The squabbles between Gnu Atheists and Accommodationist Atheists are paralleled by a more serious battle in the community of evangelical Christians. And, not surprisingly, it involves how to interpret the Bible. Albert Mohler, a Southern Baptist bigwig and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is peeved at Karl Giberson, recently departed vice president of the BioLogos Foundation, whose goal is to reconcile science and evangelical Christianity. Giberson’s sin was to write a piece for the CNN Belief website called “Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you.” The title says it all, but Uncle Karl added this:
Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book.
To suppose, as the so-called young earth creationists do, that God dictated modern scientific ideas to ancient and uncomprehending scribes is to distort the biblical message beyond recognition. Modern science was not in the worldview of the biblical authors and it is not in the Bible.
But of course to call literalism “an unreasonable interpretation” is not going to sit well with a lot of people. Do remember that 40% of Americans see creation as having been recent and instantaneous, and 60-70% believe in the literal existence of heaven, hell and Satan. Mohler is one of these, and fires back on his own website with a piece whose title is pretty accurate, “Throwing the Bible under the bus.”
So, according to Professor Giberson, Genesis contains “wonderful insights,” but no authoritative revelation of how God made the universe. Evidently, he believes that the Bible is not making a claim to historical truth when it tells of the creation and function of Adam and Eve. “We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa — not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests,” Giberson insists.
In making his case, Giberson uses the old argument that God has given humanity two books of revelation — the Bible and the created order. This is one of Giberson’s most frequently offered arguments. It is a theologically disastrous argument in his hands, for he allows modern naturalistic science to silence the Bible, God’s written revelation. In another article published last year, Giberson said, “I am happy to concede that science does indeed trump religious truth about the natural world.”
Finally, Mohler makes this statement, one diametrically opposed to the assertions of “sophisticated” theologian David Bentley Hart that we discussed yesterday:
Giberson and Collins reveal their true understanding of biblical inspiration when they locate it, not in the authorship of the text at all, but in the modern act of reading the text.
This “true understanding” is, of course, completely bogus to Mohler.
I just love it when Christians fight about which parts of the Bible to take literally and which are metaphorical—as, I suppose, Christians enjoy it when atheists squabble. The difference is that atheists fight about tactics, not whether there is any evidence for the verities of scripture. The claims of one group of Christians that the others are practicing “bad faith” will make no friends—and shows why the mission of BioLogos is ultimately futile.
And my fondest hope is that people on the fence, seeing Christians fighting about how literal the Bible really is, will realize that the whole exercise is doomed, for the Bible comes not from God but from man. That’s a good first step on the road to unbelief.