Same Universe, Different Lenses: Science, Ethics, and Religion in Dialogue
This is a transcript of an interview given by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman at The Faith Angle Forum Conference on Religion, Politics, & Public Life on November 5, 2013.
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.
Brian Godawa looks at several aspects of ancient cosmography (descriptions of the universe) that also appear in the Bible, and what these aspects of the text mean for our understanding of Scripture.
Philosopher Robert Bishop explores the Biblical doctrine of creation, which he describes as "perhaps one of the most helpful pieces of theology for thinking about science", and describes why the doctrine needs to be recovered from narrower, contemporary interpretations of creation.
In this paper, theologian John Wesley Wright reviews Connor Cunningham's book Darwin's Pious Idea, a work that deeply explores the integration of Darwinian evolutionary theory and Christian faith.
Biologist and BioLogos Senior Fellow Denis Venema examines the interaction between RTB literature and several lines of genetics-based evidence for common ancestry. In so doing, he also addresses the scientific robustness and reliability of the RTB model.
"As a Christian and a biblical scholar, I care both about Scripture as truth and about the ongoing scholarly conversation regarding the composition of the Hebrew Scriptures. And so, when I was asked to speak on the story of creation in Genesis 1, I welcomed the opportunity to give my thoughts on the interaction between this text and its ancient Near Eastern context."
The literary conventions employed in Genesis chapter 1 mark it out, not as a scientific document describing material origins, but as a theological polemic against surrounding ancient Near Eastern pagan religions. Creation language here and elsewhere in Scripture is not about establishing scientific origins of material substance and structure but about covenantal establishment and worldview.
Professor Denis Lamoureux presents the theory of evolutionary creation, which claims that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting evolutionary process. The view of origins, says Lamoureux, fully embraces both the religious beliefs of biblical Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution.
NASA astronomer Jennifer Wiseman asserts that studying creation can show us the nature of God; science can inform us of what we need to do as stewards of God’s creation; understanding the natural world gives us a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ; and science can give us a better understanding of ourselves. This essay was presented at the November 2009 Theology of Celebration Workshop.
Renowned Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke considers eleven barriers that prevent evangelical theologians from accepting evolution as a possible means of creation and what these barriers tell us about the tensions perceived by many Evangelicals between science and faith. Waltke's work was based on a survey sent to members of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents and their faculty.
Many independent measurements have established that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. Geologists have found annual layers in glaciers that can be counted back 740,000 years. Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements (radiometric dating), some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while the oldest solar system rocks are dated at 4.6 billion years. Astronomers use the distance to galaxies and the speed of light to calculate that the light has been traveling for billions of years. The expansion of the universe gives an age for the universe as a whole: 13.7 billion years old.
(Updated April 16, 2012)
Many arguments claiming to prove the existence of God have been proposed throughout the centuries. The response to many of these arguments, however, is: “If God created the world, what created God?” It suggests that certain arguments for God’s existence only push the question of beginnings one step farther back. The Bible and Christian doctrine address this question by defining God as eternal and uncreated, but such answers rarely satisfy nonbelievers. A philosophical response is that God is the ultimate first cause; the atheist is left with a dilemma of what or who that first cause might have been. In the end, an uncaused creator may simply be a more plausible explanation for the universe we live in. Our universe appears to have had a beginning, to be finely tuned for life, and to have a place for love and purpose. These appearances affirm as plausible a prior belief in 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.
We at BioLogos believe that God used the process of evolution to create all the life on earth today. While we accept the science of evolution, we emphatically reject evolutionism. Evolutionism is the atheistic worldview that says life developed without God and without purpose. Instead, we agree with Christians who adhere to Intelligent Design and Creationism that the God of the Bible created the universe and all life. Christians disagree, however, on how God created. Young Earth Creationists believe that God created just 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and disagree with much of mainstream science. Supporters of Intelligent Design accept more of evolutionary science, but argue that some features of life are best explained by direct intervention by an intelligent agent rather than by God's regular way of working through natural processes. We at BioLogos agree with the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and evolutionary development of all species, seeing these as descriptions of how God created. The term BioLogos comes from the Greek words bios (life) and logos (word), referring to the opening of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.”
(Updated on March 1, 2012)