Essay / Misc.

ID and Evangelicals

Hugh Hewitt commented on ID today. . . which provoked me to post the following thoughts. I hope they help. Other information on ID is available under the articles section of this web site.Introduction:There is, perhaps, no topic that generates more public and scholarly passion than that of origins. Few scientists or theologians have the modesty of Plato’s Timaeus who states in his own cosmological account that he intends to give only “a likely story” to describe the origins of the cosmos. He leaves this story open to the often harsh and skeptical examination of the dialectic. Anthropologists have discovered that every culture develops a creation myth to explain from whence it has come and to help illuminate where it is going. It is not surprising, therefore, that modern secular societies have developed their own accounts, or likely stories, regarding these fundamental questions. It is also not shocking that they cling to them and defend them with dedication and fervor. Like Plato, however, the lovers of wisdom should welcome the examination of their particular likely myth by those with questions.I will not be discussing the truth or falsity of any particular creation myth or account in this paper. Even if I were interested in doing so, this is not a topic in which I am particularly interested. These brief remarks are also not intended to test the religious “orthodoxy” of any of the ideas discussed. I do claim, however, that some contemporary religious thinkers have developed means of accommodating the contemporary creation story of our society that, at the very least, require a great deal of further development and supporting argument. Furthermore, the positions that they have adopted do not seem to me to be very hopeful ones. I think any attempt to strengthen their case is likely to fail. Their accounts seem implausible, if not utterly unlikely.The persons whose religious tradition and scientific accommodations I am discussing might broadly be described as “evangelical” Christians. In the United States this term has come to have a more narrow or refined definition than a similar term might have in a nation like Germany. In some European countries, “evangelical” might simply mean Protestant. In the United States, it could be so narrow as to apply only to those Christians identifying with institutions like Wheaton College, Inter-Varsity, the Billy Graham Association, and the National Association of Evangelicals. I will use this term in a third sense to apply to Protestants committed to the affirmation of the historic creeds of the Church and to the Bible as in some sense, “Holy Scriptures. . .the revealed word of God.”I do not accept the notion that there ever was, or even is, a war between science and the Christian religion. Some historians of science have argued that Christianity impeded the growth of modern science and others have maintained that it made this development possible. It is not my intention to take sides in this controversy. It is a fact, however, that evangelical Christians, in the sense of the term used here, have operated as both successful scientists and apparently contented Christians. Conflicts have arisen between the two roles, but Christians have continued to become scientists, and very successful ones at that, without apparent mental collapse. It is an odd war indeed that finds successful and accepted individuals openly in both camps. It is clear that evangelicals have always managed to accommodate their religion and their practice of science. Moments of widespread doubt about such accommodations are not unique to the interplay of religion and science. A human’s political life often also subjects some other aspect of their humanity to strain.Accommodations between religion and science attempt to capture the truth about the world. Any human believes a whole host of propositions. Some of these he has gained from his growth as a scientist and some from his understanding of his religion. The accommodations he reaches to fit all this data into one coherent world view are more or less plausible. It is the plausibility of one particular evangelical accommodation that I am challenging. It seems unlikely to me to produce a true picture of the world.What I will call “methodological naturalism” is the norm in mainstream science. Put loosely, it is the commitment of the scientist working in his or her laboratory to provide natural explanations for natural phenomena. So far as I can tell mainstream evangelical Christianity has never had a problem with methodological naturalism. Since the days of Newton’s physics, when such issues were hashed out, evangelicals have held to a notion of God as a first cause working through a series of secondary causes. Science became, therefore, the study of “how” God acted in the natural world.Evangelicals historically, however, believed that there were some things that God did in the world directly. The entire incarnation episode, for example, including the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was viewed as the direct action of God in space and time. From the time when Christians first came into serious contact with secular cosmologies a minority of evangelical Christians, including some very influential figures, had also been willing to remove God as a direct cause from much of the creative process. Other evangelicals, however, postulated key points in the cosmic order where divine intervention was deemed “necessary.” Examples include the creation of human life, the movement of the heavenly spheres, the origin of the species. Each of these positions was gradually surrendered, however, as science appeared to give natural accounts for how such events might have taken place.Almost from the beginning, therefore, the evangelical scientist seemed to operate with the distinct notion that, where available, a natural account was to be preferred to a supernatural account. A majority of Christians, though not all by any means, at first tried to reserve judgement on naturalistic accounts that contradicted the teachings of Sacred Scripture in the area of cosmology or history. Persuasive natural explanations for the world and data gathered by scientists began to make that position more and more difficult to defend by the beginning of the nineteenth century.By the end of the nineteenth century, it seems safe to assert that most evangelicals had shifted in their view of some parts of Scripture. Those sections of Scripture that modern science contradicted were now read as “myth” containing religious truth. This position revived the earlier minority tradition of persons like Augustine.The progressive (and seemingly) endless removal of God as a direct cause, in favor of some secondary cause or another, clearly had a demoralizing impact on the Church. The God of the “Gaps” seemed less and less plausible as the gaps in human knowledge of the physical world closed. Some evangelicals, for example, resisted Darwinian evolution as closing off an action that seemed necessarily divine. These folk included eminent scientists and religious leaders. Most had long ago abandoned a “literalistic” view of Genesis. These men and women believed, however, that God must be directly involved in the creative process at points where Darwinists were now claiming that only natural causes were involved. This fight, usually conducted by persons with more zeal than sense, was clearly lost by the middle of the twentieth century.Not all Christians, of course, had ever gone so far as to view parts of Scripture as containing error of any kind. The reaction to scientific developments in this community was most often an intellectual retreat. At the start of the twentieth century, a small group of men developed a more intellectual response they called “creationism.” “Creationism” continued the defense of a more traditional cosmology and a more literal reading of the Bible with even less academic success than that experienced by the mainstream evangelicals.By and large, I wo
uld characterize the relationship between Christianity and science in the evangelical community by mid-century as nearing a crisis point. Creationists, by and large, were not handling the data of science in a responsible manner. The more traditional “God of the Gaps” accounts had also fallen into disrepute. A growing number of evangelical scholars proposed, therefore, in the light of this generally dismal experience, a more radical version of the old approach to science. God would no longer act as the direct cause of any object of science. These more radical evangelicals believed that as far as science went the non-theistic philosophic naturalist and the evangelical could never have a disagreement coming out of their contrary philosophical presuppositions. (Of course, as scientists they might disagree. Their contrary philosophies, however, could not come into conflict over mere secondary causes. Their science would necessarily look exactly the same.)This position has become increasingly popular in the evangelical world. Every action of the natural world is produced by a secondary cause for these Christians. As evangelicals, they continue to postulate a God who sustains the universe by His power and who works individual historic miracles. This avoids what they view as the unorthodox or uninteresting Creator of deism. On the other hand, it is a fair characterization of their view to say that a completely “naturalistic” account of the universe would not diminish their belief in theism one iota. (By a naturalistic account, I mean one that fully accounts for all the events of the world of matter and energy. Whether that world is the only world is a question for philosophy according to these evangelicals.) Science need never fear running into any object that could be the subject of scientific investigation that would not yield a solid naturalistic account for itself. While the view is very rich and interesting, this seems to me a fair summary of the concept.I would like to describe the sort of person holding this view as an Evangelical Complete Methodological Naturalist (ECMN). This name I think avoids two wrong-headed notions one could have about such persons. First, the view is evangelical because the persons holding the view assert that God is involved with His creation. In fact, God is vitally a part of the “sustaining” or “governing” of every created act. Second, it is not the same as the older accomodationist views. It may in fact be a better position, but it is not the same position. This is best demonstrated by the fact that the old position was vulnerable to the God of the Gaps criticism and the new one is not. According to the ECMN, there are not gaps in the universe that God needs to fill.A Brief Critique of the Evangelical Complete Methodological NaturalistIt is my contention that the ECMN has given Christianity an unlikely accounting of the relationship between religion and the theories of science. A full critique of the position would require many papers of great length and a great deal of time. I would like, therefore to briefly summarize what I view as the problems with the position. Let me stress that this is not to argue that the persons holding the position are “heretics” or that the position could not be salvaged. It is merely to argue that the present formulation of the position is not at all satisfactory or plausible. The first set of problems relates to the concept itself. The second set of problems for the ECMN is the relationship between her views and the demands of Scripture.First, I believe that ECMN’s contention that God is “sustaining” the universe or that the universe is “designed” are unclear and unpersuasive. It is unclear, because the ECMN has yet to formulate what God is doing when He is “sustaining” the universe or what design in a universe looks like. God’s “sustaining” looks the same as no activity to a non‑theist and His design looks like no design to a non‑theist.”Sustaining” is, according to the ECMN, a constant and necessary action on the part of God for the universe to exist, but it is not subject to verification from those who do not believe in God. In fact, the best theories of cosmology, according to the ECMN, will always postulate a universe going along quite nicely with no detectable need for this divine intervention. God is, therefore, engaged in unverifiably doing something (we cannot be sure what) that we have no independent reason for thinking needs to be done. How does God sustain? What is it impacting? In what ways? Apart from theology, why believe in it at all?Of course, the ECMN might retort that one must believe in God in order to see the evidence and necessity of God’s sustaining work and power. It is a mere problem of which philosophic glasses with which one chooses to look at the universe. I am unhappy with the epistemology this presupposes, but let us accept that idea for the moment. What if the natural account of the universe is such that it seems entirely at odds with the prior notion one had of the Creator? No doubt a sufficiently clever theist can modify his or her views to take any cosmic history into account and preserve a bare notion of theism. But is that the case with this particular brand of theism, namely evangelical theism? If the history of the cosmos, as described by the natural sciences, is not at all congenial to the God of Christian theism, then it is foolhardy indeed to think that belief in Him could be preserved as a plausible notion. The ECMN has not, therefore, succeeded in her primary task. The existence of the evangelical Christian God could still be shown to be implausible.The ECMN believes that God designed the universe using means and producing results that show no sure evidence of design to a non-theist. What then does it mean to the ECMN for an object to be designed? We usually assume it is not necessary to have prior knowledge a designer exists for us to recognize a design. We can recognize a design and then assume there is a designer. One can (at least theoretically) look at a particular object and use “design criteria” to determine its status. Why should the universe be an exception to this? This does not falsify the EMCN’s position. However, it seems to me that the theistic position is less plausible if life, for example, shows no evidence for design. The ECMN try to have both a blind watchmaker process at work in the natural world and a watchmaker. This may be logically possible, but surely it is at least intuitively less than plausible.I believe that the ECMN’s notion of “sustaining” or of”design” should be unconvincing to anyone not already in ECMN’scamp, because the ECMN refuses to give good reasons for his beliefs. I claim that his notions are like the Pythagorean “music of the spheres.” The Pythagoreans believed in the constant presence of the music and that the universe would cease to exist if the music ever stopped. This music, however, could not be heard by anyone since it was constant. One might concede that a Pythagorean was free to believe in this music, but one is hard pressed to see why anyone else would or should.Second, It is unclear to me that “secondary causation” has been an effective or coherent strategy in dealing with the desire to maintain God as a First or sustaining cause in the universe. Up to this point in time, secondary causation has been remarkably unsuccessful in convincing folk involved in scientific work that a Creator exists. This, of course, does not falsify the position, but it does mean that it might be of interest to look elsewhere for an apologetic posture.Far from doing that, however, the ECMN takes the whole “secondary cause” approach to its absolute limit. The ECMN explicitly rejects the notion common to historical causalarguments that a chain of natural events even theoretically accessible to science leads back to God. In fact for the ECMN, all cosmological events, theoretically, can be explained without recourse to divine causation. God

never interrupts nature, except in the case of the miracles that are part of salvation history. He needs to form no part of our scientific account of the universe. God is part of the ECMN’s account, but for reasons having nothing to do with science.In my opinion, those reasons given by persons holding to evangelical complete methodological naturalism have been weak. These defenses have been so weak that I do not believe that the ECMN can rationally hold at least some of his beliefs in the light of his cosmology. Usually the ECMN gives one of two reasons for his belief: a. He has other good reasons for believing in God, powerfulenough to cause him to adopt this view despite science.The typical ECMN generally gives at least three reasons for believing in God: certain miracles, certain human experiences, and the salvation history found in the Bible. I contend that these arguments are inadequate, if the ECMN believes that in turning to the universe one finds no evidence for design without invoking his own theistic beliefs. It seems more sensible to explain miracles and salvation history in the light of ourexperiences in the world, than it is to describe the real worldin the light of these alleged events. b. He actually needs no reasons to rationally believe in God.Even if one accepts this notion, it does not entail the rationality of continuing to believe in evangelical theism. Here is the situation which I believe the ECMN to be in (even if one accepts that he rationally believes in God): 1. the ECMN has a rational basic belief in God. 2. Based on other beliefs he has about this God, the ECMN has a belief that God designed the world. 3. the ECMN concedes that there is no convincing scientific evidence that God designed the world or is involved in the world. 4. the ECMN concedes that the best evidence and explanations indicate that God did not design the world. 5. the ECMN concedes the situation in 4 will never change.Perhaps, 1 continues to be a proper and basic belief for the ECMN. But 1 does not entail 2, there could be a “god” that does not care at all about the creation of worlds like ours. This god simply allows them to come into being on their own and views their workings with divine indifference. The ECMN, perhaps, could become a deist, but could not rationally remain an evangelical. Surely, after all, one’s entire religious creed cannot be properly basic. If the cosmic evidence does not support the notion of God involved with His creation, then at least that secondary notion should be jettisoned.The evangelical naturalist might claim that she has had certain experiences with God that has led to other basic beliefs about Him. (She might for example contend that He answers prayer.) I would concede that the ECMN may have had many experiences that might lead her to rationally believe God has certain characteristics. I would not concede that she has had any experiences that would entail the conclusion that God is the sustaining creator that the ECMN claims He is. This seems to me a secondary notion that is not sustainable without supporting evidence from the cosmos.My suggestion is that the ECMN has created this entire problem by maintaining that it is acceptable to Christian theism for there to be no scientific evidence for God’s action and (going even further) that totally naturalistic accounts of everything would not disturb his theism. This, of course, is no argument for scientific creationism or any other particular accommodation of religion and science. If the best scientific accounts needed divine intervention at some point, or could not explain “life” or “existence” as some contemporary theists claim then the difficulties would vanish. This in fact was exactly the claim of Phillip Johnson in Darwin on Trial. The radical position taken by the ECMN that all causes in the universe (save the rare divine miracle) are secondary causes and that design is not visible to the non-theist are the root of the problem. My suggestion is that evangelical scientists, philosophers, and theologians continue the dialogue on these issues and begin to explore another more hopeful approach.There is, of course, another problem for the evangelical Christian who wishes to be a complete methodological naturalist. Like all Christians, the ECMN takes the witness of Scripture seriously. Clearly, however, a literal reading of some portions of Scripture will not allow for such a view. Is a high view of Scripture consistent with being an ECMN?Biblical InterpretationPeter Van Inwagen has written a marvelous article outlining his position on the putative contradictions between the Genesis account and modern theories of biology. His article, “Genesis and Evolution,” was recently republished in Reasoned Faith. I would like to stress that I am no way assigning the ECMN position to Van Inwagen. I have no idea what Van Inwagen’s position is on this matter. The only persons I know holding such a position are practicing scientists. It is also important to stress that I am in full agreement with much of what is said in the article. His description of the hubris of the modern metaphysical naturalists that he calls “saganists” is worth the entire price of the collection of essays. Van Inwagen does defend a non-literalistic interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis like that which an evangelical who is an ECMN must adopt. His is the best defense of such a position of which I am aware. In the end, however, I believe his position is much weaker than it needs to be in order to sustain an evangelical taking a non-literal approach to Genesis.Van Inwagen limits his arguments to the first three chapter of Genesis. He rightly points out that a non-literal reading of the “creation” story has good historic credentials. He rightly points out that such figures as Saint Augustine have viewed creation in Scripture “metaphorically.” He rightly stresses, therefore, that his own views are entirely orthodox.I have one quibble with Van Inwagen’s opening move, however. Van Inwagen limits his arguments to the stories of Creation and the Fall. He says very little about the Fall. He manages to conflate Augustine’s and other early Christians’ less literal understanding of Genesis 1 with a non-literal approach to the story of the Fall. This is convenient for his position, but does damage to Church history.As a literary form Genesis one has been recognized as a poem since ancient times. This gave considerable latitude to the minority of scholars and theologians who wanted to view the creation account found in it less literally. Almost no theologian before the dawn of modern science viewed Adam and Eve and the Fall metaphorically. It is certainly not my understanding of Augustine that he viewed Adam as anything less than the literal “first man.” The Fall, of course, had deep spiritual implications that Augustine and others looked for symbolically, but Van Inwagen’s full blown metaphorical approach is of pretty recent vintage. Belief in a literal Adam and Eve was quite common in even main line Churches right through the nineteenth century. His understanding of at least part of the text cannot, therefore, escape the charge of being somewhat a matter of convenience.Van Inwagen presents several basic arguments for the plausibility of reading Genesis 1-3 in a metaphorical sense. He concedes that one would naturally expect a divinely inspired book to be without error. This I believe places a heavy burden of proof on Van Inwagen. He has to show why something that seems intuitively plausible is not, in fact, the case.This brings me to a second quibble that I have with Van Inwagen. He falls for the temptation of leaving the reader with only two choices in reading Genesis. It is important to note that at this point in the article, Van Inwagen is arguing for an extreme position, not against two extreme positions. He is urging the reader not to look to Genesis 1-3 for history or science at all.

He is taking an absolute metaphorical reading. He presents the reader with the choice of reading it as absolute metaphor or as word-for-word truth. Much of the plausibility of his arguments depends on that false dilemma.Van Inwagen justifies dealing with only the extreme literalist or the saganist position, because those are the positions getting “the press.” In this case, however, he is attempting to defend his own view. He should not, therefore, defend it against only the attacks of the weakest potential foe. Whatever the merits of dealing with only the hyper-literalist in the other parts of the paper, it is not justified when he is presenting his own view.In fact, most theologians who read Genesis as an historical account do not do so in the unsophisticated manner of the hyper-literalist. For example, it is perfectly possible to recognize that the first creation account is a poem and refuse to be tied to a literal reading of “days” and order of creation. This has actually been the position of the majority of historical fundamentalist theologians. (As creationists are always hammering home in criticism.)The second and third chapters are then viewed as having an entirely different literary form. Adam and Eve, as symbols of the first man and woman, are usually viewed as historic people. Of course, when they lived and specifically how they were created is not made clear in the text. The story of the Fall is also generally viewed as historic for theological reasons. The New Testament is fairly explicit that death is the result of Adam’s fall. I should mention that Van Inwagen concedes that literalists can recognize metaphor, but for some reason does not see that a literalist might read Genesis 1 metaphorically. In short, one need not reject metaphor as a tool in Scripture entirely when reading scripture to avoid plunging fully down the metaphorical road.I have, therefore, no problem with one of Van Inwagen’s positions regarding the use of stories. He states that some “truth” cannot be told propositionally. It can best be understood in story form. One can agree entirely with that statement, however, without thereby conceding that the Genesis account must be a false story. All myths are not false. To use the language that C.S. Lewis used in describing the gospel’s account of Christ, this might be the myth that turns out to be historically true! We both fully agree that sometimes stories are the best way to convey a truth. We do not agree that God can use false stories without letting us know.One of Van Inwagen’s major points is that the purpose of Genesis is to relate certain theological truths. It does this without error. The “error” that one would learn from a mistaken “literal” reading of Genesis is essentially much less important stuff than the theological truth one gets. One might get the details of cosmology wrong by reading Genesis, but one will get the right “big picture.” After all, he claims, Genesis was not written for modern heads of physics departments, but for all people at all times. Most people in most times would not have understood an account that was true in detail in any case. What harm is there in getting the wrong age of the earth?I agree with Van Inwagen that the theological truth of Genesis is more important to the writer than historical detail. I also tend to agree with his evaluation of the relative importance of the age of the earth. The four options he evaluates as candidates for a proper “divine account” are: a. a fully detailed true cosmology b. an “abstract” and spare theological treatise c. an anachronistic account produced by “dictation” d. a false story conveying theological truths.It is not hard to imagine which Van Inwagen prefers.Van Inwagen’s attack on the first option described is simply to beat at a straw person. Not even the most convinced skeptic has seriously argued that God needed to convey in a theological work a detailed and historically precise cosmology. Van Inwagen states the obvious when he argues that such a description would defeat the Bible’s very purpose.Van Inwagen’s defense of God’s telling a “false” story depends on the plausibility of God telling a sort of Platonic “noble lie” to his people. Van Inwagen thinks that the pedagogical value gained justifies telling it in an essentially false manner. God becomes, on this account, a sort of colonial administrator telling the “natives” only what He has determined would best serve His over arching purpose.Van Inwagen even uses this sort of story to defend his argument. A doctor may use false stories to impress on the natives certain needful changes in their behavior. These changes are more likely to stick if the doctor uses notions he knows to be false to reinforce them. The increased compliance of the natives, resulting in better health, justifies the noble lie. Little would be gained in taking the time to explain the full reasons for such behavioral changes so the doctor does not bother.This is, however, a very odd sort of argument. It assumes that people are better off believing plausible lies than in getting even simplistic versions of the truth, if the plausible lies will manipulate them into a good behavior. Anyone who has ever witnessed the manipulative parent telling a child that Santa will not bring him a present in order to produce a good behavior knows the distastefulness of such a strategy. The whole notion is rife with peril for one who, like Van Inwagen, believes in a God who does not lie or treat His people as ends. To avoid the “backlash” from those who find out they have been deceived, why not take the time (God has a great deal of it) to tell at least a simple version of the truth?Van Inwagen argues that God need not give a full and true cosmology, because only a few physics professors could understand the account and gain by it. This would create a “two tier” Christianity. He seems oblivious to the fact that he is creating a hermeneutic complex enough that only he and a tiny percentage of modern sophisticates are able to read Scripture correctly. The average layman, who does not have the time to read the theologians and higher critics, must rely on clever folk like Van Inwagen to tell them which parts of the Bible are true.The entire plausibility of God telling this noble lie is that believing wrong information about the cosmos has had little negative impact. Van Inwagen seems unaware of the millions of religious people who were not happy to discover that they had been told a noble lie for their own good. Thousands of Christians, both the simple and the sophisticated, wanted to have nothing to do with a God that would gain their belief through telling them falsehoods. It will not do to say that it is not God’s fault that He has been misunderstood. In order to gain some short term advantage, He has failed to let humans believe (and defend with their lives) what was not true.In fact, Van Inwagen has created a defense for God that seems implausible to the average layman. One need only try to explain this position to the average Sunday School class to know the results. Van Inwagen surely knows of the historic reaction to a paternalism that was not based on truth but self-interest. No one likes to be deceived, even if it is for their own good. At the very least God could have told humanity an impressive, but false story at the same time telling us that it was false. If the doctor must use native language and metaphors, why could he not clearly explain that this was what he was doing to the natives. He could say, “I cannot tell you clearly how disease works. I will tell you in your language using your ideas. This will help you remember. Someday, perhaps, you will better understand what is happening.” I see no reason that God could not have given readers of Genesis such a warning. Even if the damage is slight from receiving false information, and I do not concede it is, such a caveat would have cost God nothing. It certainly is not too difficult for the

people of the ancient world to understand.Van Inwagen finally manages to address the notion that God could have simply told an accurate story. He then argues that God had to get his “material” from that available at the time. He did the best he could with what He had. In other words, true stories just were not available at the time. Of course, true theology was not available either, according to Van Inwagen, but God did manage to get that message through. Why bother to tell a true story? Sure God could have warned humanity, but why should he have bothered?I believe that if God is to be justified in telling a lie, He must have a powerful reason for doing so. Van Inwagen waivers between arguing that God could not have developed a “purified” myth and arguing that he had no reason to do so. Van Inwagen has said that all souls are equally important in the eyes of God. If, therefore, even one saganist would have been helped to see the truth by telling a “purified” story, then why would God have failed to do so? In short, if only one soul would have been helped by developing a better story, or inserting a “disclaimer,” it would have been worth the minimal divine effort.I reject the notion that God could not have found a “better” story. In fact, I can offer Van Inwagen a specific example. Within 50 years of the composition of Genesis, the ancient Greeks produced a much more “modern” myth of creation in terms of details. Genesis 1 was composed around 500 B.C. Empedocles, the Greek philosopher, who gave a much more evolutionary cosmology than that found in the Genesis myth flourished in Greece around 450 B.C. It was, therefore, possible for a pagan in Greece to compose an account that Van Inwagen believes was not possible for a Jew in Egypt or Babylon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to produce.Long before the completion of the canon of Scripture, scholars have detected influences of Greek thought in that of Jewish writers. We know now that the Greeks did not develop intellectually in isolation and that even the early ancient world was alive with trade. By the time of Christ, Philo and others were fully engaged in harmonizing even Plato with Jewish thought. This Greek cosmology was going to be available for God to use with His new theology in short order. In fact, despite the fact that editing of the Old Testament continued right into the period of Greek influence God did not bother to “improve” the cosmology using the more accurate concepts available at the time. Of course Genesis, in Van Inwagen’s opinion, offers a superior theology to Empedocles and the Greeks. This is true from the Christian perspective. But if pagan cosmologies had to be modified why not allow for some judicious editing with some more accurate cosmological details? (This, of course, assumes that modern science is giving us a true cosmology.) Certainly, Augustine used Greek thought freely when it was helpful. Van Inwagen may be right that it would not have done much good, but a little final editing and revising of the story for accuracy around 200 B.C. would have done no harm either.Van Inwagen has, therefore, failed to give good reasons why Christians should accept false “stories” in their Bibles. He has also failed to establish why such arguments cannot be turned to other more critical sections of the Bible. In fact, the very arguments that Van Inwagen uses in metaphorically discarding the historicity of Genesis were recently applied by another Episcopalian, Bishop Spong, to the New Testament. Is Van Inwagen justified in his use of metaphor, while Spong is not justified? Unless, Van Inwagen can provide grounds for his different handling of texts in similar literary genre his position begins to look like special pleading.I have, therefore, briefly surveyed the ECMN’s position. I have argued that it is flawed at the present time. I have also argued that Van Inwagen, the best evangelical defender for a metaphorical approach to Scripture, does not effectively argue the case. Since the ECMN depends on this notion for his beliefs, he must (at a minimum) develop a new defense for a metaphorical approach to Scripture. The evangelical Christian should not be able to totally insulate his views from outside empirical criticism. I am skeptical of a world view that can only be verified by those who accept it.

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