Would Luther and Newton Be Liberals Today?

17 08 2007

Filed under: Luther, Newton, Liberalism, Christianity

Chuck Colson responds to two liberal columnists who assert that, were he alive today, Martin Luther would support homosexual marriage. And for Sir Isaac Newton, were he alive today, he would be a proponent of evolution. Both writers make these assertions despite proof saying otherwise.

The first story was by Professor Mary Zeiss Stange of Skidmore College. In USA Today, she asked, “What would Luther do” about same-sex marriage if he were alive today? Stange brushed off what Luther actually wrote about homosexuality. Based on “the way his theological mind worked,” and the way he revolutionized his era, Stange assured her readers that “a 21st century Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against ‘sodomy’ . . . should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons.”

In other words, the writer deliberately ignored what Luther fervently believed, and assumed that his beliefs were shaped not by the Scripture he revered so highly and risked his life for, but by the times. Such audacity is breathtaking.

A cursory look at Luther’s life should be enough to see that he was shaped by anything but the times in which he lived.

Writer James Kirchick reacted vehemently to a Boston Globe column asking whether Sir Isaac Newton, a Christian, would be welcome to teach at Cambridge University today. In a blog post at The New Republic, Kirchick snapped, “No disrespect to Sir Isaac, but it’s not a risky venture to posit that the Newtons of today don’t believe in some of the silly things Newton did 400 years ago (like alchemy, and the ‘domination of an intelligent and powerful Being’ over the universe). And, were Newton alive today, I’d like to think he wouldn’t believe those silly things either.”

I don’t want to join the revisionist school, but Newton himself would have been appalled at such shoddy reasoning.

Is it possible that Newton, had he lived today, would not have been a Christian? Not likely. After all, it was the fundamental presuppositions of the Christian faith that led him to some of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. Faith did not hinder him, it helped him. Why would it hinder him now? That would only happen if, like James Kirchick, he stubbornly and blindly insisted that faith and science must have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Instead, I think Newton would have challenged Kirchick to back up his baseless assertions about Christianity.

It’s more than a little disturbing to see thinkers with such a shaky grasp on reason and history in positions of influence. They would do well to heed the words of another great historical figure, C. S. Lewis, when he wrote about a logical fallacy that he himself had believed in his younger days: “My ‘chronological snobbery’ [was] the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” Lewis realized you must find out why that thinking went out of date, if it was refuted or just became unfashionable. He encouraged people to seek, not the fashions, but truth.

But sadly, should our best and brightest ever encounter Lewis, they would likely be too busy declaring him on their own side of the argument to listen to a word he said.

Liberals proclaim that Christianity is not only out of date, but never really existed. Therefore, the starting point presupposition is one of atheism. The natural response, then, is a misappropriation of truth claims of great Christians like Luther and Newton.

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