How Liberal Protestants Bought White's Conflict Thesis and Lost Their Faith


Yes… 2 of the groups I describe are not part of the Christian umbrella.

But one of them, are you so bold as to say that Mormons are not Christian?

In any case, I was just offering stimulating examples of diversity. Do you really think I will find no obscure, small, Christian denomination, with very unusual spiritual developments not shared by the more mainstream groups?

I think Mormonism is its own religion that grew out of Christianity. Some core Mormon doctrines depend on new revelation. So I think it is a related but separate religion in the same way Judaism and Christianity are separate but related. So there is a lot of common ground and shared beliefs, but no, I don’t think Mormons fit in any of the four streams of Christianity - Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Global Pentecostal.


They certainly don’t fit into one of the four streams… but I think there are lots of Republicans who think Mormons ARE Christians. Of course … they could be wrong. And maybe they are. Frankly, I think Mormons are just one of the fringe Universalist groups that Christianity throws off now and then.

The point is to show the bizarre diversity within the Christian tradition.

Finding a handful of independent groups who are already incipient BioLogos supporters would be a logical extension of my research !!!

There is a basic argument in theology, Is God primarily Immanent or primarily transcendent?

Generally speaking, liberals say God emphasize the immanence of God and conservatives emphasize God’s transcendence. Actually God is both immanent and transcendent.

In the debate over faith and science liberals took the side of science, the book of nature, while conservatives took the side of faith, the book of the Bible. The problem with these dualisms is they tend to resolve themselves one way or the other, even though this is not true.

It is difficult to hold two equal truths in one’s mind separately, which is why it is right and best to have a trinity, two held together by a third. In the Trinity it is the Father Who is Transcendent and the Son Who is God with us, held together by the Holy Spirit of Love.

Sadly some liberals went overboard in their view of God being immanent, and some conservatives went overboard in God being transcendent. While we can judge liberals harshly, we also need to evaluate the mistakes of the conservatives, and ask if they have learned from them.

I would say many liberals have learned their lesson to some extent, but many conservatives have not, however it is still a huge problem because both are mistaken as they continue to accept this false dualism, which needs to be turned into the Trinity.

Mormons! Actually the Mormon god has lots of wives, used to be a man, and had his own father. And when Mormons die they become gods and get to rule their own world.

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You are right. Although the Book of Mormon sounds vaguely Christian, and in the old days people (not just Mormons) really did believe that the Indians descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel, there are so many bizarre beliefs and doctrines in Mormonism that it can hardly be called Christian.

And, again, @beaglelady, my point was not to convince anyone that Mormons are Christian, but to point out that there’s almost no idea too weird that hasn’t been compounded into someone’s religion … and that applies to Christianity as well!

In the Catholic tradition… there are those who believe that because the mass is no longer done in Latin…the current Pope is an Anti-Pope… and it invalidates all of the Roman Catholic church.

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I realize that you weren’t trying to convince me that Mormons are Christians, so don’t worry. btw, they have to wear special underwear.

You are well informed. Then you must also know that the more wives a man has … and thus the more children … meant you earned your own Planet sooner, on average, than those men with only one wife!

In a lame attempt to be on topic, it is interesting how White’s sect went from pretty much a cultish group to a mainstream denomination who are pretty orthodox, except for that saturday thing,and as the Worldwide Church of God evolved into a mainstream evangelical church, and some look at the Mormon Church and predict the same eventual movement.

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I just don’t think that is possible. True, Mormons gave up polygamy to obtain statehood for Utah, and we no longer prosecute them or drive them out of town. They are integrated into American society. But our religions are just too different. They believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers. They believe in many gods. They believe that God started as a man and progressed to godhood. They think that they will do the same. They believe that God is literally their father and that they lived a “pre-existence.” (Their memories of the pre-existence have been erased.) They believe in proxy-baptism for the dead. Until the 1970s they barred Blacks from the priesthood. (And EVERY Mormon male becomes a priest.) They have special temples for rituals (copies from freemasonry). There is more. So I think the religions are just too different.

"Mormon cosmology is the description of the history, evolution, and destiny of the physical and metaphysical universe according to Mormonism, which includes the doctrines taught by leaders and theologians of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). . . .

According to Mormon cosmology, there was a pre-existence, or a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Although their spirits were created, the essential “intelligence” of these spirits is considered eternal, and without beginning. During this pre-mortal life, two plans were said to have been presented, one championed by God the Father, and another presented by Lucifer (Satan) that would have involved loss of moral agency. When Lucifer’s plan was not accepted, he is said to have rebelled against God and been cast out of heaven, taking “the third part” of the hosts of heaven with him to the earth, thus becoming the tempters.

According to the plan of salvation as described by God the Father, Jehovah (the premortal Jesus) created the earth, under the direction of God the Father, as a place where humanity would be tested. After the resurrection, all men and women—except the spirits that followed Lucifer and the sons of perdition—would be assigned one of three degrees of glory. "

" Within the highest degree, the celestial kingdom, there are three further divisions, and those in the highest of these celestial divisions would become gods and goddesses through a process called “exaltation” or “eternal progression”. The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by LDS Church leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” According to Smith’s King Follett discourse, God the Father himself once passed through mortality as Jesus did…"

“According to Mormon scripture, the Earth’s creation was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The Earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and there are many governing heavenly bodies, including the planet or star Kolob, which is said to be nearest the throne of God.”

Okay, let’s not wander any further down the Mormon trail. This is getting very far afield from the topic of the thread.


Thank you, Christy, I second that decision.

Are there any questions about the substance of this column, rather than various sidetracks?

It has been my experience that while some historical anecdotes are not applicable or inaccurately reported - - in an attempt to WEDGE them into White’s Conflict Thesis… I think White’s Conflict thesis is INTACT.

Scientists have been imprisoned, placed in extended house arrest and even burned at the stake. And in the current period, there has been an avalanche of what we can only call the extension of politicized FAKE NEWS to engage people of religion in increasingly broad contests against established Science.

My great great grandfather was an Episcopalian Priest … he resigned from his position because he was too sincere for his own good. He literally felt he could not honorably represent a religion which, in the Victorian Era, still adhered to 6 Days of Creation when he felt that Creation (by whatever mysterious scientific reason) took millions of years.

The Conflict Thesis is valid. Hopefully, organizations like BioLogos can help Christians achieve a Unity between science and religion.

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True. Even here in the U.S. in these times climate scientists are scared and have been archiving their data in Canada.

In view of current events I think we need to ask the question, "How did conservative Protestant buy into the Conflict Thesis and lose their faith?

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This is standard White-inspired rhetoric, George, and almost entirely untrue. In future parts of the current series by Steve Snobelen, more will be said about this type of claim, though historians have known for generations that it’s mostly fiction. Please give me chapter and verse–citing your sources as you go. And, if your source (or your source’s source) is White or Draper, don’t be surprised if I refer you elsewhere for a solid refutation. Indeed, one recent book cited in some of Snobelen’s sections is wholly devoted to debunking major claims like the one you just made; please note the table of contents here, listing 25 specific propositions that are widely believed but not true:

(One of those chapters I disagree with and a second I partly disagree with, but they don’t pertain to White. Many of them come straight out of White.)

To make a very short reply before seeing specifics from you, George, let me say just this. You might be thinking of Galileo and Bruno as examples supporting your claim. There is no evidence that Galileo ever spent even a few hours in prison; he was indeed sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life, after his 1633 trial (I won’t digress on what that meant in practice, but it wasn’t as onerous as some might think); and I am not able to name a scientist who was burned at the stake, though perhaps there’s one or two I can’t think of. Bruno was burned at the stake–something truly awful that obviously can’t be defended–but he was no scientist. He was a heretic, pure and simple, and his ultimate fate was determined by a very long list heresies, almost all of them wholly unrelated to any science, that he would not recant despite many opportunities to do so. To call him a “martyr for science,” as many have, is wholly unjustified historically.

Now, George, if you want to claim that scientists have been sent to the Gulag or even executed for (say) upholding Mendelian genetics, you won’t get an argument from me. Of course that didn’t happen in the name of religion, let alone Christianity. Indeed, as a lapsed divinity student, Stalin had a certain hatred of religion. Despite the fact that Stalin surely killed far more real scientists in a few years than Christianity (supposedly) killed in two millennia, you still won’t find me making a grand White-like argument about how the history of science and atheism is one of ongoing, inevitable conflict.


I do not think you can refute the “Conflict Thesis” based on the refutation you offer in the quote above.

For if I alter my highly abbreviated summation like so:

“Scientists or natural philosophers have been imprisoned and/or placed under lengthy house arrest and/or even burned at the stake.”

I believe my statement now complies with the fine points that you think defeat the Conflict Thesis. Anyone has seen the re-make of the Cosmos television series will be especially aware of Bruno’s circumstances. You say he was no scientist… and I won’t quibble on that matter. But he was certainly making assertions, at least as a vocal amateur, on behalf of scientific independence from religious persecution.

From the Wiki article on Bruno:
" After his [Bruno’s] death, he gained considerable fame, being particularly celebrated by 19th- and early 20th-century commentators who regarded him as a martyr for science,[5] although historians have debated the extent to which his heresy trial was a response to his astronomical views or to other aspects of his philosophy and theology. Bruno’s case is still considered a landmark in the history of free thought and the emerging sciences."

**Footnotes – **
From footnote 10, Ronald Numbers writes: "…"Yet the fact remains that cosmological matters, notably the plurality of worlds, were an identifiable concern [in Bruno’s trial] all along and appear in the summary document: Bruno was repeatedly questioned on these matters, and he apparently refused to recant them at the end. “So, Bruno probably was burned alive for resolutely maintaining a series of heresies, among which his teaching of the plurality of worlds was prominent but by no means singular.”

Footnote 11: “Gatti, Hilary (2002). Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 18–19. Retrieved 21 March 2014. For Bruno was claiming for the philosopher a principle of free thought and inquiry which implied an entirely new concept of authority: that of the individual intellect in its serious and continuing pursuit of an autonomous inquiry… It is impossible to understand the issue involved and to evaluate justly the stand made by Bruno with his life without appreciating the question of free thought and liberty of expression.”

" His insistence on placing this issue at the center of both his work and of his defense is why Bruno remains so much a figure of the modern world. If there is, as many have argued, an intrinsic link between science and liberty of inquiry, then Bruno was among those who guaranteed the future of the newly emerging sciences, as well as claiming in wider terms a general principle of free thought and expression."

Footnote 12: "Montano, Aniello (24 November 2007). Antonio Gargano, ed. Le deposizioni davanti al tribunale dell’Inquisizione. Napoli: La Città del Sole. p. 71. In Rome, Bruno was imprisoned for seven years and subjected to a difficult trial that analyzed, minutely, all his philosophical ideas. Bruno, who in Venice had been willing to recant some theses, become increasingly resolute and declared on 21 December 1599 that he ‘did not wish to repent of having too little to repent, and in fact did not know what to repent.’ "

“Declared an unrepentant heretic and excommunicated, he was burned alive in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome on 17 February 1600. On the stake, along with Bruno, burned the hopes of many, including philosophers and scientists of good faith like Galileo, who thought they could reconcile religious faith and scientific research, while belonging to an ecclesiastical organization declaring itself to be the custodian of absolute truth and maintaining a cultural militancy requiring continual commitment and suspicion.”

But, @TedDavis, even if you absolutely insist that Bruno’s voice was NOT a voice for science and the independence of science from theology, White’s Conflict Thesis would still stand … just not for as many notorious reasons as White lists in his work.

I have already invested innumerable emails with Giberson on just this material. And by the conclusion of the discovery cycle, I found that even with a much more disciplined approach (as advocated by him), the Conflict does not rest impotent - - but merely deprives the thesis of some of the more celebrated exaggerations of the usual discussion - - for example, I won’t bother to enlist the usual Flat Earth screed so frequently connected to the story of Columbus! For that, I’m sure you are grateful.

My favorite anecdote comes from Galileo, where he encourages Papal officials to look through his telescope at the moon, to show them the mountains and valleys. They look and then step back with the comment that they detect Invisible plains on top of the appearance of mountains and valleys - - thus restoring what seemed to be an imperfect moon to its perfect and divine sphericity!

It is said Galileo responds with something like: “Gentlemen, I see Invisible Mountains and Valleys ON TOP OF those invisible plains!”

But even with a handful FEWER exemplars, there is plenty to sustain the Conflict Thesis. The Thesis does not just embrace situations where religious prosecution and cannon intrudes upon what should be merely civil matters … the Conflict Thesis also embraces the more modern and less severe cases where a non-professional religious authority challenges the credibility of professional scientists.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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