Uncle Karl and friend decry anti-science Christianity in the NYT

October 18, 2011 • 1:11 pm

“Uncle” Karl Giberson has come even farther out of the Jesus Closet since leaving BioLogos (under what I suspect were unhappy circumstances), and he’s starting to take out after anti-science evangelical Christians in a big way.  I’m encouraged, but he’s still one god shy of complete atheism.  But I have my hopes. . . .

Giberson, formerly of Eastern Nazarene College, and Randall Stephens a professor of  history still at that college (but perhaps not for long), coauthored an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times:The evangelical rejection of reason.”  Taking his cue from many Republicans’ rejection of science, GIberson and Stephens pull no punches:

The rejection of science seems to be part of a politically monolithic red-state fundamentalism, textbook evidence of an unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious. As one fundamentalist slogan puts it, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” But evangelical Christianity need not be defined by the simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced.

Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book, though we find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation. Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary.

It always discombobulates me to hear evangelical Christians describe themselves as “intellectually engaged” or “humble.” If they were intellectually engaged, they’d realize that there’s no evidence—not a lick—for the divinity of Jesus, and that they’re basing their lives on a work of fiction completely fabricated by humans. How, exactly, is that “intellectual”?

And humility? At least we scientists don’t have 100% confidence in our “truths,” as evangelicals do about the divinity and Resurrection of Jesus, not to mention the existence of God. If we scientists had as little evidence for our “truths” as did evangelicals, we wouldn’t be scientists at all.  We’d be homeopaths or astrologers.

Nevertheless, Giberson and Stephens gets in some good licks at the evangelicals.  Karl’s not at BioLogos any more!

Charismatic leaders like these project a winsome personal testimony as brothers in Christ. Their audiences number in the tens of millions. They pepper their presentations with so many Bible verses that their messages appear to be straight out of Scripture; to many, they seem like prophets, anointed by God.

But in fact their rejection of knowledge amounts to what the evangelical historian Mark A. Noll, in his 1994 book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” described as an “intellectual disaster.” He called on evangelicals to repent for their neglect of the mind, decrying the abandonment of the intellectual heritage of the Protestant Reformation. “The scandal of the evangelical mind,” he wrote, “is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

LOL!  Nevertheless, Giberson and Stephens, despite their “humility,” still feel that science can be reconciled with Baby Jesus:

 There are signs of change. Within the evangelical world, tensions have emerged between those who deny secular knowledge, and those who have kept up with it and integrated it with their faith. Almost all evangelical colleges employ faculty members with degrees from major research universities — a conduit for knowledge from the larger world. We find students arriving on campus tired of the culture-war approach to faith in which they were raised, and more interested in promoting social justice than opposing gay marriage.

Scholars like Dr. Collins and Mr. Noll, and publications like Books & Culture, Sojourners and The Christian Century, offer an alternative to the self-anointed leaders. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage. They understand that Christian theology can incorporate Darwin’s insights and flourish in a pluralistic society.

Well,the Bible didn’t explicitly condemn evolution, because its authors didn’t know about evolution! But when religious people found out about it in 1859, many of them did condemn it as in explicit conflict with Genesis, and many of them still do.

But good for Karl and Co. for implicitly condoning gay marriage, which of course is social justice.  And although the last paragraph reeks of accommodationism, the criticism of anti-science Christianity is strong.  They’re not going to like this piece at BioLogos, though of course Karl doesn’t live there anymore.  After all, those mushbrained evangelicals are the very people that BioLogos was funded (by Templeton) to woo toward science.

Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.

Just one God less, Karl, one God less, and you’ll be on the right side. Can’t you see that you and Stephens are still embracing some of those ridiculous, discredited, and, yes, dangerous ideas?  Faith in Jesus may have motivated some of America’s finest moments (what were those moments, by the way?), but it’s motivated far more of our most embarrassing ones.

h/t:  JJE

44 thoughts on “Uncle Karl and friend decry anti-science Christianity in the NYT

  1. ‘How, exactly, is that “intellectual”?’

    Well, they are intellectually engaged in desperately trying to find reasons for the ridiculous absurdities in which they want to believe. And for that reason I suspect the deconversion rate among active evangelicals is probably higher than among those fundamentalists who simply accept what they have been told.

    If you think there is proof God exists then you can be deconverted when the proof doesn’t appear. If you don’t care whether there’s proof or not, then you’re much less vulnerable to reason.

    1. they are intellectually engaged in desperately trying to find reasons for the ridiculous absurdities in which they want to believe.

      This is better known as self delusion.

  2. I do appreciate that Giberson is willing to go against the evangelical machine. And Julian Baggani (spelling?) too. I’d love to hear what made them change targets… was it the arguments they got from Gnus, or was it that they finally got around to looking at the people they accidentally aligned themselves with?

  3. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution

    But it does give an account of the creation of species on earth that is at odds with evolution. And that account is allegedly provided by their god. So yeah, there’s a conflict there, and it is disingenuous for Karl to suggest otherwise.

    and says next to nothing about gay marriage

    It says nothing about gay marriage because such a notion was inconceivable to the writers of the day. But it makes very clear what the Old Testament god thought of homosexuality, and Jesus didn’t say anything to counter that.

  4. It always discombobulates me to hear evangelical Christians describe themselves as “intellectually engaged” or “humble.” If they were intellectually engaged, they’d realize that there’s no evidence—not a lick—for the divinity of Jesus, and that they’re basing their lives on a work of fiction completely fabricated by humans.

    Blind spots tend to be notoriously difficult to identify and correct for. Tend to skitter out of sight the more one attempts to look at them – bearing some resemblance to chasing one’s tail. Requires quite a bit of honesty and willingness to consider the views of others – the perspective that compensates for those blind spots, those tendencies to try to fool ourselves.

    Though I have to commend Giberson and Stephens for their efforts; one hopes their “throwing the fox in amongst the chickens” will have some positive consequences regarding those blind spots.

  5. There’s a distinction which I think deserves to be brought into the open: When one’s theology comes into clear conflict with science, which gives way? People like Ken Ham and Al Mohler have explicitly and proudly opted to give priority to theology over science, whereas Giberson, Collins et al are willing to let science drive theology, at least some of the time. With the latter, one can at least have a rational debate; but the former have cut themselves off from even the possibility.

  6. Nice to see that sneaky “Uncle Karl” getting a thorough acidic put down like this one. How does his kind sleep at night living with such a topsy turvy mindset?

  7. While faith may have inspired many of America’s finest moments, it’s also inspired some pretty bad ones, too, so I don’t know if giving “faith” credit is valid.

    I think that it can keep people strong and persevering in the face of obstacles, but I’d count that as a flaw, not a virtue. Fighting for something like social justice could rely on notions of fairness or empathy to keep it going, but persevering in the struggle to keep gays from getting married seems like it would need something external and able to keep going despite plenty of evidence it’s wrong, which sounds like a job tailor-made for faith to me.

    Oh, and Jerry you’ve added “in Jesus” to the original “Faith”, which certainly in the case of George Washington (whom I’m pretty sure was a deist) might be a stretch. But that’s giving Karl more credit than he deserves, probably.

  8. Uncle Karl isn’t one god away from complete atheism, rather he hasn’t yet figured out who god is. I can’t stand watching him struggle, I mean, let’s have some compassion.

    God is us, Karl. Ha, ha, jokes on you! We created morality and love and beauty and all the things you say are rooted in a basis of god. We’re god. We created the concept. We, the life on Earth, did it all by ourselves.

    All the intangibles of which you speak, Karl, aren’t gifts from above, they’re gifts given by us. Yes, you can have your snake and eat it, too.

    So, come, Karl, let us go watch the sunset. It’s going to be beautiful tonight. You know why it’s red and orange, don’t you. What, atmospheric physics? Oh, heavens, no! It’s Jerry Coyne, he’s in charge of sunsets. Srsly. It’s twue. Would I lie?

  9. lol. Christians should do themselves a favor and instead of rationalizing everything in light of new findings from science, they should just actually listen to what scientists are saying and use the Templeton Prize to get scientists to tell them of the plausible scientific developments that may occur both in the near and long term future.

    Then they should sit down and take some time and re-write their holy book. Get rid of the silly stories and internal inconsistencies within the book. Then take those plausible scientific predictions and write it down in print into their holy books as if it was given by revelation to them. Then wait a thousand years and let time sanctify their holy writings. Then the fundies a thousand years from now can say “look! there it is! just as how our God predicted it!” lol.

    The way they’re doing things now, it’s a public relations nightmare. They are always one step behind the science! lol.

  10. I’m open to someone pointing me to sources where this is not the case, but I’m not sure that “faith” has played a particularly important role for Washington or Obama. In fact, I’m quite willing to say that compared to the average citizen of their times, faith played quite less of a role in their lives.

  11. One God fewer, Jerry! Oy!

    Anyhow, the “Republicans hate science” meme seems to be gaining traction. PZ mentioned the trashing of the global climate change document by Texas Republicans recently, and that was pretty blatant stuff.

  12. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

    On this topic I am quite sure many readers will be entertained if they watch Pat Condel’s video on you tube entitled : THE FAITH OF IDIOTS.

  13. But evangelical Christianity need not be defined by the simplistic theology,

    There’s no good reason why theology should not be simplistic. Unless it contradicts with reality or logic. That’s what would make it complicated.

    But evangelicals deny reality or logic. Thus “simplistic” is not a bug but a feature for them. It’s not an insult for them. Thus it’s going to fall on deaf ears, except for the choir he’s preaching to.

  14. Sounds like uncle Karl is moving toward the right direction! From hardcore fundies toward accomodationist, later to closeted atheist, then full-blown. Maybe we need to devise a kind of baptism or baiat for atheism for those that are out-of-closet ? 😀

  15. It always struck me how non-intellectual fundie xianity is.

    At least the mainline and Catholic churches produced some noteworthy thinkers and theologians. The Big Bang was first proposed by a Jesuit astronomer and Teilhard de Chardin dug up Peking man and had some interesting ideas. Reingold Neihbor, Paul Tillich, Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, Aquinas etc.

    About the only theologian of note the fundies produced was Rushdooney. A psychopathic mass murderer wannabe who proposed slaughtering 99% of the US population to set up a theocracy.

    Who else? William Lane Craig is just a Liar for jesus, Wagner thinks demons are everywhere, another key thinker claims UFO’s exist and are piloted by demons from hell. The ID crowd, Dembski, Wells, Nelson, Johnson etc.. are just wrong.

    Were down to Michele Bachmann who shouldn’t cross the street unaided, Sarah Palin, and a few other scary idiots.

    1. You do realize that Ehrman was a fundamentalist before he did his doctorate at Princeton and became an agnostic right?

      1. Sure.

        It’s not uncommon for the brighter fundies to think their way out of their swamp.

        It’s almost like you can be a fundie or intelligent but you can’t be both. There are a few exception but out of 60 million fundies, not many.

  16. wikipedia edited for Length

    Norman L. Geisler is a Christian apologist and the co-founder of Southern Evangelical Seminary outside Charlotte, North Carolina,

    He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Jesuit Loyola University. Geisler is well known for his scholarly contributions to the subjects of Christian apologetics, philosophy, and moderate Calvinism and is the author, coauthor, or editor of over 60 books and hundreds of articles.

    Geisler has written 60 books, founded a seminary, and also testified in a court case that he believes UFO’s exist and are piloted by demons from hell (a common fundie belief).

    This is what passes for thought in the fundie world.

  17. Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins.

    Says he who complains of “self-anointed leaders”. Mr. self-anointed-spokseman-for-Americans ignores obvious details like, for example, uhhhhh, Americans that didn’t trust in God. Or Americans too afraid of bigots to have said they are atheists.

  18. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage.

    Paul (a.k.a. the bestest Christian of all time) doesn’t sound like a dude that would take kindly to evolution…

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

    Just sayin…

    1. That’s assuming that was the actual “Paul” and not one of the phony “Pauls”. Lol what a sleazy history the Bible has.

    2. This ludicrousness of this logic always bothers me. Adam and Eve both sinned. Eve was the only one who was “deceived?” Who gives a fuck? If someone asks you to do something immoral and you assent, you’re just as culpable as the next guy (or girl). It’s hilarious that their own misogynistic religion contains an origins story that requires spinning in order for it to be as misogynist as they’d like. You’d think they could at least come up with something that would make sense from the get go.

    1. The Wikipedia articles on those terms are informative ;-). As I see it (speaking as an ex-), the definitions of the terms deal with different domains: fundamentalism is about doctrinal orthodoxy, while evangelicalism is about the need for personal conversion. In practice, the self-identified memberships overlap heavily. Almost all fundamentalists are evangelicals, but there are many “moderate” evangelicals among the mainstream churches, who reject eg. strict Biblical literalism and inerrancy. It’s also interesting that many early fundamentalists (eg. William Jennings Bryan) were not YECs — the movement has regressed intellectually over the past century.

      1. Almost all fundamentalists are evangelicals, but there are many “moderate” evangelicals among the mainstream churches, who reject eg. strict Biblical literalism and inerrancy.

        The well-known blogger Fred Clark (of Slacktivist) is a great example of the latter — he’s an evangelical, but politically progressive, and has recently taken on Ken Ham.

        1. I think Fred Clark (whose writing I enjoy, and whom I in many respects like and admire) really stretches the definition of “evangelical” — I honestly have trouble seeing where he connects with the evangelicalism I knew. Jim Wallis is perhaps a less ambiguous example. There’s also an Anglican-based branch of the movement which gave rise to the infamous Alpha Course, which I regard as following in the footsteps of C.S.Lewis. So you can see there’s a range of both theological and socio-political views under the Evangelical umbrella.

          But yeah: I love watching slacktivist name Barton and Ham “liars”, and calling out the false civility that would discourage such truth-speaking.

  19. “Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins.”

    I’m not sure whether I ought to bristle in indignation over atheism being shoved into the insignificant social fringes or be charmed by atheism today being referred to, for once, as a “quiet voice.”

    We’re getting louder.

  20. As these guys continue to engage their minds, they will likely find themselves to be humanists, with nothing in common with other ‘evangelicals’.

    I stopped considering myself ‘Christian’ when I realised that I no longer held any of the core beliefs, although some aspects of woo held on a while longer for me. Sure, I could have tried to redefine ‘Christian’ to keep myself in that camp, but why bother?

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