The Triune God revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ is one who has been and still continues to be personally involved with his creation in the most intimate way. However, in his grace, God does not dictate all that happens to his creation (as though it were a mere puppet on a string). Rather, in and for love (real relationship), God grants to his creation (humankind included) the freedom to develop--or in the words of science (which need unpacking) the freedom to evolve. This freedom to be and to become does not exist apart from God, and thus is said by theologians to be "contingent freedom" (more about that in later posts in this new series).
Wars are costly and take resources away from other things [that] time and money and lives could be better spent on... Unfortunately, they seem to be inevitable, a result of our sinful hubris that leads us to believe that we are right and others are wrong, rather than admitting that the truth is beyond our ability to grasp. Doubtless in the end the whole truth will prove far more complex than we can conceive at the moment... [Therefore], let us strive for humility and charity in our dealings with our brothers and sisters (and even those we do not consider family) who hold a different understanding of the issue than we do, realizing that we all see as "through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV) until we see face to face (p190).I hope that this post, and ones that follow on this topic, will reflect the same reserve and humility. There was a time when I felt quite confident that I had the whole origins thing buttoned down. But the more I learned from Scripture and from science, the more I came to realize that the issue is complex and I know far less about both topics than I had assumed. Rau does us all a favor by mapping out six basic positions (he calls them "models") in the ongoing origins debate. With an even handedness that is admirable, he compares and contrasts these models, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each, all the while looking for common ground.
A key concept in Rau's book is to recognize that each model is framed/influenced by a particular worldview (philosophy/perspective) leading to and grounded in certain presuppositions that influence how people view/interpret the relevant data (be it data in Scripture or from science). Rau explains it this way:
The fundamental thesis of this book is that although everyone has access to the same evidence, the presuppositions implicit in a person' philosophy determine the perspective from which he or she views the data, leading to different logical conclusions about which explanation [of the data] best fits the evidence (p20).This concept comes to the fore most significantly when facing the reality that the universe exists, thus raising this fundamental question: Is the universe eternal (i.e. has it always existed) or did it at some point in time come into existence? Rau frames the question this way:
Something external to the universe must have been present--either another source of the matter and energy it comprises or something with the ability to create matter and energy. Put more simply, there are only two logical choices for what is eternal--natural or supernatural (p20).Related to these two positions are various worldviews with certain deeply held presuppositions. No one in this debate is exempt from this dynamic. Those who hold a naturalistic worldview, "must of necessity postulate a way for matter and energy to be eternally self-existent" (p22). Those who hold a theistic worldview, may have various views of science, depending on how they believe God interacts with the world, and thus the origins debate often pits one Christian group against another, particularly when it comes to interpreting the early chapters of the book of Genesis.
Unfortunately, the origins debate often is framed as science vs. religion, or evolution vs. creation (as though these concepts are hopelessly at odds). But the debate is far more complex than that and there are certainly more than the two positions that fall at the polar extremes of the debate (the ones that often get the most press!).
To some extent, the polarization we see in the debate arises because "science" is a particularly difficult word/concept to define. "There are many types of science, each with its own methods and techniques... [as a result] it is hard to delineate where science ends and some other way of knowing begins" (p23). Moreover, it often is not fully appreciated that the scientific method, by its very nature, necessarily involves three components: presupposition, evidence and logic. Different fields of science utilize different types of evidence with a logic that is specific to that type. For example, historical science studies non-repeatable physical events (including origins). This field is quite different from fields of science that study ongoing events. But in all fields of science, inferences must be made in order to interpret the evidence deemed relevant. These inferences necessarily rely on either deductive or inductive logic.
Inferences arising from deductive logic are either valid or invalid, while those arising from inductive logic are either strong or weak. Inferences related to origins, necessarily are inductive, and thus cannot be absolute--that is, they cannot be shown to be true or false (in an absolute sense). No one was present at creation (using a biblical term) or at the big bang (using a scientific term). Looking at the evidence for this non-repeatable event, we use inductive reasoning to infer what occurred. Those inferences are, necessarily, shaped by our presuppositions--this is true for scientists and for theologians.
Contrary to what I just said, there was a time when it was claimed that science uses only evidence and logic in its work and was thus free from any presuppositions. That claim now is understood by most to be false. "Science cannot be done without some philosophical assumptions or presuppositions" (p26). But lest we religious types get all smug about this, we must admit that we too bring to the debate our own set of presuppositions. The point is that when it comes to the topic of origins, pure objectivity (reasoning apart from any presuppositions) is simply not possible for naturalists or for theists. We all approach the topic with the perspective of a particular theory, and doing so affects both our data collection and our interpretation of the data.
Rau admits that one of the presuppositions of his book (and one I share this presupposition with him--I hold degrees in Christian Studies, Environmental Science and Psychology), it that "ultimately there is a unity of knowledge--a reality that can be known--but we [must] use multiple approaches to seek that knowledge" (p27, italics added). I would add that I find Rau's perspective very much in line with an incarnational, Trinitarian theological viewpoint, for it speaks to the real, dynamic relationship, grounded in freedom, that God has with his creation. However, I acknowledge that this position, itself, cannot be "proven" in a direct way. Rather it is inferred from available evidence, and for me, that evidence comes both from the book of revealed knowledge (Scripture) and from the book of nature (science)--both which tell us important things about the ground of all reality, which the Triune God himself--Father, Son and Spirit.
As we proceed in this series on the topic of origins, we'll see that Rau maps out and then carefully examines six explanatory origins models: 1) naturalistic evolution 2) nonteleologial evolution 3) planned evolution 4) directed evolution 5) old-earth creation, and 6) young-earth creation. Next time we'll begin to define and then explore each one. I hope you'll find this series illuminating, and that you'll come to more fully appreciate the issues involved, no matter which model you personally embrace.