Deposition of Langdon Gilkey
REV. BILL MCLEAN, ET AL. *
Plaintiffs * IN THE UNITED STATES
VS. * DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN
THE STATE OF ARKANSAS, * DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS,
ET AL. *
Defendants * WESTERN DIVISION
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
ORAL DEPOSITION OF DR. LANGDON GILKEY
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
APPEARANCES: MR. ANTHONY J. SIANO,
Skadden, Arps, Slate,
Meagher & Flom
919 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10022
** For the Plaintiffs
MR. RICK CAMPBELL,
Attorney General, Attorney
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
** For the Defendants
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
ANSWERS AND DEPOSITION OF DR. LANGDON GILKEY,
a witness produced on behalf of the Plaintiffs,
taken in the above-styled and numbered cause on the
25th day of November, 1981, before Certified Court
Reporters and Notaries Public in and for Fulton
County, Georgia, at American Civil Liberties Union,
88 Walton Street, N.W., Atlanta, Georgia, at approxi-
mately 9:45 a.m., pursuant to the agreement therein-
after set forth.
(Whereupon, the reading and signing
of the deposition by the witness was
DR. LANGDON GILKEY,
having been first duly sworn, was examined and deposed
BY MR. RICK CAMPBELL:
Q Good morning, Professor Gilkey.
A Good morning.
Q May name is Rick Campbell. I am with the
Arkansas Attorney General's office. As you probably
know, our office is representing the State Board of
Education and other Defendants in this action concern-
ing the constitutionality of Act 590 of 1981 of the
State of Arkansas. Today I am going to ask you just
a few questions about your background, about your
interest in the area of Scientific Creationism, and
then about your prospective testimony at trial.
If, at any time during the deposition today
you would like to stop and get a drink of water or
get a Coke or go to the restroom, please let me know
and we can do that. There will be no problem with
I am really hear to learn as much as I
can about where you are coming from and I think you
will get a little vision from our conversation today
as to where I am coming from and some of the possible
arguments that the State may try to have with connec-
tion to this litigation.
First of all, let me ask you to give me
your full name and address, please.
A Langdon Brown Gilkey. **** ***** ******
******, *******, *****.
Q Are you married?
Q If during the course of the deposition I
refer to you as Dr. Gilkey instead of Professor
Gilkey, please excuse me for that.
A I will forgive you.
Q Do you have any children, Professor Gilkey?
A Yes, I have three children.
Q How old are they?
A One of them is 22; one of them is 14; and
one of them is 12.
Q Have all the children attended public or
A Private school.
Q What type of school was that?
A Well, one of them attended -- the older
one attended Trinity School in New York, in the class
of John McEnroe. The other two attend the Laboratory
School of the University of Chicago.
Q What is that?
A That is a private school run by the
Education Department of the University of Chicago.
Q Do you know if in those classes the
subject of origins is taught?
MR. ANTHONY J. SIANO: I would like
that term defined, please.
THE WITNESS: I was going to say that
I could distinguish two aspects of the
question of origins.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) All right, sir.
A One is what one might call ultimate origins,
which is of interest to the philosopher and the
theologian, but more to the theologian than the
philosopher. The other is the question of origins
of this or that form of life, the earth, planetary
system of the nebulous; ask that, but don't ask the
question of where does everything come from.
So let's go back, and you can rephrase
that question, possibly, so that I can know which
way to answer it.
Q All right, sir. I appreciate that.
Is the subject of ultimate origins discussed
Q Is there a discussion of origins of this
or that form of life?
A Yes, sir; yes.
Q Do you know how that is discussed?
A By hearsay only, let me say that, because
I listen to my son telling me about what he has been
studying. But they -- I know that they have studied
-- I won't be accurate about this, let me make clear
-- I know they have studied what are called the
cavemen and women, the early forms of humanity. I
don't believe yet they have dealt with the issue of
the -- of the origin of species, one out of another.
Now, I may be wrong about that, but I don't
think that has come up yet. But early forms of what
are taken to be early forms of human existence, the
kind of thing you get in Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon
and so forth and so on. My son comes home and talks
to me about this, that, and the other. I know they
have been talking about that. I think that they have
had some geology. Actually, the scientific courses
in grade school, middle school, and in early high
school, are not geology and biology --
Q General science?
Q The distinction you made between ultimate
origins and origins of this and that form of life,
would that be the same distinction you talked about
in your writings concerning first causation and
A Yes, roughly. The question of first
causation is the question of ultimate origins. It
is part of the hypothesis of modern science that
forms of life arise out of secondary causality.
That is rather precisely put.
What the argument is about, I would say,
is whether the species arise directly from the first
cause or from the workings of secondary causality.
We are using here in first and secondary causality
Thomistic language, which is the language of the
Catholic tradition, and is familiar to them. This
isn't language familiar to the Protestant tradition.
It is quite appropriate language.
The first causality is the causality of
God. We are talking about Christians, causality of
God in bringing finite beings out of nothing. This
is a causality which any scientists, we don't know
anything about, and we can't talk about it. In that
sense, that is a philosophical and/or theological
question. Most philosophers would say we can't talk
about it, either. Most modern philosophers, for
various reasons, we could talk about it.
But the question of how a finite form of
life arises out of secondary causality could be a
scientific question if they wish to address themselves
to it. One might put it that the scientific community
agrees they are stuck with secondary causality
entirely. There is a kind of roof over it, a limita-
tion to what they can talk about. The theologians,
on the whole, agree that all they can usually talk
about is primarily finite. That is what their task
is, and I would agree with that.
Q Just so I can make sure that we are
talking about -- that I am using the right language,
you referred to it as primary causality and secondary
causality; is that correct?
A Yes. Secondary causality is what we
would ordinarily call if -- we wouldn't ordinarily
use these words, probably -- causes that are finite
in character, or you could say natural historical
human causes. Primary causality would always be
the divine cause.
Now, obviously in the doctrine of Creation
out of nothing, you have only the divine cause; there
aren't any secondary causes, because that is what is
being produced. At least, that is the doctrine. That
is what you mean by an absolute beginning. There isn't
anything there except God, and then secondary causes
are produced in some kind of a system. So things
begin to get going.
Q So your scientific inquiry --
A It can't go beyond that barrier.
Q From the second causality?
A Right. It can't go beyond that barrier,
yes. This is a self-limitation. If it does, it leaves
Q Let me ask you again, you used the word
-- was it Thoistic (sic)?
A St. Thomas Aquinas. T-h-o-m-i-s,
Q What is that, again?
A Well, St. Thomas Aquinas was the official,
let's see, later declared to be the official philoso-
pher of the Roman Catholic tradition. In his own
time, he took rather a beating because he said some
new things. But he became the official philosophee
of the Roman Catholic tradition.
I don't think I could say that any longer.
But for a long time, he was that. So Thomism was
a Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Anglo-Catholic
philosophy. They are the ones that use this conception
of first cause and second cause, more than any other
tradition. It is far too philosophical, and not
enough scriptural, because you don't find primary
and secondary causology as phrases used in the
scripture at all; though, I think it is a legitimate
implication of the first chapter of Genesis and
Psalms and so forth.
Nevertheless, this is philosopher's
talk rather than preacher's talk. Let's put it that
Q What would a protestant -- how would he
react to the primary and secondary causation arguments?
MR. SIANO: I am going to object
to that question. It is a hypothetical and
abstracted. Are you defining protestant
as a particular denomination?
Q (By Mr. Campbell) I am not talking about
a particular denomination. I am separating Catholicism,
that type of thinking from the general Protestant
thinking. These would be the terms of primary causality
And secondary causality would be language of St.
Thomas Aquinas as opposed to, generally, the Protestant'
A Right. Well, now Protestantism is a big
bag. The Reformation, which is what I suppose -- first
of all, the Protestant tradition was not interested
in philosophy at all. They sought to stick to the
words of the Scripture, and so have the Calvarist
and the Lutheran tradition on the whole. They've
been uneasy about philosophy.
Now, there has developed various forms
of what I suppose we can usefully call liberal
Protestantism, which has represented both European and
Elghish and American philosophies in the Nineteenth
Century -- Galvin, Kantian, this, that, and the other.
They're quite happy with philosophy. However, they're
not Thomies. That is to say, they're not a Thirteenth
Century Catholic philosophy based on Aristotle; so
they would not be using this, but perhaps for another
reason. All right?
America is not made up primarily of Lutheran
or Puritans, though the latter started the place
anyway, at least the Northern part -- not the Southern
part, but the Northern part. And it's made up of
groups like -- on the whole, like the Methodists, the
Baptists -- which I am one, so I'm not talking down
the religion, who have not been interested in philosophy;
have been interested in the Bible, and they, for a
slightly different reason would not be interested
in this kind of language, either.
Now, this doesn't mean that a Baptist
community doesn't go to school and study philosophy,
study theology, and maybe wants to use primary and
secondary causality. I'm not trying to say that.
But on the whole, the traditions haven't found this
kind of language, that's what I mean. But, Protestan-
tism is a lot of things. Of course, Catholicism, up
to recently, was one thing; now it's a number of things.
Q I see. You mentioned that you were a
Baptist, and for whatever it's worth, I am, too; so I
really appreciate it -- your comments.
Is there a particular branch of the
Baptist Church that you are a member of?
A Yes, yes. I'm a member of the American
Baptist Church. My father was a Baptist Minister.
MR. SIANO: And I'm going to object
to inquiry as to personal belief systems,
unless there's some particular direction
you're going in.
MR. CAMPBELL: Throughout the deposition,
Mr. Siano and I may exchange comments about
the relevancy of particular questions. It
has nothing to do with you; so please don't
take it personally. It's just part of our
THE WITNESS: Right.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) (Continuing) How large
is the American Baptist Church?
A I must admit, I don't know. It's not
nearly as big as the Southern Baptist Church; I know
Q How does the American Baptist Church view
primary and secondary causation?
A Well, now, one of the things about the
Baptist, at least the Northern Baptist, is that
everybody rows his own boat. Whether that's true of
the Southern Baptist is an interesting question. But
everybody does row their own boat, and there's lots
There is the American Baptist, who were
instrumental in the development of liberal Protestantism.
There are a number there who are much more conservative
and so it's a little hard to describe them as a whole.
As I say, anybody can go now to a modern --
will go if they're interested, and this sort of thing --
go to a modern university, like, the University of
Chicago or the Harvard Divinity School or the Yale
Divinity School. They may come in looking one way,
and they may come out looking another way. So it's
a little hard to specify what this one -- the Northern
Baptist, and I think the Southern Baptist, too, are
a mixture of very different points of view.
Q That's what I was getting at. Do you know
of any church position concerning the primary and
secondary causation in the American Baptist Church?
Q Do you know of any church position concerning
primary and secondary causation in the Southern
A Not in those terms. Well, I'm really
guessing, so I don't want to say.
Q What is the liberal Protestantism? What
does that include?
A I would say, first one wishes to distinguish
between what one could call the liberal spirit toward
tolerance, towards other points of view, interest in
other points of view; not walking out of the room when
someone disagrees with you, and so forth and so on.
And at that point, I think one could say that whatever
one's theology, one can have that kind of a view of
other people. Using the word "liberal" as describing
a type of thinking is a different matter; right?
So I'm -- I'm using it that way historically, how we
would describe a movement with this word.
I would say with the Eighteenth Century,
modern science especially physics -- Isaac Newton
appeared very powerfully on the scene -- very, very
powerfully on the scene. This is prior to geology,
prior to biology. This is arising out of the develop-
ment of physics in the Seventeenth Century. And as a
result of this movement, I think that's where it started,
there came the enlightenment, which you probably know
about, a kind of new view of everything on the part of
the European and the Early American community.
Jefferson is a good -- of course, a good
example of this. It spread out from science into
political fault, and our Constitution and Bill of
Rights, and so forth, are very directly dependent
on that, as you probably know.
This really was a new world. It was
different from the orthodox. And religious thinkers,
leading preachers, teachers, and so forth, especially
in Europe -- of course, we weren't getting going
much then -- found this world a part of themselves,
as technology is part of us now, and they were also
So they tried to think out how to relate
their Christian thought to the new world, really, of
science, but also of political thought, a new sense
of ethics. One should help to make the world more
just rather than merely not doing this and not doing
that, and so forth and so on. And liberal Christianity
was the effort to create an interpretation of Christiani
that fit in this world, and this developed from, let's
say, 1800 in Europe -- we could push it back a little
further, but that's a good time -- right on up through.
An effort to reinterpret Christianity
on the basis of -- now, not -- well, let me say "on
the basis" is wrong here; but so that an interpretation
of Christianity based upon Scripture and tradition
could relate itself to this new world.
Q Was there a split, say, around 1800, a
significant split between, say, liberal thinkers or
liberal Protestantism and conservative Protestantism.
I mean, how do you --
A That split doesn't appear very much in
this country except for the kinds of arguments that
you get on the East Coast among people who participated
in this kind of thought; and then you have -- I
suppose one could say the liberals were then deist,
and there were a number -- well, Jefferson would have
been a good example of a deist. I think he called
himself a deist. And he would have -- he did disagree
quite explicitly with what he would have termed the
With Jonathan Edwards, let's say, up in
New England and the Puritans, and you get that kind of
a split, that's not the same kind you get later. But
a real difference between orthodoxy and the free-
thinkers, let's put it, as they call themselves, that's
the way the split would have appeared then.
As it began to develop in Europe about the
same time -- a much more sophisticated culture than
ours, of course, in 1800; there is no doubt about it.
You have most of the philosophical community in
Germany and England who were Christian. That is to
say, they regard themselves as Christian.
In France, a good number of them didn't
want anything to do with Christianity, and so there's
a bit of difference here, and one can see this in the
French Revolution. This is an anti-church movement,
whereas, the enlightenment was not anti-church in
neither Germany or England, though there were some
people who were. But obviously, a split is beginning
to develop here between orthodoxy, Lutheran, Calvanists,
Presbyterian, some developments of Catholicism, and
this rethinking liberal theology; and that split goes
all the way along. It really surfaces in America, I
think, a great deal later towards the end of the
Nineteenth Century, where you have people now who --
we've got a -- we're in a different age and we have
people who may have interpreted Christianity along
an evolutionary line, on a doctoral line, let's say
on a liberal line, who are beginning to talk about
social Christianity; that is, Christianity interested
in social form, and you get the social gospel developing
Now, this is 1890, 1900, and so forth,
and you begin -- this is the point at which one has
the rise of fundamentalists because they're conscious
of another type of Christianity appearing. Before
that, I don't think the issue was drawn, so to speak.
But you take the Evolutionist Movement,
for example, in the North. Here's a type social
Christianity, but Evangelics were very much involved
in it. Overlin, for example, ran the underground
railway and, yet, was the center of Evangelicism.
So you don't have much of a split there, but it
develops -- it develops at the end of the century;
and so you get a real tussle between those who are
seeking to save the fundamentals and those who are
moving, so to speak, in tune with the culture.
Q When you mentioned Christianity moving
along evolutionary lines --
Q -- what does that mean? I mean, what
were you --
A An interpretation of Christianity that
reinterprets the primary causality of God. Let's go
back to that language, though they might not have used
that language at that time.
As working through secondary causes,
finite causes, and the scientists were beginning to
talk about the development of the cosmos, the nebular
hypothesis, the whole development of astronomy and
the development of various forms of life, the Darwinian
as the way God is working.
Q I see. So the liberal Protestantism would
have gone off in that direction thinking that God was
working through the secondary hypothesis or causation --
Q Whereas, the more conservative or funda-
mentalists or --
Q -- or fundamental Protestants would have
gone off in the direction that what, where there was
a liberal -- God caused everything right, or what
would be their position at that same time?
A Their position would be that the origin of
species is not a question of secondary causality, but
of primary causality. That's the essence of their
position. Now, if species are permanent, they don't
arise out of second causes; they go right back to the
So that the question of the origin, let's
say, of the giraffe, is not a scientific question, but
a theological question, because the giraffe goes right
back to the beginning, and the giraffe was on Noah's
Ark, Adam named it, et cetera, et cetera.
This is a question of primary causality.
To make it a question of secondary causality
is really quite a revolutionary step, and this is a
step that Darwin made. That is to say that species
are not permanent. They don't go back to the
beginning; they arise. And this was the step that
Lyle made and Hutton in geology. Mountains were not
there at the beginning, even beautiful mountains of
England that have coal in them, as they used to say,
put there for the English to keep themselves warm,
these have arisen in the process of time.
Now, this is a very different view. See,
what you're doing is changing from primary to secondary
causality, which is to say, also, you're bringing it
under the umbrella of science. This becomes a
scientific question, how did the hills arise, and
that's the origin of this science of geology.
Biology came next. Incidentally, the progressivist
hypothesis is not biological in its origin. It actually
came up in history; Then in geology; then in biology,
as it was in the middle of the Eighteenth Century
that people began to talk abou the progress of human
Before that time, they had never thought
that they were higher than the Greeks, and there was an
argument in the Seventeenth Century between ancients
and the moderns, those who said Greek and Roman
culture was higher than we were, which everybody up
to that time had thought -- well, not the Mediaeval
Age, but since the Renaissance. And then they said,
no; we have science. And, therefore, the young
fellows, not the old fellows -- the young vellows are
the Greeks, and we stand on their shoulders, which is
the way probably we would feel. And with that, you
get a sense of progress in time, which gets then
taken up again in geology and again in the Nineteenth
Century and becomes the central idea of the Nineteenth
Q All right, sir. Let me see if I've got
this right, and please correct me if I'm wrong.
So at one time, say, in the Eighteenth
Century, there was really no distinction between
science and religion, and to the extent that everything
was assumed to be a primary causation, to use the
terms that we've used today; and then at some point
in time in the Eighteenth Century or early Nineteenth
Century, there was a break, and some people could
make a distinction between the primary and the
secondary causality, and others, either unwilling
to change or unwilling to bend, stayed with the
primary causality viewpoint.
MR. SIANO: I'm going to object to
the question. I'll object on the form
basis in that that seems to be not really
a complete summary of the testimony, and
I think the transcript will speak for
itself. I would suggest that we not
clutter the record with synopses of what
Professor Gilkey is saying, in that what
he's saying has got a great deal in it,
and I don't think that either one of us
sitting here could make a fair summary of
what that was.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) (Continuing) I'm really
asking, at some point in our history, then, there was
no distinction between, you know, primary and secondary
A Let me amend that a little bit. It all
depends on what a religious group thinks is what God
intended us to know. Now, it would be wrong to say
that tussle between religion and science begins in
the Eighteenth Century, because -- Galileo is a good
example of that tussle back a little earlier -- because
at that point, the Catholic Church had itself involved
with what one could call the Aristotelian view and
the Talmaic system, and they thought that was associated
with their own religion. They don't any longer.
But what Galileo was saying, and what
Percuncus had been saying -- but Galileo was the one
who took the beating, so you had a big tussle. This
didn't bother the Calvanists, for some interesting
historical reasons. And most of the earlier scientists
and England were Calvanists. An awful lot of them were
preachers. Newton was one; Ray was one; Prestley was
one; Bull was one, and so forth.
There is an interesting relationship between
the reformed tradition as the Calvanist tradition and
the development of modern science, especially in
England, in Holland, and Switzerland. These were the
centers of it. That's a funny relation. It's hard
to document, but it's there.
Then, when the issue of the history of
the earth began to appear, then you began to get a
tussle with that tradition; and you see that at the
beginning of the Nineteenth Century in the argument
When a good many of the theories that
are now appearing -- catastrophism and so forth,
neptunism, vulcanism, and so on -- appeared within
the geological community, they subsequently disappeared,
with the establishment of geology as a science. But
there was a real tussle going on then. That was a
real tussle, and people came -- hundreds of people
came to listen to geological lectures, which is
Of course, at that point, the mosaic
history was under some kind of discussion. This is
geology; not yet Darwin. Darwin is the unlucky guy
who gets the blame for all of this, but it went on a
good deal before that.
So it comes and goes. It comes and goes,
Q So what we really have is a -- or what
we have here, there are some religions which can
adapt to scientific progress, so to speak, and others
who just can't handle it.
Q Or some of them will adapt to this; some
of them will adapt to that. Now, I mean, let's say,
I don't imagine -- though I'm not speaking as an
expert here -- that fundamentalism has any problem
with Isaac Newton. I don't imagine they have any
problem with Kerpunkas, though I have met fundamentalist
who think the earth is flat, and it's very hard to
argue them out of it. But that's neither here nor there.
Generally speaking, the fundamentalists
in America would accept Newtonian physics -- in fact,
they'd probably regard that as physics -- and most
of the astronomy that's come from Kerpunkas and the
changes there. Right? They have a hard time with
geology and -- now, most of us in religious studies
have a hard time with psychology, for example. Now,
I can go on talking about that, if you'd wish.
But when they say this is science, I agree
with them; but then I think there's more to say. So
that where it comes up is -- and part of the problem
of theology is to see, decide what is valid within
a Christian perspective of a scientific movement and
what is not.
Generally, I think that what is not turns
out to be a philosophical, what, expansion of science
into a total view. But then that's not science; that's
A So I would be uneasy to say that everybody
involved in religion, which I am, and I am not
involved as a student, but as a theologian and member
of the Christian community seeking to reflect upon
Christianity and its relation to what else we know
in the world, I think it isn't as if some people can't
adapt at all and some people can adapt right across
the board. We can talk more about that if you would
like to. But I wouldn't want to be put in the position
of saying that because there is no question that the
Fundamentalist community America adapts to a good
deal of philosophy. I wouldn't wish to say they
were anti-scientific in that direct sense.
Q Generally speaking, can you characterize
the threat that Fundamentalists may feel from these
scientists which they have not adapted to?
MR. SIANO: I would like to have a
clarification of the phrase "threat."
Q (By Mr. Campbell) In other words, obviously
some people have been able to adapt to science, and
I think you have. What you are saying is that the
science is no threat to Christianity?
A Yes, I believe that.
Q Because Christianity is broad enough to
encompass that. And science has limits, and science
can only go so far, and beyond that, you are into the
A That is a very important point.
Q What I am really saying is, I am wondering
why couldn't everyone, you know, if there is a
general reason, you know, go ahead and say the same
thing? Why do they feel their religion is not big
A I am glad to answer your question, if it
is clear that this is a speculative answer on my
Q I understand that.
A I am no expert in the mind of the
Fundamentalist or in the ankh, the anxiety of the
Fundamentalist. My answer is speculative. We live
in a scientific culture. I would disagree with this
professionally in my own thoughts and so forth,
where it is generally felt that what science says is
the truth and the only truth, almost like the oath
I took here. So that if science says something isn't
there, then it isn't there, that is part of the problem.
They define reality for us, and I don't think that
is what they are about. Okay.
Now, I would take it that the Fundamentalist
Movement accepts this point, which they shouldn't.
I think a good deal of the academic world of America
also accepts it. Being a theologian in a university
is a bazaar thing to be, to lots of my colleagues.
If you take that assumption, that the only truths
about reality, they like to say what is the case,
are truths established by science or as they like to
say, and you find this in their documents, scientific
facts, then if science denies something, they get
very, very nervous.
And a child comes home and says, I have
been taught scientifically that such and such is
the case. God didn't appear in this scenario, which
from my point of view, God should not, because this is
a scientific account; therefore, it is concluded by
both child and parent that they have been taught
there is no God.
Now, how do you resolve that? I would
say you have a discussion somewhere in school about
the different levels of truth. That is not a biology
class. What is it? It is a comparative thinking
class or philosophy of science and philosophy of
religion class, or possibly comparative views, world
views, where these things could be discussed. I think
that would be a very good idea. I am not running the
education, but I think that would be the place to
settle this issue. Then we could talk about what is
artistic truth, what is moral truth, what is religious
truth, and what is scientific truth. These are
important issues, but they are not biological issues,
and so forth and so on.
I think the anxiety arises in the scientific
culture, where science is said to be the arbiter of
what is real and not real, and science is suddenly
found not to talk about God. Therefore, they are
saying God doesn't exist. And there is feeling that
if you have got these two hypotheses, they are
parallel. They are not at all parallel. One of them
is quite limited, and therefore relatively certain.
We can be sure of that. I feel sure. I am glad they
are relatively certain.
I long ago decided it was foolish of a
theologian to fly somewhere and then beat up science.
I have a good deal of colleagues that do this. They
say, I am sorry, I have a meeting and I have to take
Q I see your point.
A I won't say, and I don't mean to imply,
that theology or philosophy is the resolution of
this problem. Just as in the high school course, you
don't have exactly the top level or far-out level of
biology, so I am not talking about that. But I
wish there were some way this could be discussed.
Q so it really becomes a question of what
is reality or what is final reality?
A That's the major philosophical question.
It is also, of course, basically a theological
question. Our culture -- and here I would say the
Fundamentalists and some scientists may join together,
and would say, no physics tells us about this. The
physicist would say, I can't put it that way, but
lots of people would think when the physicist talks
about atoms, that is what was really real.
Subsequently, with Bohr and Heizenberg
and some others, they found the atom wasn't all there
was, and there have been developments since then.
But that question of what is really real is a theological
question and philosophical question. It really shouldn't
be a scientific question. If I make myself clear?
Q Yes, I understand that. You are employed
at the University of Chicago?
Q What are you teaching there?
A I teach in the area we call theology,
which is an area within the divinity school, whose
main business is training Ph.D.'s. We have a
ministerial program, but it is rather minor. Because
we are a university, we are nondenominational and
so forth. Our main business is Ph.D.'s.
Within that school, there is the study of
what we call the history of religion. Somebody wants
to study Buddhism, Hinduism, and so forth. There is
the study of the scripture, Jewish scripture. There
is the study of the history of Christianity or
really of Western Religion. It is called the history
of Christianity, but you can study Judaism in it.
There is the ethics in society. There is religion
and psychological studies. There is religion and the
arts or religion and literature, primarily. And there
is theology, which would be the study of the reflec-
tive, reflective side of religion, and primarily a
We have Jewish students studying the
history of Jewish religion. We are Christians, I
am, and my Catholic colleagues are, and so forth. But
we would welcome a Jewish thinker or Buddhist
thinker and so forth.
That is a practical problem, not a
theoretical problem. Within that, my main responsi-
bility is Protestant theology. Now, I have a colleague
who knows all about the Reformation, so I don't stray
onto that turf. But I do know something about it.
There is a medievalist there who does early Christian
thoughts, medieval thought. And once in a while I
teach courses there. But mainly, I am teaching
Protestant thought from the enlightenment to the
present. I teach courses in particular thinkers,
which is -- you studied philosophy and you have the
same kind of thinking we have. You can study Plato;
you can study Aristotle; DeCarte. We would take
great theologians, Paul Tiller, and so forth, and
teach courses of that sort.
You can also teach the doctrine of God,
the doctrine of Creation, religion and science,
nature of history. One can develop a whole spring
of those. I have courses of all that sort of thinking.
Q When you are teaching or when you have
taught about Protestant theology or the doctrine of
Creation, religion and science, and origins as dis-
cussed, if it ever is --
A Oh, it would be with us, yeah, that is
Q Would it be discussed in the framework
that we have talked about earlier this morning, of
the ultimate origins and the secondary causality?
A Well, in discussing that problem, that
would come up possibly in religion and science, much
the way I have specified it. It would certainly come
up if you were teaching a course in Christian doctrine
of Creation and Christian doctrine of God. I would
expect it would come up in the Jewish doctrine of God,
although I am not an expert on that. It would come
up in many, many contents. One of the first things
to do would be to make this distinction because it
has been made historically, as I say, and because it is
a useful way to think about the whole matter. And
there are many things to be said about the idea of
Creation; all kinds of things to be said. But that
certainly is one of them. Let me say that in teaching
something, in teaching your own views, which we do
occasionally, one is involved, of course, in teaching
one's own view. And one's own perspective, so to
speak, is out there in the center of the table. That
is what we are talking about.
In teaching someone else's view, at least
I try to recede at that point. Now, you don't ever.
I suppose that is true in studying law, too, the
petticoat of any professor shows. I think that
religious studies are probably more aware of the
problem of the petticoat than the social scientist, so
that is a speculative matter. But we are very aware
I am a Protestant teaching Catholic
thoughts, a Christian may be teaching Buddhist thoughts,
as I used to do in college. One perspective is
out in the center in teaching a course of one's own
thought. One's perspective should, I think, take a
back seat, though obviously to be there teaching, say,
Calvin or teaching liberalism. I don't regard myself
as a theological liberal. But in teaching them, I
would try to teach the way that person would. I think
this is the way you ought to do in being a teacher,
whatever you are teaching. So in teaching someone
who is not a Christian, I try to get inside them and
give it the same power that they would.
Q You said you didn't consider yourself a
A That's correct, in the sense that I hope
I have the liberal spirit, but, no, I was raised in
the middle of the Twentieth Century when Hitler was
astride Europe and the optimism of liberal theology
seemed to be incredible.
Q How would you characterize liberal
A Well, there in the Twentieth Century, there
was a reaction against liberal theology. I don't
mean a Fundamentalist reaction.
The name of Carl Bart is the great name
in this. In America, the name of Reinhold Niebuhr
is the one who grabbed ahold of me when I was in
college, got me interested. This was a view, what
is called Neo-Orthodoxy or Dialectical, that found
liberal philosophy too optimistic about the goodness
of modern world and the goodness of man and woman
and how we were much better off morally and so forth.
They thought this was not true. They found what
they call the biblical view much truer, that God had
created the world, but something had happened. And
they weren't sure how to talk about what had happened,
but they were sure something had happened. So the
doctrine of original sins comes back, and the doctrine
of revelations, the incarnation, and so forth.
However, they saw fit to teach that way
still within the modern world, and that is what they
were trying to do.
Q As a Neo-Orthodox?
A Yes. The world generally refers to the
great Carl Bart, and there is a significant difference,
I think, between that rather strong Neo-Orthodoxy --
I can define that, but it is getting pretty far up
the road -- and it's milder American cousin, if I
can put it that way, who were represented by, actually
by my two teachers, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tiller,
who were much less -- I don't know what to say -- had
been influenced more by the modern world. Though
Bart was a very aware man and a very educated man,
there are differences here. If Neo-Orthodoxy refers
to Bart, then I am not a Barty. But I would associ-
ate myself with that whole Twentieth Century movement,
which sought to reinterpret the liberal tradition in
a more biblical direction. They regarded themselves
as biblical theologians, which is stepping from the
biblical views. But they, in various ways, thought
to show this view is not unethical; in fact, it
understands the developments better than the liberals
did, who were too optimistic.
Q What are the characteristics of Neo-
Orthodoxy, besides what you have just mentioned about
the return to the Bible?
A There is a good deal of variety among
them. The European varieties, they have varieties
among them; the American and English varieties are
different, too. But I would say that the first thing
that would come to mind was a much more sober -- you
say sober when you think it is true and you say
pessimistic when you think it is not true -- I will
say sober view of history as not a simple progress
into better and better worlds, more and more secure
The First World War did this for Europe,
and the Second World War and the atomic bomb have done
it for American consciousness. And, therefore, it is
a much more sober view of history, sober view of
human reality and human beings, that they are not as
good as they would like to think they are, that some-
thing was wrong with the world and the way we behaved.
We try to be good, but we end up not being good,
and so therefore, they fall; the symbol of the fall,
a very meaningful symbol, by which to work. By
"symbol," I don't mean not true.
Then emphasize revelation much more,
which is something not to be found in ordinary
experience, but is manifested by God. They are inclined
not to be as exclusive as their orthodox great
grandfathers about this concept. But nevertheless,
this is the center of their theology. That is true
of all of them. This isn't a matter of science or
philosophy, but on which Christian community is founded.
They would regard the Scripture as revelation or as
witnessing the revelation or containing revelation.
Now, there are some real differences
between orthodoxy and Neo-Orthodoxy at these points.
But the transcendence of God, creation out of nothing,
the fall, revelation, incarnation, so forth, all of
these symbols, they would regard essential to
theology and seek to reinterpret them. That is what
they have been about. That is what my own book is
about. My first book was on the doctrine of Creation,
what does it mean in a modern setting. Another book
was on the doctrine of the church. My recent big
book was on the doctrine of providence, what does that
mean in modern science.
Q Would one of the splits between orthodoxy
and Neo-Orthodoxy involve a literal interpretation
of the Bible?
A (Witness nods head affirmatively.)
MR. SIANO: You have to answer
THE WITNESS: I'm sorry. Yes, yes.
And that would be probably, if not the
essential theological issue, essential
methological issue that they would be
arguing. Now, they might also be arguing
about a lot of other things; predestina-
tion, maybe, and so forth. I don't mean
to confine it to that, but that would be
the essential methodological, how do we
know, kind of question.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) If you are --
A I am not expert on this, but let me just
say that I am not trying to put the orthodox world
all into one.
Q I understand.
A There are large differences between
Lutheran orthodoxy in Europe, Litheran orthodoxy in
St. Louis, let's say, Baptist orthodoxy, Church of
Christ orthodoxy. There are real differences here,
or Reformed orthodoxy in Michigan. So one can't put
them all in the same category. And I wouldn't want
to be on the record as doing that.
Q How does a Neo-Orthodox view the Bible?
I understand you mentioned a moment ago about
revelation. Does does that differ from literalism?
MR. SIANO: There are a lot of
very significant terms in that question,
Mr. Campbell. And I would suggest that
you might want to define a few or limit
a few in the context of your question.
On that basis, I object.
MR. CAMPBELL: I wish I could define
some of those.
MR. SIANO: You are sort of left
with the answer as it comes, without any
qualification or definition. I just offer
that by way of an objection.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) What is biblical
A As I interpret the term, it is the belief
that as an aspect of revelation, they would not
wish to confine revelation to this, but as an aspect
of it, there is -- and I am using their word -- a
dictation of the words of the Scripture by the Holy
Spirit. So that words of the Scripture are literally
infallible, every one of them. This is comparable,
I might say, to the view of the infallibility of the
Pope. It sets the infallibility in another place.
Now, there are wide varieties in the Neo-
Orthodox way of dealing with this question. And it
is hard to characterize it all in a few sentences. I
would say their view would be that the main center
of Revelation is not in the book, but in the event
to which the book witnesses. And these would be the
events, whatever they were, in which Israel was
formed, called, chosen, covenanted; that would be
very important. And in a way, they would affirm, and
I would, too, God was present in that community in a
quite extraordinary way. It doesn't mean God wasn't
present in China. I want to be clear about that point.
He creates and preserves. I would say the other
religions witnessed to him in their own way.
If one believes in God, one can't have Him
only in a particular place, but nevertheless, present
in an unusual way, in a special way. And therefore,
there is the prophetic word. Anybody who seeks to
figure out what went on with Amos ought not to press
too closely. I don't think they know. But Amos
heard the word of the Lord. This would be recorded
in some sense, maybe not all the literal meanings, but
in some sense, the judgment on Israel and that calls
to repentence the word of the Lord.
Now, the sensoral event, for a Christian,
not a Jewish -- Jewish is quite close to this, but
needless to say, it stops -- would be the event of
Christ. This was witnessed in one way by Mark and in
another way by Matthew and another way by John and
another by Paul. All of these were the ways in which
inspired, yes, inspired to call him to Christ. But
writing it down as human beings, one has differences
in the story. Now, that is witnessing to an event
of Revelation, which is, of course, what it means to
be a Christian. This is not something you can prove,
not something you can witness to, and you can say it
makes sense to the world and so forth and so on.
And I would argue that. If anybody said, can you
prove it, the answer would be, of course not, not
any more than the Jewish person can prove to me that
Israel was called and so forth.
I would say what it means to be a
Christian is what it means to be a theologian, as a
member of the community. The Bible, therefore, is
regarded as a witness to Revelation, the authoritative
witness, the closest one, that which continues to
communicate to us this. And secondly, there would be
the belief that God in some way speaks through these
words to you and to me. They are not ordinary words.
If I read it in faith, that is different from reading
it in scholarship, reading in faith, as it is done in
church, as I preach from it, or as I do it personally.
And the word comes to us. Now, that is a kind of a
Q I understand. I think what you are really
saying is that -- and I don't want to improperly
characterize what you have told me, either --
MR. SIANO: I suggest you ask a
question and not characterize.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) All right. The
event of Creation occurred to the Neo-Orthodox. The
methodology is not spelled out in the Bible, is what
we are saying; is that correct?
A God's methodology, so to speak. My own
view of this would be that the Hebrews were, because
of the Covenant, fully aware that God was the sovereign
Lord. I think this is clear in Amos and clear in the
Psalms. They start there and move out, so to speak.
This is what they knew. The sovereign Lord means
the Creator. One might say that Creation is an
implication of Israelites standing before God. It is
not as if someone had a class in systematic theology.
That is not the way it happens. Actually, the
orthodox view is as if theologians had done the whole
thing. They come later. They organized this.
It is very clear the first thing Israelites
say is, He saved us from Egypt, the Exodus. This is
where it begins. Then there is Abraham. Something is
going on with Abraham. But we know things started
with Exodus. That is the center of the Old Testament.
He who saved us from the pharaoh is the ruler. This
is also absolutely clear in every line of the Old
Testament, it seems to me. This is what we know.
And that means the ruler of those other
tribes, the ruler of Cyrus, the ruler over the
pharaoh, and this means he is the Creator. So this
is a way of praising God, of saying who He is. Now;
they say this in terms of what they knew about the
world. And it is the most powerful statement.
I object very much when this is called
pre-science, early science. I will argue as much with
the scientist on this. This is crazy. This is a more
profound document than Birch and Russell, as far as
I am concerned, more sophisticated. But still, it
is set within what they knew, just as we would set
it within terms of what we know. 1,000 years later
or 500 years later, even the best statement is going
to be looked at differently.
In Genesis, there are accounts about
Israel being the chosen people. Enoch, I believe,
walked with God. Would these be events or would these
be the explanation of some other --
MR. SIANO: Again, as you are aware,
Mr. Campbell, we had not tendered him as
a Bible scholar, per se, to the extent you
are getting into a particular testimony
which is scientific interpretation of the
Bible itself, and I would object to the
inquiry in this area. A philosophical
or theological discussion on this topic,
I am certainly not going to inhibit that.
MR. CAMPBELL: I am speaking from
a theological standpoint.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) As I understand, you
are not being tendered as an expert on the book of
Genesis. I am not trying to limit you to that.
What would the specific story of Enoch walking with
God or the story of Joseph and the coat of many
colors, what would these describe?
MR. SIANO: Again, I think you
ought to try to focus the question under
a particular theorem, to use a layman's
word. Professor Gilkey has been very
forthright in discussing various approaches,
and I think you ought to try to focus
through whose prism you are asking the
Q (By Mr. Campbell) Just from the prism
of theologian or Neo-Orthodox. I mean, obviously,
you have written some articles on Neo-Orthodoxy,
and we have talked about that this morning. But how
would a Neo-Orthodox view --
A There are wide varieties there. Bart
would do it one way. Somebody else would do it another
way. Let me say, until you think about it, you don't
know what you think about it. That should be said.
I don't have a system in my mind, to put a nickel in and
out it comes. I never thought about Enoch.
I think most of us, and I would say, "us,"
including historians, give a lot more credence to
early documents than they used to. That is just a
profane statement. It used to be regarded, they were
all untrue. Now, we don't know about that. And a
lot of the archeology has shown many of these things
that were said. I think it is generally agreed that
one can have different interpretations of some of
those early stories.
And now Joseph, I think, probably has some
real historical background. That is my own opinion.
And some of the earlier ones about Matthew and so
forth, you can have lots of disagreements with what
is going on here, but when you begin to get into the
historical material from Abraham on, you have clearly
memories of a people, preliterate memories of a people
that have gone on for quite a while, that had a good
deal of validity to them. But I am not one. Who
knows just what that is? The important point itself
seems to me, theologically, that these express the ways
in which the Hebrew people saw their own history in
the relationship to God.
Now, let me put it this way: I would say
the details of the history, I don't regard as revealed.
I would say the relationship of God to this people,
interpreting their history, is that that relationship
is given to them by God and thus is revealed in that
sense. Though a relationship is not revealed -- that
is not quite the right word -- let's say God manifested
Himself or herself -- and I would like to say that
for the record, manifested Himself to the Israelite
people. And out of this, they have an entirely
different way of being in the world, a different
way of thinking. This is evidenced throughout the
whole Scriptures. So these stories -- and I don't
mean by that, that they are untrue -- reflect that.
And Abraham is a very Jewish story. At
that point, the whole bit, from beginning to end,
reflects the knowledge of God that that community had.
Now, as I say, my own feeling is that knowledge
really begins somewhere with that Mosaic Covenant,
though something is happening with Abraham.
Q How would you view the flood, the story of
A The same way. Now, I don't have any doubt
there were floods in the past, and I think that is a
very profound and true story, it seems to me. Whether
it is a geologically relevant story, I am not that
certain. There, I would have to be a geologist,
as far as I am concerned, and say what kind of evidence
is there. The theological meaning of it is perfectly
Q What is the theological meaning of the
A It has to do with the reality of human
sense with the reality of the Divine judgment on human
sense, and which I firmly believe, although I don't
think when we are talking law we can come in and say
so and so was killed because of the judgment of God.
I don't think a judge would accept that. It was
Bill Jones that killed him. A lawyer doesn't get
away with that. So I would say that the Divine
judgment is very real. The Divine judgment on us
in the Twentieth Century is exceedingly real. And
that's what I say a theologian is seeking to talk about.
I believe the Second World War was the judgment of
God of human sense. The empirical forces of the
world all go together to bring that up. Whatever
happened in the future can also be taught.
There is a religious dimension to everything
as far as I am concerned, because God is there. This
doesn't mean the historian in his or her way, in effect,
they don't mention God, which doesn't mean God isn't
there. That is the key point. So the Noah story
indicate both the judgment of God and the mercy of
God. And it is a story from which one can preach with
great force and vigor and a sense of its validity.
However, I would be clear in what way I thought it
was valid and what way I didn't.
Q How would you view God's judgment on the
Twentieth Century, outside of like World War II. What
other things do you see?
MR. SIANO: Are you asking for a
MR. CAMPBELL: Yes.
MR. SIANO: I am going to object
to that as being irrelevant.
Q (By Mr. Campbell) You may go ahead and
A The World War is not the only tragic
outcome of the Twentieth Century life.
Q What other things would you say?
A You have got your list and I have got
mine. It is a long, long list.