Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sciolism, Scientism, and Theology

So what does it matter if people go off half-cocked? We've been making decisions based on incomplete and faulty information since the Garden of Eden, which I guess helps answer the question. But now, in addition to mere ignorance parading as knowledge, we add the tendency toward a falsely scientific view of life.

I noticed some time ago that in Christian circles (especially Fundamentalist Protestant ones, but you can easily find it elsewhere) there was a tendency to reduce everything to a formula. Most of the supposedly non-fiction books in a Christian bookstore have a formula for success, effective prayer, weight loss, or whatever else. Even theologically we tend toward formulas, though that's been around for centuries.

It's curious that the Bible is low on formulas. About the closest you get is in the Law, and even it isn't truly formulaic. But the formula mindset can be found quite easily: it's the attempt to reduce God and our interactions with him to scripts. Push the right buttons, and you get what you want.

It should be obvious that this is magic: an attempt to manipulate God into doing our will. But there's more to it than that--something even more damnable. Not only is it an attempt to get our own way and assert our will over God's, it also implies rejecting grace.

Earning your own salvation is thoroughly formula-based: do the right works, and you are saved. From the standpoint of scientism, earning your salvation is a good idea, because there's a clear cause-effect relationship. Good deeds eventually outweigh bad ones, so you just keep going until you're saved.

But what of grace? Grace is a miracle: it upsets the cause-effect chain, saying that bad deeds may simply be forgiven, and without our somehow earning that forgiveness. Is it any wonder that when Creation Science writers wander into theology they tend to reduce it to simplistic formulas?

They also like to sanitize messy people: Noah didn't mean to get drunk; in the antediluvian world, grape juice didn't ferment. They have quite a long presentation with the sole point of getting Noah off the hook. But why? Why not just admit that he was yet another sinner and goofed up? (For that matter, why make drinking wine a sin? It isn't one in the Bible.)

The annoyingly obvious answer is that they don't really believe in grace. They believe in excuses, even far-fetched ones, to avoid admitting that God used and blessed a sinner. Admitting it would violate the tidy cause-effect sequence and acknowledge a miracle—which the Creation Science people are no more eager to do than atheists.

God does miracles; get over it. And salvation is a walk, not a formula.

1 comment:

Phy said...

Marvelous post as usual, Steve.

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