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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
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tjnihon 15/06/2011 07:33
Tjnihon: *Bowing to Science or Bible*

Tim’s Comment: Another false dichoTimy. When we find a contradictions we examine the weak link – namely fallible human interpretation whether of the Bible or the rest of the Created world.

MY REPLY: Why is it that human interpretation is always the weak link? Why couldn’t it be the interpretations of evolutionists which are based on naturalistic assumptions and don’t even allow God a foot in the door? So, what do we do when we find a contradiction? Find out which link is the weak one - human interpretation of God’s Word, or the human interpretation of the historical record of the earth which no one was there to witness and is built on assumptions and ideas made to fit the evolutionary theory?
My guess is the latter is the weak link. Take this for instance:

Tim, what method will you use to interpret the fossil record? A flood model or a uniformitarian model? In other words, a model that allows for a global flood or one that restricts explanations to current processes that we see at work in the world, meaning no global flood? I’m guessing you would use the second model which denies the record of the Scripture that speaks clearly of a global flood. Am I right?

How do you determine which glasses to put on when you look at the fossil record – evolutionary glasses or biblical glasses? Oh, I’m sorry, that is a false dichoTimy. Then I’m sure evolutionists will not just auTimatically assume evolution when they interpret the fossils, right? WRONG! They use evolutionary glasses to interpret the fossils so obviously their conclusions will most likely fit with evolution.

Why don’t you chastise them for being biased? You chastise your brothers in the Lord for using the biblical model that says there was a global flood.

Because their conclusions fit the evidence? How could they not? They interpret it within the evolutionary framework!


Tjnihon: *Noah and Mat 24:37-39*

Tim’s Comment: We don’t have to be believers in local flood theory to notice that Jesus is using the Flood here as a metaphor about the judgment of decadence; it is ambiguous on the geographical universality of the flood.

MY REPLY: According to this passage, Jesus believed that the flood killed every person not on the ark because He compares the coming world judgment to the judgment of ALL men in the days of Noah.
I don’t see any metaphor here. Why do you think it is a metaphor? Jesus is speaking of this as if it is history. There is not one inclination given anywhere in Scripture that the flood was just a metaphor. It is present as history all the way through the Bible. So, this is an example of when we need to stand true on God’s Word in spite of what evolutionists say. There will be disagreement and that is to be expected. Why you feel that the Bible almost always has to give way to the conclusions of evolutionists is beyond me.
The only reason you question the meaning of this passage is because want to explain away the global flood. Clearly the flood took place. According to the OT, clearly it was global. Peter clearly believed in a global flood .
They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." 5For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”II Pt. 3:4-7

Tim, it seems to me that you too, like the evolutionists, are “deliberately overlooking that the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and through water” by what? By the word of God. Also that “by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” Peter says denying the flood amounts to a deliberate denial of the facts.

tjnihon 15/06/2011 07:34
Tjnihon: *God’s unchanging Word of Truth. We have principles of hermeneutics*

Tim’s Comment: Hermeneutics are human theories about interpretations and as such have no absolute authority or infallibility; and exhaustive and systematic treatment of hermeneutics will not be found in the Bible. They are part of that weak link I referred to above and are not above critique.

MY REPLY: I never claimed such, but you aren’t trying to tell me that principles of hermeneutics are not important are you? Are principles of hermeneutics above critique? Of course not. Again, I’m not claiming that, but I think we need to talk about how we decide on what principles of hermeneutics to use. Or do you feel we have total freedom in that area? If so, then how can we ever possible know what it is God is really trying to say to us?! It would be impossible.
Tim, you still have to have hermeneutics to make your own particular interpretation of God’s Word. What model of hermeneutics do you use? How do you decide when to take a passage as literal history and when to deny it and look for some kind of spiritual meaning behind it? Does it depend on what evolutionists tell you about that particular passage? For instance, how important is the original intent of the author to you when you interpret Scripture?
Are you of the same mind when it comes to the constitution of Great Britain or of the US? Do you feel it is open to interpretation – that you can freely spiritualize it and read into it some meaning to make it sound modern? How would you go about interpreting it? Would the original intent of the authors be important in that interpretation?
All writers take for granted that their readers can figure out what they mean or else they wouldn’t write. God wrote His Word through holy men of God moved by the Spirit. He went to great lengths to stress to us that it is true, will never pass away, is dependable, is perfect, without error, etc. etc. Those words must have some kind of meaning. I believe it means that we are not free to spiritualize whatever we want just to try and find a way to harmonize the Bible with evolutionary science.

You are taking this whole idea of interpretation just entirely too far. Like I said before, if we allow you this kind of freedom when interpreting the Bible, then the Bible loses it’s meaning totally because it can be made to say almost whatever we want it to say. I don’t think that is the sense in which it was given. I think it was given as a reliable record of history and of God’s truths that we cannot verify. It is rooted in history and that is what sets Christianity apart from almost all other religions that do not use the Bible.
As Jesus said “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Jn. 3:12. If we think the earthly things that can be verified in God’s Word are not true, then why in the world would anyone in their right mind believe the things that we CANNOT verify – spiritual truths about heaven and God Himself?


Tjnihon: *Science not on the level of the Bible*

Tim’s Comment: Not comparing like with like. Scientific theories are a human act of interpretation of data. The Bible is a book of data that needs human interpretation before it can be understood. Hence the above statement by Tjnihon is a category violation that incoherently compares theory with data.

MY REPLY: True. It is hard to compare absolute truth with man made theories. However that is my point. Both science and the Bible need interpretation to an extent. Again, when you find a fossil, how do you interpret that fossil? Take any of the alleged ape-men fossils. Most have only parts of the skeleton. Some are conglomerates of bones that were found meters apart. Much interpretation goes into this to determine whether it is a monkey or a man or something in between if indeed there exists such a thing. Of course evolutionists believe there has to be missing links so they are anxious to read things into the fossils that are not there to support their theory. I don’t even know if there is one alleged apeman fossil that doesn’t have doubters on the evolutionary side. There are all kinds of disagreements among evolutionists about the fossils and that shows you how difficult it is to interpret a fossil. As indicated by evolutionist John Reader:
‘Preconceived notions have played a fundamental role in the study of fossil man. Indeed, the science itself was not founded upon the evidence of fossils that needed explanation but upon the notion that if mankind had evolved then fossils would provide the evidence of links between modern and ancestral forms’.

Fossil interpretation by evolutionists is based on the assumption that mankind has indeed evolved. Creationists interpret it in a different framework – that mankind has not evolved from apes, but was created by God. So, my question to you, Tim is this. Which framework should we use to interpret the fossils and why? How do you know that is the right framework?

Yet Tim, you would still have us accept the bias of evolutionists as opposed to the relatively clear meaning of God’s Word.

tjnihon 15/06/2011 07:35
Tjnihon: *The Bible is trustworthy*

Tim’s Comment: …but human interpretations aren’t.

MY REPLY: Neither are the interpretations of evolutionists. Did you know Tim that almost all the “scientific evidence” that was introduced at the Scopes Trial has been falsified today? Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Science is the history of old ideas being overturned. I prefer to trust the Word of God which we KNOW is true and trustworthy – yes, even when there are contradictions with the conclusions of biased evolutionists that are based on naturalistic assumptions and the evolutionary framework.


Tjnihon: *Science deals with repeatability*

Tim’s Comment: Ill informed philosophy leading to a false dichoTimy of history vs. operational science. Even with simple material objects like say metals we never can reproduce conditions exactly. All scientific tests are plagued by particularity and unrepeatability. History and particularity is inextricably bound up even with the physical sciences. Remedy: Go and read a philosophy text.

MY REPLY: OK, but not to the extent we are talking about when it comes to evolution which cannot be observed, repeated, or verified. You know what I mean.
You are not trying to say that an experiment I do in the lab on some kind of metal that for all practical purposes can be repeated over and over again and checked by others is equally dependable as the consclusions of evolutionists about the imaginary unrepeatable unexperimentable past are you? Remedy: Get real!


Tjnihon: *The reliable witness of God’s unchanging word*

Tim’s Comment: But, for the umpteenth time, human interpretations are not reliable and unchanging.

MY REPLY: And for the umpteenth time, this is even problematic when it comes to bias scientists.
Evolutionist Milford Wolpoff writes this in the introduction to his textbook on human evolution entitled “Paleoanthropology”:
‘I believe a framework is not something that can be eliminated in order to provide “objectivity”. In my view, “objectivity” does not exist in science. Even in the act of gathering data, decisions about what data to record and what to ignore reflect the framework of the scientist’.


Tjnihon: “God is a reliable witness*

Tim’s Comment: Yes, but we still have to make an (unreliable) attempt to understand His witness (this is getting very repetitive)

MY REPLY: Tim, you seem to be saying over and over again that even though God’s witness is totally reliable, we still cannot know what it says. I just think you are making it too difficult. God Himself tells us what Genesis means in other parts of the Bible as if the repetitive use of numbers, days, morning and evening, etc. in Genesis was not clear enough. Not sure how He could have made it any clearer!

tjnihon 15/06/2011 07:39
Tjnihon: *How we view rock layers and fossil record*.

Tim’s Comment: Same facts different interpretations? No and thrice no! David Icke, mega conspiracy theorist sees that same facts we all do but offers his own bizaare interpretations. Some interpretations are better than others and data doesn’t withstand infinite flexibility of interpretation. The Truth is Out There.

MY REPLY: Hmm. Same goes for the Bible, right? Some interpretations make more sense and fit better than others. I’m glad you realize that data doesn’t withstand infinite flexibility of interpretation. Practice what you preach then when it comes to God’s Word. Of all things, this is where we need to be most careful.
Still, how we interpret the fossils and rock layers is dependent on what framework we use. How do you determine that you can just ignore the clear teaching of God’s Word when it comes to the flood? Were modern day scientists around back then? NO! Was God? YES! Who knows best what happened? GOD! But you would rather take the long ages framework of uniformitarian geology over the clear teaching of the Creator. Remember, that evolution requires long ages in order to be a valid theory. Of course they will read long ages into the rocks and deliberately ignore the flood. But this is a great example of when we need to stand on the truth of God’s word. I find it hard to believe that the truth of God’s Word was hidden for centuries and now finally in these last days, thanks to sceptics and evolutionists and Pope Charlie, we now have the right interpretation. In other words, God was not able to write Scripture in such a manner that normal people could understand it. A knowledge of evolution is necessary to interpret Scripture correctly? Come on, get real!
If I believed what you do, I would have long ago given up on the Bible because it seems like you are doing impossible mental gymnastics to try and save your faith and relegate the truths of the Bible to only the unverifiable realm.


Tjnihon: *Jesus ideas about the flood:*

Tim’s Comment: God’s Truth is out there, but our models, perspectives and approximations of it are very much “in here” and these don’t succumb to a simple excluded middle “true or false” categorization. Without going into just how Christ’s humanity implied a (self imposed) perspective, let us note that even flat Earth theory and geocentricity work within certain limits. However, for a fundamentalist who has allowed his thoroughgoing geocentric interpretation of Bible to inform his science see here: http://www.geocentricity.com/ba1/fresp/index.html.

MY REPLY: Here we go. Jesus somehow was fallible. I knew it. You are willing to go that far to save your pet interpretation of God’s Word. When push comes to shove, it is evolutionary ideas over everything. I agree that you can interpret the Bible in such a way that it can be seen to uphold a flat earth and geocentricism. Geocentrism came originally from Aristotle and the Church read that theory into the Bible – the lesson being that we should never marry any scientific theory to the Bible. Unfortunately, many Christians have yet to learn this lesson are repeating this mistakc with evolution. Even creationist theories are not as dependable as God’s Word itself.


Tjnihon: *Which do we choose and how do we decide?*

Tim’s Comment: Whether we are YECs and Older Earthers, we start by getting our basic thinking framework correct and then perhaps we won’t be taken in by false dichoTimies, invalid categorizations and type violations.

MY REPLY: “Whether we are YECs and Older Earthers, we start by getting our basic thinking framework correct”.
Interpretation: What does it mean to get our basic thinking framework correct? Start with evolution!
Tim I agree that we need to start there, but how do you determine which framework is correct? If God’s Word cannot help us here, then what good is it? If you approach the Bible with an evolutionary framework, yes, you will have to do an awful lot of tweaking, twisting, ignoring, spiritualizing, reinterpreting, etc all the way through in order to be consistent. Poor God. He certainly didn’t do a very good job of communicating His truth to us, did He? The least He could have done was give us the proper framework to interpret His Word.
Perhaps He did. “Thy Word is truth.” That to me trumps the conclusions of evolutionists who base their theory on naturalistic and uniformitarian assumptions that cannot be proved. That is why God gives us His truth – so that we have a starting point that we can depend on. Otherwise, we could never know what is true and what is not.

Tim, how do you handle this problem:

For example, "science"tells us that humans came from descendants of apes, but God tells us that He directly created Adam in His image from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. Then he created Eve from one of Adam's rib.

This is very clear and easy to understand in the Scripture! It is reported as history. Jesus affirms it when He says that God created them male and female at the beginning of creation. Paul affirms it when he says that Adam was formed first and then Eve. The whole Bible supports this.

So is this an area that we must bow to science or is it an area that science must bow to God's truth? How do you know?

You will want to solve it by making the Bible say something that will agree with evolutionary theory. Is that the proper hermeneutic that God intends for us to employ when reading His Word? Very hard to believe!
tjnihon 15/06/2011 12:37
Tim Reeves says:

"Bible interpretation cannot be disengaged from the God created world. Together the Bible and the rest of world form one seamless body of revelation."

However you have to know how to read God's revelation seen in nature. THat is where the Bible helps us. For instance, often times ID scientists are criticized because people say God's designs are less than perfect so things must have evolved rather than been created.

Agreed that there are things in this world that don't seem compatible with the Creator that the Scripture introduces to us, but before we go jumping to conclusions that God is either non-existent or a bad designer, we need to remember that the whole creation groans waiting for it's redemption. It was cursed by God and became imperfect after the fall of Adam and Eve. So we are looking at the cursed falled world now, not God's original created masterpiece. If we fail to realize that, we will make horrible conclusions about God and His abilities. This is another reason why we need to interpret nature through the lens of God's written revelation.

Romans 8:19-21
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Andrew Holland 17/06/2011 17:20
Hi tjnihon
Thank you for your contributions. I agree wholeheartedly with all that you have said. This "interpretation" issue is a complete red herring. Agreed some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand and interpret, such as parts of Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation for example, which are prophetic and use symbolic imagery, but the historical parts of the Bible, such as Genesis, should be taken at face value, otherwise it is tantamount to calling God a liar! Thus the account of creation, Noah's flood and Jonah's adventures are accurate and can be completely trusted. They are all verified in the New Testament.
The wonderful story of redemption which we can preach to the lost hangs on the fact that man fell in the garden of Eden, which brought about death and suffering for all mankind. Jesus Christ can redeem us from that curse of death. See 1 Corinthians 15 verses 22 & 47.
Timothy Reeves 21/06/2011 20:40
TJ: First of all let’s drop the insinuations such as Andrew Holland’s “calling God a liar”, insinuations intended to spiritually smear those who dissent from Young Earth Creationism (YEC). These insults are the fundamentalist fill in for secular invective and name calling.

TJ’s provides some classic YEC responses and valuable insights into the fundamentalist mindset. Andrew Holland (AH) obediently follows along with TJ’s views (warts and all) and this gives me two data points for the price of one. Here are some observations based on TJ’s text:


1. TJ wrongly identifies fallibility/uncertainty with nihilism. Recall: Our transactions with the world around us are accompanied by a pervasive fallibility/uncertainty and yet we manage to successfully to create a workable picture of reality. Presumably YECs would have no difficulty with this, but TJ doesn’t port this elementary epistemic lesson to his bespoke interpretations of the Bible: TJ only sees a “Certainty vs. Nihilism” polarity when it comes to these interpretations and we can guess on which side he thinks his opinions fall. Inquisition style, TJ puts words into my mouth; he falsely accuses me of nihilism thus setting up his straw man ready for burning. (Note to self – tick a box on my cult/sect analysis form). This false dichotomy of Certainty vs. Nihilism resonates with the fundamentalist social universe that has a need to exploit clear category identifications between sheep and goats. TJ: Go and read up about probability and information.

2. TJ Employs a default assumption whereby he closely associates Old Earth views with evolution: Against this we must set prominent Christian creationists such as Hugh Ross and William Dembski who are Old Earthers but who don’t believe in evolution; ergo, anti-evolution creationism doesn’t imply YEC.

3. I myself have a reserved view of evolutionary models and therefore I can’t be held responsible for defending the vehement evolutionary views of those for whom it has become a faith. Since for me evolution is the subject of ongoing research and because I have no strong opinions on the exact nature of the Genesis Flood story, large tracts of TJ’s very standard text is inapplicable in this context. Unfortunately I’ve inadvertently had the effect of triggering off an avalanche of off-the-peg YEC responses that do the rounds in the YEC community. However, I’m largely ignoring TJ’s references to evolution (not because they are valid – some of them are remarkably naïve) because he’s using them to try to throw spiritual dirt that doesn’t stick; he is working from a simplistic “You are either for us or against us” dichotomy. BTW: If you want a case against evolution, don’t ask TJ or AH; they’re simply not that competent.

4. TJ thinks that the Bible speaks of a “global” flood when in fact it is unlikely that the early Biblical writers had the concept of a “globe” in their mind set. Therefore “globality” was not part of the original meaning of the writers. Another fundamentalist literalist could conceivably interpret this as evidence for a flat Earth: “The Bible doesn’t say the Earth is a globe!”. Yes, fundamentalist flat Earthers existed until quite recently and their arguments have a kinship with YEC (see http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/febible.htm)

5. TJ fails to make a distinction between a geographically universal flood and anthropically universal flood and this clouds the issue.

6. TJ doesn’t understand evolution: He misguidedly defends his views against a process that he wrongly portrays as crowding out Divine providence, when in fact evolution (if indeed true) would require a remarkable set of physical laws to be sustained for it to work. We cannot escape the fact that (barring highly speculative multiverse scenarios) “information” in the form of improbability cannot be banished from the physical world and this also applies to evolution. This renders the YEC’s much feared bogy of “naturalistic assumptions” impotent. Evolution is, in one sense, highly unnatural (See following links for a discussion of this: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/11/self-organisation.html http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/12/more-on-self-organisation.html )

Timothy Reeves 21/06/2011 20:41
7. TJ pays lip service to the subject of interpretation: In fact he even goes as far as to say that in some cases “NO INTERPRETATION is necessary” and claims I’m taking the subject too far. Andrew H, a YEC ministry follower (warts and all), even claims it’s a “red herring” and thinks that it is all so obvious and easy; notably he doesn’t include Genesis 1 in his list of difficult passages. However, given that “interpretation” is our universal interface with everything, I find this is a very sloppy and dangerous attitude; it smacks of an attempt to curtail any debates on the meaning and genre of Genesis 1 by to placing fundamentalist interpretations beyond critical analysis. Perhaps TJ and AH would like to talk to Christian Fundamentalist a Gerardus Bouw who will no doubt claim that his geocentric views are based on what are to him is the plain reading of scripture (See here http://www.geocentricity.com/) “Plain readings” is usually code for “My word is God’s Word” (a trait common to fundamentalists)


8. TJ Employs a false dichotomy that sets Biblical writ against the world it is in: We are never faced with a choice of choosing the Bible or science since the extraction of meaning from either employs the same weak link – namely human fallibility; the implications of which TJ and AH are unwilling to acknowledge. When faced with a contradiction the question is not “Which shall we choose – the Bible or Science?” but rather “Where have WE gone wrong?” Not surprisingly TJ and AH want to deny that human fallibility is an issue with Bible reading because this immediately places their views under critical scrutiny; instead they prefer to cast the matter into the mold of immediate obedience (to their views, of course) rather than analysis.

9. I suspect TJ has a straw man view of uniformitarianism based on Lyle’s 19th century initial enunciation of it. This view needs updating in the light of the “power law” effect found in the size vs. frequency graph of natural disasters. Applying this power law it is entirely conceivable that the world has been subject to unique events in its history. Again, notice the way TJ shows a tendency to simply swallow uncritically the teaching he has imbibed from a YEC ministry’s obsession with an outdated concept. He simply reproduces it faithfully without thinking around the subject himself; and of course inquisitorially stuffs into my mouth his anachronistic view of Uniformitarianism.

10. TJ completely misunderstands my reference to Mat 24:37-39. In the light of Gen 9:15 it seems clear that the judgment mentioned in Mat 24:37-39 is not going to be a flood. Ergo The Flood is being used by Jesus as a metaphor for judgment and therefore on the basis of this metaphorical use it does not follow that the Flood was “global” (sic). Once again I have had the unfortunate effect of triggering standard YEC sensitivity to its literalistic interpretations not being followed to the letter. TJ is scanning my sentences in order to look for non-literalisms; hence if he sees “metaphor” and “flood” within a few words of one another he is conditioned to think “Ah, he’s not taking the Bible literally” and in he goes with all guns blazing like those bullies in Clint Eastward’s film “The White Rider” oblivious to the fact that there is no target to shoot at: Notice the implicit accusations intended to intimidate such as “explain away the flood”, the use of 2 Pet: 3:4-7, “deliberately overlooking”…. (*ticks another check box on the cult analysis form*)


11. TJ appears to have inadequate grasp of the complexities of hermeneutics and shows little cognizance of the issues related to getting at “original meaning”. This certainly creates a problem for him with the term “global”, but see also the comment dated 20/05/2011 19:33 that I added to the article by AiG underling Gary Burchnall here:. http://www.networknorwich.co.uk/Articles/261355/Network_Norwich_and_Norfolk/People/Bloggers/No_compromise_taking_God_at_His_word.aspx. Once again TJ tries to make out that any mention of uncertainty is immediately to be identified with nihilism, arbitrariness of interpretation and that I’m for a postmodern free-for-all when in fact I arguing against his lazy minded approach that so readily becomes a pretext to go on a witch hunt as can be seen from his inappropriate use of Jn 3:12.

12. My point about a type violation occurring when attempting to compare data (=observations of the world or Biblical writ) with interpretations (scientific theories or Biblical interpretations) completely passes over TJ’s head; he basically ignores it.

Timothy Reeves 21/06/2011 20:43
13. Science and repeatability: We need to get this straight as a matter of principle: No experiment is ever exactly repeatable as in principle it may be subtly modified by the effects of time, place and circumstance. Interestingly, Jason Lisle of AiG exploits this fact with his Anisotropic Synchrony Convention “solution” for the start light problem and yet here is YEC TJ telling us that experiments are for all practical purposes repeatable! TJ you had better go and compare notes with Jason Lisle. All experiments are ultimately plagued by the “You weren’t there” syndrome and the “water under the bridge” effect of time passing. If TJ can grasp this he might have a little more humility about so called “operational science” which only differs from evolutionary science in degree and not in fundamental quality. As I said, if you want a case against evolution don’t ask TJ (or AH) because they don’t understand subject.

14. The canard about us not being a witness to something actually applies to every theoretical construction we conceive; not just ancient history, but to the whole of science. Viz: I wasn’t present for the testing of the laws of physics so how then do I know they are valid? We weren’t present at the writing of the Bible so perhaps its makeup had nothing to do with God’s choreography of events. The “You weren’t there” argument, if pressed, ultimately erodes our confidence in the whole of God’s revelation. Fundamentalist attempts to distinguish between “operational science” and history is an arbitrary construction that tries to stop the nihilist rot, but ultimately fundamentalism subverts science by undermining the information which the grace of providence has pleased to send us from the cosmos. (See: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2011/04/beyond-our-ken-on-mature-creation.html)

15. So I am accused by TJ of saying that Jesus is fallible. Really? I can almost see TJ tearing his clothes at this point as he feels at last he has found the ultimate spiritual impeachment. Once again his mistake is all down to false identification and category conflation: He has confused modeling with fallibility: A diagram of a rail network is limited by what it needs to represent in the context of the task in hand, but it is wrong to confuse the tokenization required by pragmatics with fallibility. Once again the “excluded middle” thinking of fundamentalism with its need to impeach those who fall into the wrong partition of its crude black versus white category system, strikes again. And once again I evade TJ’s heretic’s pyre! However, TJ’s text contains so many inflammable straw men that he can have a good bonfire anyway. (There goes another cult check box!)


16. The kettle calls the pot black when TJ accuses others of obscuring the meaning of the Bible. It is precisely because Genesis 1 is written in the way that it is that it has universal appeal all the way from agricultural man to industrial man; it is lowest common denominator diagrammatic account employing universal tokens that all can understand; above all it portrays a sequence of working days in order to show that God is not a “hey presto!” magician but a workman engaged in a consecutive assembly. The account disengages God’s working day from the human Solar day by placing the creation of the Sun on day 4 thus implying that the Divine concept of “day” is a superset of the human 864000 second day. In cutting the necessary link between the more general Divine day and the human day Genesis 1 exploits a very subtle effect; namely, the observation that at first sight the Sun does not appear to be the cause of day light (due to light scattering) but rather something that adorns the day. Contrary to TJ’s strawman depiction, Genesis 1 does an excellent job of universal theological communication and it seems that the communication problem is down to YECs failing to read Genesis1 properly. BTW Augustine and Origen long ago spotted the “day 4” issue in Genesis 1 – it is not something that is necessarily a modern discovery which is how TJ would prefer to spin it.

Timothy Reeves 21/06/2011 20:44
17. Let me get this straight TJ: You write “If I believed what you do, I would have long ago given up on the Bible….”; Putting aside the fact that your arguments have very much depended on you putting words into my mouth and beliefs into my head, am I to understand this to mean that you only see a choice between fundamentalism and atheism? Do I conclude that if your weren’t a fundamentalist you would be an atheist? If so that’s very interesting because fundamentalist Gerardus Bouw says a very similar thing about Christians (like Hugh Ross and AiG’s Danny Faulkner) who don’t follow a geocentric interpretation of scripture; he says they encouraged him to be an atheist! (see http://www.geocentricity.com/ba1/fresp/index.html) CALLING JAMES KNIGHT: I have just found a couple of data samples that might be relevant to your thesis about gnu atheism being the obverse of fundamentalism!


18. Here’s yet another canard from TJ based on profound fundamentalist misconceptions: TJ talks about “Interpreting nature through the lens of God’s written revelation”. Trouble is we can’t come to scripture in a cultural vacuum; the lessons of scripture won’t bootstrap unless we at first understand a whole bunch of things about our world, such as language, common sense physics, zoology, biology, the existence of other minds, how to read other minds, knowledge of history, etc etc. If these things weren’t in place a-priori, the ink marks we find on a page of scripture would remain just that – meaningless marks. In short scripture and the rest of God’s creation are mutually dependent for their interpretation. A better metaphor than the “lens” would be to say that Scripture “seasons” the data we get from the creation. However, to YECs “seeing through the lens of scripture” is in fact a code “taking for granted YEC interpretations”; in fact don’t question them because you will be told by the Andrew Holland’s of this world that questioning them is a red herring. (*ticks another check box*)

19. It is very likely that the early Bible writers were working from a geocentric flat earth model, a model one that correctly describes the perspective of the man in the street and the man in the field. As we know geocentrist Gerardus Bouw has done exactly what other YEC fundamentalists have done and used an acadian perspective to construct a grossly inflated and teetering cosmology that fails on many levels. Christian Geologist Davis A Young says the following about YEC abuse of the Genesis Flood story: “If conservative orthodox theology is to remain vital and relevant to a world in need of the Christian Gospel, conservative theologians will have to abandon their flirtation with flood geology and other forms of pseudo-science, reacquaint themselves with genuine scientific knowledge, and incorporate that knowledge into their thinking, secure in the realization that genuine insight into God’s creation, whether discovered by Christians or heathens, is still a gift of God to be treasured.” (The Biblical Flood, Davis A Young)

20. Amongst other things I myself have studied YEC science; in particular YEC attempts to solve the star light problem, a problem that arises because they have painted themselves into corner by holding onto an interpretation that Genesis 1 that assumes 6 consecutive 84600 second days. Some of this work can be seen here at the following links. http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/11/yec-star-light-travel-time-if-at-first.html, http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/10/answers-in-genesis-screw-up-again.html and http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.com/2010/08/problems-in-young-earth-creationism.html


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