For well over a hundred-and-fifty years faith and science have been locked in a struggle that has often been seen as battle to the death by both sides. Those who believe Darwin's theory of evolution proves that Christian faith is dead, thus naturalism reigns supreme in place of faith in the modern world, have miscalculated both the nature and power of Christian faith. And earnest Christians who think that no Darwinist can truly be a faithful Christian are either willfully misled or simply out of touch with the incredible faith contributions of men like Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project. Collins, for those who do not know, is both an ardent Christian and an Darwinian evolutionist.
On both sides of this heated debate are advocates who refuse simply to see the merits and insights of their opponents. The evolutionists often see faith as naive and mindless.
They see the foolishness of their Christian opponents, as in the aforementioned Dover School District case I cited earlier this week, as the sum total of serious Christian thought on science. And the Christians who think that evolution is the work of the devil are very often convinced of a young earth, the creation of all species within their present form and related ideas that they believe are mandated by a correct and faithful reading of the book of Genesis.
The sad fact is that many conservative Protestants, without serious regard for the teaching of orthodox faith and modern science, have nowhere else to turn but to the special pleading of so-called creation science or intelligent design. Without a teaching structure that is outside their own minds, and thus how they privately read their Bibles, they are taken in by various popular theories and teachers who can make points that seem so simple and faithful to the words of Scripture. A good exposure to the serious study of biblical hermeneutics would cure a lot of this but then where do such Christians get such training? It is much easier to hear their favorite preacher rail against the Darwinists than to study serious questions about biblical hermeneutics.
But Roman Catholicism has not succumbed to this duality or tension. It has been able to truly respect science in a way that allows for the theory of evolution while at the same time it has denied none of the essential biblical and Christian doctrines that are of the very essence of true faith.
I was reminded of this when I came across an announcement this week about a forthcoming event in which Notre Dame University, Rome's Gregorian University and the Pontifical Council for Culture are teaming up to show that faith and science are really complementary.
A March 3-7 conference in Rome on "Biological Evolution, Facts and Theories" was recently presented by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of that pontifical council. The conference will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of the Species.
"It's not in the least about a celebration in honor of the English scientist; it's simply about analyzing an event that marked for all time the history of science and that has influenced the way of understanding our very humanity," said Jesuit professor Marc Leclerc at the presentation.
During nine sessions, these Catholic academics propose to contribute to the "idea that science, on the one hand, and theology, on the other, represent different fields of analysis and interpretation, though often they are incorrectly overlapped, causing confusion and ideological controversies." It seems to me that this approach is one that thoughtful Protestants would profit from immensely. Much of the warfare between science and religion is unnecessary. I find many, many young Christians who realize this and have grown completely weary of the older debates. I expect that a growing number of evangelical Christians will follow this course of thought in the years ahead. The older battles have little or no appeal to these very bright young Christians who are completely serious about their faith and their scientific methodology. This war needs to end. I pray that it will, sooner than later. It is an ideological controversy that serves no real good for the faith of Christians or for the preaching of the gospel. If you find that you react to this statement with emotional intensity then I fear that your reaction demonstrates my point all too clearly.
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“A good exposure to the serious study of biblical hermeneutics would cure a lot of this…” What an excellent point!
Regarding those who staunchly defend 6×24=144 hours of Creationism: I do believe that a solid understanding of biblical hermeneutics would do a lot of good. When impartial evidence appears to contradict one’s current understanding of Scripture, the simplistic choices are (a) deny the evidence or (b) devalue the Scripture. Lacking a good hermeneutic framework to help them to calmly think through the difficult issues, many sincere Christians who don’t want to choose (b) will opt for (a). In doing so, they sacrifice intellectual honesty and lose the respect of many non-believers. And they do a disservice to Scripture, because they refuse to allow their current understanding of the Bible to be challenged in any real way.
On the other hand, I fear that many equally sincere Christians who uncritically accept all aspects of Darwinian evolution have opted for (b), by supposing that the Bible is authoritative in matters of ethics, morality and religion, but not in the spheres of knowledge that are considered “nonreligious” (science, history, etc.) They have compartmentalized their faith and thus done a disservice to Scripture as well.
Jesus placed extremely high value on Scripture without ever resorting to intellectual dishonesty. Shouldn’t it be possible for his followers to do this as well?
I am a little confused when you say that “Roman Catholicism has not succumbed to this duality or tension”, but then the conference is about “idea that science, on the one hand, and theology, on the other, represent different fields of analysis and interpretation, though often they are incorrectly overlapped, causing confusion and ideological controversies.” How is this avoiding the duality or tension? This seems to merely succumb to notions that God is outside of these realm, which, I believe is against basic Christian doctrine. To me, it is a little like the people who hold the Christ of Faith and the Christ of History – “history and theology are just different realms of analysis and anyone suggesting their theology should govern their history just isn’t serious.”
I am not a scientist, but, if I was, my whole methodology would be derived from my theology & done in submission to God. If my “scientific methodology” dictated that God could not become incarnate, then I would jettison my methodology. Anyone who thinks their methodology should not begin with – “in the beginning God created…” – is undercutting a pillar of the Christian faith & the notion that there is some realm that Jesus Christ is not Lord is undermining the Christian faith.
Anyway, in reading your blog the past few weeks I see that you keep chipping away at “ideology”, but, make no mistake, you are attempting to replace those “ideologies” with your own. Right or wrong, you are attempting that and you aren’t just offering up some objective understanding that isn’t ideological.
I’m still not perfectly clear on how to understand Genesis. But one of the reasons why I’m a Christian is: It’s as unusual as miracles are that this evolutionary process brought about life and the different species.
Already a single cell is of high complexity, it has several parts, let’s call it organs which have to be in place at the same time: these organs have to run synchronized otherwise there is no life of the cell at all.
It’s not just complexity but also complexity in diversity in a functioning cell.
This complexity is a problem.
We can’t even give any mathematical probability for the transformation of unliving matter into living matter.
In the moment it’s nothing but faith in a godless miracle.
I understand how theologians, social science academia, journalists, even physicians and many more are so prone to accept this faith in a godless miracle. But why technicians and engineers embrace it, fails me to understand. They should know how many brilliant technical solutions are already in a single cell, which never could come about by just shaking the primordial soup.
There’s so much more to say … also about the implications of the ‘Alternative Genesis’ (it’s the Genesis of National and International Socialism and of most Utopian believe systems around … and they lead to as alternative eschatology, an alternative Chiliasm)
What can we do? Just this:
Engage in informed and open-minded discussion of this matters.
Think it through as rationally and critically and as thoroughly as you can!
But don’t buy cheaply into this fundamental of the secular believe system.