The Scandal of the Evangelical Double Mind

In his 1995 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll wrote, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Recently, at Patheos, Eastern University professor Peter Enns updated Noll and added that “The real scandal of the Evangelical mind is that we are not allowed to use it.”

Today, I want to extend Enns and Noll and assert that the evangelical mind, such that it is, is double minded.

First, let me say that Enns makes an observation which sounds quite familiar to me:

Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.

As a participant in the great sexual reorientation wars of the past decade and the current controversy over David Barton and American history, I can tell you that the culture war complex does not seek or accept well scholarship that does not support current culture war talking points.  For instance, after Thomas Nelson dropped Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, Wallbuilder’s number two man, Rick Green, compared Barton’s Christian critics to Hitler and Saul Alinsky. Green wrote:

Question: What do elitist professors have in common with Adolf Hitler & Saul Alinsky?

Answer: They masterfully use the powerful art of innuendo to falsely defame those with which they disagree.

That kind of thing is shocking but I am mostly numb to it after years of this give and take. However, I think most academics are a little skittish about such vitriol over doing what academics do.

Enns adds:

The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued–provided you come to predetermined conclusions.

Persistence pays off and real headway has been made in the sexuality arena, but I still see a blackout of sexual orientation research among Christian media. As I have documented, important studies of sexuality and gender have been reported in the popular press but haven’t risen to the level of newsworthiness in the Christian press. Even though evangelical scholars take these studies seriously, the consumers of culture war and Christian media probably won’t hear about them if the research implicates a biological origin for homosexuality.

On the American history front, many of the popular media sources have ignored the David Barton controversy (e.g,, I don’t think Christianity Today has touched the subject). Many popular radio hosts simply won’t allow another point of view on their programs.  I am very thankful that World Magazine has been the clear exception.

In 2011, Thomas Kidd pointed out that evangelicals are bosses at creating subcultures (e.g., Christian music, Christian television, Christian publishers). We also have our “experts.” Others (e.g., Stephens & Giberson in The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Agehave pointed out that evangelical experts rarely have deep academic training in their chosen subject.

Now we come to the double-minded part. The experts (e.g., David Barton) create their niche by demeaning academic work, even by Christian scholars. Witness Barton’s defense of his work. As noted previously, his radio show co-host blasted us with comparisons to Hitler and Alinsky. With condescension, Barton blasted Coulter and me for being “academic elitists” and added

It is striking that the negative critiques of The Jefferson Lies revolve around the academic arrogance that says “Unless we tell you so, it just can’t be; we are the sole gatekeepers of historical truth.” But Governor Mike Huckabee, in speaking of my approach to history, stated: “In typical Barton style, every syllable is given scholarly research and backed up with source documents. Those who hate America and God’s Word won’t like it, but they won’t be able to discredit it.” Clearly, academics such as Throckmorton, Coulter, Jenkinson, Crawford, et. al., simply don’t like what the self-evident documentation actually proves.

Driving home the scandal of evangelical double-mindedness is this observation. On one hand, evangelicals spend lots of money to send their children to evangelical colleges, and they want those children to learn their lessons well. On the other hand, with donations to culture war  organizations, they prop up self-anointed experts who tell them that academic rigor, training, and skill are barriers to the real truth, hidden away by stuffy, arrogant professors. Want to know something about history (science, sexuality, etc.)? Then don’t call your child’s Christian college professor; call David Barton.

All of this should be deeply troubling to evangelicals. Actually, the kids are not alright; we are losing them in buckets. I have to say that I think one of the factors is the anti-intellectual stance of the organizations which say they represent us. By and large, these groups need to do an audit of the claims they make (scientific, historical, etc.) and allow Christian scholars of various views to weigh in. In addition, I think it would be helpful if the Christian media complex would report about research on hot scientific topics. And when they do, they need to go find academics who are doing the research and get comment from those Christian researchers and professors who understand the nuances of the topic.

I start with the premise that science is no threat to faith. If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better. Extending that belief to history, I do not need the founders to be evangelicals in order to enjoy and defend American freedom for people of my faith, another faith, and no faith.

Loving God with all my mind doesn’t mean splitting it in two. If a study of science or history tells me something uncomfortable, I do not retool the science or history to make me comfortable. I walk by faith, live with the tension, and accept what is in front of my face.

 

 

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  • Ajax

    I agree that evangelicals have a nasty habit of presuppositional scholarship. I say this having graduated from one of the best-known Christian colleges in the country, most of whose professors are proof of everything said above. But it’s not universal. Dr. Stanton Jones’s research on homosexuality’s origins, for example, is unique in its thoroughness and methodical integrity:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/same-sex-science

    William Lane Craig and D.A. Carson are two other notable exceptions to the Anti-Intellectual trend that flourishes in mainstream evangelical circles, even if they’re less interested in the topics of current culture wars.

  • Ann

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    While there have been some interesting studies done, is there a conclusive agreement within the scientific or medical or psychological arena as to the causation of orientation? I am not sure, however, it seems to me that these studies interst only people who have a bias and are looking for support of that bias. Those who are merely interested in something conclusive, do not pay too much attention to them and are waiting for a definitive and conclusive finding.

  • Richard Willmer

    On the issue of the origins of a person’s sexuality: the point is that some are ignoring the fact that credible studies do suggest a very real possibility of sexual orientation being something that is in a very real sense ‘intrinsic’ to a person. Getting ‘conclusive proof’ of this will not be easy.

    Where some ‘conservatives’ seem to be ‘going wrong’ is that they discount this possibility and simply assert the ‘lifestyle choice’ line. This is what is, to many of us, so unacceptable. Truth is more important than some kind of ‘party line’.

    If we are honest, we all like to have our opinions and gut feelings ‘validated’ by ‘science’. The important things is always to be mindful of this desire. That is the only honest approach.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    I have no dog in the evangelical wars, but I see O’Sullivan’s Law in effect, that any organization not explicitly conservative will drift to the left. Among the “mindful” evangelicals, the trend is to condemn the “mindless” evangelicals and make common cause with the cool guys—the secular, anti-evangelical left,—rather than the other way around. So it goes.

  • Richard Willmer

    Perhaps the problem is the other way round, i.e. that there is a ‘drift to the right’ in some quarters? After all, so-called ‘biblical fundamentalism’ seems to be assuming quite a high profile just now.

    The “mindful evangelicals” are not necessarily making “common cause” with “the secular, anti-evangelical left”; rather they are seeking to, as they see it, ‘get their house in order’. I happen to agree with their approach, although I am a (liberal Anglo-)Catholic, and not an evangelical. Actually, I’m rather enjoying the ‘realignment’ that seems to be going on within the Church; I think it could be very healthy.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    You have educated me more than you will ever know.

    I respect Stanton Jones as well, even though I listened to an hour of him quoting from the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. Yarhouse also speaks the truth.

    All 3 of you guys, when it comes to the science, I respect you.

    You 3 have given me 95% of my education on sexual orientation and sexual orientation change efforts.

    Stand tall as you are a giant Dr. Throckmorton, a person who we can trust.

    We all know you are an Evangelical, but you are an Evangelical we can trust to tell us the truth as you know it to be.

    Blessings,

    StraightGrandmother

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    SGM – Thanks for those kind words…

  • Mary

    I think living with the tension of incomplete thoughts and feelings is the most difficult aspect of growing or transitioning. Very salient point.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    The “mindful evangelicals” are not necessarily making “common cause” with “the secular, anti-evangelical left”; rather they are seeking to, as they see it, ‘get their house in order’.

    Thx, Mr. Willmer. That was my first thought. But lately it hits me more as a circular firing squad. When the “mindful” evangelicals say something that doesn’t conform to MSNBC left/liberal orthodoxy, pls alert me. I’m not hearing it, I’m seeing it, I’m not feeling it. “Getting the evangelical house in order” types are becoming indistinguishable from the “freedom from religion” types who want to burn it down.

    For practical purposes, the “mindful evangelicals” are indeed making “common cause” with “the secular, anti-evangelical left” so much that you can’t tell them apart.

    [NB: I'm not an evangelical meself. I also think that on the whole they do a lousy job of articulating their POV. But with "friends" like theirs...]

  • ken

    “If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better. ”

    I think a big part of the problem is many religious folks see science as a “threat” to religion. That advances in knowledge will “prove religion wrong.” But many forget religion (specifically christianity) has survived learning that the earth travels around the sun or that the universe is more than 10,000 years old. Religion and science complement each other. Religion is belief in things you can’t conclusively prove, science is the study of things that can be proved. Conflicts arise when one tries to impose religious/scientific views on the opposite field: “The earth is only 10000 years old.”, “God can’t exist because he can’t be measured.”

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mr. Van Dyke

    It s true that some ‘liberals’ can in their way be as dogmatic as their opponents.

    @ ken

    I agree that science and religion are ‘complementary’. At the same time, ‘good’ science and ‘good’ religion share a key feature: every ‘answer’ generates a multitude of new questions. In both science and religion, we little things are engaging with profound mysteries.

  • Ann

    “On the issue of the origins of a person’s sexuality: the point is that some are ignoring the fact that credible studies do suggest a very real possibility of sexual orientation being something that is in a very real sense ‘intrinsic’ to a person. Getting ‘conclusive proof’ of this will not be easy.”

    Richard Willmer,

    I agree. The hiccup is that they only suggest it and that supports a bias either way, leaving us just where we are – knowing nothing conclusive. I am not sure if this is a good or bad or indifferent thing. My pesonal hope has always been to have a conclusive agreement from credible sources based on science rather than mere opinions from studies or surveys. Further, this hope, while it might be naive, could bring a greater resolution for individuals and how they view orientation, regardless of their own orientation.

  • Ann

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Have you heard anything further about the Epigenetics/Epi-Mark research? From what I remember, the author seemed to think they would know within a 6 month time frame.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Ann

    I suppose the ‘moot point’ is ‘how much do we need to know about this or that to be able to form a set of axioms from which to work?’ To my mind it is ‘axiomatic’ that a person’s sexual orientation should be understood as a ‘given’ (even though we are not be sure exactly why it is so) – aside from the ‘science’, there is so much ‘personal testimony’, even from people like Alan Chambers, that points in that direction. At the same time, personal attributes (of whatever kind) should not be things that ‘dictate’ how behaves, and ‘healthy’ people are those who understand that they have genuine choices in this regard, and who take personal responsibility for the manner in which they conduct themselves and affect others. A gay person who behaves responsibly towards themselves and others is more ‘morally good’ than a straight person who does not. Thus the key issue is not necessarily ‘what makes someone gay?’ but ‘what does any of us do with our life?’

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ann, I understand that sexual minorities wonder where their sexual orientation derives from, and that some people want answers. To be perfectly honest as a straight person I don’t really care where it comes from, I just accept the fact that some people are not straight. Whether it is nature or nurture it makes no difference to me. But I understand for others who are sexual minorities, they might seek an answer as to why.

  • Patrocles

    Tom Van Dyke,

    you speak my mind. Thank you for informing us about Sullivan’s law.

    I’m not quite sure about how Dr. Throckmorton will develop. I resent his way of singling out Evangelicals – as if confirmation bias etc. was in any way particular to Evangelicals – but I admit that someone may hold his own community to a stricter standard than others – IF it’s still the community he really identifies himself with.

  • Ann

    “To my mind it is ‘axiomatic’ that a person’s sexual orientation should be understood as a ‘given’ ”

    Richard Willmer,

    What do you think most people really know about sexual orientation or do you think they assume to know.

    “Thus the key issue is not necessarily ‘what makes someone gay?’ but ‘what does any of us do with our life?’ ”

    Amen. This very basic human right has nothing to do with orientation, however, it does have a lot to do with understanding, and that only comes from knowledge rather than assumptions.

  • Dan

    “If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better.”

    This is why Throckmorton is not an evangelical, or even a real Christian. If he were a Christian, and thus accepted that the Bible is the Word of God, then there would never be any tension. You would believe that the Bible has given you all the truth you need. If anything conflicts with it, the Bible wins. There is no understanding that you could attain that is superior to the 100% truth of the Bible.

    This is the way a true Christian approaches knowledge, and is also one of the reasons that Christianity should be considered a mental condition listed in the DSM V. To the extent that Throckmorton is instead dedicated to honest, evidence-driven inquiry for the purpose of yielding results that conform to reality, he is not a Christian.

  • Ann

    “But I understand for others who are sexual minorities, they might seek an answer as to why.”

    SGM,

    I don’t think a person’s sexual orientation determines whether they are curious or have opinions about sex in general or sexual orientation specifically.

    In looking back at history and how time and acquired knowledge has refined the truth in many areas of life, I am hoping the same thing can be done for sexual orientation. A couple of examples – before DNA exposed the truth about individuality, many innocent people were sent to death or lived their lives in prison based on assumptions, biases, and/or good intentions. DNA has changed the entire way we decide whether a person is guilty or innocent. It is a truth – not an assumption. There was a time that deaf children were put in asylums, or physically/emotionally abused because parents thought they were incorrigible. A test for hearing was invented and now parents understand that their child is deaf, not incorrigible. They now know the truth, not an assumption.

    I cannot help but think these examples are not too far off from what some people experience today based on their sexual orientation. I tend to apply critical thought to most things, however, with this issue, I believe individual stories which can vary greatly and have many nuances. I realize other people have a blanket bias or belief about sexual orientation that they hold onto even when they are proven wrong. If this were a perfect world, being at peace with one’s conscious would supercede an ego, and people would not be afraid to admit they do not have all the answers – but it is not a perfect world. That is why I am hoping, someday, there will be conclusive agreement, based on scientific findings, that cannot be refuted. Just as in my two earlier examples, I believe, as naive as I might sound, it will make a big difference in how people will view sexual orientation – and ultimately understand it in a truthful way.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Dan

    For the Christian, the Word of God is Jesus; those who say that ‘the Book’ is ‘the Word of God’ are, theologically-speaking, ‘islamic’. (No disrespect intended to anyone – just a ‘theological observation’.)

  • Richard Willmer

    (Of course, it should be remembered that shia islamic theology is perhaps more flexible with respect to how the Qur’an can be interpreted and what other ‘sources’ might be used to formulate and/or develop dogma.)

  • Scotty G.

    The O’Sullivan analogy is an interesting application to the scenario of Dr. Throckmorton’s post. However, if it’s applied as O’Sullivan originally postulated, then it’s equally probable that Warren is maintaining the conservative standard.

    O’Sullivan’s First Law references ‘conservative organizations’; in that ‘organizations’ that are not ‘conservative’ eventually become liberal.

    Now, evangelicals could be considered an organization, but were the error is made in associating O’Sullivan’s Law with the culture wars is the assumption that the term ‘evangelical’ and ‘conservative’ are synonymous.

    Opposition to the findings of academic studies regarding science, history, and sexuality, Right-wing evangelical groups can have as much to do with allegiance to Right-wing sociopolitical agendas shared with Right-wing secularists as with anything particularly Christian.

    If we look at the conservative principles of individual freedom, responsibility and self determination, then in this light, the conservative movement must be seen to be guided by its center, not by its outermost boundary. In this way ‘conservativeism’ can be the domain of people of differing faiths, or no faith at all.

    O’Sullivan was dead on accurate. That’s why mainstream evangelicals continually undermine conservatism. They’ve long ceased to be of an individual freedom mindset.

    ‘Evangelicalism’ or as its American manifestation is more accurately named, ‘radical reaction’, has very little to do with liberty; rather, it is at root and in practice an expression of authoritarian tyranny. Some of it outsourced to the private sector, and much of it embodied in the pitchforks and torches of so-called ‘social conservatives’. Thus, they’re simply another special interest group who brand themselves as “conservative” in order to manipulate the rubes. Generally, when you clear away the smoke and mirrors, they are opposed to liberty and rather seek to deny freedom to people they don’t like, or disagree with, which is of course very much a hard line liberal scheme.

    Consequently, it’s no surprise when people like Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter present the facts as they find them and not as would best suit any agenda, they are considered Benedict Arnolds in ‘Evangelical’ circles; or as described earlier, “make[ing] common cause with …the secular, anti-evangelical left.”

    This is most evident in how Warren, while questioning Barton’s claims and perhaps even the motivation for his claims, has never questioned Barton’s evangelical faith. In stark contrast Barton via the statement by Mike Huckabee, is accuses Warren of ‘[Hating] America and Gods Word’.

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, Scotty G, it’s always been my contention that the ‘root problems’ of the ‘christian right’ are theological and/or philosophical ones: if one abandons the idea that the Word of God finds its most authentic expression when incarnated in the mystery of a human life (and this is a – perhaps THE – core belief of orthodox Christianity), and instead regards it (‘the Word’) as vested in (a particularly ‘literal’ interpretation of) a collection of writings, then one is bound to come unstuck sooner or later.

    One of my favourite journalists is a guy called Rageh Omaar. He has done some excellent programmes on religion. He is a Muslim, but has real understanding of Christian theology, and how it differs from Islamic theology. He is also a very accomplished historian.

    I also have the privilege of knowing one of the most erudite ‘Muslim thinkers’ here in London, one Dr. Muhammad Al-Hussaini. We have most interesting discussions, and have found common ground: namely, profound concern about religious fundamentalism of any sort and the use of religion as a ‘power-political tool’.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Well, ScottyG, I have a point in here that Patrocles got just fine and I believe Mr. Willmer respects at arm’s length. I’m getting too old to find the exchange of sophistries useful or entertaining.

    I am not an evangelical, certainly no fundamentalist. But where some see theological “liberalism” as progress, I see entropy. In this way I respect orthodoxy very much, for it is anti-entropic. This sort of thing

    http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2012/08/luvmorpeepul3.jpg

    is way too easy. Christianity cannot be reduced to Beatitudism, Mighty Jehovah reincarnated as Barney the Dinosaur. It’s not about making billboards against the Rev. Fred Phelpses ["God hates fags"] of the world.

    Punking the dumbest MFers you can find on the other side is not the same as being right. And that goes for David Barton too. ;-P

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Tom – I bet you are a blast at a party. However, Jesus loves you (as simple as that is).

  • David Roberts

    This is why Throckmorton is not an evangelical, or even a real Christian. If he were a Christian, and thus accepted that the Bible is the Word of God, then there would never be any tension.

    Dan, I think this says more about your understanding of Christianity than it does Warren.  There is no doubt that some Christians believe as you suggest — Biblical literalists for sure — but painting an entire demographic with the same brush is something I learned to loathe a long time ago.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    “However,” Warren? That hurts my feelings. I’m a person too, I think.

    Thanks for approving my comment and letting it be published on your blog. You’re very good that way.

    There’s a very important question of orthodoxy vs. “liberalism” here. GK Chesterton vs. Barney.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Oh, and I am a blast at parties, promise. Invite me, you won’t be disappointed.

    ;-)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mr. Van Dyke

    I think it wrong to dismiss Scotty G.’s points as ‘sophistry’: he is seeking to express complex (and, arguably, ironic) ideas, and IMO making a pretty good job of it.

    Where I agree with what I think you are saying is in respect of the ‘need for structure’. ‘Structure’ is important – it plays a central role in the direction and focusing of our endeavours in both the scientific and religious fields. But ‘structures’ themselves are means not ends; they provide the ‘box’ outside of which we must so often think. (It is no accident that Jesus was constantly inviting / challenging / even requiring those with whom he related in his earthly life to ‘think outside the box’ – and he does so still today.)

    @ Ann

    I take the point behind your first question (I always enjoy questions! often so much more fruitful than assertions!): it is always difficult to be absolutely certain about ‘axioms’ (and in the ‘axiom’ I proposed, I didn’t dare to say WHY a person’s sexuality might be ‘intrinsic’, merely that I considered it ‘axiomatic’ that it is). In this regard, I think of the axiom “Adiabatic enclosures exist” [the most fundamental axiom in thermodynamics]: if one thinks deeply enough about that statement, one might reasonably wonder if it is actually ‘objectively true’. But we have to start somewhere …

    Difficult to respond entirely satisfactorily to the (very reasonable) questions themselves: I’m not sure how much many people know or understand this field (and suspect that most people, whatever their views, are relying primarily on ‘gut feeling’ and / or personal experience [both of which are shaped by social milieux] – as am I, to a certain extent). There is also the open question of how possible to acquire ‘knowledge’ (as in ‘objective fact’) when it comes to human psychology and human relationships. My own experiences in scientific research has always left me with questions – “the more one knows, the more one realizes …” And it’s the same with human relationships.

    I’ll just offer a point made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He said this a few weeks ago in relation to politically-motivated homophobia in Uganda: “[P]eople do not choose their sexual orientation, and would be crazy to choose homosexuality when you expose yourself to so much hatred, even to the extent of being killed.” It ‘rings true’, doesn’t it?!

  • Ann

    Richard Willmer,

    The question I posed -

    ” What do you think most people really know about sexual orientation” was probably not the right way to phrase it. Let me try again – how much do you think any given person really knows or understands about a sexual orientation, different from their own? It seems to me a lot of people know a lot of things – so much so that they hold themselves up as experts in an area that even the most esteemed scientists, medical professionals, and psychologists still know little about. I think this is wrong.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Where I agree with what I think you are saying is in respect of the ‘need for structure’.

    Actually, my question is whether theological “liberalism” isn’t just an entropy or a nihilism in disguise. To reduce Christianity to an undiscerning Beatitudism —and anyone who doesn’t go along is a poo-poo head— is sophistic if not sophomoric.

    The orthodoxy of a GK Chesterton is far from structure for the sake of structure–for better or worse it’s an entirely coherent worldview. Gilbert was many things, but he was not a poo-poo head.

  • Dan

    @Richard Wilmer:

    “For the Christian, the Word of God is Jesus; those who say that ‘the Book’ is ‘the Word of God’ are, theologically-speaking, ‘islamic’.”

    But everything those so-called Christians know about Jesus came from the Bible. So their knowledge of Jesus’s teachings is as accurate or as erroneous as the underlying source, the Bible. Moreover, Jesus himself extolls many other parts of scripture, so accepting Jesus as the Word of God means by definition that you have to accept the authority of the Bible.

    Face reality. If you reject the authority of the Bible, you aren’t a Christian. If you accept the Bible, including its stories about talking snakes, witches, giants, unicorns and knowledge fruit, not to mention its celebration of genocide and slavery, then you are a Christian and should be treated for a psychiatric disorder.

  • ken

    Dan says:

    February 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Who are you to decide who is or isn’t a christian Dan?

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Ann

    I see where you are coming from, and agree that your questioning is a very worthwhile ‘line of enquiry’. I’m not going to pretend that I can give you a comprehensive answer – it’s the question itself that is important, and the ‘wrongness’ is in thinking that there is a simple answer!

    @ Dan

    What do you mean by ‘the authority of the Bible’ and ‘accepting the Bible’? Perhaps we could explore further your perception of these things and see how appropriate they are? (For myself, I take the view that, in the Bible, there is myth, saga, history, moral teaching, poetry and much else besides, and, when one interprets a particular portion of Scripture, it is important to understand what kind of text one in dealing with, and its ‘purpose’. This ‘framework for understanding’ biblical texts is known as “hermeneutics”, and it is one of the first things that people who are undergoing ‘proper’ theological training are taught about. Don’t forget that it was the Church who, after a considerable amount of [often quite 'lively'!] discussion, compiled the Canon of Scripture; it is the Church’s responsibility to interpret these writings with a view to formulating ‘proper’ doctrine that is rooted in the context of the Revelation in the Holy Gospels, and informed – but not ‘controlled – by other parts of the Canon of Scripture, reason, human experience, common sense, etc. This formulation is actually an on-going process, since we will never ‘have all the answers’.)

    @ Tom

    To characterize ‘liberalism’ (whatever that might mean’) as “nihilism” or “entropy” is probably rather simplistic, to say the least: being prepared to ‘live and engage with questions’ (if that is what theological liberalism is about … which is perhaps yet another ‘moot point’ we have to ‘live with’) is actually an essential part of ‘seeking the truth’.

    I’ll go back to what, in effect, Warren says in his original post: in the pursuit of truth, we must live with tension and uncertainty. Frameworks help us to do that; they do not, when used properly, provide ‘pat answers’ or ‘party lines’ – both of which are, in the final analysis, ‘enemies of truth’. We need axioms, but those axioms must always be ‘subject to possible review’; we need frameworks, but frameworks are means and not ends; we need doctrines, but not for their own sake – rather to help us in the business of deepening our relationship with God, others and self. We are in the business of growth, and not that of claiming that we ‘have all the answers’.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    That wouldn’t be what I’m talking about, Richard. Well, the word cloud is, actually, theological “liberalism” as a self-aggrandizing teddy bear. ;-P

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Or, put more seriously by Anglican convert Father Richard John Neuhaus: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

    And so it is, as we see hereabouts. Again, I have no dog in this fight but watch with great interest.

  • Jon Rowe

    Anglican or Lutheran convert?

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Tom

    In practice, ‘liberal’ Christianity covers quite a broad spectrum of beliefs and approaches (just as does ‘evangelical’ or ‘catholic’ Christianity).

  • Tom Van Dyke

    You know what I mean, Richard.

    Yes, Jon, sorry, mental typo—’twas Lutheran.

  • Richard Willmer

    I’m not sure I do, Tom. The term “liberal” is often quite a ‘loaded’ one, certainly in US political dialectic, and I feel that I need to ‘unpack’ what it might mean in the context of this discussion.

  • Tom Van Dyke
  • hazemyth

    Actually, in promoting scholarly rigor and integrity, Dr. Throckmorton is advocating (academic) orthodoxy.

    Which seems a good thing, to me.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    I’m not talking about that either. That would be sophistic, exploiting a different sense of “orthodoxy*.”

    FTR, “reparative” therapy always seemed like a longshot to me. But I oppose laws such as the recent one in California that proclaim it can never work and therefore should be illegal. That is anti-science as well, as it cannot be ascertained at this time.

    _________________________________

    *”I’ll presume to call it Neuhaus’ Law, or at least one of his several laws: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.

    But then what used to be called orthodoxy came up against a new orthodoxy. The new liberal orthodoxy of recent decades is hard and nasty; compared to it, the old orthodoxy was merely quaint. The old orthodoxy was like a dotty old uncle in the front parlor; the new orthodoxy is a rampaging harridan in the family room. The old orthodoxy claimed to speak for the past, which seemed harmless enough. The new orthodoxy claims to speak for the future and is therefore the bearer of imperatives that brook no opposition. The choice of a few to live in the past could be indulged when the future was thought to be open and undetermined. Tolerating the orthodox was also a way of playing it safe. You never know: Maybe the ways of the past would come around again. But the old orthodoxy that is optional is proscribed by the new orthodoxy, which is never optional.”

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    February 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    “But I oppose laws such as the recent one in California that proclaim it can never work and therefore should be illegal.”

    Except that there is no such law.

  • Tom Van Dyke
  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    February 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Here is a link to the actual text of the law your source is referring to:

    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120SB117

    (note if the link doesn’t work you can go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov and search on SB-1172 in the 2011-2012 session).

    You’ll note the law only applies to minors, it doesn’t ban the therapy for adults (but even your source pointed that out). Further, no where in the law does it claim:

    “it (reparative therapy) can never work”

    although, I suspect you already knew that as well.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    You should have written that first off. Now all you’ve done is disrupt the discussion with a half-truth. The effort to ban reparative therapy is ideology, since science has not proven it can’t work. Which was my point.

    FTR, “reparative” therapy always seemed like a longshot to me. But I oppose laws such as the recent one in California that proclaim it can never work and therefore should be illegal. That is anti-science as well, as it cannot be ascertained at this time.

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    February 4, 2013 at 3:11 am

    You are the one spreading half-truths. There is no CA law that outright bans reparative therapy or claims “it can never work.” The law forbids using an unproven, potentially dangerous technique on children. I gave you a link to the text of the law, Feel free to post the part that specifically says: “it can never work:”

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Dan

    Further to my comment above: one fundamental area where some evangelicals go wrong is viewing the Bible as ‘a (single) book’. It isn’t (which is why I often refer to the Bible as “the Canon of Scripture” – a diverse collection of writings), and should not be understood as such. When I go to Mass, it is the Gospel reading that is ‘styled’ as the ‘most important’, and there are many occasions when Jesus ‘overturns’ in word or deed the interpretation that his ‘audience’ puts on a particular portion of the O.T. writings.

    I know that you don’t ‘buy into’ what some evangelicals say. Neither do I. But I think you have an ‘agenda’: namely to ‘define’ Christianity in terms with which you do not agree, and in order to discredit Christians who actually agree with some of your own views. This is not helpful in the search for truth; the phrase “shooting oneself in the foot” springs to mind. (I respect your right to present your position, but I am not going to agree with it, how ever many times you present it! :-) )

  • Warren

    Tom – If you had said the ideology behind the law, then we might still disagree but you would have been closer to what you are now defending. It would be easier to just acknowledge that you were exaggerating about something outside of your expertise.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Warren, it was a passing point in a comments section. I was substantially correct, the law exists. I gather you’ve withdrawn your previous support of reparative therapy as its effectiveness is questionable, esp the work of that Nicolosi fellow. I have no idea of your position at this point so if you wish to be more forthcoming about it, that would be good.

    In the meantime, there are no grounds to ban it, and the legislative opposition is clearly ideological, not scientific. Your [former?] side is on the run and its opponents are attempting to press their advantage. [This dynamic extends to gay marriage and other related issues.]

    Reparative therapy seems to me more an evangelical thing; I have no dog in this fight. I defend it more on religious freedom grounds than thinking you can teach someone to like Brussels sprouts.

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/01/false-hope-and-gay-conversion-therapy

    “People do take up the “celibacy/singleness” approach, only to discard it later when the burden becomes too heavy, and we must not examine celibacy through rose-tinted glasses, either. But we should be much more hesitant to propose orientation change.

    By promoting celibacy, we are simply promoting what the sexual ethic of the churches demands. But by promoting orientation change, we are promoting a shift far deeper, far more rooted in someone’s particular personhood. In pressing for this “extra mile,” we incur a certain moral connection to the result. If it succeeds, well and good. But if it does not, great damage can be done, and we can end up implicated.

    It seems to me to be far more fruitful to simply promote chastity. Like any risky therapy, orientation change should be recommended only in strictly defined circumstances where success seems more likely or where a risky treatment is the only chance for hope. The path of celibacy, in the end, is really dependent on our struggles for Christian virtue, rather than struggles for a heterosexual functioning. As a goal, heterosexual functioning may remain elusive despite our best efforts, and is too often ephemeral even when it does seem to have been achieved for a season.”

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    February 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    “there are no grounds to ban it, and the legislative opposition is clearly ideological, not scientific.”

    Warren has posted several articles about this law and there has been much discussion about its pros and cons by people who actually know what the law says and understand the issues regarding SOCE Perhaps you should read those posts and the comments before posting again about this law. Here are a few links:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2012/05/09/ca-senate-committee-passes-bill-to-ban-sexual-orientation-change-efforts-for-minors/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2012/12/31/is-a-ban-on-reparative-therapy-a-violation-of-the-first-amendment-part-one/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2012/10/15/narth-defines-and-decries-propaganda/

    And for an example of how NOT to argue against this law:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2013/01/05/matt-barber-invokes-jerry-sandusky-to-mislead-public-about-sb-1172/

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Yes, I’ve noticed this strategy of “getting one’s house in order” by joining those who are trying to burn it down. I don’t think it’ll work. You are not building credibility with them by going after Barton or NARTH. What you’re doing is fueling their fire by giving press to bad arguments instead of making good ones of your own.

    And they’ll try to destroy you all the same when the bell tolls for thee. Count on it.

    And not that I mind being tag-teamed by you and your supporter Ken, Warren, but I really have nothing to say to him. The law does indeed exist and it’s hard enough to get one’s point out without someone trying to bury it under irrelevant quibbles.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2012/12/31/is-a-ban-on-reparative-therapy-a-violation-of-the-first-amendment-part-one/

    “In this post, I want to raise the issues and generate some discussion. In part two, I will write about my views on the matters.”

    As I said, I look forward to your forthcoming forthcomingness on this matter. Part two it is, then.

    As a matter of religious liberty—esp for evangelicals!–I think you’re already giving away the game by accepting a cordon between faith and science, between God and reality. For if God is a reality–as evangelicals believe–then you’re letting the state draw a line between nature and nature’s God that should not–does not!–exist. We do not know, and you cannot say, that orientation change is impossible. [Although I personally find it unlikely as well, this is not the issue.]

    The state has no business in this issue, esp since the science is far from definitive. But would I put my own child in “reparative” therapy? Probably not.

  • ken

    Tom Van Dyke says:

    February 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    “You are not building credibility with them by going after Barton or NARTH. ”

    No, Warren builds his credibility by citing reputable sources, not exaggerating or mis-representing the issues, and not avoiding questions about his claims. Btw, who is the “them” in your statement above.

    “We do not know, and you cannot say, that orientation change is impossible.”

    To my knowledge Warren has never said “orientation change is impossible.” Neither have I (nor do I think have any of the major posters on this blog). However, we can say that change in orientation from gay to straight is highly unlikely and there is no reliable evidence that therapy can cause that change.


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