Creationist Wisdom #988: The Seminarian

You probably remember this thrilling item from a few days ago: Drooling School Board Chairwoman. That was about Sue Kern, chairwoman of the school board of Brainerd, Minnesota, who couldn’t figure out why the schools were teaching evolution. As expected, Susie has inspired a letter-to-the-editor, which appears in the Brainerd Dispatch of Brainerd, Minnesota. It’s titled Makes no sense. They don’t seem to have a comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a future preacher — or something. It’s Stafford L. Thompson, who describes himself as a “seminarian.” Here are some excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Okay, here we go:

In regard to the controversy surrounding Mrs. Kern’s questions at the Sept. 9 school board meeting, I would like to submit a quotation for consideration:

As with so many creationist letters, we’re given an example of quote mining. Here it is:

“If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner (evolution), then there had been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there had been no fall, then the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon which the current teaching based Christian emotion and morality, collapsed like a house of cards.” H.G. Wells (1866-1946).

Wells was a prolific writer, but the seminarian didn’t even give us the title of the book his quote came from. No matter, we found it. It comes from The Outline of History. Here’s all of it online, thanks to Project Gutenberg. The quote selected by the seminarian is from Chapter 39, THE REALITIES AND IMAGINATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.

One of the many topics that chapter discusses is the controversy over Darwin’s work. Wells presents both sides, and the portion quoted — or “mined” — by the seminarian was from the anti-evolution side. Although Wells doesn’t specifically say so, it’s clear from his life’s work that he thought Darwin had the better argument. In the same chapter, Wells also talks about the Huxley–Wilberforce debate, and his pro-science leanings are rather evident.

Okay, back to the seminarian’s letter. He tells us:

We can debate the evidence for and against the theory of evolution (and whether one needs to subscribe to it to be a scientific citizen, which I believe one does not need to). However, I would like to point out that it is very difficult to reconcile the idea that Christianity and evolution are compatible. Mr. Wells pointed it out nicely in the [mined] quotation above.

Many would disagree — see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations that support evolution. The seminarian continues:

Without the fall into sin of a historical and real Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ dying as an atoning sacrifice for sin and for the salvation of the world makes no sense. Why would God the Father, the Creator, send his son to die when death had always been a part of his creation?

Not only that, but why was the Fall allowed to occur in the first place? These are questions your Curmudgeon can’t answer. Let’s read on:

I believe many sincere Christians gloss over this with good intentions to avoid strife with the scientific community, but it is an inconsistency that I believe we cannot avoid.

The seminarian will not avoid the battle. Here’s the end of his letter:

I (and many like me) will look to our Lord who died for us before looking to a dead biologist from England. Jesus rose from the grave to show he conquered death. Darwin, however, is still in his grave.

He’s certainly right about that — Darwin is still dead. But let’s look on the bright side — the seminarian didn’t gloat that Darwin is boiling in the Lake of Fire.

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14 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #988: The Seminarian

  1. Michael Fugate

    Anyone know why wasn’t Jesus burnt on an altar like other fleshy sacrifices? It would have made the resurrection all the more impressive, no?

  2. @Michael Fugate, in a fair number of Christian traditions, He was. It doesn’t get brought up much in the modern day, but quite early on there was the idea that he was thrown into “the fiery pit,” there to be consumed by the flames. Except that, being God, that wasn’t going to happen, and everywhere he stepped, Hell’s fire extinguished. He took three days marching out of Hell, leaving a sanctified path behind him.

    Or some variation thereof, depending on the age and the specific church. Look up “The Harrowing Of Hell,” and it’ll give you some idea.

  3. Michael Fugate

    So people in Hell can get out if they follow Jesus’ path?

  4. That depends on the specific tradition. Even in Catholicism it has, at various times, been a means of exit for anyone you pray for enough, solely for people who died before Jesus atoned for their sins or some other category of people. For all that Christians complain about how scientists change their stories, Christianity changes a heckuva a lot over time. Heck, when I was a kid, it was totally fine to be pro-choice.

  5. In summary, if you think of an idea that Christianity ought to have, rest assured, some Christian sect has, at some time, had that idea.

  6. “Without the fall into sin …..”
    Too bad for christianity – or rather Staffy’s particular brand of christianity. He only confirms my view that his favourite Holy Book is badly outdated. Really, the choice between a sound scientific conclusion and a multi-layered appeal to authority (first that Holy Book, then Staffy’s selective literalism) is a very easy one for me.

  7. 1) The familiar scenario that the seminarian presented is not the universal, original belief of Christianity. I refer the interested reader to Wikipedia’s article on “The Fall of man”.
    2) As is so often the case, the argument against evolution is as lest as much an argument against genetics. The genetic evidence is that the whole of human population is not descended from just one original couple.
    3) It is odd to think that a concept like “sin” is treated as if it were something physical or or natural. It is not a problem for natural sciences to resolve any conflict with an particular interpretation of the Bible. If you can’t think of a way to make sense of Salvation, then remember that “we do not know the ways of the Lord”.

  8. chris schilling

    The seminarian is a babe in the woods. He recounts the Christian myth — for the ten thousandth time — and why it’s incompatible with evolution, and then recoils from the self-evident implications, and plumps for the myth instead. Quelle surprise.

    What’s moderately surprising is he didn’t go the character assassination route on Wells, and start bleating on about proto-fascism, and Wells’ anti-Semitism, and so on. I guess we should be thankful for small mercies.

    Darwin didn’t need to rise from the grave. Unlike Jesus, he wrote some stuff down: we can read his words for ourselves, and not rely on hearsay.

  9. Who needs Darwin!! The genisis story falls apart all on its own, after just a small amount of thinking!!! It is a silly mostly st00pid story. A fairy Tale for adults terrified of dying!

  10. Our Correspondent asks, “Why would God the Father, the Creator, send his son to die when death had always been a part of his creation?”

    I always knew that a certain sort of “education” consisted of little more than the systematic suppression of the imagination, and here we have an example. He asks that question as if there were no possible response.

    Has he not considered the possibility that God, who created death, needed actually to experience it, with all the other implications of becoming flesh and dwelling among us, to be the perfect sacrifice He Himself required? He actually became us, in flesh and spirit, fully and completely human, fated to die, as all humans must. Had He granted Himself remission from that fate, He could never have been held to “love the world” He had made, for death is part of that world. But He took on ALL our sufferings, all our pains, all our fears, all our weaknesses and shortcomings and disabilities – with all our sins. Everything. The whole of it. All of being human. Nothing short of that would do. That alone is sufficient.

    This is so much standard Christian doctrine that it astonishes me that someone who claims to be studying it can ask such a question. Is it conceivably possible that whatever “seminary” this poor fellow attends has not even introduced the concepts, and has thus deprived him of even the tools to consider them?

    Of course there are fundamentalist degree mills that churn out people who would deny the sufficiency of the ideas expressed above. They would insist that death can only be the result of sin, and quote Paul. But that is a completely different argument, over a different question. The point is, if the ideas above are to be denied as insufficient, they must be canvassed. Otherwise the graduate who encounters them will be reduced to baffled silence, or worse, loss of faith itself. After all, if their training was so deficient in that aspect, can it be trusted at all?

    Of course, the answer to that question is “no”.

  11. There are some fundamentalists who disdain theology.

  12. Breaking news! This nut will be a hard one to crack for Ol’Hambo and co.

  13. I (and many like me) will look to our Lord who died for us before looking to a dead biologist from England. Jesus rose from the grave to show he conquered death. Darwin, however, is still in his grave.

    Of course, we have only the word of the New Testament writers that Jesus actually did rise from the grave. One would think that such an occurrence would have impressed the Roman authorities, but they don’t seem to have mentioned it anywhere.

  14. They missed Jesus’ resurrection because they were too busy dealing with the zombie attack on Jerusalem.
    Matthew 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
    27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.