Monthly Archives: March 2010

Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 7: Sociology — The Divine Imprint

Lesson 7 of The Truth Project (TTP) is another mix of good Christian theology and poor scientific reasoning.  For Del Tackett, it’s not enough to have biblical support for God’s ideal social order for mankind in general and the Church in particular.  It needs scientific support as well.  The danger of this approach is obvious:  When the scientific facts contradict the reasons for belief, belief itself is left holding the bag and subject to unnecessary ridicule.
Tackett introduces Lesson 7 by declaring God to be a God of order (cf. Job 25:2 [NIV] and 1 Cor 14:33).  Because God is a God of order, it is understood that He created directly mankind’s social order from the beginning, leaving His “divine imprint” to direct human society toward an ideal relationship structure that reflects God’s own triune nature, a nature which delineates specific roles among the three persons of the Godhead.  These roles, in turn, necessitate certain persons of the Trinity to possess, in some cases, authority over the other person (or persons) in the Godhead, and requiring submission by the person (or persons) so as to preserve divine unity.  From an orthodox Christian perspective, this is acceptable theology (although I find some of his analogies forced and potentially problematic).  Tackett’s argument, however, is tarnished by his anti-evolution obsession.
Tackett claims that the “exquisite design and intricacy” of a chicken egg poses a problem to evolutionists:  order.  Because “randomness results in chaos and disorder,” the so-called “random” forces of evolution could not have produced (and cannot produce) order on the level of a chicken egg (or, for that matter, even a single-celled organism).  And since God is a God of order, evolutionary processes cannot have been the means by which God created.  It quickly becomes clear that Tackett desires to extend his anti-evolution bias to sociology, claiming that desirable, orderly social systems could not have evolved via natural means and, because both the “ideal” human family and the “ideal” Christian Church reflect the triune Godhead in certain ways, it is unimaginable to him that these orderly social systems could have resulted from the “random” forces of cultural evolution. 
 
As I’ve noted a number of times in this series, evolution is anything but random.  It is certainly indifferent, but evolutionary processes do not disobey the natural laws which govern the workings of the cosmos.  Even the results of a “random” coin toss are determined by the laws of nature.  If it were possible to enter the Matrix and take advantage of the realm of “bullet time,” one could feasibly calculate the results of a coin toss by taking into account all sorts of factors such as air density, the force of the toss, the angle at which your thumb strikes the coin, etc.  These things only appear random as a result of our limited ability to ascertain their direct causes or calculate particular magnitudes.  So much for the God of evolution being a God of disorder.
As for the evolution of human civilization, it’s obvious that while ascertaining which cultural factors may have played a role in the extinction of some of our hominid cousins is extremely difficult (if not impossible), this much is clear:  Just as hominid biological structures are subject to the forces of natural selection, hominid cultural practices are also subject to environmental pressures.  If a certain aspect of hominid culture leads to a particular group’s extinction, cultures with superior social constructs which survive successfully in a particular environment will remain; if a certain aspect of an individual’s behavior leads to his shunning, that individual tends to adapt his behavior in such a way that it benefits him.  So what if the best aspects of human civilization arose through “cultural selection”?  What’s wrong with God taking the best of human societal structures—products of eons of cultural evolution—and declaring them to be ideal?  While I can affirm, from a certain point of view, Tackett’s declaration that “God has designed these [social] spheres,”  I must disagree with the manner by which Tackett claims God “designed” them.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s modus operandi in regard to the fundamental ethos that undergirds human civilization is identical to the manner by which God designed the body you use to read this blog: via natural (or, in this case, cultural) evolutionary processes.  Although ideal human societal structures may indeed reflect certain aspects of God’s triune nature as revealed in Scripture, it is not necessary for them to have been “created” de novo in the Garden of Eden, as a literal interpretation of Scripture would suggest.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s “divine stamp” didn’t come upon human social order until after our fundamental ethos arose naturally.  It came about later through God’s occasional intervention in human affairs over the course of thousands of years, beginning with the call of Abraham.  From there, human society was remolded, refashioned, and transformed gradually, finding its maturity with the advent of the Christ, and aging (sometimes not so gracefully) into the future by a process of “divine selection.”  In short, humanity’s God-endorsed social order … evolved.  
Moreover, because God accommodated His ideals to His chosen people gradually, co-opting existing symbols and traditions to transform Israel from a physical entity into a spiritual one, there can be no true homology between God’s nature (as revealed in Scripture) and His ideal social order, especially when viewing the entirety of Scripture.  The cultural evolution of God’s chosen people, from the early days of Israel’s history to the early days of the Church and beyond, is clearly seen in both Scripture and Church history.  To assert that a snapshot of 15th-century BC Israelite society (commanded by God Himself through Moses) and the culture of those who support Focus on the Family represent the same divine social order is to deny both anthropological reality as well as the theological diversity so evident throughout Scripture. 
After his discourse on God’s ideal social order as it relates to the family and the Church, Tackett enters into a general discussion of why human society has failed to live up to God’s standard.  “What happened at the Fall?” he asks rhetorically.  “Relationships were severed and damaged between God and man, man and man, and man and creation.”  As much as I disagree with the “historical” aspect of his argument, I do believe this to be true … from a “certain point of view” (HT: Obi-Wan Kenobi).  Assuming God’s existence, humanity is certainly in rebellion against the Creator.  Without exception, we sin against each other.  And we clearly aren’t in harmony with nature.  Despite the fact that I reject the historicity of Adam and Eve, as a Christian, I can affirm the theology behind the biblical language.  What Genesis does so well is capture the state of humanity, in all of its sinfulness (Gen 6:5).  It captures all of the familial disharmony that we experience today (Gen 4; 16:1-6; 25:23).  And it offers eternal life to those who obey His commands (Gen 2:9, 16-17; cf. Gen 3:22).  No refutation of Genesis’ historicity or cosmology can change that.
Returning to my main point, Tackett’s claim for objective, scientific support for the ideal Christian society flies in the face of established scientific and historical fact.  While Tackett appeals to Psalm 19:1-4 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice
goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world.

and Job 12:7-8

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
   the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
   and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

Tackett fails to heed the very call to which he demands we listen!  He ignores the fossil record.  He ignores the evolutionary history embedded in our DNA.  He ignores the findings of anthropology.  He ignores the culturo-theological diversity in Scripture.  He refuses to let our ever-expanding knowledge of human history and the cosmos inform him.

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On Being a Person of Faith and Science

The faculty of faith is not meant to kill the faculty of criticism and the instinct of curiosity, but rather to keep them keen and alive, and prevent them dying of despair. Faith is the mark of those who seek and keep on seeking, who ask and keep on asking, who knock and keep on knocking, until the door is opened. The passive, weak-kneed taking of everything on trust which is often presented as faith is a travesty of its truth. True faith is the most active, positive, and powerful of all virtues. It means that a man, having come into spiritual communion with that great personal Spirit Who lives and works behind the universe, can trust Him, and, trusting Him, can use all his powers of body, mind, and spirit to cooperate with Him in the great purpose of perfection; it means that the man of faith will be the man of science in its deepest, truest sense, and will never cease from asking questions, never cease from seeking for the reason that lies behind all mysteries.

— G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)
The Hardest Part (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), p. 83-84

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 6: History — Whose Story?

As we moved away from The Truth Project‘s (TTP) focus on the “pernicious lie” of evolution in Lesson 5 to the targeting of “historical revisionism” in Lesson 6, I felt as if the worst was behind me in terms of finding truth in the series.  In a sense, I was correct.  In another sense, I was dreadfully wrong.  As much as I agreed wholeheartedly with most of what Del Tackett had to say regarding the topic of historical revisionism and the importance of the meta-narrative, I couldn’t help but be reminded time and time again how Tackett’s approach to the topic of human evolution nullified the impact of his words.

I can certainly stand arm-in-arm with Tackett against the evil forces of historical revisionists.  There is, he warns, extreme danger and power in the act of historical revisionism.  “If you rewrite the past,” Tackett says, “you can make people believe whatever you want in the present.”  In the context of TTP, Tackett’s warning targets specifically relatively recent attempts in various forms of media to downplay or outright erase the influence of Judeo-Christian culture upon on our founding fathers’ personal belief systems as well as our present-day political system.  Historical revisionism, regardless of how unsavory the past is to one’s sensibilities, is downright criminal.  But isn’t historical revisionism what Tackett attempts to do in Lesson 5?  Rewrite the past of our species?
Historical revisionism isn’t just relegated to the written word, but also to the various scientific disciplines.  While ignoring the fact that TTP finds itself an unwitting ally of the Intelligent Design movement, of which a significant number accept the basic principles of evolutionary theory and common descent, and recognizing that TTP is not a mouthpiece for the young-earth creationist movement, TTP remains guilty of historical revisionism when in comes to human biology, anthropology, archeology, sociology, paleontology, geology, and a host of other -ologies, for all of these academic fields intersect heavily with evolutionary theory.  Once one denies the fact of human evolution from less complex lifeforms and propagates such a worldview, one becomes guilty of attempting to erase the evidence of our aforementioned biological heritage from all of these fields of scientific endeavor, effectively taking credit away from the very unifying principle which has enabled a vast portion of our scientific advancements to come to pass.
One of Lesson 6’s interviewees is Christian author and social critic Dr. Os Guinness.  Guinness muses that Christians have “an abominable view of the past” and wisely notes that “where we’ve come from—the past and history—is the key to who we are and where we are.  And those who don’t know history have no sense of identity and no sense of wisdom as they explore where they’re gonna go.  Without history, we’re lost, both in terms of identity and in terms of wisdom as we go our way forward.”  Well said, Dr. Guinness.  However, I just about snorted Diet 7-Up out my nose as I realized how forcefully Dr. Guinness’ words thrust solidly into the heart of TTP‘s anti-intellectual aversion to evolutionary theory.  Take Dr. Guinness’ quote and replace history with evolutionary history, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What Tackett and other anti-evolutionists don’t quite comprehend is that evolutionary theory is, arguably, the foundation for modern scientific advancement in dozens of fields, including medicine, psychology, genetics, etc.  Once you throw evolutionary theory out the window, what do you have?  Either a crippled scientific community, hobbling around attempting to find a more “biblically” acceptable pathway to a workable medical solution, or a cognitively dissonant scientific community that assumes the truth of evolutionary theory with their hands while they shake their heads and close their hearts in disbelief at their own discoveries. 
Another concept that Tackett champions is the meta-narrative, the “larger story” in which we find ourselves and in which God plays the primary roles of Creator of the cosmos and Lord of believers’ lives.  Nevertheless, Tackett rejects the much larger story of human history, including our evolutionary descent from extremely humble beginnings, thus removing an important piece of the puzzle that is the “how” of human existence.  “A people who are caught up in their own little story will never be willing to lay themselves down as stepping stones for others,” Tackett instructs.  Amen, Mr. Tackett.  Unfortunately, Tackett’s own nearsightedness truncates the true meta-narrative in favor of one that eliminates most of human history from the very meta-narrative he champions.  He is caught up in a falsehood, a particular “little story” dictated by an uninformed understanding of the first three chapters of Genesis.  As a result, he fails to endorse evolution-based scientific endeavors as “stepping stones” toward the greater health and wealth of human society, condemning the methods and principles by which these things are exclusively obtained.  Although Tackett warns us against having a myopic view of history, Tackett advocates a much larger version of myopia when it comes to human origins.  In essence, Tackett is saying, “Let it be rewritten, let it be done!”  I don’t think so.
Oh, yeah … Han shot first.

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