"...I do not feel obligated to believe that same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge that we can attain by them." Galileo (1)
A key point in the history of western civilization was when philosopher Rene' Descartes issued his famous maxim "I think, I am." In this statement, Descartes basically founded the secular movement by stating that the sole basis for our existence is the ability to think and reason. As we shall see, the ability to think is vitally important, but it is a means to a greater end: to know and glorify the God who created us.
Unfortunately, Descartes' logic has been used to create a false tension between natural reason and supernatural faith, and this tension has eroded the very foundations our society was built upon. History is loaded with examples of how Christianity, as an intellectual influence, has shaped the very world we live in. The Bible has inspired some of the greatest art (such as Da Vinci's "The Last Supper") and music (such as Bach's "Passion of St. Matthew," and Handel's "Messiah") ever produced. Some of our greatest colleges and universities were originally based on strong Christian foundations and specialized in training ministers. Our school children were once educated by McGuffey readers which relied heavily on Biblical themes. Yet today, the term "Christian" is often synonymous with ignorance and anti-intellectualism. What happened? In the words of the great Christian philosopher Francis Shaeffer:
"To understand where we are in today's world-in our intellectual ideas and in our cultural and political lives-we must trace three lines in history, namely, the philosophic, the scientific and the religious. The philosophic seeks intellectual answers to the basic questions of life. The scientific has two parts: first, the makeup of the physical universe and the practical application of what it discovers in technology. The direction in which science will move is set by the philosophic world view of the scientists. People's religious views also determine the direction of their individual lives and of their society (2)."
Shaeffer's timely words remind us that the Christian world view encompasses all of life and requires the ability to think clearly and analytically. The fact is, the Bible was written by thinking people, for thinking people. Throughout its pages, the desire for knowledge is a constant theme (Proverbs 24:5; 1Kings 3:9; Hosea 4:6). In fact, one of the key ways we are to love God is with our mind (Matthew 22:37). This is reflected in the lives of many prominent biblical figures. For example, both Moses and Daniel were well schooled in the educational systems of their day (Daniel 1:4; Acts 7:22). Mighty King David, Israel’s greatest monarch, was a military genius (1 Samuel 18:7) as well as a master musician (1 Samuel 16:18). King Solomon, known for his tremendous wisdom, also possessed a massive knowledge of many different subjects, such as agriculture and wildlife (1 Kings 4: 30-34). The Apostle Paul, who wrote roughly two-thirds of the New Testament, was trained by the brilliant Hebrew scholar Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
Furthermore, in 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul reminds his friend Timothy to "give attendance to reading" and later instructs Timothy to bring him some books that he had left behind (2 Timothy 4:13). This would indicate that reading was a high priority to the great apostle. In the words of Charles Spurgeon: "The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all people. You need to read ... Paul cries, 'Bring the books' -- join in the cry (3)."
Given Christianity's strong emphasis on learning and education, it seems ironic that they are often seen as enemies. At the root of the controversy has been the issue of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution, as set forth in his book The Origin of Species. Obviously, the notion that humans evolved from lower life forms did challenge the notion of a Divine Creator (although contrary to popular belief, Darwin did not teach that humans evolved from apes, but rather that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor). In order to place Mr. Darwin’s theories in context, it is important to examine not only the ideas themselves, but also the attitude in which they were presented. For those who wish to dismiss those of us who do believe in a creator God as being "intolerant" or "narrow minded," keep in mind that some of the key battle lines were drawn by Darwin himself: "He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation..." (4)
In prior generations, science was generally considered a study of God’s handiwork in creation. Is this irrational? It is interesting to note that the Holy Scriptures describe many natural phenomena thousands of years before they were discovered by modern science. For example, the Bible tells us that...
- The earth is round (Isaiah 40:22),
- The sea contains mountains and canyons (2 Samuel 22:16),
- The elements of human life are found in the blood (Leviticus 17:11),
- It also describes he water cycle (Psalm 135:7), and
- ...the deterioration of matter, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Psalm 102:26; Hebrews 1:10-12).
Could it be that the Bible is more up-to-date than we have ever begun to imagine? Of course, to acknowledge this would also mean to acknowledge the truth of an all-knowing, all-powerful God who holds us accountable to an absolute moral standard. Darwin's ideas gave intellectual justification to those who wanted to reject this notion. In fact, Sir Julian Huxley, a famous evolutionist and a descendant of Darwin's close ally, Thomas Huxley, openly admitted that that "...the reason we lept at The Origin of Species was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores (5)."
Much of the tension between science and faith stems not from the Bible itself, but from traditions that have been added to it over the years. Galileo understood this: "...the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God’s commands (6)." When addressing the science vs. religion issues, it is important to keep two important questions in mind:
1. What is the precise teaching of Scripture, as opposed to simply being common religious dogma? and
2. What is proven scientific fact, as opposed to being mere theory.
Admittedly, both sides of the debate have often neglected these two precepts. By doing so, much unnecessary tension has been created between the scientific and theological communities. Unfortunately, many scientists attack belief in God as being "irrational" or "superstitious." However, to do this demeans some of the greatest scientific minds in history. In addition to Galileo, luminaries such as Newton, Keplar, Pascal, Mendel, Pasteur and countless others were all believers in a Creator. Would even the most militant athiest call these great scientists "irrational?"
When the term "Creationism" is used, it is usually identified with those who believe that the Earth was created between 6000 and 10,000 years ago (7), but this is hardly a fair representation. Creationism is a larger and more diverse school of thought than many have been led to believe. In fact, there are a number of opinions among orthodox Christians as to how and when creation took place. For example, one of these theories is called "Progressive Creationism," which points out that the Hebrew word for "day" (as in "on the first day God created...") can also refer to longer time periods, thus allowing for the Earth to be billions of years old (8). Another is called the "Gap Theory" which teaches that there was a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, which could also be a span of billions of years (9). The key question is, when God said "Let there be..." what processes did this set into motion?
That being said, I do interpret the Book of Genesis literally (as Jesus did, see Matthew 19:4), and I do believe that it gives a perfectly accurate overview of how the universe came into existence. However, this does not mean that it records every minute detail of how creation occurred (to do so would obviously fill countless libraries). In my opinion, this leaves open a wide range of possibilities. Although an explanation of my own views of these issues is beyond the scope of this work, I will simply say that the truth of the Book of Genesis does not stand or fall based on the age of the Earth. To paraphrase William Jennings Bryan, "Be concerned with the Rock of Ages, not the age of rocks."
The same could be said about the theory of evolution itself. At its core, the word "evolution" simply means "to change over a period of time." No reasonable person would dispute that this occurs. It is important to note that there is a large difference between microevolution. and macroevolution. The former simply refers to evolution within species. Obviously, we see new breeds of dogs and cats, as well as new strains of vegetables and flowers. Bacteria and viruses mutate and become more resistant to medicine. This is of no consequence to religious faith at all, and I do not know of any Creationist who would argue otherwise. The latter refers to evolution from one species into another, which is a bit trickier. Contrary to popular belief, this idea is not universally accepted within the scientific world (10). The numerous missing links in the evolutionary ladder cannot be overlooked. In the ladder itself, several "rungs" are of questionable origin and some (such as Piltdown Man ) have been shown to be blatant hoaxes.
In light of these facts, I would like to quote from a statement signed by over eight hundred British scientists, and is recorded at the Bodelian Library in Oxford, England:
"We, the undersigned, Students of the Natural Sciences, desire to express our sincere regret that researchers into scientific truth are perverted by some in our own times into occasion for casting doubt upon the truth and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. We conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another...physical science is not complete, but is only a condition of progress (4)."
We will conclude our study as we began it, by revisiting Descartes. I recently heard a joke in which Descartes walked into a bar. The bartender asked him if he would like a drink. Descartes replied "I think not," and disappeared! This humorous illustration shows us how far our human wisdom will ultimately take us. In the words of noted Theologian J.I. Packer:
"Man's mind becomes free only when its thoughts are brought into captivity to Christ and His Word; till then, it is at the mercy of sinful prejudice and dishonest mental habits within, and of popular opinion, organized propaganda and unquestioned commonplaces without. Tossed about by every wing of intellectual fashion and carried to and fro by the cross-currents of reaction, man without God is not free for truth; he is for ever mastered by the things he takes for granted, the victim of a hopeless and everlasting relativism."
This, my friends, is where it all starts. The whole of God's glorious creation was intended to reveal His nature to us: "...the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being" (Romans 1:20, The Message Bible)(13). If you do not yet have a relationship with God, open your heart to Him right now. You'll be glad you did! (14)
NOTES & BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1.Galilei, Galileo. "Letter to Christina of Tuscany: Science and Scripture." Quoted in Sherman, Dennis. Western Civilization: Sources, Images and Interpretations, Volume II: Since 1660. Sixth Edition. 2004, 2000, 1995. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York. p. 18.
2. Shaeffer, Francis A. How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. 1976, Fleming H. Revell Company. P.20
3. C.H. Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 9, 1863, sermon #542, p. 668) Quoted in"Thinkman's Thoughtful Words on Books" http://home.flash.net/~thinkman/books/quotes.htm 4. Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man. New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1883. pp 606-607,619. Quoted in Sherman, Dennis. Western Civilization: Sources, Images and Interpretations, Volume II: Since 1660. Sixth Edition. 2004, 2000, 1995. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York. p 130.
5. Morris, Henry M. The Troubled Waters of Evolution. 1974, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, California. p. 58. Quoted in Why I Believe by D. James Kennedy.1980, Word, Inc.Dallas, London, Vancouver, Melbourne. p. 52.
6. Galileo, p.18.
7.For more on the Young Earth Theory, see answersingenesis.org
8. Progressive Creationism is explained at length at reasons.org
9. For a detailed explanation of the Gap Theory, see the writings of Finis Dake, C.I. Schofield and A.W. Pink
10. For an extensive list of scientist who accept the Biblical creation account, see http://www.answersingenesis.org/Home/Area/bios/default.asp
11. Quoted in Dake, Finis Jennings. God’s Plan For Man. 1949, copyright renewed 1977. Dake Bible Sales, Lawrenceville, Georgia. p. 20. 12. Packer, J.I. "'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God." First edition: 1958. Eerdman's Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. p 143.
13. Peterson, Eugene H. The Message New Testament. 1993. Navpress. Colorado Springs, Colorado. p. 359.
14. If you need more information on a relationship with Jesus, see http://www.james-dave.com/born.html .
© 2005 JHB
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