Science and Theology

Kenneth Feucht (
Mon, 3 Jun 96 01:34:04 UT

Several comments have caught me as of late on the reflector that has picqued
by interest. I have been avidly following a number of discussions related to
the dating of Adam, the extent of the flood, and the value of evolutionistic
theories in development of a scientific explanation of origins from a
Christian perspective, etc. I have paid particular interest into the means and
expertise of the discussions. As an example, there have been numerous debates
regarding the use of various Hebrew words in Genesis, such as "ish",
"nephelim", etc., but I ask what qualifications the person has who is
discussing such issues. I argue not for the perpescuity of Scripture, but only
the means that scientists use in debating linguistic technicalities. Some
people have quoted themselves as having consulted refererences; only one
person has identified himself as to being formally expert to make such
interpretations, and he is a theologian. This same argument goes for a
complaint I have raised previously about the legitimacy of non-medical types
in working out details of a bio-medical ethic independent of the resources of
those who practice medicine.
I don't question the activity of pursuing knowledgable activities outside of
one's expertise; I do question several other things. First, are these
discussions intended to be serious? Secondly, is this how you also do real
science, meandering in all domains feeling confident that expertise in one
area permits expertise in another? Thirdly, since we expect there to be a
logical ending to our intellectual exercises, what is the logical ending to
these various intellectual discussions?
When I "do" science, I assume that the chief end of science was to glorify
God and provide a means of enjoying him. After all, the heavens were declaring
the glory of God, etc., etc. Yet I see no one discussing how a particular
theory might perhaps be offensive to the glory of the Almighty. Contrary, I
have seen people discuss how science and other means of imperical observations
have destroyed their belief in the absolute veracity and inerrancy of
Scripture, and others who have had science cause them to abandon the
theological framework on which Christianity rests, such as, recanting a belief
in the substitutionary atonement of Christ. I can't entirely blame scientists
for abandoning such beliefs, since many theologians themselves have done the
same. I would have thought that the intellectual strength of the academic
community could have at least provided more reasoned arguments for the
abandonment of the ancient paths. Jeremiah states...(Jer 6:10,16, NIV)

"Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the LORD is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it...
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, `We will not walk in it.'

Perhaps my arguments are not adequately erudite to persuade more informed
intellectuals of the 1990's. We have come to better terms with the revelation
of God, opting instead for the primacy of reason. Little do we realize how our
own academic enterprises were made possible by those who held tenaciously to
the ancient paths, such as the early deans of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke,
Oxford, and Cambridge, all of whom held firmly to Scriptures as we do not hold
today. Perhaps a study of Jonathan Edwards would be revealing, who was not
only a scientific prodigy, but one who is acclaimed to be the greatest
American theologian to ever live, and was third dean of what is now Princeton
University. To quote a more contemporary author, the venerable late bishop
J.C. Ryle of Liverpool, who wrote, in the text "Holiness" (p15-16)...

"The Atonement and Substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the
miraculous element of Scripture, the reality and eternity of future
punishment, all these mighty foundation-stones are coolly tossed overboard,
like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity, and enable it to
keep pace with modern science. Stand up for these verities, and you are
called, narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned, and a theological fossi! Quote a
text, and you are told that all truth is not confined to the pages of an
ancient Jewish Book, and that free inquiry has found out many things since the
Book was completed! Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern
plague as as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness,
power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men
of broad views, and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask
them to lay their hands on their hearts, and tell us whether their favourite
opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the
bedside of dying parents, by the grave of beloved wife or child. We must ask
them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace
at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not
sometimes feel a gnawing 'something' within, which all the free inquiry and
philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy....above all, we must tell
them that nothing will ever make them feel rest, but submission to the old
doctrines of man's ruin and Christ's redemption, and simple child-like faith
in Jesus."

A long quote for sure from a former Oxford graduate, written in 1866, but
perhaps still relevant to today. Ryle was truly a scholar among his peers, and
not disposed to emotionalism, simplistic thinking, or intellectual looseness.
Yet, in Bishop Ryles' delightful fashion, he entertains a primacy for
Scripture over science. Is he right? Should we be sensitive to that sort of
thing today in the ASA discussions?
Kenneth A. Feucht, M.D., Ph.D., FACS