Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

With the ongoing discussions about Bruce Waltke’s video at the BioLogos website and his subsequent resignation from RTS, as well as the long comment thread here at Evangel about events in Genesis, I thought I would post some thoughts about the relationship between science and religion that were gathered from a series of helpful lectures from the Teaching Company. Some might find it helpful and others, I’m sure, will not.

The Conflict Over Evolution

Princepe is not naïve to the challenge Darwinism poses to religious people, though he laments the fact that so few have learned much about their Augustinian traditions. He argues that fundamentalists have done a hearty disservice to themselves by forgetting the importance of the no-conflict thesis between the book of nature and the book of Scripture and go so far to embrace a literalism that concludes the earth is only 6,000 years old. However, he does not savage them uncritically like most academics. He is aware that for most of Western history the age of the earth was only thought to be under 10,000 years old, because there was no reason to think God would want to have the world around for so long (billions of years) before the appearance of mankind.

There is also the matter of materialism utilizing the theory of evolution to remove God and the supernatural from people’s worldviews. The idea of humankind being made in the image of apes rather than God was too much to bear. Finally, a great reversal has happened between science and religion where science has been professionalized, and theology has been culturally downgraded from the “queen of sciences” to science’s handmaid. For most of Western history science was done casually by eccentric characters, most of which were of theological variety. Today, professional standards and research economies have secularized the field which demands highly trained specialists to publish their findings in refereed peer-reviewed journals. The days of fashioning a modest telescope and writing a fictional dialogue about the tides are over.

Yet theology has retained its character in high philosophy and is still a force to be reckoned with. Its flexibility has proved its durability in the face of change, and far from simply turning its sails with the wind it has found moments of vindication. One example is in the theory of the “big bang” that seems to demonstrate the universe had a definite beginning and is therefore not eternal. The long-ridiculed doctrine of creation ex nihio gained an intellectual respect it had not enjoyed before. Agreement between the book of nature and the book of Scripture can be found that furthers and confirms our knowledge.

Today the ongoing conflict between evolution and creationist agendas gives the appearance that science and religion have always been at war. Yet the facts are that many religious (even conservatively religious) people don’t see such a conflict. Even when Darwin’s theory burst on the scene it was viewed ambivalently with one side seeing humanity devalued and the other side seeing the biblical teaching of all humans descending from Adam consistent with common ancestry. The conservative Baptist theologian A.H. Strong argued that humans are no less even if they arose from beasts. Catholics have discussed the matter in virtual agreement under the heading of “theistic evolution” denying materialism and affirming the supernatural by seeing the human soul as directly created by God. Conservative Protestants debate over the day-age theories when interpreting the book of Genesis and even see evolutionary theory being compatible with the doctrine of inerrancy. If that seems outrageous, you might want to see the documented writings of the grand architect of the inerrancy doctrine B.B. Warfield, a conservative theologian of staunchest variety who is considered a forerunner of the Fundamentalist movement. He was a supporter of evolution (albeit a supernaturally guided form).

More on: Science

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles