Faith and Science

Russell T. Cannon (
Thu, 20 Mar 1997 20:49:19 -0600

In this message, I am attempting to integrate the thoughts of two people
with my own in a three way exchange. This has been made difficult but
necessary because various parts of a message sent by Pim van Meurs were
not properly attributed to Steven Jones. I had to reference previous
messages from all three of us to figure out who said what. Hopefully, I
got the right words in the right mouths. If not, please forgive the

This thread started as Introduction (mine) and became Faith which I have
changed to Faith and Science.

I said...

> I take the "Old-Earth Creationism" view. It is
> a belief which is based in part on scripture and
> in part on my limited understanding of various
> scientific discoveries and theories.

Steve replied...

> Same. It is a fallacy to say that our beliefs
> about creation rest on Scripture alone.
> *Everyone*, including the strictest YEC interprets
> Scripture in the light of his views of nature:

I think this can be an overstatement in the sense that few Christians
really hold the view that creation is "inspired" in the same sense and
in the same way that scripture is. I agree with this, however, and
would assert that we need to treat creation as the 67th book of the
Bible. It must agree just as precisely with the other 66 as they agree
with themselves.

We have to remember something however. When we find an apparent
disagreement between scripture and creation, we must ask ourselves one
basic question, "Is the disagreement over what each really says, or over
what we think it says?"

Steve said...

> When the Bible speaks of the foundations, or of the
> pillars of the earth, or of the solid heavens, or of
> the motion of the sun, do not you and every other
> sane man, interpret this language by the facts of
> science?

Briefly on sanity: No man thinks himself insane. We are either sane
and think nothing of it, or are insane and think very much that we are
not. :-)

We have certain conceptions of reality in our minds, and when we read
scripture, we automatically conform it to our conceptions. It never
occurred to me, for example, to interpret "pillars of the earth" (Job
9:6) to mean that the earth is resting upon giant granite
columns--until, that is, a non-Christian suggested this meaning for the
passage. Our conceptions of scripture and reality must be constantly

Atheits, by the way, who try to use supposed contradictions in scripture
to refute Christianity are on shakey ground because they can never be
sure whether they are arguing about the true meaning of a passage or of
some potentially erroneous interpretation of it.

Creationism is a fine example of this point. If the Bible said that the
earth was created four thousand years (more or less) before the birth of
Jesus, Atheists would have something to sink their teeth into, but as it
is, the creation story in scripture can be interpreted to describe an
old earth without modifying the language at all--we only modify our
intepretation of the language.

Debates with unbelievers can actually serve a valuable purpose
here--they can help us see where our ideas are weak and send us back to
our studies (and our knees) to correct the problem. Old earth
creationism as a Christian doctrine has risen out of ashes such as

Steve then quoted the following material (some deleted)...

> "If the Bible cannot contradict science, neither
> can science contradict the Bible..." (Hodge C.,
> "The Bible in Science," New York Observer, Mar,
> 26, 1863 pp98-99, in Noll M.A., "The Scandal of
> the Evangelical Mind", 1995, pp183-184)

To which Pim replied...

> Of course not, they are two distinct entities,
> one based on faith and one based on science.

This looks good on the surface, but it suggests that there is nothing in
science that is expressed more as a statement of faith than of fact.
Consequently, I think it is probably a difficult assumption to stand on.

Moreover, this statement is an oversimplification. There is
considerable overlap in all of the various domains of human inquiry. As
long as we maintain a balanced view--inclusive of all domains--in our
study and debate, all is well. However, trouble arises when we exclude
one or more of them from consideration.

The mischief in science comes from the tendency of people (scientists
and non-scientists alike) to take up causes and fight for them until all
rational basis for the cause has been eroded. Not all things uttered by
a scientist are scientific--even many things represented to be

Disclaimer: I am not saying that all rational basis for Darwinian
evolution has been eroded. I am only making a point about a particular
tendency of human beings and that scientists are not immune to it.

I had said previously...

> I do not believe in evolution, I believe in God;

To which Steve replied...

> "I like this. It is the reverse of what I said
> to Loren about the "tainted" word "evolution".
> Ask an unbeliever why he/she doesn't believe in
> God and he/she will say something like "Because
> I believe in evolution". Ask a Christian why
> he/she doesn't believe in evolution and he/she
> will say "Because I believe in God"."

And Pim countered...

> Of course there are many shades between these
> two. But I am curious why christians refuse to
> believe in evolution if the evidence supports
> this? Is it beyond their faith that god could
> have 'created' us through these naturalistic
> means?

The problem here is that something else that I had said did not make it
through to Pim. The above statement of mine was actually part of a
sentence that, taken completely, answers Pim's above point. The
following is the complete statement which I supply for clarification:

> I do not believe in evolution, I believe in
> God; but I do believe that God used both natural
> and extra-natural mechanisms that taken as a
> whole are what some interpret as natural
> evolution and others interpret as super-natural
> creation.

Steve and I then exchanged ideas on "core beliefs" and "human

In this exchange, among other things, I had said...

> In all my studies, however, I have never found
> anything that posed a serious challenge to my
> core beliefs.

To which Steve replied...

> Same here. But I think we should not
> downplay the "serious challenge" to our
> "core beliefs" that evolutionism poses.
> Where the Church has allowed its doctrines
> to be "Finlandised" by evolutionist beliefs,
> it has become weaker. Evolutionist ideas
> are probably the greatest threat that the
> Church faces, since they purport to render
> superfluous the need for a supernatural
> Creator:"

Then Pim replied...

> And this shows a severe lack in faith in
> your creator Steve. To suggest that he
> could not have used evolution. Furthermore
> your statement that evolution requires no
> god is also untrue. Many christians have
> found a way to deal happily with both.

I do not see the lack of faith that Pim sees. I have been Christian for
many years, and understanding the principles of faith in all of its
forms as I do, I do not think Steve's statement represents a weakness in
his Christian faith. The nature of Christian faith is much more
complicated than a simple belief in God and the things that He has said
and done. It does start there, but in time, it matures into something
more complex and profound.

Morover, I would tend to agree with Steve. Evolution is not proved (nor
disproved), but in our hearts--by the relationship we experience with
Him--God is proved. We conform to that and all of our faith derives
from that experience. We can never believe in evolution the same way
that we believe in God.

This gets me back to the statement I made before, "I do not believe in
evolution, I believe in God." This statement has less to do with what
ideas I think are true as it has to do with the relationship I
experience with God. I may one day be utterly convinced that Darwinian
evolution was the mechanism that led to the incredible bio-diversity of
earth, but I will never believe *in* it the same way I believe in God.
Believing something to be true is not the same as believing *in* it.
There is only one thing (or more correctly, Person) I could believe
in--that is God--all other ideas I hold to be true are secondary.

Steve quoted the following...

> "In the evolutionary pattern of thought
> there is no longer either need or room for
> the supernatural. The earth was not created,
> it evolved. So did all the animals and
> plants that inhabit it, including our human
> selves, mind and soul as well as brain and
> body. So did religion...." (Huxley J., Tax
> S. (ed.), "Evolution after Darwin", 1960, in
> Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993,
> pp152-153)

And Pim replied again...

> And why do you believe that god could not
> have achieved his creation through evolution?
> Any other view seems to place you in the
> unenviable position of having to disbelieve
> evolution. Perhaps are you not ignoring what
> god is trying to show you through evidence
> and fact? Perhaps by denying evolution you
> are denying your god?

As evidence for evolution stands right now, our skepticism is just as
warranted as your apparent skepticism of the Bible.

I am utterly unbiased about the question of whether natural mechanisms
were used--I am accused of heresy from time the time by my Christian
brothers when I assert that they were. But as a Christian, I must also
assert that super-natural mechanisms were used as well. It is an
undeniable fact of the scriptures that some super-natural activity
occurred. We cannot always say what and when, but we can say
unequivocally that they did. As Chrisitans, we can accept that some
things occurred naturally, but the scriptures clearly assert that there
was some super-natural mechanism at work as well.

Darwinian evolution stands unproved in the truest scientific sense
because all it has (or indeed can) give us is theories of relationships
between species and how changes may have occurred from one to another.
It can never actually reproduce an instance of Darwinian evolution in
the laboratory. In this way, Darwinian evolution and intelligent design
are on equal footing.

Incidentally, should a scientist ever claim to have evolved a lifeform
in the laboratory--or to have developed a new one through
abiogenesis--he or she would never be able to discount the role of the
creator (him or her in this case). To *prove* evolution in this way is
only to demonstrate that natural mechanisms could have taken that path;
but because the scientist had used artifical means to achieve his or her
result, the scientist has also--perhaps unwittingly--demonstrated that
this could also have been the path of intelligent design.

A special note about style. I think many people continue to capitalize
proper names of deities out of respect for other people's sincerely held
views even when they do not believe in them. This isn't to say that
every noun or pronoun that refers to a deity needs to capitalized (for
example, Creator vs. creator, or His vs. his), but proper names for all
deities Christian or otherwise should always be capitalized. Not only
is this an expression of respect for people, it is also proper grammer.