Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 4 (December
*Paper given at the Sleventh Annuual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation at Wheaton College Science Station, Rapid City, South Dakota, August 26-29, 1952.
It is not surprising then that our Sunday School literature reflects a feeling of distrust of science. The Teacher: April 1, 1951, published by the Southern Baptist Convention stated, "As we study Genesis we are not to look for a scientific account of the origin of the world, and we are not to be disturbed by scientist's criticisms of the Genesis account." God's Plan of the Ages, Book T-91, page 7, published by Gospel Light Press: "In the Bible there is no human science. The Laws of God's Word spurn the ever changing theories of men." Concordia Teachers Quarterly, vol. 36, 3, page 61 April-June 1951, "No one was present at the beginning of things. Either we shall accept the only satisfying answer to the question, which the Bible gives or we shall remain ignorant and unsatisfied. Christians humbly accept the Biblical account."
These quotations are illustrative of many more that could be given. Unfortunately, however, Sunday School literature authors have gone to the extremes of ridicule and extravagant interpretations of their own that have done great harm to the faith of our youth when the truth was learned. For our youth supposed that it was the Bible that was in error. In the Los Angeles, American Scientific Affiliation Sunday School literature survey, Peter Stoner said, "In my experience of dealing with college young people, with questions of faith, I have found the reconstruction theory (that man was created 4004 B.C., after a general reorganization of the chaos of a former creation) to be the chief killer of faith."
Walter Lammerts says, "My experience, in dealing with the problems of Christian students, is that unscientific teachings in Sunday School and church are the main problem of Christian young people."
Robert Keesey, "Of the many and varied controversial issues in the Bible, those which involve a con flict with scientific theories are probably the most effectual in causing a loss of faith."
F. Alton Everest, "Presenting one interpretation of a highly controversial passage as the Word of God is intellectual dishonesty. We should admit that this is an area in which we do not know."
We must say, however, that not all cases of apostasy are caused this way. There are some students that forsake the Christian faith who, though raised in the church, have never experienced the salvation of God, so when faced with the attacks of unbelief are caught without the ministry of the indwelling Spirit of God, Who alone can keep them.
Let us consider now some of the thinking behind the scenes. Does anything have to happen twice in order to happen once? In other words, is science justified in rejecting the miraculous because it cannot be repeated in the laboratory? Wherever possible new phenomena must be capable of repetition as a proof of validity. In some cases a thing has to happen several hundred times before we can be sure that it has really happened and is not just chance. Note that I said before we can be sure it has really happened. The Virgin Birth of Christ by its very nature is something that cannot be repeated, hence other tests of validity must be used, His sinless life being one of them.
There are two parts to science, (1) observed facts, and (2) the interpretation of them. The facts are not subject to revision but the interpretation of them may be totally reversed by subsequently observed facts. All experimental observations must be interpreted .to have meaning. Hence all scientific meaning is in a state of flux. The confusion that this implies is not as profound however, as some philosophers who are accustomed to thinking in absolutes, would have us believe. For most interpretations are so highly probable that they are facts to all intents and purposes. For example, if I were to drop this paper it would fall to the table. This is the observed fact. The most probable interpretation is that a force we know as gravity has pulled it down. Some people, being faced with facts apparently out of harmony with what they believed the Bible taught, have rejected the whole Bible as untrustworthy. This fallacy of absolutes or mania for consistency would, if applied in the sciences, lead to the rejection of all knowledge. For there is no field of science I know of, that doesn't admit basic contradictions somewhere in the phenomena they study. To them it is proof of incomplete knowledge. Can't we say we don't know in Biblical exegesis too?
The general principle of uniformity is neutral and can be used for good or evil, and has been used both ways in scripture. In II Peter 3:3-4, 13-15, the scoffer ridiculed the Idea of coming judgment because things were uniform, but Peter says this uniformity is evidence of God's longsuffering. Our common experience of the dependability of nature is used by the Lord to convince us of the faithfulness of our covenant-keepiTig God, Jer. 31:35-36, and Matt. 6:26. 'Me miracles of the Bible are consistent with the nature of God and are in harmony with the laws of His creation, though we may not know them. This is obviously so, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. The Bible is a revelation of God to man and so should be more understandable to us than the less specific manifestations of God in nature. Still to have an absolute knowledge of spiritual truth it is necessary to have an absolute comprehension as well as an absolute source of knowledge. It is possible through the indwelling Spirit of God to have absolute comprehension, but few if any of us attain to it. Just as God has made it-possible for us to be free from sinning, though none of us attain to this holiness. Science's uniformity in a sense takes God's grace for granted, which one day shall be revealed as a horrible mistake.
I don't believe that Dr. Edward J. Carnell, in "HIS" magazine, means to say that Dr. Laurence Kulp is, a neodeist with all that that implies; but that Dr. Kulp's line of reasoning is the sort of reasoning that the neodeists base their doctrine on. If Dr. Kulp succeeds in establishing the validity of this sort of uniformitarianism, the neodeist doctrine is without refutation, Dr. Carnell feels. I believe, however, that the remedy that Dr. Carnell proposes, that is, that there is no uniformity in nature, is a little extreme. A young chemist was once asked why he was working on war explosives, his answer was that he had to eat! So the questioner attempted to prove that he did not have to eat and hence did not have to work on war explosives. Just because the neodeists claim that their doctrine is the logical outcome of the uniformity of nature, that does not mean that this is so, any more than the young chemist's claim that he had to work on war explosives in order to buy food to eat.
Dr. Carnell's attitude makes it evident that Christian men of science need to foster philosophical thinking that will adequately express our faith in the God we know and love, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe we study. I had once hoped that Christian philosophers and theologians might work in harmony with Christian men of science to our mutual edification and for a united witness to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but I fear our fields are too mutually exclusive. The only hope I can see now is that we might believe in our Lord's ability to inspire men in disciplines foreign to our own and depend upon them for matters properly within their sphere. And conversely, be counted on ourselves to contribute on matters within our sphere, such as writing Sunday School lessons on Creation, the Flood, etc.; and doing personal work with young people who come to pastors with doubts of a scientific nature. It is ineffectual and wrong in principle to try to give Bible School and Seminary students a stock answer for those troubled by the theories of science. However, as good personal work does not attempt to answer all of the arguments of unbelief, but presents Christ as the One who is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw nigh to God by Him, so we should not attempt to answer all the arguments that might be conceived, but present Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, weaving into the account all the science we know.
The Bible states that Christian maturity is attained by the exercise of our senses to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14). If philosophy can help us to discern these differences it shall be our benefactor. How then do we determine absolutes from our experiences of differences? Our assurance of the Deity of Christ is not based on one obscure passage of Scripture but on a great mass of direct and indirect evidence from the Word of God. (I am assuming the Bible to be a source of evidence.) By this evidence we conclude that Christ is different, He is God. In like manner the laws of Genetics have been deduced statistically from a great mass of experimental data. The more differences you have that all point to the same conclusion, and the less differences that seem to contradict it, the more sure you can be of your conclusion. To me the criteria of knowledge An spiritual and scientific matters is the same. They are both based on human experiences of differences. Christ assumed this basis of knowledge when He questioned how men trained in discerning differences in nature could be lacking in spiritual discernment. Matt. 16:14, and Luke 12:54-57.
I believe it Is possible for us to recognize the God. of the Bible, as being the same Person Who created and is maintaining the universe. True, the Bible and nature are distinct manifestations of God, but they are not so unique that the essential being of God is' not' seen in both. My knowledge of God is the basis of my belief that life as we know it is the handiwork , of God. The lack of a knowledge of God by the unchristian scientist leaves him no explanation but chance. Thus evolution is the unbeliever's alternative to faith in God. The Positivist philosopher is tryingi to make logical what evolution intimates, that is, that there is no purpose or design, only chance. The first positiorr of evolution was that of showing man he is an animal and could not expect to live differently from -them:; but it now finds he is only matter and cannot frustrate. the random activity of physical entities, if there -are such.
Rather than contend with the darkened reasoning of an Evolutionary philosophy, why not hit the major premise itself? If anything at all can be shown that.. is not due to chance, then the whole theory of evolution is false. Perhaps the philosophy vs. science problem lies in an incompetent attempt by Christian philosophers to do what Christian men of science so far have failed to do to raise an alternative to this satanic concept, The whole controversy might well disappear if we would turn on Evolution and tear it apart! Politically It predisposes us to communism; economically to materialism; and religiously to atheism.
In conclusion we. have seen that there is a real lack of understanding between Christian philosophers and Christian men of science. A lack that hazards the faith of our youth. The things we disagree on are the nature of knowledge, whether relative or absolute; and the question of uniformity. But behind both disagreements is the diabolic theory of Evolution.
Dr. W. Tinkle: I especially like the statement that the criteria of truth of science and of religion are the~ same. I thoroughly believe this. It has so often been stated that they are different . . . We run into the difficulty of saying that in religion we have, to take just what somebody tells us, i.e. we have to be credulous . . . I do not wish to be that type of person because I have seen morons who were very credulous.
We have faith in religion because we have a good basis for our faith, It agrees with the knowledge that we have. We know that God is faithful. Again, we have faith in science because we have knowledge. There are many gaps in science; however, we believe those theories that are most creditable. I believe that it is very important that we keep in mind that criteria in science and religion are really the same.
Dr. R Hartzler: I would like to ask two questions. What is Neo-deism as used by Sinclair and Carnell? What is this subject of uniformitarianism? I believe there are many here who need to have these subjects explained as a basis for our discussion.
Mr. J. Sinclair: I wish that Carnell were here be cause I am not a philosopher; however, I have done my best to convey the thinking of that group. Neodeism is a new theology. Every once in a while we get a new theology. I believe it is similar to the old Deism. I believe that Dr. Edman could more adequately discuss it for the members.
Dr. V. Edman: Deism became a prevalent mode of philosophy in the later part of the age of enlightenment, i.e. the later part of the 18th century and the first part of the 19th century. Its center of prominence was in England and to some extent on the continent. It was born first of all with the passing of the cre dulity of the middle ages and with the coming of the protestant reformation . . .
It said that there was a God, that he was the creator but in effect had wound up the universe and then had gone out and left it. It has run on like a clock. Thus it calls for a great gulf between mankind and the creator. God-yes, Universe-yes Salvation-no
Just a cold, cruel universe into which we are born and die and leave no mark.
Mr. J. Sinclair: It was also asked that uniformitarianism be defined. In essence it says that the laws which we can now observe changing the shape of the earth involve the same laws which governed the stratigraphic depositions. Rocks which we see in the canyon were formed according to known physical and chemical laws which we are now able to observe in the open.
Mrs. Stam: What is the difference between the new Deism and the old Deism?
Mr. J. Sinclair: Neo-Deism is a coined word, I believe by Dr. Carnell, in which the new theory is the same as the old.
Dr. H. Hartzler: How does C-14 dating, etc., fit in with the new Deism? I don't see the connection.
Mr. J. Sinclair: I believe that Carnell thinks the neo-deists are of the opinion that it would be impossible for God to come into nature and perform a miracle. If he did, it would be chaos in the thinking of the Neo-deists since they believe that God set the laws of the universe in motion and cannot set them aside because He has withdrawn from the universe. So that if you believe in this form of uniformity, then there are certain limitations on God. Carnell feels that the concept of uniformity that the geologists talk about will be used to exclude the possibility of God's entrance into nature to perform miracles.
Dr. P. Bender: I believe that Sinclair presented two different definitions of uniformity. The first was the concept of uniformity as used in geology, that by studying the processes which we see changing the face of the earth we can understand to some extent its past history. The other definition used by Mr. Sinclair is that used by Science in general, i.e. a uniformity of laws based on the belief that the same laws will operate in the same way today as it did yesterday. This is, of course, modified by the concepts of statistics and probabilities which were mentioned.
Dr. P. Wright: I would like to enlarge on the Geologists' definition: "The present is the key to the past." But that doesn't say that the processes have been going on at the same rate, for example, the same rate of deposition or erosion. The amount of sediment that a stream carries increases very rapidly as its velocity increases, and with it the erosion and deposition. The law is the same, but the rate is not constant.
Dr. B. Sutherland: The statement that we arrive at the knowledge of spiritual things the same way we arrive at a knowledge of scientific things is true in a way . . . The evidence is not the same kind . . . Historical evidence is unique in that it happens only once. Physical sciences are concerned with arriving at facts that occur over and over again and these must be uniform in nature before there could be a miracle. God does not perform miracles promiscuously.
Dr. P. Stoner: There is a problem involved that is most critical. That is a lack of agreement between science and philosophy. Philosophy is suspicious of the sciences. I attended in Pasadena a series of lectures given by a prominent philosopher on the relationship between science and Scripture. Night after night he presented the conclusions of science regarding certain events recorded in the Bible. As far as I can remember, in every case, science was grossly misrepresented and the conclusions were of course erroneous. Science and philosophy should get together.
Mr. F. Everest: There is a tremendous difference between the method of approach of the scientist and the philosopher. As long as the philosopher insists on God creating trees with rings in them and light half way between earth and stars he will be in conflict. It is not a question of whether God could do those things. It is only a question of whether God's nature would allow it. There is the crux of the disagreement.
Mr. J. Sinclair: Recapitulation-I believe we got away from the point of the paper. Dr. Barnhouse wrote a defense of Dr. Kulp. I do not believre that is the issue. Dr. Carnell does not believe that Kulp is a Neo-deist but only that this concept of uniformity which Dr. Kulp is using is the sort of thing that will strengthen the argument of the Neo-deists, and will leave us without a defense against them.
As to whether God could have created a world of deception, i.e. trees with rings, etc., I believe there are things that God cannot do, things for example that are not consistent with his nature. God cannot lie.