the Bible provide us with same information which is more reliable than any
information which is provided by science? It is often held that the doctrine of
Biblical infallibility implies that the answer to this question is
"yes." Conservative theologians, however, often restrict the doctrine of
infallibility to the
autographs of the Biblical books. I argue in this paper that if this limitation
is accepted then the answer to the initial question is "no." The
reliability of the science of textual criticism places a limit upon the
reliability of any
information now derivable from the Bible. A corollary is that (if the limitation
is accepted) no direct conflict can arise between a Biblical doctrine and
an alleged scientific result. Any conflict must take the form of
the Bible plus some
scientific result against another scientific result.
Christians who are scientists, and Christians who are interested in scientific results, are often concerned with the relation between such results and the teaching of the Bible. References to the doctrine of Biblical infallibility are often introduced into discussions of these relations, and often a contrast is drawn between science and the Bible on just this basis. It is generally taken for granted that scientific results are established. with varying degrees of probability or reliability, but that in no case do scientific procedures guarantee infallibility. No scientific result, then, attains the very highest possible degree of reliability. The doctrine of Biblical infallibility, however, is said to guarantee that, upon some subjects, the Bible provides us with a source of information which does attain the highest possible degree of reliability. Since the certainty of this information exceeds that of any possible scientifically achieved result the optimum procedure in case of conflict seems to be fixed. It is said that a person who accepts the doctrine and who also is convinced that some scientific result is incompatible with a Biblical teaching must retain the Biblical teaching and reject the scientific result as being somehow erroneous. Another way of putting this is to say that some questions are closed be-
*George I. Mavrodes is in the department of philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
cause we have the Biblical answers to them. Since they are closed infallibly no possible scientific evidence could be sufficient to re-open them. And persons who are inclined to re-open them under the pressure of some scientific results are therefore often suspected of having rejected the doctrine of Biblical infallibility. In this paper I want to examine and evaluate the cogency of this line of argument.
I will not, however, cover the whole field of the relations of science and the Bible, nor even all aspects of the doctrine of infallibility. It may be helpful here if I specify further some of the things I will not do.(a) I will not discuss whether the Bible is infallible.
(b) I will not discuss any particular case of real or alleged conflict between science and the Bible.
(c) I will not discuss the problems of hermeneutics, either in general or in particular. Nothing that I say will depend upon the way in which we interpret any part of the Bible.
(d) I will not discuss all the possible ways in which a doctrine of Biblical infallibility might be formulated. I restrict myself here to a consideration of only one such formulation, but it is a very common and influential one.
We may begin by specifying the formulation of the doctrine of infallibility which is to be considered. It is one which asserts that the whole Bible is infallible (and hence without error) in the original manuscripts.' The phrase I have emphasized is of crucial importance.
Current copies of the Bible have been derived from the original manuscripts by a long process of copying, so that our present written texts are the distant descendants, as it were, of those original manuscripts. In addition, the versions of the Bible which are available to most of us also had to pass through a process of translation from the original Greek or Hebrew into our own language. It is often said that God has exercised a special providence over this process of the transmission and translation of this book from ancient times to the present. It is not, however, generally held that this providence is something of the same sort as the original inspiration which attended the first writing of each Biblical book. In particular, the providence of God is not said to have conferred infallibility upon this process. And in fact it is rather commonly recognized that transmission errors of various sorts have been introduced into the manuscripts which we now possess. The doctrine under consideration, then, does not ascribe infallibility to any currently available copy of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version or the Codex Vaticanus. It ascribes this infallibility to the original manuscripts only. This is the only version of the doctrine which I will examine here.2 In order to keep this restriction before our minds I will refer to it as the doctrine of "A-infallibility."3
It is usually claimed, of course, that while our present versions of the Bible are not exact replicas of the original manuscripts, yet they are so close as to be almost identical. 'Me differences between the original text and the ones upon which we now rely are so slight that for almost any practical purpose they can be ignored. This claim may well be true, and it is relevant to our discussion. But to see just what. its relevance is we must first see what happens if we try to do without it.
Suppose that we now return to the line of argument which we wish to evaluate. When a conflict arises between some Biblical doctrine "D" and some scientific result "S," then this line of argument can be formalizedas folloWS:4
Now, there is a way of interpreting this argument so that it is valid. From PI and P2 it follows that D is true. From this and P4, along with the logical rule that no two true statements are incompatible, the conclusion follows. P3, in fact, does not need to enter into the deduction. Whatever sort of support S has is irrelevant. If P1, P2, and P4 are true, then S is false. And a person who accepts the premises of this argument will be inconsistent unless be rejects S.
Despite its validity, however, this line of argument has a crucial weak point. And this weakness centers around P2 and its relation to P1. In order for the argument to be valid it is necessary for us to derive "D is true" from PI and P2. But PI ascribes infallibility only to the original manuscripts of the Bible. If the derivation is to be valid, therefore, the phrase "the Bible" in P2 must also be taken to refer to the original manuscripts. If it were understood as referring to some copy of the Bible which I might buy in a book store it would have no point of connection with PI, and hence the derivation would be invalid. For P1 refers to original manuscripts only, and not to current copies.
It is, of course, perfectly possible to construe P2 in the required way, i.e., to construe it as a claim about what was contained in the original text of some Biblical book. If it is read in this way, however, a serious question arises about how anyone could now know that a statement of the form of P2 was true. If we understood it as a claim about what was contained in presently available texts we could determine its truth by securing such a text and reading it for ourselves. But P2 is not about such a text but rather about one which is now unavailable. It is about what was written in the original manuscript.
just at this point, of course, we will no doubt be told that the present text is a reliable indicator of the original text. We cannot now read the autographs, but by reading what we do have we can come as close as makes no matter to knowing just what was in these autographs. So there is a way of coming to know statements like P2 after all.
Now, so far as I know this claim about the correspondence between the autographs and the present versions may very well be true. Since it appears to be essential to the argument let us incorporate it explicitly into the set of premises. We can do so by removing P2 and replacing it with
P2* Doctrine D is taught in some currently available version of the Bible.We can then add a new premise
P5 That currently available version is an accurate indicator of the content of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
This seems to dissolve the difficulties. From P2* and P5 we can derive P2 (or something like it). And then the argument proceeds validly as before. P5, however, introduces a new problem of its own. Though it may well be true, it is not itself a Biblical doctrine nor a principle of logic. It is, rather, a scientific result. It is a conclusion to which many textual scholars have come by applying the methods of their science to the available materials. In saying this I do not mean to disparage it. I only mean to call attention to its nature. It is a human judgment, made upon the basis of available data and presumably in accordance with some principles which specify the way in which such data is to be evaluated. It is fundamentally the same sort of judgment as that made by a physicist, historian, or biologist, though of course both the data and the specific principles of evaluation are different.
When we realize this, however, we will also realize that we can construct another argument which parallels the one which we have been considering.PI The Bible is A-infallible.
P2* Doctrine D is taught in some currently available version of the Bible.P4 D and S are incompatible.
P6 S is true. (This is the contradictory of the previous conclusion.)
C2 Therefore, that currently available version is not an accurate indicator of the content of the original manuscripts of the Bible. (This is the contradictory of P5.)
This argument, like the preceding, uses and depends upon the doctrine of A-infallibility. Each argument includes as a premise a proposition which has only scientific support (but these premises differ in the two arguments). The conclusion of each argument is the negation of some proposition which may have had scientific support (and again these propositions differ in the two arguments). And finally, this new argument is just as valid as the preceding one.
We cannot, therefore, choose between these arguments on the basis of logic. Nor can we choose on the basis of the doctrine of A-infallibility, for they both use this doctrine equally. We cannot choose between them on the basis of their use of scientfic results as premises, since again they make equal use of such results. And yet the arguments are incompatible. Since each one denies a premise used by the other we cannot consistently accept them both.How then can we make a choice between them?
If we reject PI, P2*, or P4 we will have to reject both arguments, since these premises are common to both of them. If we are to reject one and retain the other, then, we must make a choice between the two remaining premises, P5 and P6. But it is essential to realize that in doing so we are not choosing for or against the A-infallibility of the Bible. For both P5 and P6 are purely scientific results, having whatever measure of fallibility and uncertainty properly attaches to such results.
Another way of putting this point is as follows. If a man accepts the doctrine of A-infallibility and if he believes that his copy of the Bible accurately reflects the Biblical autographs, then he has a reason for rejecting a scientifically supported result which is incompatible with what he learns from his Bible. But equally, if he accepts A-infallibility and if he believes some scientifically established proposition, then he has good reason for rejecting the reliability of his copy of the Bible where it is in conflict with that scientific result. In neither case is it simply the Bible against science. In both cases, rather, it is the autographs plus one science against another science. I suppose, therefore, that a person who holds and acts upon the doctrine of A-infallibility will make this choice in accordance with the degree to which he is convinced by these two sciences in any particular case. Whichever one of them has the weaker hold on his belief will lose, and so will the corresponding argument. In neither case is it necessary for him to doubt in any way the doctrine of A-infallibility.
It seems, then, that we are justified in drawing the following conclusions.
(1) It is a mistake to suppose that A-infallibility closes any question in the sense of making available an answer which is impervious to scientific attack. For A-infallibility provides us with no answers at all until it is combined with the results of textual science.
(2) It is a mistake to suppose that A-infallibility implies that we are provided with information which has a higher degree of reliability than any that is provided by science. This would be a mistake even if we limited ourselves to matters of pure theology. Every piece of information which we can now obtain in reliance upon the A-infallibility of the Bible depends upon a scientific judgment as to the extent to which our present texts reflect the content of the autographs. A-infallibility does not free us from dependence upon science in any realm at all. It has, rather, just the opposite result. To whatever extent we rely upon infallibility we must also rely to that same extent upon a difficult science.6 If we accept the doctrine of A-infallibility, then, we must expose ourselves, in theology as well as in other matters, to whatever fallibility and uncertainty such a reliance upon science involves.NOTES
recent and contemporary theologians explicitly restrict the doctrine of
infallibility to the original manuscripts, or else they restrict the doctrine of
Biblical inspiration (upon which that of infallibility is generally based) in
the same way. See, for example, W. H. Griffith Thomas, "Inspiration," Bibliotheca
Sacra, Vol. 118, No. 469 (Jan.March, 1961), P. 43; James M.
Gray, "The Inspiration of the Bible," in The Fundamentals (Bible
Institute of Los Angeles, 1917) Vol. 2, p. 12; J. Gresham Machen, The
Christian Faith in the Modern World (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1947.
Copyright 1936), pp. 38-39; Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of
Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949. First published 1860),
p. 66; Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas Seminary
Press, 1947) Vol. I, p. 71; Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (Wm.
B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957), P. 14; Edward J. Young, Thy Word is
Truth (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957), p. 55. Many modem
"statements of faith" contain the same sort of restriction.
2. Other versions of the doctrine of infallibility might not,
of course, have the same consequences as this one.
3. Where the "A" stands for "autographs."
4. Where "P" refers to premises, and "C" to a conclusion.
5. There are, of course, many cases in which an apparent incompatibility is not genuine. But I am assuming here that we are faced with a true case of incompatibility.
6. Indeed, most of us must reply upon second-hand reports of the results of that science.
In the September, 1966, issue of the journal of the A.S.A. was reproduced the speech in praise of Teilhard de Chardin given by Professor Robert J. O'Connell, S. J. at the 1965 convention of the A.S.A. The present writer was apparently the first and so far the only person to criticize it. Being invited to comment here, I would like to say the following.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Roman Catholic priest and a scientist. His fame is the result of his theological and philosophical views rather than from his scientific work. His theological beliefs were so heretical that the Catholic Church forbade him to publish during his lifetime and removed him from his teaebing position. However, within ten years of his death Catholic spokesmen were praising him and
As a boy Teilhard collected nails and other pieces of metal to worship as idols. Despair overwhelmed him when he discovered that his idols rusted, and he searched for more durable idols. As an adult he confessed that his entire spiritual life seemed to him to be a development of this childhood belief.
The essence of his mature theology is that everything started as inanimate matter at a point which he calls Alpha and all things - all men, animals, and inanimate objects-are converging toward a point which
Evolution is the heart of Teilhard's philosophy. He said, "Evolution is the central condition to which all theories, all systems must bow, and which they must satisfy if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is the light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow." In an essay he described Christ as a presence radiating evolution. He concluded, "It gives me great strength to know that the whole effort of evolution is reducible to the justification and development of the love of God.~
Teilhard was fond of saying that "a synthesis of the Christian's 'God-up-above' and the Marxist 'Godup-ahead' is the only God whom we can worship today 'in spirit and in truth."' The Communists have been preparing a translation of Teilhard's philosophy, which is to have a preface by the author of a book called God is Dead. Professor O'Connell told the A.S.A. members that "in Europe both Christians and Marxists find his thought the most hopeful thought this century offers between what once seemed their irreducibly opposing views." To the convened members of the A.S.A. Professor O'Connell hailed Teilhard as "the prophet of the 20th century."
It is amazing that an admirer of Teilhard would be invited to speak about him at an A.S.A. convention. It would seem that anyone who had signed the statement of faith of the A.S.A. and who had subscribed to the stated purpose of the organization would not tolerate a speech such as the one which was presented. But apparently nobody raised any question at all. The speech may very well have been followed by applause -it would be interesting to know if this was so.
If members of the A.S.A. were questioned about this, the reply most frequently given would no doubt be to the effect that this sort of thing is culturally
broadening and it is desirable to learn more about such matters. This sounds good, but when it is presented favorably, some people are brainwashed instead of enlightened.
A person would react quickly if he heard something slanderous said about his family, but it has become fashionable to be "broadminded" about attacks upon Bible-centered Christian faith. This ought not so to be. Bible-believing Christians ought to know that we are engaged in a real warfare which is far from academic. In this warfare the "broadmindedness"is one-sided. The enemy is not broadminded. Let me cite just one example. In the December 5, 1958, issue of Science there is an article in which the author earnestly exhorts teachers to scrupulously avoid all telelogical implications in dealing with their classes. He goes so far as to say that the teacher should not say that hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water; he should say that they combine and (not to) form water, because the word to might convey an implication of purpose. This sounds like satire, but he is completely serious. He says that this is not quibbling. Students must not be given any opportunity to think in terms of purpose. He wams against the use of the term natural law, because some students might conclude that if there is such a thing as natural law there might be a Law Giver (God), and that would be very undesirable.
Teilhard is used by the enemies of the Christian faith; Teilhard is of no use to the Bible-believing Christian. Bible-believing Christians ought not to let themselves be caught in the pseudo-intellectual rush to board the Teilhard bandwagon. The eternal welfare of souls is at stake.
CONTINUITIES IN CULTURAL EVOLUTION, By Margaret Mead. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1964. 471 pp. $2.95 paper. $8.50 cloth.
This book is a collection of dissimilar ideas strung together under the above title. Although, in general, the book shows little evidence of continuity, some individual chapters are very good. Others express old ideas in a new setting. The book could have been written with less verbiage and more content: with fewer Meadian impressions and more empirical data; and by less of her staff and more of herself.
Certain areas in the book are relevant to the ASA particularly her concept of cultural evolution which
As the setting of this book, it must be kept in mind that earlier theorists considered people outside of western culture as living proofs of the "fall of man", degenerates, a result of an original sin. Others thought in terms of a Golden Age of man, a perfect society, then… fall. In either view non-western man was living in
… state or stage of degeneracy. Many of the words which are in use today, in describing non-western peoples, are remnants and echoes of this past: savage, heathen, barbarian, primitive and even civilizedl Man was classified in various steps or stages of evolution
The concept of general evolution (in culture), "deals with classes of representative forms arranged in levels according to the criterion of thermodynamic advances with a series of relatect structural criteria." (p. 328). In the reviewer's opinion this view is: 1) too deterministic, echoing the necessity of stages and steps in the older monolinear model, and 2) it represents a new form of technological monism, that is, the mechanics and measurement of change is material in nature, viz, the atom bomb and moon shots are the highest norms of cultural attainmentl One notes that culture change and evolution are not synonomous any more than change and progress are synonomous. We have merely assumed and then learned that they were. How many of us believe it? Neo-evolution in culture does not seem to be new even in its most general form.
Mead goes to some length (chapt. 10) to discuss the problem of man's participation in the evolutionary process or genetic-psychological manipulation. Unfortunately her attitude is completely negative saying, for instance ". . . that it will be possible by the propagation of the test tube to create a dozen Churchills to fill the needs of a dozen politicians." (p. 237). Her point is well-taken when she states:" Neither from those who dream of, gaining power by genetic manipulation, by the manipulation of behavioristic psychology, or ~by the use of a set of precisely operative drugs ... do we obtain an image of the future that is capable of inspiring the man of today to become an active and responsible participant in the world of tomorrow." (p. 240). It would have been more to her credit if
Mead is critical in her attitude of the physical scientists as their work relates to the future of mankind. It is a warnig expressed in pessimism; a point of no return: "Having evolved the means of destroying all mankind and not having as yet the mechanism through which a sufficient section of mankind can be saved to insure genetic and cultural continuity, mankind exists precariousness." (p. 242). "Having come so far, can we make the next (cultural) invention in time?" With this note she closes her book. I would add only to this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit sayeth the Lord."
2. Anderson. E. "The Control of Man's Genetic Future". Paper read at the ASA meeting, North Park College, Chicago, 111. August 22, 1966.
Reviewed by George R. Horner, Head, Department ot Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work. Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, Massachusetts.
Dealing with topics including the origin of life, embryology, vestigial organs, blood groups, similarities and interrelationships among living things, distribution, classification, geology, and the origin of man, this book's main thrust appears to be that the evolutionists are beset with problems; therefore a creation position is the more logical. The author stresses that intricacy and interrelationships in nature are problematical for evolutionary interpretation and so they are evidence for creative design. Concluding the book is a creation poem by Vera Jameson, a classification of plants and animals, list of rock strata, glossary, reference list, index of proper names, and subject index. The classification and glossary may be helpful to some readers, but there are significant omissions and errors (e.g. Phylum Annelida and its classes are missing from the classification list, and in the glossary coelenterates wrongly are called sponges).
The author condemns evolutionists without representing them adequately. Such statements as, "This must have the up-to-date evolutionist very confused, I am sure" (p. 83), drastically weaken the authenticity of arguments presented; and this type of statement betrays a lack of understanding of the ways modem evolutionists do handle the data and their problems. A very striking example is the chapter on "Blood Groups" which is deplorably out of date, for the author quotes Dewar who pointed out certain "absurdities" in the data published by Nuttall some 60 years ago. For several decades serologists have known why there are apparent errors in some of Nuttall's results.
Most evangelical Christian biologists will agree with Shute's conviction that nature clearly reveals only limited changes among organisms and that there is considerable evidence for creation. Many also welcome literature which lucidly exhibits the hypothetical quality of much in evolutionary doctrine. In dealing with these themes Dr. Shute has performed a valuable service, but the broad coverage of the work seems to have limited its depth in many areas. Dr. Shute, a surgeon, humbly and honestly admits his lack of competence, but in spite of this be wrote the book without enough reference to authorities (including Christians) in the various disciplines. The bibliography is deficient in pertinent literature by Christian men of science such as Klotz, Marsh, and Rusch. The serious student of evolution and those capable of distinguishing the good from the questionable in the book may not feel comfortable with it, and those incapable of such discrimination could be led into acceptance of erroneous facts and concepts. Hopefully on the other hand, the book not only may encourage some readers seriously to question and reevaluate current popular evolutionary ideas but may also reimpress them that nature is the Creator's handiwork.
The book consists of three lectures delivered at the Study Conferences of the ARSS, Summer of 1966, which are part of an attempt to provide Biblical direction for students in a number of academic disciplines.
In the first lecture, "Background, Roots and Content," Dr. van der Laan states as his objective in his lectures: to search for the Way of Life in the sciences, to discuss contemporary appreciation and interpretation of science, and to challenge the materialistic worldand-life view. He starts by posing and answering three "ultimate" questions: (1) What is the Origin of all things? Jehovah God, through the power of His creative Word; (2) What provides cohesive interrelatedness of all aspects of human experience? The fact that all aspects of reality are bound together in a coherent, modally ordered structure which unfolds itself subject to the Law set by the Creator; (3) What gives meaning to each individual part and the totality of Creation? God's sovereign requirement that we love and serve Him and our fellow man with our whole heart,
which is possible only in Christ Jesus the Savior. He then defines culture as part of the created world order, as man's response to his calling, the outcome of his responsible initiative. The "sphere universality" of the natural aspects of creation shows the unity of its order. The possibility of knowledge is founded in God's revelation that we were created, that we are called to disclose this creation, and that we are equipped by God to fulfill this task.
In the second lecture, "Scientific Inquiry, its Philosophical Dependence and its Aims," the author shows the close relation between philosophy and science; the, scope of philosophy is the total, coherent experience of the temporal world order. The Christian uses the Bible as his focal point from which to examine critically the interpretation of the fundamental results of science. He shows how Humanism depreciates "integral" knowledge of everyday life, and how it sets up a dualism between the scientifically informed elite and the masses whose experience is largely "bare of meaning." The Christian view is that our full experiential life is the foundation and necessary condition for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Science is not the tool which gives meaning to everyday experience, but it may enrich that experience, and show new opportunities to the scientist. The aim of scientific inquiry is to gain knowledge of the structural laws of the created world, each of which governs an iffeducible functionable mode in man's experiential spectrum.
The third lecture, "A Closer Look at Physics," deals with the mandate that Christians, too, must engage in physical science. They will not arrive at a separate science, but will conflict with the unbeliever in the interpretations of fundamental theories and in the formulation of basic working hypotheses. In science the antithesis shows up in subtle assumptions, bold extrapolations, unwarranted priorities, and comprehensive conclusions. There is no part of science that is not related to the scientist's faith, and interpretation of his work is unavoidable. Our knowledge is incomplete, fragmentary, and not free from error, but it is rooted in the creation order which guarantees the meaningful coherence of our integral experience, and thus also forms the foundation for our scholarly work. In experiments the psychic and analytic functions of man come to the fore, but they remain aspects of the total structure and are always directed by the heart, which must be committed to Christ the Lord.
This book, as a Christian, scholarly approach to the natural sciences, well deserves reading and studying, and may be used as a stepping stone to a more articulately Christian participation in the natural sciences and to a clearer definition of the Christian's work in these disciplines. We may well take up the author's challenge to the world-wide community of Christian scholars to work and build together in the confident expectation of the regime of Him who even now sustains the universe by His Word of power.