THE BLOG
10/09/2012 04:09 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2012

When Politicians Talk Theological Nonsense

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), in a recent talk at Liberty Baptist Church, proclaimed that the earth is not more than 9,000 years old and was created in six twenty-four hour days. And he was just getting started: evolution, embryology, and big-bang theory, he says, are "Lies straight from the pit of hell." Evolution and the big-bang are familiar targets; but embryology?

He knows these are lies, he states, because (a) he's a scientist and (b) scientific data proves the earth to be young.

Broun serves on the House of Committee on Science, Space and Technology with Todd Akin (R-MO) who believes that women cannot become impregnated as the result of rape because during "legitimate" rape, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Broun and Akin are joined on the House Committee on Science by Ralph Hall (R-TX), chair of the committee, who rejects the human contribution to global warming because God alone is responsible for global warming. Theories of climate change, he opines, are rooted not in scientific data, but in human greed: they were hatched by devious scientists to secure federal funding for their research. Others on this Committee likewise reject human-induced global warming, calling scientists who affirm global warming "fascists" and "frauds," and their theories "hoaxes."

Judy Biggert (R-IL) stands alone: "The science behind climate change is sound."

But, as disturbing as the rejection of global warming is, I digress. Let us return to evolution and embryology.

Why does Broun, with his BS in chemistry and an MD, claim that evolution and the big bang are lies from the pit?

His reply: they are designed to convince us we don't need a Savior.

If Augustine is to right, it is Broun's babbling incompetence not evolution that is liable to convince us that we don't need a Savior.

Augustine argued that the interpretation of Genesis involving seven literal, twenty-four-hour days could not be the correct interpretation. Since Augustine (354-430 AD) wrote and lived more than a millennium prior to Darwin, he could scarcely be accused of being held captive by the spirit of our Darwinian age.

Augustine argued that the text itself precludes a naïve interpretation of literal twenty-four-hour days. He asks the simple question: if night and day are not created until the fourth day, how could there possibly be a day in the first three days of creation? The term "day" must have some other meaning than, as Broun claimed it must, "days as we know them." Augustine's interpretation was not prompted by the big-bang, it was based entirely on a careful reading of the bible itself.

Augustine refused to limit truth to the bible; instead he held that a Christian "should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is his Lord's." There can be no real contradictions between true science and the proper interpretation of the scriptures. Christians need not fear science.

Finally, Augustine offers wise counsel to Christians like Broun who so loudly proclaims his ignorance on scientific matters:

Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for a [nonbeliever] to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

By demonstrating his ignorance on scientific matters, Broun has made it easy for detractors to laugh and scorn and then to infer: If Broun is ignorant on scientific matters (which we know well), we have no reason to trust him on religious matters. Augustine writes,

If [nonbelievers] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about [the Bible], how are they going to believe [the Bible] in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think [the Bible's] pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

Broun's foolish opinions, not evolution, according to Augustine's reasoning, are leading people away from the Savior.

My aim is not to determine the best strategy for persuading people to be Christians. It is, however, to show to Christians, who share Broun's and Augustine's beliefs and bible, that Broun's understanding of evolution and the bible is scientifically, theologically and biblically defective (and an Augustinian approach is superior).

Broun's proclamations are politically troubling as well. Broun stated in his talk that he takes his political marching orders from God: "As your congressman I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C." This makes Broun's ignorance of science and the Bible deeply and doubly troubling. Not only has he proven himself unfit for the House Committee on Science, his poor understanding of both theology and the Bible proves him unfit to fulfill his Congressional duties. Given Broun's shallow and theologically inept understanding of the opening chapters of the Bible, even the most devout Christian should not be encouraged about his ability to make wise Bible-based votes in Congress.