Science in Christian Perspective



H. Harold Hartzler

This is a letter in reply to the paper by Cowperthwaite on page 12.-Editor.

From: JASA 12 (September 1960):

Thank you very much for your fine letter of February 1 -together with the enclosure, "Some Implications of Evolution for A.S.A." Please do not feel that I am ever so busy that I could not be bothered with your problems. I am much concerned over the problem which you present, namely that of the attitude of the A.S.A. toward the subject of evolution.

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 subject of science and the Bible. So it has been my policy not to be too disturbed by the approach of any individual papers on this subject of evolution. There are many unsolved problems in the area, and I am sure that the A.S.A. will not bring forth a final solution. Rather, we should do as we have been doing in the past-investigate possible solutions. However, we do need to keep in mind that we accept the inspiration and divine authority of the Scriptures. The problem, of course, boils down to this: "What is our interpretation of any given passage?"

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 this climaxes His creative work. Personally, I hold to the point of view that evolution does not have the answer here. However, we must reserve final judgement 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 and the theory of evolution. Since the Biblical account itself skips as many as six generations when you compare -one genealogy with the other, 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 that is 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 firmly 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 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 take the story of 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 I have not helped you very much in your thinking, but I wish you to realize fully that I am deeply 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.

Yours in Christian service, 
  Harold T Hartzler, President ASA Council