Al Mohler is more humble than evolutionists


This is rich:

The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared “reasonable man” and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.

[“Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man,” Al Mohler, president of SBTS]

This is Mohler’s standard line, as I have discussed previously. Nature lies to us. Even the objective field of investigation is distorted, somehow connected to the Flood. But Mohler does not normally spend his energy here. More decisively for him, we cannot trust our sense experience because we are fallen, prone to distort any and every evidence, so that we can use it to subvert the Word of God. Everything is reduced to epistemology — namely, one’s presuppositions about where truth is found. Mohler, the tireless combatant of all things modern and postmodern, is actually a committed disciple of the subjective turn in philosophy, from the 17th century onward.

This actually makes Mohler a more extreme, and more insidious, proponent of Creationism than even Ken Ham. You see, Ham truly believes that the science is in his favor. That’s the main thrust, aside from the moralism, of Answers in Genesis, his ministry. By contrast, Mohler is truly indifferent to what science — including “creation science” — has to say. It does not matter. He’ll support AiG, of course, and the fake science it produces, but he really doesn’t care. The whole debate, not just this week’s Nye/Ham debate, is all about epistemology. This is the “worldview culprit.”

What this means is that evolutionists are not humble enough or Christian enough to recognize their fallen condition and, thereby, their utter dependence upon grace alone and God’s Word alone. If an evolutionist insists upon his fieldwork and peer-tested models, he has supplanted the Word of God for his own autonomous “word.”

Mohler is the truly humble Christian, unwilling to let any other authority assert itself. Mohler is humble enough to recognize his sin and distorted vision. Evolutionists are not.

That, my friends, is Mohler in a nutshell. It should make you angry.



    • Oh, yes. I have occasionally used the word, as when dialoguing with non-believers, but it has been thoroughly tarnished. So I must cease. If I were a skeptic, I would run for the hills if someone used “worldview” with me.

      • At least part of the problem is (quoth the Barthian) the difference between apologetics and dogmatics. Apologetics is always about the construction of a worldview vis-a-vis other worldviews. For which reason it so often begins from a discourse on the origins of the world, how it ought to be, and how it got to be the way that it is.

        But apologetics has to work from dogmatics, and not vice versa. And at so many points along the way, we have let apologetics become our dogmatics, such that we must defend the worldview as the fundamental truth about God. What that kind of theology forgets is that worldviews are disposable. They are stories that integrate dogmatic truths as we understand them into pictures that we find coherent and can explain to the outside world.

        Apologetics is a modeling language, and Genesis tells a set of stories that are exactly that: an apologetic model of the world, from the dogmatics of the time. It is not our job to repeat their worldview as though it were timeless and unconditioned revelation; it is our job to do dogmatics diligently for this time and place, and to write our own.

      • Yes, that is very Barthian of you! The disposability of worldviews reminds me of Barth’s discussion in CD I.1 and II.1 of how the necessary use of philosophical categories (language) does not entail absolute reliance upon any particular framework.

      • Kevin, surely, you are not saying that your beliefs must not cohere in some way and must not form a system? I don’t see how you can avoid some arrangement of concepts by which you consciously or unconsciously fit or place everything you believe and by which you interpret and judge reality.

        I have no use for Mohler and the like, but that’s because their “worldview” sucks. It has obvious inconsistencies, errors, and an unwillingness to take into account new information. In truth, it is just flat out wrong in important respects. But all of us have a worldview whether we like it or not. I don’t see how this can be denied. Or have I missed the forest for the trees?

        God bless

      • That’s a rather broad definition of worldview, for which I can hardly object. As I said in my post, “The Worldview Culprit” (linked above), the problem is the way in which “worldview” is deployed. In particular, it is advocated most forcefully by those who adhere to a “presuppositional apologetics,” which is another discussion to be had at another time — but suffice it to say, I have deep and serious problems with presuppositionalism, a curious invention of the 20th century (with 19th century roots). It is not accidental that self-styled “worldview apologists” are also among the most ardent anti-evolutionists. They elide their responsibility, to actually do science or listen to scientists, by appealing to “paradigms” and “worldviews.” That is lazy and irresponsible. It is also what cults do.

      • Lol, I don’t see why it should be any narrower. It’s the pattern of concepts, the whole of one’s beliefs placed in some sort of system.

        As far as that goes, I agree with you, but, as for me, it just means their worldview is inadequate and everything is out of focus for them. In other words, their worldview sucks. I’ve never really cared for presuppositionalism myself. I find that it is, more or less, some version of idealism. Or worse–fideism. Or worse than that. And I don’t need a train ride to crazytown.

        God bless

      • Yes, as a “systematics” guy myself, I cannot argue with you there. I still observe that, regardless of the utility of the term, “worldview,” it is hard to distinguish it from its most common usage among these apologists. However, if you are communicating with someone — friends, co-workers, family — about the faith in this broad sense, I can see how “worldview” is useful, as I have done in the past. Anyway, thanks for the question and blessings to you as well.

    • Sadly, brother, I don’t think they even know what idealism is, although I should add that I am somewhat sympathetic to those who travel down the idealist road part way. 🙂

      God bless

  1. There’s a difference between one’s prior philosophical framework and a pre-committing ahead of time to a specific position. When YECs say “presuppositions”, they act like they’re talking about the first one but they really mean the second.

    • That’s a good distinction. At some level, we all operate with the former (a prior philosophical framework), which is assumed by our use of language.

  2. It does indeed make me angry. And part of it is that I have been arguing for a long time that Barth makes exactly this move against natural theology. Nature lies—about God. Nature provides no foundation that is in any way continuous with its origin in the sense of pointing to the Creator and the divine Will. Nature, that is to say, says nothing we should rely upon—about the agency of God. And that is because the whole creation is agentic, autonomous, self-directing. And sin is that deep corruption of nature that has transformed its self-directing capacity away from God. The ordered world is ordered because of us. The orders we see are not divine; they are always and predominantly our own order imposed upon creation.

    But to turn that argument into “Nature lies about itself,” the idea that nature cannot be relied upon to tell us anything definite in any sense about anything, is to border on solipsism. Science works—to tell us how the natural world as we observe it, at every level we can observe, actually functions. We can build models of what we see, and make them reasonably conform to reality, and make valid predictions from them. God has not made a universe that should not work, but somehow does. The universe is amenable to rational comprehension.

    The only thing such an argument should ever be used to say is that God has made a universe from the examination of which we cannot find God absent direct revelation. And it should absolutely be used to say that! But that in no way implies that science is wrong about the world that we model.

    • Yes, exactly. There are superficial similarities between Barth’s rejection of natural theology and the worldview apologetics at SBTS, WTS, RTS, etc. I have been helped by Torrance’s discernment of Barth’s “realism,” wherein metaphysics determines epistemology, but God’s metaphysics is not nature and vice versa.

  3. Put differently: to say that nature lies about what it ought to be, and that it cannot tell us anything about who made it, is not to say that it is corrupted in any ways that violate its created nature. Nature lies about its Ought—but never about its Is. Sin is not a violation of our created nature; we have not become other than the creatures God made. But the states in which we find ourselves and the rest of the universe, while they accord with what we are, cannot be used to make any claims about what we should be at any point. Science does well exactly where it speaks to what the states and processes of the universe actually are. That this forms no basis for theological work is nothing against science—only a caution for theologians.

    • Nature lies about its Ought—but never about its Is. Sin is not a violation of our created nature; we have not become other than the creatures God made.

      This is very good. I have been in dialog about these matters with a friend at RTS, a “worldview” haven, so I will have to use this distinction in our future discussions.

      • Would you agree then that neither YEC nor Darwinism (nor any other -isn) is abstractable from raw data alone? That these construals only obtain from prior commitments intelligibly framing this data as data? Is this not a part of Barth’s distinction between phenomena vs. reality?

      • If “Darwinism” is merely in reference to the organic connection among all species (common descent, etc.), then I would say that it is very much “abstracted” from the raw data, though it is a dialogical process between data and models. This is not to deny the need for personal engagement and creativity, as Michael Polanyi taught us. The distinct advantage of Darwinism, in this sense, is that it is actually doing science. YEC is not. That’s a big difference. The “prior commitments” in evolutionary science that are “framing” the data is open and relative to the data itself. That is science.

        If “Darwinism” is in reference to a philosophical credo of religious skepticism, then it is certainly not abstracted from the raw data.

        Barth’s use of Kantian categories increasingly diminished as he developed his dogmatics. Barth is overturning the starting points (natural theology, moral conscience, existential despair, etc.) that underwrite Kant’s impasse.

      • Ian, you’re using jargon, not least of which is “Darwinism,” a position that, if it exists, is not representative of the present consensus on evolution.

        What do you mean by “abstractable from raw data alone”? If you mean that the model is not in the data, this is true of everything. If you mean that you couldn’t derive the model from the data, the question is what model, and what data? YEC is not an attempt to model actual cosmic history as empirically observed. It is an attempt to bend the Genesis apologetics and the empirical observations of the world into one framework where Genesis is literal history and the data therefore must be made to conform. It is, in other words, very bad science indeed!

        Darwin derived conclusions from the data he had, from what are really very good data sets for the time! That his conclusions are no longer the present consensus reflects the fact that with better data and larger datasets we have come to know more than he could have. We have thus come to hypotheses, models of the reality, that fit more points of data than he ever saw. And all of that data has served to uphold the basic observation that life evolves, and that selection pressures and mutations are fundamental to the mechanisms by which life evolves. It doesn’t evolve in exactly the ways Darwin thought it did, any more than genetic inheritance works exactly the way Mendel thought it did—but they hit on solid truths about the world, even with only partial data, and even if they did not fully understand the mechanisms they saw at work.

      • You got me. I used “Darwinism” as a shorthand for cognitively immodest atheistic materialism, and I say “cognitively immodest” because, as you said, “the model is not in the data, [which] is true of everything.” It seems to me this point often isn’t acknowledged.

        I promise, I’m not a YEC apologist!

      • I promise, I’m not a YEC apologist!

        Good to hear! I figured you weren’t. I can’t imagine any YEC apologist tolerating my blog!

      • In fact, to clear any ambiguity, I only wanted to parse out your comment to see if any concept of worldview held currency in your estimation because I assumed that (in some sense) it was more integral than that comment let on.

      • Natural science today works as much against its models as through them. It has done for quite a long time. The model is not the presupposition to which the data is bent. The model is an arrangement of the data that explains certain aspects of how the world appears to work—and usually not others. Models are limited, and it usually takes a large number of different models, each for its own phenomenon, to make predictions about anything of real complexity.

        There is an exception, of course. Consider the “standard model” in physics. An interesting paper in physics is one in which data that does not fit the model can be verified to be the case. A paper, in other words, in which the model might be wrong. With the standard model, it has proven very hard to disprove the model where it already has coverage. It’s a very good model! So what we look for are the places where the model has poor coverage, or none, places it makes predictions for which we don’t yet have data. Holes, in other worlds. We come up with alternate models. Models that explain the data already covered, but also explain this other thing that isn’t. That’s the theory work.

        And at the same time, we do everything we can to find data that fits into one of the holes in the standard model. Like looking for the Higgs boson. We expected that something should have been there, to explain how mass works, but we didn’t know exactly what, or exactly how it should behave. So we came up with lots of theories, some of which matched the standard model well, others of which didn’t, and we banged particles into one another looking for better observations and possibly unusual outcomes that would let us fill the hole. Things we hadn’t already seen.

        And for a long time the result was: “nothing unusual at this energy level; try harder.” Little fluctuations, nothing that seriously questioned what we already knew. Data that mostly fit the model. And when we got to a high enough energy level, and we did the right things to actually observe and record and understand where a Higgs boson might be, the result was an utter disappointment. A relief, to be sure, because we located where it should be, but a disappointment because it was where the model said it could have been, and did what the model said it could do.

        So if you want to tell me that the Higgs boson is a “construal only obtaining from prior commitments intelligibly framing this data,” you really do have to contend with the fact that the science that generated it actively tries at every point to disprove their “prior commitments.” The data supports a version of the “big bang” in which there was a hot, dense, and uniform state out of which the universe condensed in just this way. When we make such hot, dense, and uniform states in the lab, they collapse in the same ways. We wish they would do something else! If we could replace the standard model with something that did its job better, we would eagerly do so. But right now, it’s the best we have, and so far, it just keeps getting better.

      • I wonder if you think I’m using the word “construal” in a negative sense, as though I think it’s illegitimate or something. I simply mean a constructive interpretation. It would appear we agree that this isn’t a dilemma but the way it’s supposed to be. My only point in all this is that Higgs boson or no Higgs boson doesn’t constitute warrant for YHWH/Allah/Zeus/no god/Marxism, whatever. Is that kosher?

      • Ian, it would be an interesting study to research the origins of “worldview” language, how it appears to have derived from German Idealism and the Dutch Reformed’s counter-reaction. My primary target on this blog, when I disparage “worldview-ism,” is its current popular usage, especially among self-styled Calvinists (despite the fact that Reformed theology has nothing to do with their presuppositional apologetics). My criticisms may be mitigated if I were to do an intensive study of Kuyper or Dooyeweerd, for example, but probably not!

  4. I would not say Mohler makes me mad but more frustrated and annoyed by his simplistic, fundamentalistic, take it or leave it approach. Sure a debate partner may not share your theological convictions but that does not make them a fool. It is the arrogance which dismisses others with so a cavalier attitude and arrogance that also discredits anything of value Mohler may say about Christ. Then the question becomes who is the fool?

    More interesting to me would be how Matt might experience worship in a church where so many hymns and certain chorus’ claim that we see God in nature and even “in the garden!” 🙂 I find that our worship sometimes supports natural theology and can be misleading. But in our pragmatic culture, does anyone care?

    I wonder also if Matt’s view could lead to deism?

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