Press Languages and Religious Freedom
These beliefs are primarily the product of our upbringing, and hence they are relative to particular cultures. It follows that, if you have not grown up in John Polkinghorne’s peculiar culture, his talk about the divine and human natures of Jesus will be not be about anything that is real for you. It also follows that our moral principles are only valid for our particular cultural circumstances, although less emphasis is given to this point because it leads to some very disturbing conclusions when we contemplate other cultures whose morality is abhorrent to us.
No doubt quantum mechanics works everywhere, but the materialist philosophy that leading scientists purport to derive from their science is quite another matter. This point was brought home amusingly in an interchange at the recent Lambeth Conference, where African and Asian clergy were trying to keep the Europeans and Americans from going overboard in pursuit of modernist philosophies that already seem out of date.
The liberal (some would say apostate) American Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is besotted by the scientific materialist worldview, and in its name urges the church to abandon all references to supernatural entities and embrace modernist morality in such matters as the ordination of clergy who are practicing homosexuals or lesbians.
Challenged on these matters by bishops from Africa, Spong patronizingly responded that many African Christians have “moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity . … [Africans have] yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we’ve had to face in the developing world.”
These remarks constitute “intellectual racism,” replied Bishop Peter John Lee of South Africa. A Kenyan bishop added “Who does he know in Kenya? How did he get this out of Kenya?”
The divine and human natures of Jesus are real enough to these African Christians. What is not real to them is Bishop Spong’s culturally conditioned notion that Copernicus and Einstein have proved traditional Christianity to be false.
Of course it is not Copernicus and Einstein, or quantum mechanics, that creates the impression that science has made Christianity untenable. That honor goes to Darwinism, and especially to the core Darwinian idea that our true creator is a mindless and purposeless process of evolution that leaves God effectively out of the picture.
That raises the question: is Darwinian evolution a scientific fact, as most academic and journalistic accounts assume, that is resisted only by those religious dogmatists who “believe without question” in the literal words of the Bible? Or is Darwinism possibly based on philosophical assumptions that are the products of a particular culture, and hence are not valid outside that culture?