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The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm was published in 1954, but it is clear to me from reading the first chapter that much has remained the same in the relationship of Christianity and science. Ramm has a lot of insight in the subject that is still very applicable. For anyone who is interested, the following is an outline of one of the book’s first sections, “The Present Status of Christianity and Science.”

Ramm begins by noting the change from the medieval university, whose faculty was comprised primarily of Christians, to the modern university, where the Christian professor is a distinct minority. He says that the battle between orthodoxy and “modernism and unbelief” was fought and lost by orthodoxy in the ninteenth century for seven reasons.

1.  There was already a widespread movement away from the medieval authoritarianism of the Catholic church toward secularization, which made people more open toward the changes of the nineteenth century.

2.  Modern philosophy and science had introduced a new and valuable way of thinking that was critical and skeptical. People recognized the practical value of this mentality and were predisposed toward it and against a more theological way of thinking.

3.  The immense practicality of science was easily demonstrated at increasing rates in modern inventions, medicine, etc., offering convincing proof for the arguments of science. Theology had a hard time competing against the flashiness of science.

4.  There were and are innumerable divisions within Christianity over theological truth. In contrast, the sciences were becoming increasingly unanimous in their interpretation of the natural universe. This difference between science and religion created a psychological impression on those observing the battle.

5.  The response of the “hyperorthodox and even the orthodox” to science only hurt itself. First, much of the response was characterized by ignorance about science in general, since ninteenth century education was primarily focused on the liberal arts. (Modern emphasis on scientific education and laboratory experimentation came in the twentieth century.) Secondly, much of the response was characterized by a sarcastic and mocking spirit, which could not possibly stand against the emerging mound of physical evidence.

6.  The people making up the scientific community were increasingly atheistic and naturalistic and decreasingly Christian. Students began to be influenced by the non-Christian philosophies of their teachers.

7.  “Orthodoxy did not have a well-developed philosophy of science or philosophy of biology. The big problems of science and biology must be argued in terms of a broad philosophy of science. The evangelical always fought the battle on too narrow a strip. He argued over the authenticity of this or that bone; this or that phenomenon in a plant or animal; this or that detail in geology. The empirical data are just there, and the scientists can run the evangelicals to death in constantly turning up new material.” (Does this sound familiar, anyone?) Ramm does recognize that evangelicals didn’t have much time during the explosion of science in the ninteenth century to develop a philosophy, but that still doesn’t negate the necessity of having an over-arching philosophy of science.

After giving these reasons for the loss of orthodoxy in its battle with science , Ramm lists the ramifications.

1.  Evangelical Christianity has lost credibility and deference within the sciences.

2.  Many within the church have bowed the knee to naturalism, denying the miraculous in the Bible.

3.  “Numerous intelligent and gifted young men […] could have served the church with distinction but […] live and work outside the church in the belief that Holy Scripture is scientifically untrustworthy. Thousands of splendid, trained, capable men now lost to secularism could have provided the church with an impressive array of scholars in every department of learning and provided for a stronger ministry and more intelligent laity.”

4.  The popular impression is that the Bible and science are opposed to each other, and that fact is on the side of science.

Ramm’s observations here are pretty disheartening to me. I have to wonder what would have happened if evangelical Christianity had responded differently to the emerging sciences. Was such an explosion of conflict really necessary? How many were lost to Christianity because of a bad reaction from the Christian community? Disheartening as these things may be, hope is not lost. Jesus is still Lord, and he is in the business of using people and groups who make big mistakes.

There is more good stuff in the first chapter, but that might be too much for a single blog entry. Hopefully later.

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Sometimes I wonder if writing about theistic evolution will cause some to doubt their faith, and that is certainly not what I want. For some people, if evolution is true, then Christianity is false. That is not what I believe, but if any of you possible readers do believe this, then I would not want you to read what I am writing and be troubled.

My quest to reconcile science and Christianity is far from over. Most of the books I have been reading (see the “Books” page of this blog) have dealt with the issues of evolution and an ancient universe primarily from the scientific perspective. They have been concerned primarily with explaining the evidence from the geological record, the fossil record, the stars’ light, DNA, carbon dating, etc. What I am hoping to do now is start reading books that address these issues from a Biblical and theological perspective. I recently checked out one promising read from my church’s library called The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm, and I hope to write about it in future posts. Another book that I am interested in reading is Beyond the Firmament by Gordon J. Glover. If any of you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments section.

At this point in my journey, there are many difficulties that I see for theistic evolution. No doubt these are not new to any of you, but here they are, in no particular order:

1.  My understanding of the Bible is that physical death and suffering are not the way things are supposed to be. My own nature bears witness to this:  I dread death; I think that my own father’s death in a car accident was an undignified way to go; I think it’s cruel that animals prey on one another; it is depressing that we become old and weak. The list goes on and on. How can God use a process that is often cruel and always dependent on death?

2.  How do we account for the geneologies in Genesis that seem to indicate the earth is young?

3.  How do we account for the rationale for the Sabbath, i.e., that God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh?

4.  Doesn’t the apostle Paul teach that the earth has been subjected to futility? Doesn’t this suggest that the earth at one time was free from that futility?

5.  Doesn’t Paul teach that Adam was a real person? How can his explanation that all have fallen in Adam be reconciled to a non-literal interpretation of him?

6.  Doesn’t Genesis clearly teach that the Flood was universal? How can we account for the detail that the waters rose above the mountains or that God promised never to destroy the earth again?

7.  At what point did God breathe a spirit into humanity?

8.  Were Adam and Eve real or symbolic?

I am sure that there are other questions, but these are the main ones I hope to be thinking through. From my experience as a Christian who has taken a literal view of Genesis 1 and 2 for many years, these are the main objections from literalists. Questions like these are used to justify a false choice that is often laid before Christians, namely,  it’s either God or evolution, but never both.

While these objections to theistic evolution are a significant obstacle, I do not think that a literal six day interpretation fairs much better for a Christian. Here are difficulties that I see:

1.  As I understand it (as a layman with little scientific background), the scientific evidence from geology, astronomy, chemistry, and biology is against a young earth.

2.  Again, as I see it, the case from DNA, the fossil record, and the present variety of animals is pretty strong for evolution.

3.  The arrangement of Genesis 1 is highly structured and even poetic, suggesting a non-literal reading.

4.  The creation of the firmament and the placement of the stars in the firmament under the waters above suggests an ancient cosmology. This would indicate that God spoke to the Israelites in a way that they could understand and further suggests a need to read Genesis 1 in a non-literal way.

5.  The creation account of Genesis 2 can be read in such a way as to tell a different story of creation order. True, the NIV’s version can be harmonized with Genesis 1, but I am not convinced that the insertion of the word “had” in “Now God had created” is warranted.

6.  The Genesis 2 story has elements to it that are strongly mythological, e.g., the creation of Eve from a rib, the trees that impart eternal life and the knowledge of good and evil, and the explanations for pain in childbirth, etc.

Of course, there are others. The point is that there are problems with both views that are not easy. A spirit of humility ought to be present in all believers looking into this issue.

So that’s where I am in my spiritual quest. Your prayers are most welcome.

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