Science in Christian Perspective

News and Views

Science & Faith in Norway

Inge Frette*
Oslo, Norway

From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 50:4 (December 1998): 240.

I have followed the discussion about the relationship between science and Christianity in the U.S.A. through PSCF, ASA's newsletter, and the ASA e-mail discussion group. I have found this interesting since it shows strong geographical differences. Issues that are very important among evangelicals in the U.S.A. may hardly be addressed in Norway. The situation in Norway is very peaceful compared with the situation in the USA.

The church situation in Norway is different from what you have in the USA. We have a confessional Lutheran state churchóChurch of Norway (CN)ówhere 85% of the Norwegian population are members. Thus we have an official religionóLutheran- ism. But we also have many free churches of other denominations. I would guess that 10% of all Norwegians would define themselves as evangelicals, split 50ñ50 between CN and the free churches.

Almost all Norwegian children go to public schools. There are few private schools, and almost no one is home schooled. Since we have an official religion, all children in the schools take obligatory classes in Christianity every year. The relationship between creation and evolution is not presented as a conflict. I cannot see how a public school committed to both Christianity and science can do that. My point here is simply to stress that we have not had any heated debates caused by law suits regarding the teaching of evolution in the schools.

When it comes to the view of the relationship between the Bible and science, evangelical theologians in Norway differ from many of their friends in the USA. For example, among evangelical biblical scholars in CN, the full inerrancy of the Bible has never been defended. The infallibility of the Bible is limited to doctrinal and ethical matters. The historical critical methods are also extensively used. No evangelical student preparing for the ministry in CN learns to take the first chapters of Genesis to be very literal. The Fall will still be defended, I think. When it comes to apologetics, there has been no tradition in CN for the evidentialism that has been so widespread in the USA in this century. That the truth of Christianity depends on there being no conflict between all the verses in the Bible and science is quite foreign in CN. Things may be different at the seminaries of the free churches. But these seminaries are very small, and I am not sure whether serious research is going on among the teachers there.

There are still many Christians that are skeptical about the theory of evolution, not because they think the theory conflicts with the Bible, but mainly because they think there is not enough evidence for it. I do not know any people that are young earth Christians, but I have been told that there are some in the free churches and even among people in Christian organizations affiliated with CN. These people are probably laypeople with no training in science or theology. I really doubt one will find any young earth Christians in Norway with a graduate degree in the natural sciences or theology. As a student at the University of Oslo some years back, I got to know many Christian biology students involved in InterVarsity student work. Each was a strongly committed theistic evolutionist.

Some weeks ago, the major Norwegian Christian newspaper published a two-page article written by another Norwegian ASA member. The article criticized the young-earth Christian position. No response from a young earth Christian has occurred yet, which confirms my suspicion that there are not any academics among them.

I know of only one organization in Norway which deals with the relationship between science and theology. This organization focuses on questions in ethics and philosophy of science, but its main focus is to attack the theory of evolution and to defend creationism. The members, however, are old earth Christians.

Although there are many Christian professors in the natural sciences at the universities, they show very little interest in working constructively with the relationship between their science and theology. John Polkinghorne, in contrast, has done so quite well. I do not know why, but maybe the borders between the different disciplines are too difficult to cross here in Norway.


*ASA Member