Saturday, September 20, 2008

Matt 24 Watch, 69: Implications of dechristianisation through the influence of evolutionary materialism in the name of "science"

Over the past several weeks, we have been looking at a very painful matter, one that is bound to hurt or even enrage many good people. (But, on pain of repeating some very dark chapters of recent history indeed, we must forge ahead, with all continued apologies in advance for hurt feelings. )

For, the pain that would stem from not learning from the mistakes we must never make again, would be far, far worse.

(Arguably, indeed, since the ongoing American Abortion holocaust -- a mere fraction of the global total -- is both (1) a result of the undermining of the value of human life due in decisive part to the influence of evolutionary materialist thought and (2) this ongoing horror now dwarfs Hitler's unspeakable horrors: nearly 50 millions versus a "mere" 12 - 14 millions or so -- indeed it begins to approach the Soviet Union's 60 million death toll -- we are already paying a terrible price for what we have forgotten or dismissed on the Creation-anchored value of human life . . .)

A convenient specific reference is the recent media exchange between ABC TV News Anchor Charles Gibson and US Vice Presidential Candidate, Alaska Governor and evangelical Christian, Mrs Sarah Palin:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

But -- without seeking to endorse any politician or programme -- it is evident that those words were plainly taken utterly out of their context and propagandistically twisted into the very oppositite of what they properly meant in context, as can be seen in the Powerline discussion here (again, pardon highlighting to help us see what we might miss otherwise):

[Gov. Palin, in church in Wasila, June 2008:] “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God . . . . That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”

Newt Gingrich -- former speaker of the US House of Representatives and a History Professor in his own right, has properly lashed Mr Gibson for his out of context distortion by making reference to precedents set by Presidents Clinton, Kennedy, F D Roosevelt and Lincoln, in a YouTube video clip here. (NB: Well worth the five minutes to watch it.)

Q: What lurks behind those words and the way they were twisted?

A: Again, two "favourite" excerpts from Rev Dr Rod Hewitt, a recent Moderator of the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman, are revealing -- once we realise that Mrs Palin, as just noted above, is an evangelical Christian:

During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of [traditional] faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as 'liberal' revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith. The conservative apologists of these religions have sought to roll back the impact of the theories of evolution, rationalism and textual criticism that they claim seek to erode the divine authority and 'certainties' of their faiths. They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals . . . .

The worldview of the Fundamentalists is characterised by an overwhelming patriotism, a strong [US] military that must dominate the world and a deregulation of business in order that through globalisation, world trade may be effectively controlled by western multinational corporations.

During the cold war era fundamentalist religious ideology gave strong support to the anti-communism foreign policy of the USA. With the demise of communism, it has focused its energy in offering strong support for Israel thus preventing the USA government from becoming an honest broker in the Middle East.
[Gleaner, Sept 26, 2001]

Here, we must of course first pause to reject the many blatant strawman distortions, improper immoral equivalencies across "religions," outright errors, and -- sadly -- bigotry-laced prejudices that lurk in these caricaturing words. [Cf my corrective discussion on the smear-word "fundamentalism" here. Also, cf. remarks on the highly complex situation in the Middle East with Israel here and here.]

But also, let us take strong note: we see the explicit, pride of place role played by -- surprise [NOT!] -- "the theory of evolution" in shaping the strident, often slanderous objections and "gotcha" journalism tactics directed to evangelicals who dare to tread into the public square.

In short, a key social purpose of evolutionary materialism and those influenced by it, is to drive the Judaeo-Christian worldview from the public square. In that cause, Mr Gibson stooped to slandering Mrs Palin as promoting Holy War, when she was doing just the opposite: seeking to pray that the USA, its military and its leadership would be on God's side, that of justice [cf. Rom 13:1 - 7 as discussed here.]

Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address -- to which Mrs Palin was alluding -- which is inscribed in stone at his monument in Washington DC, is also a sobering and instructive contrast to the misleading rhetorical point Mr Gibson was making:

. . . four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it . . . Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Oh, that the current -- equally deeply unpopular -- "long war" in the face of the declared Islamist attempt to subjugate all of humanity under their agenda for the Ummah and its restored Caliphate [cf copy of the map here and its original context here (NB: the wayback machine somehow failed to save the images)], would be similarly led in a spirit of deep, humble repentance, charity and reformation!

However, deeper concerns lurk, tied to the pride of place point given to the theory of evolution in the words of a theologian.

If you find that astonishing, it would be helpful to read Edwin Yamauchi's summary on the roots of modernist, "Liberal" theology, in his classic work, The Stones and the Scriptures, pp. 27 - 30:

“Higher” or literary criticism is the study which attempts to determine the questions of authorship, of the date, and of the composition of any literary texts on the basis of vocabulary, style, and consistency . . . . In biblical studies higher criticism received its classic exposition in 1878 in the work of Julius Wellhausen [through the Documentary/JEDP Hypothesis, which dated the key elements of the Pentateuch from the 9th to the 6th centuries before Christ] . . . on the basis of Wellhausen’s concept of the evolution of Israel’s religion. According to this viewpoint, which was influenced by Darwin and Hegel, the religion of the Hebrews evolved at first into a national henotheism . . . and only much later in the time of the literary prophets and the Exile into an ethical monotheism . . . . Wellhausen, who was a great Arabic and Hebrew scholar, reconstructed Israelite life on the basis of Arabic poetry. He refused to believe that either Egyptian or Akkadian had been deciphered [which had of course long been the case by that time!] . . . .

In New Testament criticism the scholar who corresponds . . . to Julius Wellhausen . . . is F. C. Baur of Tubingen (1792 – 1860). . . . Baur having established an evolutionary scheme of development believed he could date the New Testament documents according to their place in this pattern. On this basis he accepted only four of the epistles as genuinely Pauline . . . John’s Gospel was dated as late as the second half of the second century. The Acts of the Apostles was also assigned this late date . . . Baur’s views were quite dominant throughout the nineteenth century and have left a lasting legacy for the twentieth century , though many of his assumptions have been disproved . . . . . Johannes Munck . . . argues that the Tubingen concept of a struggle between Jewish-Christian nomism and Gentile-Christian antinomism has now been compressed by scholars into the thirty years between the death of Jesus and the death of Paul.

Indeed, it is worth pausing to note that "rationalism," too, which comes in second place in Dr Hewitt's words, is not at all a scientific theory, it is instead at root the philosophical
position that, as OED summarises, "opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response . . ."

In its philosophical root, such rationalism is "the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge."

Carrying over into Theology, it is "the practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religion. "

(Now, recall, that we are finite, fallible, on abundant evidence morally fallen, and that we are too often ill-willed. On such a basis, the quality of our reasoning is always open to dispute, and points to open-minded, critically aware humility rather than prideful certitude.)

In short, we see again and again that there is a deep, sharply polarised rift in our civilisation, driven by the rise of the philosophy of evolutionary materialism -- often in the misleading guise: "science" -- and its many influences across the whole culture over the past 150 years,
including perhaps even through words from the pulpit.

And, as we discussed last week, that philosophy is inescapably self-refuting and deeply undermining of basic morality and the key value of the right to life:

a --> Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature -- from hydrogen to humans by chance plus mechanical necessity.

b --> Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

c --> But human thought and decisions, which clearly are observed/experienced phenomena in the universe, must now fit into this picture.

d --> Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "decisions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

e --> Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have, the "conclusions" we reach, the "decisions" we make and actions we thereafter undertake -- without residue -- are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, logic or right vs wrong.

f -->
As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead.

So, on materialist premises, even materialist thoughts themselves are produced and controlled by forces that are utterly irrelevant to purpose, truth, logic or right vs wrong. For instance:

. . . Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

Such a fundamental logical incoherence should give us serious pause. Especially, before we are dangerously misled by distortions and dismissals of what those who don't adhere to evolutionary materialism and/or rationalism have to say, e.g. the much derided "Christian fundamentalists."

For, over a hundred million ghosts from the century just past rise up to warn us on where that might lead. END


IlĂ­on said...

Human beings are perverse!

We wanted to know good and evil: it appears that we haven't yet got our fill of that empty meal ... when will we be sated, when will we lick our fingers and be done!?

And we don't seem to be inclined to come to the real feast.

Gordon said...

Ah Ilion:

The key problem, of course, is that the real feast is bitter to the mouth and unappetising to the eyes, though deeply nourishing to the soul . . .

I find that Lincoln is such a model here: he acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and the primacy of justice, but is equally open that much is mysterious beyond our ken, and is ever so deeply aware of his nation's (and doubtless his own) sins even as he sits in its chief executive's office.

In short, he knew that we do not and cannot know good and evil for ourselves, so must humbly seek the aid of God, starting with the consciences he put as candles within us, and going on to other means of revelation such as the Word he has so graciously blessed our ungrateful civilisation with.

Thus, we can see the significance of Lincoln's call to seek and follow the right, reforming towards and standing for the right as God gives us the ability to see it, even where this leads into a horrible and painful, yea even woeful situation of a Christian ruler [by the time of the cited address, 1865, it seems pretty clear Lincoln was a Christian -- previously Christian influenced would have probably been more accurate] having to resort to the sword [per Rom 13:1 - 7].

We hear the deep pain, humble admission of imperfect understanding, and determination to to the best and the right that one can.

Such humility and open-minded, honest commitment to the right as God gives us the ability to see it -- even through a glass, darkly -- ever so sharply contrasts with the false confidence and dismissive glibness of the rationalists and evolutionary materialists. (Multiply, by the self-refuting chaos that such rationalism and evolutionary materialism then fall into, and the amoral implications of such fatally flawed intellectual stances.)

For that matter, we the Christians of our own day would do well to ponder Lincoln's words. (Mrs Palin, to her credit, has at least made a beginning . . . )

For further instance, I shudder to think on what the requite of the blood of (to name just one case of many) 50 million unborn children would be, but such a judgement against a nation that had the light to see better and rejected it, would be just. Do we, like Lincoln, tremble before the bar of infinite justice? Or, are we ever so arrogant as to fail to think about our own sins and those of our nations?

[My own nation piles up the murdered at over 1,000 a year for less than 3 million people, a direct result of having had the temerity to seek out political messiahs and to seek riches at the expense of others though the drugs trade, multiplied by an easy resort to violence to settle personal differences. God, have mercy upon us in and of Jamaica!]

Thank God, however, he is merciful.

That is why the message of the cross is such good news for bad men. Men such as -- if we are honest with our own selves, we too are.

And so, let us now turn from false hopes to the living God, determined to walk in his way, ever towards the right, the good and the true. Whether in humblest station or in the Executive Mansion of a great nation in crisis.