Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Darwinism on the Ropes

A Lesson In What Not to Do

We have argued that the text of the creation account in Genesis 1-3 is pretty straightforward and clear.  But it suddenly became complex and murky when, in the nineteenth century, Christians tried to reconcile the theorising of evolutionists with the plain text of Scripture.  Darwinists claimed to have hard, solid, irrefutable scientific evidence of the world existing for over 150 million years before man appeared here.  What some Christians then attempted was a reconciliation between the text of Genesis and the "evidence" and conjectures of evolutionists.  

The first great attempt at reconciling the two authorities (science and Scripture) was called the Gap Theory.  It posited a vast gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.  Douglas Kelly summarises the theory:

The theory held that verse one recorded the original creation, which was ruined by God's judgement on the cosmos owing to Satan's fall from holy, angelic status.  This judgement wiped out the first earth, leaving a thick layer of sedimentation containing pre-historic fossils.  Hence, the argument for vast earth ages claimed by nineteenth-century uniformitarian geologists could be safely accepted without threatening the integrity of the Genesis account in the succeeding verses.

Supposedly verse 2 gives a picture of a judged, ruined cosmos ("without form and void") while verse 3 conveys a re-creation or restitution of it, this time to be populated by humankind rather than angels.  This theory would set the beginning of creation week in verse 3, rather than in verse 1, contrary to what both Jews and Christians had always understood.  . . .

The "gap" theory should serve as a model of what Christians should not do in their legitimate desire to speak Biblical truth into a world held in the tight grip of humanistic premises.  [Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1--2:4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms (Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor/Christian Focus Publications, 1997), p. 85.]
So the "gap" theory provides a case study in what not to do when confronted with pervasive humanistic premises.  Kant failed miserably in trying to save reason and make room for faith.  Christians for their part have failed equally in trying to reconcile autonomous, rationalistic science with the text of Scripture.

Dr Kelly summarises the inconsistencies between the text of Scripture (not just in Genesis, but throughout) and the "gap" theory.  Here is one example:
Also the restitution [or gap] theory would require the sun to have shone in order to make earthly life possible, millions of years before the fourth day of creation when sun and moon were placed into the heavens for the first time.  [Ibid., p.87.]
The "gap" theory has been largely abandoned now, although for the first part of the twentieth century it was championed by many Christian scholars trying to find a bolt hole in the face of the relentless, universal acceptance of Darwinism and the claim that "hard" science was of greater authority than biblical "myths and speculations".  Nevertheless, the "gap" theory remains helpfully instructive on what not to do with Holy Scripture.
Perhaps the greatest value in surveying this largely abandoned theory lies inits didactic quality.  It teaches us first, the futility of reading into Scripture what is not there  to force a hasty compromise with anti-theistic thought.  Secondly . . . it teaches us to put the same kind of sceptical, foundational questions to the dogmas of humanistic authorities that they have long put to the authority of Scripture.  Unfortunately, many well-intentioned evangelicals were too ready to adjust the teachings of Scripture to authority-claims of naturalistic science without taking the time and effort to examine radically the presuppositions, evidences, and procedures of those highly vaunted authorities.  [Ibid., p.87.]
Sadly, we fear that is still the case.  Far too much respect is still given to the cloak of science which hides the reality of a world of vacuous speculation and conjectures masquerading as hard science. Endless repetition of mantras is substituted for proof beyond doubt.  Christians should exercise more fidelity to the Word of God, and be far, far more sceptical towards secularist "science".  This is all the more pressing because scepticism ought always to be a hallmark of genuine scientific inquiry.


Anonymous said...

I think you are dabbling in dangerous waters that make many question their ability to believe in God when you are expected to accept that a translation into modern English from an old language has to be accepted without looking at the message without cultural eyes open. Genesis was written for us but not to us and that means we have to look elsewhere, like to men God has raised up in these theological areas, for better understanding.

In the questions and answer bit at the end of John Waltons "The Lost World of Genesis One - Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate" there are question about reading the Genesis creation accounts, including literally. Walton reads genesis as a why account rather than a how - its not science but when read correctly the limited science within it fits the order of evolution at a very basic level. This book made the Genesis text far more meaningful for me and resolved the difficulties within the sequence of creations - like light before sun and nothing being created on day 3. When you see the account is about functions rather than materials this ceases to be a problem. Anyway, I'll repeat some questions and answers here.

Q: Why don't you want to just read the text literally?

A: I believe this is a literal reading. A literal reading requires an understanding of the Hebrew language and Israelite culture. I believe that the reading that I have offered is the most literal reading possible at this point. Someone who claims a 'literal' reading based on their thinking about the English word 'çreate' may not be reading the text literally at all, because the English word is of little significance in the discussion.

Q: When and how did God create the material world?

A: According to the interpretation offered in this book, the Bible does not tell us, so we are left to figure it out as best we can with the intellectual capacity and other tools that God gave us. But the material was created by him.

Q: Isn't this just really a dodge to accommodate evolution?

A: The interpretation set forth in this book arose out of my desire to fully understand the biblical text. Understanding evolution and its role is a much lower value. Evolution represents the current scientific consensus to explain the many observations that have been made in paleontology, genetics, zoology, biochemistry, ecology and so on. The question is how much of what is involved in biological evolution to what I understand to be biblical claims and theological realities. In the interpretation of the text I have offered, very little found in evolutionary theory would be objectionable, though certainly some of the metaphysical claims of evolution remain unacceptable.

Evolution will eventually stand or fall on its merits and I don't think evolution yet explains how things work although there are some pretty impressive pathways within it - like the genetic links. Many probably make too much of it for the wrong reasons but likewise we Christians do not respect God by treating His word as a thing we can understand without mining it. God's word is magnificent, complex and must poses challenges for us. The fact is that the more my friends and I get into the culture of the times the passage was written the richer the text becomes.

The truth is out there but I do not expect to uncover much of it this side of the grave - every answer reveals more questions and that is just what I would expect from my Creator.


John Tertullian and Contra Celsum said...

We believe we must always read the Scriptures with our cultural eyes open--particularly when our culture has become predominantly pagan and has returned to an explanation of being and existence which drawn upon Greek paganism, rather than the Scriptures. We Christians need to be self-aware about the amount of conditioning to which we are subjected by the Academy.

Our calling is to be faithful to God, and His Word. Why should we accept the Resurrection as the bedrock of our Lord's work for our salvation when there is no scientific evidence for it, and a bunch of "scientific" evidence alleged against it? Why, when the testimony of secularist, unbelieving science is so adamant on the matter should we believe in a literal Virgin Birth? Why should we accept Adam as the literal head of the human race, when pagan science deny him ever existing? Why should we accept a literal fall into sin, when pagan science scoffs at the very idea? For that matter, why accept a literal Satan? If we grant pagan science the authority to rule over the Scripture at any point, then it will destroy our faith, for it ends up enthroning itself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The point is that pagan science is not neutral. It is not objective. It has form--and the form is that which Paul describes in Romans 1 as "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness". The scientific method requires experimentation, empirical observation, and repetition to establish truth. But the "truth" which pagan science is seeking to establish through its methodology is that the Bible cannot possibly be true. This is the dominant culture in which we live--and it is false from keel to masthead. Therefore, since this is the case, let God be true, and every man a liar. Godly science must always remain a servant, not a Master.

We suggest that you read Douglas Kelly's Creation and Change. We expect that you would find it most helpful and encouraging in these matters.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. I will have a squizz at the recommended book. I still think that the problem with pagan science and Christianity is that too many people professing to be Christian try to make the Bible a science book when, according to Walton, it was never intended to be so. If you treat the bible properly you can respond to the creation debate without looking foolish and ignoring settled science by making extreme literalist claims such as a young earth and so on. I recall the creationists visited a church I attended once and did a talk on their beliefs. Many lapped it all up but others were appalled that someone could ignore so much 'settled' science and misapply scripture at the same time.