The Nature of Faith—and Science
In the deepest, darkest underwater cave system in Bosnia and Herzegovina lives the olm. But it isn’t much of a life. The olm is a foot-long, blind, flesh-colored salamander that doesn’t get around much. A team of divers, observing these rare amphibians in an eight-year study, found that typically they moved less than 32 feet. They have no predators, and they live long lives—often into their hundreds. Locals call them “damp creepy-crawlies,” and they can survive for years without food. One actually stayed in the very same spot for seven years. “They are hanging around,” said one researcher, “doing almost nothing.”1
In thinking about the olm, more interesting for its sheer uniqueness than for anything else, it makes one wonder why it exists at all. To look at it from the perspective of evolution, maybe, it could be concluded that this creature is just one more example of survival of the fittest. This species has survived in an extreme environment because, even though some characteristics have been lost—eyes, for example—they were just not necessary. To the evolutionist, there is no need for a reason for the existence of any organism. It became what it is through an infinite series of changes.
It just is.
Well, there may be a point there. It is quite reasonable to wonder whether everything has to have a purpose. It’s probably safe to assume that the olm doesn’t seem to be concerned about purpose. It just seems to be merely doing—or not doing—what comes naturally. To a degree, at least, its volition, if you can call it that, is not to act or react at all.
As human learning continues to advance its quest for ever greater frontiers of knowledge, since well before the Enlightenment it has seemed to have revealed information that may challenge what humankind has long held as truth. And this, in turn, has contested even the sources of truth on which people of faith have grounded their belief. It has also led to efforts to reconcile Scripture itself with the discoveries of science.
In an article entitled, “What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” Christianity Today observes that “some of the deepest divisions within the church come from conflicting stances on evolution and human origins.”2 And this is only one instance of an ongoing effort of people of learning and faith that has led them to what has come to be termed “theistic evolution.” The goal in this endeavor is to resolve the increasingly apparent dissonance that results from the discrepancies between scientific research and the inspired Word of God. The scientist interviewed for this article in Christianity Today, for example, has concluded, based on his study through the discipline of genealogy, that “humans share common ancestry with the great apes. It really looks like God created us through a providentially governed process of common descent.”3 This suggests that though there may still be a belief in God, a supreme Being, what is described as Creation in Scripture must be given closer scrutiny.
Such an effort would, then, entail a rock-solid acceptance of what seems to be observable results of scientific research and a reorientation to the interpretation of biblical text. The conclusions of this scientist, who is also a believer in Scripture, is that the Creation described in Genesis 1, based on scientific findings, must be reinterpreted. Given the mounting documented evidence in research, when the writer of the Book of Genesis wrote, “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things [including, presumably, even those that may or may not move in underwater caves] and wild animals of the earth of every kind’” (vs. 24),4 it was only an effort to describe in figurative language what was actually a process that took millions of years to bring us to where we are today—to where science is now measuring nature’s quality and quantity.
The unquestioning respect—possibly what may be called the reverence—for human learning, therefore, must be submitted to. The assertion is that Scripture itself must be subject to the interpretation of human understanding.
This process of interpreting the Bible is called “hermeneutics,” defined as “the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible).”5 It might be observed that hermeneutics applies also to one’s approach to science. How should one interpret what one learns from scientific research? More and more often, in today’s culture, the reader of science employs an emphasis in hermeneutic that shifts ultimate authority from Scripture to science.
It is true that Ellen G. White wrote of “the harmony of science and Bible religion.”6 But she cautions against “men of learning . . . [who] may publish with pen and voice the best results of their reasoning; but they grasp only an item of the work of God, and in their shortsightedness, calling it science, they exalt it above the God of science.”7
Yet Jesus Himself—and each of the writers of the New Testament—assumed and asserted the Genesis account of Creation as a literal, seven-day week in which God spoke, verbatim, our universe into existence where there was nothing before.
In fact, these writers of the New Testament were fully aware of the revolutionary quality of Scripture as they knew it—the Old Testament—from the learning of their time. Peter, one of the original Twelve, asserted that the message of Christianity, which certainly included the basic concept of Christ as the Initiator of Creation itself, reflected no “cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16).
And the apostle Paul, probably the most erudite writer of the New Testament, one who was keenly aware of the bewildering diversity of worldviews in which the people of his time were immersed, directly addressed the possible discrepancy between faith and learning. At the beginning of his Letter to the Romans, the very center of the world of education at that time, he laid out the proper foundation for the connection between faith and learning by referring back to Creation itself: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18–20).
A close and thorough re-examination of the writings of the New Testament disclose the consistent affirmation—implicitly and explicitly—that “in the beginning God created . . .”
NOTES AND REFERENCES