Clash of Titans: Christianity vs. Dr. Mohler’s theology
by Steve Douglas
August 26th, 2010 | 10 Comments
The fireworks continue between BioLogos and the esteemed Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, God’s chosen Arbiter of Faithful Readings of the Scriptures, and official representative of the spirit of biblical interpretation on earth, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. The latter has responded to Karl Giberson’s own response to an unreadably ignorant lecture recently given by The Great Baptist Paraclete.
A lot of the specific furor has been over Mohler’s original charge (it was no bland statement) that Darwin’s important trip aboard the Beagle was undertaken in search for evidence for an already assumed evolution. Giberson’s objection to this mischaracterization of history and Darwin’s motives is duly noted, but I myself am not so sure that Giberson’s stance that Darwin was still consciously nursing his “childhood faith” when he left aboard the Beagle is quite right, either.
Still, to acknowledge that Darwin’s faith was already somewhat cultural and never particularly personal as Mohler is intent to do is not at all to grant the demonstrably and consciously false implication of Mohler (and his fellow rotten teeth in Fundagelicalism) that Darwin was intent to find ways to bolster a rejection of a “literal” reading of Genesis — still less of faith in God’s creative role in general. The Beagle naturalist Darwin was a man who struggled more with problematic tenets of Christianity and organized religion in general, and not until his heart-breaking family crisis much later in life did his doubts orbit the question of the basic existence of God.
For Mohler, though, this would make no difference: the fact that he would even question Mohler’s understanding of “orthodox Christianity” at all would make any compatible beliefs he held highly suspect at best. This is where the best part of Giberson’s latest response picks up:
Let me conclude by responding to your charge that what I “have actually succeeded in doing is to show how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender in order to accommodate itself to evolution.” As a theological layperson, I hesitate to engage a trained theologian on this question, but let me rush in where angels fear to tread and offer that “doctrines” are human constructs, much like “theories” are in science. They are not facts—they are explanations or interpretations of facts.
You seem to equate your understanding of how the Bible should be read with plain-fact Christian orthodoxy. There we must part ways, and I suspect that at the end of the day, this may be the real point of contention. I do not think that I am showing how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender, but how problematic fundamentalist literalism is for engaging science. [my emphasis]
You’re darned right that this is “the real point of contention”! As Mohler stated categorically, “The theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures.” The poor guy’s fear is explicitly the “costs” of accepting evolution “in terms of theological concessions.” Concessions? Would the decision to consider another piece of (rock solid) evidence in order to help us in our interpretation of Scripture mean that we’d actually have to reevaluate something we had already believed without examining? Might one honestly approaching the scientific evidence in order to help better understand Christianity as it actually exists, which to varying degrees it always does independently of our perceptions of that reality, be forced to “concede” that an earlier perception was incomplete, inadequate, or even just plain wrong?
If that’s so unthinkable, Dr. Al, you’re right: you better run from evolution like the plague.