Science in Christian Perspective




From: JASA 16 (December 1964): 127.

I believe that Evangelical Theological Society and American Scientific Affiliation need each other. I know that it is next to impossible for theologians to keep up with the new developments in science and on the other hand I am appalled at the freedom with which our Christian scientists are toying with the Biblical texts. I may soften that by adding that our theologians are doing so too and so the scientists naturally are taking it up. But the scientists should have a chance to hear the criticisms of various theologians rather than jumping to the first far out exegesis of Genesis that seems to meet the scientific need. I thought that the meeting at Asbury was very helpful. I was glad to hear of European scientists who are questioning evolution and evolutionary datings more, apparently, than our American ones. After all, it is plain that the evolutionary theory like higher criticism stemmed from an Hegelian background. Europe has thrown off this Hegelian yoke earlier and more completely than America. Now the question is how much of the debris of the past is philosophy and how much is fact. Of course, I was disturbed to see that there were few at Asbury representing an important wing, perhaps the leading section, of the American Scientific Affiliation.

May I question the review by Bube of Beegle's book in the December 1963 Journal? I thought it gave the book far too much attention. I noted that Christianity Today passed off the book in about five lines as a book which would have been significant fifty years ago. Beegle's book raises many of the usual problems for inerrancy, but answers to most all of them have been suggested, and I should think a review of this length should suggest more answers rather than to commend Beegle and urge a "hard look" before "taking up the cry of heresy."

Further, I should like to comment in an informal way on the December critiques of Herje's article on social work. 1, for one, very much appreciated his article. I thought it was a good reminder of the errors of Freudianism and of the dangers of using its theoretical basis as a foundation for extensive practical social work. I question Larson's remarks that the article put together unrelated items. Larson omitted the point that Herje made that social work of today is largely based on Freudian theory. This at least was Herje's claim, and Larson does not deny it. He merely states that attack on Freudianism does not logically question modem social work itself. Herje gave at least some evidence to show that these were not "distantly and inconsistently related subjects." Pattison's analysis was perhaps better. But I question the idea that the social worker's role can be functionally defined with out reference to its theoretical basis. There is a vast difference between a social worker who has a Freudian theory and one who has a Christian theory. His example of a minister who may see himself as a heavenly messenger or as a social worker yet may function identically is particularly strange. That is just the trouble. We have two types of ministers in the country and they are poles apart. They represent different religions. They both preach and get clergy rates, but they can hardly be said to "function identically" in social matters. Pattison does not answer his question "How can we frame a program of social action which is true to Christian principles when the society operates in reference to the principles of Naturalistic scientism?" He adds, "Can a Christian attempt to change the metaphysical and operational values of his professional system, and if so, how?" These are good questions. But certainly a Christian can attempt to change the values of his profession if they are anti-Christian, and if he cannot, he should start a new competing profession. It is hard to imagine a Christian bartender! A converted Christian crook gets out of the business. I regard the school of psychoanalysis as so directly anti-Christian that a Chris~ tian should disassociate himself from it. And in doing so, he should oppose social theory and work built upon those principles. I am sure I would be regarded as quite extreme, but I am not sure that we need to "frame a program of social action which is true to Christian principles." The Bible does not envision such, outside of the principles of charity and individual assistance which hardly go as principles of social action today. Promoting the general welfare is not exactly a Christian goal. This is in the realm of common grace. Herje's claim was that the public social work of today is not built upon the acknowledged moral standard of our government and American life, but upon an anti-Christian theory. I have seen the same thing in psychiatric approach. A doctor by his theory of mental ills may come into opposition to the minister in his application of the Biblical teaching of sin. A prominent psychiatrist here threatened to have a minister friend arrested for interfering with his treatment of his patient! Not all psychiatry is thus antithetical, but much is, and Herje's point was that much social theory and practice was built upon this anti-Christian position. All non-Christian work is not anti-Christian. Our normal police and court procedures are not anti-Christian. I believe psychoanalysis is anti-Christian.

James actually said that "Psychoanalysis is foundational in the profession's understanding of human psychodynamics". I can only think that the profession has profoundly misunderstood human psychodynamics. I understand that psychoanalysis is the Freudian type of psychiatry. Some psychiatry is truly Christian. Psychoanalysis is so greatly off center that I believe such a synthesis as James pleads for would come only at the expense of the truth.

R. Laird Harris
Covenant Theological Seminary St. Louis, Missouri