Can Alisa Childers and Randal Rauser be friends?

Just had this discussion about Alisa Childer vs. Randal Rauser on “Progressive Christianity”.

This is relevant because navigating this controversy is key in advancing evolutionary science in the Church.

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Josh: Great job today on Capturing Christianity’s channel.

Here is my suggested topic for you at the CCv2 conference:

“How can Alisa Childers and Randal Rauser be friends?”


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Well, this is a topic I am going to have for the first breakout. I do think it would interesting and valuable if Alisa would be willing to have a conversation with me too.

And Randal’s response:

I should point out that I didn’t intend to offer a detailed rebuttal of either book, but to give some high level observations, and some additional information I thought might be helpful.

From Randal Rauser’s response:

  • An aside: while Swamidass lists the “Athanasian Creed” as one of the creeds to affirm, that is actually a catechism (the term ‘creed’ is a misnomer in this context) . . .

This claim is baffling to me. While scholars are well aware that Athanasius didn’t write the creed that has long used his name, it has long been called a creed—because it is! Whether or not it should be considered foundational to Christian orthodoxy is another question. (Trinitarianism and Augustinian theologies are debates I’m not going to tackle in a brief post.) How is calling it a creed “a misnomer”?

It has been called “The Athanasian Creed” for many centuries and that title is ubiquitous in countless traditions, sects, and denominations and within various institutional statements of faith.

Yes, one can outline The Athanasian Creed in Q&A format. If someone prefers to call it a “catechism”, power to them—but that doesn’t prevent it from also being a creed.

I’m not at all a historical theology scholar by training so I don’t claim to be the last word on this point #3 of Rauser’s list. Nevertheless, I am willing to express my bafflement and be enlightened further by someone with greater expertise.

Rauser also states:

For example, Swamidass defines crucicentrism as “All essential spiritual truth can be found in its pages.”

On this one I wonder if Rauser meant to write Biblicism instead of crucicentrism. (I’ve downloaded but not yet listened to the podcast and I’ve not yet fully read @swamidass on this but I doubt that Joshua confused Biblicism and crucicentrism. By the way, to the surprise of many evangelicals, Mormons do strongly express their own brand of cricicentrism and appear to do so with carefully worded language that could appeal to evangelical audiences.)

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My theology days are decades past, but as I recall, the reference was indeed to “The Athanasian Creed" as you state.

On the definition of the quadrilateral, that was copy-pasted, and I maybe(?) made mistake in my copy paste. Sure, if it’s a mistake, I happy to correct it.

It had very little to do with my point, because I just gave my argument that the quadrilateral isn’t salient to these questions.

On so many other points there was a lot of nit picking, missing the forest for the trees.

Exactly my point.

Mormons are considered to be consistent with the quadrilateral. For very good reasons, most Christians consider them a large departure from historical Christianity. Raider agrees. And that is why his appeal to the quadrilateral doesn’t work well at all. He disputes that Mormans are consistent with the quadrilateral but that’s just his personal assessment, and odds with how historians have used it.

AND all this is beside the point, because I’m offering a far better alternative, The Lausanne Covenant. I don’t think Rauser is even disputing me on this.

About Mormons, they also affirm the Apostle and Nicene Creeds too, but not the Althanasian (creed?).

Seems that Wikipedia agrees with you:

It’s such a non-essential point that I would just concede it in debate, especially because Randall is more theologically trained. I’djust defer that he knew better than me…

Except that criticism wasn’t on target all…so thanks for clarifying @AllenWitmerMiller .

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So this is the text that was on my slide (I went back and checked the video).

Biblicism: All essential spiritual truth can be found on its pages.

Conversionism: The belief that human beings need to be converted.

Crucicentrism: A focus on the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.

Activism: The belief that the Gospel needs to be expressed in effort.

It was cut and paste from here (it’s in my notes):

Here is what Rauser says about this (emphasis mine):

This is demonstrably incorrect. For example, Swamidass defines crucicentrism as “All essential spiritual truth can be found in its pages.” (I assume this is Swamidass’ own wording because that description is not given by Bebbington in the relevant work Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (Routledge, 1989).

Ouch. This is is pretty bad. It’s not so much that he is wrong. He is quite uncharitable and corrective of me on an error that I did not make. I really do expect better of him.

Note this as well:

Robert Baird (1798-1863) – Religion in America (1844)
Stated that the vast majority of Protestants are Evangelicals and he included all Christian groups (Catholics, Mormons, Unitarians).

That makes sense because the quadrilateral is a non-theological sociological/historical definition, in a context outside the US. So it really has limited utility for this discussion. Of course Progressive Christians are “evangelical Christians” by this definition, and so are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. So it is true, but not in any sense that’s helpful to his case.

Rauser affirms the Lausanne Covenant and the historic creeds. That is a far more salient point in establishing he is a “Christian” (in the way that Alisa is arguing against). I agree with Randal that he really is a Christian, but arguing from Bebbington’s quadrilateral is a pretty poor argument. I’m not sure why he is objecting so strenously.

Since I’m subscribed to Capturing Christianity I saw this video, and thought - why in the world is Josh wading into this subject?

I couldn’t watch the video in its entirety, just watched 10 minutes. @swamidass I’m also subscribed to Alisa Childers channel. You mispronounced her name multiple times in those 10 minutes. I noticed because she always says her name in her opening. Cameron should have corrected you, and I don’t know why he didn’t It’s ah-lee-sah chill-ders, not ah-li-sa child-ers or child-er. The effect for me (which I think likely for any of her fans) was that you were critical without knowing anything about her, as I felt you would have pronounced her name correctly had you watched one video. I know little about Randal Rauser besides a YouTube video or two I’ve watched. I find it odd whatever you seemed to be doing was related to defending him somehow but also was criticizing him for coming off poorly in a video with Cameron, at least that’s what I could ascertain in those 10 minutes. So I wasn’t surprised at the response from him you linked above even though I watched only a few minutes.

I also believe that Swamidass runs into the golden mean fallacy by assuming without argument that he has adopted a moderating position that is “correct” and somehow avoids the errors of both Childers and myself without actually rebutting the position I defend.

So I think you’ve turned off both Alisa and Randal and many of their YouTube followers and for what?


I don’t think this is the way to create unity in the church, if that’s your aim. If I can provide encouragement, there are many other avenues where your creativity inspires. This isn’t one of those places you have a gift for or calling to IMO…I just couldn’t watch. :neutral_face:

In my recollection Mormons believe that those creeds were a kind of step-by-step evolutionary process away from the New Testament view (and therefore the Mormon view) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as not just three persons but three distinct gods. (Yes, Mormons assert that their view of the three distinct gods is Bible-based.) So Mormons reject the Athanasius Creed as merely a fourth century description of the Trinity—and, therefore, NOT a standard by which the Christian world should judge “more Biblical” Mormons as not true Christians.

Thus, Mormons consider phrases like “the mystery of the Trinity” and “one God in three persons” as described by most traditional Christians to be post-Apostolic corruptions of a Biblical doctrine they believe is crystal clear in various passages of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

I vaguely recall some Mormon leader (President of Brigham Young University?) expressing something like this not many years ago when there was a major effort among evangelical scholars to encourage dialogue with Mormon scholars. I think this was part of an era when Mormons were promoting a series of ever larger public awareness campaigns along the lines of “We are Christians too.”


I’ll correct that going forward.

Well I have watched videos and read her book closely and I entirety.

Moreover, I hardly criticized her at all.

Perhaps if you did watch you would understand.

Note that you are asserting I am critical about Alisa without knowing anything about her work. But you can’t even watch more than 10 minutes of what I said.

In fact I agree with Alisa quite a bit. In many ways I was defending her in that talk. Randal Rauser was not happy about it.

That makes sense because the quadrilateral is a non-theological sociological/historical definition, in a context outside the US. …

I had no idea that geometry overlaps with Christianity. :wink:

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