“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.