Peter Enns recently did a typically patronizing piece on “Why We Fight About This” over at BioLogos. This is how he casts the issue:
The conversation stirs up emotions….Passions run high because evolution is threatening. Some Christians feel threatened…When people feel that their sense of coherence is threatened, conflict is not far behind. We do not move to dialogue but protectionism. We stop asking whether something is true and rather react out of fear. The more credible the threat, the more we circle the wagons and maintain at all costs our sense of coherence….Evolution also threatens Christians who feel they must take the Bible literally. In the face of such a threat, the motivation to protect is strong…The shame is that many people desperately want the conversation happen. Stifling the discussion to maintain coherence will not do. Closing off discussion is done in the name of protecting the masses from losing their faith. The irony is that the Church’s failure to encourage open dialogue has led many to relinquish their faith altogether. Such is the case when protecting religious coherence takes priority over preparing the church for the future…For some Christians, evolution provides such a threat, and a lot of heat is generated as a result. But many other Christians are seeking venues that support open dialogue. Such open dialogue, in my opinion, cannot be avoided much longer.
By way of comment:
1.His post is a study in polemical insincerity. On the one hand he pretends to be soliciting an “open dialogue.” On the other hand, he stereotypes the opposition. He casts his side as the voice of reason while he casts the other side as emotional reactionaries who can only cling to their fearful faith.
Of course, that’s a stock debater’s tactic. A heavy-handed attempt to put the opposition on the defensive. Make them look weak. But if you’re going to resort to these tactics, then you’re burning bridges rather than building bridges.
2.Ironically, his rhetoric is reversible. Theistic Darwinians feel threatened by the religious right. By the conservative Christian establishment. The coherence of their religious synthesis is threatened by positions on their right.
If Enns ever questioned the truth of macroevolution, he clearly stopped asking those questions long ago. Biologos “circles the wagons,” “stifles discussion,” and “closes off discussion” by its studied refusal to engage the arguments of young-earth creationists or even old-earth creationists.
They resist an “open dialogue” because they, too, have a position to protect. Theistic evolution is the stopgap that keeps them from taking the next final step to naturalistic evolution.
3.It’s also duplicitous for Enns to frame the issue in terms of theistic evolution over against a literal interpretation of the Bible. For, from what I can tell, contributors like Peter Enns and Paul Seely have no reservations about the literal interpretation of Scripture. They take Scripture literally, and they take Scripture to be literally wrong.
4.In addition, it’s not as if theistic evolution represents the intellectually respectable alternative to special creation. Does the scientific evidence point to theistic evolution rather than naturalistic evolution? If macroevolution is true, and if the scientific evidence points to theistic evolution, then why are so many evolutionary biologists atheistic? How can Enns explain that? Surely he won’t explain this as a conspiracy on the part of the scientific establishment to suppress evidence for the existence of God.
5.Enns and his cobelligerents cast themselves in the role of courageous pioneers. But this “conversation” has been going on since the 19C. And in some ways it antedates the 19C.
6.Nothing prevents theistic Darwinians from starting their own seminaries or denominations. It’s not as if theistic evolution is illegal.
But, of course, that goes to the dilemma of the religious left. Liberal denominations are dying denominations.
Liberal leeches need a conservative host to survive and thrive. A conservative host to feed on. They can’t survive on their own inner resources.
But they bleed the host dry. They kill their source of sustenance. That’s their conundrum. They need a living host to leech off of. But they kill the host in the process.
Liberals aren’t seeking peaceful coexistence with conservatives. Liberals aren’t tolerant of dissent. Like termites, they worm their way into conservative institutions, then hollow them out from within. Once in control, they oppress the faithful.
They only use the language of “dialogue” as a softening up exercise to lower resistance and gain entry. Once inside, they proceed to stage a coup d’etat and establish a liberal regime.
7.This isn’t simply a question of how we interpret Gen 1, or Gen 2:7, or Gen 6-9.
This is ultimately a question about God’s presence or absence in the world we inhabit. Not merely, Did God do what the Bible says in did in Gen 1 or Gen 2 or whatever, but, Does God ever do anything even like that? Is the world a closed system? Or is the world an open door to God? Does the traffic move in both directions?
Passages like Gen 1 and 2,or 6-9, aren’t isolated instances of God interrupting the continuum. Rather, passages like this are situated in a larger outlook regarding God’s immanence–as well as transcendence. A God who is near, as well as a God who is far. A God who speaks and acts. The living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
8.Peter Enns may fancy himself the leader of a movement. Riding the crest of the wave.
But when you get right down to it, we are all very small. We live, we age, and we die. Others take our place. Life goes on without us.
Take W. V. O. Quine. The late Harvard philosophy prof. In his heyday, his every word commanded an audience from the intelligentsia. He set the agenda.
But in the end, time passed him by. In the end, he was just a feeble old man in hospital bed. Just another moribund mortal.
His son has a website dedicated to his famous father. Chock-full of eulogies.
But what good are eulogies? Tributes by the dying to the dead. What good are glowing eulogies to the deceased?
You and I lead little lives. Ultimately, all we have to live by and die by is God’s Word and God’s grace.