The interaction between science and faith

Pastor Tom Chapman joins the debate on creation and evolution and offers a simple model of how science and faith interact and relate.

 


 

Tom ChapmanAccording to recent reports, the search for the “God Particle” is nearing its end. Some scientists are predicting that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland will, within a year, establish the existence of the Higgs Boson - the particle thought to account for mass and gravity. If it is found, it will confirm the validity of the “Standard Model” of quantum physics; if not found, then particle physics is back to the drawing board!
 
No doubt some ideologically driven atheists will argue that this is another nail in God's coffin. But in fact, the Christian faith has nothing to fear from either the existence nor the non-existence of this particle; if it exists it is simply another facet of the fascinating universe God has given us the minds to explore, and if not, it goes to show his creation is even more complex than we realised.
 
But we must think through how science and faith interact and relate. In our culture they are often present in opposition. And in certain respects – such as the origin and creation/evolution of life – there are of course conflicts of views. But in general there is no historical, theological or scientific reason why they should they should be seen as enemies at all, and in this article I want to give a simple model for seeing how they fit together.
 
science debate diag1The late Stephen Jay Gould proposed that we see science and faith as two non-overlapping  “magisteria” (spheres of knowledge and enquiry) dealing with distinct questions and using different methodologies. Science is interested in the “How”; faith deals with the “Why.” Science considers physical evidence using experiment and observation; faith addresses matters of ultimate meaning, spirituality and ethics, on the basis (for Christians) of revelation, history, tradition, philosophy and so on. In most cases, there is no conflict between the two because they are not relevant to each other. And some are content to leave it that way. This would include many atheists such as Gould; but it would also include many Christian scientists too who in practice make little connection between their work and their faith.
 
However, I am not sure this approach is entirely satisfactory from a Christian point of view, since our faith is deeply rooted in events that occur in the material world. For example, Biblical events such as the flood; miracles such as the resurrection and theological ideas such as the soul impinge on the material world which interests the scientist. It makes little difference to perhaps the majority of scientific disciplines – but if we are studying, say, astrophysics, geology or anthropology then faith and science do interact.
 
 
science debate diag2How do we resolve this? For the “Scientific Materialist” it is clear: scientific knowledge eclipses religion. Only science delivers truth; faith is in fact just a branch of psychology, and as science inevitably advances so faith will wane and die – there is no place for God. They cite the undoubted progress made in understanding the physical world in their favour and addressing practical problems as evidence, and gleefully point out the failings of “organised religion.” But of course, by its a priori assumptions, this view deliberately blinds itself to any other forms of evidence – most critically, from history. It has little to offer in realms such as morality, aesthetics or relationships as truths such goodness, beauty and love are reduced to mere evolutionary functions. It cannot account for its own origin or rationality and ignores its own historical record. “Science” is in effect a religion for many today, with its doctrines, scriptures, relics, saints, and priests to direct the zeal of the faithful.
 
 
science debate diag3“Religious Fundamentalism” makes the opposite mistake; religious dogma eclipses the evidence. A good example of this would be Galileo's inquisitors refusing to look down his telescope and see the moons of Jupiter that would dispel their false notion of the universe. As James Knight has noted in his articles, this is still very evident today. However, we must be careful how we define “fundamentalism” as it is an easily abused boo-word. In my book a fundamentalist (in the pejorative sense) is not someone who has strong, clear beliefs in what is true, even if they fly in the face of received opinion. A fundamentalist is someone who refuses to consider or take into account any evidence that might contradict his interpretation of what is true. In my experience, under this definition, while some creationists are fundamentalists, others are not; they just read the biblical and scientific evidence differently. To brand them all as fundamentalist bigots is as unfair as it is to brand all who are not as liberal heretics.
 
science debate diag4The model that works is that one of complementary, partly-overlapping magisteria. While faith and science do indeed deal with broadly distinct issues, there is a definite area of interaction between them. In this area, one may well inform or critique the other. A Christian view of the universe was the basis for the development of the whole scientific enterprise; fathers of science such as Newton, Faraday and Maxwell were inspired to understand the world around them by the doctrine of creation and God who order the universe. Likewise, a scientific view of the universe may well prompt us to at least reflect on aspects of our beliefs. As a Biblical conservative, I don’t feel free to pick and choose which passages of the Bible I will believe or ignore to suit the prevailing culture. But my interpretation of it is certainly not infallible, and science – and other intellectual disciplines such as history or linguistics – may well send me back to my Bible in a new light.
 
Some people feared that the LHC would generate a black hole that would destroy the earth; this has not happened – so far, anyway! Nor will it find any subatomic particles that will do for God; there is no truth in this universe that we need to fear. High-energy clashes between Christian viewpoints are more likely to damage our cause in the long run. No need to shut the debate down; but let’s not overheat it! This causes unnecessary divisions between the confident and confusion among the vulnerable – and derision from the rest of the world. Some matters, such as the integrity of the Bible as God’s written world, are matters of first importance; but others, such as the interpretation of particular chapters of it, are not. A range of views are tenable for Christians in this matter; they cannot all be true, but they are not the touchstone of faith or integrity, and how we hold them says as much as what we hold to. All sincere Christians should surely realise that, however different our interpretation of “How” the universe came about, we are united in the “Why”; and that gives us far more in common with each other than we do with anyone else.
 
Tom Chapman, pictured above, is pastor of Surrey Chapel in Norwich
Feedback:
(page   1   2   3   4)
Timothy Reeves 12/07/2011 11:50
1. Much of the error I see coming from TJ can be traced back to the errors of YEC leaders such as John Safarti. Towards the end of TJ’s latest batch of comments he quotes Safarti. Like TJ himself Safarti cannot see that human fallibility does not imply strong postmodernism or even “boarder” on it. Strong postmodernism is anti-foundational; it affects a thoroughgoing skepticism toward all the foundational assumptions and axioms we use to access truth (hard postmodernism contains deep inconsistencies – see http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2011/06/2001-spaced-out-odyssey.html and http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-know-you-know-you-know-it.html). But an acknowledgement of human fallibility in accessing truth is not the same as anti-foundationalism: For example: Many of us understand that the YEC account of origins is false. The falsity of YEC theories is a symptom of human fallibility. But that doesn’t mean that other humans can’t arrive at a correct account of origins. A second example: Mathematical disorder and chaos in the world ensures that human representations of it will be fallible and/or approximate, but a strong postmodernist anti-foundationalism doesn’t follow; rather what should follow is an epistemic humility, and that is not the same as anti-foundationalism. Epistemic humility is not something one finds amongst modern fundamentalists (by definition). They believe they have infallible knowledge from God and they are unable to see or are unwilling to acknowledge their own fallibility in the appropriation of this knowledge. Consequently any expressed diffidence about the putative Divine authority of fundamentalist opinions looks to them suspiciously like relativism.

2. It is very telling that Safarti links the “rules of grammar and historical and literary context” with simple rules like 1+1=2 and TJ himself talks about the rules needed for weighing out medicines. It belittles the subtly and complexity of natural language and human culture by comparing language use to elementary tasks that can be mechanized. Natural language taps into a huge welter of cognitive resources especially when it comes to interpreting parts of the Bible written by long since departed cultures. The fundamentalist “1+1=2” outlook is a self deceit, contrived to eliminate epistemic humility from their thinking.

3. TJ himself admits the truism that Genesis 1 needs interpreting (as does the whole of the Bible). This truism means that we only access biblical content after an act of interpretation has been carried out. It follows then that when we compare science’s results with the Bible we are comparing human interpretations with human interpretations. Thus, whatever Divine choreography lead to the writing of the Bible, that choreography can only be accessed through a fallible human medium. Therefore, because of the sort of error that Safarti is promulgating amongst YECs TJ still can’t see that when he says “God’s word trumps the interpretations of fallible human scientists” he effectively means “YEC infallible interpretations trump the interpretations of fallible human scientists”. This is tantamount to YEC’s claiming that “Our word is God’s Word”. This epistemic error effectively defines fundamentalism, an error that is a precursor of extremism and sectarianism.

4. Jesus saying that “God made them male and female at the beginning of creation” is a perfectly correct natural language construction that concerns itself with “beginnings”. “Beginnings” are about the origins of created objects and as such do not necessarily convey information about exactly when these objects were created or their relation to t~0. “Origins” or “Beginnings” are a superset concept of “t~0” and as such are too general to derive information about their vicinity to t~0. TJ is over interpreting the passage and once again doing his inquisitional best to try to smear those who disagree with YECism by attempting to set them against Christ’s words.

5. TJ makes mention of flood geology. Without going into a considerable amount of technical detail all I am going to say here is to reiterate what I have already quoted Christian geologist Davis A Young as saying (see my previous comments); that is, that YEC flood geology is a pseudo science. Moreover, a seasoned anti-YEC campaigner emailed me regarding TJ’s reference to Mt St Helens and referred to it as “hilarious”. I agree.

6. In my previous comments I explained to TJ why it is invalid to dogmatically interpolate an 86400 second day into Genesis 1 but he has ignored it. In creating the Sun on the fourth day the Bible couldn’t have made it any clearer that we are not necessarily dealing with a literal 86400 second day. The Genesis 1 day is a superset of the solar day.

7. I think you will find, TJ, that Hugh Ross and William Dembski are much closer to myself than they are to you. Both accept the established paleontological history of life. Thus, in the trivial sense that “evolution” simply means “change”, they are “evolutionists”. What they don’t accept is that established paleontological history can be explained with the currently conceived evolutionary mechanisms. Compared to the gross errors of YEC, however, Ross’s and Dembski’s argument with the academic establishment looks almost like a theoretical nuance if it were not for the fact that they have made a very clear stand on intelligent design creationism. Although I classify myself as an intelligent design creationist and have much respect for Ross and Dembski, I must observe, however, that they are not biologists or paleontologists. But then Dembski has said that parts of his work are consistent with theistic evolution.

8. TJ actually says something about me that I agree with: “You have no strong views on evolution. You just don’t like YEC views. You have no strong opinion on the exact nature of the Genesis flood story? …..Got to be careful not to make any dogmatic statements. Truth is hard to come by you know [=epistemic humility!]. No matter what the Bible says, it has to be interpreted”. That’s right TJ! But of course like the good YEC inquisitor that he is TJ wants to distort this counsel of moderation and send it over the edge. He willfully caricatures this epistemic humility beyond recognition and makes it look evil in order to justify his slander: He goes on to parody epistemic humility thus: “Yes, we need to be open to everything……You never know what really happened…so everything is up for grabs” What an extremist sectarian this TJ guy is; he is the enemy of epistemic humility.

9. 2 Peter 3:4: An excellent picture of the water planet whose form, life and history is the history of water thereby justifying the Biblical use of the prepositions “of”, “out of”, “by” which intimately connect the act of creation with water. But of course to a religious extremist like TJ, my reading of this verse is designated as underhand and of a bad conscience even before I have actually said anything!

Timothy Reeves 12/07/2011 11:52
1. TJ says: “Yes, we fundies are incompetent and simplistic. We can’t read. We can’t figure out what a passage means. We are fundamentally handicapped when it comes to both scientific and biblical interpretation. Don’t listen to anything we have to say.” We are all sorry to hear that.

2. Yes, TJ, I have no strong views on the flood except this: The YEC view of a global flood and their flood geology is pseudo science. Their global concept of the Genesis flood is a misreading of a text written from an arcadian perspective, a misreading that has been locked in by multi-million dollar business interests committed to deceiving the gullible and the ignorant. YEC theory can progress no further than the thoughts of a theme park manager who lives in Kentucky. Paraphrasing what you have written: For me the source of truth is never again going to be a gross fundamentalist mishandling of the Bible, a mishandling that YECists have the audacity to identify with “God’s Word”.

3. Yes TJ I already knew about the Greeks positing a spherical Earth and their attempts measure its size. But your reference to Greek knowledge is irrelevant: Please note that I referred to the “Early Biblical writers” and NOT the “Church Fathers”. The early texts of the Bible are likely to considerably predate Greek insights and they show little or no cognizance of a spherical Earth. It is unlikely that writers of these texts had a globe model of the Earth in mind and they may in actual fact thought in terms of the Babylonian flat Earth model, a model which is perfectly correct for the man in the street and the man in the field. In any case that the early writers of the OT used a flat earth model is no worse than Christians using a geocentric model up until the 17th century; the geocentric perspective is correct unless it is pushed by literalists (like Gerardus Bouw) into universality and then the perspective becomes gross error just as YEC is gross error. However, my reference to fundamentalist flat Earthers was NOT to the Church fathers but to modern Biblical literalist flat Earthers who like modern YECs abuse the arcadian perspective of the early Biblical writers (See http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/febible.htm). The historical question of whether or not the early Biblical writers conceived the Earth as a globe is a fine example of the problems of interpretation: So much hangs on just how these writers conceived the cosmos, a conception that is very unlikely to look like modern conceptions. Thus we can see that Biblical interpretation is very sensitive to quite technical historical questions and this gives the lie to the low “1+1=2” view of interpretation held by YECs like Safarti.

4. TJ says that Genesis makes no distinction between a geographically universal flood and an anthropologically universal flood. Nice one TJ, you’ve fallen for it: Genesis doesn’t make that distinction because its writers are unlikely to have had the concept of a globe in their heads and therefore couldn’t successfully conceive or articulate the concept of a bounded Earth. If they couldn’t articulate universality in terms of absolute bounds and limits, their concept of universality was then relative to their perspective; the flood was universal relative to their social world. To me it is you that is twisting the scriptures beyond recognition and reading into them things that aren’t there, reading them with the 20th century pseudo science of YEC flood geology in mind.

5. No, TJ, you don’t understand evolution at all; if you did you would understand that statements about their being “NO ROOM for Divine providence” in evolution are nothing whatever to do with evolution as a scientific theory, but rather an expression of metaphysical ideas that attach themselves to the theory. And, no, you and I are certainly NOT on the same page here, because you clearly have no understanding of one vital fact; namely, that the patterns impressed on the realm of space and time and which science attempts to describe them, do not under any circumstances provide answers to those deeper questions concerning ultimate origins, purpose, logical sufficiency and aseity; if anything these questions are meaningless to a science which deals with the elemental. Evolution, as correctly understood, is a theory about the elemental patterns impressed upon the canvass of space and time and as such it in no way addresses the deeper metaphysical questions of origins. All the patterns impressed on the canvass of space and time look the same in so far as they are all equally problematic from a metaphysical point of view; one pattern has no more logical self sufficiency than any other pattern. Ergo, if evolution correctly describes the patterns in space and time it requires no less input in terms of those metaphysical factors than any other pattern. The notion that some patterns (such as that conjectured by evolution) somehow need less Divine input than others (as YOU suggest, TJ) is a fallacy; what I refer to as The Luddite Fallacy. (See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/11/luddites-and-evolution-machine.html) The Luddite Fallacy is not the way to refute evolution; it is a fallacy based on a crypto deist metaphysic.

6. TJ ignores my questions on hermeneutics that I directed him toward and which can be found in the comments section of AiG underling’s article, Gary Burchnall. (See here: http://www.networknorwich.co.uk/Articles/261355/Network_Norwich_and_Norfolk/People/Bloggers/No_compromise_taking_God_at_His_word.aspx.) But, I suspect, TJ doesn’t like questions and much prefers clear cut views and things as certain as “1+1=2” or as simple as “ABC…1,23,..” because to him anything more complicated smacks of postmodernism. He wrongly interprets epistemic humility as: “Yes, we need to be open to everything……You never know what really happened…so everything is up for grabs”. He only understands two epistemic states: YEC fundamentalist arrogance or secular nihilism.

7. TJ ignored my comments challenging his straw man conception of uniformitarianism with modern power law catastrophism. Power law effects mean that it is not possible to define the kind of uniformitarianism that entails an “averaged” uniformity. (See here. http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/05/back-of-envelop-mathematical-model.html) But TJ just can’t get his distorted view of unformitarianism out of his head. Like a clanging one tone gong he goes on endlessly repeating his misconceptions.


8. Intellectual belittling of YECs? Let me candidly suggest that if YECs have failed to earn the intellectual respect of the rest of the world, it is their own fault, and that’s down to the way they carry on. TJ caricaturing epistemic humility with words like “So everything is up for grabs” is symptomatic of a fundamentalist mindset that only sees a choice between Safarti’s absolute “1+1=2” certainty and relativism. These simple minded attacks on the integrity of intelligent Christians found in churches and academia who reject the pseudo science of YECism get what they deserve – contempt.

Timothy V Reeves http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/

tjnihon 14/11/2011 06:30
TR writes: “But an acknowledgement of human fallibility in accessing truth is not the same as anti-foundationalism: For example: Many of us understand that the YEC account of origins is false. The falsity of YEC theories is a symptom of human fallibility. But that doesn’t mean that other humans can’t arrive at a correct account of origins. “
TJ: OK Timothy, this is so hypocritical. First of all you claim to be able to KNOW that a YEC interpretation of Scripture is false. How is that different from us claiming it is true? Then you claim that acknowledging human infallibility does not mean that we cannot access truth. I agree. But what I want to know, if knowing is possible, is how you arrive at truth. You say that even tho we know the YEC view is fallible, it is possible to arrive at a correct account of origins. OK, show us how to do that. Show me how it is possible to arrive at truth when it comes to human origins. Have you arrived at truth yet? I would assume so since you think it is possible. If you haven’t arrived at truth yet, then how do you know it is possible? If you have arrived at truth, how do you know? Isn’t that a bit arrogant? How is that different than a YEC claiming that his view is accurate? Doesn’t sound like you have much epistemic humility either.

tjnihon 14/11/2011 07:34
TR writes:"Yes, TJ, I have no strong views on the flood except this: The YEC view of a global flood and their flood geology is pseudo science. Their global concept of the Genesis flood is a misreading of a text written from an arcadian perspective, a misreading that has been locked in by multi-million dollar business interests committed to deceiving the gullible and the ignorant. YEC theory can progress no further than the thoughts of a theme park manager who lives in Kentucky. Paraphrasing what you have written: For me the source of truth is never again going to be a gross fundamentalist mishandling of the Bible, a mishandling that YECists have the audacity to identify with “God’s Word”."

TJ: Timothy, you are being totally unfair here and accusing your brothers and sisters in the Lord who happen to believe from their hearts that the Bible scientifically accurate. You will not allow them to hold that position. So if someone does hold that position, you go and accuse them of purposeful deception for the purpose of money making. I hope you are ready to answer to the Lord for such a public accusation. This is nothing more than you judging the intents of your brothers and sisters in spite of the fact that you cannot read their hearts like God can. That is why Jesus told us not to judge. I'm not saying that you cannot disagree with them, but accusing them of purposeful deception and using people to make money - that's over the top. I don't think you know these people very well. I hope you will retract that unfair accusation that you cannot prove. I'm disappointed by this type of behavior from a fellow believer and I hope you will refrain from it in the future. Perhaps it stems from you seeming "hatred" for all things YEC, but whatever, it is totally inappropriate.
Timothy Reeves 15/11/2011 19:12
Hello James May (=tjnihon) Here’s my take on epistemology:

We read and interpret the patterns that pass us by day by day because those patterns act as stimuli and triggers evoking meaning in our minds. It is important to understand that meaning isn’t an intrinsic property of a pattern but rather an extrinsic property in as much as patterns have meaning only by virtue of their relation to their wider context. For example, dark thunder clouds are likely to evoke the “meaning” of rain because we have learnt that such clouds are related to rain with a high probability. Another important point is this: We only stand a chance of successfully reading out meaning from a pattern if we are appropriately primed with a comprehensive knowledge of our world, a knowledge that encompasses the social, the historical and the physical.

A trap that is very easy to fall into is to think of meaning being somehow “contained within” a pattern (this may be one of the errors of fundamentalism). For example, we might think the Bible is a book that “contains” meaning; it doesn’t, not in a literal sense: Throw a Bible on a fire and the meaning is not lost; for the same patterns of symbols, if recreated, will evoke the same meanings. The Bible has meaning because the Bible and its related created context form a single self-consistent body of testimony revealing something of God Himself and the Grand Rationality of the created order, which He has authored and underwritten. (See http://norwichcentralbaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2011/02/coolest-equation-ever-picture-on-left.html)

Now, in answer to your question: How can I have assurance that this highly complex system of meaning evocation works? For me that is down to faith in the Divine providence which has supplied us with a readable and rational world. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is sovereign manager over the substance of our minds and over our experiences, both of which conspire to facilitate a successful read-out of the patterns we face. This, to me, is what revelation is all about. However, one must acknowledge that the system over which God is sovereign is nonetheless fallible and that perhaps is not such a bad thing because it encourages epistemic humility and promotes dependence (on God).

The paradoxical mix of error and truth that results of our providential epistemology is very apparent in the story of AiG’s Jason Lisle who attempted to solve the YEC starlight problem. Lisle’s fallibility is all too apparent and yet we can give thanks to God for giving us a world rational enough to make it clear where Lisle has flawed. See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2011/09/failed-yec-star-light-solution-one-year.html

The early chapters of the Bible are scientifically accurate in is as much as they are consistent with the “science” of the Bronze age period; that is, bronze age people had no conception of a spherical Earth and the early OT writers very likely thought in terms of a flat earth and geocentric cosmos. Such is a valid model given bronze age perspectives, concerns and knowledge, but modern Christians who believe in a flat earth, geocentric cosmology or YEC do so because they are either scientific illiterates under the religious duress of their sect, or whose large stake in fundamentalism has lead them down a path of self-deception. Clearly one is morally obliged to speak out against these gross errors. I made NO accusations about “purposeful deception”; that’s just James May throwing moral dirt and trying to smear my name. Gullibility, ignorance, religious pressure and high stakes may be enough to explain the deceptions of fundamentalism.

The YEC philosophy is at odds with the views of many well respected Christians, evangelical and otherwise. I list some below:

William Lane Craig – philosopher and feared (amongst atheists) Christian debater.
David Instone-Brewer – writer of scholarly articles in “Christianity” magazine.
Hugh Ross - astronomer and leader of “Reasons to Believe”.
Davis A Young – Christian geologist and author of “The Biblical Flood”.
Roger Forster and Paul Marston - authors of the very instructive and erudite book “Reason and Faith”.
William Dembski – a leader and mathematician of the Intelligent design movement.
John Polkinghorne – ex particle physicist, now a C of E theologian.
John Lennox – Oxford Mathematician and gentlemanly Christian debater.
Francis Collins – very successful scientist; was leader of the human genome project.

…and many more could be added.

YEC is a sectarian and marginal philosophy which I’m glad to say seems to be becoming increasingly marginalized amongst Christians – see http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2011/10/good-news-from-ken-ham.html

tjnihon 17/11/2011 01:02
Timothy: “Now, in answer to your question: How can I have assurance that this highly complex system of meaning evocation works? For me that is down to faith in the Divine providence which has supplied us with a readable and rational world.”

Faith? Yes, I see. So you take it on faith and your faith is the basis of your criticism of and condescension toward YECers who use a different method of interpretation. So just as you are accusing YECers of being arrogant, we see that your arrogance stems from your faith. Now we are getting to true humility here.

“A readable and rational world”? Yes, but that needs qualification. You need certain knowledge to make the right assumptions in order to read and interpret it correctly. When you reject the clear testimony of God’s Word, and accept the assumptions of philosophical naturalism, you will never be able to properly read and interpret God’s world or His Word.

Timothy: “Moreover, the Holy Spirit is sovereign manager over the substance of our minds and over our experiences, both of which conspire to facilitate a successful read-out of the patterns we face. This, to me, is what revelation is all about. However, one must acknowledge that the system over which God is sovereign is nonetheless fallible and that perhaps is not such a bad thing because it encourages epistemic humility and promotes dependence (on God).”

TJ: I don’t think it promotes dependence on God when you just flat out reject the clear meaning of the text and depend on your own knowledge of science to interpret it.

Timothy: “The early chapters of the Bible are scientifically accurate in is as much as they are consistent with the “science” of the Bronze age period; that is, bronze age people had no conception of a spherical Earth and the early OT writers very likely thought in terms of a flat earth and geocentric cosmos. Such is a valid model given bronze age perspectives, concerns and knowledge, …”

TJ: OK, so you allow for scientific inaccuracies in the Bible using the thinking that they just didn’t know very much back then. Of course they didn’t know what we know today, but also you have to realize that the writers of the Bible wrote as they were inspired by the HS. At times they show wisdom beyond their years. – prophecies, future events, etc. How could they know these things? Either they made it up or God revealed it to them. Certainly God knows how important a topic like origins is for humans. Remember, no one was alive to be experience the events of Genesis 1. This knowledge had to come from the Creator, who was the only eyewitness or else it was just made up. Either it is reliable or not. God would not include error in His Word and then tell us that it is true, unchanging, and trustworthy. So I choose to believe that God was at work on this side of the Bible – in the writing of the Bible – as opposed to the interpreting side of the Bible like you seem to be saying. You say the Holy Spirit will lead us in the interpretation and even in understanding a new meaning for a particular passage if necessary. It seems like you think the meaning can be fluid and different for different people who lie in different ages. Principles may be applied differently, but I don’t believe the meaning of the passage should change. Truth is truth and does not change.


Timothy: “…but modern Christians who believe in a flat earth, geocentric cosmology or YEC do so because they are either scientific illiterates under the religious duress of their sect, or whose large stake in fundamentalism has lead them down a path of self-deception. “Clearly one is morally obliged to speak out against these gross errors."

TJ: Timothy, the problem is that this is your opinion based on your arbitrary self-chosen principles of biblical interpretation. So, it is hard to really prove that they are errors. Yes, you can prove that they don’t agree with the interpretations of nature made by many modern day scientists according to philosophical naturalism, but that is all you can say. Gross errors? That is your opinion. Others disagree. Certainly you are welcome to voice your opinion that these are errors, but stating that opinion as fact is a bit arrogant for the above reasons. You accuse YECers of this and then turn around and do the exact same thing.

Then you claim that people are YECers simply “because they are either scientific illiterates under the religious duress of their sect, or whose large stake in fundamentalism has lead them down a path of self-deception.” Wow. You sure know an awful lot! Just a tad judgmental aren’t we?


Timothy: “I made NO accusations about “purposeful deception”; that’s just James May throwing moral dirt and trying to smear my name.”

TJ: Timothy, here are YOUR words: “Their(YECers) global concept of the Genesis flood is a misreading of a text(your opinon) written from an arcadian perspective(your opinion), a misreading that has been locked in by multi-million dollar business interests COMMITTED TO DECEIVING THE GULLIBLE AND THE IGNORANT.”(definitely your opinion)

My apologies. I misread what you said. It looks like you accused the business people and not the YEC scientists of trying to deceive people for monetary gain. However, this too is judgmental. Since it is a business, sure, they need to make money, but that doesn’t mean these people involved in the Ark Theme Park are purposefully trying to deceive people for monetary gain. Why would you make such a slanderous statement and what facts do you have to back this up? If you have facts, please share them with us. Don’t attack their character by making make unverifiable accusations impuning the motives of fellow believers. My bet is that these people have a firm commitment to God’s Word and want to share their faith with others and strengthen the faith of those likeminded and that that is the main purpose of this business venture. I highly doubt that money is their top priority.

And you made it clear in your post that you view YECers like myself as gullible and ignorant. No doubt some of us YECers are more educated than others, but this can be said about any group of people. Besides, it only takes faith like a child to be saved. I know you don’t have to be a scientist to be saved and it would be very strange if you had to be a scientist that believes in evolution in order to rightly interpret God’s Word. Your attitude toward people who have different convictions than you is just a bit arrogant. The Bible says that “knowledge puffeth up.” We have every bit as much right to interpret God’s Word using the grammatical literal historical approach as you do to use your own personal approach that was seemingly chosen because it allows you to skirt the plain meaning of the text and read evolution into the Bible. Plus our interpretation agrees with that of the early church, the rest of the Bible, and even Jesus Himself, IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. Your idea however, is a very recent one that was born out of philosophical naturalism.

Timothy: The YEC philosophy is at odds with the views of many well respected Christians, evangelical and otherwise....YEC is a sectarian and marginal philosophy which I’m glad to say seems to be becoming increasingly marginalized amongst Christians.”

TJ: Agreed that may well respected Christians are at odds with YEC beliefs. Any time you take a particular stand on any issue it can be viewed as sectarian. Marginal? Only in the sense that our numbers are smaller in the intellectual community. That is too bad, but it doesn’t mean we are wrong. I stand on my beliefs because of what I think the Bible clearly teaches and in the end, Timothy, you stand on what you believe, not so much because of your interpretation of the Bible, or what you think the Bible says, but because of what modern science says. You said you have faith that the “highly complex system of meaning evocation works. And that faith is based on what? Timothy: “For me that is down to faith in the Divine providence which has supplied us with a readable and rational world.”
For YECers, we would say our faith is in God who has provided us with a readable and rational Word that we can use to properly interpret his readable and rational world.”

tjnihon 17/11/2011 05:46
Timothy, we could go on like this forever and ever, but I think it would be meaningless to continue this back and forth banter. Our fundamental disagreement is on how we view the Bible and how to interpret it.

You view the early chapters of Genesis as written from an ancient arcadian perspective. It seems you think there is a fundamental difference between Genesis and other parts of the Bible and that therefore it is less trustworthy.

I respect your knowledge and I believe you are a brother in Christ. Like it or not, we will most likely spend eternity together and at that point this disagreement will be meaningless. So I look forward to that time. I believe I will be right and obviously, you believe you will be right, but when we get there, it won’t even matter as I’m sure all of this will be forgotten. So again, I look forward to meeting you under those circumstances. I sometimes allow myself to get carried away as I am very passionate about God’s Word and upholding it’s authority. In some of my posts I fear I was not too cordial. I apologize for that.

I have enjoyed the chance to interact with you though, because it is a chance for me to learn more. So thank you for that.
In closing, I want to summarize my view and will then leave you with the last word. In the end, we will just have to agree to disagree – hopefully amicably, as brothers in Christ.

I believe in the literal grammatical historical approach is the most accurate and reliable method of interpreting the Bible. Why? Because, in order to properly interpret the passage, we need to try and discern what the author meant when writing it. It is his/her meaning that is important. If we allow the reader to arbitrarily assign his own meaning to the words, Scripture loses all meaning and authority.

Also, it is important to interpret Scripture with other Scripture. Often times other passages tell us what is meant in the passage in question. Also, it is important that we do not add to or subtract from Scripture or read our ideas into Scripture. If we neglect the clear plain meaning of the words and claim it really means something else, we need to have good reason to do that.

God chose words as the medium through which He would communicate to us among others(limited general revelation of nature and life of Jesus). Obviously He believes that accurate communication is possible. God knows better about the fundamentals of the world than all of the scientists in the world put together. I think He would have been capable of doing a better job of communicating His truth to us if indeed He did use evolution to create the universe.

I seriously doubt that God or the original authors through whom He communicated, were intending to teach evolution. It is a 19th century addition to God’s Word – a new interpretation of Scripture that was deemed necessary in light of secular science’s discoveries. But by far, the predominant interpretation of Genesis all through history up until Darwin’s time was the YEC position. Even the allegorists like Augustine and Origen were YECers, in spite of their allegorical interpretation. So I find it extremely hard to believe that we owe the correct interpretation of God’s Word to Darwin and modern day scientists who use philosophical naturalism to interpret their scientific research and observations.

If Genesis is revised to mean theistic evolution, then what about the passages that speak about salvation and Jesus’ promises and resurrection? Perhaps we should revise them too? How would we know when the literal meaning of the Bible is to be rejected in favor of some allegorical or other special interpretation?

Jesus claims to be the way, the truth, and the life. He claims that His Word, not philosophical naturalism’s ideas of science, is truth. He makes promises that obviously He wants us to know, understand, and believe. John wrote I John so that we might KNOW that we have eternal life. Much NT teaching is based on the history of Genesis. Genesis is the most quoted book in all of the Bible and the foundation for all of the Bible. Obviously the biblical writers felt they could trust it and they believed it as written as best as we can tell. There is not one passage that would indicate the opposite. There was never any qualification of it as if it was just symbolic or anything. In my opinion, Jesus upheld the creation of Adam and Eve, the occurrence of the flood, the establishment of marriage, a young earth, etc.

1. Jesus Himself created all things. (John 1:1-3)
2. "from the beginning God . . . made them male and female" (Mark 10:6).
3. He referred to "the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world" (Luke 11:50-51) which means that Abel was the first prophet, martyred in the very first generation—not 4.6 billion years after the formation of the earth.
4. Jesus also said that Satan, using Cain to slay Abel, "was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).
5. Zechariah prophesy: God's holy prophets had been predicting a coming Savior "since the world began" (Luke 1:70).
6. The apostle Paul said that evidence of God as Creator should have been "clearly seen" (by men, of course) ever since "the creation of the world." Romans 1:20.

Obviously, in order to maintain your view of Genesis, you cannot take these verses at face value but have to use your interpretation method to somehow try and find a way to make them align with your ideas on Genesis. I would rather trust the clear meaning of the words than the perticular interpretation that you assign to these verses.

Then of course, we have the 10 commandments that were written in stone by the finger of God himself. Here God tells us in His own words and writing that He created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th in order to establish our 7 day week. The meaning of the word “day” is clear here. Changing the meaning for the same word within the same verse and context is not appropriate.

So I start with Scripture, because although it needs interpretation, we know that it is God’s truth. Nature too has to be interpreted. It can tell us some things about the Creator – Rom. 1:19-20. (He exists, He is wise, eternal, and all powerful), but we need God’s Word to learn about God and the history of the world. There are clues we can find in nature about the history of the world, but in order to interpret it correctly, we need to start with the right assumptions. However, certain things scientists just do not know. Ie. Were the rates of erosion, radiometric decay, planet cratering, etc. stable throughout history? Here is where the Scripture record concerning creation, the flood, and Babel comes in handy.

Timothy, you have explained your personal view on how to interpret Scripture. You have faith that using those principles, the Holy Spirit will lead you to the correct interpretation. You take it that your method of interpreting Scripture is correct by faith. You have admitted that the whole idea of discerning meaning from words is a highly complex thing and not easy to do. To me, your method of interpretation is very ambiguous. It looks like there is a lot of freedom there to assign the meaning to the words that you think they should have. It gives the feel of being very much a "personal interpretation" of Scripture.

Paul commended the Bereans for checking everything they were taught against the Scriptures. Again, the plain literal meaning of the passage seems to be in view.

I still don’t know how you decide when to take the normal reading of a passage and when to give it special meaning. I don’t know if I’m correct or not, but it seems that you give it a special interpretation whenever Scripture is in opposition to “science”.

My question is this: Isn’t it possible that science could be wrong and God’s Word right at times? If so, how would you ever know that? Your personal judgment and opinion is the deciding factor here? God leads you to the right interpretation so we should just trust you and your interpretation? How about when the Bible makes unscientific claims like miracles, heaven, resurrection, soul/spirit, creation, etc.? When do you believe the Bible as is and when do you use science to interpret the Bible?

Thanks Timothy again for the interaction. May God lead us both as we seek to discover His truth and share it with a world that so desperately needs to know it.

God bless,

Jim

Timothy Reeves 17/11/2011 21:59
Hello Jim!

That was really from the heart wasn't it? I can't very well ignore that can I? However to such a heartfelt piece I'll need a bit more time to do it justice.So I'll get back to you.

In the meantime: Do you have any information about where AiG's Jason Lisle is at with his "ASC solution" to the YEC Star light problem? I haven't heard a peep out of him about about the gravitational issue I raised. Is he back to the drawing board?
Timothy Reeves 06/12/2011 19:27
Hello Jim.

I'm sure you are rather fed with this too-ing and fro-ing, so I've responded to your comments elsewhere (where you are unlikely to find them). I had to respond to your comments as they constitute an absolutely priceless window on the YEC/fundamentalist mindset. After all,it is the mindset which is the real "lens" through which we see the world and not, as fundamentalists maintain, a choice between a "biblical lens" and a "non-biblical lens". The Bible is NOT an epistemic lens as such; rather the Bible itself is seen through the lens of our mindset.As you can see I have here yet another point of disagreement with YEC-fundamentalist philosophy; the whole concept of a so-called "Biblical Lens" is bogus in my opinion; as we know fundamentalist Gerardus Bouw is seeing a geocentric cosmos through his particular "biblical lens"!

Let me repeat “I made NO accusations about purposeful deception; that’s just James May throwing moral dirt and trying to smear my name." The YEC movement is committed to deceiving the gullible and the ignorant but this in and of itself doesn't imply purposeful deceit; high stakes and self-deceit is quite enough to explain it. Somebody like Ken Ham does not go to bed knowing that he has spent yet another day attempting to deceive large sections of the public simply because he himself is deceived. The best deceiver is always the self-deceived and NOT the purposeful deceiver. It is self-deception that is such an important factor in sustaining YEC. It is crucial that a distinction be made between self-deception and purposeful deception.


Re: JASON LISLE AND HIS ATTEMPT TO SOLVE THE YEC STAR LIGHT PROBLEM: Still no further developments here. I suspect we will hear nothing more and this subject will be quietly dropped.
Timothy Reeves 06/12/2011 21:04
Oh, I forgot this: THE YEC STAR LIGHT PROBLEM and JASON LISLE's attempt to solve it: See here for why it doesn't work:http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2011/09/failed-yec-star-light-solution-one-year.html
(page   1   2   3   4)

 Recommended reading 
Network Norwich and Norfolk > People > Bloggers > The interaction between science and faith
Avg. Rating: *** (34 reviews / comments)
  • Write a review or comment
  • Site Search

     Norfolk services........ 

     Accommodation......... 


    Twitter-button  facebookbutton

    Sign up for our
    free e-newsletter


    Send us your latest local news and events