By insisting that Scripture have the final word with respect to science, we miss out on the obvious.

“O LORD, you have looked into my eyes; 
kindly smiling, you’ve called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat; 
now with you, I will seek other seas.” —Cesario Gabarain, 1979

In 2018 many of us will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the adoption of the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort by the 1618 Synod of Dort as doctrinal standards for the Reformed faith.

Clearly the Heidelberg Catechism has served us well. The other two confessions, however, remain in relative obscurity.

With that as background, let me get to my bottom line. Article 2 of the Belgic Confession states how we know God:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government
of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes
like a beautiful book
            in which all creatures,
            great and small,
            are as letters
            to make us ponder
            the invisible things of God. . . .
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly
by his holy and divine Word. . . .

Most of us would agree that God’s revelation of himself through his creation must agree with scriptural revelation. After all, all truth is God’s truth. God does not contradict himself. Yet many believers continue to insist that Scripture must ultimately be our science guide, following the error of the Catholic church in excommunicating Galileo.

Why is this so?

I suggest it is partly due to misinterpretation of evolution as being godless. For years the National Academy of Sciences and others defined evolution as an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process.” However, after being challenged by Christian groups, including the American Scientific Affiliation, in 1998 the National Academy of Science changed their definition of evolution as follows: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution; an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process. . . .” By leaving out the words unsupervised and impersonal, adjectives that imply randomness, evolution by definition clearly leaves room for Intelligent Design, a Creator. In other words, it leaves room for God.

By insisting that Scripture have the final word with respect to science, we miss out on the obvious. Shouldn’t Christians be open to what modern science teaches about origins, the age of the earth, Adam and Eve? What could be more appropriate for Christian Reformed lay members, theologians, and scientists than to put their biases aside and be open to learning truths from God’s other great book, his universe?

We won’t be alone; some 2 million U.S. scientists identify as evangelical. Can we, with Christ, sail into this sea?

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Comments

Can we dispense with the tired canard that those seeking to defend biblical orthodoxy in the areas of creation, original sin, the historicity of Adam and Eve, the flood, etc. are somehow using the Bible as a science textbook or insisting"that Scripture must ultimately be our science guide." Such statements are ridiculous.  Please produce one believer who says that the Bible is a science textbook or must be our science guide.  Let's deal honestly with eachother.  

In the things that the Bible speaks to, it speaks with authority.  That fact that believers insist that Adam and Eve were real people who really sinned is not a scientific claim - it is a recognition that the Bible states these facts unequivocally, both in Old and New Testaments.  The scientific "community" may theorize all it wants about origins and genetics, but God's people will believe God's Holy Word, lest we elevate the folly of man over the wisdom of God.  

And let's not act as if science speaks with unanimity or omniscience in these theoretical areas.  Sceintists are acting based on myriad assumptions about supposed happenings that happened so far outside of the scope of their observation that we can openly laugh that they would purport to speak with any supposed authority.  How many times have theories of origins changed?  How many times have scientists changed their estimates of the earth's age?  Which "truth" are we to believe?  Which takes more faith, believing in the spoken word of our God who has revealed himself to be all knowing and all powerful, or believing that mere creatures can speak to the actual happenings when the foundations of the world were laid (by their estimates severael billion years ago)?

Also worth asking: Why does the author stop where he does regarding where science should overrule God's Word?  Crossing the Red Sea? Nope, didn't happen.   Walls of Jericho?  Water to wine?  The virgin birth?  The blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk?  Nope, didn't happen - couldn't happen.  A storm ends at Jesus' command?  Who does this man think he is, the Creator?  Can he command nature and have it be so?  Who could believe such a thing?  Science says NO!  How about the resurrection?  Nope - throw it out - it's a fable and your belief in it merely illustrates your "bias" against science.

If we will make science our god and feeble man our dispenser of ultimate truth, then let's go whole hog.  Let's not stop with the easy stuff.  Let's push our chips into the middle of the table and swear off belief in a supernatural god altogether.  After all, what is observable and proveable is worth believing.  Anything short of this and the world in its wisdom will always laugh at our naivete.

May I suggest the author reads B.C # 12. 'We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing'.........But there is more, much more! Read # 13! Immediately following it's about the doctrine of the providence of God-'This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance.......( talk about a mature faith) We know what happened to Guido de Bres. I think  it is high time we study again our 'doctrinal standards adopted 400 years ago!  

So many prominent scientists, both historical and present-day, believe that their studies in the sciences bring them closer to God.  Theistic evolutionists have been making this point for years, that evolution makes more sense in the light of God as Creator.  Millions of faithful Christians worldwide do not see the need to reject the findings of those that study God's creation, as these people unfold the hidden glory of creation, year after year after year.  There is always some mystery, some secret, like an Easter egg, that lies waiting for some scientist to discover it, revealing some hidden facet of God's creativity and personality.  

I think it is possible that the reluctance we see among some evangelical groups when it comes to understanding evolution lies more in a lack of understanding of science in general, and a fear of the unknown.  Perhaps a fear like, "What if biochemists or physicists stumble across something that proves that God doesn't exist?"  But science doesn't really challenge Scripture, though it certainly does challenge our interpretation of it.  Secular science (if such a thing exists...a point for a whole other discussion) doesn't concern itself with Biblical interpretation. Barring a few people that might be experiencing bitterness against the church due to bad experiences they personally might have had, most scientists are not "out to get Christianity", that is not their field of interest.  

Eric, face it, you’re a dying breed.  The narrowness, with which you consider the Bible, has not only lost respect outside of Christian circles, but within as well.  It is only Christians who consider the Bible as God’s word.  Those outside, whether of other religions or of no religion, have no more respect for the Bible than you have for the Koran or the Book of Mormon.  To an increasing number of people in our society, the Bible is part embellished history and a good share myth.  And I think that some of this thinking, because it’s not altogether unreasonable, is impacting how we within the church are looking at the Bible.  A religion that is unreasonable is no better than having an invisible friend, also unreasonable.  Your belief, Eric, doesn’t make anything real, only real to you (subjective reality).

In the late 17th century, John Bunyan wrote the allegorical novel “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  It told the story of a young man, Christian, on his journey to the Celestial city, along with all the trials and temptations that he encountered on this life long journey.  Of course, this was the story of every Christian’s life leading to heaven.  In 1900, L. Frank Baum, also wrote a similar allegorical novel, entitled the “Wizard of Oz,” the story of Dorothy and her three friends, Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man.  It was a story of these four companions traveling a yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City.  They had to stay on this road, although they faced many trials and temptations, if they were to arrive at the Emerald City to have an audience with the great Wizard of Oz.  It was Oz, who was able to grant these four their greatest wishes, to find her way home, to have a brain, to have courage, and to have a heart.  When they finally arrive at the Emerald City and were waiting for an audience with the great Oz, Toto, Dorothy’s dog, pulls down the curtain surrounding the great throne, only to reveal that the great Oz was an imposter, in reality a small man with bells and whistles to make himself appear great and imposing.  He had no power of his own to grant any kind of wish.  But what the wizard knew was that each of these characters had the power and ability within themselves to bring about what they wished for.  Of course the allegory of this story is the atheist’s perspective on Christianity or any other organized religion.  The Gods of all religions, including Christianity, are made up and nothing but imposters.  The wishes and needs that we desire will not be granted by an imposter God, but most often are within our own capacity to accomplish.  That is how the atheist looks at Christianity, bells and whistles but no substance. 

Of course the atheist claims there is no evidence to support the reality of Christianity or any other religion.  The creation account of the Bible, is the ancient and primitive account of what an early civilization considered to be the method by which their God brought about the universe, the world, and all of its inhabitants in a matter of just six days.  And this is all considered to have happened only six to eight thousand years ago.  Science has no interest in disproving the Bible’s creation account or any other religious creation account.  By studying the empirical evidence, the scientific community has found that the earth is not only millions of years old, but probably billions, and that life on earth has developed through an evolutionary process.  Are the findings for evolution conclusive?  Far from it.  Science may never come to an absolute and definitive view on origins.  But nearly all the scientific community is in agreement that evolution is at the heart of the process.  And science is increasingly adding to that basic premise with passing years.  The atheist and those of other religions see our Biblical creation account, not only as mythical but as one of the evidences of an empty religion. 

One of the slogans for effective prayer within Christian circles, including the Reformed, is “pray as though it all depends on God, and act as though it all depends on you.”  The allegorical message of “The Wizard of Oz” is that it does all depend on you, and without your own effort little will get accomplished.  The great accomplishments of Christianity have been brought about through great human effort, the same as the accomplishments of those who are not Christian.  This is another reason atheists see Christianity as little more than bells and whistles and lacking in substance.

Of course, atheists also point to the resurrection of Christ as being more mythical than real.  Christians claim that Christ was raised from death and ascended to God’s right hand where he rules in power and authority, much like Oz.  But atheists ask where is the evidence of any kind of reign from God’s right hand, or is this just the bells and whistles of a religion with no substance?  As to the return of Christ to earth, the apostle Paul expected it to happen in his life time.  And throughout history countless predictions have been made, but nothing has come of them. Now nearly two thousand years later, we’re still waiting? The atheist, the agnostic, and those of other religions believe the curtain of Christianity has definitely been pulled down revealing an empty throne.

When I, and probably many other Christians, listen to your unreasonable take on the creation account of the Bible and many of the Bible’s miracles, it’s no wonder that so many people outside the church (and even within) think that such a Christian account sounds hollow.  If we are created in God’s image, what sets humans apart from the animal world and makes us most like God is our ability to be rational, to gain and grow in knowledge, to use our reasoning abilities.  We no longer live in a primitive age where mythical stories helped people cope with the circumstances of life that they had no control over or had no understanding of.  Today in an increasing knowledge based age and culture, doesn’t God expect us to use our reasoning capacities to take hold of a religion that makes sense?  I agree with Franklin De Haan, the author of this article, and with Alina Abbot’s comment.  Thanks for your input.

Roger,

You say: "It is only Christians who consider the Bible as God’s word."  On this we will agree.

The fact that you have such a low opinion of God's Word is troubling.  I worry for your soul, and I have prayed that God will convict you of your sin of blaspheming His Holy Word and that you will repent.  I say that sincerely, with no hint of condescension.  I do not care to interect further with you on the topic.  As long as you deride God's Word, we have no common ground for discussion.

Eric

Eric, as to your frustration with my line of argument, I think you are driven more by a sense of superstition than anything else, a fear that God will punish people if we don’t all look at the Bible as you do or if we call parts of it into question.  It’s similar, or the same as Muslims who condemn people for not respecting the Koran.   Cutting off debate simply shines a light on your superstition.  I hope the dialogue continues, but if it doesn’t, I understand.  Blessings to you.

I think De Haan, in this article, could be suggesting that there is a difference between objective reality and subjective reality, and that perhaps today we  should consider the early chapters of Genesis as less than historical fact, in other words a subjective reality (faith knowledge as opposed to actual knowledge). In contrast, we should be open to accept the findings of the scientific community as an objective revelation of and by God and as a more objective and true explanation of origins.

If the Biblical explanation of origins is less than objective reality, there are no doubt other areas of the Bible’s accounting that are also subjective, in other words, real in a person’s mind but not in reality.  For instance, young children very often believe in the existence of Santa Claus as he is portrayed in our modern culture, even though adults know there is no such reality.  For these children, though, Santa Claus is very real.  In fact, very often it is difficult for adults to convince these children when they grow a little older that he isn’t real.  Although Santa Clause originated with the historical character, St. Nicholas (a fourth century Bishop in Myra of Greece), his character quickly became embellished and resulted in the good natured and generous Santa Claus of today who flies across the skies in a reindeer sleigh and delivers wonderful gifts to all good boys and girls.  Children often do not take well to someone trying to convince them that Santa doesn’t exist in reality, but only exists in the child’s mind.  Children believe in Santa Claus because originally authority figures (parents, reliable story books, television and movies) told them that Santa was indeed real.  Under such circumstances it is pretty difficult for children to forsake what they had perceived as objective reality.


The same is true for those who believe that everything spoken of in the Bible is not only true in their minds and hearts, but also true in reality.  Down through the centuries, and even fairly recently, according to the best interpretations of the Bible at the time, it has been declared that every bit of the Bible is objectively true.  Christians believe because the best authorities have declared the Bible (including the creation account) is objective reality.  Today in our scientific age and an age of reason we come to recognize that much of the Bible, including the creation account, is embellished history or even simply guess work.  But how difficult it is to convince some Christians that the authorities of the past unwittingly advocated for what was not objective truth. 

The atheist would argue that Jesus, like Santa Claus, although a historical person, has been embellished into a person that has no semblance to the actual historical Jesus.  The atheist would argue that there is no evidence to substantiate the Christian’s perception of Jesus, just as there is no
evidence for the Santa Claus of today.  The reality of Jesus is a subjective reality, existing only in the minds and wishful thinking of Christians.  And lest the Christian argue for the infallible God inspired Scriptures that witness to the truth of the Bible’s account, the atheist will point out that every other religion makes the same argument for their Scriptures.  And Christians will quickly dismiss these other so called revelations of God as untrue and unreliable.  What makes the Bible true but not these other revelations?

But lest we wander too far away from our original topic of creation and science, let’s recognize that even Christians recognize and argue for the validity of scientific study.  The Biblical account is a speculative or theoretical account of origins that was circulated by word of mouth before being written down by Moses.  It was originally accepted as a true objective account of how God brought our world into existence and has been believed as a true accounting of origins (by most Christians) until recent decades.  But now science has caused most Christians to realize that the Bible account simply is not objectively true.  As Christians we can accept the creation account as part of our “faith story” without it being grounded in objective reality.  Or we can suggest that the original author and audience of this account always did see it as an allegorical story, not depicting actual events but rather carrying a moral lesson.  This latter idea seems unlikely, because such a view of the Genesis account would assume that the original audience of Genesis believed another more objective creation account different from the Genesis account, and this seems unlikely.  As much as we may not like it, there are just some things in the Bible that are not true or factual.  The creation account is one of them.