Science in Christian Perspective





F. Alton Everest

From: JASA 3 (September 1951): 33-38.

Part of an address given at the Sixth Annual Convention at New York City August 30, 1951

The ten-year period, 1941-1951 was a time of great significance to the world. During this time a second world war was fought which quite definitely silenced voices raised In optimistic hope for a peaceful world'. International relations during this period were in a chaotic state. Sneak attacks, subversive activities, the lack of honor in international relations, the dishonest practices in high places within our own government, the deplorable flourishing of organized crime, juvenile delinquency--all these things have brought a feeling of insecurity and despair to our people and the people of the world.

1939 scarcely two years before the opening of this significant decade, there was announced the hypothesis of nuclear fission and its experimental verification. By the end of 1941 an extensive review of the entire uranium situation was completed end full impetus was given military exploitation of the fission effect. In 1942 the famous Manhattan District was organized culminating In that fateful birth of the atomic age in the gray dawn of the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945.

These striking events in the military and political world had, perhaps at least some effect on the changing attitudes in the scientific world. The pendulum seemed to be swinging away from the rigid materialism of the past. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle pointed out that strict determinism at least did not apply in the realm of the quanta. While the leap from so-called "free will" of the electron to the freedom of the human spirit is too great a jump for man to
make, these new concepts were having their over-all , impact on modern scientific

The equivalence of mass and energy--a concept dramatically demonstrated on that morning in the New Mexico desert--also seemed to pull some of the underpinnings from beneath materialistic philosophies.

Let us not be confused--a knowledge that all our material world is but a manifestation of energy does not necessarily make a spiritual-minded religionist of the physicist. Nor should we feel
that this revolution has taken place when we see cosmologists put forth their hypotheses of a practically instantaneous condensation of all the elements from a sort of hot cosmic stew end equate the event to the creation of Genesis 1:1. All these things may have their cumulative effect, but we still have to deal with scientists who, in the main, do not know our Redeemer and yet who are somewhat more Inclined toward a consideration of spiritual things. Today we find less inclination among scientists to brush off the claims of the Bible with a wave of the hand. This is illustrated by the Professor of Zoology of a large Western university who each year shows all of the Moody Science Films to his large class--gospel message and all--as he puts it, "to present the other side of the question in all fairness." Such instances may be few and far between and the general trend away from rigid materialism may appear to be all but swallowed up in the familiar glorification of human wisdom but it seem incontrovertible that the trend is there.

This is a brief sketch or conditions existing just prior to and Immediately following the organization of the American Scientific Affiliation. There probably never was a more significant period in h1story--the growth of science and the opening of the atomic era--and a period that presents its own unique problems to an effective witness and defense of the faith.

It would be unfair and distinctly untrue to leave the impression that, in the midst of these great problems, the ASA was born In solitude. The ASA owes much to other similar organizations some of which rose briefly only to fade, others which are contemporarily functioning today.

The Victoria Institute of Great Britian was founded in
1865 to treat the problems arising between science and the Holy Scripture with the view of reconciling any apparent discrepancies. This organization has had a long and useful life and is actively continuing its work today. It bas a total membership of around 600 and its Journal of the Transactions-contains many valuable papers.

The Religion and Science Association was organized about 1928. Dr. L. Allen Higley, then of Wheaton College, was one of the founders. Other name associated In this early endeavor are Ben F. Allen, and Mr. Clarence Benson, and others. Its activities were abandoned at least ten years ago.

The Kelvin Institute had Its origin in Toronto, Canada) about 1935. This group was founded by Mr. Arthur C. Custance, formerly a member of ASA. Our own Dr. John F Howitt was one of the early members. At its peak it had some 50 members in England, Scotland, Australia, USA, and Canada and produced a number
or very interesting papers. However, its activities ceased during the early 1940's.

The Evolution Protest Movement, active in England for more than two decades, did not find ready acceptance in the USA. Sensing this, Dr. Arthur Pierson Kelley thought that an indigenous group patterned along the same lines would be better received and proceeded to found The Creationist Society. This proved to be entirely abortive. For some time. however, Dr. Kelley issued a series of papers under the name The Landenberg Review which carried on the anti-evolution cause. As far as it is known, this effort has been abandoned.

In addition to these there have been a number of local organizations devoted to the study of the relation of science to Christianity. Typical of these was the Nature and Scripture Study Club of Grand Rapids founded in
1935 by Dr. John P. Van Hartsma. of Calvin College, one of the founder-members of the ASA. This group disbanded prior to 1942, at least partially because of Dr. Van Haitsma's failing health.

About 1938, the Society For Study of Deluge Geology and Related Sciences was formed. This group Published -The Bulletin of Deluge Geology,
1941 through 1945. To an outsider, what then happened is somewhat obscure, but apparently reorganization resulted in the use of the names Natural History Research Group and also The Society For the Study of Natural Science. A publication called The Forum came out with one or two issues under the latter-named society. Man asso~cNat7e-dwith these groups include Prof. George McCready Price well-known advocate of deluge geology, Dr. Cyril B. Courville, Dr. Moulerus Couperus, Mr. Ben F Allen, and others. Correspondence with members of this group and a perusal of its publications leads one to conclude that it was founded principally to defend the so-called deluge interpretation of the earth's stratigraphic history and to contend for a recent formation of the earth. , As many of its leaders are also leaders in the Seventh Day Adventist group which strongly promulgates these particular interpretations, it Is felt by many that the society, directly or indirectly, was Influenced by the teachings of this denomination.

There are no doubt many other groups not named here that were formed during the 1930's and 1940's to correlate scriptural interpretation and now scientific facts. All these groups had one thing in common. They were anxious to demonstrate the harmony of God's Word end God's Work In nature. Some may have struck too negative a note, some may have been unwise in their emphasis, some may have been downright wrong in either their exegesis or their science--but their motives were commendable, and we shall leave to the great Judge of all things the ultimate value of their labors.

I believe it was in the wise providence of our God that the men that founded the ASA and who were responsible for its nurture during the early years were relatively ignorant of these other groups. For this reason their Influence on the ASA was negligible and it is only in retrospect that we can see how fortunate this was in the formation of the policy of the ASA which the testimony of ten years' growth indicates as sound.

What is this policy? For what purpose does the ASA exist? The constitution states that the object of the Affiliation is to "correlate the facts of science and the Holy Scriptures." We are vitally interested in determining the proper interpretation of the creation account, the flood of Noah, Joshua's long day, etc., but we consider it distinctly Improper for the ASA to become so enamoured by particular interpretations of these accounts that we shift our efforts from study to propaganda. Dr. Allan A. MacRae, prominent archaeologist and past Vice-President and member of the Executive Council of the ASA has wisely put it this way:

"To my mind it would be unfortunate for the Affiliation to go on record strongly in favor of any one of the various views. It seems to me that its purpose should be rather to show that the Bible as correctly and carefully interpreted, and without any twisting whatever, leaves room for every scientific fact at present known, and does not contradict any scientific fact as yet discovered, however much it may be at variance with some particular theory built upon these facts."

Now this does not mean that ASA members do not have some pretty strong personal convictions concerning these Interpretations--they do. Furthermore, there Is a wide range of interpretations held among the membership. This is only natural and It Is a very healthful situation--one that causes one to search his case thoroughly before submitting himself to one of our justly famous discussion periods. Thus in the Journal of the ASA you will find a paper supporting a particular interpretation and a little later another one apparently demolishing it. We consider our job well done if we can present a Bible-teacher, a pastor, or a university student an adequate survey of the various views held on a given problem and the historical and scientific data pertaining to it. The problem of the church is principally, one of plain ignorance of the many and complicated factors entering Into a wise interpretation of the Scriptural accounts.

Another member of the ASA, Dr. Barley Barnes, a geologist, stated the following views six or seven years ago which I believe to be a fair expression of the prevailing attitude of the majority of the present Associates and Follows of the ASA:

"The devout 'Fundamentalist' persecutors of Galileo and Copernicus helped discredit the Bible to many thinking persons because they were morally certain it specifically taught the Ptolemaic astronomy.' After accumulated data overwhelmed these pious but bigoted spirits, a new crop of second guessers come forth with the 'obvious fact' that the Bible had agreed with the former heretics (Galileo and Co.) right along, so that 15 years ago I was impressed by the quotation of verses 'proving' that the earth was round. And if science should find sufficient information that the earth after all really has the shape of a dodecahedron, someone would find a verse in the Bible which had said so all the time!

"The Bible does not pretend to give a technical description of these matters. What it does say is accurate but generalized; some passages are figurative, but we are not always able to determine which ones-Isaiah 40:22 or Revelation 7:1. Let us not tie the Bible to any mode= (or Victorian) scientific theory. If it can be interpreted more then one way, let us admit it and when all the pertinent facts are known rejoice in the Wisdom which bad been revealed but until that time not understood. Perhaps the Bible suffers less from too little literal interpretation than from too much literal interpolation."

In November, 1940, while the writer was on the faculty of Oregon State College, a message was received from Irvin A. Moon who was holding his famed Sermons From Science demonstrations in nearby Salem, Oregon. A meeting was arranged In Salem during which Mr. Moon told of the great need he had encountered among young people for an organization of reputable man of science who were also Christians. The young people flocked to him with their questions, eager for reassurance that modern scientific knowledge does not rule out faith. That afternoon Mr. Moon named several qualified men of science whom he believed would be interested in forming such a society.

Several months passed during -which Mr. Moon was-in constant touch with Dr. Will H. Houghton, the late President of-the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, concerning ways and means of bringing this group into existence. Early in 1941 at the request of Mr. Moon, the writer examined the constitutions Of Many existing scientific societies and drafted one
vh1ch was considered suitable for such a society of Christian men of science as was proposed. Considerable attention was also given to a fitting name for the society.

In June, 1941, Dr. Houghton addressed a comprehensive letter to a number of men
who had shown their interest In the formation of a group for the correlation Of science and the Bible. In the recent biography of Dr. Houghton, A Watchman on the Wall*, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith entitles a chapter "Through Science to the Souls of Men" in which Dr. Houghton's letter Is quoted in Its entirety. Dr.  Smith states that this letter might "be called the birth certificate of the American Scientific Affiliation." Dr. Smith further say "The letter itself, I think, will prove in days to come a significant document-" In this letter the man to whom It was addressed were invited to meet In Chicago, September 2 to 5, 1941, to "canvass the possibilities of a larger conference" and eventually, perhaps, to organize a new society. Dr. Wilbur Smith writes, "Out of this letter has come a strong. vigorous organization which today is undertaking a number of projects which the Lord willing, in the days to come will be the means of great help to those who are troubled about the complicated relationships of contemporary science with the Word of God."

Five man journeyed to Chicago as a result of Dr. Houghton's invitation. Their expenses were borne by a donor unnamed at the time but who has since been identified an the saintly "Breakfast Table Autocrat" and intimate friend or Dr. Houghton, Henry Parsons Crowell. Those who attended were: Dr. Irving A. Cowperthwaite, Prof. Russell D. Sturgis, Prof. Peter W. Stoner, Prof. John P. Van Haitsma, Prof. F. Alton Everest, Dr. Houghton, Mr. Moon, and Mr. H. Coleman Crowell, the son of Henry P. Crowell and Vice-President of
Moody Bible Institute conferred with the group from time to time but Dr. Houghton's statement In his letter of Invitation was faithfully carried out when he said "some or us are initiating this, but we haven't any desire to control it, and certainly It would be limited if It were known to be sponsored by any one educational Institution--. We want you to be very sure the group will be entirely free to make Its own plans."

The American Scientific Affiliation was organized at this time although its constitution and new were not officially adopted until A few months later. The precious time together was spent in considering future programs, membership qualifications and prospects, constitution, aim and purposes, spiritual standards, and many other vital topics. Dr. Cowperthwaite was elected Secretary-Treasurer and Prof. Everest Chairman and the group adjourned.

The next few months were filled with intensive correspondence and the laying of plans for a large national meeting in 1942. Three months after the Chicago meeting, on December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and such grandiose plans as a convention were eliminated by travel restrictions.

* 1951. Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Looking back an it, the Lord's overruling hand in interfering with our plans by the war was probably the best thing that could have happened to the embryonic group. We were forced to work and study independently during the 1941-1945 period and were given practically no opportunity to arouse each others ire in heated debate at close range. Rather, this time served to clarify the issues, streamline the organization, bring In new members and to begin work on the book later entitled, Modern Science and Christian Faith which is now in its second edition.

While war-time travel restrictions practically eliminated civilian travel, the chairman was not only able but was forced to do considerable travelling over the United States in the interests of his wartime work. This provided opportunities for dozens of conferences and contacts which increased the effectiveness of the work greatly over complete reliance on correspondence.

Articles of incorporation for the ABA as a non-profit Organization were
filed with the Secretary of State of California In August. 1943. Also, during
we began voting in new members after cautious consideration of their qualifications. By the close of the war, the membership was about 50, and by the end
of 1950 about 130. The adoption of the new constitution with the new membership
classifications has naturally resulted in a sudden spurt over the average rate of
approximately 20 now members per year. At the time of this 1951 convention in
New York the membership is about 220. The growth has been steady--we have never
had ambitions for a large organization or we would have had lower standards for
membership, After all, there are just so many scientists, and a very small percentage are interested in Christian things,. but the conservative policies
are rapidly gaining the confidence of these qualified persons.

It seems entirely proper that the greatest strides of the ASA be taken during the tenth anniversary year. Without doubt, the adoption of the new constitution with no dissenting voices (one man expressed disagreement with one portion) was a remarkable expression of the members' confidence in the leadership of the Council. This in especially true when It Is realized that, for those members not qualified for Fellow grade, It meant virtual disenfranchisement. This new constitution's distinguishing feature is Its placing in the hands of the Fellows the voting privileges and the policy responsibilities, yet opening the Associate grade for those whose interest in and enthusiasm for the work of the ASA is in no way measured by their lack of advanced scientific degrees. Thus, maximum protection is coupled with maximum protection for the high spiritual and scholastic standards of the group.

Another great stride was Dr. Mixter's selection for the presidency after nine years of service In this capacity by the writer. Sudden upsurge in all activities or the ASA is evidence cited to uphold this statement. One of the greatest experiences in the life of the writer has been the thrill of working side by side with man of the ASA--men whose faith has been tried in the crucible of spiritually sterile scientific criticism, men who have devoted their lives to the study of God's handiwork in nature and who see there the infinite resources of the One, in 'Whom we live and move and have our being. It is our priceless privilege to join together in proclaiming the salvation which He has offered to a lost world.