Thursday, 27 February 2014

Freedom is the freedom to say 2 + 2 = 4. Unless you are a fundamentalist...

This image has been doing the rounds over the past few days:

Fundamentalism in a nutshell. The disturbing part of this image is that since the mid-20th century, this line of thinking has infected our community, displacing an intelligent interaction with the best of modern scholarship with a reflexive disparaging of any branch of scholarship that threatens a hyper-literal fundamentalist reading of the Bible. 

This mindless fundamentalism is invariably championed by people who are rank amateurs with zero professional understanding of the many disciplines needed to properly understand the nuances of the many parts of the Bible which are, or are directly impacted by: 

For example, anyone who reads the early chapters of Genesis without understanding the ancient Near Eastern background of the text is simply going to produce nonsense instead of sound exposition. Ditto for the genealogies, where an appreciation of the ANE use of numbers  is needed if only to stop people seriously propounding that people lives for centuries several millennia ago.

In a rational community, such people would be ignored due to the fact that they don't know enough to have an opinion that should be heard, let alone respected.  That is alas not the case with our community, which since the mid-20th century has uncritically swallowed the poisonous advice offered by Elwyn Humphreys:
As servants of God it is not possible for us to investigate the claims of science experimentally. What we can do, however, is to discover whether tension exists between God's Word and the theories of science. If such is discovered then the servants of God must reject immediately and without question the conclusions of men. (Emphasis mine) [1]
The irony of course is that the interpretation of the Bible that Humphreys mindlessly championed was itself just the conclusions of men. Given that the natural world is itself a revelation of God, Humphreys, and his fundamentalist successors in our community are guilty of privileging the conclusions of men (YEC dogma and a literalist reading of the Bible) over the clear witness of nature.

Fundamentalism has poisoned our community for long enough: one only wishes for a modern-day Wesley: to reprimand the fundamentalists in our community:
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”  
Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.” [2]


1. Humphreys, E The Problem of Sin's Origin (1969: D Bedson, D. Manton; Coventry)
2. Osborne & Woodward, Handbook for Bible study, pp. 13-14 (1979)