Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Modem Adventists Contest Numbers' Article
R. H. Brown 
Geoscience Research Institute 
Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104

Reprinted from Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 6840 Eastern Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20012

From: JASA 27 (September 1975): 143.

The article by Ronald L. Numbers that appears in the March 1975 issue of the Journal ASA contains many helpful insights and much valuable historical data. It is unfortunate that the service Numbers has performed for his readers is not presented in a balanced context or from an accurate perspective.

To substantiate these statements I am enclosing a xeroxed copy of the statement on science and religion that appears in the Seventh-day Adventist Encylopedia that was published nearly ten years ago. This statement, you will note, is prepared from a historical perspective. (Selections chosen from this xerox copy by the Editor follow.)

"If by science is meant organized knowledge about the material universe; and if by religion is meant organized knowledge about the Designer and Creator of the universe and about His will concerning the relationships of moral beings with one another and with their Maker, and the practice of these principles, there is no reason for conflicts between science and religion. Truth, whether scientific or spiritual, whether measurable or beyond the scope of direct human observation and testing, is consistent with itself in all its manifestations. SDA's often refer to these concepts as "true science" and "true religion.

"SDA's recognize the validity of proved scientific principles and data, and believe that an understanding of the natural world contributes, in turn, to a better understanding of the Creator and of His will for man. They consider that nature, in its perfect state, is an expression of the divine character, mind, and will, and that the natural world, tightly understood, is in complete harmony with the revelation of the divine character, mind, and will set forth in Scripture. Verifiable science and scriptural truth are always in perfect accord . ..........

"Science cannot proceed otherwise than from hypotheses, from inferences, which, after evaluation and testing, are retained, modified, or replaced. The best that can be hoped for is a high percentage of verifiable knowledge, verifiable as to its usefulness if not its ultimate truth. This method has resulted in phenomenal material progress. The spectacular success as achieved by science has tended to arouse in laymen unwarranted confidence in even the most tenuous theories proposed in the name of science.

"The study of religion is likewise subject to certain human limitations. Because of these limitations the study of the written Word is fraught with possibilities of error comparable with those encountered in a study of the natural world. The unfortunate conflict that has arisen in recent times between the study of science and religion is not the result of inherent irreconcilability between revealed truth and scientific truth. The apostle Paul said, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; ... now I know in part" (1 Cor. 13:12). It is not surprising, then, that since human limitations are present in the study of both science and religion, misunderstanding and conflict should sometimes exist.

"While unhesitatingly endorsing the established principles of science and the value of scientific truth, SDA writers have always opposed any hypothesis that seemed to be at variance with the revealed truth of Scripture. Their attitude has been one of caution either in the acceptance of new interpretations of scientific findings that might at first appear to contradict principles set forth in the Bible, or in the abandoning of earlier interpretations of the Bible in the light of clearly established scientific truths.

"In fields as broad and complex as the sciences on one hand and theology on the other, it would be too much to expect that in the dialogue between the disciplines there would not be some mistaken and unfair charges on both sides. A theologian endeavoring to answer allegations that the "facts of science" disprove the Scriptures may not always fully discriminate between verifiable facts and the speculative conclusions drawn from them, and may for a time oppose both. Sometimes, also, conflict arose from interpretations of Scripture which fuller study showed to be invalid (e.g., the rigid fixity of species versus limited change within basic groups).

"From the first, SDA authors have opposed all theories that construe the days of Creation week as long geologic ages, and also theories that presume to account for the complex higher organisms by evolution from simple ancestors, which in turn were supposed to have originated by spontaneous generation."