Questions Regarding Creation

429415_1_ftcI have read a number of book about science, faith, and the beginning of all things. I’ve read everything from Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time to Alvin Plantinga’s Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Faith, and Naturalism. One of the things I have to recognize is that every one of these books hinges upon a position of faith held by the author, whether they acknowledge it or not. Of course, when an author does recognize their faith position, and works out of it, the books tend to be more engaging (and convincing in my mind).

When it comes to Christians and science, this is a tough position to be in. For many Christians, the theory of where “it all began” is essential to the faith, with Theistic Evolutionists feeling slighted by Young Earth Creationists and those in the YEC camp feeling abandoned by the TE scientists. But every once in a while, a book comes along that speaks kindly of everyone involved and wrestles with the questions that such a subject touches upon. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution is just such a work.

The book lays out the standard questions that a Christian (or skeptic) will have to wrestle with when it comes to the topic of Creation. Although there are divisions in the book, it is hard to say what can be found where. The authors do a great job of dealing with different theories in context, so OEC, YEC and TE all find treatment in each portion of the book. This necessitates that writers provide lots of secondary sources, which they do (including a great index of Ancient Sources on the topic starting on page 429). Overall, the book doesn’t push any new ideas in terms of Creation Science of Evolutionary Theory, but does an excellent job of summarizing the debate in a manner that any Christian could pick up and engage with.

While I don’t hold to the YEC or OEC (Old Earth Creationist) positions of the authors, I found their efforts enlightening and edifying. Keathley and Rooker approach the topic in a simple Q&A method, offering good insight and resources about the discussions in the book. While they don’t shy away from their own stance, both of the authors write charitably of Christians who hold to other positions. Perhaps the most valuable chapter in the whole book is Chapter 38, “Can a Christian Hold to Theistic Evolution?” Keathley and Rooker don’t acquiesce to the TE position, but they do acknowledge the adherents aren’t villains. They “[affirm] the Bible’s inspiration, inerrancy, and authority,” (384). In a book that might provide fodder for bashing those of different stripes, instead they exhorted those who hold to TE, “to formulate a model that fits well with the biblical text,” (385).

Christians need more books like this, which seek to amiably explore issues that are often divisive. Keathley and Rooker are to be commended for their candor and their caritas.

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Risky Business: Re-Telling Genesis by Recasting the Discussion

yhst-38174537758215_2228_40572942What would Genesis look like if it was a story told in the 21st century? Would the sky still be called “firm,” or would the light exist before the Sun? Professor Karl Giberson tries to answer those questions by, as he puts it, re-telling the Genesis creation story using the most up-to-date scientific understanding at his disposal. Giberson does an excellent job of relating current science and the direction it is going in, while maintaining a constant anchor in the Christian perspective by continually returning to God’s purposes throughout his relaxed study. If Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time were to become amalgamated with C.S. Lewis’s Miracles, this book is how I would imagine it.

Giberson’s writing style is gracious from a layman’s perspective, and his analogies offer deep insight into the void that is often scientific explanations. In light of the many praises I have for the book though, there are two rather substantial items which plagued my reading throughout every page of the book. I’m somewhat reticent to criticize the good doctor, as I greatly admire the open dialogue going on over at BioLogos (who were the primary supporters of this book) and of the work going on at Paraclete Press (who published the book). But, I would be remiss to be anything less than honest. And perhaps a reader more enlightened than I can help put my mind at ease regarding these matters.

The first is Giberson’s area of expertise. While I appreciate his early days in interdisciplinary studies (he majored in Philosophy and Physics as an undergrad), he is first and foremost a scientist. This certainly doesn’t disqualify him from studying the word of God or speculating about it either, but it does raise questions as I read: how much Hebrew was researched in this analysis? Was there comparative work done with other Ancient Near Eastern creation stories to see if the premise of approaching Genesis from a scientific lens was plausible? Perhaps such questions shouldn’t have nagged at me, but they did nonetheless.

And I’m glad they did, because they exposed what I think to be the ultimate issue I had: what if Genesis isn’t a scientific story? This has been discussed at length in books and blogs alike, which makes me wonder how this topic seemed illusive in Giberson’s retelling. In the end, I simply can’t align with the professor’s basic premise. I don’t think Genesis is a scientific story, which means I don’t think retelling it in “modern terms” will help the origins discussion.

In my opinion, the only way to really bridge the divide between those who love Jesus while favoring evolution and those who love Jesus while favoring creation science is by recasting the debate entirely. Folks like John Walton are already engaged in that process, so I don’t feel the need to elaborate further here in a book review. But I had to make my positions clear. Until I can see Genesis 1-11 as a scientific narrative, I can’t get behind Giberson’s efforts. I get what he’s trying to do; he’s trying to redirect the discussion by pointing out that Genesis is about more than science. Which is a point on which I am in full agreement. But you can’t make such a case by building the foundation of your argument on evidence from science! That undermines the position from the very beginning, and effectively caused Seven Glorious Days to fall flat in my mind.

I certainly commend him for trying a different approach, but in the end it just felt all wrong both inside and out.

Creation Science

As always, I encourage you to download the handout and fill it out as you watch the video above.

This past week’s lesson was a good one. The PowerPoint didn’t work. We ran out of time. And multiple people expressed disappointment that we didn’t get to have more of a discussion.

What made it good had nothing to with the decent lecture I had prepared. And it wasn’t because we had a pretty amazing time of praise before we got started. Our lesson this past Wednesday was awesome because fellowship happened.

People volunteered to help bring food and drinks for next week. People hung around and chatted afterwards about life and all the in-between stuff. People were open, even if it made them a little but uncomfortable.

This is really what I love about teaching. Take all the fancy lectures and intelligent words and just throw into the ocean for all I care. Church gets real when people fellowship with one another.

So while I had some thoughts I wanted to post about Creation and Evolution, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m just going to say, man we had a good time this week.

The Farnsworth Problem

There’s no scientific consensus that life is important. – Professor Farnsworth

In last week’s Science & Faith lesson, I showed a clip from Futurama. The video is succinctly summarized in the statement above, and it is this idea that brings me to one of the greatest issues we face when we engage in the whole “science vs. faith” discussion.

Science does not, and cannot, determine the meaning of our life.

Now, there are good scientists out there who understand this, and routinely engage with various worldviews to figure out what life is really “all about.” And there are scientists out there who are very good at what they do, but lose sight of purpose when they try to draw meaning from their research. There is a third category I want to discuss, and I think it is far more detrimental. You see, there are Christians out there who demand that science determine meaning, and therefore refute science when it can’t. In essence, this last group requires science to tell us how things work, and at the same time why that gives meaning to the working. But science isn’t a worldview, it’s a discipline of study and research. Once a scientist explains the how, their job is essentially done. The why? That falls to the realm of faith.

The danger we often find ourselves in is this: we hold science to a standard that only belongs to the realm of faith. This is one reason why so many young people leave the church (and you can read more about this here). We have to learn how to interact with science, without holding it to the same standard as revelation.

I think this is such a critical component of studying anything that falls outside the realm of “the Bible.” If we believe that the Bible is a special insight into who God is, then can we really expect anything else to come close to that? I don’t think we should, even if we could.

I welcome thoughts.

Science & Faith: A Primer

The small group I teach is embarking on an 8-week journey this Spring. As many of those in attendance are college students, we are endeavoring to dig into God’s Word and wrap our minds around the correlation between science and faith. Since I am learning as I prepare for these lessons, you can expect some further blog posts to help me work through the material, and hopefully get some good discussion going.

Our first lesson was a basic introduction to apologetics, and laid the four main foundational ideas that I think are necessary to this study:

  1. Christ must always be our foundation.
  2. The Bible is not a science book.
  3. Science does not determine meaning in life.
  4. We must always keep in mind what the Bible defines as true wisdom.

If you’re interested in knowing what was discussed, you can watch the video of our PowerPoint below. You can also click here to download a copy of the blank handout waiting for you to fill it in (or, for the less initiated, you can download a completed handout here).

I hope that you will join us, online or in person, as we draw closer to our Creator, and recognize the role science can play in our understanding and proper attitude towards His Creation.

Bad science and worse logic

Tonight, I am tired. Perhaps a bit frustrated too. And still, even with a weary body and distracted mind, I can spot bad science from a mile away.Hubble - Pillars of Creation

This article came out recently and, quite frankly, it makes me borderline angry. Why? Because it’s misleading, for one. And two, it demonstrates just how lost so many are in this world.

Let me briefly explain.

We’ll start with bad science:

Two hundred million years earlier, during the violent throes of planetary formation, Earth was a mass of molten minerals set afire by collisions with planet-sized heavenly bodies.

These Olympian crashes probably threw up the Moon and also caused billions of tonnes of liquefied gold and platinum — enough to cover the planet with a crust four metres (13 feet) thick — to sink to centre, creating its core.

And there the precious metals lie, forever beyond the reach of grasping human hands.

This much was known.

How do we knowsomething like what is described in this passage?

Can we verify this through any of our five senses?

Can we read the account, or at least speak with someone who witnessed these events?

Can we in any way possible visually (or in any other way) confirm that these ideas are indeed KNOWN as opposed to believed?

The overwhelming response to those questions is…no. This is bad science because it states as fact what is actually theory because it cannot be verified as fact through the scientific process.

What’s worse is that most people (not all) will read that article and simply assume that what it claims is true. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and everyone else. They won’t take the time to logically reason to themselves that this concept is based on all kinds of preconceived notions that they [the readers] may or may not agree with. No, they will read it, accept it, and add it to their mental piggy bank of “facts.” Such an article is irresponsible from a media standpoint (and a scientific one as well), but it is also manipulative because it does not leave room for the reader to question it’s validity.

To talk about these things is to delve into the realm of faith. And I have no problem with someone who wants to believe that science has the right idea when it makes claims about trillions of years ago and what have you. But I want them to be honest about it. I want them to call it faith, not science.

This is the perfect example of how bad science leads into worse logic.

Priorities

I have mixed feeling on Shuttle Atlantis’ mission to repair the Hubble telescope.

On one hand, I think it’s amazing what we’ve seen through the photographs taken by the satellite. You want to talk about God’s awesome creation? Browse some Hubble images on Yahoo! or Google, and you will see just how creative God is. I think there’s still a lot we can learn through these pictures, and I think that eventually we’ll have a more accurate grasp on time and space through this (the present conceptions are fine for now, but I think they fall short in many ways and will need some major overhauls in the next 50 years). Through things like this, we not only advance human knowledge, but we come closer to God. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t truly understand (regardless of what the Associated Press says). But as awesome as all this is, is it worth it? The estimated cost of the Hubble telescope in total is $10 billion. That’s a lot of dough.

And here is why my feelings are so mixed. To provide everyone on this planet with clean drinking water is estimated to cost, can you guess?, $10 billion. That’s it. One satellite gone and the water problem would be solved. Of course, I don’t think it’s NASA’s job to fix the world’s issues. But it puts things in perspective a bit. We’re eager to point out the obvious mistakes (like spending $450 billion on Christmas every year or the automakers taking massive bonuses at the expense of the country), but its not as easy to ask if we’re being good stewards of this life. Let’s say we put the Hubble off for 20 years, we had never launched it in 1990, and put that money to solve the water issue? What would we lose? Could we not launch the Hubble now? Would we be behind in any real significant way?

Its not easy to convince the world that people come before knowledge, particularly when we still so clearly value “stuff” and material possessions over people. Its sad that our priorities are out of whack in so many ways. Its sad that my priorities are messed up too. In the end, I appreciate the Hubble for what it is. But I wonder why we expect one area of our lives to be lived more responsibly when other areas of our lives aren’t? Consumerism in the individual will be more likely to change if those whom we take are cues from change the way they spend money. Change in government is usually top down. But revolutions start at the bottom I guess. So who will make the first move?