Two Letters to ChristianityToday

The Letter I Sent (but they didn't print) [2018 Jan 22]

Two items in the current CT I think deserve comment, mostly because I would normally expect more incisive analysis in CT:

On p.72, your review of Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration presents some very good insights on the issue, but totally neglects to mention the problem among those immigrants of disaffected youth who turn to violent extremism after arrival, which author Kaemingk certainly should have addressed in his book, and at least reviewer Arbo should have called out his failure. I don't know the answer, but it's a problem in nations with large Muslim immigrant populations (London comes to mind), and we need to think carefully about how to address that problem before we Americans become another one of the casualties. I recently read in Deuteronomy what to do to rebellious children, perhaps Kuyper and/or Kaemingk deliberately chose the proverbial ostrich posture (head in the sand) over such a draconian Biblical response to the problem. I think he could have done better, don't you?

Four pages earlier, in Randall's interview with Thomas Ackerman "Who Makes It Rain," he says "I am constantly struck by the fact that the reception I get from my tribe [the Christians] is worse than the reception I get from other tribes." He then goes on to speak of "The vast consensus of the scientific community..."

In another place another person with a scientific (medical) education argues convincingly on the same topic that "consensus is not science." Otherwise it would follow that we should believe that Galileo was no scientist, and that there is no god because (in each case) the vast consensus of the scientific community had such opinions. What we do know (and have learned from scientists like Robert Gentry) is that the vast majority of American scientists today have their hand in the public till and cannot afford to discover any science contrary to the established religion of the country lest they lose their government grants. Government paying for scientific research is definitely a leftist political position, not conservative (at least in the USA where the conservatives argue, although not not very convincingly, for reduced government spending).

"Climate change" has always been a political thing ever since the lefties, who hated Bush for his religion but could not say so because of their "separation of church and state" dogma, and couldn't attack him on education (because his policies were to the left of the Dems), nor on AIDS (because likewise), nor on the war (because the whole country supported him on that, as in Mt.21:26), but they found a topic where the science was more ambiguous than Ackerman would have us believe, and they hitched their wagon to the pony going the other way from Bush's.

The "vast consensus" on this issue is still more political than scientific, and because many of us in Ackerman's "tribe" tend to favor conservative politics, we read the (politically as well as theologically) conservative Christian news magazine, which consistently (for example, 4-page "Inherit the Wind" last October) offers credible science from the other political perspective, opposite to the "vast consensus of the scientific community" Ackerman speaks of. I do not blame Ackerman for protecting his salary -- after I risked putting truth above salary I am still without gainful employment 14 years later -- but your readers deserve a better critique of his unsupported presuppositions than your science editor gave him. Or if her religious inclinations forbid direct confrontation, at least to run an affirming interview or two also from the other end of the spectrum.

I applaud CT's conscientious effort to straddle the fence on politically contentious issues, but your science tends to lean more to the left than the other politically charged issues you report. The Kaemingk review unfortunately joins it this month. I think you can do better, don't you agree?

Tom Pittman, PhD

PS, You knew the double page star picture on p.30 is upside-down?

The Letter I Didn't Send [2018 May 23]

Apologetics was my favorite course in seminary, and probably more than any other influence accounts for my being a committed Christian and not an atheist. So of course I want to see what anybody and everybody has to say about it -- especially if it sounds negative like the title on Joshua Chatraw's piece this month. He has good things to say, but inexplicably holds them back to the end of the article; after a totally goofy first paragraph, the first 2/3rds repeats (without disapproval) so many criticisms that I almost abandonned the whole article before I got to his positives.

But when I got there, I could see that all those bogus negatives might be an [expletive deleted] attempt to apply his "Inside Out" methodology on readers (like me) whose "inside" he has not examined and therefore cannot know "what we need to challenge about this worldview."

Among his off-putting negatives:

[p.60] "...apologetics can signal a childish attempt to play by the rules of secularism..."

I don't suppose Chatraw has read Nancy Piercy's seminal Soul of Science, where she makes it clear that those hated "rules of secularism" were our rules 300 years ago. The so-called "secularists" did not invent science nor the logical thinking that makes it possible, it came out of a Christian worldview and nowhere else ever. Those are the rules of Biblical Christianity, and if the secularists use them against us, it is because we have abandonned them, and only recently. Our facts really are better than theirs, if you only look.

[p.60] "...functionally assumes an outdated epistemology..."

I don't know what Chatraw considers -- or is willing to let go by unchallenged as -- "outdated" about conformance to Reality as a standard of truth (what can be known = epistemology), but not only is it pervasive in the very language of the Bible (the Hebrew word for "truth" has the same verbal root as "amen"), but it is also the foundation of modern science: you cannot do technology without moral absolutes! If that is "outdated" then we as western civilization have lost our technological dominance of the world economy -- and nobody else is going to pick up that mantle without a fundamentally Christian epistemology (even if only faked ;-)

By the way, Ted Olson's editorial "Differently Moral" in April 2017 ChristianityToday argues convincingly that the Trump election nailed the lid on the coffin of moral relativism. Perhaps Chatraw has some other "outdated epistemology" (besides moral absolutes) impaled at the end of his spear, he didn't say.

[p.61] "opponents claim to now have the evidence to prove [that Christianity is dangerously oppressive]"

Nonsense like this should not even be dignified by reference. Perhaps Chatraw is too young to have been reading CT four years ago, when the cover story documented the (secular = peer-reviewed) research showing that our (Evangelical) Christian faith lifted the oppression from African countries where Protestant missionaries went, as compared to countries where they did not go.

There's more, but this is enough.

I agree that we need to proclaim the TRUTH of the Gospel, but it might help if we abandonned "meta-stories" and focussed instead on the Gospel as defined in Scripture and as preached by the Apostles. And certainly a large part of that is to listen to the other person's hopes and fears and worldview. I for one, have never met nor heard of any person who does not actually in his or her heart believe in moral absolutes -- at least when they are the victim of some other person's sin. I did not see that in Chatraw's apologetic. How can anybody critique (or even accept uncritically) Chatraw's muddy rhetoric?

But who am I? Another Jan Hus proclaiming the Truth that the established church doesn't want to hear. Kill the messenger!

Let God be true (in Scripture) and every man a liar. Me, I druther be on God's side (with Truth) than blown about by every wind of doctrine, such as so-called "grown up" apologetics.

Tom Pittman