In 1909, a distinguished group of Protestant academics converged to articulate what they considered to be the core non-negotiables (fundamentals) of Christianity. Among the participants were such notables as C. I. Scofield of the well-known "Scofield Reference Bible," Benjamin Warfield of the Princeton Theological Seminary and George Frederick Wright of Oberlin College in Ohio. They produced a four-volume series of essays (published between 1910-15) called "The Fundamentals" -- and with it the original Fundamentalist movement was born.
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The most impassioned Christian voice wailing about the evils of evolution was Ellen White, the prophetess of the then quite marginal Seventh-day Adventists. One of her visions revealed that Noah's flood was a world-wide cataclysm which had entirely reshaped the earth's surface. In 1923, a self-trained Adventist geologist named George McCready Price took White's vision and turned it into a 700-page magnum opus called "The New Geology," where he set the standard for all the muddle-headed creationist pseudo-science that was to follow. Though Price's arguments and "evidence" fell easily to professional refutation, his ability to feign authority and breezy common-sense logic were convincing to many of the unwashed. Price enjoyed some initial success (helped in part by William Jennings Bryan's antievolution crusade during the 1920s), but his outsider status ensured that his impact on mainstream Protestantism would be limited.
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It's been a half-century since Morris and Whitcomb recast fundamentalism as creationism -- a good time to assess its legacy. In place of science or insightful theology, creationism's primary achievement is a waist-deep rubbish pile of misrepresentation and deceit. In his decision in the infamous Kitzmiller vs. Dover intelligent design case, Judge John E. Jones openly chastised the creationist side for its "repetitious untruthful testimony" (p. 131), "flagrant and insulting falsehoods" (p. 132) and noted how the people of Dover were ill-served by creationist school board members who "staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public" only to "time and again lie to cover their tracks..." (p. 137). All this because they fear science.
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What a far cry from Christianity's intellectual heritage! Augustine and Aquinas never stooped to churlish antics when faced with scholarly challenges. Theirs was an expansive, muscular Christianity that eyed pagan knowledge head-on. How pathetically puny creationists are in their shadow. However noble the creationists may perceive their ends to be, their shameful means remain unjustified.
Friday, 12 August 2011
Let's look at the fundamentals of Creationism . . .