Monday, September 25, 2006

Maybe a book--but maybe not

In thinking about it over the weekend, I have tentatively decided to submit a book proposal. I have an outline sketched out, one that follows a three-pronged development:

  1. How science is complementary and even purposed by God to strengthen the faith of believers. This would include a topic I have discussed many times on here and on other blogs: that scripture doesn't call for "blind faith" on the part of believers. Indeed, blind-faith is a pathological form of man-centered theology: it is the rather proud claim that I can believe in spite of my senses. In the modern church, the mistakenly elevated uber-virtue of "blind faith" is most vigorously proclaimed in fundamentalist circles. This is no surprise--they also tend to preach man-centeredness through their rampant legalism. Anti-science (sometimes disguised as "true" science), blind-faith, legalism--these all are hallmarks of fundamentalism and are forms of liberalism in that they replace what scripture reveals with what the fundamentalist supposes scripture ought (or surely intended) to reveal.

    The goal of this thread in the book would be to demonstrate to believers that neither science nor scientists are enemies of the church. Science, like archeology, is good for our faith and scientists, like archeologists, are simply neutral vessels (in their professional roles) regardless of their personal beliefs.

  2. How the Intelligent Design political movement is merely the latest in a long line of well-intentioned but misguided attempts by believers to use questionable methods to achieve what is seen as a worthy goal. It is a classic the-ends-justify-the-means approach. How old is this tactic? Very old. It can be found in the redactions of Josephus' writings, wherein early Christians added to a (probably) authentic reference to the historic Christ a fake (in the sense that Josephus didn't write it) reference to His resurrection. The end result: the important historic reference is routinely dismissed through guilt-by-association with the embellishment. The ID movement is making exactly the same mistake: some believe it's so important to get God in the public schools that the cost of getting one's hands dirty (including repeating ad infinitum the transparently false claim that it is not about getting God in the classroom) is worth paying. But (sidestepping the question of the Hebrew midwives and Rahab) deceit is never an acceptable means through which one can perform God's work. Put differently, this approach is irrefutably unsound for ethical and theological reasons. First, the biblical mandate to live for God's glory is an instruction for personal conduct. It never was and never will be a mandate to shape society into the kind of society you imagine God wants. As Barth once accurately summarized the gospel as "Jesus loves me this I know", glorifying God is also succinctly summarized by the "What would Jesus Do?" slogan. This I believe is a biblically sound extrapolation: Even if Jesus was appalled at the teaching of evolution in the public schools, what Jesus would not do is: (a) misrepresent ID as science, or (b) say that the universe and life was designed but refrain, for purposes of political expediency, from identifying the designer.

    This part of the book would also include rebuttals to some of the claims of a sound mathematical foundation for ID.

  3. The last theme would be a candidate answer to the question: If ID is not science, then what is it? Readers know that I would try to make the case that ID is to general revelation what theology is to special revelation.
I will (maybe) shop this around and see if I can generate some interest. The work that would be demanded is more than a bit daunting. But I think that a book from a believer—conservative in that I affirm biblical inerrancy--who is also a scientist, and who believes that there is evidence for design--and yet is appalled by the ID movement--would at least be a relatively novel approach. Although, it is perhaps fair to argue that Hugh Ross has this niche covered admirably.

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