The Texas Board of Education is again facing the issue of how to teach evolution in our schools. In an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News Daniel W. Foster, M.D. argues in favor of teaching evolution. He closes his piece:
My views on this are informed by my faith. I am an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas where I have taught church school for more than 30 years. The teacher of the faith that I follow, confronted with the secular world of the Roman Empire, said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
To paraphrase, the teacher said, don’t mix up faith and the secular. The State Board of Education should heed that lesson.
Sounds to me like Dr. Foster is a disciple of John Locke. The church’s job is to deal with eternal life. The magistrate’s job is to deal with real life issues of this world.
The context of Jesus’ statement isn’t “the secular.” It’s paying taxes. “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar,” his challengers asked him. They knew they had him this time. If he said, “Yes – Caesar is an authority we need to recognize and bow down to,” then the Jews would stop following him. If he said, “No – We Jews should reject the laws of that pagan,” they could call in the Roman authorities to have him arrested. Either way, they finally had trapped Jesus.
But Jesus eluded their trap with the words the doctor quoted. But the Christian tradition has, to a great extent, not been content to divide off a secular realm where faith – if we mean by that, discipleship to Jesus – has no say. Is the doctor suggesting Christians – people of “faith” – should have nothing to say about abortion? Capital punishment? Stem cell experimentation? Slavery? An equitable tax code? War crimes? After all, Caesar wants the say on all these things. Sure our current Caesar is happy for us to have opinions about these things, just as long as we either agree with him or stay in our closets praying.
Coming to the doctor’s particular subject, does teaching that everything came into being by purely natural and purely random forces, that there is no such thing as purpose or meaning in life – unless that purpose or meaning be completely autonomous – have no connection with any legitimate form of faith? Saying that science qua science has nothing to say about these things is one thing. Saying that followers have no legitimate reason to question such things is another.