I remember when evolution was presented in science class during my high school days in the late eighties. We were instructed on how the cosmos came into being through natural means, which, from my perspective, took God out of the picture by default. It was like my science teacher was saying, “Everything you’ve heard is wrong.”
I was mad. Nobody, I mean nobody, was going to tell me that Genesis was wrong. This was more than a science class; God’s very existence was being called into question!
Since then, I’ve continued a layman’s interest in the theory of evolution and how to reconcile that with the creation account in Genesis. The evidence suggests that the process of the earth’s formation was a long, natural process of change where every species came into being slowly, not in the snap of a divine finger. Some scientists call God’s existence into question, since the process was a natural one. Add the reaction from select prominent Christian figures, and we end up with the kind of head-butting we’ve seen in Kansas and other state governments.
As Rick pointed out in his comments on my previous post, it seems that “both communities tend to act as if the other community’s body of knowledge cannot inform the other.”
Could it be that scientists are reading God’s ancient playbook when they pull fossils from a spot of ground in northern Canada? As Stan Guthrie noted in Christianity Today, an increasing number of scientists are seeing design in their evidence. It makes me wonder if God is showing his hand one card at a time.
Reflections of God’s creative power are all around us, and every “breakthrough” scientific discovery is another glimpse into His wisdom. We can’t convince every scientist to see God’s handiwork in their discoveries, but His signature is there, nevertheless.
Theories about the earth’s creation shouldn’t cause any fear in the heart of a Christian. The evolution debate is not a debate over God’s existence for those of us who believe in Him. Think about it: if you found out that evolution was God’s way of creating the universe, would you stop believing in God? I agree with Guthrie’s answer; If evolution is true, “then God is more mysterious than I imagined—but no less God.”
8 thoughts on “scientists are our friends”
“Science [is] the handmaiden of theology.” Dallas Willard
At the behest of a close friend, I will add this to my previous comment:
The Dallas Willard quote I cited was from an endorsement of Hugh Ross’s book, Beyond the Cosmos – which Jason adamantly, even vehemently, refuses to read. At any rate, here’s a quote by Ross below… which, for me, epitomizes the general disposition of a majority of Christian creation scholars… and whether we subscribe to the Genesis account in any of the three main dispositions: 1. literal 24 hour “days” (e.g. the gap theory between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2), 2. “days” representing time-epochs (as Ross does) or 3. some form of time-dilation theory (e.g. that the speed of light actually changes over eons), it still makes good sense that an enormous amount of actual time was necessary for creation.
“As an astronomer, educator, and evangelical minister, I concur that the normal physical science definition for evolution is well established—things do change with respect to time and in some cases over a time-scale of billions of years. Incidentally, this fact can be established not just from the scientific record but also from the Bible. The first chapter of Genesis is set up as a chronology documenting how God changed the world over six specific time periods. A literal and consistent reading of the Bible, taking into account all its statements on creation, makes clear that the Genesis creation days cannot possibly be six consecutive 24-hour days. They must be six lengthy epochs. Ussher’s chronology represents faulty exegesis, as many Bible scholars affirm.” (Hugh Ross)
I see where the endorser is going but I do object to “The first chapter of Genesis is set up as a chronology documenting how God changed the world over six specific time periods. A literal and consistent reading of the Bible, taking into account all its statements on creation, makes clear that the Genesis creation days cannot possibly be six consecutive 24-hour days.”
Several literary questions surface for me.
1–“Genesis is set up as a chronology documenting how God changed the world over six specific time periods” is a poor hermenutic reading. While the argument is on the actual meaning of the Hebrew word yom this person is assuming that the variant reading is the right reading thus interpreted as a chronoloy of time periods. The context of Genesis is not how God “changed” the world but how he “barah” the world. The world is explicitly created. Should the purpose of Genesis be how it change, the hebrew writer would have used the word yasa.
2–The second issue is the argument in reverse that makes clear that “the Genesis creation days cannot possibly be six consecutive 24-hour days.” Which is now excluding the majority reading of yom to actually be 24 hours. Unfortunatley the writer is making assumptions about the lexical usuage and interpretations of the word “yom.” I think what mostly concerns me is the fact that “yom” is used occassionaly for a period of time but is most often used as 24 hours.
3–“The first chapter is set up…” demonstrates a mishandling of hebrew literature. Genesis is a historical narrative book that begins with a very sophisticated poetic/narrative genre. The point being that the literature itself is presented in such a way that to say “the first chapter is set up…” is highly improable to accept as the intent of the author.
All that being said is that its possible that yom is a time period, but yom is most used as a 24 hour designation. But clearly it is not a description of how God used evolution to “change” the world. So in my opinion the writer fails toward his systhesis of creation and evolution on the basis of poor Bible understanding.
Jumping into the debate, I like the way Rob Bell says it:
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?
“Could you still be a Christian?”
“If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one [aspect of Christianity] then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?”
“God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith.”
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (26-7)
There is so much to respond to in these comments, so I’ll just start with the most beautiful contributor. The quote Krista gave from Rob Bell that “God is bigger than the Christian faith” was, at first, a little difficult for me to swallow. However, I think I get his point, and it goes along with what I’m saying here. Our theology and our interpretive theories, as hermeneutically sound as they may be, are not worthy of worship. Only God is worthy of our worship and attachment.
(Don’t quote me as saying that our theology is not important–that’s NOT what I said!) 🙂
I appreciate the quote from Hugh Ross’ book, as it has let a few worms out of a can regarding how we interpret Genesis. One of the keys to understanding Genesis (or any other part of Scripture) is to know what kind of literature we are reading.
I heard an Old Testament professor put it this way regarding Genesis: “The writer of Genesis was most concerned with giving us the ‘Who’ and ‘why’ of creation, not the ‘how’.” I suspect that Genesis 1 has too often been treated as a science writing that tries to answer the ‘how’ question, which makes it easy to generate all kinds of interesting interpretations.
Thanks, Rick, for some Hebrew background to give insight on God’s “barah” of the cosmos.
In Phillip Yancey’s book “Where is God When It Hurts?” he examines the relationship between seeing & believing & concludes that the more God showed His power & might to the original Hebrews the more they seemed to backslide. Remember, the Pharisees saw Jesus in the flesh & saw Him perform miracles right in their presence & then orchestrated His crucifixion. My point – seeing (or knowing the scientific theory in this discussion) does not automatically lead to believing. Frankly I think the more “scientific” evidence Christiandom accumulates to “defend the faith,” the weaker the faith becomes. Example – when the Church insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe because we are God’s most beloved creation. Then those pesky astronomers proved that Earth revolved around the sun. Faith is the hope of things unseen….
You and I must have been having a Yancey moment at the same time! I was posting a quote from another book of his at the same time you submitted this Yancey quote in your comments on this post!!
😉 strange minds think alike…