Theology and natural evil

I’ve wondered for years: Is the average preacher an idiot, or a whore who specializes in servicing idiots? That is, do they believe the insane stuff they peddle, or do they know better but peddle insane stuff because it’s easy to sell to idiots? I’ve favored both ends of that spectrum through the years.

Today, for instance, Holy Man Albert Mohler undertakes to correct Christianity Today’s editor over the provenance of evil.

Daniel Harrell, who prior to his experience was pastor of the Park Street Church, an historic evangelical congregation in Boston and then a church in Minnesota, he just recently joined Christianity Today as editor in chief, and he evidently intended to spark a discussion with an article that was posted at Christianity Today on the 17th of March.

[ … ]

He wants to argue that a virus is a part of the creation that God has made, the way God made it. He writes, “The theological tendency is to view God’s creation as a good thing gone bad, all due to our avaricious overreach as humans.” He goes on to say, “Any cursory survey of human history confirms this.” But he writes, “Unless God’s creation defies every characteristic of biological reality, bacteria and viruses are not bitter fruits of the Fall, but among the first fruits of good creation itself.”

He continues, “If the science is right, there would be no life as we know it without them. God makes no mistakes,” argues Harrell, “and bacteria and viruses indeed are mirabilis (from the Latin meaning remarkable, or even amazing or wondrous, adjectives,” he writes, “frequently used to describe creation) and part of the plan from the start.” He concludes the paragraph, “Better to view creation not as something perfect gone awry, but as something begun as very good, only not yet finished.”

You can see the problem. The science is definite, unambiguous: pathogens and viruses long-preceded humankind. Christian theology is equally definite: The world was perfect, without hungry pathogens, before the Fall and the introduction of sin into Paradise — after the appearance of humankind.

This is, of course, too ridiculous. Pathogens preceded humankind and, worse, evolve more rapidly than homo sapiens. New species of killer bugs are going to appear vastly more rapidly than we can kill them, and pandemics are going to be part of the human experience until the sun burns out.

But notice: Mohler writes just as if this is a serious conversation, something learned men might reason and disagree about. He is serious — and, therefore, I put him among the idiots, not the whores. Today, I mean.

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Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

A mish-mash of thoughts that have stacked-up during the past week, in no particular order.

  • First, Bruce Gerencser made a striking post last evening about a church in his area that continues to hold Sunday Services — collection day.

    There’s not really much you can do about or for stupid people. As I’ve said many times through the years, The stupid are like the poor: they’ll always be with us. But these self-serving morons endanger others, too, and that should not be permitted. Ohio’s governor erred when he didn’t order churches closed, too.

  • However inconvenient it is that needful services are unavailable, restaurants are closed, store shelves are empty of things that are needed, and vacation plans are upended, I incline to find it heartening. Most Americans are taking the CoronaVirus pandemic seriously and searching for alternative ways of getting the job done while minimizing contact with others. Our best defense is vigorously mobilizing — and that’s good.

  • The world is going to be telling the stories of Trump’s screw-ups — and laughing — for 1000-years. And marveling that America elected such a corrupt and incompetent pile of sewage.

    I said shortly after the election, and still believe, that this is the end of the Evangelical Right. This is on them, and this is the meaning, literally, and fulfillment, of their death-wish theology. They are not part of the decent, educated world, and the best defense is to put them out of your life.

  • I have thought often these past few weeks of a parlor game that was popular 20 or so years ago — Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The rapid spread of the virus affirms the premise of the game, which is that there are no more than six degrees of separation between any two people on earth. A knows B, who once attended a play starring C, who is the cousin of D, who once attended a church service conducted by E — who is the … Pope.

    This is a principle beloved by conspiracy ‘theorists’ — aka, nutjobs — but makes an important and relevant point: We are not so far apart as we may like to think. Just because no virus cases has been reported in your county does not mean that you’re safely in Outer Darkness. The kid delivering your pizza may be just a few connections removed from someone just returned from Italy and asymptomatically infectious as all get out. To work, social distancing has to be, basically, comprehensive.

Stay healthy and hunkered down.

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Deranged rant of the day

This was almost a gimme for the First Felon, an opportunity to soothe and shine. Naturally, he blew it.

This is the object of the Evangelical Right’s adoration — and tells you everything you need to know about Trump and them.

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Dismal theology-related tweet for the day

The problem here is not in plain sight, and amounts to this: Theology is not a branch of knowledge; it’s a branch of bunco. We can say that because theology never does the hard work of establishing its premises — never establishes that Our Invisible Friend is real, never establishes that Our Invisible Friend superintended the production of the Bible, never establishes that the Bible we have is a faithful rendering of the originals of the multiple texts which comprise the Bible.

To skirt those problems, theologians grandly announce that they are ‘presuppositionalists’ — meaning, they presuppose the truth of those unproven and unprovable claims — and get busy telling everybody what to do.

Going more deeply into make-believe does not change that theology has no more intellectual dignity than astrology.

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Meet my neighbors, ctd

What do you know? North Carolina — where Holy Men mulct the regular folk so casually and confidently you’d think it was a birthright — has its very own Boss Hogg: Senator Richard Burr.

Briefed that the CoronaVirus would provoke a major, disruptive, life-threatenining event, did the Senator warn his constituents to get ready? He did not. He warned big donors, though.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.

The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.

And he unloaded a lot of stock.

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

Clearly, Burr should resign. He should also face an insider trading investigation, and prison.

Always, invariably, inevitably, reality gets the last word. Could we please abandon the Happy Fantasyland spun by idiot preachers and start paying attention to the experts?

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