Science in Christian Perspective



Christian Thought Today-
On The 0rigin in of Species*


From: JASA 13 (June 1961):

I find myself this morning in a more accustomed role-a role I'm more at home in-that of a heckler.

*Prepared from notes of introductory statement made during panel discussion on "Origins and Christian Thought Today"at Wheaton College, February 18, 1961.

(Let me say in passing that some have objected to my use of the term "heckler" on previous occasions. In my use of the term I connote nothing evil, no criticism. I think this is the way we stimulate thinking-at least it's the way I'm stimulated. So
when I use the word, I mean "thought provoking.") Yesterday I had a chance to establish the positive side of what we know about the origin of species and last night a positive approach to a Christian philosophy of science. I don't think I need to expand this morning upon this aspect. Rather I would like to. ask some questions-questions which I feel we as Christians must approach and deal with positively in our consideration of evolution-or admit we don't have enough data to answer and indicate that we are withholding judgment.

1. Speciation can be seen in action-in Drosophila, the fruit fly in both the lab and in nature, in moths around smoky cities in the British Isles, in frogs, in herring, gulls, etc. What are its limits? Some are content to point out that changes are only at the species level or at the family category at the most. Is this really true, or is our data simply too limited by virtue of time restrictions? But even if it is so at present, what are the implications? Does it not indicate at least that this is one of God's methods of creation? Might it be the only one?

2. Is a time difference necessary between creating and sustaining? Some hold (e.g., Tinkle, J. Arn. Sci. Affil. 13:15-17, 1961) that God's creative work is finished-that He is now in His seventh day of rest. Is this what the Scripture really teaches? If so, then speciation cannot be held to be creation.

3. In understanding the first chapter of Genesis, what of the sequence problem? If we hold to the creative days being a period of geological time, then we have particular trouble explaining the sequence of events on days 3 and 4. To review, the creation sequence briefly is as follows:

Day I -Light
Day 11 -Firmament
Day III -Earth, and plants (including Angiosperms - "seed bearing")
Day IV -Sun, moon, and stars
Day V -Aquatic life and
Day VI -Cattle, creeping things, beasts, and man

It can be seen that plants, including the most complex forms were created before the sun. To be sure there was light on the first day-but what was its source? How strong was it? And in a heliocentric solar system, what of the earth before the sun? On day five, compared with the fossil record, how do birds fit before "creeping things" for instance? I do not mean to indicate, let me emphasize, by asking these questions that they are unanswerable. Nor do I mean to throw doubt on the Scriptural account. I simply mean that these are questions which have to be faced and handled in a sound and scholarly manner. Let me say again, as I did yesterday, that I am not questioning the authority of the Scripture, nor that God is speaking in it-our question is "Just what is God really saying"-but I'm getting ahead of myself!

4. In understanding the fossil record, what of the sequence problem, particularly in the vertebrates? In the Cambrian, the first fossil-bearing beds of any significance as far as number of organisms are concerned, are found representatives of all the major phyla-except chordates! Then briefly the sequence in time shows fish being the earliest vertebrates found, later amphibians, still later reptiles, and then (although there is some discussion just when) mammals and then birds. And the earliest birds have teeth and tail vertebrae-like a feathered lizard's tail. Some more recent birds had teeth but no tail vertebrae, while modern birds have no teeth and no tail vertebrae. Why this sequence of creation or how did it come about? To be sure we have trouble affixing ancestory, particularly for classes as in mammals-but we do have the sequence to explain.

It should be recognized also that there are many problems inherent in our present methods of dating and of assigning and defining taxonomic categories.

5. Natural processes, as we pointed out last night, are God's processes, hence in a manner of speaking "supernatural." Is the miracle of birth (and of the life that follows) any less miraculous than the second birth? Does God not use His own methods? I'm more and more impressed by the wonder-working hand of God in all things-why pick out only the rare occurrences to give Him the glory? And because these occurrences are rare does not necessitate a different method of operation or sustaining-simply a point of time occurrence and perhaps a speeding up or acceleration of process. In other words, I expect the wine at Cana was alcoholic, and that it could have been chemically analyzed as such-and because molecules of water changed so that there were molecules of alcohol-God working with this material-His creation-to achieve His ends. Is this not the daily course of things as well?

I've always promised myself that I would work up an opening lecture in zoology in which when I discussed biology as the study of life, I would include eternal life in the consideration. I haven't yet figured just how to do it well, but I think it illustrates the point.

6. Let me reiterate what we said last night. The Bible reveals God. The universe reveals God. Each can be used to interpret the other. They cannot, as far as I can see, be contradictory. This use of creation to interpret Scripture, does not question the authority of the revelation-simply the authority of the interpretation, for example Scofield's much-used'notes. These are often very helpful, but they are not Scripture, and they do not deserve being accorded the reverence, authority, or infallibility of the Word itself. God speaks in the Bible. God speaks in nature. What is He saying?

7. Someone else has mentioned Carl Henry. In writing on this subject several places, Carl has said that to be a Creationist one must believe in three principles,

a. Creation in divinely graded stages of living organisms
b. Creation by fiat command
c. Creation ex nihilo-out of nothing (Henry,
Christianity Today 2 [23]: 20-22, 1958)

1 suppose I must go along with the first in the light of what I've been saying. If there are levels or stages-categories of living organisms-and there are-then certainly God did it.

But I do not see at present the necessity of "fiat command" in the sense that "Let there be" demands instantaneous, point of time appearance. Can it not possibly mean "Let there become"? This is a question to be answered from the context and connotation of the original language to be sure. Does this really restrict the connotation to "fiat"?

Nor do I see the necessity for ex nihilo. This seems a problem perhaps in logic, or as Dr. Buswell points out in realms of theology in which I am not versed. It has seemed to me that God possibly created out of Himself. Col. 1:17. God the Almighty, All Powerful-is a God of all energy. Might e = MC2 be a creative formula?

Here I need the Hebrew scholar and the theologian to point out to me where I'm off base and this I think is the advantage of symposia such as this one. Might I suggest further that in the light of these discussions, the next step might be (and it might logically be sponsored by Wheaton) to get together a smaller group of authorities by invitation, to sit down together in a retreat situation, for two or three days or more, toss these ideas back and forth, come to such understanding as is possible at present and summarize their findings for publication and hence wider and more extended discussion. Missouri Lutherans have been using this technique effectively, I believe-for example, "What, Then, Is Man" by Paul Meehl, et al. (Concordia, 1958).

Well, that's enough of a heckle for now-but seriously I feel these are all questions which have to be faced if we are to demand the ear of a thinking world.