Monday, May 5, 2008

Evangelical Manifesto

Some 80 conservative Christian luminaries have composed a manifesto which, according to this article, says that these leaders:

...believe the word "evangelical" has lost its religious meaning plan to release a starkly self-critical document saying the movement has become too political and has diminished the Gospel through its approach to the culture wars.

The statement, called "An Evangelical Manifesto," condemns Christians on the right and left for "using faith" to express political views without regard to the truth of the Bible, according to a draft of the document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

"That way faith loses its independence, Christians become `useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology," according to the draft.

The declaration, scheduled to be released Wednesday in Washington, encourages Christians to be politically engaged and uphold teachings such as traditional marriage. But the drafters say evangelicals have often expressed "truth without love," helping create a backlash against religion during a "generation of culture warring."

"All too often we have attacked the evils and injustices of others," they wrote, "while we have condoned our own sins." They argue, "we must reform our own behavior."

The document is the latest chapter in the debate among conservative Christians about their role in public life. Most veteran leaders believe the focus should remain on abortion and marriage, while other evangelicals - especially in the younger generation - are pushing for a broader agenda. The manifesto sides with those seeking a wide-range of concerns beyond "single-issue politics."

Among the signers of the manifesto are Os Guinness, a well-known evangelical author and speaker, and Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif. Organizers declined to comment until the final document is released.

I hope the manifesto is more specific than is this news article as to how often Evangelicals have failed to be loving in their proclamation of the truth and how, exactly, they have condoned their own sins. It's easy to criticize using nebulous allegations which reflect conventional prejudices, especially when one is reasonably assured that relatively few people will take the trouble to ask how prevalent and serious the problem really is.

I also hope the manifesto explains how a pastor can preach the gospel without preaching on the themes of justice and compassion and how, unless he speaks in terms so circumspect and vague as to be meaningless, he can preach on doing justice and compassion in this world without also urging people to be politically engaged. How political is "too political"?

Were not the early abolitionists like William Wilberforce, who is much admired by Os Guinness, politically engaged? Were not the churches havens for the American civil rights movement and, for better or worse, the anti-war movement of the sixties? How can we fight against hunger and oppression around the world without being politically involved? How can we effectively oppose the wanton killing of millions of unborn children without trying to elect pro-life politicians? How can we insist on decency and academic quality in our schools without being willing to elect like-minded school board members and legislators?

Perhaps we'll see on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Joe Carter has some good things to say in addressing the issue of evangelicals in politics.


Gambler's Ruin

I've long wondered why Darwinians place so much confidence in the ability of random mutation and natural selection to evolve the amazing panoply of living things. It always seemed to me that the conviction that an advantageous mutation - i.e. a mutation which conferred a slight advantage in the struggle for survival and which is granted by Darwinians to be relatively rare - would very likely be lost as soon as it appeared due simply to random events like the death of the organism because of accident, predation, etc.

A mutation that allowed an organism, for instance, to more effectively smell food might be lost simply because the organism perishes at the hands of a natural predator. In other words, having an advantage of one kind only makes survival of that organism very slightly more likely, and if the organism doesn't make it then the mutation is lost until it arises again in some future generation.

I've never seen much written about this problem, but Salvador Cordova has a fascinating discussion of it at Uncommon Descent. He talks about it in terms of what's called the Gambler's Ruin, the topic of a book written in the sixties by a mathematical genius at MIT named Edward O. Thorp. Thorp's book explained how one can beat the Las Vegas casinos, and the movie 21 is based on his work.

Cordova explains its relevance to Darwinian evolution in his article. The upshot is that natural selection is scarcely more likely to preserve a beneficial mutation than is random chance:

Darwin was absolutely wrong to suggest that the emergence of a novel trait will be preserved in most cases. It will not! Except for extreme selection pressures (like antibiotic resistance, pesticide resistance, anti-malaria drug resistance), selection fails to make much of an impact.

What this all means is that Darwin's great contribution to evolutionary biology, the theory of natural selection, is just wrong, or at least it's wrong if it's taken to be an unguided process. If evolution occurred at all it was not, nor could have been, a completely materialistic, mechanistic process.

Check out the entire post if this is a topic that interests you.



Joe Trippi, former adviser to Sen. John Edwards', D-N.C., second presidential bid, says he should have "gone with his gut" and convinced the 2004 vice presidential candidate to stay in the race:

In an essay for "Politics" magazine, Trippi writes "I didn't tell him what I should have told him: that I had this feeling that if he stayed in the race, he would win 300 or so delegates by Super Tuesday and have maybe a one-in-five chance of forcing a brokered convention."

Trippi writes that the path "would be extremely painful, but could very well put him and his causes at the top of the Democratic agenda."

"In politics anything can happen," Trippi says in his essay, "Even the possibility that in an open convention with multiple ballots an embattled and exhausted party would turn to him as their nominee."

"My regret that I did not do so -- that I let John Edwards down -- grows with every day that the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continues," Trippi continues.

Trippi shouldn't let it get him down. By not urging Edwards to stick to his goal of becoming president he did what was best for the country.