Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6g - Andrew Bramhill

7. Fideism and its threat to our community

Of particular concern are his closing paragraphs that evince both fideism and a naked anti-intellectualism and contempt for science, both of which are markedly at odds with the studied respect for scholarship that was characteristic of our community in its early years:
The position of this magazine is unchanged by current evolutionary thinking. In faith we accept the account of Genesis, that God created the heavens and the earth. Adam was formed from the dust and Eve was made from one of his ribs. Adam’s decision to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil in disobedience resulted in the introduction of death, and only the atoning work of the Lord Jesus provides a remedy to its effects. Where the inspired words appears to be at odds with current thinking, our position is to place trust in scripture and not give the benefit of the doubt to the current (and ever-changing) ‘wisdom of science.
Given that the position he advances – the inherited change of nature – is one that is rejected by many people who are (or were) most definitely not evolutionary creationists, with L.G. Sargent among others being on record as rejecting the existence of any such intermediate ‘very good’ state, and acknowledging that Adam pre-sin was capable of death, the position of the magazine has in fact changed. Even Roberts and Thomas are on record as having expressed their belief that death and decay were part of the original order of things. Bro. Bramhill is indulging in revisionism of the highest order to claim that the position of the magazine has remained unchanged. It has not, and it is telling that this lack of unanimity on the question of a change of nature has been made by Christadelphians who all rejected evolution, so it is disingenuous of bro. Bramhill to claim otherwise.

It is disturbing to see bro. Bramhill commit the fundamentalist original sin of exegesis, namely confusing human interpretation of the Bible with the text itself, as one can see clearly when he asserts
Where the inspired words appears to be at odds with current thinking, our position is to place trust in scripture and not give the benefit of the doubt to the current (and ever-changing) ‘wisdom’ of science. [1]
This is nothing other than fideism in its purest, a belief that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. To see the editor of The Christadelphian privilege blind faith is deeply disturbing. This is particularly so given that by so aggressively framing the debate in terms of Bible or science, and referring mockingly to the latter as the “ever-changing ‘wisdom’ of science”, he is positively guaranteeing that those who do discover that the evidence for an ancient Earth and evolution is overwhelming are more likely than not to abandon faith, having being told that the truth of science implies the falsity of Christianity.

Such fideism and disdain for science would likely mortify an earlier generation of believers. C.C. Walker’s remarks on how the existence of ancient giant extinct birds could potentially require the believer to change his understanding of the Genesis narrative stands in sharp contrast to bro. Bramhill’s privileging of human dogma over the witness of the natural world:
"If we suppose a sudden and absolute break some 6,000 years ago, or before, resulting in the destruction of all life, and that the creation account of Genesis describes a new creation following, we ought to find some evidence of the break, and we cannot well account for the apparently close relationship that obtains between extinct and existing forms. There are forms becoming extinct in our own day from slow and natural causes. May it not have been so in pre-Adamic times? The professors tell us for instance that some of these ancient birds, whose strides we can see for ourselves from their footprints were from four to six feet long, were like gigantic ostriches." 
"Supposing that it were ever established that they were the actual progenitors of our smaller forms (“There were giants in the earth in those days” might apply to birds and beasts), would the credibility of the Mosaic narrative suffer? Not at all, in our estimation. We should indeed have to revise somewhat our interpretation of the brief cosmogony of Gen. 1.; but should not waver as concerning its divinity, nor await with less faith and patience the reappearance of Moses in the land of the living." [2]
Bro. Walker was more than willing to accept the possibility that when human interpretation of the inspired words was at odds with scientific fact, the rational decision would be to bring the human interpretation of the inspired word into line with the scientific facts. One can but trust that our community will have the wisdom to do the same, but at the same time “not waver as concerning its divinity” and await with ever increasing faith and patience for the “reappearance of Moses in the land of the living.”



1. Of course, as we have seen, bro. Bramhill is not consistent here as the actual meaning of the inspired words in Genesis 1 most definitely teach that the Earth is covered by a solid firmament separating waters above from waters below, a position that he and other fundamentalists reject, choosing instead to accept what the ‘current (and ever changing) ‘wisdom’ of science informs us on that fact. It is hard to take this assertion seriously when he fails to maintain it consistently.

2. Walker C.C. "Genesis", The Christadelphian (1910) 47:501