Yesterday, one of my blog posts from the past two weeks was used as a guest post on Scot McKnight’s site, the Jesus Creed. It was generally well received by those that focused on the main point/thought question of the post and was tweeted or favorited by several others including eChurch Websites (Stuart) and BioLogos. However, there were a few commenters who took severe offense to one sentence that I included. (There were others that completely misread what I wrote, but I don’t really think that there is a reason to address those comments since they’ll probably misunderstand my reply here as well.) I wrote briefly about my initial reactions to the comments yesterday (https://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/my-fun-day-at-the-jesus-creed/), and you can read the actual post either on my site (https://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/giberson-vs-mohler-and-the-issue-of-public-persona/) or the Jesus Creed site (http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2010/09/10/but-do-they-sometimes-doubt/). The only difference between the two is the large disparity in number and variety of comments.
As mentioned in my reflections from yesterday, the post was about personal belief and public persona. I asked a question about whether it was possible that highly popular individuals who espouse extreme viewpoints on theology or belief in God (or lack thereof) ever have personal doubts about these strong viewpoints. I also mentioned that we would probably never know since the persona that they and their followers had built up would likely suffer if they ever acknowleged those doubts or even hinted at the validity of an alternative viewpoint.
To highlight this, I used two recent stories about specific individuals: PZ Myers (whom no one even cared about for some reason) and Al Mohler (who was recently engaged in a verbal spat with BioLogos, Karl Giberson in particular). The issue at hand was not the main point of the post (it doesn’t ever seem to be, does it?), but one sentence that I wrote following a quote from Dr. Mohler, who for those that do not know is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the “flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)”, which 100% absolutely has bearing on who was complaining and why.
Here is the paragraph containing the quote from Dr. Mohler and my apparently offensive and misleading following sentence:
Albert Mohler, on the other hand, believes that “the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures.” He, in essence, is saying that it is impossible to believe in evolution and be a Christian. This will likely offend the many millions worldwide who are Christian and accept the findings of science. So be it, I suppose.
Again, this was not the main point of the post. But, in it, I was most certainly pointing out that I believe he is wrong. I stand by the comment and my post in general, but in retrospect, the select group of commenters who disliked this paragraph would have likely been less offended if I had added a clause and edited a couple of words to change the sentence to:
To outsiders, it appears that he , in essence, is saying that it is impossible to believe in evolution and be a Christian.
I really think that would have been enough. But, I didn’t do it and so a small firestorm erupted. To those commenters that were offended (who as far as I can tell it were all Evangelical at most likely SBC members), they said that I was misrepresenting Mohler and that incompatible does not equal impossible. Well, even though I have a history with the SBC and the arrogance and frankness that some of its members exhibit in matters of the Gospel and who is “saved”, that doesn’t mean that the SBC or Evangelicals are wrong. Therefore, I asked the commenters who were offended or believed that I severely misrepresented Mohler’s words to explain the difference between incompatible and impossible, as it relates to evolution and the Gospel. Clearly I don’t see the difference, but they do and I sincerely wanted to understand where they were coming from. I posed a few questions: Does this mean that one who accepts the Gospel should eventually stop believing evolution is true? Are those Christians who believe in evolution “sub-Christians”? Another question that came to my mind later but was not posted was: Is it therefore impossible to grow and mature as a Christian if one is an evolutionist?
Unfortunately, no one directly addressed my above questions. There were a few attempts, but they weren’t reasons why there is a distinction; they simply restated that incompatible and impossible are not the same.
What was suggested though (by someone who was not offended by my post, ironically), was that perhaps to these commenters, being a Christian is equated with being “saved, or having your sins forgiven, while the Gospel of Jesus Christ is equated with “growing and becoming a more faithful follower of Christ.” Therefore, one can be saved and live incompatibly with the Gospel at the same time. To be frank, that’s arrogant, offensive, ludicous, and just plain ridiculous. You’re telling me that the millions who believe in evolution and accept Christ are not living a “compatible” life?
My history in the SBC leads me to think that this may be the distinction as I remember how we (hey, I was a member), without actually calling it this, believed that there were different “classes” of Christians and we Southern Baptists were the ones that had it figured out the best. Sure, we were inclusive and others could, or perhaps should, join us but our track was THE right one. What this means to those that believe in evolution and are saved, it would appear, is that we’re (hey, now I’m a member) all living without a coherent worldview and just rambling about aimlessly, but thanks be to God that he saved us that day back in 1995! I just don’t see the difference practically between the two terms if that’s the distinction, because how can one live as a Christian and not pursue what this means intellectually and holistically?
Perhaps what is meant by the difference between incompatible and impossible is that I’m limiting God and that you can be saved outside of the Gospel? So, yeah, while the Gospel is incompatible with evolution, well some evolutionist somewhere could accept that he is a sinner and ask for forgiveness outside of the Gospel. I thought that was a no-no as well as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him? I don’t think this is the distinction, but as I mentioned, no one really answered my questions.
Or perhaps it’s more a matter of semantics? I wouldn’t think that Christians, especially those that are members of the SBC, would want to be seen publicly as directly coming out and saying that someone else is not a Christian. Well, even though they may not be trying they often say it indirectly. I see this as a member of the body of Christ who is an evolutionist. Imagine how an atheist or agnostic would see it…
These are my thoughts on what others might think. It is possible that I am quite wrong. It is also possible that my readers will not have any suggestions either. But I’m going to ask you anyway. Do you see a distinction between incompatible and impossible as it relates to evolution and the Gospel of Jesus Christ?