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Monday, September 20, 2010

Christians Who Are Afraid of Science

The BioLogos Forum, a website which features moderate evangelicals' attempts to harmonize the Bible and science, has created quite a stir among fundamentalist evangelicals. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Seminary, has blogged against their attempts. John MacArthur, the President of the Master's Seminary, has said that this is an issue over which Christians must "draw a line in the sand." These fundamentalist evangelicals are afraid that if one accepts the findings of science, then it will no longer be possible to believe that the Bible is a divine revelation. They maintain that one must accept whatever the Bible says as the ultimate authority and if science disagrees, then science is wrong. This type of thinking is not new among conservative Christians. It is interesting that the Reformers of the 16th century violently opposed the findings of Copernicus regarding the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. They saw this as blatantly contradicting Scripture.

Martin Luther said:

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth (Luther's Works [Walsch 1743 edition], vol. 22:2260 cited in Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology [1901], vol. 1: 126)

Luther's protégé, Phillip Melancthon wrote:

The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun revolves. ... Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it (Elements of Physics [1549] cited in White, 1:126-27).

John Calvin had the following to say about those who advocated heliocentrism:
... those dreamers who have a spirit of bitterness and contradiction, who reprove everything and pervert the order of nature. We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns. When we see such minds we must indeed confess that the devil possesses them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear ("Sermon on 1 Corinthinas 10:19-24," in the Corpus Reformatorum, vol. 49:677 translated by Robert White in "Calvin and Copernicus: The Problem Reconsidered," Calvin Theological Journal 15 [1980]: 236-37).

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church also opposed Copernicus. At the trial of Galileo, Cardinal Bellarmine is reported to have said:

To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin (cited in Sean Kelly, Rosemary Rogers, Saints Preserve Us [1993] p. 243).

Conservative Christians have been opposing the advancements of science ever since Copernicus (see this prior post). What I find interesting is that these same Christians will utilize the benefits of science while denying the theories that brought about the advancements. If they continue to bury their heads in the sands and pretend that an ancient book written by late Bronze Age tribes is superior to modern science, they will have fewer and fewer adherents.

For a humorous parody of this fundamentalist mentality, see
"Copernicus’ Heliocentricty a Dangerous Threat to Inerrancy."


  1. In some ways, the accomodationism of BioLogos is even worse. At least the people who are afraid of science are honesty about their incredulity, and aren't trying to masquerade theology as an intellectual discipline.

  2. That John MacArthur article is a amazing and completely validates my theory that Creationism/Intelligent Design is a conspiracy theory just like the 9-11 truth movement.

    Talking about evolution being "designed as a specific attack against the God of the Bible," like a group of atheists met together in a dark and smoky back room and pulled this theory out of thin air.

    Uggh, and to think I used to be a big fan of his!

  3. The simple truth (as a now-liberated former member of Grace Community Church) is that Dr. MacArthur questions nothing. Nothing. And, worse yet, he demands that his followers do the same. The fact that atheists, and other students of evolution base most of their work on a sincere questioning position is damning to them. Raise your hand, and you are shown the door. EFH

  4. From the essay: "What I find interesting is that these same Christians will utilize the benefits of science while denying the theories that brought about the advancements."

    I've made this point in online discussions every so often myself, and the path of those discussions has in most instances been rather astonishing. It would appear that "true science" is what produces the technological achievements that allow the fundamentalist to be on the internet having the discussion with me, but also apparently is the same science that reveals the folly of evolution and the grand splendor of creationism and geocentricism and flat earthism and whatever other noble concepts the fundamentalist had preconceived from his or her reading of the bible.

    Of course, they aren't bothered by the inconvenient fact that the methodology that is applied in producing the technological advancement is consistent with that which also gives us an understanding of evolution, a comprehensive non-creationist cosmology, etc. and that the methodology becomes starkly different where creationism and such are concerned. This inconvenient fact is predictably denied by the fundamentalist on the other side of the dialogue.

    It can become even more inexplicable, though. There are those who will happily use the technology, not think about how it came to be, and outright deny the efficacy of modern science and the scientific method. I have no thoughts on how this can be. Even during the peak of my own fundamentalist days (I was a Southern Baptist), it never occurred to me to take this position. I was always under some illusion of supporting science, even if cherry-picking it.

    From the essay: :If they continue to bury their heads in the sands and pretend that an ancient book written by late Bronze Age tribes is superior to modern science, they will have fewer and fewer adherents. "

    I continue to hope. I sort of get the ones who grew up with this, but a few times I've run into the "former atheist" who "used to 'believe in' evolution until they were saved and had their eyes opened", and this too is inexplicable to me. Should one really have a handle on the science, how it can suddenly be seen as a farce is beyond me.