Looking Back, Looking Forward

The ASA 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting at Wheaton College offered a number of papers that analyzed the context from which the organization emerged and examined various events and issues of the founding period. We include a representative selection of these papers in this issue. Further papers will appear in the March 1992 issue. 

Sara Joan Miles begins with an analysis of Anglo-American 18th century attitudes toward science and theology. She argues that the participants of this period set the agenda and the terms of the debate and offered the basic responses from both sides of the table that have continued to the present. Edward B. Davis' "A Whale of a Tale" aptly illustrates the notorious extremes to which fundamentalist defenders of the reliability of scripture would go in the early decades of the century. He reminds us that these practitioners of "folk science" were successful then and today in part because Christian scientists are unwilling to communicate the relevant science to lay people. 

D. G. Hart offers an analysis of prevailing attitudes toward science and culture held by mainstream American evangelicals at the time of the founding of the ASA in 1941. Hart views fundamentalist opposition to evolution as stemming in part from attitudes toward threats to existing institutions and dispensational eschatology as well as its apparent denial of God's creative and providential role in natural and human history. 

Three individuals, Irwin A. Moon, F. Alton Everest and Will H. Houghton, were key to the founding of the ASA. J. W. Haas, Jr. describes the personalities, the interrelations and the important roles that these men played in the early days of the organization. 

Mark A. Kalthoff looks at the efforts of the young organization to avoid the disruptive rhetoric of the past in seeking to correlate the facts of the "two books." These efforts often led to divergent views but "a spirit of harmony prevailed" in spite of the "dissonant chords." 

In the closing paper, Richard Bube looks to the future of the ASA. He challenges us to continue the path charted by the founders and offers the metaphor of the living bridge to describe our continuing role in linking science and Christianity. Bube paints a broad future path and warns against extremes of scholarly obscurity, blind defense of the faith, or theological restructuring.

The March 1992 issue will offer insights on other individuals who made significant contributions in the early days of the ASA. It will include a paper by Dorothy Chappell on biologist Russell Mixter, and one by Joseph Spradley which explores the contributions of theologian Bernard Ramm to evangelical thinking on the relationship between science and scripture. Chappell and Spradley then join in describing the contributions of three Wheaton College women to the ASA in the years following World War II.

J. W. Haas, Jr.
Gordon College
Wenham MA 01982