‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Monday, 7 July 2008

Ekklesia, Education and Intelligent Design

Trying to understand Ekklesia is not easy. One minute they are advocating inclusion and dialogue across faith boundaries, the next they are engaged in a political campaign to close down debate in faith education. Ekklesia formed out of ‘Workshop’ in 2002; they claim it is an independent theological training programme of the Anvil Trust. The Anvil Trust wants ‘inclusive Christian learning in today’s diverse world.’ Ekklesia state they want ‘freedom of expression,’ ‘non-compulsion in religion and belief’ the ‘engagement of theology with science and culture’ and ‘respectful engagement with those of other faiths.’

Why then are they so antagonistic to those who believe in divine creation or intelligent design, and are thus campaigning to restrict religious freedom in the classroom? Why are they seeking to deny human rights to those of traditional faith communities, I wonder? By campaigning along side the British Humanist Association, Ekklesia seem to be advocating a specifically secular humanist agenda in education by engaging in political activity against Christians, Jews and Muslims. And they accuse others of being ideologically driven. What of Ekklesia’s ideological motivation? I would suggest it is really metaphysical naturalism. Ekklesia comment that.

“Ekklesia has argued for some time…that ‘intelligent design’ is a serious category mistake and a corrosive force in both theological and scientific discourses. It brings the proper engagement of religion and science into disrepute, and it benefits those who wish to pursue dubious ideological agendas at the expense of a more complex common search for truth and wisdom.”[1]

I have previously commented why this is wrong, not least because it seeks to limit what God can and cannot do. It also limits what science can study and assumes a priori the truth of metaphysical naturalism. But I think part of the problem with Ekklesia can be seen from the following statement.

'… biblical literalists' Simon Barrow comments 'turn God into some sort of super-being, rather than the wholly unconditioned source, flow and destiny of all being and becoming – a very different notion, and central to the developed monotheistic traditions.' [1]

There seems to be a move away from a personal God who is revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ, in favour of some sort of vague theism at best, pantheism at worst. The Bible infact invites comparison between God and man through his creation in the image of God, and this is integral to the theology of the incarnation. Barrow calls for churches to engage in science and religion education to 'discern' the problems with creationism and ID commenting that.

“This is necessary not just to ensure that people are equipped to discern the real problems with movements like ID and creationism, but in order to negotiate the ethical, pastoral, political, economic, spiritual and theological challenges of new technologies, the bio-sciences, genomics and many other disciplines reshaping our world and our condition. The real task ahead of us is not defensive, it is profoundly creative.”[1]

Firstly, there is also some irony that Simon Barrow sees human endeavour in science in bio-sciences and genomics as ‘creative’ while denying the direct creativity of God in nature.

But there is also a subtle, but important distinction between a belief in human centred progress and belief in divine grace or providence that is at work in the world. All that we do as Christians, who are involved in science, must be done within God’s grace. Doing science as human centred progress is arrogant and in effect Faustian science. Such ‘progress’ has resulted in many mistakes through history and led to post modernism with its great distrust of science. There is some irony that Ekklesia, who say they are seeking to develop faith in a ‘post-Christendom’ world are engaged in propping up the failure of modernism in science.

There is also irony in that Ekklesia seek to deny human rights in education while claiming to be for education and human rights. Ekkeslia have no understanding that metaphysical naturalism is in effect ‘dumbing down’ science, because it seeks to teach one narrow philosophy as ‘fact’ and prevent children from thinking for themselves. This is a Platonic conception of education (from Plato’s Republic) based on a rigid class structure where only a small group should be allowed to think for themselves, the majority should be taught to accept facts sufficient to enable them to become competent warriors or productive workers. Karl Popper in Open Society and its Enemies noted that Platonism and Marxism were essentially tyranical and opposed to open societies. Is Ekklesia also opposed to an open society through its political activity against one section of Christianity? I wonder?

[1] Simon Barrow, Theology, science and the problem of ID, Ekklesia.
http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6707
See also:
ISSR Statement falls back on Old Dogmas
http://www.csm.org.uk/news.php?viewmessage=99

Ekklesia tries to undermine Intelligent Design Initiative
http://www.csm.org.uk/news.php?viewmessage=70

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