"Our supposedly eminent Bible scholars are now going on record to say that we must subordinate the authority of Scripture to the higher and more objective standard of secular science."

Rick Phillips reflects on theistic evolution, Bruce Waltke and Pete Enns.

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Jonathan Charles's picture

His 3rd point is worth its weight in gold!

"Do they think they can restrict the hegemony of science over Scripture to the realm of creation issues? What will science make of the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, and the resurrection? The 20th Century gives us the answer. Moreover, do they think they can avoid worldly scorn merely by jettisoning biblical creation, while still holding to even more obnoxious doctrines like substitutionary atonement? The hermeneutics behind theistic evolution are a Trojan horse that, once inside our gates, must cause the entire fortress of Christian belief to fall under the humanistic sword."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think Phillip's post is great, but I understand these guy's struggle to a degree. We have revised our interpretations in light of "science" before. It's why we don't believe the earth is the center of the solar system anymore.
It's true that the geocentrism/heliocentrism shift is quite minor compared to revising beliefs about how creation occurred, but I wonder how different the process really is. That is, I don't think theologians in the era of Galileo were studying Scripture and began to think, "Wow, we have been interpreting the 'sun rising' texts inaccurately in light of these other texts." Rather, "scientific data" got them thinking "Maybe we were a bit hasty in how we read those passages."

But Phillips is right about all the problems this process creates, especially in this modern/postmodern era where--as Bauder has been explaining in Nick of Time--what is observable is assumed to be absolutely and ultimately "real" and, often, also viewed to be "all we can really know is real." And then you have our society's general worshipfulness toward science.
It's not the same ball of yarn as in Galileo's day.

But if you have friends and colleagues who are deeply involved in research in what appears to be mountains of data for a very old (relative to the usual YEC point of view) earth, you find yourself scratching your head and wondering if you got something wrong. I don't envy them their task. This is a very difficult problem of our times and is only going to get harder as the "information age" marches on.

J. D. Coleman's picture

Yes, there will always be challenges in harmonizing science and the Bible, and it isn't wrong to ask questions about interpretations. Enns and Waltke, however, reveal a deeper authority issue. They say that they believe in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but their stance on this issue reveals that their ultimate authority is really their intellect. We must be careful to maintain a humble scholarship, carefully trying to understand the Bible in light of science and scholarship, but keeping our thinking submissive to the Bible.

Charlie's picture

The history of Christianity and evolution is not one of unilateral rejection. Just through cursory reading in the last few months, I've found positive appraisals of, or at least openness to, evolution in a number of early writers: James Orr, B. B. Warfield, A.A. Hodge, and James Orr all embrace some aspects of evolutionary biology. I mention these people not just because they're recognizable theologians, but because they formulated the modern definition and defense of inerrancy as embraced by evangelicals today, their ideas being reflected in the Chicago Statment on Inerrancy, for example. Also, between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, 6/24 creation was a rare animal. Most of the contributers to The Fundamentals were not 6/24. Although there were critics of evolution all along, it doesn't seem until the mid-twentieth century American evangelicals began taking a consistently hard line against evolution. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to read [URL=http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520083938/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_... ]The Creationists[/URL ] by Ronald Numbers, a very thorough history of the people and organizations responsible for the birth of "creation science" as we know it today. The overall prominence of Seventh Day Adventists and the explicit use of Ellen White's prophecies in forming the flood geology ought at least to raise some eyebrows.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think Phillip's post is great, but I understand these guy's struggle to a degree. We have revised our interpretations in light of "science" before. It's why we don't believe the earth is the center of the solar system anymore.
The theology of geocentricism/heliocentricism is not analogous to Creationism. For geocentricism/heliocentricism, we are talking about theological inferences based on Scripture as opposed to what is explicitly stated in the OT and confirmed in the NT. Although some of the peripheral points are inferential and debatable, the central issue of the historicity of Adam/Eve, sin in the Garden, etc. are definitely taught in Scripture. No one seems to be questioning this. If Adam/Eve are mythological and allegorical, then we have credibility, authoritative, and inerrancy issues in the writings of Paul and others in the NT.
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It's true that the geocentrism/heliocentrism shift is quite minor compared to revising beliefs about how creation occurred, but I wonder how different the process really is.

This is an understatement. It is not a comparison in degree but it is a comparison of different things--apples and oranges.
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That is, I don't think theologians in the era of Galileo were studying Scripture and began to think, "Wow, we have been interpreting the 'sun rising' texts inaccurately in light of these other texts." Rather, "scientific data" got them thinking "Maybe we were a bit hasty in how we read those passages."
Oh, come on now. You're speaking of RC theologues who cared more about pleasing the Pope than reconciling Scripture. It's the party line that they followed, not understanding Scripture. The RC's are not known for being sola scriptura.
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But Phillips is right about all the problems this process creates, especially in this modern/postmodern era where--as Bauder has been explaining in Nick of Time--what is observable is assumed to be absolutely and ultimately "real" and, often, also viewed to be "all we can really know is real." And then you have our society's general worshipfulness toward science. It's not the same ball of yarn as in Galileo's day.

It's the precursor of Modernity that resulted in the religious Modernism/Liberalism.
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But if you have friends and colleagues who are deeply involved in research in what appears to be mountains of data for a very old (relative to the usual YEC point of view) earth, you find yourself scratching your head and wondering if you got something wrong. I don't envy them their task. This is a very difficult problem of our times and is only going to get harder as the "information age" marches on.

This is the same play with the old scenes and lines performed at a different time and place with new actors--call it Modernism/Liberalism. Remember Crawford Toy? I will add that this comes about when we neglect Biblical separation. It's the same old attraction of acceptance and pride. Will we ever learn?

RPittman's picture

Charlie wrote:
The history of Christianity and evolution is not one of unilateral rejection. Just through cursory reading in the last few months, I've found positive appraisals of, or at least openness to, evolution in a number of early writers: James Orr, B. B. Warfield, A.A. Hodge, and James Orr all embrace some aspects of evolutionary biology. I mention these people not just because they're recognizable theologians, but because they formulated the modern definition and defense of inerrancy as embraced by evangelicals today, their ideas being reflected in the Chicago Statment on Inerrancy, for example. Also, between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, 6/24 creation was a rare animal. Most of the contributers to The Fundamentals were not 6/24. Although there were critics of evolution all along, it doesn't seem until the mid-twentieth century American evangelicals began taking a consistently hard line against evolution. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to read [URL=http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520083938/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_... ]The Creationists[/URL ] by Ronald Numbers, a very thorough history of the people and organizations responsible for the birth of "creation science" as we know it today. The overall prominence of Seventh Day Adventists and the explicit use of Ellen White's prophecies in forming the flood geology ought at least to raise some eyebrows.

Charle, this is simply not an accurate assessment. Your overall general impression, although somewhat factual in minutae, is blatantly wrong. Orr, Warfield, and Hodge were facing new challenges to their theological systems and did not have the information at their disposal to give refutation. They were careful not to lock themselves into positions that would subsequently be exposed and refuted. So, they left open doors to escape and preserve the basics of Christianity intact. To accurately assess the situation, you must study their quotes and consider the time and developing circumstances throughout their careers. As for Numbers, I think he has a prejudice to sustain.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't think we're going to successfully navigate the road ahead by being dismissive.
The questions involved are serious, won't go away, and future generations thinking people in fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not going to shrink from asking them.
(As for RC theologians in Galileo's day... whatever non-Pope adoring theologians there were at the time also embraced geocentrism, I'm pretty sure. The point is that they did not depart form this point of view as a result of their study of Scripture but because of "science." But I reject the idea that the the RC theologians of the era were sitting around saying "Pope, tell us what to think today." They were studying the Bible and their traditions, but they were studying the Bible.)

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I don't think we're going to successfully navigate the road ahead by being dismissive.

The word is not dismissive but discerning. I'm not brushing away the issues, rather I'm offering hard answers that are obviously not appealing. I'm saying that you can't win your argument by a weak analogy. The "Galileo analogy" has been used to bash religion and to prove everything under the sun. It's an old shoe. I heard it in grammar school and that's a long time ago. It just doesn't work here.
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The questions involved are serious, won't go away, and future generations thinking people in fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not going to shrink from asking them.

Well, if you've followed the war, the creationists conquered a lot of ground in the years following the publication of the Genesis Flood but recently the evolutionists have waged a successful comeback in a high revving propaganda campaign. Richard Dawkins and others are in the forefront. But, if you read Dawkins latest book, which is hailed as proving evolution, with knowledge and understanding, you would realize that it is so much pabulum. In fact, his book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, solidified my belief, not that I was doubtful, that the evolutionists have no persuasive case.
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(As for RC theologians in Galileo's day... whatever non-Pope adoring theologians there were at the time also embraced geocentrism, I'm pretty sure. The point is that they did not depart form this point of view as a result of their study of Scripture but because of "science." But I reject the idea that the the RC theologians of the era were sitting around saying "Pope, tell us what to think today." They were studying the Bible and their traditions, but they were studying the Bible.)

RPittman's picture

Rick Phillips hits the bullseye. The bottom line is that rational thinking is superior to revelation. In other words, rationalism trumps faith. Although we may shy away from expressing it in these terms, whom are we fooling? This is where the road leads with no exits.

Mike Durning's picture

I found the initial article delightful.

I think we have to look at this issue on two levels: meaning and implication.

Meaning
From a hermeneutic perspective, it is dishonest to bring an outside, modern, and disconnected source of data such as modern science into the interpretive process. It is clear that the intent of Scripture was to give us six literal days of creation. Yes, Genesis’ creation account was set up in opposition to pagan creation myths of the time. And yes, it does have to be read through the lens of what ancient folk of the Levant would see in the story. But having said that, it is also clear that the ancient folk of Scripture, such as Moses in Exodus 20:11, interpreted it as six literal days. Christ Himself took Moses’ interpretation seriously (Matthew 19), not calling into question specific details from the account. Hermeneutically, six literal creation days is one intended meaning that can be drawn from the Genesis account. The fact that it was not the intended primary spiritual message of the author does not change the fact that it is one of the intended meanings that can be drawn from the text.

Implication
The implications of the above conclusion are serious. We have here the intended meaning of the Genesis creation account, which is in direct opposition to the modern scientific theory of origins. And this from a book that claims for itself divine authorship and inerrancy. This leaves us with only a few options:
1). Reject the modern scientific theory and accept the Genesis account as accurate.
2). Reject the Genesis account and accept modern science’s account – which then calls into question the Scriptural claim to divine authorship, or at least inerrancy as we have understood it.
3). Accept modern science’s account while simultaneously trying to refine our understanding of the Genesis account in such a way as to defend the divine authorship and inerrancy of Scripture.

The last option is fraught with difficulty. It requires us to step backward from the implication level to re-invent the meaning level. Some of the scholars mentioned in the lead article seem to interject another authority (modern scientific theory) into the hermeneutic level – which is not honest hermeneutics. Others have taken the approach of trying to explain the Genesis creation account as a literary device without intended historical meaning – but this is a tough position to prove given the use of the Genesis account elsewhere in Scripture in both theological and instructional passages. Thus the 3rd point of the lead article is valid: you cannot open the door of letting science redefine the meaning of one passage without leaving it wide open to redefine others.

Aaron, your point is well taken, but the Galileo situation was different on several levels. One of these is that it was entirely legitimate to see the “sun rising and setting” or “sun standing still” passages as descriptive rather than scientifically definitive. They were “point of view” passages. The problem with the Genesis account of creation is that its viewpoint is set as an all-knowing 3rd party observer telling God’s story. In some ways, God’s view is the point of view of the Genesis creation account, though it’s told as though an independent observer is penning it.

I think the early Fundamentalists and Evangelicals understood all of this, and were seeking for legitimate escapes that might explain the discrepancy between the Biblical account and the scientific account of creation – much like the literary escape used to reject geocentrism and accept heliocentrism. This was a legitimate exercise on their part. I’m sure we’ve all tried on a few novel interpretations to see if they fit different scenarios before. But time and effort have worn away our options. I think any reasonable interpreter who is drawing meaning entirely and only from the Biblical text has to be skeptical of finding a way to reconcile evolutionary theory and the Bible account. It’s all been tried; none of it works well.

I, for one, am content to have a view that flies in the face of modern science in this area. 300 years from now, when a new theoretical scientific paradigm has replaced evolution, we will all be somewhat vindicated.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I don't think we're going to successfully navigate the road ahead by being dismissive.
The questions involved are serious, won't go away, and future generations thinking people in fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not going to shrink from asking them.
Aaron, you will recall that I have posted frequently in the several months calling for a rejection of Modernity especially in its religious expression of Modernism-Liberalism. Older Fundamentalists and their orthodox allies used Modernism to refute Modernism. In other words, they used the rationalistic methodology of Modernism to answer and refute its questions and attacks. They were successful up to a point in that the tide was turned and Modernism-Liberalism began to decline. Well, the plague has returned in a more virulent secular form.

As one with a scientific background, I have always had reservations about "Scientific Creationism," although I greatly appreciate the work of Morris, Gish, et. al., I fear that we come to depend upon it instead of Scripture. After all, we're using the same scientific methodology in "Scientific Creationism" to refute evolution as the evolutionists use to prove their side. Yet, we make the strong and valid point that both positions are ultimately a matter of presuppositional faith.

Aaron, I am calling for serious and honest answers, not the dismissive pabulum of non-virulent Modernism-Liberalism that we're often fed. However, my call is perhaps too bold for many because it advocates a re-examination of our basic epistemological premises, which are essentially the same as Modernism-Liberalism. It is time to reassess some of our methods. BTW, post-Modernism is not the only alternative as I have suggested before. This moves us out of comfort zone with the pat answers that we have spouted for so long. For too long, we have depended on orthodox or evangelical theologians. Why can't Fundamentalists set the stage and put forth some provocative thinking? Are we scared? Are we too dumb?

Again, at the risk of repetition, this growing problem is becoming more apparent and we appear surprised. The answer is simple. We achieved some progress in establishing Biblical orthodoxy in religious academic circles during the past quarter century but we allowed the seeds of our undoing to remain by the lack of Biblical separation. With our drive to intellectualism (infatuation with an attitude of being intellectual) and inclusiveness, we ought not be surprised at defection in our midst. Oh, it'll be justified in many ways but it's the same old song of long ago. Nuff said. What do you think?

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I don't think we're going to successfully navigate the road ahead by being dismissive.
The questions involved are serious, won't go away, and future generations thinking people in fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not going to shrink from asking them.

I don't personally believe it is dismissive to hold forth that (a) the Bible is crystal clear on origins, and (b) evolution (the system, not the people who adhere to it as a philosophical system) is a fraud and an empty suit which bears no resemblance to the narrative in Genesis.

Charlie, you are correct -- The Fundamentals were a mess on origins. That proves...that The Fundamentals were a mess on origins. But Seventh Day Adventists were not the only ones preaching creation before The Genesis Flood. I grew up as a conservative Lutheran and didn't know that Christians could have another view other than "6/24" until I was in my teens.

If I may be a bit self-serving, these questions have all been answered at length, scholarly and brilliantly in Coming to Grips with Genesis -- written in in honor of Dr. Whitcomb.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

RPittman's picture

Charlie wrote:
Also, between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, 6/24 creation was a rare animal. Most of the contributers to The Fundamentals were not 6/24. Although there were critics of evolution all along, it doesn't seem until the mid-twentieth century American evangelicals began taking a consistently hard line against evolution.
Now, I understand "between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century" to be roughly between 1850 and 1950. If there was no consistently hard line against evolution, what was the Scopes Monkey Trial all about in the 1920's? Even if your theologians failed to make a strong statement, the unwashed masses, who followed the great commoner, William Jennings Bryan, certainly were adamantly opposed to it. I don't care what the so-called scholars say, it is apparent that evolution since it popularization has been strongly resisted by American evangelicals. Furthermore, I don't think that you can relegate this to a few exceptions. Obviously, it was a major popular opinion, certainly not "a rare animal."

My argument goes further. A lot of things were happening with new discoveries shaking up the old order in many areas. The theologians were reluctant to make a strong statement because they were afraid of being contradicted and refuted by new discoveries. They were trying to refute evolution and Modernism-Liberalism with its own methodology. After all, they were academics trained in the methods, worldview, and mindset of Modernity. The Orthodox theologians held the line to the best of their ability and resources. However, with Modernism on the ropes from post-Modernism, we ought to be thinking of a paradigm shift. It's high time that we thought for ourselves.

In closing, may I remind you that Crawford Toy was fired from Southern Seminary in the 1800's because he was espousing evolutionary ideas. There were other related teachings as well but the evolutionary teaching was singled out. In fact, I am not sure that he was actually teaching evolution but he suggested at first that it might be true. The whole faculty, including Broadus and Boyce, was opposed to his evolutionary teaching. The story is told that John Broadus stood on the train platform in Greenville, SC as Toy was waiting for the train to Harvard. With his right arm raised, his left arm around Toy's shoulders, and tears running down his cheeks, Broadus said, "Oh, Toy, Toy, I would give this right arm if you were standing where you were standing four years ago."

RPittman's picture

Charlie wrote:
The history of Christianity and evolution is not one of unilateral rejection. Just through cursory reading in the last few months, I've found positive appraisals of, or at least openness to, evolution in a number of early writers: James Orr, B. B. Warfield, A.A. Hodge, and James Orr all embrace some aspects of evolutionary biology. I mention these people not just because they're recognizable theologians, but because they formulated the modern definition and defense of inerrancy as embraced by evangelicals today, their ideas being reflected in the Chicago Statment on Inerrancy, for example. Also, between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, 6/24 creation was a rare animal. Most of the contributers to The Fundamentals were not 6/24. Although there were critics of evolution all along, it doesn't seem until the mid-twentieth century American evangelicals began taking a consistently hard line against evolution. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to read [URL=http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520083938/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_... ]The Creationists[/URL ] by Ronald Numbers, a very thorough history of the people and organizations responsible for the birth of "creation science" as we know it today. The overall prominence of Seventh Day Adventists and the explicit use of Ellen White's prophecies in forming the flood geology ought at least to raise some eyebrows.

As I have stated previously, you're painting the wrong scene. BTW, you forgot to mention Charles Hodge, which would have given more balance but less weight to your hypothesis.

Charles Hodge wrote:
"The conclusion of the whole matter is, that the denial of design in nature is virtually the denial of God. Mr. Darwin's theory does deny all design in nature, therefore, his theory is virtually atheistical; his theory, not he himself [sic ]. He believes in a Creator [sic ]. But when that Creator, millions on millions of ages ago, did something, — called matter and a. living germ into existence, --- and then abandoned the universe to itself to be controlled by chance and necessity, without any purpose on his part as to the result, or any intervention or guidance, then He is virtually consigned, so far as we are concerned, to non-existence. It has already been said that the most extreme of Mr. Darwin's admirers adopt and laud his theory, for the special reason that it banishes God from the world; that it enables them to account for design without referring it to the purpose or agency of God. This is done expressly by Buchner, Haeckel, Vogt, and Strauss. (What is Darwinism?, pp. 174-175)"

Check out http://elmerfudd.us/dp/evolution/what-is-darwinism.pdf

BTW, Charlie, Ronald Numbers may have written a popular or politically correct book (The Creationists) but it is not a good book. He handles his data badly by failing to interpret contextually. Numbers' interpretation of primary sources is in a modern context with little feel or understanding for the times during which the material was written. It is a tricky business to honestly represent one man's view because his views may have been modified over his lifetime. Thus, what one quotes from earlier years may not coincide with his ideas in later years. The book lacks balance and scholarship. Most of all, he seems to have no appreciation for the fact that evolution was a brand new idea in the last half of the 19th century and it takes time to think about, compare and determine the ramifications. There is an evolution of thought or ideas here. All the ramifications are not readily apparent. Mr. Numbers has a lot of material but he just doesn't connect the dots. Compare his hypotheses to his source material and I doubt if they can be sustained. The picture that he paints may appeal to the modern intellectualism but it is doubtful whether it is an accurate portrayal.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To clarify, what's dismissive is to take a "Hey, this is all simple" kind of attitude. It isn't.
As for the Galileo argument being an old shoe, that may well be, but I'd like to hear the way I used the argument refuted. That is, am I incorrect that students of the Bible revised their theology (in the case of geocentrism) based on information from outside the Bible? ... and were correct to do so in that case?

Mike Durning wrote:
it is dishonest to bring an outside, modern, and disconnected source of data such as modern science into the interpretive process.

How is it dishonest?
I would argue that we do this all the time. For example when the Proverbs say meddling in business that is not our own is like taking a dog by the ears, we rely on observation of dog behavior to interpret the meaning of the metaphor. When Isaiah refers to sins becoming as white as snow, re rely on what we have observed about snow to get the picture. In fact, when we assert that "the evening and the morning were the first day" describes a 24 hour day, we are relying on observation of how long a day normally is in our experience. Interpretation looks to "outside" sources of data all the time.

My point is not that Waltke and Enns are right. Far from it. Rather, my point is that in the long run, we need to correctly identify what's gone wrong here. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm confident it is not that they should ignore observed data regarding "immanent reality" when interpreting Scripture. It isn't that simple.
So what I'm saying is that Waltke and Enns have either gone down the wrong road or have gone down the right road too far. I'm not sure which.
But abandoning study of the created world to unbelievers and/or painting the issue in terms of a simple case of "the Bible vs. science" is another wrong road. By doing that, we just continue the science brain-drain from fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron,

Dr. Terry Mortenson of AiG recorded an outstanding program on this several years ago for the "Origins" TV program. I am not sure if that is available online somewhere, and I do not have much time -- but the gist of it, to the best of my recollection, was this-

Politically correct version: Scientists (heliocentrists) correct stupid Bible-thumping geocentrists
Real history: Politically-correct Roman Catholic Church (geocentrists) opposes scientifically astute Bible Christians (heliocentrists)

Mortenson went on to draw applications for the current ecclesiastical and political debates over evolution.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
To clarify, what's dismissive is to take a "Hey, this is all simple" kind of attitude. It isn't.
Who said that it was? To flatly contradict something is not the same as saying it is simple. To call one's opposing view dismissive or simple is an attempt to strike a blow against the assertion but it is really nothing more than repartee. It does nothing to advance the debate because it has no substance. I think you are mistaken here and find it hard to concede the point. This forum is not amendable to extended argument and proof accompanied by references. We can only sketch the boundaries with the rest to be filled in by individual reading and research.
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As for the Galileo argument being an old shoe, that may well be, but I'd like to hear the way I used the argument refuted. That is, am I incorrect that students of the Bible revised their theology (in the case of geocentrism) based on information from outside the Bible? ... and were correct to do so in that case?
Well, I would be willing to do so if you will first establish your premise that "students of the Bible revised their theology (in the case of geocentrism) based on information from outside the Bible." This a generality that may or may not be true. It appears that this is a surmise or conclusion but you have not presented any specific individuals who did. Please establish this or otherwise it is an unsupported supposition.

As has been pointed out, geocentricism was a generally accepted concept within both religious and secular circles. I'm skeptical that you can tie this to being necessarily a theological concept. Furthermore, arguing the Galileo argument is futile unless you can connect it to the current question on evolution and the Bible. I have already given you reasons, which you have not refuted, why the comparison is not apt. So, Aaron, it appears that the ball is in your court.

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
My point is not that Waltke and Enns are right. Far from it. Rather, my point is that in the long run, we need to correctly identify what's gone wrong here. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm confident it is not that they should ignore observed data regarding "immanent reality" when interpreting Scripture. It isn't that simple.
What data are they ignoring. I know of no compelling evidence that has surfaced for evolution. In fact, some evolutionists are finding it less convincing. The change in attitude is the result of an intensive propaganda campaign by the evolutionists and the media to strike back at the creationists. Lot of the furor is caused by the success and inroads made by ID, although I don't ascribe to it myself. It's the laymen, not the scientists, who are being taken in by this. I challenge you to read Dawkin's The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which supposedly is the crowning proof of evolution. Then, tell me that evolution has compelling evidence. Dawkins is a hack--he dresses up and trots out the same old worn out arguments in new clothing. It still won't work. He demonstrates similarities (i.e. homology), which no one denies, but he can't connect the pieces. No one has yet proved the homological argument. It is assumed without proof. We're told that genome mapping has proved the relationships but we're very short on specifics. It's much like the optimism in earlier day when the fossil was incomplete and time would complete the record and prove evolution. Not so.
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So what I'm saying is that Waltke and Enns have either gone down the wrong road or have gone down the right road too far. I'm not sure which.
Yup, this is the same road the old Modernist-Liberals trod.
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But abandoning study of the created world to unbelievers and/or painting the issue in terms of a simple case of "the Bible vs. science" is another wrong road. By doing that, we just continue the science brain-drain from fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.
Whoa! This is overstatement or just an outright wrong statement. No one is "abandoning study of the created world to unbelievers and/or painting the issue in terms of a simple case of 'the Bible vs. science.'" The Institute for Creation Research has been trying to deal with this for years. Surely, you know this. And, it is precisely the young-earth scientists that Walkte and company oppose. They supposedly do it on scientific ground but they are not scientists. Doesn't it bother you that Walkte, who is a supposed OT scholar, appeals to supposed scientific arguments instead of OT teachings? Something is wrong here.

Aaron, in another thread, you demand that KJVO advocates provide Scriptural support. Why don't you demand it here? What's the difference? Intellectualism?

Mike Durning's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Mike Durning wrote:
it is dishonest to bring an outside, modern, and disconnected source of data such as modern science into the interpretive process.

How is it dishonest?
I would argue that we do this all the time. For example when the Proverbs say meddling in business that is not our own is like taking a dog by the ears, we rely on observation of dog behavior to interpret the meaning of the metaphor. When Isaiah refers to sins becoming as white as snow, re rely on what we have observed about snow to get the picture. In fact, when we assert that "the evening and the morning were the first day" describes a 24 hour day, we are relying on observation of how long a day normally is in our experience. Interpretation looks to "outside" sources of data all the time.

My point is not that Waltke and Enns are right. Far from it. Rather, my point is that in the long run, we need to correctly identify what's gone wrong here. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm confident it is not that they should ignore observed data regarding "immanent reality" when interpreting Scripture. It isn't that simple.

Thank you. I revise my wording, as follows: It is inappropriate to allow an outside, modern, and disconnected source of data such as modern science to rule over the interpretive process.

I take issue though with your statement thereafter. There is a distinction between science in the sense of "observed reality" and the "science" industry of today. In discussing evolutionary theory, we are talking about a major industry, in which large amounts of money are spent (research grants) and secured (tenure) by adhering to a particular set of theories about what the observations of reality mean. Allowing modern science's constructed theories to drive our interpretation is fraught with danger. The observation of a dog's ears helping me understand a proverb is a totally different thing, operating at a totally different level. I need neither a study nor a theory to interpret that Proverb. I just need to be a dog-owner.

Mike Durning's picture

RPittman wrote:

Aaron, you will recall that I have posted frequently in the several months calling for a rejection of Modernity especially in its religious expression of Modernism-Liberalism. Older Fundamentalists and their orthodox allies used Modernism to refute Modernism. In other words, they used the rationalistic methodology of Modernism to answer and refute its questions and attacks. They were successful up to a point in that the tide was turned and Modernism-Liberalism began to decline. Well, the plague has returned in a more virulent secular form.

As one with a scientific background, I have always had reservations about "Scientific Creationism," although I greatly appreciate the work of Morris, Gish, et. al., I fear that we come to depend upon it instead of Scripture. After all, we're using the same scientific methodology in "Scientific Creationism" to refute evolution as the evolutionists use to prove their side. Yet, we make the strong and valid point that both positions are ultimately a matter of presuppositional faith.

Dear RPittman,

Thanks for these important observations. The importance of scientific creationism should always have been [directed at evolutionists ] “Look, we’re using your own tools to disprove your theory.” It should never have been “Look, we just used your tools to prove our Bible is true. Hurray! Now we know!”

In swallowing the Modernistic methodology into our apologetic systems, we drank a slow-acting poison, did we not?

I still encounter older believers who are enamored of this thinking in churches today. They would ten times rather hear me explain scientifically why the earth must be young than hear me explain why I believe the Bible must be saying 6 literal days of creation. The science confirms their faith more than the Bible does – revealing their epistemology.

Mike D

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, I'm seeing assertions repeated, but not substantiated.

Have Waltke and Enns gone down the wrong road or too far down the right one?
Do we, or do we not, use "scientific" data in the interpretive process? Mike D. seems to concede that we do. Not clear on where RPittman or P Scharf are on that one.

As for the AiG work on Galileo, I don't doubt in the least that the "brilliant scientist trumps ignorant theologians" scenario is a myth. But has anyone made a case that the church would have changed its theology on this point without the pressure of information from science? It's true, as RPittman points out, I haven't proved that data from science was the instrumental factor, but I pointed out in my first or second post that it seems pretty unlikely on the face of it that the theologians found verses that lead them to question geocentrism. Does anyone want to make that claim? Yes, the truth is that believing scientists (or at least theistic ones) were involved, but it was still science.

It matters, because if it is legitimate to give data from observations (aka "modern science") a role in how we interpret Scripture, it suggests that Waltke and Enns' error is that of failing to recognize where some limits ought to be place on the role we give to science, not in granting science any role at all. If that's correct, it would be more fair to handle their case as a problem of going too far down the right road rather than being about the wrong business in the first place, as several have implied. It would also indicate that finding the right place to plant our feet and declare here I stand is more difficult than it might seem if you're going to interact with science at all.

RPittman wrote:
Aaron wrote:
But abandoning study of the created world to unbelievers and/or painting the issue in terms of a simple case of "the Bible vs. science" is another wrong road. By doing that, we just continue the science brain-drain from fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.

Whoa! This is overstatement or just an outright wrong statement. No one is "abandoning study of the created world to unbelievers and/or painting the issue in terms of a simple case of 'the Bible vs. science.'" The Institute for Creation Research has been trying to deal with this for years. Surely, you know this.

It isn't true that "no one is abandonding." Many mock the work of creation scientists. It's an increasingly lonely place to be these days as "mainstream science" mocks on the left and elements within evangelicalism mock it on the right. Where I sit, I hear broad framing of these issues as "Bible vs. science and obviously the Bible wins." This way of putting things gives Bible-believers a false choice: either you believe the Bible or you believe in science--and it implies that to be orthodox you must reject science.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The Bible's narrative regarding creation is not meant to be a narrative regarding the earth's history, the solar system's history, the galaxy's or even the entire universe's history, rather it is a narrative about man's history and God's intent and work with respect to man and in part, the concurrent and co-coterminous event of angels (fallen). Now if one subscribes to the interpretation of Genesis where it states:

Quote:
In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

That this inauguration is one of universal beginning and not that of an era (the human era) then they do present themselves with a context that does not allow for any possible prior physical history of the earth or surrounding universe. And here is an example of a problem such a context presents:

We can view evidence of certain historical events on other planetary bodies that speak of a great cataclysm at some point in the past but a past that Scripture does not speak about in dative terms. Yet we can see the undeniable scars that mark our neighboring planets and beyond. With this in mind the student and the researcher who is considering such findings or evidence are forced to find order or placement for such events in their forensic examination and documentation. If they turned to the Bible for such a placement they would be met with certain limits, by some, regarding the time frame or context within which this could have happened. For those demanding the Bible speaks of the present universe (including the earth) as very young, at the most 25,000 years old and for some as young as 6,000 or 7,000 years old, they would they would be met with an impossibility and inability to reconcile, scientifically, that of which the evidence speaks. Because these planetary markings are not the marks of one or two nuclear bombs, rather they are disruptions in the structure of such bodies so intense and so large that the impacts causing them and its subsequent fallout would have resulted in biological obliteration and a fundamental atmospheric alteration.

Now if a person accepts that the narrative in Scripture, while quite true and intended with literalness, also includes in its interpretation a prior history and that this is not a universal inauguration but that of the human era which is the focus of Genesis, namely man and God's relationship to man with an angelic sub-plot, then you have a context for prior events.

The question is, is such a view justified hermetically? Well there is a debate about that and I personally believe it is. But let me say, simply because we wish the Bible to say what we want it to say, we are not at liberty to go to the Holy Word and interpret in a way that satisfies our intellectual need so we may compensate for places where we don't have immediate answers. And without getting into the exegetical argument seeing that most people are familiar with "became void" vs "was void" and so on, I will appeal to another translation that speaks to this human era context as opposed to a universal beginnings context which is found in Young's literal translation:

Quote:
1In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth --

2the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness [is ] on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters,

Here Young makes a nuanced but noticeable change from "in the beginning" to one of the beginning of an era, namely God preparing the heaven's and earth for a certain event, for a certain context, again namely the human era which. Some might respond, "I don't see Young saying anything about a human era" and you would be right. It isn't based on what he translated but

Quote:
how
he translated it. I assert it is translated that way for a reason. That reason being that the text, recognized by Young, was not intended to communicate the universal beginning but a certain kind of beginning which contained in his use of the qualifying prepositional phrase "of God's preparing". It was the beginning of God's preparing the heaven's and the earth for an event and such a context and translation speaks of prior history.
______________________

Even though the above may not fit well into some fundamentalist or conservative evangelical circles it is not without company in other fundamentalist and conservative evangelical circles. It simply is not the most popular and current view but it is one with much more history than you might imagine, dating centuries back to Jewish writings and views. But even its history should not be its validation because history is only that, a reality of somethings existence over a period of time, not its integrity. But it is worth noting such concepts are not novel within the Judeo-Christian community.

And you would think with all that I made my point but I didn't :).

Ultimately my point is that it isn't the findings of science that should concern us, per se, but the interpretation and the narrative they attempt to create in light of their findings that deny the narrative of Scripture. And I admire many men who are active in this field that are believers. And mind you, there are believers in this field that are young earth/six day creationists and there are those that are old earth/young humanity creationists (and other as well) where both have come to differing narratives while keeping in tact the integrity of the Genesis account and man's unique creation by God.

However, if we have drawn wrong theological boundaries and have forced ourselves into forms of reconciliation that cannot properly hold weight, we must at times face these realities and instead of acquiescing (waving the white flag) to the narratives of science when such narratives assault our faith because we don't have an immediate or satisfying response (which is where it seems Waltke is headed but maybe not) we have to be willing to re-examine, re-evaluate, and re-order our approach

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Do we, or do we not, use "scientific" data in the interpretive process? Mike D. seems to concede that we do. Not clear on where RPittman or P Scharf are on that one...Many mock the work of creation scientists. It's an increasingly lonely place to be these days as "mainstream science" mocks on the left and elements within evangelicalism mock it on the right. Where I sit, I hear broad framing of these issues as "Bible vs. science and obviously the Bible wins." This way of putting things gives Bible-believers a false choice: either you believe the Bible or you believe in science--and it implies that to be orthodox you must reject science.

Aaron,

I would be extremely uncomfortable with talking in terms of using science to interpret or inform the Bible. Is that not the essence of modernism? How would we then interpret miracles and the resurrection?
(That, of course, is also the essence of Hugh Ross's program -- he calls science the 67th book of the Bible. This is a total confusion of general and special revelation.)
Yes, creation scientists are in a lonley place...much like the Apostle Paul was (1 Cor. 4:13) :cry:
I am not trying to put down this discussion, but it seems like we are re-hashing things which, in my experience, have been answered, re-answered and re-answered again. No pun intended, but www.AnswersinGenesis.org has thousands of documents on these subjects by both scientists and theologians.
Obviously, I disagree with Alex, but could not possibly have time today to answer his last post. To do so would again be re-inventing the wheel, as this has all been done many times before by people more qualified than I...

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Mike Durning's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Well, I'm seeing assertions repeated, but not substantiated.

Have Waltke and Enns gone down the wrong road or too far down the right one?
Do we, or do we not, use "scientific" data in the interpretive process? Mike D. seems to concede that we do. Not clear on where RPittman or P Scharf are on that one.

As for the AiG work on Galileo, I don't doubt in the least that the "brilliant scientist trumps ignorant theologians" scenario is a myth. But has anyone made a case that the church would have changed its theology on this point without the pressure of information from science? It's true, as RPittman points out, I haven't proved that data from science was the instrumental factor, but I pointed out in my first or second post that it seems pretty unlikely on the face of it that the theologians found verses that lead them to question geocentrism. Does anyone want to make that claim? Yes, the truth is that believing scientists (or at least theistic ones) were involved, but it was still science.

It matters, because if it is legitimate to give data from observations (aka "modern science") a role in how we interpret Scripture, it suggests that Waltke and Enns' error is that of failing to recognize where some limits ought to be place on the role we give to science, not in granting science any role at all.

Aaron, Aaron, Aaron.
Yes, I have conceded to some extent. But, as I said, your example of “grabbing a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17) is worlds apart from redefining Genesis based upon a scientific theory. Let me try to define the difference first by refining the distinction of what is meant by the term “science”.

In the sense that you are using it, science is “knowledge attained through study or practice”. It would include the reaction of a dog if I grab its ears, or the fact that blood is pumped through our bodies by the heart. Allowing science to help us understand a passage like Prov. 26:17 based on that kind of knowledge can be legitimate – within limits I will later attempt to define.

The other way we use the term science is "knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and ] concerned with the physical world." Something passes into the realm of such knowledge via experimentation within the scientific method. During the phases in which a thing is a “hypothesis” or “theory” and has not yet arrived at “law”, it is dangerous to give it the acclaim and respect given to “knowledge” on the scientific level. In some senses, this is a problem for science, since the set of things that are true is larger than the set of things that are provable.

In the case of evolution, there are hurdles in moving it from the “theory” column to the “fact” column. First, it assumes another entire theoretical model “uniformitarianism”, which itself is difficult to prove by experiment. Second, it is actually a meta-theory – a cloud made up of theories of origins in different disciplines (cosmology, biology, geology, etc.). Thus, it becomes hard to disprove. There can be no experimentation, due to time-frames involved. There can be no repeatability, because we don’t have any spare universes to observe (yet). There can be no modern observers, because our time machine isn’t quite working yet. There can certainly not be multiples observers to rule out bias. It has become a theory that “cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fit into it… No one can think of ways to test it” says Paul Ehrlich, himself an evolutionist.

There is a big difference between allowing our interpretations to be influenced by obvious facts based on observation and complex theories that have not yet been proven and that may in fact be unprovable.

A 2nd and related difference arises in that complex patterns can be imagined where they do not exist. Humans are great at this. It happens in all disciplines. I would argue that there is a fundamental difference of level between the science that says “grabbing a dog and yanking his ears is going to be trouble, because I have done it twice, and I got bit both times” and the level of science that talks about hundreds of digs, strata, findings in those strata, and the various interpretive layers build on those findings. Complex versus simple observations are fundamentally different. The more complex, the greater the amount of interpretive connections that had to be made between the different elements.

Even your example of Geocentrism versus Heliocentrism was a complex set of observations that took some time to sink in – but did not begin to approach in complexity the arguments for the meta-theory of evolution across all the disciplines.
It is inherently risky to allow such theoretical observations on such complex issues to guide the interpretive process.

In the case of the dog’s ears, there is minor risk. “Just because he yanked the dogs ears doesn’t mean that’s why the dog was angry. Perhaps he has an unpleasant odor. We need to repeat the experiment using other test subjects, both dogs and humans, in various test conditions.” OK. Sure. But we all understand by common experience that yanking a dog’s ears will be trouble.

In the case of allowing evolutionary theory to sway the meaning of Genesis 1-2, we have an entirely different situation. There is skepticism even among some scientific philosophers that we can ever prove it to the satisfaction of scientists so that it can be called law. Why would we allow it to guide interpretation?

The third difference is in the area of direction.
Imagine that we had a verse of Scripture that says “Blood is pumped through the body”. At some point, a scientific observer (Harvey I believe, Galen having missed it) posits that blood is pumped through the body by heart action. He experiments, and proves this, to the point that it becomes accepted law (as it has). Then, we, as conservative believers, would safely say “The Bible says blood is pumped through the body – doubtless referring to the fact that the heart is actively pumping blood as science has proved.” Most importantly, it would have guided us toward the natural reading of the passage as identified by the laws of hermeneutics.

Now, instead, take Exodus 7:3, where God states His intention to “harden Pharaoh’s heart”. Medical science has identified that a hardening of the heart wall can be a result of disease processes. But if we were then to allow this bit of medical knowledge to guide our interpretation of Exodus 7:3, we might wrongly conclude that God was smiting Pharaoh with a heart condition. In this case, we would have allowed our scientific knowledge to lead us in a direction that contravened the natural reading of the passage as identified by the laws of hermeneutics. We would be in error.

In the first case, I have allowed science to refine my understanding of a verse based on scientific law, in a direction consistent with hermeneutical law.

In the 2nd case, I have allowed scientific law to alter my understanding of a verse based on scientific law, in a direction inconsistent with hermeneutical law (specifically, I have used “heart” in a way not usually used in Scripture, and in a way inconsistent with the natural reading suggested by the surrounding verses).

I would argue that this is exactly what has happened with the Theologians referenced in the lead article. Despite Alex’s claims to the contrary, I think the most natural reading of Genesis 1 & 2 leads to a conclusion that Genesis’ author is intending to communicate the beginning of all things. Witness, for instance, the fact that the same author (Moses) uses the same terms “Heavens and Earth” in a more definitive sense in Exodus 20:11, indicating that all in the Heavens and the Earth were also made in the same 6 day time frame he referred to earlier. Even a liberal reader who rejects Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is forced to deal with the fact that an early author or redactor is identifying the meaning of Genesis 1 & 2 to the ancient Jewish mindset.

Allowing evolution to lead me away from the natural hermeneutic of the passage is a distortion of hermeneutics by definition. If I do so, I have imposed a modern understanding of how the universe came into being onto my text.

The fourth difference is in the theological implications.
The dog’s ears observation has no theological implication.
Despite Rome’s tortured arguments to the contrary, geocentrism vs. heliocentrism has not theological implications.
But accepting an evolutionary framework for interpreting Genesis leads to huge theological departures. The creation account, the singular nature of the first couple, the state of mankind prior to the fall, and the state of mankind after the fall, all have connections to theological passages that connect with our doctrines of man, sin, salvation, as well as practical implications for the home and family life – all based on direct references to the account in Genesis. If we accept an evolutionary framework, then Paul and Christ were using MYTHICAL events to shore up their theology. This says some things about inspiration and theology that force us to succumb to theological liberalism in other areas at some point.

Regardless, the theological implications are a guidebook for the way Jewish believers and early Christians viewed the Genesis account. Who are we to say “That’s not the way ancient readers viewed Genesis.”?

In answer to your challenge, Aaron, the theologians condemned in the lead article did cross a line.
They used scientific theory to redefine a passage in a way that the underlying hermeneutics did not support.

Mike Durning's picture

Much has been said in this thread about Galileo and the conversion to Heliocentrism from Geocentrism. I wish to make a few observations:

The role of Galileo in the discussion was that his telescope made refined observations that tended to shore up heliocentrism. He did not propose it (actually, that goes back to Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd Century BC, with later refinement by Copernicus). Many church leaders at the time of Galileo were supportive of heliocentric theory, and were in fact supporters of Galileo. Galileo was probably tried because of his rudeness on the topic more than his defense of it. He publicly declared the idiocy of those who opposed him, many of whom were church leaders. The trial was about rebellion, not science.

Having said that, the question that Aaron poses is basically this: Would anyone have proposed the idea of a heliocentric interpretation of certain Bible verses if scientific observation had not suggested it? The implications are obvious; if not, then we may have to accept that hermeneutics sometimes cannot be sufficient to lead us to the actual meaning of a verse.

But I would argue that the question is backwards.

The issue is not that the Bible is geocentric.
The issue is that human language is by nature geocentric. As far as I know, every human language refers to the sun rising, setting, and such other terms that assume a geocentric viewpoint. It’s arguable that the issue was not any particular geocentric theory developed by early man as the foundations of human language, so much as the point of view of the speaker. We do not perceive the earth to move.

As the debate about heliocentrism unfolded, faith and science came into contact for almost the first time. The Catholic church tried to argue that the Scriptures taught the geocentric viewpoint – largely based on the linguistic coincidence mentioned above. Protestants, not locked into centuries of church fathers and their discussion of the immovability of the earth, were more willing to accept heliocentrism. It is actually not addressed in Scripture at all.

The only possible debate with heliocentrism from Scripture would be based on two verses in Psalms that claim the world cannot be moved. But read Psalm 93 carefully, to name one of the two. Using rules of Hebrew poetry, what is the argument? Is the passage really referring to the immovability of the physical planet earth? Clearly not.

Sadly, there are those who believe that even Young Earth Creationists have compromised much away, because most of us accept heliocentrism in defiance of the clear teaching of the Bible (usually, the KJV, in this case). But this is the same linguistic confusion.

I could similarly argue that modern scientific teaching about the brain is wrong, because the Bible teaches that the heart is what feels, thinks, and imagines. But the Bible does not teach this; human language does. Human language limited the way in which “the seat of human thought and feeling” could be identified. We still use “heart” the same way today, except in a medical sense.

Similarly, human language tended to fit better with a geocentric interpretation only because of the point of view of all human speakers --- if feels like we are fixed on an immovable earth and the sky moves around us.

The same is not true, by the way, with the Genesis account. Genesis 1 & 2 could easily have said that things evolved by changing forms (some ancient literature did), or that the earth was always here (as in Hinduism), or any other thing the author wished to communicate. But Genesis did not.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Mike D,

I do hope you understand that I, myself, am not arguing for any form of evolutionary narrative from Scripture or science though I hold to an old earth view (young humanity) and share some of the sentiments regarding the ears we must lend to the voice of science as stated by Waltke (without succumbing to its narrative of its findings).

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I can see I'm a long way from being able to make myself clear on this topic... maybe because I'm along way from having thought it through!
But this discussion might help me move in that direction. So I do appreciate the tension.

Quote:
I would be extremely uncomfortable with talking in terms of using science to interpret or inform the Bible. Is that not the essence of modernism? How would we then interpret miracles and the resurrection?

It looks like you've taken the view that "science" is something different from looking at the world, making observations, and drawing conclusions. If you replace the term "science" with "observe and draw conclusions," you might find that the discomfort decreases. Believing that you have to look at the world and interpret it in order to understand what the Bible says about the world is not the essence of modernism. It's true that the premodern way is "believe first, then understand," but that's a nutshell expression. You can't really believe something unless you understand it to some extent first. Otherwise, for example, could I read Genesis 1:1 in Ukrainian and say "I believe it"? (Assuming I didn't know it was Genesis 1:1). The words have to have relationships to what I observe and interpret in the world around me or they are meaningless to me and I can't believe them.
But "believe first, then understand" is right insofar as it has to do with establishing your basic beliefs that you then use to understand more and believe more and so on. So there is interplay all the time between "as it is written" and what we see and experience.
[br ]
I think it might help to know that I make a distinction between "science as an activity" and "science as a body of ideas." Mike pointed out that the term "science" is used different ways. That's helpful, because I'm pretty skeptical of the whole "settled science" idea and uniformitarianism and all that. These are not "science." They are, in many cases, doctrine that happens to have been preached by "scientists," (though usually, the stuff is preached by people who got it from scientists... the scientists themselves tend to be much more tentative about their conclusions. The doctrinaire types tend to overlook all the "maybes" and "seems likes" and "possiblys" and "would be consistent withs" etc.).

So my interest in all of this is not to find ways to reinterpret Scripture to fit "scientific orthodoxy," but rather a view of how "science as an activity" relates to how we understand Scripture. We can and do misinterpret the Bible, and sometimes even on a grand scale that spans centuries (hence the Reformation). So if we are capable of that, do we always have to discover theological error by theological means?
[br ]
Let me throw in another example then try to wrap up... because I think this post may already be too long to get read!
Let's take the Proverb that says "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
I grew up mostly hearing this text declared to be a promise that if you do your parenting right, your kids are guaranteed to turn out right. That interpretation was fine with me until I observed repeatedly in cases I knew well that it didn't seem to work that way. This led me to question whether I had interpreted the passage correctly.
Now, admittedly, what should have led me to question my interpretation is better theology (starting perhaps with understanding what a Proverb is and then working through the truths of sin and depravity and the fact these problems are only solved by grace through faith and not through parenting, etc.). Good theology should have fixed my bad theology.
The way it actually happened, though was: observation --> reflection --> questions --> further study
In the Galileo case (often abused, but I'm not using it the same way), it seems that something similar occurred. The difference is that there doesn't seem to be any good theology to fix the bad theology in that case. (As for there being "no theological significance" to whether the earth is the center of the solar system, the theologians of the day would certainly have disagreed!)

To borrow K Bauder's map analogy, the map we use to navigate "transcendent reality" (real reality) must come from God ("theological imagination"). But we must correctly understand the map. If we are following it and bump into a rock, we either have misread it, or have perceived incorrectly that we bumped into a rock (or maybe were supposed to bump into a rock... can't think of any other possibilities!). Science can only look at immanent reality. Theology defines science's limitations, not vice versa. But what happens in "immanent reality" (ie experience) can be instrumental in alerting us to our errors in reading the map.

Maybe the key to avoiding the errors of Waltke and Enns without speaking of science as though it has no value beyond "proving" young earth creation--and without being improperly closed to it, is to recognize it's place and keep that firmly in view. That place does not include establishing the limits of theology/Scripture, but it does include--in my view--tension in the area of interpretation.

So, again, to try to be clear, I am not saying that science may ever tell us the Bible is wrong where it has clearly spoken. It may not tell us Jesus did not walk on water. I would say it may not (maybe can not) usually even tell us we have interpreted something incorrectly. But what we observe and experience are inevitably part of the interpretive process and "science" in that sense shouldn't be kicked out of the ball game.

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
Well, I'm seeing assertions repeated, but not substantiated.
Me too.
Quote:

Have Waltke and Enns gone down the wrong road or too far down the right one?
Do we, or do we not, use "scientific" data in the interpretive process? Mike D. seems to concede that we do. Not clear on where RPittman or P Scharf are on that one.

Yes, Waltke, Enns, and Longman have gone the wrong road--the same one that earlier scholars followed into Modernism-Liberalism.

The real question is not the one stated. It is not a matter of using data. Certainly we use historical data to understand (interpret) Scripture. And data is data regardless of type (i.e. historical, experimental, etc.). For example, we use geographical and historical data to help us understand Paul's missionary journeys. A historical map of Asia Minor and Palestine aid us in our understanding. No one has a problems with this. However, it would be problematic if we said that Paul could not have made his journeys because of lack of conveyances or road conditions based on our historical data.

From the preceding simplification, it should be apparent that our use of data in interpretative matters depends on the content and how it is used. It is not a simple question or whether to use or not to use. As Bible-believers, Scripture is our grid through which we interpret all other supposed data. The first test is whether the data is true. If data contradict Scripture, then we, as Bible-believers, reject it as untrue until it can be reconciled with Scripture. We do not modify our Scriptural views to fit the perceived data, which is subject to error, mistaken, and misinterpretation itself. As previously pointed out, geocentricism was inferential; it was not a teaching of Scripture itself. Hypothetically, what would you do in light of the data if the Scripture clearly taught that the earth is the center of the universe? Now, the historicity of Adam and Eve are a different matter because it is clearly confirmed in the NT. Would you not agree? So, what are you going to do with the defection from strict adherence to the Scriptures by Waltke, Enns, and Longman? The OT evangelical scholar Tremper Longman says that he doubts the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Quote:

As for the AiG work on Galileo, I don't doubt in the least that the "brilliant scientist trumps ignorant theologians" scenario is a myth. But has anyone made a case that the church would have changed its theology on this point without the pressure of information from science? It's true, as RPittman points out, I haven't proved that data from science was the instrumental factor, but I pointed out in my first or second post that it seems pretty unlikely on the face of it that the theologians found verses that lead them to question geocentrism. Does anyone want to make that claim? Yes, the truth is that believing scientists (or at least theistic ones) were involved, but it was still science.

Aaron, I just don't have the time to debate this point further because it is very minor compared to other questions under discussion.
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It matters, because if it is legitimate to give data from observations (aka "modern science") a role in how we interpret Scripture, it suggests that Waltke and Enns' error is that of failing to recognize where some limits ought to be place on the role we give to science, not in granting science any role at all. If that's correct, it would be more fair to handle their case as a problem of going too far down the right road rather than being about the wrong business in the first place, as several have implied. It would also indicate that finding the right place to plant our feet and declare here I stand is more difficult than it might seem if you're going to interact with science at all.
Have you read Vern Poythress's book, Redeeming Science, on science and Scripture? Professor Poythress (Westminster), who is a double doctor in mathematics and theology, proposes an analogous view. The days of Genesis are not literal twenty-four hour periods but longer periods but not millions of years. He tries to preserve the uniqueness of man and the historicity of theologically dependent concepts. This half-way conciliation pleases no one--not the literal day creationist and not the evolutionist. It does not solve the hard questions of time and the existence of astronomical bodies many light-years away. Although he has some useful insights on science and Scripture, he is like the others in trying to reconcile evolutionary theory, science so-called, meanwhile preserving a high view of Scripture. Need I say, like others, he falls short. Others have tried and failed before. The problem is that we're working on the wrong end of the problem. Instead of conforming our understanding of Scripture to science, we ought to be conforming our understanding of science to Scripture. The two cannot coexist but one must predominate. I would choose Scripture.

What we're seeing is nothing new. Read the old fellows who faced the advent of Darwinism. The new arguments are their old arguments in modern apparel. They were empty shells then as they are now. Will we ever learn?

The problem here is a misunderstanding of science. Although unstated, there is a presumption of "scientific data" or "scientific thinking" is superior to all other forms of data or thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific method, the purveyor of "scientific data" and "scientific thinking," is a powerful method of discovering what works as long as it is confined within its parameters. For the scientific method to work, the data must be observable, verifiable, and replicable. Furthermore, the scientific method is pure operationalism in that it tells what works and what does not work. It is held in reality check by workability in the physical world. The problems come when we exceed these parameters and venture into areas where the data is not verifiable, replicable, or observable. Using supposed scientific methodology in theological issues, such as the creation-evolution controversy, or textual criticism exceeds its limits and is worse than other methodology because of its inappropriateness and undeserved confidence in its results. The scientific method carries a kind of awe and mystique for those who don't understand it.

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