In a speech at Notre Dame in 2019, former Attorney General William Barr observed that “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.” He went on to note, “the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor.”
Claiming to be nonreligious, secularists imply that they are objective, scientific, unbiased pursuers of truth, relying on reason rather than on myth or arbitrary religious authority. For example, Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein argues this way in his book Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. Actually, in denying the supernatural, secularists do have their own religion. It is just not a theistic religion.
Over 50 years ago, theologian Robert Brow succinctly outlined the various non-theistic religions in a little book called Religion: Origins and Ideas, published by Inter-Varsity Press. Brow benefited from living in India for 20 years as an army officer, student, and teacher, giving him the opportunity to study Hinduism and other Eastern religions firsthand. For example, he identified as a kind of pantheism denial of the supernatural and finding meaning in evolutionary progress as the principle behind Nature.
Similar pantheism was introduced into Western intellectual thought by the apostate Jew, Baruch Spinoza, in the 17th century.1 Spinoza also was the first to argue specifically that truth is determined by philosophy (and science) apart from the Bible.2 His ideas became the main source of Enlightenment thinking, including evolution from inert matter.3 He also inspired the rejection of biblical authority that became rampant among 19th-century scientists and theologians. Today’s pantheism is just the culmination of those trends. Even Einstein described himself as a disciple of Spinoza. In the book cited above, Epstein wrote “He [Spinoza] was arguably the first public Humanist in modern Western history.” Humanism as well as secularism and “progressive” thought are really an expression of pantheism.
Barr’s main solution was “a resurgence of Catholic education — and more generally religiously affiliated schools.” However, Catholic schools in the United States teach evolution as a fact in their science curriculum. All liberal Protestant churches, schools, colleges, and seminaries do the same. And sadly, a growing number of professing evangelicals are following the same path. Humanist Epstein welcomes such as allies. How are we going to combat pantheism if we ourselves teach evolution, the sacred myth of pantheism?
Modern pantheists in our culture follow Spinoza by arguing that the Bible is not scientific, whereas evolution is science. They have influenced Christians who compromise with evolution by saying that the Bible is not a textbook of science. In doing so, they confuse experimental science with historical science. There is a significant difference between experimental science (most of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and medical research, which by repeatable, observable events — usually lab experiments — find cures for disease or produce new technology) and historical science (such as historical geology, paleontology, and archeology, which deal with the evidence from the unobservable, unrepeatable events of the past).4 Any evidence left over from the past must be interpreted. Worldview assumptions are critical in historical science. In particular, mainstream conclusions about the past rest on unproven assumptions (presuppositions). These, in turn, are not based on reason but rather on religious convictions such as pantheism and a bias against any theistic explanations, especially against the inerrant eyewitness testimony of the Creator in Genesis.
For example, similarity in the features of living beings is supposed to be due to common descent; common design is arbitrarily ruled out because it implies a Designer. The fossils and rock strata are supposed to be the result of slow processes over millions of years; explanations consistent with a global flood at Noah’s time are arbitrarily ruled out because they imply judgment on sin by a Creator. Modern cosmology (including the big bang) assumes that we live in a universe that is unbounded and has no center. A universe with a center could mean there is a special place with God’s attention — like the earth.
As long as we allow our opposition to frame the conflict as “science versus religion,” we will always be on the defensive. We need to understand that this conflict in our culture is basically the religion of pantheism versus biblical Christianity.
Christians can be sure of our salvation because it does not rest in our works but in the grace of God and the finished work of his Son, which God revealed to His prophets beforehand. And that Gospel is based on the foundational, literal, inerrant truths of Genesis 1–11. Those Christians who compromise with evolution and/or millions of years are undermining the very Gospel they believe.
The descent into pagan spiritual darkness and moral insanity by America and the once-Christian West is a direct result of the pantheistic assault on Genesis.
1. Baruch Spinoza, Ethics, Part I: Concerning God (Published posthumously in 1677).
2. Baruch Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, in Spinoza, Complete Works with Translations by Samuel Shirley, edited by Michael L. Morgan (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), chapter 14.
3. See, for example, Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) and Steven Nadler, A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).
4. For a simple discussion about the difference between experimental science and historical science, see Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson, “Science or the Bible?” http://answersingenesis.org/what-is-science/science-or-the-bible/
Note: A longer version of this article was originally published at https://answersingenesis.org/culture/science-versus-religion-or-pantheism-versus-christianity/
John Doane was a Hertz Fellow at MIT, where he obtained a PhD in electrical engineering. He has worked in microwave technology at Bell Laboratories, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and General Atomics. He presently works as a principal in the company his wife founded for making plasma-based equipment for electronics manufacturing. For many years he was on the Board of Directors of Jesus to the Communist World (which later became Voice of the Martyrs). His recently published article "Spinoza's Ghost in the Evangelical Closet" documents how the idea of separating truth (and science) from Scripture has influenced modern intellectuals.