Archive Nota Bene Peter Escalante Sacred Doctrine

Defending Fundamentalism

Michael Brendan Dougherty skewers with precision here the pretensions of Christians who like to claim that Ken Ham and those who agree with him are members of new and different religious species than they are.  It is the other way around; eye-rolling at “fundamentalism” is a mutation acquired adaptively in the environment of disbelief.

But Mr Dougherty himself takes a couple of things for granted which he ought to reconsider. While it is true that Genesis is in a way a liturgical book, why presume that “liturgy” by definition means “not history”? Leaving aside the question of whether the Church ever really thought of Genesis as primarily liturgical (there is no historical evidence I know of that Genesis was ever used as a liturgical manual by Jews or Christians), why wouldn’t liturgy be presuming, and proclaiming, cosmology and history? Too, he goes a long way toward recognizing just how tentative the conclusions of natural historians really are, but he does not go far enough in recognizing how uncertain their hypotheses are too, and continues to take for granted the basic picture of modern evolutionism as if it were settled.  Mr Dougherty is right to say that what’s at stake in the debate with materialist scientism is an anthropological question, and he is right to say that the “fundamentalists” are on the right side of it. But if we sever human spirit from history, and put it into a chamber of pure subjectivity apart from “space and time” (as Pastor Schaeffer used to say), we can trick that chamber out as liturgically as we like, but we will remain locked out of reality in it, and we will still be playing the materialist game. Mr Dougherty would do well to ask himself whether the fundamentalists might not, at least in principle, be on the right side of the unified reality question too.

By Peter Escalante

Peter Escalante is a founder and editor of The Calvinist International. He holds a MA in Philosophy.

2 replies on “Defending Fundamentalism”

I have raised this idea privately with Steven Wedgeworth before and I would like to put it here again.

I wonder if you might consider Alexander Pruss, a Christian philosopher, rather interesting attempt to have both his cake and eat it, that is, through the use of a Just-So Story, he argues that we can both believe that Genesis 1-3 can be taken as literally as might please any fundamentalist, and still believe in evolution and the Big Bang was responsible for the creation of the world and mankind.

The essence of his “Just-So Story” postulates that evolution and the big bang occurred “postlapsarian”. To quote a segment of his original article,

The story is simple. First, everything happens exactly as it is described in Genesis 1-3 interpreted literalistically. Everything, including a light-studded dome (“firmament”), with waters above and below, creation in six days, vegetation without any sun or moon. Eve is literally taken from Adam’s side, and so on. (If we’re going literalistic, let’s go all out!) Then Adam and Eve sin, exactly as described in Genesis 3. All this happens in a universe–Paradise–where all of this is possible by the laws of nature.

God then kicks them out of Paradise. In the process, he destroys their bodies (i.e., he stops sustaining their existence) and puts their souls in stasis. But in Paradise, there was a law of nature that when the forbidden fruit is eaten, a Big Bang will occur (this could also be a miracle), initiating a 14 billion year process leading to some pretty clever apes in a universe better suited to sinners like Adam and Eve. God then takes the matter of two of these clever apes (if animals have souls, he de-souls them first, or perhaps he simply miraculously ensures that these two never get souls) and instills Adam and Eve’s souls in this matter.

And so all the science as to what has happened in the material universe since the Big Bang is right. (Of course, science doesn’t talk about souls.)

In a sense, this maybe sort of cheating, but I thought it was an intriguing possibility.

I have made some attempts to clean up Pruss’s account, tighten the tale a little, add more detail to it, and place it within a broader theological context here, by identifying big bang and evolution as processes whereby creation and nature are “corrupted” and deformed as cursed. I do hope that you might consider it.

Mr. Escalante

You write that Mr. Dougherty ‘continues to take for granted the basic picture of modern evolutionism as if it were settled’, what do you take that basic picture to be and what would it mean for this to be settled given your preceding claims that the hypotheses and conclusions of the natural historian are uncertain and tentative?

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