Science in Christian Perspective
Putting Things in Perspective
Wilbur L Bullock, Editor
From: PSCF 38 (June 1986): 65.
In July 1985 the annual meeting of the ASA was a historic conference held jointly with our brothers and sisters of the Research Scientists Christian Fellowship. For four days we met at Oxford University in plenary and parallel sessions, as well as in the dining hall and walking around Oxford. We discussed biblical and scientific truth, science as servant and manipulator, and science as a social phenomenon. It was an exciting and mind-expanding time as we shared, on an international basis, the challenges of scientific advances and our concerns for their moral and ethical use. One hopes that groundwork was laid for future cooperation as we face the global problems of the closing years of the twentieth century, problems that cry out for a Christian perspective and for Christian action.
In view of the anticipated increase in the number of papers submitted to the journal as the result of this conference, we are expanding both the June and September issues by fifty percent. The present issue includes two of the key-note addresses from the Oxford meeting. Donald MacKay, of the University of Keele, sets forth the basic priorities with which we as Christians and scientists need to be concerned. We "are commanded, not merely permitted, to 'subdue the earth... (Gen. 1:28). However, we are to do this as God's fellow-workers, and we are especially to do whatever we can "to alleviate the lot of our fellow man." As we seek to apply technology in the years ahead we need to have humility and compassion and to recognize that as mere mortals we will make mistakes, a result not only of our sin but also of our creaturely inadequacies. MacKay set the stage for much of the conference with this paper. At the closing session he summed up what bad gone on and that summation will appear in our September issue.
Walter Thorson emphasizes the importance of realism in relation to the basic response of the reverence that we need to have toward God. He analyzes the recent advances in several areas of science in the light of the recognition of two levels of thinking: "alpha thinking --about things, and "beta thinking"-about thinking itself. This can be pretty heady stuff, but certainly the spectacular advances in scientific knowledge have raised many questions that challenge simplistic reductionism and positivism, questions that can lead to a greater appreciation of and reverence for the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture and Creation. It can also lead into a morass of pantheistic mysticism that, as Christians, we believe is just another form of paganism.
Not presented at the Oxford conference, and, indeed, submitted to the editorial process of our journal well before last July, are several papers on a variety of subjects. David Aycock discusses some of the Christian objections to high technology. While, as MacKay reminds us, "science-bashing" is not limited to Christians, Aycock describes some of the recent alarmist views of technology from extreme conservative sources. We must address the real ethical dilemmas of technology, but we must not forget that investigating and using God's creation is a biblically mandated process.
Laurence Walker analyzes another dimension of human relationships with our God-given environment from the perspective of a resource manager. We need to admit that there have been those who have used the Scriptures to justify reckless and ruthless exploitation. However, natural "resources are to be used, and not abused, to provide for the needs of people. " We need to appreciate the biblical description of human nature 11 which leads all men to exploit," and then seek to be responsible stewards.
T. M. Moore presents a model for a Christian approach to science. His model emphasizes the important interactions among theological science, natural science, and human science. While models and diagrams can sometimes oversimplify or sometimes confuse, they can also provide the basis for further discussion and investigation. Moore describes for us an interesting model and compares it with what he considers to be less desirable alternatives.
Harold Nebelsick gives us an overview-largely of a well organized and readable historic nature-of what the theory of relativity and quantum physics has done to our understanding of the world around us. Certainly there has been an increased awareness of the need for a better relationship between theology and science, a relationship that can help them to "mutally modify and complement one another." In the first Communication Jim Neidhardt (a physicist) comments on theologian Nebelsick's fine contribution and reaffirms the basic concepts.
Other Communications bring us back to the old problem of evolution. George Murphy and Fred Van Dyke respond to each other's widely different views on theistic evolution as presented by them in the March issue. To add still another dimension to the controversy, David Siemens presents the case for the "days" of Genesis 1 as days of revelation to Moses. At a time when the evangelical community is being overwhelmed by a distorted history, theology, and science-that vigorously proclaims that only a literal six-day, recent creation has any claim to being truly biblical, it is important to emphasize that the views of Murphy, Van Dyke, and Siemens (and numerous other conflicting views) have long been held by Christians with a firm commitment to Jesus Christ and to the Scriptures as God's infallible word. In the ASA journal we will continue to welcome a variety of views on this subject in addition to other problem areas which people are wrestling within an evangelical framework. We welcome your participation through regular papers, short communications and letters. Of course we have to do some editing to help one another clarify and strengthen our presentations, but I hope we will always do this in a way which honors our Lord by "speaking the truth in love."