I'm not entirely sure whether he's concerned about the very idea of a "parallel culture" itself or the quality of the evangelical culture. As for developing our own parallel cultures, I would point to the monastic culture (especially medieval monasteries) as an example from a different Christian faith tradition. A crucial difference between the medieval monastery and the modern evangelical culture is that the monastic culture was compelling and appealing to people. As I understand it (and I admit that I'm no historian), the monasteries were important sources of learning and scholarship, and to some extent helped to preserve learning through the "Dark Ages." I think especially of St. Columba's monastery on Iona, which was instrumental in Christianizing Scotland through the power of learning. (I'm going to stop talking about monasteries now before I reveal any more of my ignorance.)It is quite true that the monasteries were very important for learning and did preserve much of the knowledge that had been passed down from their predecessors. But the monasteries were doing so largely in the absence of, and prior to, the explosion of modern science. Further, they weren't competing with the culture of the time, they were providing a completely different outlook and way of life. The modern evangelical movement, in contrast, is providing its own brand of politics, culture and science in almost exactly the same model as secular society but with a Christian basis. Where the wheels fall off the wagon (and Dr. Wood and I differ profoundly on this issue), is in the (largely) evangelical Christian interpretation of modern science, which is tied to a very strict biblical hermeneutic that dictates a 6,000 year-old creation and further, that evolution as characterized by modern evolutionary biologists, has never happened. There is little to no mainstream scientific evidence to support this interpretation of scientific findings and mountains of evidence to the contrary.
The evangelical community has fought the mainstream interpretations of modern science tooth and nail to the point where those of us that accept them are called “unbiblical.” Further, we get called that by people who have no training in modern science at all.
Dr. Wood has a short section in which he examines the Christian culture that has arisen in parallel. He argues (and I largely agree) that modern evangelical Christianity is reactive in the sense that we parrot modern, secular society and do not do it well. He further notes that this is the reason that so many leave the faith in their late teens or early twenties. Anecdotally (and I have a pretty small sample size) it does seem that those that hang on to their faith through these years hit modern culture head on instead of avoiding it.
I have always been of the (myopic) opinion that one of the key reasons that people in the their late teens or early twenties leave the faith is because they hit an understanding of how the world works, scientifically, and it conflicts with what they have been taught, usually from home school curricula. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps this is only one small part of a greater whole that we, as Christians, are not addressing. I know the challenge of raising children in a Christian home firsthand and some of my children will soon be entering their adolescent years where that struggle will become evident. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit gives us the guidance to be able to provide an attractive alternative to a completely secular culture.
Lastly, Dr. Wood writes:
What I want, and what this blog has always been about, is to improve what we have. Instead of constantly tossing potshots at evolutionary biology, we need to put up or shut up. If creationism is so much better than conventional science, where's our explanation of the pattern of radioisotopes? Or distant starlight? Or the near identity of the human and chimp genomes? And why aren't we working on answers to these questions? Why are people settling for just explaining the problems away with philosophical tricks or just distracting people from the problems by pretending like everyone else has much worse problems? Take the beam out of your own eye before you pick out the speck from someone else's. That was good advice 2000 years ago, and it's good advice today.He is absolutely correct. And herein lies a large problem. Recently, when Dr. Wood took on Reasons to Believe's interpretation of the human/chimp genome and showed where they were wrong (and not trustworthy), a good many people who are not, to my knowledge, Christians cited this exchange quite positively, even knowing that Dr. Wood is a professed young-earth creationist. Why? Because it was about the only time in recent memory in which the secular data was examined and interpreted by someone from that point of view with complete scientific integrity.
Beginning with George MacReady Price's The New Geology, in 1923 and continuing down to the present day, the evangelical movement has made a complete hash of science. Even worse, there is a persistent evidence that those promoting this view do not even seek to get things correct. To turn the phrase that Dr. Wood used, if I hear one more evangelical non-scientist say “there are no transitional fossils” I just might scream!
Examples abound in which scientific data is skewed or twisted in such a way as to support the young earth model when, in its original form, it did exactly the opposite (Randy Isaac's response to the RATE volumes is, perhaps the best example). This leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of your average scientist.
This is a bad witness.
This is part of the reason this blog exists. Non-Christians need to know that we can confront the data in an honest fashion. If we seek to reach out to those with scientific inclinations for the cause of Christ, we must treat the data with integrity, even if it leads us down a road that we have never been down before.
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