Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 17 (September
Natural law and miracle coexist as different but complementary activities of God. The thread of miracle is inextricably woven throughout Christ's life.
Biblical creation activity (Genesis 1) resembled Christ's earthly miracles (Matthew 15:28) because immediate results followed spoken words. God's consistent use of miracle when establishing new works (e.g. Mosaic exodus, Apostolic church) is evidence for miraculous creation. Construction demands more intense , activity than does maintenance.
Scientific evidence points toward creation by miraculous means. Geochemistry still demonstrates the gross improbability of spontaneous generation. Genetic mutations are nearly all harmful. Only minor changes occur within the rich gene pools of original "kinds." Paleontology manifests multitudes of unfilled gaps. Evangelical Christianity holds the missing key to the origins problem-miracle (Isaiah 55:9).1. NATURAL LAW AND MIRACLES.
God has chosen to maintain the universe in a partly predictable fashion and at the same time man was endowed with the gift of prediction by means of the scientific method. Science is therefore man's realization of God's mandate to study the "natural laws" of the created universe, the laws by which God governs His handiwork. Concerning these cosmic laws, Colossians 1:17 says, ". . . and in him all things consist." God can likewise move miraculously, producing effects without any apparent natural causes. Such non-repeatable activity falls outside the domain of human inquiry because it cannot be subjected to laboratory analysis. Miracles are governed by direct spiritual causality which, by its very nature transcends all temporal "natural causality."
Natural law and miracle complement each other. Without God's natural law there could be no miracles. Alexander Bruce says that, "In the absence of fixed order, anything may happen, a centaur may turn up or a dead man come to life." (2 , p. 46) God's maintenance laws are a uniform background against which His miracles become recognizable. Far from conflicting with each other, natural law and miracles are Divine counterparts.
Many books and papers have been written attempting to establish some relationship between natural law and miracle. Presently it will suffice simply to recognize that both phenomena exist and that each is of God.
Miracles play an important role in God's economy. Miracles demonstrate that natural law is of God but not above God. As R. C. Trench says,
Did miracles serve no other purpose than this, namely to testify the liberty of God, and to affirm his will, which, however it habitually shows Itself In nature, is yet more than and above nature, were if only to break a link in the chain of cause and effect, which else we should come to regard as Itself God, as the iron chain of an inexorable necessity, binding heaven no less than earth, they would serve a great purpose, they would have not been wrought in vain. (12, p. 14) Bruce suggests that if God's activity is restricted to natural laws only, then, "The world is not only God's dwelling-place, but His prison;. . 9' (2, p. 21)
The thread of miracle is inextricably woven throughout the entire fabric of Scripture. Miracles have been used by God to draw attention to Himself and to seal new revelation. Working through early prophets, God caused fire to come from heaven, bears to destroy delinquent youths, a dead child to live, oil to continually flow from a vessel, and a fiery chariot to appear. God also chose to use miraculous means in bringing His son to earth. Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and returned bodily several days after His death and entombment. Not one of these propositions can be adequately explained in terms of God's
*Dr. Howe is Associate Professor of biology, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Presented at the Nineteenth Annual Convention of The American Scientific Affiliation, at John Brown University, August 27, 1964.
maintenance laws. Christ performed a host of beneficent miraculous deeds during His three-year ministry. Warfield says,
When our Lord came down to earth He drew heaven with Him. The signs which accompanied His ministry were but the trailing clouds of glory which He brought from heaven, which Is His home. The number of the miracles which He wrought may easily be underrated. It has been said that in effect He banished disease and death from Palestine for the three years of His ministry. If this is exaggeration It is pardonable exaggeration. Wherever He went, He brought a blessing:
One hem but of the garment that He wore Could medicine whole countries of their pain; One touch of that pale hand could life restore.
We ordinarily greatly underestimate His beneficent activity as He went about, as Luke says, doing good. (13, p. 3)
The following passages from Bruce shows that the entire supernatural framework of the Christian faith is closely tied to the miraculous elements in the Gospel: "Remove the miraculous elements from the Gospel and few people would doubt the existence of a wise, philanthropic Judean sage!" (2, p. 79)
Any philosophic system which eliminates either natural law or miracle as a phase of God's activity falls into immediate error. Mediaeval supernaturalism erred in attributing many natural phenomena to miraculous intervention. At the other extreme, some Christian apologists today attempt to relate all miracles to natural law or some unknown "higher natural laws." Such a view treats God's miracle-working power inadequately and is (in the words of Bruce) "an eclectic half-way naturalism." (2, p. 13)
The goal of origin studies is to discover what methods God used in creation. Did He employ extra-natural means to establish life, or did He rely upon the same natural laws that can be measured now? This question is the heart of a controversial issue. It would be fruitless for Christians in natural science to argue individual opinions about how God created. We must ask, rather, "What does God reveal about how He created?" An answer can be attempted by turning to the Word and to the world.11. MIRACLES AND CREATION IN SCRIPTURE.
An interesting parallel is seen between Christ's miracles and the Genesis 1 description of creation. Our Lord!s spoken words brought immediate resultant action, without any apparent natural mechanism. For example when He spoke a word of rebuke, winds ceased and waves settled (Matthew 8:26). The words, "be it done unto thee" were spoken and a Canaanitish woman's daughter was healed (Matthew 15-28). As recorded in Matthew 21:19, one sentence left the mouth of Jesus and a fig tree immediately withered. Three words spoken by Christ in John 11:43 brought dead Lazarus out of the tomb. ChrisVs earthly utterances led directly to events that He willed. Turning to Genesis 1, a striking similarity is seen. The phrase, "and God said," appears at least 9 times. Six of these 9 spoken commands were followed by the phrase, "and it was so." God spoke and it was so. Thus the record of creative activity parallels the New Testament miracles in which Jesus spoke and events transpired. The very language used by Moses breathes of supernatural working. There is no indication of a long, naturalistic, uniform development. Other Bible descriptions of creation also indicate that miraculous results followed creative words. Hebrews 11:3, "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear." The very name given to the creating God demonstrates creation's method. It is significant and appropriate that He is called the "Word" in John 1. One word is spoken and worlds appear. As more divine words are pronounced, plants sprout from the pristine earth. Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." The language of Psalm 33:6 might be relegated to "poetic figure" were it not for other records of God's miracles. A comparison of this passage with the creative miracles of Christ on earth shows that the Psalmist is simply describing the exact and unprecedented creation phenomenon. After mentioning stars, light, waters, angels, and the moon, the psalmist says, "Let them praise the name of Jehovah for he coinntanded and they were created." (Psalm 148:5)
New workings of God, such as the establishment of the Christian church in apostolic days, were frequently heralded by supernatural demonstrations. Creation again runs parallel since it too is a novel or new situation. It is therefore entirely in keeping with God's nature to create and establish the universe by miraculous means and then to maintain it by natural laws. Such a change of action is seen in the construction business. While assembling a skyscraper, tools such as the bull-dozer, pile-driver, hammer, and power saw are used. Once the structure is completed, however, routine maintenance requires a different set of tools and activities. The riveting of girders and the pouring of foundations are replaced by the swish of a mop or the turning of a screwdriver. Construction calls for a more intense activity than does maintenance. The use of miracles in creation is therefore indicated in Scripture, in keeping with God's nature, and in keeping with the nature of the task.
III. MIRACLES, CREATION, AND SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.
Natural science will never be able to repeat and test any of God's miraculous acts in systematic fashion. The only way to estimate the scientific likelihood of miracle in origins is to see if life appears to have been established by non-uniform means. Evidences from three broad scientific disciplines will be briefly reviewed. There are obviously more than three sciences that have direct bearing on origin studies but the three selected yield the most direct and relevant evidence.
A. Geochemistry. Much stir has accompanied the recent laboratory synthesis of amino acids, proteinoids, and other organic substances under supposedly "prebiologic" conditions. Zeal has sometimes triumphed over knowledge in evaluating the geochemical data. Results, which are actually meager, are sometimes exaggerated and arbitrarily welded to transformistic theory. The experiments fall far short of demonstrating spontaneous generation or "abiogenesis.1' Paul Zimmerman cites Mora's estimate of the laboratory data as follows:
These polymerizations are only exercises in synthetic organic chemistry. They use similar monomers, but they do not really resemble a self-perpetuating, coordinated process, and they do not lead to the synthesis of a living unit with the characteristic urge. They do not even produce functional polymers with a specific structure. (15, p. 15)
In two recent works, Zimmerman paints a realistic picture of the geochemical data (14) (15). These statements are not a depreciation of honest biochemical achievement but rather an appeal for a more scientific estimate of the actual accomplishments. The experimental. syntheses themselves should be greeted with interest by Christians in science. Such studies will help reveal how much of creation work God could have performed by natural means, had He so chosen. As more studies are completed it will be possible to estimate more clearly where God's possible natural component in creation ends and where the miraculous component may begin. By natural means it may be possible to construct some crude models of living systems. Such work would contribute basic information which could be used in the fight against disease and in the synthesis of food.
Yet even some of the compounds presently synthesized by natural means may have been established miraculously as components in created organisms. For example, weeks can be spent tending grape vines, picking the fruit, pressing the grapes, straining the mash, and finally producing wine. Christ did the same thing in an instant without appeal to natural means. In like fashion it is entirely possible that some of the molecules presently produced in laboratory syntheses were originally miraculously established.
Some geochemists argue that any reaction sequence which can be engineered in the laboratory will occur under natural conditions if enough time is available. The following illustration will demonstrate that such reasoning may be mathematically valid but scientifically meaningless. Cotton seed fibers can be harvested and spun to form thread. A weaver can then produce cloth on a loom. Skillful cutting and sewing will eventually yield human clothing. Thus by plan and purpose cotton fibers can be transformed into useful goods. But almost an infinite amount of time would pass before a "wash-and-wear" suit would arise from the cottonfield by chance. It is impressive that certain simple steps in the synthesis of protein and DNA have been accomplished in vitro within the multi-million dollar laboratories of state-sponsored universities and under the skilled guidance of Ph.D. biochemists. There is, however, no reason to believe that even such scanty steps would have occurred by chance in ages past within some supposed primordial brew. Concerning the argument for the "improbable becoming probable in time," Zimmerman cites Mora as stating,
Using such logic we can prove anything ... When in statistical processes the probability Is so low that for practical purposes indefinite time must elapse for the occurrence of an event statistical explanation is not helpful. (15, p. 215)
B. Genetics. If special, miraculous creation was indeed God's method, then genetic studies should reveal stability of genotypes and only minor variations within the created "kinds." Experimental genetics indeed demonstrates the existance of smoothly functioning groups that permit very little crossbreeding and only slight modifications.
First class genetic evidence for miracles in creation lies in the fact that nearly all mutations are somewhat harmful. In recent articles, William Tinkle (11) and Walter Lammerts (9) (10) have showed the inadequacy of mutation and selection as a system of origins. Because it rests upon minor gene changes as the final wellspring of variability, neo-Darwinian transformism, lacks a mechanism capable of producing the wide variety of well-adapted organisms. This problem was clearly seen by Richard Goldschmidt who took refuge in hypothetical "macromutations." Concerning the supposed role of micromutation and selection in producing the organisms of today, J. J. Duyvene de Wit has said,
As a result of mutation we may get alterations with respect to certain existing characters, for example in the number and size of hair bristles in Drosophila, but it appears that after a number of X-ray treated generations, the induced mutations pertaining to a selected character reach a limited ceiling beyond which no further change occurs. This has become clear from extensive Investigations by Scossiroli (1954). Moreover, and this Is of crucial Importance, mutations, and even series of directed mutations, never gave rise to the appearance of essentially new characters of generic magnitlude. From this, it clearly appears that mutational changes remain structurally restricted to the basic genotype to which the race or species in question belongs. In other words, transformation of a given basic genotype into another one as a result of a series of one-directional mutations cannot be produced experimentally. (5, p. 9)
In another unpublished review, Duyvene' de Wit concludes that selection and speciation do not yield richer gene pools and higher forms of life, but lead rather to genetic death through depauperization of existing gene pools:
Natural selection acting upon the genomes of these genotypes decreases the amount of recombinational genic material contained in the gene pools of successive genetically related populations, ultimately leading to genetic death (as a result of genic exhaustion) of the end terms of the lineage or phylum as testified by the paleontological record. (6, p. 15)
C. Paleontology. Fossils yield the most direct evidence regarding origins. My recent review of paleobotanical evidence demonstrates that many of the major plant groups have appeared in the rock layers with no hint of any evolutionary ancestry (7). This evidence is a predictive consequence of a creationistic origins model but fits evolution theory only after considerable embarrassment, afterthought, and rationalization. Even scientists outside the ASA (who make no open claims of establishing a theistic science) recognize the overwhelming fossil evidence for creation. E. J. H. Corner of Cambridge University Botany School writes,
Much evidence can be adduced in favour of the theory of evolution-from biology, blo-geography and palaeontology, but I still think that to the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favour of special creation. (4, p. 97)
Concerning supposed taxonomic evidence for evolution, Corner continues by stating that,
If however, another explanation could be found for this hierarchy of classification, it would be the knell of the theory of evolution. Can you imagine how an orchid, a duckweed, and a palm have come from the same ancestry, and have we any evidence for this assumption? The evolutionist must be prepared with an answer, but I think that most would break down before an inquisition. (4, p. 97)
Seward (author of a four-volume classic in fossil botany) believed that the plant kingdom shows, 11 .
not progressive development but persistence of types and the sudden appearance of new types." (14, p. 31) The same non-integration and good evidence for extensive polyphylogeny is apparent in the record of the animal world as reviewed by Kerkut (8), Duyven6 de Wit (5) (6), and Berg (1).
Duyvene' de Wit shows (5, pp. 4-6) how human paleontology demonstrates a gap of over 40 million years between the presupposed ancestor of the oldest known fossil men and the most human-like animal primate that could be considered his nearest cousin from the transformist point of view. Thus even if uniformitarian geological assumptions are granted, man stands alone, separated biologically from the animal kingdom by a vast paleontological gulf. The gulf which separates him culturally from the animal world has been clearly presented by James Buswell 111 (3).
In the light of direct scientific evidence, special miraculous creation appears not only possible, but quite probable.
In conclusion, any creation philosophy which underrates the possibility of miracles is basically irrational for Christians. The admission of but one extra-natural act in Jehovah's dealing with mankind opens the door to considering hosts of supernatural deeds during creation week. There is ample evidence in both science and Scripture to grant miraculous creative action. All totally uniformitarian schemes of origin omit one essential item. The evangelical Christian in theoretical science holds the missing key to the origins problemmiracle. Two final Scripture passages demonstrate that God's activities are definitely beyond our scrutiny. Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Romans 11:33-36 (Williams translation):
How fathomless the depths of God's resources, wisdom, and knowledge! How unsearchable His decisions, and how mysterious His methods! For who has ever understood the thoughts of the Lord, or has ever been His adviser? Or who has ever advanced God anything to have Him pay back? For from Him everything comes, through Him everything lives, and for Him everything exists. Glory to Him forever! Amen.CONCLUSION:
1. Berg, L. S., Nomogenesis, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1926.
2. Bruce, Alexander B., The Miraculous Element in The Gospels, A. C. Armstrong & Son, New York, 1897.
3. Buswell, James 0. 111, "The Origin of Man, and The BioCultural Gap," JASA 13(2):47-55, June, 1961.
4. Corner, E. J. H. "Evolution" in Contemporary Botanical Thought, (Edited by Anna M. MacLeod and L. S. Cobley), Quadrangle Books, Chicago, 1961.
5. Duyvene de Wit, J. J., "The Paleontological Record and The Origin of Man, " Unpublished paper based on an address given to the Scientific Society of the University of the Orange Free State; August 28, 1963.6. "Explanatory Supplement to The Paleontological Record and the Origin of Man," Unpublished paper,
7. Howe, George F., "Paleobotanical Evidences for a Philisophy of Creationism," Creation Research Society Annual, 24-29, 1964. 8. Kerkut, G. A., Implications of Evolution, Pergamon Press, New York, 1960.
9. Lammerts, Walter E., "Neutron-Induced Variation of Roses," JASA 13(l):2-6, 1961.10. "Growing Doubts: is Evolutionary Theory
12. Trench, R.C., Notes on The Miracles of Our Lord, Reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1951.
13. Warfield, Benjamin B., Miracles: Yesterday and Today, True and False, Reprinted by Wrn. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1953.
14. Zimmerman, Paul A., (Editor and author of one chapter) Darwin, Evolution, and Creation, (Chapter by Wilbert Rusch also quoted) Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, Missouri, 1959.15. "The Spontaneous Generation of Life," Creation Research Society Annual, 13-17, 1964.