Sunday, March 27, 2011

Non-conflict resolution

I have started reading Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins by Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, which I have been asked to review. It is helpful that they clearly state their goal at the beginning:
we hope to suggest a way to resolve the creation-evolution conflict and bring conciliation between scientific and spiritual truths that underlie faith. To that end we propose the following thesis:
The first two chapters of Genesis, which accurately present two accounts of creation in terms of ancient Hebrew scientific observations and their historical understanding, are neither historical nor scientific in the twenty-first-century literal sense. Instead, the underlying message of these chapters applies for all time and constitutes a complete statement of the worldview of the Hebrew people in the ancient Near East. They accurately understood the universe in terms of why God created it but not how in the modern scientific and historical sense. This worldview, markedly different from those of their pagan neighbors, articulates the principles underlying their understanding of the relation of God to the universe, their relation to the true God, and their relation to each other and to the created order.
Overall I have many sympathies to this point of view and their goals but I do already have concerns and questions. As many posts to this blog testify I see no conflict between science and Genesis. But, I do concede that many people claim there is a conflict. However, I worry that if our starting point is "there is a conflict, we have to resolve it" concedes too much ground and credence to:

  • poor Biblical hermeneutics [a "plain" reading of the text by a 21st century American or Queenslander gives the correct and only possible reading]
  • simplistic philosophy of science [scientism= science is the only way to access the truth] 
  • disputes of the validity of the findings of modern science by Christians with no or minimal scientific training
On the other hand, it is admirable that the authors are trying to address issues head on that are important to many of their American brethren. But I worry that referring to Genesis as a "Rival theory of origins" is casting the debate too much in the wrong terms and not doing justice to the text. Again, I think Barth shows us the way forward as described here.

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