Science in Christian Perspective
The Origin of Man and the Bible
J. Frank Cassel
North Dakota State College, Fargo, North Dakota
This paper is in reply to the paper by Cowperthwaite
As evangelicals give closer consideration to the claims of science, particularly in the area of evolution, questions arise as to the assessment of the claims in the light of the Scriptures, and eventually vice versa. Although knowledge is expanding, I would judge that it is not the new information as much as the better understanding through more honest consideration of the old -that accounts for the shift of emphasis by the A.S.A. with respect to evolution. When I was in college, "evolution" was a dirty word. When A.S.A. began, those of us who questioned this position and insisted that to study it we -had to say it (and that study it we must if we were to combat it) were read out of fundamentalism-remember the comment on Mixter's first draft of his "Creation and Evolution"1 after it had been circulated to the membership. As you will see from my comments2 on Mixter's Gordon paper,3 that as we began seriously, critically, but objectively to examine the data of evolution, we became less and less convinced of its refutability. That, then, which you find no way to refute, demands a measure of positive consideration. This we've been doing with the caution of one who extends his hand toward a fire, to be sure. But we are beginning to approach the problem positively. The first results of such an approach are reflected in the Gordon and Ames meetings and led, of course, to the principal topic for discussion at the Chicago meeting-that is, if our approach is changing, does this mean our philosophy -has changed? Do our present studies stem from, or lead to, a different philosophy of science and/or a different or modified theology? The discussions of Chicago have made it abundantly clear, I think, that we scientists not only do not know the answer to this question, but that the philosophers and theologians aren't too sure either. Had they been sure, I think they would have carefully, logically, and kindly led us to their point of view instead of pouring on us the tremendous heckle which may be good pedagogy for freshman philosophy classes but is hardly productive, in solving the serious problems we were approaching. I thought when I left Chicago that perhaps I was just oversensitive, but after my experience at the N.S.F. Institute 4
2. Cassel, J. Frank, "The Evolution of Evangelical Thinking on Evolution." J. Am. Sci. Affl. 11:26-27, 1959.
3. Mixter, Russell L., "An Evaluation of the Fossil Record." J. Am. 96. Affll. 11:24-26, 1959.
4. National Science Foundation Institute on History and Philosophy of Science and Mathematics, American University, Washington, D.C., June 15-July 24, 1959.
I am convinced this heckle was more an evidence of lack of a positive contribution to offer. I am also convinced that if an acceptable, satisfying, and productive philosophy of science is to be developed it will have to be done by scientists-the philosophers will make fine and much-needed critics-but the basic formulation must be done by those who are immediately involved in the implications of induction-and of that sacred cow, "the scientific method."
But back to the immediate problems. Remember, what we're interested in is how God accomplished creation. We begin with the acceptance by faith of Genesis 1:1 (and elsewhere) that God is Creator and Sustainer (Colossians 1:16, 17). God has revealed Himself in creation as well as in His Word, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the believer, etc. Hence, there can be no real contradictions in His various revelations. If such appear, they must be only apparent and lie in the fallacy of our interpretations of one or the other or of both revelations under question. You pose the problem of contradictions between the creation and the Bible, but the basic assumption you seem to be making is that our interpretation of creation must be in error and the phase in which active harmonization must take place rather than vice versa. This is our basic fundamentalist heresy and the hardest to overcome, since we are products of the vicious battles of the twenties and thirties during which time we were assured, and not without reason, that any hint of fallacy in our interpretation of the Bible was an attack upon the Bible itself and upon its God. '
The infallability of Scripture and the truth it reveals need no vindication, intellectual or otherwise. Being what they are, they will stand. Let's look, then, to our views concerning them, which may really leave something to be desired here and there. What I'm trying to say is that if we're to at-tempt a harmony, let's glean the facts where they are, put them together as best we can as we prayerfully work under the Spirit's guidance, realizing that He may not see fit to give us the whole picture at this time. I am becoming more and more convinced that we as Christian men of science should approach our scientific endeavors with the same reverence and devotion with which we approach any other spiritual office and that we can look for God's enlightment in our study of His revelation in creation just as we can in our study of His revelation in Scripture. Somehow, by force of habit and the climate of the times, my faith is weaker here -but it shouldn't be!
But to Genesis. The current insistence by Henr376 and many others upon flat creation as an evangelical position, I do not see demanded by Genesis, at least with the connotation always made, namely, the accompanying insistence upon ex nihilo creation. If "fiat" simply means at God's command, well and
5. Henry, Carl F. H., "Science and the Bible." Christianity Today 2 [231 :20-22, 1958.
good, for God is not restricted by our time-space continuum. But the connotation I always feel in these discussions is that of "immediately-out of nothing." These are human terms by which God may or may not choose to restrict Himself. As to the ex nihilo, this bothers me, perhaps because I'm human and can't comprehend it, but perhaps by intuition. God Himselfhas always been; so there was never nothing. God had Himself to draw on for creation. Brackbill at Harrisonburg helped me with this when he said he liked to think of God as ommienergic. This is certainly compatible with almighty and all powerful, but ties in more denotatively with current scientific thinking. It makes me wonder whether CE=MC2 may not be a creative as well as a destructive formula.
I also "bump" at our current usage of "special" in special creation. Is not any creation specialf That man is more "special" in God's sight in that He desires fellowship withhim and sent His Son to die for him is undeniable. Any way that God did really achieve this end of His creation is special, whether it has been by gradual, well-planned development over a course of time or has been by instantaneous command. He could have done it as He desired. Why do we insist in the name of orthodoxy to restrict Him before He reveals it to us in His own good time? "But He has!" I hear the cry, "You're just too blind to see it." True, but aren't we all blind? Do we have trouble ascertaining God's will for man in Jesus Christ? Do we hassle over the sinfulness of man or the righteousness of God? Why should God, who reveals Himself so clearly in this way, be so obscure that only a favored few of the chosen may know how He made us? In other words, I don't think the Bible is crystal clear as to the processes involved in the creation of man, and so we do it no insult to look elsewhere for evidences. But before we leave Genesis 2:7, the principle that stands out to me in its very strange way of putting it, is the principle of "process." In fact, the only real "fiat" act in Genesis that I can see by any connotation is in 1 :3. The rest of the account as in 2:7 is an account of making, of "process."
With respect to -the account of the making of Eve, here the process seems well and explicitly described. Here, as in the Virgin Birth, there seems to be certain process without scientific precedent or explanation. In the case of the Virgin Birth, it is not easy to explain genetically the birth of a male except through the act of a father contributing the male sex chromosome. Neither is it to be expected that from cells containing male sex chromosomes, should be formed a creature not containing any of these, but rather another in its place. Herein, then, God did not act according to the usual pattern by which He operates today. There are numerous instances of this. We call them miracles. But this does not make the other acts-the sustaining acts of God in nature-any less miraculous. We are so bound in our thinking, however, by the doctrine of uniformitarianism that we have trouble believing that God may not so restrict Himself, or that if He does, it's in a broader way than we are able to comprehend. We assume only that He will be what He is-consistent with Himself-but this may not always seem consistent from our finite viewpoint.
I see then at least two possible conclusions that I can draw from Gen. 2:18-25. One is that it happened just exactly as it says it happened. This position demands no change in my views of Genesis 1 or of 2:7 as expressed above. Here I have detail which I accept; there the detail is lacking. If man evolved, the mutant that became man because of God's breathing into him the breath of life and endowing -him with powers far above other creatures would not by natural process have been likely to have had a mate available with these same endowments. Hence the need of "flesh of my flesh."
On the other hand, I can say that this is a beautifully poetic account of the birth of mankind-that "Adam" means not "a man" but "man, the species," and that "woman" is of the same nature and "flesh" as man. The distinction is here made to set the stage for chapter 3. God has acted marvelously in creation. He has given man all of His bounty culminated by an understanding of love in the love of man and wifeand still man sinned! Repugnant as this sort of interpretation is to me because of my background and training, I cannot deny the possibility of this sort of interpretation because this is the way I've been taught to interpret Revelation 2 and 3 for instance.
But must I choose? Must I say that it's an "eitheror"? Might it be a "both-and"? Or might there be but a dim picture of reality here-a picture so dim as to reflect little of what truly happened? Whom, indeed, did Cain marry? I conclude-I don't know! But I'll keep on washing, lest I throw out the baby with the bath.
I was at a conference last fall at which Davie Napier of Yale Divinity School spoke. He spoke on Genesis and pictured Genesis 1-11 as "mythological" in import. Not, he assured us, in the sense of "myth" as a fairy tale but rather as the essence of man's experience in prehistory-as he encountered God. It shows us, he said, the eternal plan of God in operation from the beginning of time-creation, An, grace, redemption. What more do you ask of the first chapters of Genesis-in essence?
As I read on, it seems that I have in my meanderings above taken care of both alternatives in paragraph 4, your second difficulty. You again pose the question in an "either . . . or" fashion, as if God had no hand in evolution. If this indeed was His creative process, could He not guide it to His ends?
The age of man is a real problem. Here, of course, lies the area which perhaps more than any other has brought us face to face with the irrefutability of some of the scientific claims-God's revelation in nature. Times were originally estimated from the sedimentary bed-fossil correlation. Geologists examining processes in action today and applying uniformitarian thinking to the interpretation of the geological sedimentary formations estimated the time necessary to lay down and consolidate these beds. Obviously a great margin of error must be allowed. But when, with carbon-14 and fluorine dating, their estimations are refined, but broadly confirmed, then we feel that we must account for this time in creation itself. In other words, our interpretation of this revelation is verified, sending us to re-examine our interpretation of other revelation at this point. As to the validity of Ussher's and others' exegeses, I cannot speak; for I am not critically acquainted with the facts or the methods. But I am left with the problem of accounting for human remains and artifacts which, by using various interverifying methods, show an antiquity far greater than 6,000 years. My alternatives? One, my methods, assuming uniform process through the ages, may be off because -of a fallacy in the basic assumption. This is a live question to be asked of most of our scientific conclusions in many fields. But when I have several independent methods of verification which complement each other, this becomes less likely-although there is still the possibility of the discontinuity affecting each line of evidence equally and thus obscuring the discrepancy.
Another alternative is that the remains and artifacts identified as human, are so only in the taxonomic, morphological, and archaeological sense, and do indeed represent something prior to the man of Genesis 2:7. That is, God's man, the God-conscious man, may have come long after the brute man was differentiated morphologically and even mentally-long after he learned the use of tools and fire, etc. Spiritually, men may he but 6,000 years old, but such a man is essentially undefinable by any presently recognized scientific terminology. Hence the matter of the age of such a man becomes one of faith (as indeed does any other view), but is not verifiable by present methods.
A third alternative is that there really is more time all-owed by the Biblical context than is obvious on first reading. Naturally when I see the need of more time, and some Biblical scholar says, "Sure, you may have more time," I tend to jump on his band wagon very quickly. But I still wonder whether he's given me more time because I demanded it, or because it's really there. The same question applies to the days of Genesis I or the universality of the Noahic flood. Just because one interpretation makes better sense to me than another right now, doesn't mean it's right, but as Ramm says about his "progressive creation." it is "that theory of the relationship of God's works and God's Holy Word which makes most sense to the author-and upon what other basis can he make up his mind?6 I'm not always sure I have to make up
my mind right now-but I tend, of course, toward that combination of views which seem most consistent and is hence most satisfying to me. (They're no less satisfying to me, incidently, if someone disagrees with me. He -may be able to show me a still more satisfying correlation-or I, him. But why should we fight about it? Particularly so when we both are working from thesame basic presupposition of Godthe Creator, Sustainer, Self-Reveater, and Redeemer.)
Let me note, before passing on, that though the antiquity of man becomes solidly established at ten or even one hundred times that allowed by Ussher, this in itself does not establish the fact of the evolution of man, either mechanistically or creatively. Time is one problem; change is another. With respect to change, we must ailso remember thatthere has been evolution within the species Homo sapiens since the time of Adam as is evidenced by the various races now living in various partsof the globe. But we still have notestablished. the limits of evolution-nor can we at the present time. Anthropologists are still pretty well agreed that theydo not as yet have a clear picture of the origin of man. There are numerous possibilities suggested, but no sequence of forms have yet been found -that come near being as complete or as correlated as that of the horse or of some other forms. The "missing link" is still missing here, and there is even disagreement as to what it might link man to, were it found.7
But what influencehas allthison our view of the Scriptures? What is the role of inspiration? At this point, I feel our basic philosophy of science and our basic theology as well as our personal relationship with Christ is most important. Our relationship with Christ transcends, it seems to me, both exegetical and scientific problems. In Jesus Christ we have found reality,and whatever other mistakes we make in our interpretation, He remains our solid fact! In the light of this knowledge, and by His grace, then, I feel that I can question some of my long-cherished interpretations of the Bible without being damned by doing so or being led astray by Satan in the process.
Certainly the idea of a lower and higher order of inspiration gives little satisfaction to our resolution of the problem-but what do we mean by inspiration, anyway? God certainly does not reveal Himself in falsehood, nor is He a God Of confusion. Hence I look for consistency in the Bible as I (to in truth wherever it is found. And with truth goes authority. I think I haveshown thatthere are alternative interpretations possible in Genesis without, in my Opinion, alterinZ the basic truth ~and authority of the Word. The New Testament commentaries which you quote
7. See Leakey, L. S. B. "From Taungo Skull to 'Nutcracker Man."' Illus. London News, Jan. 9, 1960. Recent finds in Africa of Zinjanthropus need to be carefully assessed in this light as some are proclaiming this form as the "missing link."
do not necessarily alter the basic alternatives but have their relevance in each framework. Some may not be as satisfying as others, to be sure, but to the person who holds to Adam as "man "Paul's "one man" would be to make-his point, not to vindicate Genesis, and would negate neither. But rather, inspired by the account in Genesis, the Spirit guides him to explain the effect of Christ's sacrifice. Again, the Adam-Eve sequence can be explained as spiritual. Whether this is true or a dodge is, of course, an academic question, for is it not the spiritual message which God seeks most to impart to us? Then why worry about what passages are to he interpreted literally and which figuratively. Look, rather, to God to reveal Himself more fully and most directly to you from each passage according to your need. Do I sound neo-orthodox here? I can't help it, because it seems to me that, practically speaking, the Bible is the Word of God to you as He uses it to reveal Himself to you. But the responsibility placed upon the Biblical scholar is not to "search out the eternal revelation of God from among the temporal encumbrances" but rather, as be studies, to have prayerful faith that God will make clear to him from His Word those eternal truths which he needs for this time. Let God be true and every man a liar-but let His truth be ours in Jesus Christ according to His will.
So without accepting your "ifs" categorically, I still find no problem in doing so academically without feeling that I must alter my basic view of the nature, authority, and inspiration of the Scriptures. To the man of faith, God is and whatsoever is of Him is truth. The scientist, philosopher, and theologian alike are seeking to learn more of this truth; and as they do, they learn of God. There can be no inherent conmonization possible?" you ask. Anything else is impossible. "How?" By faith, for it is here that the Christian must both begin and end. This is always the ultimate resolution of our "How?"
You are not the only one who was deeply disturbed at the apparent drift toward evolution at the Gordon meeting in 1957. On the other hand it has always been the policy of the A.S.A. to attempt to think through difficult problems in the general area of the subiect of science and the Bible. So it has been my T)olicv,not to be too disturbed by the approach of any individual papers on this subject of evolution. There are manv unsolved problems in the area, and I am sure that the A.S.A. will not bring forth a final solu-
I -have read your paper -over carefully and have done considerable thinking on it since that -reading. I have been attempting to find a mature Christian person in this vicinity with whom I might discuss your paper. I must say, as of now, I have not found such a person.
I certainly do agree with you that the Biblical account clearly implies man is a special creation of God: and furthermore, that thisclimaxes His creative work. Personally, I hold to the point of view that evolution does not have the answer here. However, we must reserve final judgmenton this point until we have more evidence.
Concerning the matter of the antiquity of man, I must say that I do not see any possible difficulty between the Biblical account andthe theory of evolution. Since the Biblical account itself skips as many as six generations when you compare -one genealogy with theother, I see no reason for not putting in some similar gaps in early genealogical tables~that is, before the time of Noah.
Concerning the two crucial "ifs"-first, T wonder whether scientifically we have the evidence to state that evolution is now a fully established scientific law which must be accepted. I realize thattbis is almost universally accepted in the scientific world, but it always struck me that we have a good illustration of the scientist exhibiting his faith in a law rather than in divine revelation. Now, of course, it is true that in science we must exercise a faith-otherwise we could make no headway. On the other hand, is it reasonable to assume that we should have more faith in scientific principles than in divine revelation? Your second "if" suggests that the acceptance of evolution can not be harmonized with the Biblical story. Now, of course, there are many who say that this is simply not so. This has been brought out in several A.S.A. discussions. So you see, as far as I am concerned, -this whole subject does not vitally effect my faith in, the Bible. Your suggestion that perhaps the early chapters of Genesis are of lower order -of inspiration than other parts of the Bible, of course, is firm4y rejected. by me. I assume that most of the members of the A. S.A. would agree with me on this point. Your other suggestion that the story of the creation was written in picturesque, figurative language and also that it was never meant to be taken literally is accepted by many Christians. I am quite sure that this is the attitude of a number of A.S.A. members. Here I agree with you that such a solution would seem to set a dangerous precedent of "explaining away" troublesome passages of Scripture. However, here again we must be very cautious and indeed
For this issue 1have again asked Dr. William W. Paul to take -the column. Dr. Paul is Professor of Philosophy at Shelton College. This last academic year he was visiting Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. He has submitted the following review article on the philosophy of science.
John G. Kemeny, whohas the distinction of being both a Professor of Philosophy and the Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Dartmouth College, gave to his recent text the title, A Philosopher Looks at Science (Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1959, 285 pp., $6.50). The work is especially fin~e in those sections devoted to the roleof mathematics and measurement in the sciences. Kemeny believes that mathematics, like philosophy, is not so much a distinctive subjec~t matter as it is a distinctive way of approaching experience. It is a most general branch of human knowledge which aims to provide the theoreti~al means for ordering all natural phenomena,. As Russell and Whitehead demonstrated fifty years ago. mathematics has its roots in the symbolic logic which defines the concepts and demonstrates the properties of that quantitative science. What the author succeeds in showing with admirable clarity is that the symbolism of pure mathematics and logic can be applied to ex-
quite charitable with those who take this point of view. We do realize that many parts of Scripture are quite figurative and it may be that this is another case.
Personally, I tend to takethe storyof the creation rather literally and I still am interested in attempting to correlate the Scripture passages and scientific facts and theory which may bear upon the same. One of our dangers in this area, of course, is that we tend to form final conclusions. We should realize that our interpretation of both scientific principles and of Scriptural passages must only be tentative.
Perhaps T have not helped you very much in your thinking, but I wish you to realize fully that I am deep,ly sympathetic with your point of view. I would be most happy if you could put together the various answers you get from different people and circulate them among your friends. Perhaps we could all be edified by such a procedure.
One will also find here a clear review of such topics as scientific methodology, the frequency concept of probability, confirmation theory, the idea of a hierarchy of laws, and the interplay between fact and theory in science. Noteworthy is the critique of P. W. Bridgman's theory, which equates each scientific concept with a set of operations defining its meaning. Kemeny feels that this is an impossible demand to carry out and that science has to be satisfied oftentimes with testing its theories through deducible predictions.
What then is science? Well, the method is the allimportant factor, and science, Kemeny seems to say, is that body of knowledge brought together by a hypothetico-experimental method. Kemeny apparently subscribes to the view that to have a "unified science" the social sciences, psychology, and biology must be increasingly "reduced" to chemistry and physics. The third part of the book, however, which deals with some of the problems raised by science in areas where life, mind, values, and society are vital, provides no real support for the reductionist thesis. A more pluralistic approach is certainly a live alternative. especially a pluralism which seeks unity in terms of the interactions between the dimensions of experienced reality rather than in terms of reduction. For the scientist who believes in a sovereign Creator, unity and continuity are fundamental presuppositions and expectations, and they are a iustification for the use of the principle of induction: but for the author the purposes of God, if there be any, have no bearing on science.Kemeny makes the striking suggestion that the
Without any supporting data Kemeny claims that the average practicing scientist is a materialist, a monist who considers "the mental to be an offshoot of the material world" (p. 219). It may be questioned
In keeping with the materialist approach is Kemeny's discussion of evolution. He sees "no religious danger in rejecting the scientific content of the Bi-ble" (p. 1%) because he fails to recognize that the moral and spiritual claim of the Bible cannot be easily dissociated from its factual credibility. He shares some common misconceptions about the account of creation: that it teaches that the "various sPecies were created independently of each other" (p. 197) and that it rules out completely the possibility of mut-a tions. I hope that Kemeny will noticehow these matters are frankly discussed in the book edited by Russell L. Mixter, Evolution and Christian. Thought Todav (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. 230 pp., $4.50). Kemeny himself recognizes that on a neoDarwinian theory alone it is difficult to allow for enough favorable mutations in 40,000 generations to account for the evolution of man in the last million years (p. 201).
He admits that there is no clear support for the theory that evolution shows qualitative direction due to the supposed advantage a given change brings to the species. This leads him to suggest that a Lamarckian type of environmental influence may be a necessary corollary to neo-Darwinianism in order to provide "direction" to what would otherwise be chance mutation. Whatever causes changes in chromosomes remains unknown, but apparently for Kemeny it remains unscientific to bring the continuous creative power of God anywhere intothe picture. In the light of the many uncertainties concerning what J. S. Huxlev calls the "machinery -of evolution" it might just be unscientfic to continue ignoring the Biblical presupposition.
In the last issue of this column the problem of approaching scientific colleagues and university students with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in language understandable to them was discussed. In this issue I would like to share with you one approach which I attempted during an evangelistic mission at the University of Alberta earlier this year. The original presentation was given during the noon hour in the medical building and consisted of about a thirtyminute talk advertised as "A Biochemist's View of Life" followed by a twenty-minute open discussion period. Only a bare outline of the talk can be given