Grab your pitchforks, iron up your flint, and pitch your hay we are going to talk about science and religion! As the mob grows and the fires burn, I feel the sweat dripping from my brow, for such subjects ought not to be address by morals who value their lives, or at least the approval of others.
There has been much written on this subject, and surely there is little I can add to the subject, however, my purposes here are to create awareness, and to plead for charity among Christians. I will therefore deal with what I see as mistakes in thinking, and what I think should be the real focus for all Christians, while also challenging the Young Earth view. The main subjects I seek to deal with in brief will be: Science and Religion, the Bible and Time, and Truth in Interpretation. Lets get our hands dirty and our backs bloody.
Science and Religion are like two twins who fight for the same birthright and blessing from their father. Sometimes they are even like the brothers who offer sacrifices to God, who rejects one and accepts the other. What is sad about the whole situation is we already know what the ending is for these analogies, and thus we fear the same for our present subject. The truth of the matter is that Science and Religion are brothers who both specialize in truth, just different aspects of truth. All truth is God’s truth, the statement has been used a few times I believe, thus the real question is how much do these two fields interact and how much do they specialize alone. As a quick side note when I refer to Religion I mean Christianity in its pure and true form, and likewise when I refer to Science I mean it in its true and pure form.
To better explain Truth: allow me to create a word picture for you. Think of truth as one large Circle. Now think of Science and Religion as smaller circles inside of Truth, this is the domain of truth they both deal with. They do not deal with all of Truth, but just a part of Truth. Another side note: when I speak of Truth I mean how reality really is. These smaller circles of Religion and Science are mostly separate, but they do intersect or overlap a certain amount, but not entirely.
Another good point to make on this subject is that both Science and Religion are reliable in discovering truth. Before you jump on my case and declare me a heretic or a sell out who places Science equal with Religion allow me to further explain how they do work together in the final section of this article, but for now just trust me. Because they both help discover Truth, and most of the Truth they discover (remember by truth I mean reality as it really is) is unique to the tool, they both need each other to create a more full picture of Truth. In other words, if we wish to know Truth more fully, and understand Reality better, we must use both Science and Religion to do so. If we only focus on one side or the other, it is like looking at a Porche from the front only and trying to appreciate its full beauty or understand how the engine works. To best appreciate God and His creation we need to look at it from both Science and Religion (not to mention other disciplines like history, mathematics, or language). To divorce them two is foolish at best, and disastrous at worst.
What this means for the Christian is that we should seek both to rightly understand Religion, and rightly understand Science. This means we need to be responsible and determine how far each can go, and not go any farther with it. We see this error especially in Evolutionary Sciences, where the Scientists often take Science farther than it should go when they start calling their philosophizing Science. Science cannot prove or disprove a Being, like God’s existence, for example, this is the realm of Religion. Also religion cannot prove or disprove the speed of light, because this is in the realm of Science. Likewise I see many Christians taking Religion farther than it should go, a great example is trying to determine the age of the earth through genealogies, but I will deal with such things later in the paper.
In conclusion we need both Science and Religion, they are not mortal enemies, and if you are told that to believe one you must reject the other, run the opposite direction. Sadly many Christians wrongly divide people on this subject. A great example is the many Christians who say that the Bible absolutely teaches that the earth was created in literally six, 24-hour periods, within the last 10,000 years or less. Thus they claim that if you believe Science teaches anything other than this, you must reject the Bible at the same time. What is sad, is they are right in principle, if the Bible does truly teach Young Earth Creation (YEC) with such vigor and absolution, then yes, if you believe anything other than YEC you must reject Scripture. However, it is the goal of my last two sections to disprove their premise; Scripture is not that clear or absolute on this subject.
The Bible, Time, and who do we believe? Does the Bible really teach YEC or does it leave other options available? If you believe Old Earth Creation (OEC) does that automatically mean you must reject the authority of Scripture, or are you within the realm of Scriptural Truth? To answer these questions one must simply demonstrate that Scripture isn’t absolute in its view of the Age of the Earth like YECs claim it is. Such a task is accomplished by merely placing doubt in their claims, not through absolute disproval. In other words to show that the YEC is wrong to claim like they do, that one must be a YEC or else one rejects the authority of Scripture, all we must do is show that their interpretation isn’t the only one demanded by the text. This specifically will be dealt with in the last section of this article. Here I will discuss a few basic premises about Scripture.
Scripture is true in all that it desires to be, but this truth isn’t universal in scope, it isn’t a complete view of reality. This means that Scripture truly speaks about God, but it doesn’t say anything about how do to Calculus, or how to measure light’s speed. What this means is that there are things that Scripture wishes to address, and things it is silent on. If it is silent on a subject, then it is not the authority over that subject; hence we can look elsewhere outside Scripture to discover some aspects of Truth. Of course no Truth can contradict, and thus nothing we find in any other disciple can contradict anything we find in Scripture or with each other. Interpretations can contradict (and often do), but interpretation of the Truth can be wrong, while the Truth they are attempting to interpret still can be correct, but I will deal with this in the last section.
Does Scripture teach about how old the earth and universe is? No, at least not directly. Scripture calls the earth old, and ancient, but it never gives exact dates or ages, therefor anyone who says they know how old the earth or universe is, claims so from inference and interpretation not from direct knowledge or revelation. Anything that comes from inference and interpretation has a chance to be wrong, thus by this simple definition, the YEC cannot claim absolutely that Scripture teaches the earth is young, because the claim is based on inference and interpretation and thus can be wrong. Again I am not saying they are wrong, just that they cannot claim they are absolutely right without any doubt.
To make this more clear allow me to dissect their use of genealogies to determine the age of the earth. To use a genealogy to determine the age of the earth we must have a clear declaration from the author that they intend us to do so, otherwise our doing so is based on pure speculation and inference. Moses nor God ever say anywhere in Scripture that we are to use the genealogies to discover the age of the earth. Thus, for us to use them is to exercise pure speculation and to infer many things which might actually not be true. Here are some things that must be inferred: The YEC must infer that Moses intended to write a genealogy so precisely that future generations would be able to use them to determine exact dates. They must also infer that the genealogy doesn’t have any gaps, when other genealogies in Scripture and of that time do have gaps. Because we do not know all of Moses’ intentions in his writing of these genealogies, nor do we know how complete they really are, our placing too much weight on them is shaky at best. Surely then we can conclude that because we are not absolutely sure of Moses’ intentions, we must admit that we could have gotten them wrong.
It is also helpful to look at Genesis one and two and to point out that the language here isn’t absolutely clear either. Allow me to elaborate further. We don’t need to get into word studies to point out a few things about the text. One of the first things we see in the text is the unusual use of evening and morning in relation to day. Another thing we immediately notice is the interesting order of things being created and the noticeable pairing being made. Let us look at this really quick.
First let us quickly place the order then talk about it: First day light is created. Second day sky is created as water is divided. Third day dry land is created along with the sea, plants are created to seed on the land. On the fourth day God created (or revealed) the sun, moon and stars. On the fifth day God created all the animals in sea and air. On the sixth day God created man and the land animals.
Now let us look at how interesting this order is: first you have light being created (1st day) before the sun, moon and stars (4th day) or else you must say that the sun, moon and stars were created on day 1 and only revealed on day 4. However, this creates another problem because you have plants growing on day 3 before they would have a sun to make them grow. Let us also mention that day 6 is a very long day, and it is possible that all the events could not fit into 12hrs or so (think Adam could have named all the animals, and found a wife in the dark?). Also let us mention that God is still resting on the 7th day, so at least we have one day out of the 7 that is a long period of time.
Another thing is very curious when we look at the structure of the verses. Day one has light being created; day four has the sun and moon becoming visible. Day two has sky and water being divided, day five has birds and fish being created which live in the water and sky. Day three has dry land being created, while day 6 has man and animals, all who live on the land, being created. Thus we can see that day one goes with day four, while day two goes with day five, and day three goes with day six. What this means is that Moses might have been attempting to make a theological point with Genesis one and two and not so much a direct literal explanation of exactly how God did it or in what order. Again this doesn’t disprove the YEC view, but it demonstrates that there can be other ways to look at the text and that the text simply isn’t as easy nor cut and dry to interpret as they wish us to believe it is.
To conclude this section I would just like to point out that there are many Biblical and historical Scholars who do think that Genesis one and two are more theological points than scientific. Of course they do believe that God literally created the world and everything in it, but they do not believe that one has to take it as literally in six 24 hour days in the exact order placed there. They claim that one can take the Bible “literally” and seriously, and still have some freedom in how they interpret Genesis one and two. In other words they say the text does allow for and Old Earth view. So who should we believe? Which Scholars are right? Let us start our last section to find out if it really even matters.
When we think about truth in interpretation we can often get overwhelmed or sometimes even too dogmatic. There are many interpretations out there, so it often seems like it is hard to discover which is more true that the others. Luckily for us picking out the really bad ones is not as hard as it may seem and usually we are just left with a few options. How do we choose which one to believe our selves?
To be clear thinkers and responsible with the information God has given to use, we must consider a few principles of reason. The first principle we must consider is that we can know true things, but we could be wrong. When it comes to reality, everything we know about it is an interpretation. We are not God, and thus we do not have direct and full knowledge of everything in the universe, therefore everything we do know comes to us indirectly and incompletely. The oven is hot, because it feels hot to our hand. The thermometer could tell us it is 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but we are reading the thermometer with our eyes, and trusting that it is calibrated correctly. Thus there is a chance that the oven isn’t 350 degrees like we believe it is based on the evidence we have before us. So it is with everything we know, it comes filtered to us through other people, words, pictures, instruments, our perceptions, our minds, and our senses.
Does this mean we cannot know anything? Of course not, there is a lot we can know, but as humans we cannot know anything with 100% certainty, at least not with certainty like God has. Even knowledge that comes directly from God’s mouth, we cannot know with 100% certainty, because there is a chance we understood his words incorrectly, or misinterpreted their meaning. The only way we know anything with 100% certainty, is if God miraculously causes us to, but even then without God having a lengthy personal, face to face, meeting with us to go over everything he just communicated to us, we couldn’t even know for certain that it was God speaking to us, or that we understood him correctly; good luck convincing others that you got it 100% correct.
Now I am not saying that we cannot know anything or trust what God tells us. All I am saying is we shouldn’t have the opinion that we are God and are communicating His truth for Him, or that we are infallible in our beliefs or communication. I do believe we can know true things (although probably not with 100% precision).
The second principle is: “he with the most knowledge wins”. In other words the view that encompasses the most amount of evidence for reality is the view closest to the True (although not necessarily 100%) view out there that we can know. Think of it this way. We believe that gravity exists because such a view accounts for the most experience, and data discovered. Do we believe we understand gravity 100%? No, but we at least know something about it. Likewise, we know that Jesus lived, died, and rose again because it is the explanation that best answers all the questions, data, and experience out there. Do we understand it 100% or know it to be true with 100% certainty? No, but we do not need 100% certainty to believe in something. To have 100% certainty, we must have 100% knowledge of all things, and since we don’t have that type of knowledge, we don’t have that type of certainty, yet no one denies that we know some things.
Simply put, we ought to believe in the things that have the most evidence going for them, the things that answer the most questions and have the least sizable problems. No belief with is without some doubt, or some evidence against, or even some question as to its problems, but the best beliefs have the least problems while dealing with the most evidence. I believe the Bible has the best worldview, not because there are not problems or questions with it, but because it best explains reality, and answers the questions there in better than any other view.
Here is the rub, the snake in the grass, and the stick in my eye: people who act like their view is Reality, and not an interpretation of Reality. All we, as humans, have is our interpretations, and some are better than others, but when we go to sleep at night, in the end, we could be wrong. This is why I think YEC needs to rethink their position, not because the earth isn’t young, but because they misunderstand reality and their interpretation of it. They claim that their view is the “True” view of Scripture, and to go against it is to deny Scripture, while every other view out there is just a wrong interpretation of Scripture. They seem to think they have truth directly without interpretation. However they want to spin it, in reality their view of Scripture is just as much an interpretation as everyone else’s. Of course theirs might be the best one, but that is what the whole debate is on. There is a difference between claiming your view is the best, and your view is the right one. To claim that your view is right is to claim that it is reality, to claim it is the best, is to claim it is closest to the right that you know. Of course our views can actually be right, but that doesn’t mean we know it 100% with certainty. Rather we should mean, when we claim to be right, that we think our view is the best out of all the options out there, that our view best explains reality as far as the evidence and reason is concerned. There is always a chance more evidence can come out and modify our view.
Basically what I am saying is that we shouldn’t hold on to any view in this world that doesn’t allow for some chance for it to be modified or changed by the entrance of new evidence. This is all I am asking of the YEC, to hold their position in such a way that if new Biblical, or Scientific evidence arises, they be at least willing to modify or change their view. This also goes for the OEC as well, but I believe they are more open already to modifying their views with the evidence, than YEC’s are.
In conclusion I believe we should hold convictions and our beliefs securely, but also loosely. Securely because we believe that we are right, and loosely because we admit we could be wrong, even if we don’t think at the moment there is really any good chance of it. There are some things we shouldn’t give up very easily, and others that shouldn’t be held on to very tightly.
When it comes to the age of the earth I think it is something we should use both Science and Religion to discover. Religion tells us that God did it, and why, while Science tells us some of the how’s and when’s. They both need to work together, and we know the true interpretation of them will not contradict as the truth doesn’t contradict. History has shown that Science has been helpful in understanding and interpreting Scripture better, and Scripture has been helpful in understanding and furthering Science. Of course Scripture is the kind of revelation that is clearer in principle, and thus should be easier to interpret (for the most part) than the kind of revelation found in Science. Let us not forget that both revelations come from God, and that we cannot know anything unless God gives it to us, so let us have patience with those who lack knowledge because ultimately God hasn’t revealed it to them yet.
Scripture doesn’t demand a YEC view, only certain interpretations do, thus the whole debate should be on what interpretation is best, and to do this responsibly we must only take Scripture as far as it goes, and use Science to fill in where Scripture is silent. Just as God the Father cannot be divided from the Son, neither can God’s revelations be divided as well. A true view of nature will only help us understand God and His creation better, while a true view of Scripture does so as well. They are not enemies but tools God has provided for our edification and His Glory.
Here are some misunderstandings YEC’s have of OEC’s:
1) OEC’s do not place Science over Scripture; rather they attempt to let each speak to its area of expertise and attempt to let them only overlap where necessary. Many are first convinced that Scripture teaches an old earth before they are convinced that Science teaches it.
2) OEC’s take Scripture seriously; they just don’t think the “literal” interpretation of the YEC is really that “literal” or the correct interpretation of the text based on many reasons in the text alone.
3) OEC’s don’t all believe in Theistic Evolution, and many agree in the miracle of creation, they just debate how long ago God did it. An old earth doesn’t demand evolution, and the OEC wishes that the YEC would stop assuming so.
Some advice for YEC’s:
1) Don’t use emotional arguing: claiming that to believe OEC leads to the slippery slope of denying Christ is not a good argument. In the worst case it is possible for people to foolishly believe in contradictions, thus it is possible for an OEC to doubt God’s word in Genesis and accept it in John (if we assume the YEC interpretation of Genesis is correct).
2) Don’t assume what you are attempting to prove. Do not use circular reasoning. Do not start with assuming the earth is young and then go looking for the evidence. Do not assume Genesis must teach YEC before “proving” it from Genesis. I have seen many YEC’s argue that Science must teach a YEC just because they are convinced that the Bible teaches it, but it is possible that their interpretation of Scripture is wrong, or best case there is a paradox between Scripture and Science. Rather let Science give its conclusion, and let Scripture give its conclusion, and if they don’t agree, go back to both and work it out.
3) Don’t wrongly portray the OEC view. Don’t personally attack them, or vilify them. Respect them and be kind.
4) Do not argue that one must choose between OEC and Scripture, for one can believe in both. Many “Christians” have left the faith because of this false choice you demand of them.
5) Do not fear long age, for the evolutionist needs more than time to be correct, they need logic to fail, and contradictions to exist.
6) Place the correct weight on the Gospel, and remember that the age of the earth isn’t the Gospel. Preach the gospel to the atheist and evolutionist first, then talk age.