Evangelicals, Elites, and Alternative Facts
Molly Worthen, a reputable scholar of American evangelicalism who teaches at the estimable University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, suggests in a recent New York Times article that evangelicals have been leery of “fake news” for a long time now.
She’s more right than she knows.
Worthen points to the usual suspects, rationalist defences of Biblical inerrancy and seven-day creation, and adds to them a brief mention of theologian Cornelius Van Til, who posited a great gulf fixed between the Christian (= true) view of things and every other (world)view.
Van Til and his arch neo-Calvinist philosophy would be utterly unfamiliar to the vast majority of North American evangelicals. But his extreme and rather theoretical division of (Christian) truth on one side and what “the world” says on the other side is not just the oversimplification of fundamentalism. I suggest that such a dichotomy reflects much of evangelicals’ actual experience over the last century or so of North American culture.
For during this time, all “right-thinking” people just “knew” that…
…the Bible was not only to be studied “just like any other book” (Benjamin Jowett) but with a strong anti-supernaturalist bias against both the miraculous in its accounts and any divine involvement in its composition;
…not only are science and religion fundamentally antagonistic, largely because “Darwin has disproved the Bible,” but, paradoxically, Christianity is also responsible for justifying the scientific and technological despoliation of the earth by granting license (in Genesis 1) to human beings to use, and abuse, the planet as we see fit (Lynn White, Jr., Peter Singer, et al.);
…cohabitation before marriage is the best way to produce happier, stronger marriages, and then, if things don’t work out, divorce can be good for everyone, parents and children alike;
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