A good friend of mine who is also a missionary to cults and New Religious Movements once observed that “in this type of ministry conflict is not a possibility it a job description.” He is correct. When we question someone’s worldview and/or beliefs and assumptions they can get very angry and sometimes abusive. At least verbally abusive. Sort of our inside joke on this is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have called Joy the “Whore of Babylon” so often we just call her floozy for short. Somehow name calling and wild accusations are used to replace valid argument and evidence in many of these exchanges. I have another friend, Harry, who spends some time talking with non-Christians over the Internet. If he doesn’t have answers he looks for material on our website Journals and Crux Blog as well as other ministry’s materials to forward to the lists. On occasion he forwards some of them to me to see how to respond. He sent one such email this week:
This crap put out by Veinot is simply laughable. Pontificating, with his holier-than-thou attitude, about socialism, Obama etc, simply demonstrates how he uses his religious bullcrap to cover his fascist political views. And I notice in the other e-publication you think I need, how right-wing lunatics like Phyllis Schlafly make regular contributions. Obviously fundamentalism goes hand in hand with anti-humane, violent, fascistic/totalitarian politics, much like that practiced by Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Fundamentalists like to see people punished or killed, the more the better. Your entire religion is founded on the premise of massive killing of human beings. Fundamentalists delight in knowing that many people are killed, and make up little stories to justify the massive killing. Your church meetings are celebrations of death, destruction, and the triumph of cosmic evil, and fundamentalists just love it! Every publication that you send my way, that you claim I “need,” is another illustration of the violent, hate-filled, destructive, anti-human, vicious, genocidal and repulsive nature of fundamentalism. You can tell this to Veinot and all those vicious, vomit-inducing (expletive deleted) who pontificate about this crap.
I normally don’t respond to second hand communications such as this. I receive enough of them first hand. However, after initially declining Harry’s suggestion that I write to this person uninvited it occurred to me that others may be interested in a possible response. I am not certain but suspect this email was in response to the Crux blog, The Deification of Barack.
I want to say up front that the person may be a nice person. They may be married and a wonderful spouse. They may have children and be a wonderful parent. I have no idea and in many ways this doesn’t enter in since we need to address the issues and I prefer not to make personal attacks.
The first part of a response would take the form of a question. Since I am not certain of what the questioner actually believes due to their vitriol against Christianity I would suspect they hold to Darwinian Evolution as the explaination for how we came to be. If that is the case my question would be “What is the problem?” What I mean by that is that Darwinism provides no basis for morality which includes killing, maiming, etc. Morality is about how one ought to behave regardless of whether they behave that way or not. As the late Stephen J. Gould himself pointed out in the documentary “A Glorious Accident” morals are about oughts. He told the mystified interviewer that there is no mechanism within Darwinism for morals. That doesn’t mean that Gould or others who hold to Darwinism are more immoral than Christians, as far as I know he was very moral. It is to say that there is no basis within Darwinism for morals. Those that survive survive and those who don’t survive don’t survive and that’s it. If one group is able to over power and subjugate or kill another group, that’s just Darwinism at work. So even if it was the case that Fundamentalist Christians are “anti-humane, violent, fascistic/totalitarian” what would be wrong with that from a Darwinian standpoint? In fact, as we look over political history those who held most strongly to Darwinism were the ones to did or advocated killing the most. The writer names Joseph Stalin as though he is an example of Christian fundamentalism. In point of fact, there is no evidence that Stalin ever claimed Christianity as his faith but he was a devoted Darwinist along with Karl Marx. Stalin killed at least 20 million (some put this as high as 100 million. See How many people did Stalin kill?.) Hitler, who was not only a devoted Darwinist but based much of his social policy on Social Darwinism and killed some 11 million. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, held the same Social Darwinist views as Hitler and advocated abortion as a method to weed out and breed out the “useless eaters” in order to not have what in her view were the more highly evolved white Europeans threatened. Her ideas have been so pervasive that the U.S. has killed in excess of 50 million through abortion and infanticide. But again, if Darwinism is true, so what? The stronger, more able to survive, get to make the rules for the weaker, less able to survive and that’s the way it is. So, if these are the writer’s views one wonders why he would think any of the things he accused Christian fundamentalists of is wrong. It is befuddling I must admit.
On the other hand, I would ask for something like actual evidence that fundamentalist Christians are (I am actually an Evangelical who believes in the fundamentals of the faith):
anti-humane, violent, fascistic/totalitarian politics, much like that practiced by Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein.”
What we find are Christians spending large sums of money and investing great amounts of time feeding the poor, providing health care, building hospitals, providing education to many in third world nations as well as here in the U.S. That includes such groups as World Vision, Global Health Ministries, Sharing and Caring Hands (Mary’s Place), Bridging, Inc, Emergency Foodshelf Network, Salvation and Feed My Starving Children. In addition there is the Southern Baptist World Missions, Calvary Chapel, in fact, most evangelical denominations have such missions in place which are funded by local churches. I can’t right off hand think of any atheist, agnostic or Darwinist organizations doing such things but then again, why would they? That would be inconsistent with their claimed beliefs. But perhaps individuals like the above writer or someone who shares these views can provide abundant examples of Christians killing non-Christians wholesale and support the claim that fundamentalists Christians are “anti-humane, violent, fascistic/. totalitarian”
The writer further contends that:
Your entire religion is founded on the premise of massive killing of human beings. Fundamentalists delight in knowing that many people are killed, and make up little stories to justify the massive killing.
My first reaction is, huh? If this is truly what we believe why would I have written on the atrocities of abortion and infanticide? If it is true that our faith is founded on massive killings of human beings and we delight in such killings, why wouldn’t we simply open more death clinics and off even more of the unborn. After all, they can’t fight back and it would be easier to achieve higher quotas and thus increase our delight in knowing how many we have killed. However, it is easy to make such assertions as long as one doesn’t have to actually prove them. I might point out that it could be that Christians act inconsistently with the basics on which the faith was “founded” but that doesn’t prove or disprove the foundation of the faith. For example Christianity is clear that sex outside of marriage is a sin. It doesn’t matter if it is adultery, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia fornication, etc. Any sex outside of marriage is sin. All Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are in agreement with what Scripture teaches on this score. And yet, at least some of them engage in sex outside of marriage as we just saw with Governor Mark Sanford . Far from disproving the foundational claims of Christianity in the area of sex and actually proves that all are sinners including Christians. The essential difference is those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and those who continue to hold their faith in themselves.
What we find as the foundation of the faith is that one innocent (Who is fully man and fully God), Jesus Christ, willingly chose to give His life sacrificially in order to freely provide salvation to all of the guilty who believe. Far from the claim of delighting in or having as a foundation of the faith the killing of massive amounts of humans is simply not provable from Scripture. As pointed out above, although this is not a belief upon which the faith was founded that doesn’t mean that many, most or even all fundamental or evangelical Christian churches don’t teach their folks week in and week out how to best kill non-believers and celebrate each week how many they have individually and corporately added to the nations cemeteries. The fact that I haven’t seen that in any of the churches I have spoken in or attended that doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged in the sort of full out killing spree which the writer claimed. I would simply say, “Please provide the evidence.” Anything less only exposes the bankruptcy of their claims. Of course, if you can’t stand the heat …
Wow. That was excellent!
For some reason I seem to consistently find that people who violently accuse others of being violent because of their supposedly violent belief systems are actually very violent people themselves. I think Harry should give this pitiable person a wide berth in anticipation of his inevitable meltdown. We should all pray that God mercifully intervenes in his life soon.
I agree with Ron Henzel. Prayerfully God will soon put this person out of his misery. Or maybe he should just go to Iraq where all the “peaceful” muslims are. Beheading anyone?
This man’s abusive language against Christians along with his obvious lack of knowledge about Christianity is sad and scary. Even though I suspect his comments are a smoke screen to cover his ignorance and his own intolerance and hate, perhaps he is basing his convictions on Old Testament accounts of God’s judgement on sin and sinners. Recently, I read someone justify their lack of faith in God by referring to Him as genocidal, requiring the mass killing of whole cities and people groups in the OT. I think this is something even believers struggle with, and find it difficult to reconcile the Jesus of the NT as the same God. What a reminder that we need to be good students of the whole scripture to be able to answer with kindness the basis of our faith…then not be surprised to have our face slapped.
“Darwinism provides no basis for morality which includes killing, maiming, etc.”
… neither does, for instance, mechanical engineering. Biology is value neutral… I find it odd that you would expect it to provide any kind of moral basis, any more than we would look to piano method to find information about lunar landings.
In other words – I think you miss the mark when you expect non-Christians to construct their moral thinking based on the modern understanding of biological development. Perhaps you are accustomed to moral thinking that is related to an origins story, and you expect that everyone else will also relate their moral thinking to their theories of origin as well. I think that would be an unwise generalization.
That’s all – just a nitpick about this one item. I share your befuddlement at the inept criticism of Christianity you encountered.
But the term “Darwinism” is not analogous to mechanical engineering or biology. This might become clearer if we began speaking of “Mechanical Engineeringism,” of “Biologism.” Our minds immediately and rightly understand words like those to refer to some kind of philosophy or ideology. When we add the “-ism” suffix we move beyond the Darwinian theory itself to the concepts and consequences derived from it. And so the current Wikipedia article on the subject correctly informs us that Darwinism is “a term used for various movements or concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or evolution, including ideas with no connection to the work of Charles Darwin.”
So, for instance, we have the particular brand of Social Darwinism practiced by Adolf Hitler. We may not be able say that Darwin would have approved of it, but we can also say that it was totally consistent with the leading concepts in Darwin’s evolutionary framework. Social Darwinism takes the raw materials of Darwinian evolution and builds an ideology out of them. Each and every theory of origins not only ultimately leads to a way of looking at the universe, but actually already has that way of looking at it built into it. They themselves are lenses through which we look at existence.
And I think you miss the mark when you limit Darwin’s theories to a mere “modern understanding of biological development.” All you need to do is read Darwin’s Origin of Species to see how his theology intermingled with his beliefs about science. He explicitly addresses the question of how “the Creator” should have created things, mostly out of anticipation to objections to his theory, but nevertheless a clear indication that he understood that he was not merely propounding biological theory but an entire worldview, complete with a “Creator” (although apparently one more congenial to Deistic rather than Theistic doctrines).
Perhaps it would be unwise to assume that everyone consciously relates morals to origins, but it would be even more unwise to assume that morals are not ultimately justified on the basis of origins. Those who do not consciously relate the two will inevitably relate them unconsciously. As they work backward from the moral precept to its justification, if they do not have a God Who stands behind the precept somehow, they will have to assign a less-than-absolute basis for it, and the most they will be able to support it with will be some brand of moral pragmatism.
I understand, on the level of interpersonal relationships and culture, why it sometimes makes sense to talk about Darwin as a person, as a philosopher, and as an influence on later cultural movements.
However, the term “Darwinism” today is an empty shell of a term. On the one hand, it is an imprecise description of modern evolutionary biology. On the other hand, the term is used to describe a supposed systematic world-view. The problem with its use in place of evolutionary biology is that it is imprecise.
The problem with its use to describe a world-view is that it implies a uniformity of world-view tied to one’s relationship to Darwin that does not exist. Further, it is not how those who hold world-views that might coincide in some respects with your ideas about “Darwinism” name their own world-view.
To clarify – Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins both relate to Darwin in a similar way, but have world-views that are as distinct from one another as you are likely to find between an educated Western European and an educated American.
And Richard Dawkins relates to Darwin in a positive way, practices evolutionary biology, and holds an atheistic world view. But he doesn’t call his world-view “Darwinism”. He calls it naturalism.
Naturalism is a reasonably well-defined school of philosophy, held by a significant number of individuals.
“Darwinism” is not.
You seem to be contradicting yourself here. These folks work backward, find no origins story that they find suitable for justifying their moral views, and – according to you – therefore choose some brand of moral pragmatism. In other words they do not use an origins story to account for morality – according to you!
Now, here and now isn’t the place to argue over whether an origins story is sufficient grounding for a moral theory, and over whether such a grounding could reasonably be characterized as “absolute”. The point is merely that origins stories are not the only basis that people use for understanding morality. In fact, that type of meta-ethical thinking is really mainly a product of the Abrahamic religions. It isn’t widely found in other religious traditions or in non-religious ethical theories.
It’s been a while since I checked into these comments, so I haven’t noticed your most recent contribution until now.
You do? Then, may I ask, do you equally understand that various people down through history have used the term “Darwinism” in various ways, and we are simply addressing one particular use of the term (in which it refers to a worldview built on presuppositions derived from Darwin’s views on origins)? This is a rhetorical question, because I don’t see you can also understand this and post the comment you have here.
That’s funny. I broke said shell open in my previous comment and showed you that it is actually quite full of meaning. I wonder how you missed it. Could you have simply chosen to ignore it?
I do not think you’re making sense here. In biology, Darwinism has a very precise meaning, although it should be pointed out that biologists acknowledge that the consensus has shifted from pure Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism.
In any event, you can’t have it both ways: it can’t both be an “empty shell” (implying no real meaning) and an “imprecise description” (implying meaning) at the same time.
Supposed? I think you need to go back and read the history of the term’s usage. You’re the one doing the supposing here.
It was Darwin’s head cheerleader, Thomas Huxley (his nickname was “Darwin’s Bulldog”), who not only coined the term “Darwinism” the year after Origin of Species was published, in the April 1860 edition of the Westminster Review, where he also wrote that Darwinism was “calculated to exert so large an influence, not only on the future of Biology, but in extending the domination of Science over regions of thought into which she has, as yet, hardly penetrated” (emphasis mine).
All one need do to see what Huxley meant by Darwinism extending the domination of science over other “regions of thought” is to read his writings. In a letter to W. Platt Ball he wrote, “Of moral purpose I see not a trace in nature. That is an article of exclusively human manufacture.”
So at the very beginning of Darwinism’s takeover of first biology and then science, one of its chief spokesmen was already using it as a basis for determining the origin of moral values. Unlike mechanical engineering, which you incorrectly thought provided a helpful analogy here, Darwinism sought to extend its domination into the moral sphere from the very beginning. Morals, according to Darwin’s Bulldog, are manufactured by humans; they do not come from God. Therefore, at best all “morality” can be is a mutually agreed-upon system of “right” and “wrong” that changes according to the needs of society (or in the case of Joseph Fletcher’s book, the situation). This is the moral pragmatism to which I previously referred.
Now you are simply repeating yourself. I think the problem here is that you are trying to create problems where they do not exist by making an assertion that is not true.
But let’s move on. You wrote:
No, you are quite incorrect here. We are not saying that everyone who has a “relationship to Darwin” (which I believe is your imprecise way of referring to someone who believes in Darwin’s basic view of origins) will always be a philosophical Darwinist. I can think of Christian theologians who subscribe to the theory of evolution, but since they obviously hold to theistic evolution they manage to avoid philosophical Darwinism. We are not arguing for something that does not exist here; rather, you are arguing against something that does not exist.
Based on what I just wrote, this is irrelevant, but I’ll respond to your next paragraph since it serves to illustrate the point I just made.
You picked a good example of what I’m talking about. We all know who Richard Dawkins is. Perhaps many here also know that Francis Collins is the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project, who believes in evolution, and who also happens to be a professing Christian. I understand Dr. Collins to also be a fairly consistent Neo-Darwinist in the area of biology. For example, he does not subscribe to Intelligent Design. But if he is a consistent Christian in the same sense as C.S. Lewis, whose writings he credits with helping him come to faith, he cannot be a Darwinist when it comes to constructing a social theory or a moral system, because any social theory or moral system based on philosophical Darwinism (which is, in turn, based on biological Darwinism) inevitably leads to anti-Christian conclusions.
While this may be legitimate, by ignoring the multiple meanings of the word “naturalist” it ends up being, in my opinion, a non-statement. Darwin, too, called himself a “naturalist.” The word continues to be used to refer to a student of the natural sciences, a wildlife enthusiast or a conservationist. The American Naturalist journal (in print since 1867) covers ecology, evolutionary biology, population, and integrative biology research.
Now there are scientific naturalists and then there are philosophical naturalists. Which one is Dawkins claiming to be? Well, since he is obviously a student of evolutionary biology, he certain qualifies as a scientific naturalist—but a philosophical naturalist? Although Dawkins is so thoroughly untrained and inept in philosophy that whenever he ventures into that realm college freshman philosophy students around the globe cringe in unison, there is nevertheless a certain logic to identifying him as a philosophical naturalist as well, since that essentially denotes one who denies that the supernatural exists.
So he’s both. And just how does this help to advance your thesis that a worldview is not dependent on its theory of origins? It doesn’t.
But to miss how perfectly it meshes with Dawkins’ philosophical Darwinism is simply to turn a blind eye to the obvious. And then you commit, once again, your biggest gaffe, when you write:
Darwinism is not a well-defined school of philosophy held by a significant number of individuals? Well, my goodness! Then someone better tell philosophy professor Peter A. Angeles to remove the following entry from his Dictionary of Philosophy:
Oddly enough, Angles also supplies a definition of “natural selection” in his Dictionary of Philosophy. I think you’re making far too great a disjunction between science and philosophy.
You wrote (first quoting me):
Actually, that’s pretty much the opposite of what I wrote. Please look closely at what you quoted from me. Please show me anywhere in the previous or later context where I specifically deny that they use their origin story as a basis for morality. Please show me anywhere that I imply the same. Please show me anywhere that I make a statement consistent with such an idea. You cannot find any such words from me because, as you well know, in the sentence immediately prior to what you ripped from its context I wrote: “…it would be even more unwise to assume that morals are not ultimately justified on the basis of origins.”
All I said in the paragraph you tried to distort apart from its context was that Darwinists who adhere to moral precepts (and we both appear to assume that such people exist) “do not have a God Who stands behind the precept somehow,” and that all they have left is what works or what appears to work in the area of morals, i.e., moral pragmatism. I never referred to the absence of an origins story, but only to the absence of God, in their moral calculus. That’s all I said. Go back and read it! How you think you can twist that into me saying that they do not use their origins story to account for morality defies all rational speculation.
Who are you to decide whether here and now is or isn’t the place to discuss this? This is exactly the time and place to discuss it.
I contend that while an origins story is not sufficient in and of itself as a ground for morals, it is nevertheless an indispensable part of all systems of morality. Every system of morality must, by definition, account for where everything, but especially people, came from. And every system of morality does. Even if it chooses to pass over the question of ultimate origins in agnostic silence (as we find, for instance, in Confucianism), we find that the fact that the origin of a child is his or her parents inevitably morally obligates that child in one way or another. Likewise, the origin of a person from a larger group (clan, tribe, nation, etc.) also universally creates moral obligations. Origins are always inextricably bound to morals in human experience.
If that was “merely” your point, you chose a highly odd way of expressing it when you wrote:
Here you did not argue that “origins stories are not the only basis that people use for understanding morality.” Rather, you clearly argued that it is wrong link “moral thinking” with “theories of origin.” If you were arguing the former, viz., that origin stories are not the only basis for understanding morality, we would not be having this discussion. We would have no argument. I would never have disagreed with you. But that’s not how you started out arguing. If you want to change your argument now to the concept that origins are not the only basis for morality, that would be a welcome change, and we can both part from this conversation saying that we appear to be in general agreement.
Perhaps that’s because—to the extent they rely on the Bible—the Abrahamic religions contain direct, special revelation from God, while the non-Abrahamic religions do not. OK, I really didn’t mean “perhaps” here. That’s just the way it is.