Christians ought to love science

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19

In Christian theology there is what is called “general revelation” and “special revelation.” This Psalm nicely includes both in that order. The heavens and creation is part of God’s general revelation. Modern science marked by ongoing observation, hypothesis and testing delves deeply into this revelation, yes for utilitarian reasons to some extent, but also with the sense of exploration and wonder. When we look at the night sky in an area not flooded by “light pollution” from humans, or enjoy a state or national park, we can begin to take in this revelation from God. It’s remarkable how even in a crowded urban or suburban, trees and birds can still leave their mark on a landscape humanity has pummeled with bricks and concrete.

General revelation points to something beyond it, in Christian terms, a Creator. And its scope and wonder suggest something about that hidden reality. Revelation of course means something revealed, and Scripture tells us that creation reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). Again, it points to a Creator.

What is termed “special revelation” refers to what God directly reveals to humans. Through God’s written word, Scripture, and what is revealed there, especially with reference to its fulfillment in Christ and the gospel, or good news in him. It needs to be seen in terms of Story, meant to intersect our story, and whether we choose to accept that or not, eventually will.

I would like to highly recommend an organization that seeks to mediate the two revelations: BioLogos. There’s much helpful information to read with videos and a podcast. There’s an emphasis on science, although never cut off from Scripture. Founded by Francis Collins, a person of faith,

BioLogos invites the church and the world
to see the harmony between science and biblical faith
as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.

I realize for many within my tradition, this is controversial. I used to try to share with others my appreciation of science with the mainstream evolutionary aspect, but then decided to steer clear of it, since I’m no authority on science myself, but like classical music, simply have a love and appreciation for it, especially from those who are gifted in its understanding. I don’t believe Christians have any reason to fear honest science, and believe properly done, without trying to delve into meaning (“scientism”) which special revelation provides for us, we can appreciate more fully the remarkable wonder God has made. As we look forward to the new creation to come. In and through Jesus.

BioLogos  Core Commitments
We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over billions of years.
We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
We aim for excellence in all areas, from science to education to business practices.

faith dependent on scripture or the gospel? (specifically on one’s reading of Genesis)

The thought of the cart before the horse hits me here, although in a sense it might be the other way around, but there are those who think the faith is at stake unless one holds to their reading of Genesis. That if you deviate from that you are actually undermining the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

There is no doubt that the Bible is not only important, but in a true sense foundational to faith. That is where we go to find the good news on which our faith is to be grounded. But there is more albeit from that as a starting point. The Bible itself holds out tradition as one means of preserving the faith. We can see that in the description given to the church, called no less than “the pillar and foundation of the truth.” We need to consider that more, rather than retreating back to a sola scriptura position. Scripture is unique no doubt, no less than the written word of God . It comes first so that I hold to primera scriptura. It actually is (like most everything) more complicated than that because we go to scripture first, we go elsewhere, than we return to scripture. All has to be judged by scripture, including tradition. We can say “primera” means first in all things and in doing so, I suppose we’re not far removed from a sola scriptura position. Even though in its right place, tradition is the place where God’s written word can and perhaps we should say is to take root and flourish.

The faith is dependent on scripture along with tradition in its right place. But the heart of faith is the gospel. Jesus Christ front and center, his cross in both his death for sins and resurrection for new life. His ascension and promise of return. That is the good news in Jesus. That is where our faith must be rooted. Anything less than that is not saving faith.

Is our understanding of Genesis important? You bet. I hold to an evolutionary understanding of origins, what might be called theisitic evolution or evolutionary creation. With such an understanding, I read Genesis differently than those who hold to a creation science view. We all want to read scripture faithfully. We all want to be true to the text of scripture. And the most important reason why is that we want to be faithful to the gospel. In fact our very faith and life depend on that gospel. In the end our faith does not hinge on how we read Genesis. But this is where it gets tricky. People have lost their faith by supposing that Genesis stands or falls on a certain scientific understanding, when Genesis itself is not about a scientific understanding, even while it incorporates some old science (a solid sky, like a material dome). Genesis is about God making and setting the table so to speak of a temple in which he dwells in terms of creation and ultimately new creation in and through Christ (see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate).

Responsible readings of Genesis will seek to be true to the text and to the good news of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. In keeping with all of scripture. In the end our faith depends on that gospel. Nothing more and nothing less.

living in a broken world

I accept evolution, while accepting the Genesis account at the same time. I believe death was in the original creation, for example a literal Adam and Eve had to eat vegetation, which meant the vegetation had to die. Humanity’s sin resulted in the certain death which stalks and overtakes us all, and is in the end destroyed in and through Christ. I believe the story in Genesis is an account of God’s ultimate intention in creation to be fulfilled only in Christ, and not an idyllic past. Adam and Eve needed to partake of the tree of life in order to live forever, so they are not created immortal in the story, I take it. And so the teaching of a fall is accurate in that humankind disobeyed God and is therefore subject to the pain that Adam and Eve end up being subject to in the story.

We live in a broken world. Time and time again that world confronts us, a wonderful world, and yet destined to come to an end, except for the Creator’s promise of a new creation in the redemption of this very same world in and through Jesus.

And I need to accept the problems that hit us which may not hit others, because that can make me a player in seeking to resolve those problems. “Out of sight, out of mind.” We all have our set of issues and concerns that are in our face, our problems as it were, along with the ideals in Jesus (for us as followers of Jesus) we want to live by. We need to ask God if we are present and so pressed “for such a time as this,” be it in supposedly small ways. And then in and out of prayer, act accordingly.

I tend to want to escape, or wish upon wish that I had avoided any such problem which I see as threatening to others, as well as to myself. Instead I need to accept where I am for whatever reason, including the possibility that I may be reaping something of what I have sowed, or failing to reap what I haven’t sowed in the past. Because of prayerlessness, or any other sin. And yet God is at work for good in all things for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And that purpose is to be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus, which involves a life that is not for ourselves, but for others. In the way of Jesus.

And so with these words, I look to the Lord and his strength. I seek his face, I hope more continually. As I go on with others in Jesus together for the world.