Thursday, August 29, 2013

Progressive Theology's Attempt To Distance Itself From Creationism

The Christian creationists come from the same tradition and hold the same texts holy as do progressive Christians. They're more consistent in that their mentality is closer to that of the people who wrote those texts thousands of years ago. The progressives have to distort and deny huge portions of the history of their religion in their attempt to make it compatible with modern enlightened thought, in a way not entirely unlike the way creationists distort and deny huge portions of mankind's scientific knowledge. The position progressive believers represents amounts to being a little bit pregnant. In the long run either religion or science will prevail. They're not compatible. A good deal of contemporary progressive Christian theology seems to consist of putting off the choice between science and religion, distracting people from that choice.

Say something like that to a liberal theologian, and you may well receive an answer containing several hair-raising bits of nonsense, as nonsensical as anything any creationist could ever say: you may be challenged to provide an example from the Bible which supports your assertion that there's anything creationist in it. The theologian may tell you straight-up that the doctrine of creationism is not found in the Bible and was not actively taught until the 1960s.

An example of creationism in the Bible? What, chapters 1 & 2 of Genesis don't suffice? "Actively" taught? Tell that to John Scopes, defendant in the famous "Monkey Trial" in 1925, charged with violating Tennessee' Butler Act, passed that same year, by teaching evolution in a public school. the Butler Act provided that "That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." Teachers who violated the act were to be fined between $100 and $500 for each offense. Are we to assume that back then creationism was "passively" taught in Tennessee?

The Butler Act was overturned in 1967, so presumably, in reality, it was in the 1960's when not creationism but evolutionary theory began to be taught in Tennessee's public schools without the teachers risking being fined for it. I don't know how many teachers risked those fines between 1925 and 1967. I can only hope that a great many of them did.

Why this absurd claim that creationism was only "actively" taught beginning in the 1960's? As far as the date goes, the meme that creationism was only created in the 19th century was not sufficiently ridiculed and laughed out of existence when it recently appeared, and when stupid memes aren't sufficiently challenged they tend to grow more stupid. Stéphane Courtois' math was not sufficiently assailed when when he published The Black Book of Communism in the 1990's with its assertion, with that famous round number, easy for simple minds to latch onto, that 100,000,000 people had been killed by Communists, and now assertions that it was actually 150,000,000, or 200,000,000 or more, are making the rounds.

What actually happened in the 19th century was that Biblical scholarship became a bit more sophisticated, a great number of very old fragments of manuscripts of Biblical texts began to be discovered in the Middle Eastern desert, the results of the latest scholarship, not only in the field of Biblical text-criticism, but also in evolutionary biology, became known to wider circles of the public -- and for the first time, a significant number of people dared openly to speculate that creation might NOT have happened as described in Genesis. Before the 19th century, creationism, which these absurd theologians are telling us only began in the 19th century, was the default position of Christianity, accepted by the vast majority of its members.

Now, these theologians, these turnips, and those who assume the turnips know what they're talking about, will, around this point if not sooner, triumphantly announce that St Augustine of Hippo asserted the Genesis creation story was an allegory. What they will not tell you, assuming they know it -- a far too rash assumption -- is that Augustine believed that God created the entire universe all at once, in an instant. No, it's not like the theory of the big bang, because Augustine was saying that the entire universe was created as it is now all at once. All the planets and stars created just as they are now. With the Earth at the center of the universe, the sun, moon and stars all revolving around it. Around 6000 years ago. Or that Augustine did believe that the Biblical accounts of the creation of Adam and Eve and of the virgin birth of Jesus were literally true. And he converted because he heard a book talking to him. And he wrote with great relish of the destruction of all of the non-Christian temples all over the Roman Empire which was going on around him, and at the thought of non-Christians being tormented for all eternity in Hell. Not a creationist? Close enough for me. Aquinas, whom theologians and other apologists love to cite for his idea of natural reason, as if it were anything but a partial refutation of the Christian doctrine of human depravity, won't generally tell you -- if they know. And there's no reason to assume that they do -- that Aquinas also said that the Holy Scripture was perfect, and that all "seeming" contradictions and absurdity and atrocities and so forth, contained within it, were the result of man's imperfect ability to understand Scripture, and that there were some very important, some vital matters which could be found only in Scripture. Aquinas, this supposed pinnacle of reason and harbinger of modernity, looks more and more like just another Bible-thumping hick, the better you actually know what he wrote.

So we return to my central point here: that the difference between the crudest creationists, and any other Christians, is not nearly as great as progressive Christians believe, not as great as they want you to believe. They're all Bible-thumpers, it's just that each one picks out his favorite verses and explains away the rest. All just differences in interpretation, that is to say: differences of opinion about the ways that All Of The Most Important Stuff In The Universe is in the Bible.

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