Reading through the NYT article below reminded me of the several themes we have been discussing these past many months concerning the Emergent Christian faith and the world's (and church's, for that matter) many interpretations of realism. One of those themes explored is the belief in God (theism) within late 20th Century Postmodernism leading towards an era (perhaps) of Authentication for the early 21st Century. As versus the atheistic and agnostic counter positions which would include the evolutionary Darwinian philosophy of naturalism.
Clearly Evolutionary Creation does not require the view of Darwinian Naturalism to be held as a plausible view of biblical creation. It has been shown in many articles the appropriateness of a theistic view as related to this subject.* In fact, the onus is actually on the competing views of atheism and agnosticism to show the validity of their arguments. It is but left for the theist to assert his interpretation of scientific results and make argument where and when necessary (as Mr. Plantinga illustrates below in his most recent book).
Further, we have asserted here the general support of all scientific study and research without finding it necessary to "modify" those results towards a Christian philosophy (counter to neo-evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism's more lingering resistance and doubts). We are comfortable in accepting all theories and postulates. And are confident that within science itself lies the necessary mechanisms for debate, doubt, synthesis, and restructuring through continuing examination, resultant corollaries with newer, displacing, scientific theories. (Interestingly, this also has been occuring within the branch of Theology as well!)
Consequently, it is left to the Christian faith to theologically (NOT scientifically) interpret those results (in terms of metaphysics, ontology, epistemologies, etc). Organizations like Biologos have been doing just that. So too have religious departments been working with both their philosophic and scientific counterparts towards a fuller understanding of God's universe from our many temporal, and limited, understandings. Article after article has been posted here showing the great amount of effort that has been occurring through postmodernistic cultural inquiries and study, by debate and argument, by prayer and prayerful insight. The Christian knows that God is true and that His creation will reveal God's many wonders and splendors despite occurrences of non-Christian interpretation. Good scientific research will eventually verify this belief as is even now being shown in recent discoveries.
Lastly, it is true that Emergent Christianity is allowing for a broader, more moderating version of Christianity than has been found to either the right or to the left of its position. First and foremost is its postmodernistic vision of today's global cultural outreach. The Christian faith has much to offer the world's many religions and cultures. Why? Because Jesus' Gospel will emancipate and deeply enrich every participating religion and culture that chooses to follow Him. What Emergent Christianity does not require is the forcing of the Christian faith upon others. It is respectful of every man and woman's free will of choice, and subsequent interpretation of Jesus to himself and his culture which follows a good, studied discernment of Scripture and doctrine.
Nor does Emergent Christianity force its culture upon its adherents. Every culture is left to freely adapt and assimilate itself to its best understanding of Christ as presented by postmodernism's re-constructive theologic work currently being undertaken throughout universities and emergent churches regarding who Jesus is, how we may comprehend Him, His Word, and ourselves. And as distinct from the many barriers of common Christian folk religion, religious dogmas, restrictive worship styles, and personal faith practices. Emergent Christianity seeks a truer form of personal liberty in each one of these areas as testimony to God's love and grace.
Moreover, Emergent Christianity desires to worship-and-work as one unified body with other similarly committed Jesus followers by seeking communal unions as can be found in the broad spectrum of conservative Christians to practising progressive Christians. However, Emergent Christianity is also willing to be abandoned by both ends of this spectrum if, while pursuing its own version of a loving, more realistic faith, than (i) what the religious right is offering; or, a better, more firmer ground of truth, than (ii) what the religious left is offering. Emergent Christianity seeks association with Evangelicalism in all its many forms (including Calvinism) as much as it seeks unity with the many denominational expressions of the Progressive Christianity. But in the realisation that each-and-all participating groups must be willing to change and adapt to either a more loving, or a more biblical, theological interpretations-and-practices than are presently being observed. And to adopt those interpretations-and-practices which would lead to a better, more wholistic, foundation of Christianity unity, and fellowship, as honoring to Jesus, our Savior and Lord, in concerted missional outreach to the postmodern world.
December 15, 2011
*per Evolutionary Creationism:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Adam Bird for The New York Times. The
philosopher Alvin Plantinga, whose new
book is called “Where the Conflict Really
Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism.”
Growing up among Dutch Calvinist immigrants in the Midwest, Mr. Plantinga
Had he not transferred to Calvin College, the Christian Reformed liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Mich., where his father taught psychology, Mr. Plantinga wrote in a 1993 essay, he doubted that he “would have remained a Christian at all; certainly Christianity or theism would not have been the focal point of my adult intellectual life.”
But he did return, and the larger world of philosophy has been quite different as a result. From Calvin, and later from the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Plantinga has led a movement of unapologetically Christian philosophers who, if they haven’t succeeded in persuading their still overwhelmingly unbelieving colleagues, have at least made theism philosophically respectable.
“There are vastly more Christian philosophers and vastly more visible or assertive Christian philosophy now than when I left graduate school,” Mr. Plantinga said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Grand Rapids, adding, with characteristic modesty, “I have no idea how it happened.”
Mr. Plantinga retired from full-time teaching last year, with more than a dozen books and a past presidency of the American Philosophical Association to his name. But he’s hardly resting on those laurels. Having made philosophy safe for theism, he’s now turning to a harder task: making theism safe for science.
For too long, Mr. Plantinga contends in a new book, theists have been on the defensive, merely rebutting the charge that their beliefs are irrational. It’s time for believers in the old-fashioned creator God of the Bible to go on the offensive, he argues, and he has some sports metaphors at the ready. (Not for nothing did he spend two decades at Notre Dame.)
In “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism,” published last week by Oxford University Press, he unleashes a blitz of densely reasoned argument against “the touchdown twins of current academic atheism,” the zoologist Richard Dawkins and the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, spiced up with some trash talk of his own.
Mr. Dawkins? “Dancing on the lunatic fringe,” Mr. Plantinga declares. Mr. Dennett? A reverse fundamentalist who proceeds by “inane ridicule and burlesque” rather than by careful philosophical argument.
On the telephone Mr. Plantinga was milder in tone but no less direct. “It seems to me that many naturalists, people who are super-atheists, try to co-opt science and say it supports naturalism,” he said. “I think it’s a complete mistake and ought to be pointed out.”
The so-called New Atheists may claim the mantle of reason, not to mention a much wider audience, thanks to best sellers like Mr. Dawkins’s fire-breathing polemic, “The God Delusion.” But while Mr. Plantinga may favor the highly abstruse style of analytic philosophy, to him the truth of the matter is crystal clear.
Theism, with its vision of an orderly universe superintended by a God who created rational-minded creatures in his own image, “is vastly more hospitable to science than naturalism,” with its random process of natural selection, he writes. “Indeed, it is theism, not naturalism, that deserves to be called ‘the scientific worldview.’ ”
Mr. Plantinga readily admits that he has no proof that God exists. But he also thinks that doesn’t matter. Belief in God, he argues, is what philosophers call a basic belief: It is no more in need of proof than the belief that the past exists, or that other people have minds, or that one plus one equals two.
“You really can’t sensibly claim theistic belief is irrational without showing it isn’t true,” Mr. Plantinga said. And that, he argues, is simply beyond what science can do.
Mr. Plantinga says he accepts the scientific theory of evolution, as all Christians should. Mr. Dennett and his fellow atheists, he argues, are the ones who are misreading Darwin. Their belief that evolution rules out the existence of God — including a God who purposely created human beings through a process of guided evolution — is not a scientific claim, he writes, but “a metaphysical or theological addition.”
These are fighting words to scientific atheists, but Mr. Plantinga’s game of turnabout doesn’t stop there. He argues that atheism and even agnosticism themselves are irrational.
“I think there is such a thing as a sensus divinitatis, and in some people it doesn’t work properly,” he said, referring to the innate sense of the divine that Calvin believed all human beings possess. “So if you think of rationality as normal cognitive function, yes, there is something irrational about that kind of stance.”
Longtime readers of Mr. Plantinga, who was raised as a Presbyterian and who embraced the Calvinism of the Christian Reformed Church as a young man, are used to such invocations of theological concepts. And even philosophers who reject his theism say his arguments for the basic rationality of belief, laid out in books like “Warranted Christian Belief” and “God and Other Minds,” constitute an important contribution that every student of epistemology would be expected to know.
But Mr. Plantinga’s steadfast defense of the biochemist and intelligent-design advocate Michael Behe, the subject of a long chapter in the new book, is apparently another matter.
“I think deep down inside he really isn’t a friend of science,” Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University, said of Mr. Plantinga. “I’m not objecting to him wanting to defend theism. But I think he gets his victory at the level of gelding or significantly altering modern science in unacceptable ways.”
Mr. Dennett was even harsher, calling Mr. Plantinga “Exhibit A of how religious beliefs can damage or hinder or disable a philosopher,” not to mention a poor student of biology. Evolution is a random, unguided process, he said, and Mr. Plantinga’s effort to leave room for divine intervention is simply wishful thinking.
“It’s just become more and more transparent that he’s an apologist more than a serious, straight-ahead philosopher,” Mr. Dennett said.
When Mr. Plantinga and Mr. Dennett (who said he has not read Mr. Plantinga’s new book) faced off over these questions before a standing-room-only crowd at a 2009 meeting of the American Philosophical Association, the event prompted ardent online debate over who had landed better punches, or simply been more condescending. (A transcript of the proceedings was published last year as “Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?”)
Mr. Plantinga, who recalled the event as “polite but not cordial,” allowed that he didn’t think much of Mr. Dennett’s line of reasoning. “He didn’t want to argue,” Mr. Plantinga said. “It was more like he wanted to make assertions and tell stories.”
Mr. Plantinga and Mr. Dennett do agree about one thing: Religion and science can’t just call a truce and retreat back into what the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called “non-overlapping magisteria,” with science laying claim to the empirical world, while leaving questions of ultimate meaning to religion. Religion, like science, makes claims about the truth, Mr. Plantinga insists, and theists need to stick up for the reasonableness of those claims, especially if they are philosophers.
“To call a philosopher irrational, those are fighting words,” he said. “Being rational is a philosopher’s aim. It’s taken pretty seriously.”