Monday, August 17, 2009

Science and Evolution

Having a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and a Bachelor of Religious Education, I am always interested in the relationship between science and faith. Thus I found these words by Mark Noll interesting and worth our consideration.
Some evangelical Christians have trouble reconciling evolution and a traditional belief in God as creator and sustainer of the world, but I do not. Within the evangelical tribe, I belong to the Calvinist wing, where a long history exists of accepting that God speaks to humans through "two books" (Scripture and nature), and since there is but one author of the two books, there is in principle no real conflict possible between what humans learn from solidly grounded science and solidly grounded study of the Bible. Of course, if "evolution" is taken to mean a grand philosophical Explanation of Everything based upon Pure Chance, then I don't believe it at all. But as a scientific proposal for how species develop through natural selection, I say let the scientists who know what they are doing use their expertise and whatever theories help to find out as much as they can. On the Bible side, I do not think it is necessary to read everything in early Genesis as if it were written by a fact-checker at the New York Times. But as a persuasive basis for believing 1) that God made the original world stuff, 2) that he providentially sustains all natural processes, and 3) that he used a special act of creation (perhaps out of nothing, perhaps from apelike ancestors) to make humans in his own image, the Bible is not threatened by responsible scientific investigations.
As a historian I am impressed by words of 19th-century conservative Presbyterian, Benjamin B. Warfield: "if we condition the theory [of evolution] by allowing the constant oversight of God in the whole process, and his occasional supernatural interference for the production of new beginnings by an actual output of creative force ... we may hold to the modified theory of evolution and be Christians in the ordinary orthodox sense." These words still hold true today.*
Other than his classification of himself as a Calvinist, I can agree with everything else in this quote. It is encouraging to find others who express a strong faith in Jesus and also see the value of scientific investigation.

*http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/statement_02.html; Mark Noll is professor of Christian thought in the History Department at Wheaton College, Illinois. He is the author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1995) and of A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1994).

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this Keith. My brother in law is nearly finished his bio degree through the U of R. As he's spent summers working in the field doing research, he's thought a lot about evolution. As a follower of Jesus, he's been trying to reconcile the teaching he absorbed growing up (literal 7 day creation) with what he's learning now. I've been inspired by his journey - and now I'm inspired by this too. To become comfortable with the mystery of God and allow these questions to float around in my heart. Thanks for sharing!

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