Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dow Ends at 6-Year High

The Bush economy, spurred by the much-maligned tax cuts for the rich, just keeps puttering along, generating jobs and creating wealth. With an unemployment rate at 4.7, which is considered full employment, and more tax revenue pouring into federal coffers, one might think that the Democrats would be changing their mind about tax cuts. If so, one would be wrong.

Liberal opposition to tax cuts has nothing to do with whether or not they work. The left opposes them because they despise the rich and want to punish them. Any solution to poverty which allows the wealthy to remain wealthy is, in their minds, unjust. That the poor are better off now than ever before, that there are jobs out there for anyone who wants one, does not matter to the lefties. The rich are getting richer.

The odd thing about this is that so many of the wealthy class help fund the Democratic left. Freud would have a grand time with all the unresolved guilt and suicidal death wishes that these people must be afflicted with.

Sorting Out the Differences

Christians of various sorts are frequently in the news, and it's sometimes confusing as to what exactly is meant by the labels that are often affixed to them. We often hear people referred to, without explanation, as fundamentalists, evangelicals, or pentecostal/charismatics, but what is it about each of these that sets them apart from the others?

One problem with trying to distinguish between "types" of Christians is that there is considerable overlap among groups and drawing distinctions is a bit like drawing distinctions between races. In some ways there are clear differences, but in other ways there are not, and in many cases distinctions are simply unimportant.

In any event, the differences between the three groups mentioned above are not usually over matters of basic belief but rather over approaches to the culture and the role of reason or intellect in an individual believer's life. Maybe the following brief analysis will be helpful:

Fundamentalists tend to be more separationist with regard to the culture and more disdainful of intellectual pursuits than are evangelicals. Fundamentalists have, at least until relatively recently, taken the position that the only book one really needs to read is the Bible, and that book is to be understood in a very literal sense.

Evangelicals, in contrast to fundamentalists, are often more oriented toward a rational understanding of their faith, based upon both special and natural revelation, and more immersed in, and influenced by, their cultural milieu. Pentecostals, generally speaking, are less enamored of the mind than are evangelicals and tend to be more existential and experiential. They tend to rely, for their theological understanding, upon mystical experience.

Fundamentalists, moreover, are much more likely to see doctrine as important and to see it starkly in black and white. They are more apt than evangelicals to place a literal interpretation on passages of scripture and to read presupposed interpretations into the text. Evangelicals believe doctrine is important, but they are less inclined to certainty about the correctness of their beliefs and more open to a range of views on the meaning of scripture and on doctrinal orthodoxy than fundamentalists usually are.

Pentecostals often share with fundamentalists a strong emphasis on Christian doctrine but will rely more on subjective experience and the "leading of the Spirit" to help them interpret a passage of the Bible than do fundamentalists. The latter are more prone to believe that there is an objectively correct interpretation of most passages of scripture and are suspicious of the subjectivity embraced by pentecostals.

For a more thorough, and perhaps somewhat different, take on the differences between these three varieties of Christians, check out this site.

ID vs. Creationism

Who says Intelligent Design is just Creationism in a cheap tuxedo? Certainly not Creationists and certainly not proponents of Intelligent Design. Rob Moll writes about the increasing estrangement between the two in Christianity Today. Here are a few excerpts:

While the press railed against efforts to introduce Intelligent Design into classrooms, spokespersons at the Discovery Institute routinely distanced their theory from creationism and from those who wanted to teach ID in science classrooms. At the same time, creationists were warning their millions of followers about the dangers of ID. Its foundation in science, not the Bible; its willingness to accept large aspects of evolutionary theory; and perhaps a little jealousy of ID's quick rise to prominence make ID unacceptable to creationists.

Besides, they don't need ID's help to topple evolution. They're doing just fine. An April CBS poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

ID isn't opposed to evolution, says [Young Earth Creationist Ken] Ham; it's really just opposed to naturalism. Not only that, says [YEC Terry] Mortenson, ID proponents say they're not even interested in the Bible.

"So you've got this group that's not about the Bible," says Ham. "You've got the secular press saying this is just a way to get the Bible back in the schools, because many of the Christians who think ID is great think it is a way to get the Bible back into schools. [At the same time] the ID movement's trying to divorce themselves from that saying it's not [about the Bible]. The secular press is saying yes it is. And many of the Christians who are behind them are really doing it because they are Christians."

But Christians are being duped, Mortensen says. "Most if not all of the ID books are published by evangelical Christian publishers, which are marketing to an evangelical audience. And our concern is that [although] in those books there are good design arguments, there are statements sprinkled in them implying or stating openly that Genesis isn't important."

"We're concerned about the influence it's having on the church," says Mortenson, "causing Christians to not be concerned about what Genesis says."

This can weaken Christians' faith, says Ham. "Those of us who believe in a literal Genesis have a history, a history concerning the Fall, a history concerning the Flood. So when we look at this world, we're looking at a fallen world. It's not God's fault there are tsunamis. ... Death is not God's fault." However, by only discussing an unnamed designer, Ham says, flaws in creation must be attributed to that designer.

"In a subtle way, none of the ID people are coming out and attacking the Bible," says Mortenson, "but by leaving the Bible on the side and saying Genesis isn't really important, and we don't need to worry about that, is a very subtle form of undermining the authority of the Bible in the church."

And the Bible is clear, says Mortenson and Ham, that you can not insert millions or billions of years into Genesis. "I've had personal conversations with a couple of leading systematic theologians who believe that the fall had a cosmic impact," Mortenson says. "You can't have millions of years of death and suffering and extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years before man ever was created, and then have a cosmic impact of the Fall."

"What good is it if people believe in intelligence?" says Ham. "That's no different than atheism in that if it's not the God of the Bible, it's not Jesus Christ, it's not salvation."

What to make of all this? Well, for one thing ID is clearly not a Trojan Horse for Creationism. Proponents of ID are trying to achieve a relatively modest goal. They're attempting to convince the scientific world that the idea of intentional design is a plausible, indeed, compelling explanation for an amazing array of cosmological, geophysical, and biological facts and phenomena.

Creationists, on the other hand, are trying to convince the world that the God of the Bible created the universe in six days, ten thousand years ago.

The two groups have different agendas and rely, for the most part, on different arguments. IDers are willing to concede, for the sake of advancing their position, that descent through modification may have occurred and that the earth may be 13.5 billion years old. They are willing to concede this because a. there's little to be gained by fighting about it given the nature of much of the evidence, and because b. it's not essential to their argument.

Creationists see the ID approach as an intolerable concession to the materialists because it removes the argument over origins from the realm of Biblical hermeneutics and places it in the realm of science, or at least the philosophy of science.

Creationists see their argument as primarily theological with implications for science and philosophy, whereas IDers see their argument as primarily scientific and philosophical with implications for theology.

Complicating these differences is the fact that there is rhetorical overlap between IDers and Creationists. They are both critical, for example, of the ability of physical processes to fully explain the cosmos and life, and some of the major figures in the ID camp are, in fact, young earth or old earth creationists in their personal theology.

All of this can be very confusing which is the kindest reason I can think of to explain why so few journalists and other critics of Intelligent Design ever seem to be able to get it right.