Creationism: That (Not So) Old Time Religion
by Matt J. Rossano
(HuffPost Religion, 8/12/2011)
[go to link for full article]
While it's unsurprising to find that today's fundamentalism departs from traditional Christian roots, it is surprising to find that it departs from its own fundamentalist roots.
In 1909, a distinguished group of Protestant academics converged to articulate what they considered to be the core non-negotiables (fundamentals) of Christianity. Among the participants were such notables as C. I. Scofield of the well-known "Scofield Reference Bible," Benjamin Warfield of the Princeton Theological Seminary and George Frederick Wright of Oberlin College in Ohio. They produced a four-volume series of essays (published between 1910-15) called "The Fundamentals" -- and with it the original Fundamentalist movement was born.
The major impetus for "The Fundamentals" was not evolution, but "higher criticism" -- the critical historical and literary analysis of the New Testament. Higher criticism raised troubling questions about the historicity of the Gospels. This in turn produced a liberal theological reaction where in some Christian quarters a "Jeffersonian"-type de-supernaturalizing of Jesus was in full swing. This, in the eyes of some, threatened to gut Christianity of its very soul. Against this backdrop, evolution seemed far more manageable, as Wright tersely put it in his essay "Hume is more dangerous than Darwin" (see Giberson p. 60). Not that "The Fundamentals" entirely ignored Darwin -- about 20 percent of the essays addressed the subject. Virtually none of them, however, adopted a creationist's position as we understand it today. Instead, most "Fundamentals" authors were committed to finding ways of reconciling Genesis and science.
[Henry] Morris went on to establish the Institute for Creation Research in the hopes that Creation Science would one day become respected as real science. It never happened. The ICR became a joke among practicing scientists and its more recent equivalent -- Intelligent Design's Discovery Institute -- has warp-speeded itself to the same dark closet of scientific irrelevancy.
It's been a half-century since Morris and Whitcomb recast fundamentalism as creationism -- a good time to assess its legacy. In place of science or insightful theology, creationism's primary achievement is a waist-deep rubbish pile of misrepresentation and deceit. In his decision in the infamous Kitzmiller vs. Dover intelligent design case, Judge John E. Jones openly chastised the creationist side for its "repetitious untruthful testimony" (p. 131), "flagrant and insulting falsehoods" (p. 132) and noted how the people of Dover were ill-served by creationist school board members who "staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public" only to "time and again lie to cover their tracks..." (p. 137). All this because they fear science.