That’s a genuine question in the title to this post, and I have my suspicions about the answer. Here’s what prompts the question:
Justin Taylor posts some things said by Sonia Sotomayor that sound very, very conservative. The quotes in his post look like she is saying exactly what conservatives would want her to say, and that point is made by Justin’s comments in the post. What, you may say, is the problem with that?
Earlier this summer I read Greg Wills’ book on the history of Southern Seminary. Basically, the liberals and moderates who taught at SBTS talked to Southern Baptists the way that Sonia Sotomayor seems to be talking to the Senate. Here’s the skinny on how things seem to have played out, at least, this is my take on it.
At the dawn of the twentieth century everything was changing. Electric power and light bulbs were pushing back the darkness. Cars and planes were shrinking the distance between places. Telephones were connecting people. Indoor plumbing was changing lives. Technologically speaking, the world was progressing. And the progress wasn’t only technological. Darwin had recently published his theories, and they were gaining currency. Philosophers were now assuming many of Darwin’s views, as were psychologists. The theologians weren’t far behind. On every front, so it seemed, the world was making progress. And then the Marxist/Communist/Socialist vision of society started to be marketed as progress, too.
All this progress seemed to prove that the world was getting better every day in every way. Humanity really was making progress. The unexamined philosophical and theological implication seems to have been: evolution is happening. People are evolving up.
So if you were an educated person, this idea of progress was implicit everywhere. The liberals and moderates who taught at Southern Seminary were part of this progressive crowd. They might have rejected some particulars of Darwinistic naturalism, but they rejected them the way fish reject water. All this evolutionary progress was the sea in which they swam.
So their task was to make Christianity relevant in light of the new progress, which had obviously shown that the Bible and Christianity needed to be updated. The problem was that Southern Baptists who didn’t swim in the sea of evolutionary progress didn’t think the Bible and Christianity needed to be updated. The liberals and moderates thought this was simple ignorance, and they thought they could fix it by teaching the “truth” to future pastors and other people willing to be taught.
And how did they handle those unwilling to embrace their vision of the world?
They lied to them. They told them what they wanted to hear. They said whatever they needed to say to maintain their positions and retain their influence.
They believed that the “truth” of their view of the world and the “justice” of their cause validated their policy of deceit.
So is there an analogy between liberal theologians and liberal politicians and judges? Have liberal politicians and judges also bought into an evolutionary progress that demands that documents from the old world, such as the constitution, be updated? Does the “truth” of their view of the world and the “justice” of their cause validate a policy of deceit?
Are they right? Are things getting better every day in every way?
However plausible the progressive view of the world might have seemed in 1900, that view of the world is laughable in light of the horrors, atrocities, brutalities, and injustices of the last century. We may have made technological progress, but humanity has not evolved up. And the liars prove it. If humans were evolving up, we would all be able to tell the truth, understand the truth, and love the truth together. Ironically, the policy of deceit gives the lie to the “cause of truth” progressives pursue. The only progress they make is in the direction away from truth, integrity, justice, goodness, faithfulness, honor, virtue, and respectability.