Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pet peeves of a fellow blogger

I've got quite a few blogs listed in my blog list. A great number of them are biblioblogs. There's also a range of blogs on political and socio-spiritual issues. And a handful of oddities, blogs that I wouldn't see eye to eye with but maybe worth checking out from time to time.

Slacktivist is definitely a blog I feel an accord with and it's definitely worth checking out regularly. I first came across the site in 2005 at which stage the author was 2 years into his practice of Left Behind Fridays. For the previous two years, he had been reading and writing about undoubtedly one of the worst novels ever written, the La Haye/Jenkins Left Behind He would continue for another two to three years before finishing the novel, now the first in a series of what has become the worst novels ever written. Since finishing Left Behind the book he has been watching and writing about the film version which he only finished about the beginning of the year. He has now started on the second novel of the series, Tribulation Force. I can only say thank you to Slacktivist for saving us all the trouble of reading these execrable books and, sadly, books which have so corrupted US-style Christianity and its affiliates and offshoots around the world.

You see Slacktivist is not anti-Christian, far from it he is a 'progressive' evangelical Christian who regards Left Behind theology and the allied fundamentalism (recognising that fundamentalism does not have to be LeftBehindist) as a serious blight on, if not corruption of the evangelical tradition. Slacktivist is determined to expose not only the incoherency and inconsistency of LeftBehindism but also its inhumanity and complete contradiction to what Christianity is all about. I plan to pick up some of the threads of his devastating (and very amusing) critiques in later posts but for now I'm going to respond to a cope of his posts on fundamentalism and creationism.

Slacktivist's pet peeve is young earth creationism i.e. the 6 day account of creation in Genesis 1 is a literal factual account of the way the Earth and the universe came to be. As he says young earth creationism is demonstrably false. It is also a lynchpin for the fundamentalist house of cards, a 'particularly brittle and fragile belief system that insists, emphatically, that all of it must be true or else none of it is true'. The fundamentalist position is 'salvation by neither grace nor works, but rather by the knowledge of and mental assent to a very long list of arcane biblical interpretations'. Consequently if one part isn't literally true then none of it is true. Consequently ex-fundamentalist Christians can make some great militant atheists.

But just as often, the whole edifice collapses. Hard. They wind up rejecting everything they ever believed. Everything, that is, except for that pernicious notion that "all of it must be true or none of it is." These kids shoot way past what their parents feared would happen to the rest of us at Wheaton or wherever (with our dangerous book learnin' and dancing and movie-going and such) and they become the mirror-opposite of their old fundamentalist selves. They become as strident and binary in their unbelief as their failed mentors at Bob Jones were in their belief. Yet even their rebellion tends to remain shaped by that world and its narrowly imagined options.
This scenario is not hypothetical and it is not rare. And it's not something I forgive easily. The proponents of young-earth creationism are responsible for this very scene playing out a thousand times over. Jesus spoke to exactly such people. Something about how it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their necks and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Jesus was fond of hyperbole, but I'm not sure he's using it there.)

In a subsequent post, Slacktivist picks up on one of the comments made by one of his readers that

Fundamentalism is a reaction to "modern" criticisms of the Bible and Christianity. It started out defending what have traditionally been regarded as the core beliefs of Christianity (e.g. that Jesus was the divine Son of God, that he was really raised from the dead, etc.), but in the process of making that defense they came up with (seemingly without quite realizing it) a new approach to reading the Bible, arguing that every word of it was "inerrant" (whatever that means). This tossed out the window a couple thousand years of traditional, orthodox approaches to reading and interpreting the Bible in favor of this new standard which was initially defined in reaction to the German Higher biblical criticism, but which has morphed in various weird ways since as subsequent people have all had different ideas about what exactly it means for a book to be "inerrant."

Slacktivist develops this point to say

Precisely. It's a bit odd, perhaps, to say that "morphed in various weird ways" is a precise statement, but it's about as accurate as one can be in trying to describe the strange new mischief that has been introduced by this imprecise notion of "inerrancy." That weird morphing also explains why the claim that beliefs like young-earth creationism or PMD rapture mania are "conservative" is false, but not disingenuous. These are new and radically innovative ideas introduced or adopted by people who had set out, initially, to uphold "the authority of the scriptures" (to use one of their favorite phrases). That this effort to defend the Bible's "traditional" meaning has resulted in their introducing replacement meanings that override and disregard its traditional meaning is bitterly ironic, but this irony is lost on them.

And he cites this comment from another reader "If you tried to explain it (young earth creationism) to a person who lived 150 years ago, they would think you were on crack, if they knew what crack was."

And this point was brought home to me when I followed a biblical link sent to me a couple of days ago. It's at the dispensationalist Blue Letter Bible site. Amongst its study aids is the text of a book by Clarence Larkin a pre-millennial dispensationalist. This book, Dispensational Truth, was published in 1918. Now Larkin beleives that the events in Genesis 1 did take place 7000 years ago. However he does not believe the Earth is 7000 years old. He accepts what the science of his day tells him abiout the age of the earth and the solar system. He cites the nebular theory of the formation of the solar system. He then says

But the "Word of God" and the "Works of God" must harmonize. There can be no conflict between the Bible and Science. Science demands thousands of years for the formation of the earth and all the time it demands is given to it in the sublime words of Gen. 1:1, "In the BEGINNING God created the heaven and the earth." This verse then covers the whole period of the formation of the earth and its preparation for the habitation of man.

Larkin believes in a pre-Adamite world that was destroyed by water before the unfolding events of Genesis 1. What the rest of Genesis 1 recounts is not the creation of the earth but the restoration of the earth. Larkin also engages in some specualtion about the pre-Adamite world and its inhabitants. In some respects his work echoes Blavatsky's vision of lost pasts and lost continents, e.g. Lemuria and Atlantis, destroyed in ancient cataclyms. I haven't yet had a chance to read how Larkin reconciles Genesis 1 with Genesis 2-3. But I find his biblical literalist reconciliation with scientific understandings of his day quite fascinating. And maybe he is not so much of a literalist if he insists that Word of God must harmonise with the Works of God.

1 comment:

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