When I was a kid growing up in Africa, the only thing worse than a dirt road full of potholes was a paved road full of potholes. The reason was simple: poor driving conditions on the first kind of road were easily and quickly remedied by a quick treatment with a run-of-the-mill road grader. To improve conditions on the second kind of road?—well, that was no minor surgery. In many of Africa’s older paved roads, the ruts are well-established and deeply engrained. Not only that, but they are— for all intents and purposes— ‘fossilized’ ruts, surrounded by the armor of asphalt that’s hardened over time until it becomes virtually impervious to change.
Most people alive in America today were raised with the theory of Darwinian Evolution from a young age, in various degrees of detail, year after year after year, until theory—a supposition (uncertain belief) or a system of ideas intended to explain something— was laid down enough times and with enough frequency and insistency and authority that it hardened into “fact,” or “law.” But what happens when cracks form in the hardness of pavement, followed by pressure and temperature and time, and there’s a choice made to ignore the problem? A pothole forms. “No educated person any longer questions the validity of the so-called theory of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact,” says evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. And that, my friends, is a pothole in the pavement.
This post is an initial, rudimentary look at a few of the cracks I see growing into serious road hazards in the aging infrastructure that is Darwinian Evolution. Some may find this introduction humorous for the simple reason that the ‘pothole’ analogy is exactly the same way many people feel about Christians and the Bible. While I’m very aware of the parallels, I’m not so sure the average evolutionist is. Which is why, off and on over the course of the next few months, I want to take a fresh look at several of the ‘benchmark’ issues I feel have been used to either blindly support or legitimately challenge the theory of Darwinian Evolution. These will likely include such topics as ‘Micro’ vs. ‘Macro’ evolution, The Miller Experiment, the significance of the Archaeopteryx discovery, implications behind the Laws of Thermodynamics and more. When it comes to the theory of Darwinian Evolution, in the words of double PhD and author Jonathan Wells, “The question I’m raising is whether all of this is really science—or is it actually a kind of mythology?” (Strobel 36, The Case For A Creator). I hope you’ll stick around long enough to take an honest look and decide for yourself.
Before I leap willingly (foolishly?) into the jaws of controversy— in order to do this fairly—I need to make something clear up front: I do not accuse science of, nor have I ever condemned science of being, “satanic,” or “the devil,” or as the opponent of God’s Truth. It has never been my intention to set up any sort of false dichotomy that forces the Christian to choose between science or the Bible. I agree to a great degree with a frequent visitor to this blog that “If God is the author of both the Bible and creation we shouldn't need to choose one or the other (Bible or science); we should be able to reconcile both.” In general, this is true. Under normal circumstances, when nothing but predictable scientific laws— which deal with the natural world and which God created to establish an orderly and functional universe—when predictable scientific laws are at work, the Bible should and will perfectly mesh with the naturalistic discoveries of our time. Science should be the greatest ally of Scripture in all areas where natural laws are at play. A good follow-up question, however, might be this— Are natural laws the only ones at play when we read the Bible? Asked another way, how does one reconcile the Bible and science in the case of events and accounts touched by external, supra-natural forces? How does one reconcile the Bible and science in the case of the miraculous?
In a blog post some time back, pastor Bill wrote this in regards to the miraculous—“Wrap your mind around this wonderful definition of “miracle” from Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Thos Nelson, 1897).
“An event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message (John 2:18 Mt 12:38).
“It is an occurrence at once above nature and above man. It shows the intervention of a power that is not limited by the laws either of matter or of mind, a power interrupting the fixed laws which govern their movements, a supernatural power…
“‘The simple and grand truth [is] that the universe is not under the exclusive control of physical forces, but that everywhere and always there is above, separate from and superior to all else, an infinite personal will, not superseding, but directing and controlling all physical causes, acting with or without them.’
“God ordinarily effects his purpose through the agency of second causes; but he has the power also of effecting his purpose immediately and without the intervention of second causes, i.e., of invading the fixed order, and thus of working miracles.””
I think the caution of Brian Edwards is a valid one—“The evangelical who relies upon the argument [for example,] that Genesis 1 and 2 (or 3 and 4) are poetic and not historical has abandoned sound principles of interpretation in order to avoid what appears to be a scientific problem; why then does he not abandon Jonah as well—or, more particularly, the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ?”
How does one reconcile science and the Bible when God suspends the laws of science in order to accomplish His sovereign ends? Which one wins out then? Clearly, there are vital and important areas where science and the Bible are at odds, even when God is the Author of both. You can understand my hesitation to agree with those who wish to make science the absolute arbiter of Truth when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible—it is clear that science is not the plumb-line for gauging that which is most “real.”
Now let me be clear; I do not see it as contradictory to use the products of science, or trust their ability to make certain tasks in life easier or more enjoyable. I have no problems living my life in harmony with the observable and applicable laws of science, which can only “work” because God a. created them (Col. 1:15, 16) and b. sustains them (Col. 1:17). But while I live my life in an autopilot sense of reliance on the natural (scientific) laws of God’s world, I also live in a more fundamental dependence upon the supernatural. So that, should God choose to suspend or supercede the natural laws of the universe in the literature of the Bible, or should He ask me to suspend my trust in those laws today, so that I might, for instance, ask Him for a miracle of healing in the life of a child with leukemia, I must revert to that greater Reality.
I have frequently been asked, wouldn’t a contradiction between science and the Bible necessitate in some way that God is being expressly deceptive?
To which I would reply—
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws such as gravity, so that water flows downhill, only to supercede those laws and part a sea when His people needed to escape the clutches of Pharoah’s army (Ex. 14:21,22)?
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws such as the laws of friction and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and then allow the sandals and clothes of His people to remain in perfect condition for 40 years as they wandered through the wilderness (Duet. 29:5)?
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws of procreation and then defy every known law of science as well as the understanding of heaven to enter our world Himself, through the womb of a virgin, fully man without ceasing to be fully God (Luke 1:30-35)?
Is it deceptive of God to say “all men are destined to die once” and then raise Lazarus from the dead? To raise Christ from the dead (Jn. 11:38-44)?
No. Not deceptive. Above our pay grade, perhaps, but not deceptive.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9). My sense, whenever God is accused of deception, is that there exists in the accuser an underlying and emotional trust issue rather than an objectively legitimate intellectual objection. Granted, this is a generality—but I have seen it proven to be true many times.
As I have said before, much unnecessary confusion could be avoided if people understood that many of the literary forms of Scripture, such as historical narratives, are written in what is called ‘The language of appearances,’ or, ‘Phenomenological Language.” R.C. Sproul defines this as “language that describes things the way they appear to the naked eye” (Sproul, Literary Forms, Part 1). What if, just as the Bible writers described things as they accurately appeared, science is simply doing the same, striving to describe and explain the world as it accurately appears? Is it ‘false,’ is it ‘deceptive’ that the world appears to function in a way an ordinary person can observe, when in reality, something far more complex is going on behind the scenes? No. Just as ordinary people in Bible times could walk outside and observe the sun ‘coming up’ and ‘passing overhead’ and ‘going down,’ so can and do we ordinary people today, in scientific times. It is not ‘deceptive,’ it is not contrary to fact that the sun appears to ‘rise’ and ‘set’ when viewed with the naked eye. So what if, just as the language of appearances cannot hope to capture the incredible complexity that lies behind the curtain of scientific laws even while describing appearances accurately, what if, in the same way, the language of science cannot hope to capture the incredible complexity that lies behind the curtain of supernatural laws that went into a supernatural process of creation and that continues to operate in a way that sustains the natural creation? Does that make “what’s really going on behind the scenes” deception? No more than it does in the case of phenomenological language.
All science is capable of doing then, is only ever discovering ‘half’ of the story because at best, its tools are natural and created, and thus unable to detect or understand either the supernatural creator or His supernatural means. Does that make science a waste of time? By no means! I believe God has given us these tools as a gift, to better our lives and to “be our brother’s keeper.” The finiteness of science does not mean it is a waste of time, only that science must admit to and honestly face its own limitations. This is where C.S. Lewis’ beautiful quote rings out so poignantly—“In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.”
Surrounded By Grace,