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Series: John Polkinghorne on Natural Theology
Polkinghorne discusses the origins and aims of natural theology in this series. It does not offer truth, but rather a “best explanation” for the world, answering primarily meta-questions. Two such questions asked by Polkinghorne are, “Why is science possible at all?” and “What makes the universe so special?” To explore the answers, he looks at the ability of human minds to penetrate mysteries of the natural world as well as the fine-tuning of the universe necessary to produce the fruitfulness of life.
Series: Maker of Heaven and Earth
In his sermon, Dave Swaim discusses the early chapters of Genesis that seemingly contradict scientific evidence, and he suggests that Christians have simply asked the “wrong questions” about this ancient text, which has led to warfare between the two. In light of this, Swaim wraps up his sermon with the three concluding points that he feels sums up the Biblical truth of creation: there is an all-powerful God, he has a perfect plan, and he has given us his love through Jesus Christ.
Are gaps in scientific knowledge evidence for God?
Every field of science has unanswered questions and gaps in our understanding. Scientists typically view these as open research questions. Others sometimes argue that if science can’t explain how something happened, then God must be the explanation. Such arguments are called “god-of-the-gaps” arguments. The risk in these arguments is that science is always developing. If gaps in scientific knowledge are the basis for belief in God, then as scientists fill in the gaps, the evidence for God disappears. The God of the Bible, however, is much more than a god of the gaps. Christians believe that God is always at work in the natural world, in the gaps as well as in the areas that science can explain.
What factors should be considered in determining how to approach a passage of scripture?
Finding the best interpretation of a scripture passage can be a daunting task. C.S. Lewis advises us to “Look. Listen. Receive.” A good approach is to seek the intended meaning for the original audience before considering what it means for us today. Clues to the original intended meaning can be found in the style of language, the genre of literature, the original audience, and the historical and cultural context. By studying these things, we avoid projecting modern ideas (like science) onto the text.
Fine-tuning and the “Fruitful Universe”
I ask the question, “Why is the universe so special?” Now scientists don’t like things to be special; we like things to be general, and our natural anticipation would have been that the universe is just a common specimen of what a universe might be like.
What do Biblical scholars today say about Genesis 1-2?
In recent decades, evangelical Biblical scholars have reconsidered non-literal interpretations of Genesis. The Accommodation view of St. Augustine and John Calvin is supported by recent discoveries about ancient cultures. Literature from these cultures shows interesting parallels and differences with Genesis accounts. The differences are striking, such as stories where creation is a battle among many gods rather than the acts of one sovereign Creator. The similarities, however, show how God accommodated his message so that the Israelites could understand it. For example, the Egyptians and Babylonians thought the sky was a solid dome. This solid dome appears in Genesis 1 as the firmament created on day 2. God did not try to correct the “science” of the Israelites by explaining that the sky was a gaseous atmosphere. Instead, God accommodated his message to their cultural context. Many evangelical Biblical scholars have concluded that Genesis is not meant to teach scientific information.
What is the "fine-tuning" of the universe, and how does it serve as a "pointer to God"?
Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants, and the beginning state of the Universe. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.