Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

In Defense of Schaeffer
Stan Wineland 
Assistant Prof. of Physics Director
Newhard Planetarium 
Findlay College Findlay, Ohio

From: JASA 26 (September 1974): 132.

With all due respect to your testimony as a Christian and your labors in the scientific community, I must take issue with your review of Francis Sehaeffer's books in the September 1973 Journal ASA.

It is unclear to me whether or not you are supporting the charges of shallowness against Schaeffer. But if you are, must it not be concluded by the same criteria that God's judgments and evaluations of the human race are also shallow? The scriptural record repeatedly overlooks those activities of mankind that at first glance we might take to be important and even crucial in history. Instead, the written revelation gives us detailed views of seemingly minor incidents and personages which are later shown to be an integral part of the grand motif of creation. Sehaeffer's contribution to the Christian community (in my mind, at least) is his ability to discern those issues and developments that are truly basic in importance from a spiritual perspective.

Criticism of Sehaeffer for basing his discussion of the ideas of Francis Crick and B. F. Skinner on reports in the New York Times, Newsweek, etc. is wholly unwarranted. Schaeffer is not making a technical evaluation of the research of these scientists. He is analyzing their personal views and philosophies which would not (hopefully) he found in the basic scientific sources.

The ridicule of Sehaeffer's concern over Crick's statement about astrology is a sad testimony to how much we learn from the past. Only a generation ago, students and distinguished scientists alike were dismissed (at the very least) from universities simply because of their raeioreligious background. The current circumstances of Sakharov, Yakir and Solzheoitsyn in the Soviet Union are a grim example of the point Sehaeffer is making in connection with Crick's statement. Further examples of the legitimacy of Sehaeffer's concern over the implications of such statements made in the context of a purely mechanistic Weftan.sehaoong could be drawn from almost every part of the world.

You charge Sehaeffer with espousing a kind of determinism not very different from that of Skinner, Crick, et al, hot I fail to see how God's loving "determinism" as described in Romans 8:28-29, the first and second chapters of Ephesians, I Peter 1:3-5, etc., etc. is remotely related to the determinism of the above school.

The issue of "improving" the human brain seems to me to be vastly different from that of correcting a physical injury or disease. A man with a transplanted or artificial organ is still a man, hot the very essence of a person can be modified or destroyed through manipulation of his brain. I have personally experienced something of this in the course of treatment following a stroke, and I can only describe it as utterly frightening. When a person's brain circuits can he skillfully tampered with, the outcome may well be murder (in the scriptural sense) even though the physical body remains functional and even useful to society. If I read Schaeffer correctly, he is not opposed to learning more about the brain, hot rather is concerned that Christians be very much aware of the moral implications and consequences of such work and that they he able to articulate these to the world in the context of the Gospel.

The end of your review strikes me as being a defense of science in the spirit of Schaeffer's "modern" modem scientist. From a modest background in physics and astronomy, as well as the Scriptures, I would argue that the only basis for ruling out the possibility of fiat creation or a gap cosmogony is the assumption of uniformity of cause in a closed system. I am well aware of the cosmological and geochronological data presently at hand and the implications of these data under the current scientific postulates. But I am completely unaware of any hard scientific evidence that compels me to dismiss once and for all the possibility of a literal interpretation of the first three chapters of Genesis. The Christian experience has given me a decided respect for the claims and literal accuracy of Scripture. Seeming errors and contradictions have in the past been found to be the result of faulty understanding or wrong assumptions on my part. In light of such experience, I am becoming more and more persuaded that the choice of epistemologies is ultimately a moral decision.

Erich Saner began his book The Dawn of World Re demption with these words: "Blessed are the inquirers who inquire not concerning the Eternal, but for the Eternal." This statement is, I feel, an appropriate measure for religio-scientific writing especially. The Spirit bears witness to the validity of Schaeffer's works because they proclaim a Person instead of a philosophy and because they encourage us to a closer walk with our Lord.