FRIDAY, MARCH 2: In the February 10 edition of the Bermuda Sun, we ran a letter by Stephen Notman on Ken Ham, Creationist exponent and president of Answers in Genesis USA, who visited the island speak at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship’s ‘Answers in Genesis’ conference. It prompted a response by Andrew Westhead, printed on February 17, and now Mr Notman responds.


Dear Sir,

A lively response to my letter of February 10 by that able writer, Mr Andrew Westhead, inadvertently provided good evidence to substantiate my claim that Bermuda remains mired in a biblical fundamentalism that is both empirically impoverished and ruthlessly tribalistic.

My respondent’s tactical approach was to misrepresent my letter’s central theme, characterizing it not as an indictment of that prosperous peddler of pseudoscience, Ken Ham, but as a mean-spirited betrayal of my fellow Christians.

To direct focus away from the overwhelming failure of credible evidence for a young earth, his counter-attack alleged a failure of moral character in the person questioning fundamentalist dogma.

Such is the consistent rhetorical strategy of religious fundamentalism, which as I said earlier, relies on claims of ‘diabolical conspiracies’ to help explain away the mountains of empirical evidence for an old universe.

Thus, we find in my interlocutor’s letter the sinister insinuation that I am dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, secretly sharing the volitional atheism of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Damned

Fundamentalism allows only two options: You either accept that the universe was created in six literal 24-hour periods about 6,000 years ago, or you are one of the damned.

The choice is stark, even threatening, stealing psychological capital from the starkness of Jesus’ claim that we are either with him or against him.

It unwittingly makes salvation no longer a matter of grace, but contingent upon unquestioningly accepting and maintaining belief in a whole host of lesser dogmas with equal fervour, including the eisegetical ‘lordship’ of Henry Morris and Bishop James Ussher on how to read Genesis correctly.

But those are not the only two options available to the traditional, orthodox Christian. Rejecting Young Earth Creationism does not make one a hand-wringing theological liberal that adopts a ‘pick ‘n’ choose’ Bible.

Neither is it a grudging concession to atheism that our little fairy tales are being steadily dissolved by the universal acid of naturalistic evolution.

Classical theism has always countenanced a complex interplay between natural theology and special revelation that is far more interesting than a wooden, literalistic reading of every word and passage in the Bible.

Two thousand years of scholarship continues to wrestle fruitfully with the deep and benign mystery of Fides et Ratio, all the while inspiring generations of faithful followers of Christ.

Fundamentalists are welcome to believe what they want, but it is ironic that anyone who chooses to accept the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, blithely consigning the vast majority of humanity to the fires of hell for all eternity, including major Protestant denominations and that ‘Whore of Babylon’ the Roman Catholic Church — should ever complain of having their feelings uncharitably treated.  

While I reject Calvin and the deterministic implications of his appalling heresy, I reluctantly accept the awful necessity of Hell for those who freely and consciously reject the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.  

For that reason, I am left shaken and disgusted by fundamentalism’s triumphalist indignation in response to me “nurturing a hope” for the soul of that challenging and often delightful curmudgeon, Christopher Hitchens.

Stephen Notman
Paget