Saturday, December 28, 2013

Grudem 15c: Scripture and Science

It's been almost two months since I've blogged any Grudem. Wright came out. Other books of more pressing relevance came out. But I do eventually want to make it all the way through Grudem. I am thankful that Michael Bird's Evangelical Theology is a potential replacement for Grudem in the circles that use him. Bird of course is still Calvinist, and he is a NT scholar rather than a professional theologian. We await a Wesleyan volume of Wiley's girth.
E. Relationship between Scripture and Modern Science
Grudem begins this section by suggesting that faith in the Bible has led to the discovery of new facts about the universe. He mentions Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, and others. He also notes places where individuals have thought the Bible conflicted with science, such as in conflict over whether the earth was the center of the universe. Grudem counters that the Bible did not teach an earth-centered universe at all. He does not believe Scripture even addresses this question.

Science has helped us in some cases to get a clearer sense of what the Bible actually teaches. So "the Bible does not tell us the precise date of the creation of the earth or of the human race" (274). The actual creation of the universe, Grudem argues, is not a matter for science at all because it is not a repeatable experiment.

1. No Final Conflict
The first claim Grudem makes is that "when all the facts are rightly understood, there will be 'no final conflict' between Scripture and natural science" (274). The phrase, "no final conflict," alludes to a book by Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer suggested 7 different strategies for reconciling science and the Bible on the matter of evolution. Grudem will address many of these in the rest of the chapter.

The bottom line for Grudem is that when the Bible is properly understood and when science functions properly no conflict will remain between the two.

2. Ruled out
a. Grudem obviously rules out the "secular" theory, the idea that God was not involved in the creation of the world at all. He also rules out "theistic evolution." Theistic evolution argues that God directed the process of creation in some way. Grudem mentions three points of the process that are often mentioned: 1) creation of matter itself, 2) creation of the simplest life form, and 3) the creation of humanity. A theistic evolutionist might argue that "the Bible does not specify how it happened" (276).

b. Grudem rules it out biblically on the basis of six reasons. First, Grudem believes it is incompatible with the purposefulness of God in creation. Scripture teaches "intelligent design," evolution is about randomness. Once a Christian accepts some intelligent design, he argues, you may as well see intentionality in the whole thing.

Second, Grudem argues that God's creative word in Scripture brings immediate response. So for Grudem it doesn't fit that it would take millions of years for his command to play out. Third, God makes things in Genesis 1 that God created things "according to their kinds," which seems to indicate "some narrow limits to the kind of change that could come about through genetic mutations" (277).

Fourth, Grudem mentions instances where the language of Scripture speaks of very direct intentionality in God's engagement with people and living things (Ps. 139:13; Exod. 4:11; Matt. 6:30). We might also mention his sixth reason, "the increasing number of questions about the validity of the theory of evolution" (279).

The fifth reason Grudem mentions is the special creation of Adam and Eve. This is a point where theistic evolutionists usually see divine involvement. "Scripture pictures the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, as possessing highly developed linguistic, moral, and spiritual abilities from the moment they are created" (278). Grudem mentions that Paul seems to treat Adam as literal.

As he presents it, Grudem's argument is very weak. For example, nothing he says about Adam and Eve would eliminate a claim that God intervened in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the midst of an otherwise evolutionary process. Ironically, he seems to miss the most significant complication with evolution from a theological perspective--Paul speaks of death entering the world through Adam's sin, and evolution requires lots of death prior to Adam. You could counter that Paul refers to human death, because Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating from the tree of life.

None of the other arguments he makes against theistic evolution have any substance at all. Grudem is a Calvinist determinist of the highest order, so of course the idea of randomness or "free will" in the creation does not fit with his theological sensibilities. For an Arminian or a Wesleyan, this is no argument at all.

The idea that God's commands demand an immediate response is embarrassing. I guess the coming of Christ was a failure then, because it took so long to happen? Rather, this is simply a silly argument.

There is no question, from a normal Christian perspective, that God does engage the creation with high intentionality on some things, but this does not mean he does so on the type of jello you have for lunch. I can have a strong opinion on one thing but not on another. The one does not imply the other. We also have to reckon with the fact that 1) some biblical language is more precise than others and 2) there is a developing understanding of God in relationship to evil and suffering in the pages of Scripture (e.g., Exod. 4:11 requires the rest of Scripture to appropriate).

In the end, Genesis 1 was originally in dialog with the other creation stories of its day, not with the theory of evolution. It is incarnated revelation, as all revelation is--meant to communicate first with its original audiences and thus speaking first in the categories of its day.  Genesis 1 does embody an orderliness to the creation, not unlike the underlying dynamics of which foods are clean and unclean (the best explanation of the food laws is not hygienic but in relation to the "kinds" of animals in Levitical worldview).

And there is an orderliness to the creation. The divisions of Genesis 1 are not unlike many divisions of modern science: astronomy, geology, botany, biology, anthropology. We can debate, however, whether the poetic presentation of Genesis 1 demands that we eliminate theistic evolution as an option. This approach makes Genesis 1 serve a function it was never meant to serve.

A final note on Newton and other famous scientists who believed in God. It is true that these scientists had a sense of order in the creation.  Their sense of creation as God-designed probably did give them a goal to pursue, to discover the way God had designed the universe.

At the same time, there was a new worldview at work here as well. It was in the 1500s and 1600s that a sense of the universe as a machine developed, the creation as "natural" with God as "super-natural." This approach led them to see God as more distant from the day to day operations of the world rather than more directly involved, as Grudem would have him. God largely lets the world operate on its own, with miracles being special moments of divine interruption.

Newton was thus quite different in his view of God than even Luther was, who still saw thunderstorms as a kind of spiritual warfare of sorts. Modern science arguably would never have developed if a sense of the universe operating on its own, under laws God had implanted in it, had not come into play.


Bob MacDonald said...

Thanks for this. Your points are quite clear for my fuzzy mind on these traditions. Psalm 33 phrased in the continuous present helps the thought for me: in the word of the Lord are the havens made, and in the wind of his mouth, all their hosts. We are not 'distant' in time from creation and redemption. We should not be confused by our internally constructed space-time.

Susan Moore said...

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created” (James 1:16-18).
There was no random mutations or survival of the fittest competitions prior to the sin of Adam.
But when man separated from the Creator, due to his rebellious desire to worship and serve created things, he was separated from the one who holds all things together (Col. 1:17).
That means that yet still created to be obedient to the limits God imposed on it through his laws for nature, the process of random mutations and survival of the fittest competitions began in God’s creation. This means that although a woman’s body may spontaneously abort or miscarry a fetus too mutated in formation to hold its own breath of life, a woman can be steadfast sure that the life within her will not mutate into a monkey any more than a cat will mutate into a horse.
Therefore, anytime a random mutation or survival of the fittest competition glorifies Him, one can be sure it came from God (the prince of peace), and not from Satan (the prince of this fallen world).
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21).

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for this post.

MDLeamon said...

Thank you for your observations and for not forcing scripture to say things it simply doesn't say. Thank you too for helping us think consistently in Arminian categories.