Over the past couple weeks or so it has come to my attention that serious shifts in the Enlightenment project have necessarily come to the fore. Consider the following:
1.) Biological Evolution and specifically Darwin’s theory of evolution has come under fire in recent days. First, there was Darwin’s theory, then came the Modern Synthesis of the 1930’s, and now there is a call for the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis where it is now argued that heredity is passed on through more than one’s genes. You can find out more on the topic here and here.
2.) With the advent of the Hubble Space Telescope we were able to see things and come to subsequent conclusions about the size and nature of the universe. Now with the James Webb Space Telescope the very nature of the universe and its age have come under new scrutiny by the academy. Physicist Eric Lerner wrote,
“To everyone who sees them, the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) images of the cosmos are beautifully awe-inspiring. But to most professional astronomers and cosmologists, they are also extremely surprising—not at all what was predicted by theory. In the flood of technical astronomical papers published online since July 12, the authors report again and again that the images show surprisingly many galaxies, galaxies that are surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old. Lots of surprises, and not necessarily pleasant ones. One paper’s title begins with the candid exclamation: “Panic!ERIC J. LERNER, “THE BIG BANG DIDN’T HAPPEN” AT IAI.TV (AUGUST 11, 2022)
What this will lead to is uncertain but more evidence has not led to greater confidence in current theories regarding evolutionary biology and cosmology. In fact, new evidence may call for some radical changes in methods and conclusions. On a side note, it is unclear why more textual evidence somehow guarantees greater confidence in current understandings of the content of the NT text unless the evidence is just more of the same. In which case, if we are already confident I guess we get super confidence when more evidence of the same conclusion crops up?
While we are on the topic of shifting paradigms we have mentioned time and again how the goalposts seem to have moved in the text-critical world as well and particularly on the point of the aim of textual critics. Where before the aim was to restore the originals of the New Testament through collection, collation, and weighing the quality of a given manuscript. Now we have changed to the more nebulous “initial text” which for some means “the original” and for other it means “the text which immediately underlies the manuscript tradition we currently have.” In other words, some believe “initial text” means “the original” while other do not.
This of course is the definition of equivocation. I was once told by an evangelical textual critic that “initial text” is used so that text-critics of any stripe [i.e., Christian or non-Christian] could converse on the discipline of textual criticism. So trained professionals have chosen to use a term but they all don’t agree as to what that word means. This of course goes a long way in explaining why the Critical Text and Multiple Version Only evangelicals can simultaneously insist from behind the pulpit after reading the Bible, “Based on God’s inspired inerrant word your sins are forgiven” while at the same time insist that said Bible is neither inspired [because only the originals were inspired] nor inerrant [because that Bible has printed in it the story of the woman caught in adultery, and maybe the long ending of Mark, among others].
My point is that we are seeing significant shifts in places where the mid-19th century failed humanity and the Church and not merely in ways that we academically wrong. Recasting man as a mere animal and a part of vast ancient universe removing God from the scenario as First Cause and Final Cause fit quite nicely with removing the Holy Spirit as the First and Final Cause of biblical preservation. I have a sense that once these storms settle these same scholars will cling like rats to wreckage.
In other words, apart from the grace of God don’t expect a Copernican Revolution.