Saturday, October 31, 2015

Evangelical Cosmology, Compromise and Fundamentalist Insecurity

 For fundamentalists  the world  beyond their communities is  not only ritually unclean but downright spiritually dangerous. Instilling fear of damnation is the non-violent fundamentalist's chief weapon of spiritual intimidation.
Below I reproduce a brief encounter I had with someone of (probably) evangelical persuasion. This encounter can be seen in the comments section of this VNP post.  I'm not quite sure whether I'm dealing with a fundamentalist or evangelical here; it all rather swings on the attitude of the person concerned; as I say in these circumstances, fundamentalism is 1 part doctrine and 2 parts attitude. The fundamentalist attitude manifests itself in aspirations for a comprehensive rule and recipe driven "jot and tittle" faith that seeks epistemic security and a way to establish a firm anchor in an uncertain open ended world. Aspirations like this are only human after all, but it leads to a defensive, aggressive front: Fundamentalists believe their opinions have divine authority and therefore in their eyes vindicating their abrasive demeanor. I always match that attitude with a firm approach in order to convey that I do not approve of fundamentalist behaviors.  They are incapable of seeing this firm approach as a symmetrical match to their own attitude. This is because they see their firmness and aggression  underwritten by the Almighty, whereas seen anywhere else firmness registers as aggressive, rude. proud and arrogant. One rule for them.....

However, doing "hard cop" with fundamentalists also has the convenient side-effect of chasing them away: I'm not particularly fond of dealing with them. Moreover, social discourse of this kind can be unhealthy.  Fortunately the internet allows the researcher to observe their behavior without getting too involved.....

My main reason, however, for publishing this quick exchange is that it reveals yet another species of evangelico-fundamentalist cosmology: This time a combination of an old Earth and old cosmos with a young Earth biosphere modified by a recent world-wide flood. I think I have come across this view before, but not very often - in fact I'd almost forgotten about it. "Coby", as he calls himself, would no doubt be sternly censored for his "unbiblical" compromising views by the Ken Ham's of this world! However, I doubt very much whether positing a young biosphere with a recent universal flood solves the problems that plague Genesis literalism and moreover it certainly invites testing against the geological record: So, as far as I can see, contrary to Coby's statement, "all bets are on".... unless of course there is such a wholesale appeal to arbitrary divine fiat as to render any rational inquiry useless and that's quite possible with fundagelicals. Notice also Coby's diffidence about mainstream scientists, an all but inevitable trait of evangelical Genesis literalists who find themselves at odds with the standard theory of origins


Coby said...
Saw this blog post linked from a blog I respect. I think it's unfortunate that you're choosing Ken Ham as the spokesman for YEC. That's an unfortunate choice. It's fairlyad hominem.

For myself, I'm an old-universe, young-biosphere Creationist, following St. Peter. I think that it is ridiculous to pillory people like Ken Ham for his immaturity, when mainstream scientists, who should be mature, refuse to talk about evidence for a worldwide flood. If there was a flood, all their bets are off. Period.
Timothy V Reeves said...
Thanks for the comment Coby.

I’m aware that there is a wide spectrum of views among fundamentalists and evangelicals, running from flat Earth and geocentric beliefs, through John Byl and Ken Ham, to the reasonable views of evangelicals like Hugh Ross and William Dembski (People I can do business with). But the fact is Ham and the fundamentalists he represents have managed to position themselves as prominent players in the Biblical literalist spectrum. So Ham and co choose themselves for consideration, not me.

I haven’t often come across your view of an old earth and young biosphere, if at all: I assume you would support the Genesis 1:1 gap theory? Without looking into it further I suspect that you might hit consistency problems when attempting to blend an old Earth geology with a young biosphere, not to mention the problems with flood geology. But I take it that the star light problem isn’t a problem in your cosmology – that’s a point in its favour.

Unlike mainstream science Biblical literalist science covers a huge spectrum of belief (starting with flat earth!), a sign, I suggest, that Biblical literalist science is in disarray. So I’m not surprised that scientists simply don’t take fundamentalist science seriously; they have more important things on their agenda than disentangling the vagaries of fundamentalist thought.

Fundamentalism is in fact 1 part doctrine to 2 parts attitude, mostly bad attitude – that’s why I treat hardened cases like Ken Ham with the utmost firmness – I don’t want anyone running away with the idea that I’m soft on what to me is unacceptable behaviour. In fact I’m a lot less hard cop about their beliefs than I am their attitude. The upshot is that I’m not at all keen on doing business with the grosser fundamentalists. 
Timothy V Reeves said...
Relevant links:
Flat Earth:
Omphalos hypothesis:
Bad Attitude:
Bad Attitude:
Fundamentalist division:

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