How Tim LaHaye schooled me that evolution led to a new French Revolution: My "order vs. chaos" comment and a future video for YouTube


(josh abraham) #1

I don’t know what to do with the LaHaye interview, but it was a turning point in my scholarship.

It took years to understand what Francis Schaeffer, RJ Rushdoony, and LaHaye were complaining about because I had to digest the Baptist and Presbyterian universes.

LaHaye provided two cartoons in my dissertation “From Scopes to Reagan” available on WorldCat. He holds that any foundation for society based on secular learning leads to “an autonomous man” versus the “compassionate man” the Bible creates.

Like William Jennings Bryan who connected Nietzsche, German militarism, and Darwin, LaHaye concluded that evolution led to a disconnect from God, and only that. George Marsden pointed out that evangelicals in America tended to understand the Enlightenment as solely French and ignored its British wing. They feared a new French Revolution based on the deification of reason.

Chaos.

Ken Ham continues this theme as he explicates the Bible from front to back in diagrams, such “creation in Genesis to consummation in Revelation”. The system is elegant and symmetrical, and God is always in control.

This was a great comfort to fundamentalists in the Cold War period in which Henry Morris was writing; conservatives as I mentioned also looked with horror at the 1960s.

You see what the problem is? Scientists don’t even get a shot to explain themselves in this system, because it is airtight and dismissive of their entire project.

LaHaye’s cartoons as well as Answers in Genesis’s tied evolution to atheism and Satan.

In this context, what kind of an opportunity do the biologists in my college’s science departments have to explain their ideas to the church across the street that still uses the KJV?

The elegance of science that Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye—though agnostic and atheist—convey on PBS is a different language so distant from the one fundamentalists are using that culture war is the only logical outcome.

And guess who is caught in between? The students, especially those from fundamentalist backgrounds now in secular colleges

Fundamentalism in the 1920s was in my view a form of “salt” that preserved orthodoxy in the wake of liberal Protestant wandering away from the Gospel as well as what James Leuba concludes in his book.

But Henry Morris walked away from the American Scientific Affiliation, and eventually LaHaye gave ICR a home in San Diego. Even the dialogue between ASA and ICR has culture-war flavor to it.

Maybe culture war is somewhat necessary, I don’t know—maybe “there is a time for war” in a secularizing America. But creationist Republicans now see Democratic scientists as the “enemy” and that is a significant problem for students. Who or what is the really the “enemy”?

As a historian of science I try to provide context for this warfare but also for those who try to be more irenic, like BioLogos. That is the best I can do for Gen Z.

So I am hoping to make one last video entitled, “where creationism came from, and where it is going”.

Thank you for the extensive personal stories in response to the video. It is a tremendous archive for me in my thought process as I prepare a concluding statement for my class. In part, a cross-generational statement.


(Jacob) #2

This reminded me of conversations I had with fundamentalists I knew years ago. This was my impression, as an outsider looking in. The fundamentalists I spoke with all seemed to believe the Puritans founded America. They said America was founded on Puritan beliefs and the Bible. Of course they knew about the Revolution, but I remember some people I spoke with who really didn’t like the more secular American revolutionaries, such as Jefferson, Franklin and Paine. If you mentioned the Puritans, they would smile (while I was thinking I was glad I didn’t live back then and certainly not in a Puritan colony).