Science in Christian Perspective
Putting Things in Perspective
Wilbur Bullock, Editor
From: PSCF 38 (September 1986): 153.
As we announced in June, this is the second of two expanded issues of the journal. Now for September all of the major papers and one communication were originally given at the 1985 Oxford meeting with our friends of the Research Scientists Christian Fellowship. More of these papers will appear in December.
Dick Bube analyzes five approaches to the relationship between science and theology: theology-first, science-first, conflict, compartmentalization, and complementarity (science and theology say different things about the same things). He concludes that only complementarity allows for significant integration of the two sources of knowledge. I have recently been reading Andrew White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom with its emphasis on conflict and science-first. In the light of that, Dick's approach is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Howard Van Till, author of the recently released The Fourth Day (Eerdmans, 1986), discusses in detail the controversy surrounding "creation-science" and its all too ready acceptance of a rapidly shrinking sun as evidence of a young earth. The more recent discovery of an 80-year oscillation should be a warning that too hasty commitment to a claim of science which appears to prove our pet theory damages "the credibility of the Christian witness to a scientifically knowledgeable world." I am reminded of the astute observation of Harold Nebelsick in our June 1986 journal: "Since science is on the move, should theology marry it today, theology might well be widowed tomorrow."
Charles Hummel, author of The Galileo Connection (IVP, 1986), gives us a key chapter from that significant book. In this paper Charlie emphasizes that biblical interpretation "must deal with three elements: historical context, literary genre and textual content." His emphasis on the importance of all three elements is in healthy contrast to the tendency of many Christians to manipulate textual content and/or science to devise simple theories. All too often we tend to assume that God gave His written word with only the twentieth century western world in mind. How can we, who believe that God's grace is for all peoples, be so arrogantly provincial?
On a very different subject, David Moberg discusses the problems and the promise of scientific studies of spiritual phenomena. To those of us who sometimes feel uncomfortable with investigators' biases, reductionism, and abuse in the "hard sciences," it may be a bit disconcerting to read about things like "Spiritual Distress Scale" and "Religious Life Scales." However, such scales are being formulated by sociologists, and they need to be carefully evaluated by Christian social scientists.Our last major Oxford paper in this issue is Donald MacKay's excellent Summing Up. I trust that this overview of the Oxford Conference will be meaningful to our readers who were unable to attend. Donald gives the real flavor of the meetings as he summarizes the major problem areas that were confronted, and he does this in his own inimitable way. "We are ... not lap dogs, but sheep dogs. We are not pampered pets ... we are commissioned agents." All Christians need to appreciate the "Comaraderie of Christian Fellowship" and to remember continually that "it is not an optional duty to help one another to be good, careful, fair, and honest thinkers in the sight of the God who is always over us, with us, in us, and who is disgraced if we are sloppy in our logical standards."
Among the Communications in this issue are Jack Haas's timely discussion of "Integrity in Science." We, both as Christians and as scientists, need to be careful that we are honest in our teaching, our research, and our writing. Raymond Frey reminds us that much of the disagreement and confusion in the creation/evolution debate is because of the inability and the unwillingness to accurately define our terms. Bruce Nilson discusses some of the basic differences between ChristiaDity and humanism in science and in western thought. We continue our historical series by Raymond Seeger with a look at the life and religious inclinations of John Dalton.