Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A different sort of Fundamentalist

Joe Carter was annoyed by an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times yesterday:
Evangelicals who take an interest in the life of the mind inevitably encounter two types of fundamentalists. Although the two types are similar, they are easy to distinguish. Both types believe that their views of the scripture, creation, and/or history are the only legitimate interpretations and condemn anyone who disagrees with them and their preferred “experts.” But the first type filters their beliefs through the KJV while the second type filters their beliefs through the NYT.

Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens are the second type of fundamentalists. Yesterday, they published an embarrassingly simple-minded op-ed in the New York Times decrying the “simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism” of evangelicals who hold beliefs that differ from their own. .... [more]
Carter refers to Rod Dreher's reaction to the same essay:
I generally agree with Evangelicals Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens, who contend that Evangelicals have to do a better job reconciling their faith with science. And I agree with them that fundamentalists who deny what science is telling us about human origins, preferring instead a literalistic interpretation of Genesis, are badly off course. But then there’s this description of the sort of intellectually respectable Evangelical they prefer:
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.
That gay marriage point is, ironically enough, a sign that the authors accept, when it suits them, a fundamentalist, literalist approach to Scripture — precisely the thing they condemn! Deciding that if the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn a thing, then the Bible must implicitly permit is, is reverse proof-texting, one designed to suit liberal ends.

Of course Scripture says nothing about gay marriage. Such a thing was unthinkable in the days of the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say anything about the atomic bomb either. By this logic, “reason” tells us that Christian condemnation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is irrational.

That would be absurd, of course. If Christians condemn the atomic bombings, they do so based on what Scripture tells us about the dignity of human life, of innocence, of war, of justice and mercy. We derive Christian moral teaching about a particular phenomenon based in part on the larger context presented to us in Scripture. That, and in the way the interpretive tradition developed. For example, by Giberson & Stephens’s logic, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity — the central dogma of the Christian faith — must be rationally denied, because there is nothing explicit in Scripture defines it. Do Giberson & Stephen deny the Trinity? I’m sure they don’t, but if not, why not? The Bible says “next to nothing” about the Trinity, after all.

On gay marriage, one has to make all kinds of leaps to reconcile it with Christianity and Biblical moral teaching about the meaning of marriage. Aside from St. Paul’s explicit condemnation of homosexual behavior, there is no way — or at the very least, no easy way — to reconcile same-sex marriage with the Christian moral tradition.

This is not, let me be clear, an argument against legalizing same-sex marriage. That is a different argument. What I’m focusing on here is an argument among Christians, about how we Christians are to interpret our own Scripture and tradition. .... [more]
And then Alan Jacobs reacts:
There’s some truth to this, of course, but — forgive the griping — it’s deeply annoying to me. First, it doesn’t say anything that Mark Noll didn’t say in 1994; and second, the only reason it’s in the NYT is that it flatters the prejudices of the readership. .... [more]
A Different Type of Fundamentalist » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog, Rod Dreher » Gay marriage, fundamentalism, and the Evangelical mind, more than 95 theses — The rejection of science seems to be part of a...