Wednesday, May 26, 2010


This post on Uncommon Descent by Young Earth Creationist (?) Paul Nelson tells the interesting story of Martin Gardiner, a man who started life as a Christian fundamentalist. I set this story against this post where I published a church magazine article by the prewar Minister to St Mary’s Baptist Church, Gilbert Laws. This article was evidence that Laws respected the results of science; he believed that those results should be coped with rather than rejected. The fundamentalist ethos that the findings of science are automatically suspect because they are to be identified with an anti-Christ scientific conspiracy probably never entered Laws head; but then those were was the days of the civic church, a church that identified itself with the establishment.

Paul Nelson takes up the story of Martin Gardner:

It is not generally known that Gardner grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in Oklahoma, and indeed entered the University of Chicago as an undergraduate zealous to defend his faith, and to return America to its Christian heritage:

"In his adolescent fantasies he saw himself as chosen by the Lord to lead this new awakening. And to carry out this stupendous undertaking he conceived a brazen plan….He would enter the very citadel of the enemy. He would master all the science and modern learning that a great secular university had to offer. Every false and infernal argument would be examined and exposed. He would probe the diseased heart of twentieth century theology, dissect it nerve by nerve, artery by artery."

The passage comes from Gardner’s autobiographical novel, The Flight of Peter Fromm (1973), which Bill Dembski has used as a textbook in seminary courses he’s taught. While Gardner’s fundamentalist Christianity died a long and painful death, his theism never did.

And according to Gardner’s Wiki page:

His semi-autobiographical novel The Flight of Peter Fromm depicts a traditionally Protestant Christian man struggling with his faith, examining 20th century scholarship and intellectual movements and ultimately rejecting Christianity while remaining a theist

The candid fundamentalist mind, when exposed to honest science, finds no elaborate conspiracy to deceive but instead genuine challenges to his faith. I don’t believe there is any necessary conflict between science and theism or between science and Christianity for that matter, but there is a conflict between science and fundamentalism.

The tradition of NCBC is not one of opposing science. However, the potential to oppose science and reason are present: The tensions and paradoxes found in the logos versus mythos dichotomy have a tendency to resolve themselves by resort to extremes of legalistic rigidity and/or gnostic irrationality. When faced with the challenges of science both of these religious extremes are apt to barricade themselves into the epistemological play pen of an assertive fideism.

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