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Godly Science

Michael Behe’s elucidation of the social pressures on Catholic scientists to conform to a naturalistic explanation for all phenomena (“Scientific Orthodoxies,” December 2005) mirrors very accurately my experience as a former evolutionary geologist who eventually rejected the Darwinian synthesis. I was a product of post-Vatican II Catholic elementary and high school education who received solid evolutionary teaching and accepted it wholeheartedly. During the course of my master’s studies in geology, however, I had a personal re-conversion to faith and was forced to concede that God, being God, could have created the universe in any manner He desired, including that described literally in Genesis. I came to see that the true argument in the origins debate is not between evolutionist and creationist, but between those who don’t believe in God and those who do.

Once I realized this, the question that remained for me was, where does the evidence point? As a geologist, I have come to believe that biology and earth science support special creation, young age, and a worldwide flood. I realize, however, that intelligent people will differ on interpretation of the evidence. What alarms me is the willingness of otherwise strongly orthodox Christians, particularly Catholics, to reject out of hand any suggestion that God perhaps did not confine Himself to an apparently random, apparently purposeless mechanism of creating life.

I share Behe’s desire to teach Christian students that they don’t have to conform to the prevailing materialistic worldview. I tell my children that belief in either creation or evolution is a matter of faith. Atheists such as Richard Lewontin or Richard Dawkins have faith that nothing exists apart from what can be experienced through the senses. Christians, whether evolutionist or creationist, have faith that there is an order of existence beyond the natural, and that God is the creator of all that exists. My children know that for me, special creation is the theory that explains the evidence better. However, I try to teach them that charity demands that we treat all participants in the debate with courtesy and humility, since we will not know for certain what the truth is until the day that we finally come face to face with Him who made us, and all else that exists.

J. Lee
Vero Beach, Florida

In “Scientific Orthodoxies,” Michael Behe leveled a considerable critique against the use of Darwinian evolutionary theory as a Trojan horse for radical philosophical materialism. This is a welcome clarification of the adversarial role of Intelligent Design—not against evolutionary science, but against a rigidly materialistic philosophy. Ironically, given the accusations of his critics, Behe emerges as a crusader in the millennium-long project to explicitly demarcate the domain of science from that of religion and to critique the philosophies that attempt to bridge the two.

Beyond Behe’s critique, the triumphalism of many Darwinists so early in the game of quantitative biology seems hopelessly naive. To anticipate the future discoveries of any science is a perilous exercise. Yet a hint at the future character of biology can be gleaned by comparison with a much more mature science, mathematical physics. Even given the greater complexity of the subject matter in biology—animate, highly systematic, and, finally, conscious—compared to the inanimate subject matter of physics, there are parallels:

• Up until a century ago biology was largely a descriptive exercise in taxonomy: genus, phylum, etc. Notwithstanding the immense progress over the last one hundred years, molecular biology is still in the early stages of quantitative description. In this regard mathematical physics predates quantitative biology by over 300 years. Systems biology is today largely qualitative and quantum biology is still in the future.

• Progress in physics closely followed progress in computation: conics, calculus, analytical functions, computers, and so on. Computational biology is primitive, and accurately determining the folded configuration of even a modest-sized protein is a great challenge.

• Four hundred years into the physics project, the picture that continues to unfold—Schrödinger’s Cat, quantum multiverses, ten-dimensional strings, wormholes—is arguably stranger and more mysterious than ever. Why would anyone suppose that the unfolding story of animate, conscious life contains fewer surprises?

• Similarly, after four hundred years of physics, we finally have some confidence in the Big Bang as a theory of the origin of the physical universe. This confidence is still tentative, the key data being less than five decades old, but the detailed, quantitative support for Big Bang theory is in vast contrast with Darwinism as a theory of biological origins. To borrow from one source quoted by Behe, “there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” (Although the Big Bang is not generally covered in high school physics, there seems to be some pressing need for including Darwinism in the biology curriculum.)

Crystal-balling forward to the four hundredth anniversary of modern biology, it is anyone’s guess whether Darwin will stride Newton-like across the landscape or be just a quaint footnote in the prehistory of real science.

Carmen A. Catanese
Rocky Hill, New Jersey

Michael Behe replies:

I appreciate J. Lee’s and Carmen Catanese’s letters, which together help to illustrate the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature. The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point.

Bloggers of the World, Unite!

In his article “God on the Internet” (December 2005), Jonathan V. Last is worried that “even at its best, the Internet is a weakening of reality, and with its consumer satisfactions, politicizing impulses, and substitutions for the body, it constantly lures us up into thinner and thinner air.” His final suggestion to the reader is, “Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church.”

I share his concern about the weakening of reality that takes place in cyberspace. At its worst, the Internet can shepherd its users toward isolation and abstraction. It gives a larger platform to ordinary individuals—along with their errors and their vices—than has ever before existed. And its great virtue, the power to communicate an almost limitless quantity of information, is also its great danger: An overload of information can render any particular point insignificant.

It seems to me, however, that a number of Last’s complaints about religion on the Internet could easily be leveled at the mainstream print media. “In the virtual church of the web,” he writes, “the hymnal one finds in the back pew may be quite different from the hymnal in the front pew.” But haven’t Catholics been saying the same thing for years—only about the press getting their sound bites from more progressive Catholics such as Father Richard McBrien?

Last writes that the Internet “lends itself easily to politicization.” Well, yes—but isn’t that the case in any media that makes room for editorials? Maybe what Last really objects to is “the allure of the Internet’s political reductionism.” But I’ve heard the same charge leveled at talk radio. Last also cites two Catholic organizations—Your Catholic Voice and Priests For Life—using the web for explicitly political ends. But I’m not sure what his objection is to their activity. Priests for Life would be a political group whether or not they used the Internet—would Last rather they employed only direct mail?

With regard to consumerism, Last is right: There’s a lot of junk for sale on the Internet, and some of it is religiously-themed. But it’s not as if you can’t find ads for religious goods of less than manifest worth outside the web. It seems to me one of the great strengths of the Internet is that it gives non-celebrity authors a chance to do their own marketing. (Full disclosure: I am such an author, and I have a link to my book’s page on on my website.) The Internet is an efficient way to make your work available to the maximum number of interested consumers. If my book happens to be about religious matters (which it is), why is that a problem?

“On the Internet,” continues Last, “those dissatisfied with what they find in their religious brick-and-mortar communities can simply retreat into a virtual world in which they are surrounded entirely by like-minded people.” Of course, a person could be accused of doing the same thing by subscribing to newspapers such as the Wanderer or the National Catholic Reporter. For that matter, read the comments boxes at some of the more popular Catholic blogs, such as Mark Shea’s Catholic and Enjoying It or Amy Welborn’s Open Book, and you’ll see that their readerships are hardly of one mind. Last concludes that the Catholic blogging community of St. Blog’s Parish is “a community based on like-mindedness and tied together by remote interaction—which makes for a very strange community, indeed.” No stranger, I’d argue, than the community of FIRST THINGS readers.

Last’s article also sets up what seems to me a false opposition. He writes, “The failure of anonymous online pornography to be real sex is also the failure of anonymous online churching to be real religion: In both sex and religion, incarnation—the physical body—turns out to matter a great deal.” Amen to the claim about the body. But do many people suppose that religious blogs, or websites selling religious material and distributing religious information, are somehow trying to be a substitute for religion the way porn tries to provide a substitute for sex? Last mentions cyber Seders and Internet muftis, virtual rosaries and an online Liturgy of the Hours, so it does seem like somebody somewhere is praying in front of a computer. But he also notes that the Catholic Church does not sanction e-confession, and that there are no sacraments on the Internet. Yes, there are dangers in the Internet, but it’s not clear to me that people are choosing between the computer and going to church.

Matthew Lickona
La Mesa, California

I was pleased to see FIRST THINGS devote so much space to the interesting topic of religion on the Internet. And Beliefnet was honored to be included in the sites discussed. But there were a number of fairly dramatic misrepresentations of the site and my views.

First, the piece states that “Waldman originally designed Beliefnet to be a giant ecumenical web magazine.” We have quite consciously never used the word “ecumenical.” The reason: the company’s goal is not to get people to see the commonality of their faith or universal principles; it’s to help them explore their own faith. It’s fine if people come to Beliefnet seeking a new path, but we’re more often home to people who believe they have already found God and the true path. We do not attempt to convince them that all religions are equally valid but instead help them to strengthen their understanding of their faith and their connection to others within that faith.

Last implies that Beliefnet is ground zero for rootless, morally relative spiritual shoppers, a New Age paradise for people intrigued with the spiritual flavor of the month. For instance, he cites Beliefnet ‘s advertising mix, implying that Beliefnet is a New Age haven. “Andrew Weill, the bald, bearded vitamin guru, is a Beliefnet partner, as is the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. DebtSX sends Beliefnet subscribers emails offering those struggling with debt a way to ‘get help now.’”

This is an oddly selective listing of our advertisers, which also have included the Billy Graham Association, Liberty University, AveMaria Singles,, many evangelical Protestant publishers (Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale), and several conservative political groups. Most of our advertisers are mainstream national advertisers like Disney, Lilly, Pfizer, and others without a particular religious agenda.

Similarly, Last’s juxtaposition of different Beliefnet newsletters makes it sound as though woo-woo spirituality trumps real religion. He might have looked at it another way: Out of sixteen newsletter titles, Daily Bible—which sends subscribers a short scripture reading each day—is the second most popular, and its circulation is bigger than the Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, and Judaism newsletters combined. Email newsletters may not seem like real religion to Jonathan Last, but we’re proud of the fact that each day we bring the Bible into people’s mailboxes.

His discussion of Beliefnet ‘s content again implies that we focus on the free-form “spiritual not religious” crowd. It might surprise you to learn that Beliefnet has published articles or interviews by George Weigel, Charles Colson, Joseph Bottum, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Allen Hertzke, Stanley Hauerwas, Tom Bethell, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Phillip Jenkins, and David Klinghoffer—all of whom have also written for FIRST THINGS. Our Catholicism editor is Charlotte Allen, another FIRST THINGS writer. Come to think of it, we’ve excerpted articles from FIRST THINGS, too!

Last makes a classic error: He finds content on Beliefnet that he believes is silly or unworthy and says that therefore Beliefnet gives all of these equal value. I was recently at a Barnes & Noble that sold FIRST THINGS in its magazine area. A few feet away it sold Cat Fancy. Over in the spirituality area it sold Tricycle for Buddhists. And yet FIRST THINGS doesn’t criticize Barnes & Noble for their morally relativist ecumenism—because you’re happy that they give traditional religion espoused by FIRST THINGS a place at the table. That’s what Beliefnet does. We provide a platform for a wide variety of spiritual views or religions—including the views of the Catholic magisterium.

Last accurately quotes me as saying we’re witnessing the growth of a “spiritual marketplace.” What he misunderstands is that this is not necessarily bad news for the Catholic Church or orthodox religions—unless you happen to believe that traditional faiths are incapable of touching the hearts and souls of people who are searching for God unless coerced. If, however, you believe that the Church is just as effective as ever at helping connect people to Christ, then any means—including the Internet—that enables rapid and widespread dissemination of Christian ideas and Church teaching ought to be a good thing, if used wisely. That’s why in 2002, John Paul II said in his letter “The Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel” that “the Church approaches this new medium with realism and confidence.” I call special attention to his word “confidence.”

John Adams once said he was “of the opinion that men ought (after they have examined with unbiased judgments every system of religion, and chosen one system, on their own authority, for themselves), to avow their opinions and defend them with boldness.” Beliefnet provides a place where people can both examine faith and avow their opinions.

Steven Waldman
New York, New York

I was dismayed to find an inaccuracy in Jonathan V. Last’s article that related to me, my ministry, and my website. It was more than an inaccuracy since it was also inflammatory and impugned my character and motives. As though he could read my mind, Last made the dogmatic statement that “the primary mission of Defenders of the Catholic Faith is to move product” and that a “personal strain of consumerism leads people like Stephen Ray to hawk their wares.” The comments about me and my site were within the general context of “the tyranny of the banal” and “siphoning money from the faithful” and “trying to cash in on religion.”

Opinion is one thing, and gross misrepresentation is quite another. Criticizing intellectual and religious ideas are one thing, and personal attacks maligning comrades is quite another. FIRST THINGS is known for its insightful critique, but making slanderous statements about people and their motives is quite another thing and should be remedied. It was beneath the usual standards, fair play, and judgment of FIRST THINGS.

For the record, I am an enthusiastic convert to the Catholic faith and my website was started long before I ever wrote a book or produced a DVD. It was and is set up to help other converts along the journey and to help Catholics understand and defend their faith. I have always paid for it out of my pocket. After my materials became available through Ignatius Press I was asked by many to make them available on my site, which I did. I have a very successful secular business which more than supplies for all my needs. The little money made by selling my materials on my website covers less than half the cost of running my website and message board. And I give away as much as I ever sell.

I wish Last had called me, or written, or asked any of the thousands who visit my site. We would have given him the facts so he could have better served his readers. To imply that my “primary mission” is to “push product” and to “hawk wares” is not only unfair and uncharitable, it is also slanderous, dishonest and a disservice to your readers.

Steve Ray
Ypsilanti, Michigan

I take strong exception to the comments made about the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s website in your article “God on the Internet.” The writer suggests that our institute offers resources that appeal to both traditional and “alternative” relationships. In fact, the Pastoral Solutions Institute is an organization devoted to the faithful integration of Catholic teaching and counseling psychology. We are listed in the Official Catholic Directory as an asterisked listing under the Diocese of Steubenville, and we heartily proclaim complete magisterial fidelity in our work. We produce a daily radio broadcast heard on Catholic radio stations nationwide and in addition to the six books I have written for respectable Catholic publishers such as Our Sunday Visitor Press, Loyola, and St. Anthony Messenger, I have personally hosted two series on Catholicism and psychology on EWTN. The off-hand implication that we somehow exist to promote or aid “alternative relationships” is either sloppy or outright libelous. Such comments have the potential to do serious damage to our credibility among the faithful Catholics we serve.

Gregory Popcak
Executive Director
Pastoral Solutions Institute
Steubenville, Ohio

In “God on the Internet” Jonathan V. Last speaks of how Steve Waldman, the founder of online religious supersite Beliefnet, compares the new exploration of potentially embarrassing religious matters in the privacy of one’s home on the Internet to the “same phenomenon that has led to pornography spreading.” To which Last asks: “Doesn’t that metaphor give you pause? Is a technique that has made pornography into the Internet’s number-one business really a good idea for religion, the Internet’s number-two business? The failure of anonymous online pornography to be real sex is also the failure of anonymous online churching to be real religion: In both sex and religion, incarnation—the physical body—turns out to matter a great deal.”

Last’s words make perfect sense. How can anyone expect to receive true spiritual satisfaction through use of the Internet? I have been a member of the first computer-networked generation. I know firsthand the importance of the Internet. Today’s students almost always perform research for papers using the Internet and online databases of articles and texts. I have done so for almost every paper I’ve written since eighth grade, and I will continue to use the Internet as a primary source of information throughout the rest of my life. So what happens to knowledge and writings that are not accessible to future generations as easily as those which are on the Internet?

This is the reason the Catholic Church must come to realize the importance of the Internet in the future. Many kids are spending hours on end watching television and being online: disconnected from family, friends, and society in general, and connected to new, evolving social networks on the World Wide Web. These children are indoctrinated by what they view—and they typically don’t spend their time viewing religious or philosophical material.

The Church must find ways to make a person who is searching for religion and truth seek out the real-world Jesus. You cannot experience Jesus, fully and truly, on the Internet. The Church has such a deep well of spiritual resources in it’s many thousands of ministries, and She must never forget the most invaluable resources of all: the Sacraments. This is why we must encourage the lost souls we encounter on the Internet to seek guidance in their spiritual lives from their local parishes, priests and faith communities. And we ourselves must do the same. As Last states at the end of his article, “Isn’t religion supposed to enrich the world around us . . . ? Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church.”

Jeff Geerling
St. Louis, Missouri

Jonathan V. Last replies:

I received an extraordinary response to “God on the Internet,” and I would like to thank all who took the time to correspond. Some of it, unfortunately, was generated by Steve Ray’s call for the whole Internet to accuse me of making “slanderous statements” about his website. Since slander pertains to the spoken word, I think he meant “libelous,” but readers will have to judge for themselves whether Ray’s description of his site, or mine, is closer to the mark. On his homepage, he appears dressed in a full Indiana Jones outfit. The first three section categories listed under this logo are “Resources,” “Products,” and “Online Store.” Beneath are links to sales pages for a number of his books. And beneath that is a large advertisement—the first thing the eye sees, really, once it gets past Indiana Ray—for Ray’s Footprints of God. The ad reads: “ Take a Journey of Discovery! Introducing the most original and dynamic video series in Catholic Church history! The Footprints Of God: The Story of Salvation From Abraham To Augustine will take you on a journey of discovery through the sweeping saga of salvation.” Click on the link, and you can buy the series for $249.95.

I wish Gregory Popcak, for his part, had read my piece more closely. I do not anywhere claim his ministry caters to alternative living arrangements. I merely suggest that his website offers so many products for sale—I count six books, three sets of audio cassettes, and an invitation to an “initial, free, informational interview”—that they could certainly heal any troubled relationship, traditional or alternative.

The editor of Beliefnet, Steven Waldman, has several complaints, but his running theme is that Beliefnet specifically, and the Internet generally, is a thoroughly pluralistic enterprise. “Pluralistic” is probably a better word to describe Beliefnet than “ecumenical,” the word I used, but I should point out to Waldman that not everyone on his staff got the memo: When Beliefnet first approached me to write for them, the editor I dealt with pitched it to me as “an ecumenical webzine.” Waldman takes pride in the fact that his site offers customers maximal consumer choice, and that this is to be greeted with, as John Paul II put it, “confidence.” But another word John Paul used is “realism.” It seems to me that the Internet shows no end of triumphalism—confidence on stilts—but a dearth of realism. That call to realism compels one to note that the marketplace of ideas, like the marketplace of commodities, can have a cheapening effect on what it offers. There are real trade-offs here, and for those of us who believe in the treasures of the faith, this is of real concern.

Matthew Lickona and Jeff Geerling both offer the telling critique that the Internet is neither good nor bad, just new. It is a medium through which human virtue and human vice will flow, just as they do through the pages of opinion journals of opinion or, for that matter, brick-and-mortar churches. And they are obviously right: Technology does not possess the capacity for moral action.

And yet, it still matters how technology affects flesh-and-blood humans, who do have that capacity. On this count, the reaction to my essay increased, rather than allayed, my fears about the Internet. In scores of responses, not one person offered a constructive case for the Internet as a good. Lots of people wrote defensively and angrily about their corner of it. One correspondent, heeding Mr. Ray’s call to action against me on his blog, wrote my editors at the Weekly Standard suggesting that I be fired because of my “heavy anti-Catholicism.” Many others voiced similarly reductivist sentiments.

No one so far has put forth an argument for the Internet as a genuine good, the rough outlines of which might be: Yes, it certainly looks like consumerism, but the beauty of the web is that it serves a higher purpose and this “product” we’re pushing is doing good. Last is missing the boat on a wonderful tool for the furthering God’s will because he’s blinded by fearthough John Paul II, a promoter of this new technology, constantly reminded us: “Be not afraid.” Experience suggests this optimistic view is wrong, but, as ever, the last word must belong to hope.

The Towers of Babylon

Omitted among the authorities on the relationship between the Church and America cited by Father Richard John Neuhaus in his fine essay “Our American Babylon” (December 2005) is Isaac Thomas Hecker. The mission of Father Hecker, founder of the Paulists, America’s first Catholic religious society of men, can perhaps best be summarized by the words inscribed on his tombstone: “In the union of Catholic faith and American civilization . . . a future for the Church brighter than any past.” He believed that a “new awakening” of intense responding to the Holy Spirit would bring about such a union.

As a young New Yorker dubbed by colleagues “Earnest the Seeker,” Isaac Hecker associated intimately with the mid-nineteenth century Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, the Alcott family, and many others.

In fact, he lived in two utopian Transcendentalist communities, Brook Farm and Fruitlands. Interestingly enough, Saint Thomas More three centuries before had placed his Utopia in the lands newly explored by Amerigo Vespucci. The America named after this explorer was, in the nineteenth century, permeated with a belief in the providential position of her people in realizing the utopian dream of a better life, of liberty and justice, for all.

The Transcendentalists pursued that dream through personal and communal spirituality without religion, a kind of “gnosticism” in Harold Bloom’s term. Hecker, on the other hand, through attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, broad reading and reflection on the world’s great religions, and the influence of his mentor Orestes Brownson, discovered that one needed a religion in order to arrive at a spirituality of any depth. He decided to join Brownson in embracing the religion of the author of Utopia—Catholicism.

Father Neuhaus applies the term “contrast society” in describing the role the Church must play in providing “a transcendent horizon for our civil arguments.” Isaac Hecker used the image of the “North Star.” The Church must provide society with a guiding spirituality.

But he goes deeper. Catholicism in particular, he believed, could not only help guide America, but also celebrate her rich diversity while serving to bring about an overriding unity. It could provide both a guiding spirituality and a unifying, transforming spirituality, salt and light, so beautifully embodied in our own time by Pope John Paul II.

While participating in the recovery of bodies at New York’s Ground Zero in the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11, I was struck by two icons at different ends of the pit. One was a steel beam popularly named the “Cross at Ground Zero.” The other was one of the earliest paintings of the Great Seal of the United States, located in St. Paul’s Chapel just above George Washington’s pew. Written on the ribbon of that seal, which, as Father Neuhaus mentions, is also on the back of every U.S. dollar bill, is the motto e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”). In my mind the symbolism was clear—that in our quest for e pluribus unum we encounter the cross.

Isaac Hecker, founding the Paulists in 1858 on the eve of the living cross of the American Civil War, prophesied a Catholic opportunity to be a channel of the Holy Spirit in the service of uniting our people. Perhaps with our nation so polarized, now is the “Catholic moment” and ecumenical/interreligious moment to help America embrace a true spirituality of e pluribus unum.

Bruce Nieli, C.S.P.
Memphis, Tennessee

In “Our American Babylon,” Fr. Neuhaus writes that the American novus ordo seclorum was “not wired for first-principle questions such as the humanity and rights of slaves of African descent.”

Reading the Constitution, you will find that the approval of the conventions of nine of the thirteen colonies was required to put the Constitution into effect. Looking at the list of the colonies, you will see that in five of them, the interest of slavery was a predominating force. Thirteen minus five only equals eight—not enough to bring the Constitution into effect.

These numbers were not arrived at accidentally. The five states in question insisted on them, to prevent anyone trying to sneak the contents of what eventually became the thirteenth amendment (the one abolishing slavery) into the text of the Constitution itself, or into any of the ten original amendments.

Further along in his essay, Fr. Neuhaus mentions that John Courtney Murray admired the authors of the Constitution most of all for “the modesty of their intention.” It is not only modesty, but also plain common sense, that a document which could not be ratified—could not be put into effect, and bind the parties thereto—would have been a great waste of effort, paper, and ink.

The “articles of peace” which Fr. Murray admired were really just the articles of elementary common sense. The slaveholding interest, dominating five of the thirteen colonies, would not have consented to having almost all its property confiscated to satisfy the consciences of the radical abolitionists (some of whom represented the other colonies at the Constitutional convention).

It took a very bloody and costly civil war to accomplish that.

Edmund Weinmann
Huntington, New York

Teaching the Faith

Father Neuhaus makes light of the controversy in the Golden State over the University of California’s refusal to accept certain evangelical high schools’ courses as meeting requirements for admission (While We’re At It, January).

Two points to consider: The university is not telling the faith-based school what it must not teach, but, rather, what sort of courses are necessary for admission to this particular university; and Neuhaus might well side with the university if he saw the anti-Catholicism that pervades many of the texts and courses in many conservative evangelical schools. This anti-Catholicism is well documented in Frances Paterson’s book Democracy and Intolerance and Albert Menendez’ book Visions of Reality: What Fundamentalist Schools Teach.

Menendez cites, for example, textbooks used in fundamentalist schools that call Catholicism “a perversion of biblical Christianity”; that say the papacy rests “upon a number of false assumptions”; that refer to “Romanist error,” “pagan Catholicism”; that declare “The Southern states . . . saw themselves threatened by those holding . . . unbiblical beliefs, who were most numerous in the Northeast;” that hold the Mass is “unbiblical and idolatrous” and monasticism “has no justification in Scripture but derives from pagan influences on apostate Christianity”; that insist the Reformation was “a divine instrument for propagating religious truth in Catholic Europe,” and Jesuits are “a hellish conclave”; etc. Should such teaching prepare students for admission to a public university?

Edd Doerr
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Maryland

RJN replies:

If that is all they’re taught, the answer is no. If admission to a public university, or any university, required freedom from prejudices and misinformation picked up in schools public or private, there would be very few students in university. Moreover, the disqualifications cited by Golden State had to do not with anti-Catholicism but with religious education in general. I would hope the president of Americans for Religious Freedom would care about protecting also religious expression which he, and I, think quite wrongheaded.

Volf Redux

In responding to recent criticism from Miroslav Volf, Richard John Neuhaus did not properly express the nature of my quotation of Volf’s work: “Any church excluding Christians at a given place is not merely a bad church, but rather is not a church at all, since a Eucharist to which not all the Christians at a given place might gather would not be merely a morally deficient Eucharist, but rather no Eucharist at all.” In his earlier review of The Evangelical Moment (August/September 2005), where this quotation occurs, Neuhaus made no mention at all that I clearly indicated that Volf was working through material whose source was the Orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas. I wrote: “Even more emphatically, Volf reflects on the work of the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas.” At the time of writing these words, however, I had thought that Volf did indeed agree with Zizioulas (and I was clearly not alone in this), but have since come to learn otherwise. That is a matter of scholarly judgment that has now been corrected by Volf’s reply, and I appreciate that. But if Volf was implying that my use of the quotation entailed “Opening communion indiscriminately to all who confess Christ irrespective of how they live and what they believe,” then it must be noted that this observation has nothing to do with the views expressed in The Evangelical Moment. In that work, I was considering the possibility of intercommunion of Roman Catholics with doctrinally orthodox, spiritually holy, morally resolute evangelical Christians.

Kenneth J. Collins
Professor of Historical Theology
Asbury Theological Seminary
Wilmore, Kentucky

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