In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Jared Byas explores how fundamentalist evangelicalism has bought into the modern mindset in some important ways, while condemning it in other ways. Join Jared as he explores the following questions:
- Why is it important that we understand our current context when we read the Bible?
- In what ways has fundamentalist evangelicalism bought into a modern mindset?
- In what ways has fundamentalist evangelicalism condemned the modern mindset?
- What was the main point of contention between rationalists and empiricists?
- What is the impact of being stuck in a foundationalist understanding of truth and reality?
- Why is the modern mindset so desperate to find certainty?
- What did fundamentalist evangelicalism put forth as the solution to the modern problem?
- Why is biblical inerrancy so critical to fundamentalist evangelicalism?
- How does inerrancy impact the uneasy relationship between Christianity and science?
- How does fundamentalist evangelicalism make sense of Genesis in light of science?
Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Jared Byas you can share.
- “We are driven by these two questions: What is the Bible and what do we do with it? To answer those responsibly, we have to look at what we bring to the table in all our humanness, all our own baggage.” @jbyas
- “When we can understand how our context is different than the context in which the Bible was written, we can stop trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and learn a new way to integrate what the Bible is with what we can do with it today.” @jbyas
- “The modern-mindset needs certainty so deeply that they’re willing to fight for it. Not only that, but the opposite of certainty isn’t uncertainty, but deception. In other words, if you aren’t willing to fight for certainty, you’re either deceiving others or being deceived.” @jbyas
- “In fundamentalist evangelicalism, the Gospel and certainty and truth are all conflated. They’re all the same thing. If we look back at the ancient or medieval world, you won’t find anyone fighting for certainty. That’s a very modern mindset.” @jbyas
- “Fundamentalist evangelicalism participates in the modern-mindset in its emphasis on certainty, and then doubles down on it by positing that only an inherent Bible can give us the certainty we need to fight for.” @jbyas
- “Apologetics assumes that the most important thing Christianity can be is reasonable and accurate in areas of history and science. Apologetics adopts a modern-mindset as the universal truth of things, and then tries to say that the Bible follows that mindset perfectly.” @jbyas
- “Many fundamentalist evangelical leaders will only adopt science insofar as there’s a way to make the Bible fit it, which is why many will trust their doctor to replace their hip, but not trust scientists when it comes to climate change or evolution.” @jbyas
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Website: thebiblefornormalpeople.com
- Podcast Episode: The Making of the Modern Mindset, Part 1
- Podcast Episode: The Making of the Modern Mindset, Part 2
- Book: Faith After Doubt
- Support: patreon.com/thebiblefornormalpeople
Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.
Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.
[Jaunty intro music begins, then fades]
Jared: Welcome, everyone. Before we get started, just a reminder for all listeners who also happen to be pastors, our mission is to bring the best in biblical scholarship to everyday people. And what better way to do that than to help resource pastors who preach to everyday people each week? We had a course in the Spring with over 200 pastors and we are excited to bring you another course this year just in time for Easter called “Preaching Beyond Penal Substitutionary Atonement” or “Preaching Beyond PSA.” Again, if you know, you know. So, if you’re a pastor, and you’re interested in spending four weeks learning how to preach atonement beyond the PSA you might have been taught, join Jennifer, Josh, and Carol on Thursday nights in March. That’s March 17th, 24th, 31st, and April 7, from 8:00 to 9:30 PM Eastern Time. And if you can’t make it, no problem, the classes are recorded and will be available later. This course is pay-what-you-can, we want to make sure it’s accessible. So truly, pastors, just pay what you can. Just go to thebiblefornormalpeople.com/beyondPSA to learn more. Now, back to our episode.
Jared: We are driven by these two questions: What is the Bible and what do we do with it? And to answer those responsibly, we have to look at what we bring to the table in all our humanness, all our own baggage. This is why inerrancy is so critical to fundamentalist evangelicalism and why they will defend it with so much vim and vigor, because if we don’t have an inerrant Bible then the entire modern-Christian hybrid system of thought that’s built on it will also crumble.
Jared: If you listen often, you know we try to balance looking at books and passages in the Bible itself with looking at the tools, frameworks, and contexts we inevitably use to read the Bible. We are driven by these two questions: What is the Bible and what do we do with it? And to answer those responsibly, we have to look at what we bring to the table in all our humanness, all our own baggage.
With that in mind, today is part three of “The Making of the Modern Mindset.” So, it’s just me today. If you’re super nerdy, you can go back to listen to part 1 from August, which is Episode 176, and part 2 from November, Episode 186. But for everyone else, I’ll just give you a little review here.
In the first part, we talked about three reasons why it’s really important that we understand our current context when we read the Bible. We are often taught to understand the Bible’s context—what were people like? And what did people believe back then? But growing up, I wasn’t really ever taught to pay attention to our current context as modern people. What are people like and what do people believe today? And the three reasons I gave for why this is important were: (1) it helps us to see that we’re not the center of the universe, that people didn’t always think like we did about some important things and people will likely think differently than us after we’re gone. But (2), it helps us be aware of our influences. Sometimes we can think that our beliefs and practices are in a vacuum, that somehow what we believe about the Bible isn’t influenced by our culture, or that somehow, we’re immune to being a part of the world we live in. But I hate to break it to you, we’re not immune. We are swimming in a particular body of water, which for us, I think, is this transition between what we’ve been calling the modern mindset and what we will call the postmodern mindset. And this mindset is like learning your first language, because we grew up with it and never knew anything different, we might not even notice it. We don’t understand the rules and we don’t understand the grammar, we just use it. (3) It helps us reimagine the Bible for our own lives.
When we can understand how our context is different than the context in which the Bible was written, we can stop trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and learn a new way to integrate what the Bible is with what we can do with it today. So, we ended part 1 with a quick look at the Middle Ages where knowledge, authority, identity and ethics came to us mediated through the two bureaucratic systems: the church and the state, which were both divinely ordained as the authority over the known world to translate God’s will to the people.
Then in part 2, we looked at modernity and how reason replaced the church through thinkers like Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, John Locke. Reason in the modern world becomes the grounding by which anything can be called true or false. This is the birth of another “r” – rationalism, the belief that reason should be the primary source of our knowledge and how we test our knowledge. Reason takes over from divine authority and tradition as the foundation and grounding of our thinking true things. We’ll learn today, that maybe that wasn’t quite enough. But looking at our four areas of focus: knowledge, identity, ethics and authority, reason replaces the church as the means of authority or the seat of authority for all the other three—knowledge, identity, and ethics.
For part 3 today—enough review—I want to talk about how parts of the church have bought into the modern mindset in some important ways, while condemning it in other ways. And I want to be particularly focused on how we see this in what I’m calling fundamentalist evangelical churches today. And I don’t use that label with judgment, just as a way to identify what I’m observing and how I started to find it no longer compatible with how I wanted to express my Christian faith. From what I see, the fundamentalist evangelical church today treats this modern mindset, like I treat reality TV. I’ll tell you that reality TV is trash and I will judge you harshly for watching The Bachelor. And I will absolutely binge every single episode of Love is Blind within a week of it coming out. In other words, a lot of these fundamentalist evangelical leaders in America think they’re anti-modern, when in fact, they participate in it in deep ways and maybe don’t even know it. Specifically, I want to talk about three ways: searching for certainty in what we know, prioritizing facts over meaning, and believing in a static and mechanical world. And we’ll look at these three ways that fundamentalist evangelicalism has bought into a modern mindset through the lens of science, history, and morality.
So, let’s get started. The first way, I see fundamentalist evangelicalism participating in the modern mindset without really knowing it, is in its search for certainty in what we know. Remember, Descartes? He’s known as the Father of Modern Philosophy precisely because of his obsession with certainty. As a mathematician, he found a lot of comfort and how concrete and universal numbers felt. As my accountant says, numbers don’t lie. “So,” thought Descartes, “why not try to extend this certainty to every area of knowledge?” And thus began his experiment to doubt everything. If you remember from last episode, his search for certainty is based on his famous, “I think, therefore I am.” And that brings us to an important word in the modern project that I have not mentioned before: foundationalism.
For us to have certainty in our knowledge about the world, we have to have an undoubtable foundation from which all of our knowledge can be built. This is, in essence, what Descartes was reestablishing, the idea of foundationalism.
Now a nerdy side note, Aristotle was probably the first foundationalist in his work, Posterior Analytics. But remember that in the Middle Ages, a lot of Greek and Roman writings were forgotten, and only rediscovered around the time of Descartes. Descartes didn’t succeed in that project, to find that undoubtable foundation from which all our knowledge can be built. But that didn’t keep a whole host of mostly white men from taking up the mantle for the next 300 years, each trying to build on each other to find that undoubtable foundation of our knowledge. And most of modern thinking has been to find that foundation for authority, identity, ethics, knowledge—the four things we’ve been looking at in this series.
After Descartes, there was a centuries-long debate that boiled down to two camps: is the proper foundation of everything we know more like math, based on reason alone, or is the proper foundation more like the natural sciences based on sensory experience? Those who felt like the proper foundation was reason alone were called rationalists and those who felt like it was based on sensory experience were called the empiricists. And the famous rationalists at the time, were folks like Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz. And the famous empiricists were folks you may have heard of like Francis Bacon, John Locke, David Hume. Then, along came probably the most famous of them all, Immanuel Kant, whose work was devoted to trying to make these two sides compatible, the rationalist and the empiricist.
Quick, unnecessary side note. When I was in seminary, a good friend and I spent an entire summer reading Immanuel Kant’s book, The Critique of Pure Reason, out loud to each other, at 6:30 each morning before work in public at a Dunkin Donuts. The employees looked at us exactly as they should have, with equal parts pity and contempt.
Anyway, while all these writers seemed opposed to each other and argued with each other endlessly, these two camps were actually still committed to the same modern project, finding certainty through finding that undoubtable foundation of our knowledge. And while their thoughts and arguments contributed so much to what eventually became the Scientific Method and so many other helpful concepts, they actually never succeeded in finding that undoubtable foundation.
Okay, so with that in mind, let’s go back to the original point, that fundamentalist evangelicalism has bought into this modern project of needing to find certainty through finding the undoubtable foundation of our knowledge.
There are so many examples that we could point to here, but let me highlight one of my favorites and one that’s actually only a few decades old. In 2007, John MacArthur, a well-known fundamentalist evangelical pastor and author, published a book called The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception. If you want to see a perfect example of how fundamentalist evangelicalism has bought into the modern project and called it the Gospel, this is it.
But for the sake of time, I just want to pay attention, right now, to the title of the book, The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception. The subtitle there, Fighting for Certainty, could have been the rallying cry of the modernists we looked at in episode 2: Rene Descartes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, they would have nodded vigorously. Yes, we must fight for certainty.
The modern mindset needs certainty so deeply that they’re willing to fight for it. Not only that, but the opposite of certainty in the subtitle here isn’t uncertainty, but deception. In other words, if you aren’t willing to fight for certainty, you’re either deceiving others or you’re being duped by some deception. And the title itself points us to how in fundamentalist evangelicalism, the Gospel and certainty and truth are all conflated. They’re all the same thing. If we look back at the ancient or medieval world, you won’t find anyone fighting for certainty. That’s a very modern mindset. But let’s go a little deeper here with how fundamentalist evangelicalism has actually out-modernized the modernist.
By the 20th Century, most philosophers and scientists determined that searching for that indubitable foundation wasn’t a worthy pursuit. We figured out that we could just do science and not worry much about it. While it didn’t get us the certainty we craved, it was good enough to make tremendous and ongoing progress. But that wasn’t good enough for the fundamentalist evangelical, they doubled down on the search for certainty. They doubled down on the modern mindset and said that those godless pagans of the modern era were just looking in the wrong place. Of course, they didn’t find what they were looking for (to quote U2). The undoubtable foundation for all belief was right under their noses, but they were too caught up in their sin and secularization to see it. What was the foundation that was right there? Some of you might give the Sunday School answer, it was God, but that’s actually not quite true. You see, a lot of philosophers in the modern period actually did use God as a foundation. In fact, that’s what Descartes did once he figured out that his whole “I think, therefore I am” starting place wasn’t as great as he thought. But the God of the philosophers was often purposely vague. The way God was talked about with these thinkers was probably one part trying not to get killed by the Inquisition for being heretical and one part what was often called the Grand Watchmaker, a God who didn’t get much involved in the affairs of people, just a God who set the mechanical universe in motion as the foundation of things and then disappeared. In other words, the Bible almost never appeared as part of that equation.
So, what set fundamentalist evangelicalism apart in the 20th century? What did they present to us as the answer to the modern problem? The Bible. It’s the Bible itself that becomes the foundation for all beliefs. However, for the Bible to be the undoubtable foundation for all beliefs, it has to be an inerrant Bible. The entire argument only works if the Bible is inerrant, that is, if it is undoubtable and 100% true and accurate in everything that it says. This is why inerrancy is so critical to fundamentalist evangelicalism, and why they will defend it with so much vim and vigor. Because if we don’t have an inerrant Bible, then the entire modern-Christian hybrid system of thought that’s built on it will also crumble. So, fundamentalist evangelicalism participates in the modern mindset in its emphasis on certainty and then doubles down on it by positing that only an inherent Bible can give us the certainty we need to fight for.
But let’s back up a second. At the beginning, we talked about three ways fundamentalist evangelicalism has unhelpfully bought into the modern mindset: searching for certainty in what we know (1), prioritizing facts over meaning (2), believing in a static and mechanical world (3). But that’s actually only part of the modern mindset, there’s also a lot of helpful parts.
For example, part of the modern mindset is a commitment to reason that we talked about last episode as the primary tool that would get us to that certainty. So, when we say “the modern mindset,” we have to remember that we’re not critiquing the use of reason and logic, I think that’s an important point to make. From my perspective, I’m actually grateful the church bought into the commitment to reason as a primary tool because it ended up being really helpful. Where I push back is when the church buys into the unhelpful parts, which for me is that uncompromising goal of finding the foundation for certainty in what we know. And I especially push back when that perspective is baptized as the universal truth for all time. And then thirdly, I push back when Christians rail against people who compromise with culture and yet don’t see that some of the things they hold as central to the Gospel might actually just be central to the modern project and might not have much to do with the Gospel at all.
But as far as the means of the modern project, this commitment to reason as a primary tool, I think that was a great thing to take away from the modern period. Now, I think the church took about 200 years too long, burned too many people at the stake in the transition, and often conflated older white straight men thinking with reason, but, hey, I’m grateful that those in control, which at the time was the church allowed progress in science and health and morality, eventually.
Speaking of science, let’s talk for a minute about how we see the modern mindset play out in this uneasy marriage between Christianity and science. So, as the West moved from this medieval mindset to a modern mindset, the church was slow, as we just mentioned, to adopt the conclusions that science was coming to using reason. After all, the Bible, the church, and church tradition had been the ultimate authority for centuries. Not reasoning, not argumentation, not experimentation. So, for example, in 1543, Copernicus put forth the idea that maybe the earth doesn’t stand still and that the sun rather than the earth is the center of the universe. Of course, we call this the Theory of Heliocentrism, rather than the old view before Copernicus of geocentrism. Copernicus’s views didn’t get a lot of attention at first, but then Galileo came along and had more evidence and the church felt like it needed to weigh in. So on February 25, 1616, the church determined that Copernicus’s theory that we aren’t the center of the universe was wrong; it was heresy. Then on February 26th, if you’re counting, it was the very next day, the inquisitions top cardinal, Robert Bellamy, met with Galileo to tell him that the idea that the earth moved around the sun was going to be found false, contrary to scripture, and if Galileo kept speaking up about it, he would also be deemed a heretic. So, Galileo kept quiet for a while, but eventually spoke out and was condemned as a heretic by the inquisition. And then it took 200 more years for the church to officially repeal the prohibition against believing that the earth rotates around the sun, which is around 1820. But eventually, Christians all adopted what Copernicus and Galileo put forth centuries before.
This is an extreme example. But there are dozens if not hundreds of other examples where Christians eventually adopted the modern mindset—believing in germs, taking antibiotics, enhancements in medicine and technology, all of this built on the Scientific Method, which comes from using reason as a primary tool. Where fundamentalist evangelical leadership, though, double down on the modern mindset through inerrancy, is in trying to make the Bible into a modernist textbook.
And by the 20th Century, there were many attempts to make sure that the Bible fit with all these scientific findings. Why? Well, in some ways, it’s because they wanted their cake and they wanted to eat it, too. They wanted the means of the modern project, that is, they wanted to be rational, they wanted to follow the logic of science, and yet, they still wanted to hold on to an inerrant Bible as that undoubtable foundation for certainty in what we know. And to be honest, for the most part, that’s easy to do, since the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about germs or antibiotics or heart transplants. Where we see the tension between these two paths, is when the Bible does seem to say things that fall within the realm of science and the science begins to come to different conclusions than the Bible. When the reasoning parts ways with the undoubtable foundation for reasoning, the Bible.
We saw this with Copernicus above, but this tension gets heightened in the 20th Century within an inerrant Bible. The most obvious example of this is the aftermath of the Scopes Monkey Trial and how fundamentalist evangelicalism begins to try to read Genesis in light of science. And over the past hundred years, there have been many theories that have been developed that allow someone to accept evolution, while also accepting the Bible as inerrant. We have, for example, the Day-Age theory of Genesis. This theory says that we shouldn’t read Genesis 1 as though the 6 days of creation are literal, 24-hour days. Instead, when the author says, “and there was night, and there was day,” day 1, we’re supposed to understand that as metaphor. The 6 “days” of creation represent longer ages or epochs of thousands, millions, or even billions of years. This allows Christians to buy into the scientific evidence, showing that the earth is billions of years old and yet also allows them to keep to the idea that the Bible gives us historically and scientifically accurate information about the physical world. We just have to understand it as metaphor.
I would argue that the entire field of apologetics, which is about defending the truth of Christianity, assumes this modern mindset and its goal is to fit Christianity into a modernist framework. It assumes that the most important thing Christianity can be is reasonable and accurate in areas of history and science. Apologetics adopts a modern mindset as the universal truth of things and then tries to say that the Bible follows that mindset perfectly. Of course, what we call post-modernity, is, to very much oversimplify, a group of thinkers who started to feel like parts of that modern project were not helpful, nor were they true. That certainty of finding a universally true system of thought had inherent problems that were not only doomed to fail, but also created harm and oppression in the process.
But instead of being able to critique themselves and observe how they had conflated the Gospel with a modern mindset, fundamentalist evangelical leaders double down and call these critiques of modernity, critiques of the Gospel, and fundamentally anti-Christian, but that’s for a future episode. Let’s get back to how the modern mindset is evident in fundamentalist evangelicalism in relation to science.
Many fundamentalist evangelical leaders will only adopt science insofar as there’s a way to make the Bible fit it, which is why many will trust their doctor to replace their hip, but not trust scientists when it comes to climate change or evolution. In those cases, we see these two strands in tension, we want to follow reason, but we have to hold on to an inerrant Bible as the undoubtable foundation for certainty. So, what do we do when those two are in conflict? To uphold our certainty, we must side with the inerrant Bible. A lot of fundamentalist evangelical leaders and apologists talk about the Bible as though it were a modern philosophical text that’s designed to give us that undoubtable foundation for certainty about everything we know.
For instance, one of the most famous apologists for Christianity in my old tradition, Cornelius Van Til, says this: “The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games or atoms directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It not only tells us of Christ and His work but also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from. It gives us a philosophy of history, as well as history. This view of Scripture, therefore, involves the idea that there is nothing in the universe on which human beings can have full and true information unless they take the Bible into account. We do not mean of course, that one must go to the Bible rather than to the laboratory if one wishes to study the anatomy of the snake. But if one goes only to the laboratory and not also to the Bible, one will not have a full or even true interpretation of the snake.”
Van Til is essentially illustrating the point I’ve been making this entire time. He assumes the modern mindset, both that we need an undoubtable foundation for our knowledge and that reason is the best tool we have to get at reality. And then makes sure we understand, though, that the foundation between the two, if we have to choose which is most important to keep, no matter what, the Bible is what assures us that we have an accurate understanding of the world. He’s out-modernizing the modernists.
As the modern mindset begins to wane in academic circles in the 20th Century, the fundamentalist evangelical church begins to double down on it. True science can only be reasonable if it’s grounded in the certain fact of an infallible God who has spoken infallible words to us in an infallible Bible. And science is a wonderfully helpful endeavor, insofar as it’s built on that infallible foundation, but it becomes a deceitful stumbling block if it contradicts that infallible foundation.
Okay, that brings us to our second way that fundamentalist evangelicalism has bought into a modern mindset, and that’s through prioritizing facts over meaning. I promise the next two points are much shorter since they build off this first one and they also rely on inerrancy as their foundation. To illustrate this point, let’s look at history. Part of the modern mindset was a move from subjectivity to objectivity when it comes to understanding history. What do I mean by that? Well, to oversimplify and possibly upset actual historians here, when looking at the past, the most important question in the ancient world was, “What does this mean for us as a community of people now?” In the modern world, this question gets replaced with, “What really happened?” In other words, the facts of the past became more important than the meaning of the past. This was not the case in the ancient church.
For example, in the ancient church, they were four ways of reading the Bible: the literal reading, the moral, the allegorical, and the future. While this predated St. Augustine, his authority lent this to being more widely accepted by around the fourth century. And this is what he says, “In all the sacred books, we should consider eternal truths that are taught, allegorical; the facts that are narrated, literal; the future events that are predicted, future; and the precepts or councils that are given.” The case can be made that while the literal interpretation was an important starting place, many of the church fathers considered it weak sauce, to use the technical academic term here. It was incomplete and largely unhelpful for the present situation. In other words, what really happened was a good starting place, but the most important question was, “What does this mean for us as a community of people?”
By the time we get to the 18th century, the historical-critical method of reading the Bible has taken shape and the modern mindset has taken hold. So, now the most important question really is, “What really happened?” And just like with science in the 20th Century, fundamentalist evangelicalism has doubled down on this modernist question, what really happened, and has made that of central importance.
This is why growing up, every sermon I heard on Jonah was about how important it was that we believe that God really did have a fish swallow a grown man. This is why every sermon I heard on Genesis 1 was about how important it is that we believe Genesis 1 is giving us actual history about what really happened. And just like with science, the way to out-modern the modernists was to have an inerrant Bible at the foundation.
So, if archaeology says one thing, and the Bible says another, we must believe the Bible, because without an unerring Bible we lose our certainty. We lose the modern mindset, which at this point has been conflated with Christianity in many ways.
And that brings us to our third and final point, not only has the fundamentalist evangelical church bought into the modern mindset in its searching for certainty in what we know and in prioritizing facts over meaning, but also in believing in a static and mechanical world. As John MacArthur says, in the book we mentioned earlier, “Truth never changes with the times, but heresy always does. In fact, heresy’s subtlety is seen most clearly in the ever-shifting tides of change.”
When I read this, I always think of Galileo and how it took two hundred years for the church to acknowledge a new truth. The truth of the cosmos has changed so much over time. So, is that heresy because it changed? We could spend more time on how this plays out in other areas in science, but I want to see how it plays in questions of morality and ethics. This way of thinking is exactly what leads to holding positions like women needing to be subordinate to men, exclusion of LGBTQ people from the church, and frankly, not supporting abolition in the 19th Century. If we believe that the universe is static and unchanging, including the moral law, then these will be conclusions we come to. And this line of thinking, of course, also depends on an inerrant Bible that has to speak to everything we need to know about living a moral life.
Are you catching a theme here with the inerrancy?
The answer to how should we live doesn’t need to discern the times, the situations, the context, because there’s always a universally valid answer that’s probably already been given to us, an answer that we can get from the inerrant Bible if we only have pure hearts and the right exegetical tools.
As a side note, one very practical example of how the modern mindset plays a part in churches today is the move towards sermons that need to be of practical value to everyday life. So again, it needs to be reasonable. Sermons like “The Three Ways the Bible Says to Have a Stellar Marriage” or the “Five Biblical Principles of Money Management.” Brian McLaren says this in his book, Faith After Doubt, he calls it the move from dualistic thinking to pragmatic thinking. The pragmatic church is the church that’s resting on the modern mindset. It’s essentially saying, if you’re looking for the most reasonable way of life, that is sure to lead to your happiness, Christianity is your answer.
But more to the point here, there is one way to live a good life, and that good life has to be grounded in undoubtable and universally valid principles in service of the certainty. And we find those undoubtable and universally valid principles in an inerrant Bible. Again, as our friend John MacArthur says, “Knowledge of God is inborn in the human heart (Romans 1:19) and a sense of the moral character of his law, implicit in every human conscience (Romans 2:15). Those things are universally self-evident truths.”
So, as science, philosophy, and ethics have moved on from a strictly modern or foundationalist understanding of truth and reality, fundamentalist evangelicalism finds itself stuck, wedded to something that felt right in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th centuries, but has become increasingly untenable. Or to oversimplify things yet again, fundamentalist evangelicalism continues to live by a Newtonian view of the world where things are static, universally true at all times, mechanical, while philosophers, scientists, ethicists, a growing number of Christians are moving toward a quantum view of the world, where things are dynamic. Things are true in percentages and probabilities and within context, not universally.
In the quantum world we live in, what’s true at the cosmic level isn’t necessarily true at the atomic level, where truth is relative to scale. In the quantum world we live in, who we are is evolving, always in process and transition. This new mindset is more complex than the modern mindset. It doesn’t just throw it away, it carries with it and carries forward some of those tools and applies them in new ways, leading to new conclusions. And just like our views of God and how God interacts with the world grew from the medieval mindset into the modern mindset. I think it’s important that we don’t get stuck in one age or epoch, but stay on the move. As our knowledge of the universe grows, we have to keep learning and growing in how we understand the God of that universe.
We’ll look at some of these shifts next time through the lens of some very clever thinkers in the 19th and 20th Centuries, folks like Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard and Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty, as we march into the 21st Century and what it might look like to move from the modern mindset in our understanding of Christian faith to something new.
Alright, bye for now.
Stephanie: Well, that’s it for this episode of The Bible for Normal People. Before you go, we want to give a huge shout out to our Producer’s Group who support us over on Patreon. They are the reason we are able to keep bringing podcasts and other content to you. If you would like to help support the podcast, you can leave us a review or just tell others about our show. You can also head over to patreon.com/thebiblefornormalpeople, where for as little as $3 a month, you can receive bonus material, be part of an online community, get course discounts and much more. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.
Dave: Our show was produced by Stephanie Speight; Audio Engineer, Dave Gerhart; Creative Director, Tessa Stultz; and Web Developer, Nick Striegel. For Pete, Jared and the entire Bible for Normal People team—thanks for listening.
Jared: We saw this with Comper- Copernicus let me get his name right.
Jared: That’s designed to give us that undoubtable foundation for certain to be at [unintelligible noise]
Jared: Let me say it again, in other words, *elgh*. Did I mean to say that? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did mean to say that. Let me emphasize it differently.
Jared: Because without an inerr-blugh… because without inter-blugh blah blah blah.
[End of recorded material]