Thursday, 15 January 2009

Dr. Denis Alexander in the ET: final instalment!

Continuing from here...

Young earth creationism causes serious pastoral problems.

This mere assertion is not contained in Dr. Alexander's  book, or expanded on here, so we can only speculate about what these pastoral problems are. I suppose, based upon the general tenor of his book, that DA would say that creationism pits science against faith and forces believers to choose between two truths. Whatever the precise line of argument, though, it's moot. If creationism is true, then teaching it may indeed cause problems (especially with such as DA teaching so dogmatically that it's false) but it's our duty to believe and proclaim whatever God has made known. If it is false, then to say that spreading it causes problems is telling us nothing new. Either way, DA adds nothing here to his argument except polemics. As DA's never taught creationism, we can only speculate as to what experience he has that underlies this assertion.

There are atheists in the scientific community (some very high profile) who used to be practising Christians in their teenage years, but who were turned away from the faith because their church pitted science against faith.

DA states this in his book too. Who are these atheists? Where is the documentation where we can follow these assertions up? Either way, though, this statement again adds nothing to the argument. If there are atheists who were turned away by creationism and creationism is true, then they were turned away by the truth. Are we supposed to preach lies in the hope that it will persuade people to make professions of faith? If on the other hand creationism is false, then this argument is redundant - we all agree that in that case it shouldn't be preached. Again, more polemics, intended simply to intimidate creationists to pipe down on the basis of undocumented authoritative-sounding assertions, rather than on the basis of argument.

Since DA's played this card, though, let's see if he's willing to take on a wager. Suppose that we can count up the number of atheists who turned away from a profession of faith because their church taught them that they had to accept creationism as true, and who will freely confess that, after it's been explained to them that Darwinism and the Bible are fully compatible, they will gladly return to Christianity. Suppose on the other hand that we count up the number of atheists who won't accept Christianity because they find that theism actually really is incompatible with Darwinism, and therefore they judge Christianity false because they think Darwinism is true. Which category's going to have more people? DA may be able to do the mental gymnastics to persuade himself that the Bible and Darwinism don't contradict each other a hundred times. I'd be be pretty confident on the other hand, though, that he's in a slim minority. As the expression goes:  a simple man can persuade himself only of some things; but an educated man can persuade himself of anything.

Preaching the gospel is made much harder when it becomes associated with beliefs, such as a young earth, which most people find ridiculous.

Again, same empty argument. If creationism is true, then this is something DA will just have to put up with - unless he believes that we should actually trim and prune our beliefs according to what our present society deems acceptable. This argument can also be reversed. DA's the one trying his darndest to make belief in a young earth seem ridiculous - which he does throughout his book using the method of never representing or interacting with actual creationist arguments, but by setting fire to a succession of straw-men. If he's actually concerned about the effect on preaching the gospel of making creationism seem ridiculous, why is he doing it?

Do people really find the idea of a "young" earth ridiculous? The earth in fact can only be as young or old as it is. It can only be termed "young" in relationship to something else. In this case, it's supposed to be "young" in relation to the telephone-number figures circulated by such as DA. I seriously doubt that more than the tiniest fraction of people have ever looked into the arguments for or against the age of the earth, or considered how to evaluated the two competing paradigms. (DA himself never approaches the matter in terms of paradigms - it's simply infallible, objective science says so...). They simply accept it on authority because people like DA say so; just as they accepted eugenics, geocentricism and other mistaken science in previous generations. This argument is ultimately a naked appeal to authority.

I would urge Christians to hold science and faith together as the friends they have traditionally been, not force them apart for biblically unnecessary reasons.

As the letter comes to a close, DA is really piling up the vacuous polemic. Of course, no creationist actually believes that science and faith aren't friends. They simply dispute whether Darwinism and faith are friends, or whether Darwinism and science are. Whilst in his book he falsely, without providing any references, teaches us that creationists claim that Genesis is written in the genre of a modern scientific journal, the reality is that it is DA who is forcing a dichotomy where none exists by forcing us to choose either between choosing to believe in what he terms "science", or to read the book of Genesis as self-conscious, accurate history. DA's reading forces us to accept it only as "theology"; an interpretation of events, but not actually recording events in a historical way. DA forces us to choose between evangelical Bible interpretation, or having his like poor thinly-veiled contempt down on us and accuse us of all manner of sins, pastoral problems, spoiling evangelism, spoiling the relationship between science and faith, etcetera. Still, that's the way it is - and we have to choose our lot.

I also hope that readers will not accept the representation of my book that McIntosh provides, but actually read Creation or Evolution - do we have to choose? for themselves.

Editor's note: Our reviewer, Andy McIntosh, will publish a reply to Dr. Alexander's letter in February's ET.

The End!

No comments: