Saturday, September 30, 2006


There are a couple of good replies on our Feedback Page to the posts this week on the Open Letter to the Religious Right and Mr. Cell Phone Guy.

Give them a look.

John Calvin's Theological Legacy

Christianity Today has an article which discusses the appeal Reformed (Calvinist) theology has lately been exerting, especially on young people. For those of our readers with a theological inclination we've duplicated the sidebar to the main article. It lays out in basic form the doctrinal heart of Reformed theology.

Calvinism as an identifiable theological school began with John Calvin (1509-1564). Also referred to as Reformed theology, Calvinism draws on pre-Reformation theologians like Augustine. It has taken a variety of forms over the centuries, but the acronym TULIP is still a handy summary of its distinguishing marks.

Total depravity: We cannot respond to God's offer of salvation, since our will-indeed, our whole being-has been rendered incapable by sin (Rom. 3:9-10; Rom. 8:7-8; 2 Cor. 4:4). Regeneration by the Holy Spirit must precede our response of faith. This contrasts with Christian traditions that say we have sufficient free will to respond to God's offer of salvation or that we can "cooperate" with grace.

Unconditional election: God chooses to save some people, not because of anything they have done, but according to his sovereign will (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9; Eph. 1:3-6). Some Calvinists have also taught that God elects certain people to damnation, but few advance this view aggressively. This contrasts with other Christian traditions that teach that God desires to save everyone, but only elects those whom he foreknows will respond to his grace.

Limited atonement: Christ died for the sins of the church, not for the whole world (John 10:15; Mark 10:45; Rev. 5:9). This contrasts with traditions that teach that Christ died for all, even though all may not appropriate the benefits of his sacrifice.

Irresistible grace: Those God elects cannot resist the Holy Spirit's draw to salvation (John 6:44; 1 Cor. 1:23-24; Acts 16:14). Again, this contrasts with Christian traditions that teach that we are able to reject God's forgiveness-thus, while God may choose to save everyone, not everyone chooses to believe.

Perseverance of the saints: By God's power, believers will endure in faith to the end (John 10:28; Rom. 8:30; Phil. 1:6). Other Christian traditions teach that people can forsake faith and lose salvation.

Each of these five petals of the TULIP raises interesting questions. Are we indeed "totally depraved"? Does God predestine some people to be saved for eternity and others to be lost? Was Christ's death an atonement only for those who had been predestined to be saved? Is God's calling irresistable or can someone reject God even though God is calling him/her to Himself? Can someone whom God has "saved" lose that salvation? Any comments from the theologians among you?

Quotes From the Darwinism/ID Debate

Following are a series of quotes that bear on the Darwinian/Intelligent Design controversy.

First is University of Delaware physicist Stephen Barr's literary allusion which illustrates why Divine creation and evolution are not necessarily incompatible:

Did this insect evolve or is it created by God? To ask that is as silly as to ask whether Polonious died because Hamlet stabbed him or because Shakespeare wrote the play that way.

Barr, who is a theistic evolutionist, believes that just as Shakespeare used the character of Hamlet to bring about Polonious' death, so to God could have used physical laws and an evolutionary process to bring about those forms of life He wished to create.


Jonathan Wells is officially an IDer and personally a creationist. He's writing on the topic Why Darwinism is Doomed, and makes an important distinction which writers on this subject seem almost perversely unable to grasp:

The issue here is not "evolution" - a broad term that can mean simply change within existing species (which no one doubts). The issue is Darwinism - which claims that all living things are descended from a common ancestor, modified by natural selection acting on random genetic mutations.

The truth is Darwinism is not a scientific theory, but a materialistic creation myth masquerading as science. It is first and foremost a weapon against religion - especially traditional Christianity. Evidence is brought in afterwards, as window dressing.

This is becoming increasingly obvious to the American people, who are not the ignorant backwoods religious dogmatists that Darwinists make them out to be. Darwinists insult the intelligence of American taxpayers and at the same time depend on them for support. This is an inherently unstable situation, and it cannot last.

If I were a Darwinist, I would be afraid. Very afraid.

I would add to what Wells says about Darwinism that the trait which makes it anathema to many theists is not that it is a form of evolution but that it insists that only physical forces were involved in the emergence of life and all of life's diversity. In other words Darwinists hold that intelligence is irrelevant to the existence of the cosmos and the biosphere. This strikes many people as implausible to the point of incredulity.


Jonathan Wells also notes that it is a myth, and a false one at that, that biologists have actually witnessed one species evolving into another:

So except for polyploidy in plants, which is not what Darwin's theory needs, there are no observed instances of the origin of species. As evolutionary biologists Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan wrote in 2002: "Speciation, whether in the remote Galapagos, in the laboratory cages of the drosophilosophers, or in the crowded sediments of the paleontologists, still has never been directly traced." Evolution's smoking gun is still missing.

From: Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design , p. 55, quoting Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origin of Species (New York: Basic Books, p. 32).


Richard Dawkins is a militantly atheistic Darwinian who makes a startling admission in an essay which first appeared here, but which subsequently disappeared. Speculation has it that Dawkins was pressured to take it down by fellow Darwinians because his admission makes it very difficult for them to maintain the twin fictions that Intelligent Design is religion and that it can't be science because it can't be tested:

You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science.

I wonder if the Big Bang is spectacular enough to qualify.