Re: [asa] Question from one of my students

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sat Sep 30 2006 - 12:15:03 EDT

Dear Bethany and others -

It seems to me that perhaps the simplest answer is the best starting point.


I'm not sure what level of answer is desired, but here is a basic
outline of one straightforward approach.

In a practical sense, one traditional way of engaging this particular
question of engagement of God's Creation is the "two book" perspective.
There are others, but this is a good starting point, I think.

We have one revered book, Scripture - the Bible - that we rely on for a
variety of helpful and inspirational insights in the form of
experiences, insight, history, wisdom, revelation, and wonderful songs
and poetry (to name a few colors from a spectrum).
But the principle objective is pretty clearly to introduce us to a
spiritual and live-defining relationship with the very author of
Creation, whose existence the Bible proclaims and whose authorship is
Though good people vary in their views as to the exact nature of
Scripture, most agree that the writings and/or authors of the collected
writings are in some form and degree inspired by God.

But there is a second "book" as well, the text of the physical universe,
including our world and its contents. All believers hold God to be the
Creator, author if you will, of this second book.
Over and over the the creative work result as it progresses is declared
"good" by the Creator. Though some good people believe Creation was
subsequently corrupted, others do not, prefering instead to think that
such an immense and wondrous and intentional divine creation would not
so easily be corrupted in some fundamental way by a mere mortal creation
- man. In this light, this second book - much as a work of art - has a
way of communicating something about its creator.

There is a marvelous convergence of several things here. As humans, we
have been created with or otherwise come to have an interesting
collection of capabilities. We have several senses with which to engage
and explore this creation. We have the power of reason and the even more
remarkable ability to abstract ideas, as well as the companion ability
to encode these ideas into symbols of several sorts and communicate them
to others of our kind. The remarkable specialized communication medium
of the language of mathematics has a constantly startling way of
expanding along with our knowledge. This enables us to continue
describing in some detail many of the behaviours of the phyxical world
at virtually any scale of measure from cosmic to submicroscopic and below.

Of course, this would be meaningless were it not that the extraordinary
fact that the world about us has a way of behaving with a certain
consistency that lends itself to exploration and understanding (at least
to limited, though increasing extent). So we seem to be created with an
expectation that we will explore and increasingly understand our
physical context, and from that, we conclude that it is a part of the
stewardship to do so. Another way of looking at this is that we cannot
"have dominion" without understanding. We have the capacity for that
understanding to grow, layer upon layer with time and effort, and for
our stewardship to grow and expand with that increasing understanding.

To support this notion, we have found that Creation seems to operate in
discoverable fashion, operating from surprisingly few (though extremely
sophisticated) basic principles or "laws". Though many mysteries remain,
the physical universe seems to be deliberately discoverable. It doesn't
have to be, but it is. This picture of purposefulness and intentional
discoverability, combined with our understanding of a benevolent loving
God, in turn suggests that this form of revelation, the information
discoverable from God's Creation - comprising this second "book" may
unless proven otherwise be considered both real and trustworthy, with no
deliberate intent to mislead.

There is an inspirational aspect as well of Creation. For many this is
aesthetic, manifest in the sensual beauties of the world. But there is
also hidden beauty that is mostly accessed and appreciated by those who
work in the disciplines associated with the physical world, physics,
biology, etc. These speak of authorship, order, intent, among others, to
those who "have ears".

There is a parallel inference may be drawn from this discoverablity
built into Creation, and that is that we might expect a similar
discoverability of the author of Creation, though the means and process
is different. Like the physical metaphor of Creation, we may discover
much, even understand a little, but much remains a unknown. And yet, our
experience is that the pursuit of the relationship with God may be
expected to be a dynamic discovery process as well.

By their character, these two books are read differently. They speak on
different aspects of Creation. And yet, their messages are complementary
in the end, precisely because they both seek some aspect of truth,
possessed and articulated perfectly only by the Author of Creation.
Exactly how that complementarity works out in practice can be a very
personal and often even stressful matter, and may take time. I commend
an expectation that the holy spirit of God is not disinterested in this
exploration process within us; not disinterested in our wrestling with
the open questions and clouds of perspective and opinion. In short, we
may expect that over time, the inner voice of the I AM will be quietly
present as we deal with some of the challenges of the "mingling" aspects
of our quests for insight and understanding.

My wish is for His blessings as you seek that aspect of the way. JimA

James Mahaffy wrote:

>My paleontology students were asked to read Ted Davis article on
>concordism and Bethany, one of my students had a question. I suggested
>she give it to me and I would post it to the ASA list. I will blind copy
>this to her and the class so their e-mails won't be out there in a
>public web archive. Paleo class you can see any responses by looking
>at the archives of the ASA list at url:
>Bethany has not read as much as some of you have but she is asking a
>serious question so I will post it and see if you have any response
>Ted Davis, in his article on historical views of the origins of the
>earth, especially in regards to Christian concordism, cites Francis
>Bacon writing about Scripture and Creation, and warning that people be
>careful to "not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together."
>I wonder if anyone on the ASA list has an opinion on "wisely" mingling
>the teachings of Scripture and Creation. Is there a way to discuss
>God's Creation in a way that is scientifically sound and also
>Scripturally sound?

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Received on Sat Sep 30 12:52:16 2006

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