Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Berkeley’s Radical” first appeared in the June 2002 issue of Touchstone.
An Interview with Phillip E. Johnson
James M. Kushiner interviewed Johnson while attending a conference on Intelligent Design at Yale University in November 2000.
Touchstone: Dr. Johnson, tell us about your upbringing. Were you raised in a Christian home?
Phillip Johnson (PJ): Well, I grew up in Aurora, Illinois. We went to Sunday school because it was good for us kids. We’d drop my dad off at the golf course on the way. My mother told me I had to stay until I got confirmed, then I could go my own way. During high school I went to a liberal Congregationalist church, but I never took Christian doctrine seriously. It was just part of the culture, like the Boy Scouts. It was about being nice.
I went to Harvard at 17 and assumed I was leaving all that behind. I had every intention of simply adopting the Harvard philosophy, which was secular, pragmatic, and rational, because that’s what you did if you wanted to be a big deal.
When did you go to Harvard?
PJ: In 1957, which was a significant year, the year of Sputnik. Sputnik created a completely new situation in American higher education because it scared the government; they thought we were going to lose our scientific preeminence. So they poured an enormous amount of money into the universities, especially for science. That’s when the biological sciences curriculum really got started.
When you were at Harvard, were you on the “left” or the “right”?
PJ: I played at being the leftist, but I came from a conservative Midwestern background, so my instincts were always in that direction. I was just trying out my wings.
But when I got to the University of Chicago Law School, I discovered that all the bright people weren’t liberals. I heard about Milton Friedman and George Stigler and other leading American economists whom I was never told about at Harvard. It was a bit of an eye-opener.
But unlike many people who go to Chicago, I didn’t quite “eat the whole enchilada,” which allowed me to be more flexible. I didn’t completely buy into the market ideology, though I respected it.
I did well in law school, which put me in line to get top judicial clerkships, and then eventually became a professor. One of the biggest decisions I made in my life was choosing Berkeley instead of Yale. When I was a Supreme Court clerk, I was eagerly recruited by both, but I decided I’d rather live in Berkeley. The Berkeley law professors were more like me—public-school types. The Yale professors were a little too preppy for me. I thought, “Well, I’ll never be a member of the club there,” so I went to Berkeley.
I was a perfectly ordinary, middle-of-the-road secular rationalist, and a half-educated intellectual. I did well on tests but never worked very hard at my studies. I look back now and see that I didn’t really know very much. I probably was a pretty ignorant person.
When did you go to Berkeley?
PJ: I started teaching law at Berkeley in 1967. In the 1970s they had even more student unrest at Harvard and Yale than at Berkeley. After I was at Berkeley and saw the student revolution up close, I found it wasn’t very interesting. The leftist riots were old hat, and I got fed up with the irrational self-righteousness. This experience, which would have been the same at Yale, pushed me into a much more conservative set of views.
How did you come to realize the secular view lacked something? Obviously, one of the most important decisions you made was to become a Christian. How did that happen?
PJ: I became disillusioned during my thirties. The whole idea of the exciting campus ferment and student ideas became a disappointment. The academic career was also a disappointment. I think my motives for going into it, for everything I did, were rather shallow. I was basically an academic careerist seeking tenure, writing law review articles and a casebook. I had the career, but I was bored with it. I thought life ought to be more fulfilling than that. I was beginning to grow up.
I had been very happily married for some years, and then my marriage went bad. My wife got a heavy dose of the ideas that were rolling around in the ’70s. She lost interest in our home and family and went off into artistic politics. After we split up, I took care of the kids. So I was disillusioned with my home life, my marriage, and my academic career.
In terms of my religious views during this period, what I usually say is, “I was raised as a nominal Christian and then I became a nominal agnostic.” I didn’t have any passion for it. In fact, I had read some of C. S. Lewis’s books when I was in college and law school and admired them. I thought that they were attractive but not for people like me in modern times. “Too bad they aren’t true” was my reaction.
When my marriage ended, I wondered what I was going to do with the rest of my life. That’s when I had my conversion experience. This, I think, is true of many people; what leads you to a conversion is the loss of your faith in something else. My faith had been, “If you’re a bright person with the right credentials, you’ll have a happy and meaningful life.” I expected that I would go from one distinguished position to the next, advance my career, be happy and satisfied, and that’s what life would be about. It seemed to me that wasn’t happening, and I was just going to be a law teacher for the rest of my life. It wasn’t very meaningful or as good as I thought it would be. So I lost faith during that pragmatic period. Instead, I thought, “What makes me think that what I have is better than the Christian life?”
So I became a Christian when I was 38 and met my present wife, Kathie, at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. Our lives were centered in that church. Kathie had been raised in a nominal Methodist home, and her first husband, like my first wife, had been very anti-Christian. So you might say we were negatively evangelized by our first spouses.
My conversion was gradual, not dramatic. The central issue for me was whether Christianity was real or imaginary. I lived in a society at the university that mostly assumed an easy-going agnosticism. So I felt it was necessary to come to a conclusion on whether Christian metaphysics were real or imaginary, or if I would be throwing my brains out the window and adopting a myth because it satisfied my personal needs.
How did you resolve that question?
PJ: First, I took up jurisprudence, the philosophical roots of law. That was in the wake of the emergence of what we call the Critical Legal Studies movement, which was the postmodernist, deconstructionist, epistemological relativism and Marxism that were in the English departments and had just come into the law schools, especially at Harvard and Stanford. I found it quite interesting. I was asked by the Stanford Law Review to contribute a negative piece to a volume of articles by leading members of the movement because they wanted an outsider’s view.
I spent a whole year on that, reading these dense 120-page law review articles, studying continental philosophy, and so on, and developed a love-hate relationship with neo-Marxism. I disliked the infantile leftist politics intensely. I did agree with their critique of liberal rationalism and legal scholarship—where the law professor and the judge say, “Well, you there, you have your passions and your prejudices and your interests, whereas I just peer into the Constitution and decide what justice is.” It’s what I called the sham neutrality of liberal rationalism.
One of the leading examples of that was in the section on religion. In my article—my study guide of sham neutrality—I used as my textbook example the decision of the California Supreme Court on the government funding of abortions. The US Supreme Court said, “You have the right to get an abortion, but it’s not unconstitutional for Congress to refuse to fund abortions as part of medical care.” However, the California Supreme Court decided the issue the other way around; they said, “You do have to fund it.” The justification for that conclusion began, “Now, we’re not saying anything about the morality of abortion, we simply don’t take any stance on that. All we’re saying is that abortion has to be treated like other forms of child-birth decisions.” So I said, “Well, why don’t you say, ‘We’re not saying anything about the morality of abortion, we just feel it has to be treated as the equivalent of other forms of homicide?’” The classification was a moral statement, so it was a sham neutrality.
I used to refer jokingly to myself as the entire right wing of the Critical Legal Studies movement, which in their view was a contradiction in terms. Their critique was purely the instrument of a left-wing political program, which was chosen arbitrarily and presumed to be good. It was a faith commitment.
I picked up the same critique these Marxist law professors were making and turned it against a different set of subjects. My aim always was to demystify the kinds of doctrines the Critical Legal scholars wanted to protect. It never would have occurred to any of them to apply this sort of critique to a case promoting abortion because in their book that was a good thing. So it occurred to me, “Well, this can just as well be used to a different purpose. Let’s deconstruct Marx.” So that got me into jurisprudence and prompted a skeptical attitude towards rationalism.
I see the fruit of that now, 20 years later, in the first chapter of The Wedge of Truth. The young man I wrote about, Philip Wentworth, goes to Harvard, where he learns to keep an “open mind,” but all that’s really happened is that he’s gone with the fashionable crowd and adopted their fashion, as he meant to do from the start. (I recognize so much of myself in that story.)
I became acutely aware that what we think is reasoning is very often rationalization. When you speak of rationality, there are two very distinct components. One is logical reasoning, which is about going from premises to conclusions, conclusions that should be as good as your premises. Thus, logic will get you into insanity if you’ve got the wrong premises.
The other component of rationality is having the right premises. How do you get them and how do you determine that they are right? Not by logical reasoning, surely, because then you would be reasoning from other premises in order to justify them. There is an instinct, or revelation, or whatever you want to call it, that underlies your thinking, and the only interesting problem in philosophy is how you get that.
After figuring that out, it was the death of rationalism, as far as I was concerned. The problem with rationalism is that it isn’t rational. It fails to give sufficient importance to the development of the choice of the right premises; it tries to justify them by circular reasoning. Once I was alert to that distinction, I was able to critique the things that previously I felt I had to take for granted.
PJ: Eventually, the theory of evolution. Remember that my interest was in finding out whether the Christian gospel was rational. Of course, it wasn’t rational by the standards of the academic world. One of the good things about the Christian life was that it opened up a whole world of intellectual input that previously had been closed to me. I began to understand what was actually wrong with the academic culture, and to put a name on my uneasiness. It was the seed of what would later be a full-blown critique of Darwinism. It “evolved” in a directed and purposeful manner!
I am now primarily dealing with people who have incorporated naturalist metaphysics into their definitions of science and reason. I’ve learned to identify that tendency, and I understand it very empathetically because I lived there for so long. I’m very different from most of the people I associate with now because they grew up in a Christian subculture, whereas my roots are in the academic subculture. I have a different set of experiences and thoughts.
“Where do the givens come from?” was the question I often asked myself. Eventually, that led me to the whole question of the gospel, and the way Jesus deals with people. “Follow me,” he said. He gave a new set of premises, a new foundation. One of the very interesting things about Jesus is that when he deals with people, whether they are believers or unbelievers, friends or foes, they are supposed to know who he is. It’s perfectly understandable: “I am who I say I am.” When you see the truth, when you meet it face to face, you’re expected to know it. If you refuse it, you are refusing to see the truth. I found that very fascinating—“How can that be?”
Much later I discovered Lesslie Newbigin, which was like meeting a long-lost twin brother from whom I had been separated at birth. We’d had totally different lives—he was an older man and a missionary—but I recognized in what he was writing the same line of thought that I had independently stumbled upon. Either the gospel of Christ is the centerpiece of a new order or it’s nothing. That was so fascinating to me. Then I saw how this was the right principle and starting point. In all of my writing, I concentrate on that starting point. “In the beginning was the Word.” A few simple principles. If you stay with those, you’ll be all right.
When you say “the givens,” do you mean the revelation that we have in Scripture, or is it something larger than that?
PJ: Something larger. The gospel is not the writing. It’s described in the writing, but the Book of Mark isn’t “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”—Jesus is. It’s apparent in the Christian gospel that he is a living presence with whom you can make contact today. I sometimes say, when speaking in Christian circles, that I’m convinced that Jesus was who he said he was and did what he set out to do, but I’m not always sure that Christianity is a good thing. People erect the structures, which are partly divine in origin and incorporate part of the truth, but they also manufacture part of it and bring cultural influences to it.
Do you see anything of value in pre-Christian philosophical thinking?
PJ: If you read the Socratic dialogues and some of the things Socrates said, it’s really eerie. Socrates says extraordinary things like, “If the perfect man ever lived on earth, you know what they’d do to him? They’d crucify him.” Where did that come from?
PJ: Yes. It’s the most profound kind of insight at times. The critique of the common understanding of justice, the conspiracy of the weak against the strong in Book Two of The Republic, is something I review every year in my classes. It’s the most profound analysis of human nature that you can get. On the other hand, there are a lot of dregs in Greek philosophy, too, so I wouldn’t swallow it whole.
Humanly speaking, you have to understand all of their ideas in the light of tradition. Nobody should try to think entirely for himself; you learn an enormous amount from what has gone before. That there were other early important Christian thinkers was news to me. I didn’t know whom I was reading about when I first encountered the Fathers of the Church because the version of Christianity I knew goes from St. Paul to Augustine to Aquinas and then to Calvin and Luther. So I think it’s just wonderful that many Christians are rediscovering the church fathers.
So as a Christian you moved from philosophical considerations to an attack on Darwinism. Why Darwinism?
PJ: I wanted to know whether the fundamentals of the Christian worldview were fact or fantasy. Darwinism is a logical place to begin because, if Darwinism is true, Christian metaphysics is fantasy. That’s why it’s so marginalized and is considered to be of no intellectual interest.
I was surprised last night when someone quoted Darwin as saying, “Well, if we’re going to talk about such-and-such, then you may as well ask about the origins of life.” Darwin seemed to be putting the origin of life into a separate category of questions he wasn’t really addressing.
PJ: Darwin was unsure about the origins of life, but he also made the initial speculation about life evolving in a warm little pond. The whole Darwinist method was immediately extended to include the origin of life. Darwinism is the methodology of philosophical materialism. Maybe physicalism would be a better term, given that Darwin didn’t develop every last inch of the philosophy.
I got the opportunity when I was on a sabbatical in London in 1987 or 1988 to read more about Darwinism. It was immensely interesting to discover that it’s all circular reasoning, deception, and pseudo-science. I had suspected that, but I saw that it was really true. It is a pseudo-science that simply works for confirming examples of a materialist philosophical system that’s held up by a priori grids.
Was there anything you read that “made the light go on,” so to speak?
PJ: The first book I read while on sabbatical was Dawkins’s Blind Watchmaker, which seemed fairly convincing on the first reading but full of holes on the second. Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis did much to alert me to the issues.
But perhaps the greatest “Aha!” moment came when I was browsing in a bookstore in London with my wife. Kathie had been a bit skeptical of my developing interest in evolution. (I sometimes get in a little over my head.) She picked up a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Science—900 pages of pretty good popular science writing—looked up evolution, and there was a brief description of the theory, plus three pages of heavy-handed ad hominem denunciation of creationists for not accepting the absolute truth of this theory that was so obvious to all thinking persons. Then there was a brief section called “Proof of Evolution,” in which the entire proof—all the proof that Asimov thought was necessary—was the peppered moth experiment. So Kathie thought about it and said to me, “I think you’re on to something.” Such experiences have been repeated many times.
The ignorance that’s involved, the indifference to the facts, is stunning. Anything that promotes the “Great Darwin” and the materialist understanding is uncritically received, unless it does something that’s politically incorrect.
In short, my discovery that the reasoning in Darwinism is unscientific, illogical, and dishonest was tremendously important to me because it validates that “In the beginning was the Word” is really the correct starting point.
I then got to know the people from the mainstream community and the creationist world who are critical of Darwinism. What I brought to the dissident movement—Nancy Pearcey has pointed this out—was a sense of strategy.
People were caught in a rationalist mentality. They were thinking, “If we present facts and evidence, Stephen J. Gould will say, ‘Oh yes, you’re right and I’m wrong,’” and then the scientists would let them in. Well, I understand a little bit better how that world works, and I thought of it like a political campaign or big case litigation.
So the question is: “How to win?” That’s when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the “wedge” strategy: “Stick with the most important thing”—the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, “Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?” and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do. They’ll ask, “What do you think of Noah’s flood?” or something like that. Never bite on such questions because they’ll lead you into a trackless wasteland and you’ll never get out of it.
How did others become involved in the “wedge” strategy?
PJ: I met Steve Meyer, who was in England at the time. Through Steve, I got to know the others, who were developing what became the Intelligent Design movement. Michael Denton stayed in my home for three days while he was in the United States. Meyer introduced me to Paul Nelson, and so on. One by one, these people came together.
At that time there was a little funding to pay for people to come to Seattle occasionally for a conference. So they had me speak at one in 1989 to look me over. I soon became the leader of the group.
I also was introduced to Stephen Jay Gould and his scientific people and attended a seminar in the Boston area where I debated him, which gave me more confidence in our work. That was before I published Darwin on Trial. Of course, I’m much more knowledgeable now than I was then, but even then I still could hold my own with the kingpin on the other side. The debate was a draw, which was all I needed because a draw was as good as a victory.
Indeed, my philosophy is, when I do a serious debate, to play for a draw because I do not want my opponent and the audience going away saying, “That is one clever lawyer who can make you look like a fool in a debate.” I want them to go away saying, “There’s more to this than I thought. We ought to do this again.” All you have to do is get the right issues on the table and then you win. You don’t have to worry about it, because Darwinism is wrong, and it will self-destruct.
By the time Darwin on Trial was published, I had pretty well worked out the strategy I thought would, in time, win this campaign, and I’ve been able to convince most of the young-earth creationists and the old-earth creationists that this is the right way to proceed.
I had thought that I would be able to persuade the theistic evolutionists, but that was a total failure. It wasn’t until I got to know them that I learned how they think. They are guided by the principle that we’re not supposed to have any disagreements with the scientific establishment over science. Everything Richard Dawkins says is perfectly right and acceptable up to the moment he says, “And therefore there is no God.” If he just didn’t say those last words, he would be fine. I discovered that there was a total lack of interest in evidence and in asking scientific questions. When I tried to tell them it wasn’t just the “And therefore there is no God” sentence that expressed Dawkins’s atheism, but his whole scientific explanation was grounded in it, they were very resentful that I even raised the objection.
So they see a great gulf fixed between science and personal faith?
PJ: Yes. For them, the enemy is the Christian fundamentalist.
Well, aren’t you their enemy, too?
PJ: When people start bashing fundamentalists, they start out talking about extreme literalists and so on. But the definition is in fact much broader than that. Anybody who thinks God is real in the sense that evolution is real is a fundamentalist. God is a Sunday morning truth or a Bible-study group truth. That’s the way the secular world has it. They’re willing to tolerate Christian faith among the students and faculty, provided they don’t bring it into the classroom and the work world, where we talk about what really happened.
Theistic evolutionists are very content with maintaining that arrangement. They think that they could get along well with the secular world if it weren’t for those troublemaking fundamentalists—and everybody who makes trouble is a fundamentalist.
I was the biggest troublemaker of all, so I found myself bitterly resented in the Christian academic world. Theistic evolution is the same thing as atheistic evolution with a certain amount of God-talk. They don’t see any merit whatsoever in alleging that God left us some fingerprints on the evidence.
I should add that some of my close allies, colleagues, and friends are Christian college professors, so it’s not as if they’re all that way.
So theistic evolutionists aren’t open to discussing Intelligent Design?
PJ: We’ve tried many times, but I’ve found that they are even harder to reason with than the atheistic evolutionists. I’ve been able to get along with the atheistic evolutionists better. It’s disappointing.
But aside from that, I would now say that the project of developing a central position, which could unify the Christian world on this issue, has been accomplished. We’re on the verge of success in the project of legitimating this issue in the secular academic realm. I don’t know exactly when to say we’ve been successful. Maybe when we get a serious article about us in Time or the New York Times. We’re still on the margins. We have this conference at Yale, but the Yale faculty aren’t really embracing it. We had the conference at Baylor and got very eminent people from the other side to attend, so we’re close to success on that front, but we haven’t reached it. We have reached success in the unification of people who disagree about a whole lot of other things but agree that the wedge strategy is correct.
Are you happy with the broadness of the coalition in the sense of including Catholics and Orthodox?
PJ: Very happy. I think Catholic support is very important. A lot of Orthodox are friendly to it, and I also consider the Orthodox to be major players in this. I greatly cherish their support. Our movement is by its very nature ecumenical. One of the reasons why this issue has always been a loser is that it’s only been taken up by Protestant fundamentalists. That has to change.
It’s like the stereotype of the Scopes trial all over again.
PJ: That’s a large reason for my redefining the issue. The mechanism of the wedge strategy is to make it attractive to Catholics, Orthodox, non-fundamentalist Protestants, observant Jews, and so on. This will be a long fight. Every month we’re moving ahead, even when we get a little bit of a setback.
Once you absorb yourself in the issues and understand the way Darwinians think, you know that it’s wrong and it’s vulnerable, which is why they fight so desperately to maintain their monopoly on the public forum.
You have said there is no natural explanation for the rise of genetic information. How important is that question in the debate?
PJ: The Wedge of Truth is all about those issues. The scientific key is, “No natural processes create genetic information.” As soon as we get that out, there’s only one way the debate can go because Darwinists aren’t going to come up with a mechanism. They’ll start out talking about the peppered moth, and when that self-destructs, then they’ll say, “Oh, self-organizing systems, or the fourth law of thermodynamics,” and other nonsense, which is just covering up ignorance.
Genetic information is the issue, but it isn’t the final issue. After you make that breakthrough, then you see other ways in which the theory is questionable. Darwinists will say, “Oh, well, maybe the mechanism has some problems, but the “fact of evolution”—common ancestry—is not in question. We distinguish the fact of evolution from the mechanism of evolution.”
But that’s a bogus distinction because the “fact”—common ancestry—incorporates the mechanism. It’s just a matter of “now you see it, now you don’t.” They are saying the mechanism by which a father and mother give birth to children is the same mechanism by which our “bacterial ancestors” gave birth to human beings. They say it’s all a process of natural reproduction and naturally occurring variation in the offspring.
Biologists affiliated with the Intelligent Design movement nail down the distinction by showing that DNA mutations do not create evolution in any significant sense. Instead, they make birth defects, so the whole thing is false from the get-go. There is no way you can establish that a bacterium is the parent of a complex animal. There is no mechanism to make the change, no historical or fossil evidence that such a change ever occurred, and there’s no way to duplicate the process in a lab.
Once you get that in the debate, then we will be poised for a metaphysical and intellectual reversal that is every bit as profound as the one with Copernicus. People will say, “My gosh, we’ve been completely misled by this fundamental truth of the creation story of our culture. We can no longer understand the world that way.”
How do you change the way people regard the authority of science? Get them to think of it as a much more limited thing. Science is very reliable when scientists stick to the kinds of things that can be tested by refutable experiments, but much of what they tell us is outside that. When they have to fake the mechanisms, it becomes a very dubious philosophy. That raises the question of why so many very brilliant people were misled for so long and did such a good job of rationalizing these things.
When the mechanism of Darwinism becomes discredited, it’s like a train that’s been turned around. You can say, “Well, that’s interesting, but the train is still in the same place. The world, Yale, Berkeley, are still there. The New York Times is still telling us what to think. So why isn’t everything different?” Well, it is different, but you can’t see it yet. The train is turned in the opposite direction. It’s going to start out very slowly, but it’s moving on the logical tracks towards something very different, and when we get there, our great-great-grand-children will see how different things are.
What are some of the books and writers that were formative influences on you?
PJ: I’ve told you I had read the popular Christian classics of Lewis and Chesterton and later, Lesslie Newbigin, and admired them. Michael Denton first introduced me to the fundamentals of the skeptical case about Darwinism.
When I think about things, much of what I get comes from my amateur’s interest in history, especially military history. I’m always thinking things like, “This is like Napoleon in Moscow. He’s taken over the whole country, but he’s about to lose his army.” The sweep of historical examples, rather than the philosophers, has influenced me.
I’m a great admirer of the literary classics by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and the Victorian novelists, especially Austen and Trollope. These are writers who help you have a Christian mindset. I think one of the great tragedies is that the loss of Christian faith and the meaning it gives to people’s lives makes it impossible for them to really appreciate literature. With a play like Hamlet, for example, you have to inhabit the Christian metaphysical rooms to really grasp what the ghost is and understand that marvelous scene in which Hamlet decides not to kill the king while he is saying his prayers.
Those are the formative influences: history and literary classics. I also give a lot of credit to the authors I fought against.
Who are your heroes?
PJ: C. S. Lewis certainly was an intellectual hero in that Oxford common-room atmosphere of his time, to stand up for what he believed was right. The other reason I find him so overwhelmingly admirable is that when he was discouraged about philosophical issues after he debated Elisabeth Anscombe, he went off and wrote the Narnia Chronicles. How could a man like that, with no experience with children, write enduring classics of children’s literature? It’s one of the most astounding feats of virtuosity in literary history.
My wife is a collector of children’s literature—we have 25,000 volumes in our home—so I have a deep appreciation for it, and for the ability to communicate with young people. Many people are urging me to try my hand at that sort of thing but I’ve never gotten up the nerve. Maybe I will someday.
What’s next for Phil Johnson?
PJ: I’m phasing out my direct involvement in the battle over evolution because the next generation is perfectly capable of carrying the ball. Jonathan Wells, Steve Meyer, Mike Behe, and the rest know more than I do and are very capable writers and debaters.
My next project is to provide excellent worldview education for high school and college students. I see this as a fantastic opportunity to send thousands of these young people properly prepared into the best universities and graduate schools, with a mission to speak the truth and change them by prophetic utterance. I love the sense of having opened a young person’s mind to truth and reality and knowing that they can do a great work. Nothing is more satisfying than that. If they have a better idea, they will be successful over time in changing the world. That’s what I want to be directly involved in.
My colleague John Mark Reynolds and I are working with donors and organizations to design educational programs. We are proud of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. The young people who are here at this conference are so eager to be intellectually empowered and capable of taking on these issues. I think we can teach them how to do that. They will be better educated than the students at secular schools.
I see my work as not just being about a scientific theory—it’s about the definitions of knowledge and reality. I see it as empowering this young generation, and I also see it as being inherently ecumenical. That’s represented by John Mark being Eastern Orthodox and me being a Presbyterian elder. Wherever I go, whether to a Southern Baptist, Catholic, or Orthodox church, I feel accepted into the Body.
The first thousand years of the Christian faith was the era of the great councils and of unity in the faith. The second millennium was the millennium of the schisms—the great East-West schism, the Reformation, and the splintering of Protestantism—and then the near destruction of the whole thing in the wake of materialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But I see that ground being recaptured. All those centuries of strife and conflict and hatred—the engine has run down. There are still people who want to keep it going—I’ve met some of them—but I think the overwhelming sense is that we’re tired of that. The third millennium has to be the millennium of reconstitution—from the bottom up. It’s about recapturing the sense of the mystical union of the Body of Christ at the grassroots level. I see that happening all the time.
Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
James M. Kushiner is the Executive Editor of Touchstone.
“Berkeley’s Radical” first appeared in the June 2002 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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