Tragedy of Compromise in Psychology part 2: Coffee filters

Many times, Christians note Augustine of Hippo’s assertion that we should “plunder the Egyptians,” or in other words, we should borrow the scholarship of the world around us. Yet, as inspiring as Augustine’s ideas are on this subject, he is also a negative example of what can happen when we borrow unbelieving scholarship uncritically. Augustine borrowed very heavily from the philosophical ideas of Plato, and this had a negative affect both on his theology and on his method of interpreting the Scriptures.

As noted in our work on the Tragedy of Compromise, my view is that we need to stay aware of, and reject, ideas that require assumptions that do not accord with the Christian faith. I base this on something I call the “Unified Fields Theory of Apologetics”, which is a statement of systematic theology that I discussed in a brief form, in an article on our more technical site. (Systematic theology is an orderly, rational account of the Christian faith and beliefs along with the attempt to answer the religious questions I’ve noted elsewhere). That article can be found here:

I am not suggesting that we ignore actual scientific data or that we ignore studies by those outside of the faith. Paul himself quoted from pagan poets and borrowed language from the stoics. One of the first intellectual challenges for the young Christian faith was to communicate its ideas to those outside of the faith.

Psychology does have some actual benefits. There are scientific elements within psychology that may be beneficial. For example, studies of the effects of sleep deprivation on human beings and certain statistical studies, (e.g. a certain percentage of the population will react to a given stimuli in a given way) are both valuable. Counselors may use counseling techniques in a manner similar to the way a preacher learns and uses the art of effective or persuasive speaking and writing.

I am suggesting that we need to filter psychology because much of what passes for psychology is religion, in disguise.

Tragedy of Compromise: Summary and Conclusion

My argument concerning the tragedy of compromise can be condensed this way:
1. Christianity embraces a point for which historical corroboration is possible; that point is the Resurrection of Christ. Using a number of approaches, it becomes clear that the Christian responses to the question, “Did Christ rise from the dead?” are superior to the theories ascribed to explain away the Resurrection.
2. Because these answers are unequivocal, I accept Christianity, and in so doing I accept Christian presuppositions concerning the nature of reality.
3. Once we begin studying religion as a category of questions rather than the modern tendency to arbitrarily define some thought systems as religious, and some as non-religious, Naturalism becomes a separate religion, apart from Christianity.
4. Because Naturalism is a different religion, it has different philosophical presuppositions than does Christianity. Naturalists, however, tend to be sloppy in defining the border of their philosophical beliefs and other areas of study: most notably, the sciences.
5. The key presupposition of Naturalism is a practical (and at most points, a theoretical) denial that miracles are possible. As the Resurrection of Christ is a miracle, this is a presupposition that is not possible for the Christian to accept, and therefore to argue from.
6. Evolution is ultimately a doctrine of Naturalism because it requires the key naturalistic presupposition, in the method by which it extrapolates a theory of biological origins from the data; without those presuppositions, the system cannot be demonstrated. To accept evolution one must first accept the tenet that the earth came about without miraculous intervention. To call evolutionary theory “science” we would need to observe, by natural means, the development of a new family (not a new species) by means of new, meaningful information being created or added to the genome, in a way that would create a sufficient advantage that would meet the criteria of natural selection. Otherwise, we are using scientific data being in a philosophical argument (which is precisely what creation science does).

My main conclusion in discussing the tragedy of compromise is that Christian opposition is not merely an apologetic necessity, but given the discussion of the first commandment, it is also an ethical imperative.

The next question is one of: “how do we oppose it?”

My answer would be along the same lines I have previously raised. Instead of arguing that Creation science is as scientific as evolution, we restate the argument – I believe more accurately – that evolution is as religious as creationism.

In doing so, our intent is to open minds by moving to the core differences between Creation Science and Evolution. In essence, we discuss evolution and creation in terms of comparing the two worldviews; the assumptions and presuppositions, and why these assumptions are religious in nature. Therefore, our goal should be to relegate evolution from the biology classroom to discussions on philosophy, and without advocacy of the theory, on the grounds of the first amendment – what is good for the goose is ultimately good for the gander.

Our goal, of course, is not a level playing ground – our goal is to adequately move from evolution to the Resurrection of Christ. If evolution is premised in atheism, then it makes no sense to ask atheists to question their evolutionary theory – they must first question their atheism (and theists should be asked about the logical inconsistency of holding to evolutionary theory and disagreeing with the core premise). In doing so, we want to win hearts and minds to Christ by discussing reasons for accepting Christianity instead.

The Tragedy of Compromise: Evolution as Christianized Paganism

I’ve entitled this series “the tragedy of compromise”; not “the tragedy of evolutionary beliefs”. We’ve discussed the definition of religion, the definition of science, and we have linked this discussion to evolutionary thought (though we could – and eventually will – make similar connections with much of psychology, as well).

The tragedy of compromise is not that atheists believe in evolution – although, this is tragic because of the consequences to their souls. Rather, the tragedy of compromise is found in the number of Christian intellectuals who try to incorporate evolution into Christian thought.

A number of months ago, I put forward a series of sermons on evolution. My central text was Exodus 20:3 – “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Whenever theologians or Christians compromise on evolution, that commandment is being violated.

The actual danger for ancient Israel was not that they replaced the worship of Yahweh (commonly transliterated as Jehovah) with the worship of Ba’al, Molek, or any of the other pagan deities. The true danger was that the Israelites worshipped Yahweh and Molek, Ba’al, and added elements of pagan worship to the worship of God (the second commandment). This, in fact, is what occurred. There are temples to Yahweh that have been discovered by archeologists, which included an Asharah pole (an idol representing a deity’s wife). The books of Kings and Chronicles indicate the same thing: the worship of God was adulterated with pagan elements. Then, the Israelites began to add foreign religions, along with the worship of the God of Heaven. Ahaz, for example, was an idolater, but he was also involved in the worship of God enough to change the design of the altar, in the Temple.

The consequences were devastating; similarly, the tragic consequences of evolution are equally devastating.

Atheists regularly assert that racism and the Ku Klux Klan have received safe haven in the Church. But, they often fail to realize (due to the typical atheist tendency to avoid actually looking into the details of their arguments) that a major element of Christians’ holding to racist ideas was compromise on the issue of evolution.

When uniformitarianism (the geological basis of much of evolutionary thought) was first postulated, Christians began to accommodate evolutionary thought to the book of Genesis. This is the source of numerous ideas, such as the gap theory (the idea that the world fell and needed recreation after Genesis 3), the day age theory (the days of creation are not literal days, but are references to epochs of time), and various other viewpoints. Over time, evolutionary theory was accommodated further and further. The classic case was made (perhaps ironically) by B. B. Warfield in 1911 (“ironically” because the best discussion defining the Biblical doctrine of Inspiration is a collection Warfield’s essays on the topic). These theories were the standard approach to Genesis for nearly a century.

One of the results, of course, was that Christians grew more open concerning issues of origin than they had been previously; this included openness on racial origins. This, again, was in keeping with the racist ideas that were an integral part of late 19th century and early twentieth Century Darwinian theory. Social Darwinism was nothing less than the logical conclusions of Darwin’s work The Descent of Man.

Some argued that black men were not descended from Adam and Eve, but evolved from lower animals. Others incorrectly connected blacks to the curse of Noah’s son Ham. Still others treated Genesis 1-12 as myths, and history as having begun at a later date, in which case the unity of the human race was ignored. In all cases, the Church was open to racism because of compromises with naturalism.

As believers, then, we must seriously consider the damage to the Christian faith when we compromise with evolutionists. As I noted before, evolution requires an a priori assumption of the principles underlying philosophical naturalism. The intellectual element of my faith is couched in the Resurrection of Christ (see our on-going series on our more technical site). Because I believe that Christ was resurrected, I am forced to repudiate naturalism. If I rebuild that which I have destroyed, I am become a transgressor of the Law (Galatians 2).

If someone asks me, as Ken Ham was once asked, what would cause you to change your mind on evolution, my answer is once again, “Find the Body.”

The Tragedy of Compromise: Evolution as religion

Over the last two articles in our “Tragedy of Compromise” series, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the definition of religion and the definition of science. My central contention is that during the enlightenment, philosophical naturalists began to confuse their religious views with science, and somewhere along the line, Christians began to adopt these atheistic definitions in discussions with atheists.

Naturalism contends natural law is sufficient to explain the universe. This concept is not something that has been proven either by science (by answering all of the questions possible about reality), nor has it been proven by logic. As I have noted before, this is based on an argument by David Hume’s “argument against miracles,” which is ultimately an argument to ignore evidence. Because naturalists believe science can find the answer to all of the questions about the nature of reality, they begin to confuse the philosophical evidence with the actual scientific discussion. I believe Evolution and Psychology, then, are two areas where the confusion between actual science and naturalism is most notable. Evidence revealing this confusion includes the scientific community’s discussion of Michael Behe ( our review was republished last week).

Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box is not actually an argument against evolution (though as a Christian I find much of the evidence useful in my discussion of evolution). Rather, it is an argument against atheistic evolution, and Behe is certainly open to theistic models of evolution. So, why the outcry? Behe has not misstated the facts, after all. He has merely applied the facts and suggested that natural law does not currently have an answer to the development of certain cellular structures without an intelligent designer.

Another evidence, also provided by Behe, is the reaction to the “Big Bang” theory by earlier atheistic scientists. One of the major doctrines of philosophical naturalism for centuries was that the universe has always existed – this was their answer to a particular argument for God (the Cosmological argument). The only explanation I have discovered as to why the Big Bang was so controversial in naturalistic circles (though many of them embrace the theory today), was because it questioned this basic doctrine and tenet. Einstein introduced a “correction factor” to his theory of relativity, not because of evidence, but to avoid the implications that a universe with a beginning is best explained as a created universe. He later acknowledged that this was an error (and this may have influenced his later conversion to Deism). Fred Hoyle, an astronomer, hypothesized the “steady state” theory, which indicated that hydrogen spontaneously came into existence throughout the universe – this theory has also been abandoned.

Finally, we can take note of the attitude naturalistic scientists have towards creationists. See the film Expelled for an introduction to the tactics of naturalists. After all, both Creationists and Evolutionists use a lot of conjecture in their arguments (Dawkins noted, “Creationists lack imagination” – because imagination is a key element of scientific rigor).

The idea, then, that naturalistic scientists are simply more objective than others is not as consistent as many would have us to believe. The title of this series is “the Tragedy of Compromise;” not the tragedy of evolution. We have published many articles laying the groundwork. Next time, we will apply this to our main point: attempts by believers to combine evolution with Christianity.

The Tragedy of Compromise: Science and its relationship to Religion

Last time, I began to discuss the definition of religion. In many cases, I could sum up this discussion by stating that religion, in a technical sense, is similar to the modern phrase “worldview.” Today, I want to discuss the term “science,” and how it differs from religion.

Science is the study of natural law based on observing a phenomenon, forming a hypothesis to explain that phenomenon, and then testing that hypothesis (often on the basis of something that this hypothesis has predicted) to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Science is a rigorous study, but it is also a limited one. Science, for example, cannot directly comment on grammar, history, mathematics, or for that matter, issues of religion. Science can provide information that contributes to these studies. For example, astronomy provides a great deal of information that is useful to historians in aligning ancient calendars with modern ones. Yet, one cannot make a scientific case to prove that Julius Caesar existed.

As a result, in a strict and technical sense, one needs to make a distinction between science and its applications (or as some put it, “applied science”). Forensics, for example, is not, strictly speaking, a science. A murder is a matter of history because it is an event. Forensics takes scientific data and applies it to aid the criminologist gain information, which helps the detective discern between various historical theories as to what actually happened. (For example, science has proven certain chemicals react to gunpowder that is left on someone’s hand and clothing after they shoot a firearm. An application of that fact helps detectives determine that someone has discharged a firearm). Medicine similarly is an application of science (e.g. “Chemical A affects Organism B, resulting in Reaction C” is the science. If Reaction C is desirable, then Chemical A may be applied therapeutically).

With this, then, I would suggest that I disagree with some of Ken Ham’s (a man I admire greatly for his works’ sake) recent terminology describing evolution. He currently delineates “operational science” from “historical science” (the latter being a term that he found in a secular earth sciences textbook). I agree with his central point on this matter: he is attempting to communicate precisely the same points I am, but I dislike this terminology because it fails to distinguish between science (or in Ham’s term’s “operational science”) and the application of science (“historical science”). In his first edition of “The Lie” he described the debate as the science of one religion versus the science of another. This I believe is closer, but I would amend it this way, “Creationism versus evolution is the application of science to origins on the basis of one set of religious assumptions against the application of science to origins on the basis of another set of religious assumptions” – less catchy, succinct and pithy, but technically it is more accurate.

As I noted in our last conclusion: “…evolution requires one to begin with the assumption that the earth came into existence by natural process, or to put it another way: evolution requires us to assume religious naturalism.” As I also noted: naturalism begins with Hume’s arguments against miracles. This, then, is a religious distinction between creationists and evolutionists.