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Giving Heresy a Bad Name!
Right-wing OneNewsNow.com journalist Russ Jones, reporting on my recent sermons and writings on the subject of "Thank God for the New Atheists!", posted a short article titled, "'Evolutionary evangelist' gives heresy a bad name."
Jones quotes Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), in Louisville, Kentucky, as saying, "What we have here is just an abject overthrow of the Christian faith by one who poses as a Christian minister, claiming that we should celebrate these atheists as prophets." The article continues:
Dowd and his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, spend much of their time traveling across the U.S. challenging believers to reassess their understanding of evolution. But the SBTS president thinks there is no confusion over the team's motives. "
So rather than trying to tweak this or that doctrine or subvert this or that teaching, what we have now from the New Atheists, and now from Michael Dowd serving as their publicist, in one sense, is a full-frontal attack upon Christianity," he laments.
Dowd writes in one section of his article: "Let the story of evolution be told in ways that engender familial love and gratitude, that we are related to everything -- not just monkeys, but jellyfish and zucchini, too."
Mohler concludes that this comment "almost gives heresy a bad name, because most heretics tried to retain at least some connection to orthodox Christianity in order to persuade the church to move in their direction."
I truly feel for the author of this article, and for Al Mohler and other fundamentalist Christians. This is, after all, a very unsettling time—for all of us, but especially for those who find their inspiration and guidance in the past rather than the present. I suspect that the Sadducees and Pharisees in Jesus' day felt similarly toward Jesus and the Apostles—especially Paul.
But time marches on. Like it or not, believe it or not, evolution happens.
Everything in the universe, including the universe itself, is evolving, changing, transforming through time. Galaxies and solar systems evolve. Oceans, continents, and mountains evolve. Plants, animals and cultures evolve. If our understandings of God, guidance, and good news don’t evolve too, we belittle not only 'the way, the truth, and the life' given us, we betray God. As St. Thomas Aquinas warned nearly a thousand years ago, “A mistake about Creation will necessarily result in a mistake about God.” What this means (among other things) is that if we're not continually updating what we understand when we use the word "God", we may have definitions and views of the divine that are so out of step with reality as to no longer be lifegiving. And that's precisely what has happened.
Ironically, the early Church Fathers are directly responsible for the New Atheist phenomenon today—as is the concept of canon, or scripture. Once you declare that a set of writings in the past will forever be the best map of reality (and provide the most accurate picture of God and all the core concepts of your faith: sin, salvation, heaven, hell, etc) then you virtually guarantee that, at some point in the future, the one and only real God (Reality!) will raise up those who will attack that notion with the ferocity it deserves.
The New Atheists are God’s answer to the very notion of unchanging scripture—a.k.a., "idolatry of the written word".
To be clear: I am not a publicist for the New Atheists; nor am I attacking Christianity. To the contrary, I've devoted my life to helping Christianity evolve in step with what God has been revealing for the past two hundred years. Given how rapidly young people are leaving the Christian church in all its forms (including evangelicalism and the Southern Baptist Convention, as evidenced here and here), I can think of no more faithful way to serve God, the church, and the larger body of life than what I'm doing.
I certainly don't expect Dr. Mohler and others like him to let go of mythic beliefs to embrace evidential knowledge. But I'm betting my life that his grandchildren (and theirs) will find Christianity 2.0 more appealing and soul-nourishing than Christianity 1.0.
Time, of course, will tell.
Thank God for the New Atheists! (pdf of sermon I'll be presenting 4 times in Oklahoma City, OK: Aug 1-8 (including at the largest cathedral in the state: St. Paul's Episcopal)
Thank God for the New Atheists! (my podcasts, blog posts, and interview on the subject)