[Originally posted 3/7/2007]
When many people think of the integration of science and Christian faith, their first impression is concordism. That's a fancy term for identifying a scientific fact or theory with a particular phrase or passage in the Bible.
There is some degree of concordism in all of us, if we broaden "scientific fact" to include "historical fact." The historicity of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, and his crucifixion and resurrection, is a cornerstone of Christian faith.If there were no connection between the biblical account of Jesus' life and his historical existence, our faith would be without basis. But usually the term concordism is applied to descriptions of nature and natural history.
Most scholars/theologians acknowledge that the primary message of the Bible is theological and concerns the relationship between God and his creation. The differences of opinion seem to arise when there are secondary, or incidental, references to natural history in the Bible. Are these references part of the inerrant revelation from God? Can they be correlated with our modern day scientific observations?
One school of thought is that any allusion to natural history in the Bible must correspond to actual physical events. This is a high degree of concordism. At the other end of the spectrum is the opinion that the Bible does not intend to teach us about natural history and is only using the language of nature and natural history to aid our understanding of the spiritual truths. This is the minimal degree of concordism. In between these extremes we find every shade. Some find concordance with human history but not physical natural history. Others expect concordance in some passages and not others.
Often we have an emotional reaction when we discover an unexpected correspondence between a passage or phrase in the Bible and a scientific observation. "See? The Bible is right after all!" Unfortunately, such a reaction doesn't map easily into a compelling apologetic or support for inerrancy. Even if one believes that the Bible does teach accurate facts of natural history, it's not easy to understand what that teaching is. The original Hebrew language doesn't translate easily into our modern scientific language. The uncertainties in such references as well as the uncertainties in our present scientific understanding mean that any concordance we identify may be temporary. It doesn't give us a useful litmus test of error or fact.
Concordism is an area of "honest disagreement" where ASA does not take a position. Rather we encourage dialogue among adherents of all points along that spectrum of thought.
The main point I want to emphasize here is the difference between concordism and integration of science and faith. The former seeks to equate the interpretation of Biblical passages with scientific observations. The latter seeks to understand the meaning and purpose of nature and science through the eyes of faith on the basis of the revelation of our incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior.