Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Response by J. 0. Buswell, III
In answer to Mr. Seely's letter I should like to
express a few thoughts regarding a distinction between
Warfield's position and attitude toward the Bible and
his position and attitude toward the science of his day.
Warfield's "true position" with reference to the science of his day indeed might have been as Mr. Seely ably describes. He could very well have had a "psychological conviction" that the remote antiquity of man was only held by "speculative theorizers." Thus his statements on the interpretation of the geneologies could have been "cavalierly made" - cavalierly regarding the science of his day, but not regarding the interpretation of Scripture.
Warfield's thesis, as I tried to show, is not in the realm of prehistory nor does it rest upon any particular realm of prehistory nor does it rest upon any particular scientific position or period. It is a thesis in exegesis. It is this thesis which stands today, self consistent and authoritative, independent of the vacillations or progress of science. Warfield's position is the more independently authoritative in this regard precisely due to his recognized stature in other areas of theology. No one can note his writings on apologetics, Christology, and systematic theology and his treatment of canonicity, the trinity, atonement, revelation, and inspiration in the major corpus of his works and be aware of their place in the heritage of today's conservative Christian thought without realizing that his paper "On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race" was not merely based 'upon arguments "in the abstract." There is absolutely no reason to believe that Warfield's considerations of Adam, creation, genealogies, et al were not thoroughly integrated into his system of theology, in "fundamentalist" terms at that time, completely without compromise.
As I indicated before, quoting him serves to identify us with the orthodox doctrinal position in all of these areas. I quote his interpretation of the Bible, not his leanings toward one interpretation or another of fossil man which he considered of "no theological significance." I quote him, as I stated, "As one of the most conspicuous and able defenders of Bible inerrancy."
The only alternative, and the one which Mr. Seely indicates that he has chosen, eliminates the discontinuity in the unity of the race by sticking to a "pre conceived interpretation of another body of data", namely, the entire extent of the existence of Palaeolithic man. I do not dismiss this position merely because it is preconceived. I accept it as one alternative pat tern of interpretation and fully recognize its particular resolution of the central problem. But anyone adopting this position must be prepared to offer with it an al ternative interpretation of Palaeolithic man without doing violence to a considerable body of interrelated evidence. *
Warfield's position is of value, then, not "as justifi cation for dating Adam before 20,000 B C" which rests on other grounds; rather the value lies in the fact that whatever antiquity we find for man, it does not conflict with an orthodox position on inspiration.
May I enter another plea? If critics of Christian
anthropologists wish to take the argument from there, it would be most helpful to take it to our conservative
theologian colleagues and really come to grips with the issues at the level of the established canons of
*Buswell, J. 0., III, "Adam and Neolithic Man," ETERNITY, Vol. 18, No. 2, (February, 1967).
James 0. Buswell, III
Associate Editor, Journal ot the American Scientitic Atftliation