book, “Culturally speaking, the Bible does not ‘belong’ to you; It’s not your book.” Coyne could have benefited by reading other works like The New Testament World or Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes. Ironically, the real enemy here is a more fundamentalist approach to Scripture, and yet it is the exact same approach Coyne takes. He is a victim of the problem he sees in his opposition. Were we to get past much of our anthropological elitism, we’d start studying the Bible and trying to fit ourselves into the worldview of its authors. We might disagree with it still, sure, but we’d have a better informed disagreement.

This kind of material leads up to where we’ll continue next time, with what I consider to be one of the most embarrassing paragraphs in Coyne’s book.

Part 2 of the review can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

A Further Reply to Randy Hardman

Is there a danger in the apologetics community? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In a previous blog this week I wrote a reply to Randy Hardman on the nature of the apologetics community. Now I wish to look at part two and part three of Hardman’s series.

One characteristic I note is that in part one, Hardman told us a lot about his own experience. I did the same. Yet when I look at part two and three I see Hardman telling us more about his own experience. Now naturally, he’ll know more about that than anyone else, but I wonder what interaction was being done with the evangelical community?

For instance, at the most recent ETS meeting, the entire theme of the conference was Inerrancy. It was discussion largely about what it means for evangelicals to believe in Inerrancy and what Inerrancy is including having a book released around the same time on five views on Inerrancy. I do not see any awareness of this on Hardman’s part.

Going back a few years, what about the Geisler controversy, which readers of this blog know I was quite well aware of and wrote profusely on. I do not see any mention in the writings of Hardman on any of that. I do not see him acknowledge that many evangelicals would say while they hold to Inerrancy, it is not a necessity for salvation.

Hardman writes in part two about faith as science. He includes this line:

“For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.”

Now I do not doubt that such evangelicals exist, but I would like to have seen some interaction with who these people are. Furthermore, what is this about absolute certainty? I think of how Peter Boghossian has written about dialoguing with an OT professor who said it would take finding the bones of Christ to make him abandon his faith.

Of course, there are myriad problems with this, such as how you would identify the bones. (Perhaps they would have a unique DNA make-up due to a virgin birth) That is why I have made it my claim instead to say that one needs a better explanation of the data surrounding the rise of the belief in Jesus’s resurrection and the early church’s survival.

Also, as those who study history will tell you, including Mike Licona in his book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach”, history deals with probabilities. You cannot prove X necessarily with history, but you can say beyond any reasonable doubt. Can we absolutely prove that Alexander the Great conquered the world? No. Would you have to be completely clueless on history to think otherwise? Yes.

Hardman goes on to say

“For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers.”

Again, I wish I knew what evangelicals were being talked about. If he wanted to talk about doubt, why not refer to who I have referred to before in part one, namely Gary Habermas. Habermas is an evangelical who has written more about doubt than most in the field have.

Habermas classifies three kinds of doubt. For the kind of doubt that Hardman is writing about here, intellectual doubt, yes, an answer to the question will satisfy it. What happens if the answer does not satisfy? Then one could be dealing with a different kind of doubt.

The #1 culprit is emotional doubt. This doubt is the kind that usually asks the question of “What if?” It can often disguise itself as intellectual doubt but the major difference between it and intellectual doubt is emotional doubt is never satisfied and for many of us, if we were thinking rationally, we would not be worried about it.

Let me give a personal example. Shortly after I got married, I had a bad case of gallstones and it was decided that I should have my gallbladder removed. Now I had had anesthesia before as I am no stranger to surgery, but this time I was scared. I have a wife now! What if I go under and never come out? How will she handle it? What will happen?

Allie thought I was being crazy about such fears.

She was right.

Yeah. It could happen, but is it really something to be concerned about? You could show me all the statistics in the world and my position was not changing. It was entirely emotional in nature. The problem in this case is unruly emotions and you need to find a way to get those emotions in check.

The other kind of doubt is the worst kind to deal with. This is volitional doubt. These are people who not only do not believe, they have firmly decided they will not believe and no evidence could convince them. (Think of certain people who write books about training street epistemologists and encouraging practicing “doxastic openness” as an example of this.)

I still would like to know who these people are. Gary Habermas again gets before audiences with his minimal facts approach and says he’ll use only the data that liberal scholars will concede and still have it that Jesus rose from the dead. There is no requirement for Inerrancy. There are some who do not have a problem with evolution. Some do, but they will also dispute it on scientific grounds. Are the arguments valid? I can’t answer that, but I can say that is the way to dispute evolution if one wants to.

Hardman is right that Inerrancy being central is a problem. I cringe to think of the student who says “If John is wrong on how Jesus died, maybe everything else is wrong too!” I think of the guest on Unbelievable? once who was presenting a contradiction of how Judas died to the Christian guest and was saying that if we can’t be sure of the Bible on this point, what basis do we have for believing in something like the crucifixion?

I don’t know. Maybe history….

There is only one document in ancient history that people seem to have this all-or-nothing approach to and that’s the Bible. If the Bible is wrong on one thing, it must be wrong on everything. If it is right on one thing, it must be right on everything. No historian would treat the Bible this way. The fundamentalist Christian and the fundamentalist atheist sadly treat the Bible the exact same way.

Too many Christians have this attitude that the only way we can know what happened historically is if we treat the Bible as Inerrant. It is a wonder how the first evangelists of the Christian Gospel somehow spread the word without an Inerrant Bible. It’s also a wonder how they convinced anyone else since they would have to be convinced of Inerrancy first.

Now to be fair, there are events we’d have a harder time verifying, but this is true of any report in history. Can we prove that Cato or Caesar or someone else said something at a particular time? Not likely. Can we make a stronger case for more important events in their lives, such as that Caesar crossed the Rubicon or that he was assassinated on the Ides of March? Yes.

So when it comes to Jesus, the resurrection is central. We can make a stronger case for that. Can we make as strong a case that He was born of a virgin? No. Can we make as strong a case that he turned water into wine? No. I’m fine with that.

Hardman also talks about the great risk involved with the question of “If evolution is true, is Christianity false?”

I do not know what the great risk he sees in this is. It was a conclusion I reached years ago and I’m still able to even hold to Inerrancy just fine. I just determined that I’m not a scientist and I do not have the time or desire to really focus on the science questions as my area of study is the NT, so I’m fine with just letting it be. In fact, as a Thomist, my arguments for God’s existence are not rooted in the origins of the universe or the creation of man, but in the doctrine of existence itself.

Hardman goes on to say

“It is trust, not data, that allows one to wrestle through the night with God, through the unanswerable, and, indeed, the irrational. It allowed me to approach questions differently and it allowed me, a couple months later, to re-examine my own life and concede what was true: I didn’t know Christ as much as I knew about him.”

And this is Hardman’s experience. I can write about my own as well and say for me, it has been the knowledge that Jesus did rise from the dead that has sustained me in my times. I just sit back and look at the evidence and realize that this is true. Who else has done this? Greg Koukl. In his series on surviving spiritual storms, he says that whenever he wakes up scared that maybe it isn’t true, he thinks about the facts.

After all, if we could control our feelings that easily, then we would wake up scared and just tell ourselves “Don’t be scared” and then go right back to sleep. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I know that when I have nights when I’m worried about something and try to tell myself to relax, I usually do a terrible job.

So now we have Hardman’s experience. We also have mine and Koukl. Question. Why should we take Hardman’s experience to be the one for all of us? Second question. Why should we take mine and Koukl’s experience to be the one for all of us? It could depend largely on what kind of doubt it is that you’re dealing with.

As we move to part three, we find more of the same from Hardman.

“This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.”

And again, where is the interaction with ETS? Where is the interaction with Five Views on Inerrancy? What about the Geisler controversy? Is there in fact any interaction with one of the latest works that I think should not be neglected, The Lost World of Scripture, by Sandy and Walton?

Nope.

Hardman says

“It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.”

I agree, but this is not entirely revolutionary. Hardman writes about the problem, but what about the data? Does he interact with it? Does he consider a work such as “You Lost Me” about how so many people are walking away? Now naturally, I think some of this is because of the lack of apologetics training, but it is also definitely just as important how we teach people and that means focusing on the essentials.

Hardman goes on to relate an experience that demonstrates the problem:

As I was currently enrolled in a Biblical Studies program at Asbury Theological Seminary, he posed me a question: “Randy, what do you think? Did Luke and Matthew use Mark as a source?” I don’t really know what answer he expected from me but I just looked at him and said, “Absolutely! That’s pretty near consensus in NT scholarship…I don’t see any reason to doubt it!”

My friends eyes widened as he sat back in his seat, threw his hands up in the air, and said, “No, no, no…They didn’t use Mark as a source. That’s just a theory promoted by the Devil and populated through Bultmannian scholarship.”

As it stands, this other person doesn’t even realize that this kind of thing goes back far farther than Bultmann. Now how will this be answered? It will be answered with data. The sad reality is that Hardman wants us to avoid an extreme, but has he himself not gone for an extreme just as much? His argument goes that we assume creationism and Inerrancy must be central, but could it be that he in fact has assumed that that is assumed?

In fact, I and many other apologists follow the model when we debate, such as on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page, that our data is that which comes from the best scholarship in the field. This is in fact the position of evangelical scholars themselves! Go listen to any of them! I have had several show up on my podcast and they’re very often talking about scholarship. If you read their books, just note the bibliographies and how much scholarship they interact with.

Hardman goes on to say the same about a young-earther with a PH.D. who chose to commit himself to the Bible instead of The Origin of Species.

Hardman says

“The problem, as you are probably suspecting, is this: When we caricature Christianity by such narrow boundaries, we run the risk of making Christianity anti-intellectual. Even more dangerous, however, is that when we promote views like these in the vein of “apologetics” and “Christian intellectualism” we run the risk of making our intellectual Christianity anti-intellectual.”

The sad aspect here is that it looks like Hardman is just as guilty of this caricature. This could be disputed, but unfortunately no evangelical scholars are cited to show that this is the position of evangelical scholarship. How can evangelical scholarship view it inimical to interact with scholarship when it itself interacts with scholarship?

In conclusion, as I finish Hardman’s case, I wonder where he has been. Here he is wanting to say “We shouldn’t be marrying Christianity to doctrine X” when so many evangelicals beforehand have been saying the exact same thing. This is not new.

Note also that as pointed out, there is a lack of interaction with evangelical scholarship. It is quite interesting to hear the evangelical community being told its doing something wrong and yet where do we see the data? What scholars are being cited?

I conclude the problem is not apologetics once again. It is us. It is part in fact of an American mindset approaching the text. It is a fundamentalism that got a grip of our culture and unfortunately we’ve let it maintain its grip, and this mindset is held by atheists and Christians a lot. (Note that Craig Evans describes Ehrman as being on a flight from fundamentalism.)

The solution is really moderation in all things. Apologetics is not the problem. Pride can exist in any field whatsoever. You could have the lowliest job on the planet and still have to struggle with pride. The problem is the people that are involved and the way that we are training our youth today. (In fact, I have a good friend who went to a highly fundamentalist Bible College and is now having to rethink and unthink so much of what he “learned.” I’ve been fortunate to be able to help him, but I also wonder what if he knew of no one who had wrestled with these questions before?)

I can’t help but think about the 1 Timothy 3 admonition about requirements for leadership.

No doubt, the same should apply to the apologetics community.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Ham/Nye Debate: Why I Don’t Care

So why did I not even bother watching the big debate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I first heard the news about how Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was going to debate Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I had great frustration as soon as I heard about the debate. On Facebook after the debate, someone in apologetics I know posted asking who won. My pick obviously didn’t win, and that was the meteor shower that should have come through and knocked the satellites broadcasting it out of the sky or else the winter snowstorm that could have cancelled the whole event. I replied that I don’t know who won, but I’m sure the loser was everyone on the planet.

Yet a few people did ask me what I thought about it and wasn’t I excited about this debate. Therefore, I figured I’d write something so that those who want to know my opinion on the whole matter could see what it is and why that I hold it.

As readers know, I am an old-earth creationist. I do not hold hostility towards YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. More importantly, my wife is a YEC. What I have a problem with is a dogmatic YEC. I in fact have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC. Someone is not more or less of a Christian because of their views on the age of the Earth. There are people who love Jesus more than I do who are YEC. There are people who love him more than I do who are OEC.

Having said that, part of the problem those of us who are OEC have to overcome is constantly having it be assumed that if we’re Christians, then that means that we believe in a young Earth and we don’t. Too often, YEC is presented as the biblical model. As readers know, I happen to think John Walton has the right model. My review of his book on the topic can be found here and my interview with him can be found here.

I also have another viewpoint that can be considered different from a number of Christians and that is that I do not consider the question of evolution important to Christian truth. That does not mean the question is unimportant in itself, but if you want to know if Christianity is true or not, you do not need to ask if evolution is true or not. Now if matter is all there is, then of course Christianity is not true, but because evolution is true, it does not necessitate that matter is all that there is.

In my own work, I refuse to speak on evolution as evolution and my reasoning for doing such is quite simple. I am no scientist. If evolution is to be critiqued, I believe it should be critiqued scientifically. I do not possess the necessary study and/or credentials to do that. If I fault the new atheists for speaking on philosophy, history, biblical studies, etc. without proper background and/or study, then I will follow the same pattern.

For those who do wish to critique evolution, there is no reason to bring Scripture into it. The claim of evolution is a scientific claim and if it falls, it will fall on a scientific basis. I have no problem with people critiquing evolution. I hold no position on the matter simply because I could not scientifically defend or deny evolutionary theory. It is the same reason I do not use Craig’s Kalam argument for the origin of the universe. I am not a scientist and it is not my language. I will stick to the metaphysical arguments instead.

So when I see the Ham/Nye debate, I see the perpetuating of a stereotype that I do not want perpetuated. I see it being made as again, science vs. the Bible and if you hold to the Bible, well you have to hold to a young-earth.

When we are trying to get people to become Christians, our goal should not be to get them to a viewpoint on the origins of old creation but rather on new creation. We want to get them to the risen Jesus and not to a 10,000 year old Earth. Suppose that someone believes in evolutionary theory and a 4.5. billion year old Earth, but also believes Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

Now on the other hand, suppose there is someone, perhaps a Jew, who will stand with Ken Ham and say that the Earth is indeed 10,000 years old and macroevolutionary theory is a fairy tale. Suppose also that this person being a Jew and not Messianic denies that Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is not in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

So which one should we be emphasizing and getting people to realize the most? The age of the Earth and a stance on evolution, or should it be that we are getting them to recognize that Jesus is the risen Lord?

What we do too often is tell atheists that if you want to be a Christian, then you must deny what you are certain of by the sciences. What we also do is tell Christians that if you want to be a follower of Christ, you must believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old. Both positions I am sure will keep people away from the Kingdom.

It is my hope not that Christians will embrace evolution as I do not care about that, but that they will realize that it doesn’t matter and the ultimate hope is to realize that Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe. If you are someone who is capable of presenting every argument you can for the Earth being young, but you are unable to make an argument that Jesus is the risen Lord, then you have made a mistake somewhere along the way.

It is because it feeds a debate then that I do not support in any way that I refused to watch the Ham/Nye debate and so far, no one has given me any reason why I should.

In Christ,
Nick Peters