Comments 5

  1. Thanks, Neal, for your thoughtful response to this challenging topic! In my science methods course for elementary and middle school teachers we discuss “controversial topics” in teaching science, and this one is always at the top of the heap. I’ll direct my students here as a resource to help them think through what makes this such a thorny issue for Christians who teach science.

  2. While some parts of the Bible claim that authority over science, I would argue that the genre of the creation story is of the poetic sort and therefore, does not. It is difficult to understand the science of universe origins when scholars are still debating the metaphysical interpretation of the creation story in Genesis. Joseph (and those reading)- One book I would recommend to understand the Genesis story in a authoritative but poetic way is Catherine Keller’s “Face of the Deep.” Keller claims that Elohim did not create “ex nihilo” but that Elohim works with barren elements in order to provide differentiation, meaning, and life. God pronounces goodness, not existence. Being an “old-earth” person, I had difficulty acknowledging any authority in the creation story until I read Keller’s book. I would of course be open to reading other interpretations of the creation story.

    1. What would it mean for part of an ancient text to claim authority over modern science? Do you mean some biblical texts have authority in matters of faith and morality that pertain specifically to the way science is done? Or something else? Shouldn’t we distinguish between “the Bible” (text) and “the Word of God” (Jesus)?

      Keller is described in her academic role as a process theologian working on a reconstruction of tradition Christian doctrine. That sounds both interesting and troubling to me, but the ideas you mention are uncontroversial, even venerable parts of the Jewish rabbinical tradition.

      She is probably drawing on an important 19th century rabbi who tried to reconcile the Torah with evolutionary science while closing the door to naturalism. One of the great medieval rabbis had already made this relatively easy to do by offering a literal-grammatical reading of Genesis 1 that stresses creation as a collaborative process. God works with his creation, “making” or “fashioning” each successive creature from the preceding one.

      It’s easy to bring this into an evolutionary reading that still reserves the pride of place for the human creature because only Adam and Eve are “created,” either from nothing or from God himself. (I don’t think Judaism is so committed to creation ex nihilo.) Humanity as the “image and likeness” of God infused with the divine breath — traditionally associated with rational consciousness — emerges at the end of this process, which can be presented monistically, dualistically, or panentheistically. Jewish tradition accommodates them all, but Christianity not so much. I can see the appeal to process theologians though. Teilhard de Chardin is back in favor even with conservatives now, so maybe some type of process approach has a future if it can emerge from *within* a canonical tradition.

  3. My interest in this subject started in 5th grade. The day after finishing a science test our teacher told us to skip the next chapter because it was about dinosaurs. We were told that they didn’t really exist so we just needed to move on to the next topic (maybe she didn’t say it in quite that way, but that’s the way that I heard it). That 10 seconds was the extent of my education on the creation/evolution “debate” in grade school. Even in 5th grade where school didn’t reach the same level of importance as playing sports with my friends, I immediately questioned the teacher’s perspective. However, it was an internal question and one that I continually struggled with throughout my formative years. I kept trying to meld my faith with what I was learning about the world around me. I wish I could have said that I shared my fears and concerns with a trusted adult, but the few times I was in a setting where the subject was discussed I heard the same basic perspective shared without exception. I never found a safe place to open my heart. I wonder how much more I could have grown during those years if I could have freely discussed this issue. The closest I came to resolution was through a book I found in our church regarding the flood that I read as a young married man. It provided many reasons why the flood could have created many of the geological conditions we see in our world, but it still left me unsettled. I wanted to believe in the six days of creation that had been so much a part of my upbringing, but I couldn’t make it work. This discrepancy never made me lose my faith, but it did shake it, sometimes violently. I had a true faith, but I couldn’t find a way to reconcile my faith in a perfect God who provided a biblical account that appeared less than “perfect” because it didn’t appear to match what I was seeing in creation.

    Today I can say that I’m very grateful for the faithfulness of our God who brought me to a place of complete peace with this issue. Beyond that, I’ve been blessed abundantly with a faith that continually grows through the creation discoveries that meld so beautifully with the Biblical account. It wasn’t a time, place, or event that began the next step in my journey. Rather, it was a book called “The Fingerprint of God” by Hugh Ross that opened a new world for me. We all experience those moments when we’ve seen and experienced the Truth. We recognize when the Holy Spirit is opening our heart. This is what I experienced as I read the book. My MIND could finally begin to fully reconcile the God of the Bible and the truth of the creation around me, opening my HEART to the full beauty of it.

    How many times have you read Genesis 1 and wondered how God first created the light and then created the sun, moon, and stars? In “The Fingerprint of God” Hugh, an astrophysicist, shared that he was a non-believer, but knew there had to be a God based on all scientific evidence he had gathered. He chose to read all of the “holy” books so he could refute the “man-made” gods that were worshiped. When he reached a point of incredulity with each book he would check it off his list and move on to the next. In this way he quickly moved through the ‘holy’ books. However, this changed instantly with the second verse of the Bible: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” As an astrophysicist, Hugh was immediately struck by the fact that this was the context in which the rest of chapter one was viewed. The Spirit was hovering over the waters of a formless and void world. This matched the opaque atmosphere of the early earth. Each creation day that followed matched the progression of the world as it was created, including the sun, moon, and stars, which appeared as the atmosphere cleared. Hugh couldn’t put the Bible down. As he delved deeper he came to a profound understanding that this was truly the work of God. That’s what his mind told him. A few months later his heart said the same thing, and he gave his life to Christ. He is now the founder and President of “Reasons To Believe”, an organization that has also created a testable Creation model based solely on the scientific evidence found in the Bible.

    This is not a treatise on Hugh Ross. It is a short history of my faith journey as it related to my reconciliation of the God of my heart and of my mind. I continue to explore the beauty of God’s creation found in both his Word and creation. The deeper I dig, the more blessed I am. Even as I write I had a conversation with my son regarding the beauty of God’s creation both intellectually and spiritually. It was something that I missed in my childhood so I am very grateful to see my son’s heart open to the vastness and beauty of creation, completely reconciled and at peace. My fifth grade struggle resulted in a blessing beyond my hopes more than 40 years later.

    Do you struggle with this issue? Do you have questions? I invite you to join me in the journey. I would suggest “The Fingerprint of God” by Hugh Ross as a starting point. It is a Biblically based book written by a scientist for the layperson. Or, for a quicker read, check out any of the articles found on the website, “Reasons to Believe”. I don’t want to preach or persuade. I only wish for you to be blessed on the journey as I have been. God does not want us to set our intellect aside, but to fully engage it. By doing so your heart will be more fully open to His amazing grace.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jerry. I’m sure it will be a benefit to all of us who struggle, from time to time, to see the God we love in the creation God made.

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