Writing letters to a broad public is all the rage nowadays, so I thought I would try my hand at it too:
Dear thinking Christians/theists/non-materialists,
Some people have expressed deep concern over the sudden surge in anti-God/anti-spiritual activists, opposed to traditional spiritualities.
Yes, it is a good idea to keep an eye on these anti-spiritual movements, but – based on decades of watching social trends and covering controversies – I do not think that these people should be our main concern. They are acting out of desperation. The materialism they espouse is simply not confirmed by evidence and not working in society either. Worse, even the most generous and favorable media attention has not made them look or sound attractive. More publicity will only deepen the hole they are digging themselves into.
In my experience, a far more serious concern is the gutting of a spiritual tradition from within. Along those lines, be on the lookout for the following trends, whether in your church mosque, synagogue, or whatever:
– Evolutionary psychology In some liberal Christian settings, I have noticed a growing interest in “evolutionary psychology” (God, it turns out, is that buzz in our genes that cause us to leave viable offspring.
Yeah really. All theistic traditions of which I am aware teach that people believe in God because God exists and reveals himself to them. The only inheritance they need is a mind capable of taking in the idea of God at some level. By contrast, evolutionary psychology argues that your experience is no proof of a transcendent reality. You believe what you do because of your genes.
Now, how anyone could fail to see the implicit atheism in such a perspective is quite beyond me, but happily, it isn’t my business to figure that unhappy conundrum out. Only to warn that some fall for this stuff.
– Evisceration of actual belief, accompanied by protests of sincerity. For example, famous mid-twentieth-century Darwinist Theodosius Dobzhansky is often fronted as a Christian. Here’s the reality. His convictions had nothing to do with Christianity. In the present day, a prolific contributor to the American Scientific Affiliation‘s discussion site on these issues, who is a Lutheran, writes,
I long ago made peace with the idea that God could use evolution to form our physical bodies. What was new to me, from the atheists’ perspective, was the idea that the intangible aspects of us, like feelings, emotions, consciousness, etc. (which I had equated with the God-given, eternal soul) could also arise (ala emergent properties) naturally. Thus, I’ve acquired a new-found interest in the fields of pyschology, neurology, and computer science as I try to reconceptualize the idea of a “soul”.
At least in the vast majority of cases God works “in, with & under” the activities of creatures so that we don’t see God at work directly. Luther called the created things through which God acts “the masks of our Lord God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.” This means, I think, that we shouldn’t be surprised if, among other things, human beings don’t contain any special “supernatural” component.
The question is not whether such beliefs – or persons – are good or bad, or sincere or otherwise. What you need to ask is a much simpler and entirely determinable question: Is this stuff compatible with your spiritual tradition? If not, recognize the situation for what it is: undermining from within.
(Note:Ã‚Â A reader has kindly advised that in the first paragraph above,Ã‚Â the quoted authorÃ‚Â (George Murphy) isÃ‚Â quoting someone else. I didn’t notice an attribution.Ã‚Â My focus, however, isÃ‚Â the readiness with which the fans of Christian Darwinism flirt with dispensing with a supernatural component in the human being. I am afraid that I have never heard of an orthodoxÃ‚Â theology of the cross (an interest of Murphy’s) that deniesÃ‚Â humansÃ‚Â a supernatural component. That is, however,Ã‚Â a pillar of orthodox Darwinism. I think that what Murphy, his quotee, and many on the ASA list from which this sample was taken clearly demonstrate is the slow rot of non-materialist understanding of life that any long and close embrace of Darwinism brings about. Mind you, I expect them to want to discuss just about anything else.)
– Random embrace of materialism. The American Episcopal Church was so anxious to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist origin (“emergence”) for life, even though no one knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the failing American denomination heretical for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind. – The American Episcopal Church was so to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist (“emergence”) for life, even though knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the American denomination for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind.(Oh yes, did I forget to mention? Materialism will diminish and eventually close your worship centre. Do you love God? Your worship centre? Write that down, as a possible reason not to consider materialism, or its creation story, Darwinism.)
– The American Episcopal Church was so to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist (“emergence”) for life, even though knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the American denomination for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind.(Oh yes, did I forget to mention? Materialism will diminish and eventually close your worship centre. Do you love God? Your worship centre? Write that down, as a possible reason not to consider materialism, or its creation story, Darwinism.)- “Fideism”, evacuated of content. That is, loud protests of traditional belief, held simply as an irrational conviction, unrelated to the person’s assumptions about how the universe really works. Beliefs are supposed to sound like foolishness; that’s what makes them faithful.
All of these trends are of far more significance than doctrinaire atheism in undermining a spiritual tradition. Here are some suggestions for spotting such trends at work:
Key changes in the information that is considered relevant when addressing controversial issues: Suppose, for example, your tradition is wrestling with questions around homosexuality. You suddenly find yourself in a discussion about whether homosexuality contributes to “evolutionary fitness” or whether it is “natural”, “innate,” or whatever.
Well, stop the discussion right there. Yes, right there . Ask, how did we get here? In the Christian tradition, for example, a tendency to sin is regarded as innate, without restriction as to type of sin. And sin – as defined in Scripture – is to be rejected, whether or not the behaviour is considered “natural” or the outcome is “evolutionarily fit.” If you cannot discuss controversial questions in that light, you are no longer in the Christian tradition. And Darwinism is one way of getting right outside the Christian tradition very quickly.
(Note: For your own peace of mind, try to avoid acting astonished at the number of grey eminences that have bobbled above a pew for some fifty or sixty years without developing a Christian mind. They are perfectly happy to make major decisions without any such mind. It’s mostly not even their fault. For decades, clergy of many denominations have functioned as therapists and social workers, not spiritual directors – and the results show.)
Subtle appeals to turn your faith into mere fideism: Watch out for platitudes like “all truth is God’s truth.” While that’s correct, as far as it goes, the mantras of materialism are not truths of any sort and should not be godfathered as “God’s truths,” kicking actual spiritual truths into an irrelevant attic. Materialism and Darwinism can be rejected outright with no loss.
Here’s another dangerous platitude: “Don’t get the Rock of Ages mixed up with the age of the rocks.” Oh? Why not? Either the Rock of Ages is responsible for the age of the rocks or he isn’t. Can you see the subtle appeal here to replace your Christian worldview with a materialist worldview when considering such questions as the origin of the universe, the earth, or life?
Oh and let’s not forget, “The Bible isn’t a science textbook.” Well, anyone who gets around to reading the Bible much will notice that it is a collection of 66 books (more if you are a Catholic and count the Apocrypha), written in a variety of genres on a variety of subjects, with the unifying theme of the relationship between God and people. So there is no question of a science textbook, or a textbook of any kind. But … where there is a conflict between the view of man portrayed in the Bible and similar scriptures and a view that originates in a materialist system like evolutionary psychology, which view should prevail at your worship centre?
Finally, recognize that many Western Christian academics are co-dependent with materialism – it’s how many of them have managed to stay where they are in systems dominated by materialists. They have seen what happened to, for example, Rick Sternberg, Carolyn Crocker, Nancy Bryson, Frank Beckwith, etc., so they know the rules: As long as they
1) avoid raising any serious problems with any materialist system, and
2) attack or disparage anyone who is more forthright against materialism than they are,
they are themselves left alone – for now. At any rate, to the extent that they have placed their bets of materialism and made all sorts of sacrifices for materialism for years, they need the materialist system to prevail.
And it won’t be their fault if it doesn’t.
If that is what some call peace, no wonder increasing numbers are for war. That is a key reason why there is an intelligent design controversy. And there will soon be more than one controversy. New fronts are opening up as people in various disciplines question materialism.
Anyway, materialist undermining at your worship centre can be detected by careful listening and observation. Be ready to ask the right questions at the right times. If you wait too long, it may be far advanced and therefore harder to stop.