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Science and Scripture: What do we do with conflict? Michael Goheen Trinity Western University.

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Presentation on theme: "Science and Scripture: What do we do with conflict? Michael Goheen Trinity Western University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Science and Scripture: What do we do with conflict? Michael Goheen Trinity Western University

2 Situation Secularised science uncovered evidence challenged long standing traditions in church Highly charged, polemical atmosphere Charges and counter-charges

3 Equally authoritative Now no one has, or can have, any objections against the facts which geology brings to light. Those facts are just as much the words of God as the content of Holy Writ and are therefore to be accepted in faith by everyone (Herman Bavinck).

4 Scientific and scriptural interpretation But a very strict distinction must be made between those facts and the exegesis of them which geologists propose. The phenomena which the earth exhibits is one thing, but the combinations of hypotheses and conclusions which the investigators of the earth base on them are something different......Scripture and theology have nothing to fear from the facts which have been written by the almighty hand of God. Conflict arises only because the text of both the book of Scripture and that of nature is often read and understood so badly. -Herman Bavinck

5 Conflict between interpretations ScienceTraditional interpretation CreationScripture

6 He sets the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved (Ps. 104:5). O sun, stand still... so the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12f.). The earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises (Eccl. 1:4f.).

7 Learning from the Copernican fiasco He sets the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved (Ps. 104:5). O sun, stand still... so the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12f.). The earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises (Eccl. 1:4f.).

8 People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whosoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system which of all systems, of course, is the best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but Sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth. -Martin Luther

9 The Copernican theory undoubtedly contained a challenge for the Catholic theology. But instead of accepting the challenge and reflecting on faith in a new perspective, the Church opted for an easy conservatism, keeping the enemy at bay by means of its anathemas. This failure to accept the challenge of a new world picture was a great loss to the Church and to Christianity. -Max Wildiers

10 Two non-negotiables Affirmations central to Christian faith That God created the world by His word Adam and Eve were historical persons

11 Three interpretive questions open for debate: Age of the Earth Young earth advocates: 6,000-10,000 years old Old earth advocates: 4 billion years old

12 Three interpretive questions open for debate: Days in Genesis hour days Most natural way to read the text Interpretation throughout much of church history Divine pattern basis for human pattern Much longer periods of time Scientific evidence demands longer period Unique ‘time’ (No sun; Creation and creating days)

13 Three interpretive questions open for debate: Days: Chronological or Literary? Chronological 6-24 hour days or long periods of time Literary Do believe events took place But Genesis 1 not video taped account of how it took place Historical act of creation narrated in highly literary way

14 Solutions to conflict Conflict between interpretations Secular scientific interpretation of creational evidence Traditional interpretation of Genesis 1 Three major paths toward solution to conflict

15 Positions opting only for traditional interpretation of Genesis 1 Creation science most influential Young earth, 6-24 hour days Genesis 1 describes how God created Form own scientific community to work in science according to these presuppositions

16 Brief evaluation Appreciation: Take Bible seriously Exposed many problems with evolutionary science Concerns Strident rigidity—not only position faithful Set up conflict as Bible vs. science; creation vs. evolution

17 Positions opting solely for secular science Liberal and neo-orthodox theologies that: Place Genesis 1 in values category—account of Israel’s religious experience Mythical account with relevance for believers Positions do not do justice to God’s act of creation and content of Genesis 1

18 Positions that attempt to take Genesis 1 and scientific evidence seriously Theistic evolution Accepts secular science’s picture of evolution Believe God works through this process Concerns: Difficulty in maintaining vital distinction between creation and fall Difficulty in finding place for Adam Problems with evolutionary theory today

19 Positions that attempt to take Genesis 1 and scientific evidence seriously Concordism Assumption: Genesis 1 and science offer scientific picture of world’s origins Attempt to harmonize the two Gap theory Day-age theory Concerns Gap theory highly speculative—dead today Day age: odd amalgam of scientific origins and Genesis 1

20 Positions that attempt to take Genesis 1 and scientific evidence seriously Progressive Creationism Similar to theistic evolution Evolution is micro-evolution God steps in to create new species Concerns Similar ones to theistic evolution and concordism Deistic

21 Positions that attempt to take Genesis 1 and scientific evidence seriously Framework hypothesis Genesis 1 not video-tape account of creating work of God Highly literary rendering of God’s creating activity Literary structure for other reasons than chronology or description Real ‘historical’ events lie behind text

22 Some tentative conclusions Evolutionary theory is damaging to church’s life especially as it assumes the status of full-blown worldview When the response of creation science becomes rigid and strident (and sometimes simplistic) it doesn’t help the situation

23 Some tentative conclusions Framework hypothesis and young earth /6 day-24 hour positions are defensible Concerns about each of them Willing to live with uncertainty Enormous worldview/doctrinal content of Genesis 1 more important Need for Christian love and on-going discussion

24 Some tentative conclusions Ongoing dialogue that remains aware of two dangers: Absorption of Scripture into scientistic worldview (Scripture must remain final authority!) Establishing our interpretations as what Scripture ‘clearly’ or ‘obviously’ teaches (Copernican fiasco—be warned!)


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