What I learned by interviewing creationists and evolutionists for five years

(josh abraham) #43

I am hardly a Kuyper expert, but I do know of the immense impact Rookmaaker had on Schaeffer’s understanding of art. The contact probably enabled Schaeffer to liberate American fundamentalist kids from just watching Disney movies.

(Robin) #44

Thanks. Did you also learn something by interviewing evolutionists for this project, which by the way would have been interesting?? What would evolutionists be reacting to – or would there be a different way of analyzing their stance?? And would you differentiate between evolutionists who believe God (or a Being or an Intelligence) was nevertheless behind evolution – and evolutionists who discount the work of any sort of Deity or “Higher Power”???

(josh abraham) #45

The most provocative conversations I have ever had with atheistic evolutionists were with Lauri Lebo, the author of The Devil in Dover, and Barbara Forrest the author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse. I suggest you check out their writings and info on the web. They are convinced that all evangelicals associated with ID are trying to make America into a theocracy and shove the Bible down people’s throats. Forrest holds that the Dover case was an illustration of how eager ID supporters are to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

(Wayne Dawson) #46

I recently stumbled on some lectures on the book of Genesis by Jordan Peterson where he brings up the issue of nihilism in much of the intellectual community. Having come from a largely secular background and worked in the science community mostly around people who don’t follow Jesus, there does seem to be an unconscious kind of nihilism working within many of the projected views. Some of that is perhaps just an impulsive reaction and, to some extent, I cannot even blame them when I encounter abusive antievolution rants where there appears to be no point in even attempting dialog.

That said, perhaps the sole place where I somewhat share some common ground with YEC is that I think that nihilism is not the way forward for humanity. Whereas evolution can potentially be used to justify appeals to nihilism, it doesn’t have to be seen that way. Instead of rejecting nihilism from the psychology side of the picture, YEC tries to reject the scientific findings, and because YEC science is just so absurd and counter to how we scientists build empirical models, they do so at the peril of destroying the essential parts of the Christian message. Indeed, the Devil could not have found better workers to demolish faith, or at least anyone who is driven to do good science.

In my own experience in a church where the leadership was strongly YEC, whereas I sense that I was always viewed with suspicion, the way that I put my passion into the service as a musician, the pastor did see that I really do believe in God and I do follow Jesus. It doesn’t change people’s minds, but they see that there are other ways.

So maybe to some extent, the important thing is to find some way to help intellectuals to let go a little bit on demanding a scientific proof for everything, look more deeply into some of the better things that a life of faith can deliver – including friendships, service, learning to grow better as a person, and even the joy that comes with sacrificing a little time in a week to say “thank you” in the only way we can – and, make a choice to walk with it even though we don’t know where it goes. Life is not just stuff, it seems like there is something more. Likewise, this YEC madness might calm down if there were more intellectuals who somehow made that step.

by Grace we proceed.

(Robin) #47

Thanks…I actually have writteh those titles down and will try for Interlibrary Loan — the Forrest tittle is especially intriguing. I would never connect the Lebo book title with anything related to this subject…As for “evangelicals associated with ID” trying to “make America into a theocracy” – those seem like fear-mongering words. The person whose views are opposite yours is always painted in black or white — goes for atheists as well as ID or others, I suppose. Personally, I generally like the “intelligent design” idea – without getting too detailed. It was a night sky filled with stars — in the desert away from urban pollution — that taught me about God. Just seems obvious – whether all the ID arguments work at the scientific level or not. I am reading another of Enns’ books now and find him interesting and he probably holds something other than ID. As for theocracy — too much of a polarizing charge. If one party in the US were not so bent on advocating moral and social views that stick daggers in the eyes of those who see these stances as directly contradicting biblical views, the percentages of ID or other evangelicals who hew entirely in the direction of one political party might not be nearly so high…and this does all seem to come down to politics and social views in the end. Thanks for the references. Keep up the good work.


Actually I think most people hold to it so strongly because it’s what they have been taught for so long (both explicitly and implicitly) and they have simply never questioned it.

(Jay Johnson) #49

Neither am I. My thought wasn’t that Schaeffer learned directly from Kuyper, which is what I implied and @JRM was correcting. I was just following the impact of the “thought bomb” that Kuyper dropped on Princeton Seminary in 1898, when he called for a war against modernism to save the Christian heritage of Europe and America. I think we see those ideas come to fruition at Westminster in the 20s and 30s, where Schaeffer was a student in the mid-30s. Perhaps I’m drawing too much of a straight line from Kuyper to Schaeffer?

Good question for our OP! I have not had time to read @jbabraham88’s entire dissertation, but I thought a couple of quotes from the interview with George Marsden were very revealing:

Marsden noted that Schaeffer’s, and other fundamentalists’s, tendency to see issues in a dualistic framework served political ends.

“For political purposes it is much easier to represent everything as an either-or kind of choice and get rid of all the ambiguities and that’s a characteristic of Schaeffer’s thought… [and] it gets accentuated when he got into these political issues [such as] the Christian origins of the United States where he simply doesn’t have a set of middle categories—either it is Christian or it’s non-Christian.”

And again, a few pages later, Marsden says something very enlightening about Schaeffer:

“What I concluded … is that Schaeffer simply doesn’t have any middle categories. So when he talks about the Renaissance, he means secular humanism. When he talks about the Enlightenment, he means the French Enlightenment and the French Revolution. So he was incapable of having a category of the American Revolution as being a mix of Christian and British Enlightenment kind of views… [Instead] he goes back to Samuel Rutherford. His set of categories forced him to do that. It [was] made more and more clear to me that that’s characteristic of his thinking throughout, that everything is in black and white categories, that he’s operating as a preacher, and that as a preacher, black and white is more effective, and then that kind of attitude translates very well into fundamentalist politics.”

When all you have is a hammer, all the world is a nail.

(J Richard Middleton) #50

I should have been a bit more specific when I mentioned Kuyper and modernity. I specifically didn’t mean “modernism” as a worldview, but the new social-cultural context that Christianity found itself in. He therefore fully embraced new learning and didn’t want to retreat into the past. This was why he founded a Christian university, which was not a holy enclave against the world, but a center of learning that fully engaged all the areas of learning, including (especially) philosophy.

On the question of how to interpret Kuyper’s idea of the two life-systems/worldviews battling each other, therefore, I don’t think it meant simplistic binary thinking for him. It certainly did not mean this for the Kuyperians I knew in Toronto. So I think that the version of Kuyper mediated through Schaeffer was quite different from the version I received. We need a reception history (Wirkungsgeschichte) of Kuyper’s ideas!

Perhaps the difference in the reception of Kuyper had to do with the fact that the ICS was founded by people who had done the PhDs at the Free University, and had been taught by Dooyeweerd and Volenhoeven (both philosophers), who seriously engaged contemporary philosophy, esp. Neo-Kantianism (which was important at the time). When I was at ICS, the profs were engaging many more recent philosophers, including Derrida, Gadamer, Rawls, etc. And there was serious philosophical discussion of the issues raised by these philosophers, to try and learn from them, not denigrating of them because they were not Christian.

ICS was not perceived by secular academic centers of learning as being engaged in a culture war against them; the result is that there was a lot of healthy dialogue between ICS and many secular thinkers, who often expressed deep respect for the ICS. You may know that Henk Hart (now retired from teaching philosophy at ICS) co-authored a book with an atheist philosopher in which they engaged in serious dialogue with each other (and they became friends).

The point is that my teachers at ICS constantly emphasized that the legitimate biblical distinction between the kingdom of God and the powers of evil could never be simply read off against any two groups in the world, but was a dynamic, ever-moving process that affected everyone, including Christians.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #51


Bad logic. You cannot blame the other guy, even the Devil, for your problems and lack of faith. The problem is that evangels have been caught up in OT legalist thinking, just like the Pharisees. They made a pact with the Devil that just pulled them deeper and deeper into sin, so they seem not to know which way is up.

Jesus is our Example and Savior, not the Pharisees. When Jesus told people, “Judge not that you se not judged!,” He meant it. You mess up theology, you mess up politics and social views as 45 indicates. Nobody ever got to heaven by selling their vote to the Devil. A House divided against itself cannot stand.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #52

They are taught that asking questions is a sign of doubt or lack of faith.

When “faith” is a work, then people live in fear of losing faith, instead of faith.

(Jay Johnson) #53

The problem with conversing with laymen! I was seeing those terms as synonyms. My bad.

This is seems like the crucial difference, especially in light of what Marsden had to say about Schaeffer categorizing everything into binary categories of Christian/secular humanist, with no room for pluralism at all.

Framing the interaction between Christian and non-Christian as a “war” encourages the evangelical habit of throwing the baby out with the bath water. In their zeal to prove the Christian worldview superior to all others, many who write on the topic seem to think it is their task to disprove every idea of every philosopher since the Enlightenment. Is total depravity so complete that the non-Christian is unable to have a single true insight into reality? Personally, I don’t buy it. I guess I know too many atheists who have had to set me straight from time to time. haha. In any case, as Christians, I think it is possible for us to separate the wheat from the chaff.

(J Richard Middleton) #54

Good point, which is why in my initial post I connected the idea of the antithesis (good versus evil) with common grace (Kuyper emphasized both). This led to my ICS teachers explaining that the “total” in “total depravity” should not be taken to refer to depth (as bad as can be) but to breadth (touching every dimension of life). And this certainly includes the church, and the life of every Christian. Likewise, redemption should affect every dimension of life, engendering transformation in thinking, economic life, family relationships, political justice, etc.

(Jay Johnson) #55

I’m pedaling this trike as fast as my little legs will go! I agree with their perspective on breadth vs. depth.

Again, I agree. (My Reformed sympathies are showing.) Following this line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that the Christian’s relationship to culture should be transformational, correct?

I wonder, though, if sanctification would be a better metaphor to apply to the situation, rather than redemption? After all, it is through that process that our thinking & etc. is transformed. Then, the question that comes to mind is whether it is possible to sanctify culture, when so few Christians themselves seem to make much progress in their individual sanctification…

(J Richard Middleton) #56

Yes, “sanctification” as an alternative to “redemption” is a fine term to use, esp. if you want to stick with Reformed theological categories (and, as a Wesleyan, I’m fine with it). Technically, as an OT scholar, I would use the term “salvation,” which is the most comprehensive OT term for God’s work of deliverance from evil and restoring the world to flourishing. “Redemption” is in the OT is technically more narrowly used, typically for the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. I was using the terms interchangeably.

(Jay Johnson) #57

Well, I grew up Methodist, and I’m a wishy-washy Calvinist these days. My own uphill journey has been filled with switchbacks so far!

Interesting. Off the top of my head, I would’ve guessed the opposite, just because “redemption” is so closely associated with the Exodus deliverance. I guess intuition can lead you astray as easily in theology as in biology, eh? :wink:

(J Richard Middleton) #58

These days I often describe myself as a “Kuyperian-Wesleyan” (I actually find a great deal of overlap between the traditions, as I received them; and they each can make up some of the deficiencies of the other).

I should probably find a way to add the word “Jewish” or “Hebraic” to that. I was born Jewish (though I wasn’t raised in that tradition). More and more in my adult life I have sought to take the Old Testament/Tanakh and Second Temple Judaism seriously in my reading of the New Testament. More recently, I have been sought to understand post-biblical Jewish traditions of biblical interpretation and religious life, in dialogue with observant Jews.

(Jay Johnson) #59

A good way to think about it.

I had a Jewish roommate in college, but his idea of Kosher was picking the pepperoni off our pizza. Much later in life, my wife worked as the staff accountant at an orthodox Jewish school. It was interesting to learn about their lifestyle and beliefs by observing it and talking to the rabbi, rather than just reading about it.

(Robin) #60

Thanks, Roger…I probably did not handle my earlier response well. I did inquire into the individual’s experiences in dialoging with evolutionists, after having dialogued (in some cases) or read a variety of creationists. He did recommend two books – which I will read- - but seemed to not make a connection between their views of evolution and creationism but rather went right into their connection of one brand of Beginnings ideology (which would include ID plus others incl nontheistic ideologies) with a socio-political stance. I do not know that all ID people want “theocracy.” Or that any do. As the saying goes, “ideas have consequences.” When I was a young atheist I feared that if I became a Christian, I would have to become a Democrat. Ideas have consequences ---- though I did not frame the thought that way at the time — and I knew that any sort of belief-change would influence other things I believed. So, yes, I am sure that ID people have a range of political and social views that are influenced by their view of the Universe and humanity’s relationship to it. Theocracy — seemed like a loaded word. But I will have tor read Barbara Forrest and Laurie Lebo to know better what “they” actually said. I was just interested in the fact that we went straight from evolution to politics…

As for Jesus being “our Example and Savior. not the Pharisees” — quite true. And Jesus did say : “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged…” (Matthew 7:1), but in the same pericope (v. 6), Jesus said “Don’t give sacred things to dogs or throw down your pearls in front of pigs…” — both of which seem to involve some level of judgment. But this is a long way from ID. As I said, I will search out those books. But I was just intrigued at the report of their analysis…

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #61

Matthew 5:22 (NIV2011)
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

When we judge or condemn others we condemn ourselves, just as those who condemn their political opponents as morally worthless are in danger of hell because they are taking on the role of God, Who is the Judge of all.


I’ve been listening to the same ones and really enjoying them.