Loren Wilkinson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Regent College is a man long associated with integrating the realms of scientific and religious understanding. Furthermore, he is a poet farmer, a significant upgrade (in my book) on Plato’s notion of a philosopher king! He has truly influenced many throughout his numerous years as a teacher. If you are at all confused, intrigued, or passionate about the integration of faith and science, you must read these essays/lectures that can be found in the resources section of this site. There are not many who can seamlessly integrate Aristotle, fine ‘religious’ liqueur, scattering x-rays and Savoyard cheeses! Let these titles tickle your fancy…
It was with astonishment and shared grief that I processed the news of the resignation of our beloved colleague, Professor Bruce Waltke from his post at Reformed Theological Seminary over the issue of his belief in creation by evolution. Astonishment because this is surely not a creedal issue, and such an action violates the preservation of Christian unity and catholicity which is grounded in matters of confessional orthodoxy, and which flounders when matters of a relatively secondary nature are inappropriately elevated. The creedal matter here is that God created the universe and humans, and the secondary matter is how He may have done so. If it may be countered that the inspiration and authority of Scripture is at stake in affirming the evolutionary creation option for the how of creation, surely RTS must have recognized Bruce’s consistently high commitment to this foundational matter (indeed, Bruce even speaks of ‘inerrancy’). And surely we must insist that Scripture is only authoritative as properly interpreted. It is more than ironic that B.B. Warfield, a hero of the Reformed tradition, whose seminal work in the area of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, was, amongst others in this tradition, an evolutionary creationist, and found nothing in Genesis 1 and 2 properly interpreted that contradicted this. Perhaps RTS, to be consistent, should remove readings in Warfield from their courses in bibliology.
Our own majority view on this Cosmos project is that Genesis 1 and 2, as interpreted in light of its literary genre and in light of its ancient near eastern context, is about theology and not chronology. As such it permits a harmonization with the best theory true science can offer for the way in which our cosmos and humans came into being. Do we insist as a faculty at Regent that all must hold to this to teach here? This would be to exalt a non-confessional issue as a ground for unity in a manner that mitigates against the apostolic appeal for unity which is based on foundational, Trinitarian essentials (Ephesians 4:4-6). Despite the fact that I as a pastor may think evolutionary creation is a better viewpoint than literal 6-day creationism, or Intelligent Design, because it best fits with Scripture and because it best fits with true science, I would not stoop to making this a defining point of fellowship in my church, and I will affirm a doctrine of creation and its pervasive implications for the life and mission of the church, whilst encouraging open and loving dialogue on the matter of origins.
Why does this action by RTS evoke grief? First because it suggests to me that we have not learnt anything from the sad episodes in the history of the church where science was presumed to be in conflict with the Bible (the refusal of the Catholic Church to accept the discovery of Copernicus that the earth was not the centre of the solar system and the excommunication of Galileo for believing this – Bruce is at least in good company!) I am sad secondly because it is yet another example of the penchant for division and fractionation amongst Protestants. It works against the unity over which Jesus agonized in prayer in John 17, not only because the unity of the church was a sacrament of Trinitarian unity, but because He saw this as a vital missional matter. We Evangelicals tend to labour so much over styles of church and techniques for being missional and miss the fact that the most crucial element of the church’s missional power is its unity. I am sad because a seminary which is representative of the Protestant church has once again given it reason to divide over a non-essential. I suspect that the Board at RTS was motivated by pressure of a financial kind related to the popular view of creationism of the conservative Christian populus of the South. What causes me grief about that, in addition to the indignity inflicted on a godly, spiritual scholar to whom I owe a great debt, is that higher matters of the catholicity and mission of the Church at large were neglected. And lastly, at a very missional level, the longer we as the church keep denying science and don’t properly read God’s two books, the longer we will keep stumbling intelligent people from coming into the kingdom by insisting they must adhere to a certain view of the origin of the cosmos.
Central to the understanding of those involved in this website is the notion that there is plenty of room for both science and faith to flourish in the life of an individual and in the life of society. What is more to difficult to state succinctly is how these two areas interact with each other and relate to each other. We believe all truth is God’s truth, so that anything that becomes reasonably certain as evidenced by rigorous science will not somehow undo our faith. It may, however, cause us to rehearse again what it is we actually believe about a thing, and to check if that meaning is required of us. The classic example is the creation of the earth in particular, and the universe(s) in general, and how we hold the reading of Genesis. We use our reason, history, and tradition to exegete the Biblical text and also to interpret it for our faith’s understanding. And as Christians, we do so under the authority of Scripture, the counsel of the Spirit, and the recognition of our own finite and fallen nature.
This sort of generous scholarship and patient wisdom is sometimes hard to find among those who publish popular material, whether it be for the avid scientist or the avid Christian. The fact that there are many Christians who hold to an orthodox understanding of the faith, and who also accept evolution as the best explanation for the process of creation, is rarely voiced in the media. The extreme views are seen as the norm by many.
However, if we look a bit more closely at some of the popular offerings on TV and the web, there is plenty of room for conversation. The US public television network, PBS, has a series “Closer to Truth.” The show (with episodes available on-line at www.pbs.org) examines how theology, faith and science interact in the lives of many prominent scientists. It is a great conversation starter and worth watching for its wide-ranging commentary.
Two recent blogs by New Scientist (linked below) reached across to the land of religion. The editor noted that it is “time to accept that atheism, not god, is odd.” (March 3, “Where Do Atheists Come From?”) The social scientists wonder if religious belief is somehow hardwired into us, for reasons not fully explained but nonetheless socially and evolutionarily helpful, then why are some people lacking that instinct? Is it because of damage or environmental adaptations, or what? Belief in a god actually increases with educational achievement, rather than decreases, as some had portrayed. So—rather than ridicule the believer, the question becomes “why not believe?” The answers on the blog aren’t much, but the data is a discussion starter.
A second blog is titled “Knowing the Mind of God: Seven Theories of Everything” (March 4, 2010). The title’s reference is a nod to Stephen Hawking’s phrase and what it might be like to have a unifying theory of creation (or in his words, nature.) The seven competing theories are briefly outlined for the novice. They are still difficult to understand! The bottom line is that we don’t have a simple unifying theory from science, and some of the present postulations are not able to be proven and depend on non-human experience for understanding. That sounds a lot like religious faith to me!
So stay tuned to the cultural conversations, and join in where you can. There really is enough room for God and science in our lives. Worship in truth, wonder in love.
An interesting article. Stay tuned for more to come…
“Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’ – that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view on the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all.”
So begins Tim Keller in an article titled “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople”
The BioLogos Foundation has commissioned a number of eminent scholars to write papers on all sorts of issues regarding science and faith, including evolution. People such as Bruce Waltke, Tim Keller, Mark Noll and Denis Lamoureux have made excellent, interesting, and provoking contributions.
This link, BioLogos: Scholarly Essays, will take you to some material well worth reading.
‘you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’
So Stephen M. Barr, Professor of physics at the University of Delaware, quotes Francis Crick at the beginning of an excellent article in First Things considering the book “Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion: Illusions, Delusions, and Realities About Human Nature” by Malcolm Jeeves and Warren S. Brown.
Follow the link for more: Matter over Mind
With Francis Collins appointment to the directorship of the National Institutes of Health comes a great deal of noise, not the least due to his public faith. The New York Times has a great introductory article.
Every year, Regent College holds a conference for pastors from all over the world. This year, the conference is titled ‘Wonder and Devotion: Bringing Science and Faith Together for the Church‘.
With plenary speakers such as Denis Alexander (the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge), Alan Torrance (Chair of Systematic Theology, University of St Andrews), Iain Provan (Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies (OT), Regent College), Ross Hastings (Associate Professor, Mission Studies, Regent College) and Darrell W. Johnson (Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, Vancouver), as well as numerous workshops, the conference looks to be a great opportunity to consider the interaction of science with our faith.
It is held at Regent College from May 4-7.
Have a look at the following link for more information.
Bishop Linda Nicholls, the anglican bishop for Trent-Durham in the diocese of Toronto in Canada has written an article outlining the necessity for christians to hold science and faith in close relationship. Well worth a read. See page 4 of the following link.
Dr. Jennie McLaurin, associate professor of bioethics at Regent College in Vancouver, as well as a physician with over 25 years of experience working with poor migrant communities has been writing a number of articles for the ChristianWeek.org website in the areas of Faith and Science.
With titles like: ‘Constructing Children in our own image’; ‘To enhancement, and beyond?’; ‘The task of re-faithing science’; and ‘See the world with the wonder of a scientist’, her posts are insightful and thought-provoking. Well worth checking out.
follow this link! Faith and Science.
“It is because both science and religion have been too narrowly conceived, and have been too exclusively dichotomized and separated from each other, that they have been seen to be two mutually exclusive worlds”
– Abraham Maslow (Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences (New York: Penguin Books, 1970), 11).
Any reflections of your own?
Frances Collins was at the head of the Human Genome Project which succeeded in sequencing human DNA, and it is therefore not ‘hype’ when he is referred to as ‘one of the world’s leading scientists.’ This book is both a narrative of his conversion from agnosticism to Christ and a compelling apologetic for not merely the compatibility of science and Christian faith, but their complementarity. It is therefore a must read in the project of ‘Re-Faithing Science.’ It contains very succinct treatments of atheism, agnosticism, young-earth creationism, Intelligent Design and his preferred view of theistic evolution. His rejection of ID and preference for theistic evolution is based on both scientific and theological grounds, and though at times one wishes for more detail (the scope and intended audience of this work is more popular), his treatment is a compelling one. The crucial points of his argument are (i) that ID fails to qualify as a scientific theory, and that (ii) ID finds necessary an invoking of the rather unconvincing ‘God of the gaps’ approach … ‘ID portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan for generating the complexity of life (pp. 193-4).’
The late Lesslie Newbigin had a long career as a missionary to India, and experience which gave him unusual insights into the deep differences between Hindu and Christian culture. This book, as the title suggests, is a remarkably lucid introduction to the epistemology–how we know, what we know, and what knowledge is. He develops a strong case (drawing especially on the scientist/philosopher Michael Polanyi, that knowledge of God (theology) and of God’s world (science) is of the same sort–genuine knowledge, but always tentative, exploratory, based on faith. Well worth a read.