Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A foretaste of Christadelphian fundamentalism in 1948

Today, I ran across a 1948 article in The Christadelphian lamenting "the influence of weekday school instruction upon children’s attitude to the Bible", which specifically named higher criticism and evolution as "the two most potent influences in undermining faith of today." The anonymous author's assertion that "both are being discarded increasingly by thinkers today" struck me as being more a case of wishful thinking than an accurate summary of the state of scholarly play at the time. In referring to higher criticism, the author was most likely referring to either historical criticism or more narrowly source criticism, which at the time of writing was hardly being 'discarded increasingly by thinkers'. [1] As for evolution, while the theoretical mechanism was still being hammered out (though George Simpson's Tempo and Mode of Evolution published four years before this article in The Christadelphian had shown the fossil evidence was congruent with the synthetic theory of evolution), there was no doubt that an evolutionary process had occurred. Implicit in the author's criticism of evolution and the historical-critical method is a fundamentalist approach to both the Bible and the natural world, one that without doubt is vulnerable to these methods. The tragedy of course is that the author had conflated a fundamentalist interpretation of nature and Bible with these books of revelation, ensuring that anyone reared on such views would be at risk of losing faith.