The PBS program "NOVA" on February 22 was "Where Did We Come From?" Starting with an analysis of the elements of meteors found in the dessert it was proclaimed with confidence that the "Big Bang" was the first Super Nova which hurled the universe into being as an explosion of gas and dust which pre-existed the big bang of about 13 billion years ago. And eventually life came about by the right combination of chemicals and conditions and billions of years later, "Voila" here we are! In conclusion the narrator admitted we do not know where the original cosmic dust came from to explode in the big bang as it is assumed there is no eternally existing "Designer-Creator" who brought the universe into being by the word of his power and will. And honest scientists also admit matter is not eternal. It has often been said, "None are so blind as those who will not see." Romans 1:18-20 implies that truth.
Having been in Ripon over 25 years now I frequently receive phone calls from people asking me biblical and theological questions they have. I am happy for the opportunity to clarify many questions people have and this also motivates me to write these blogs. One common question is, "Do you interpret the Bible Literally?"
I do not answer that question with a "Yes or No" as the answer is more complex. I reply that the bible has many forms of literary genre and that it must be interpreted to determine the intended meaning of the text based on historical, cultural, linguistic considerations. The same principles of interpretation (The science of Hermeneutics) would apply to any documents like the Constitution or any legal record.
To illustrate, many sincere people feel to be true to the bible they must interpret Genesis 1 as literally six 24 hour days of creation about 6 to 10 thousand years ago. This is known as the young earth point of view. I finished Wheaton College over 50 years ago and never heard anyone teach that as the correct interpretation of Genesis 1. At Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL where I graduated with an MDiv. in 1973 and was on staff from 1975-1985 there was not one Old Testament professor who interpreted Genesis "literally" and held the young earth view of Creation and the age of the earth. It was just not the divisive issue it has become among the fundamentalist mindset today.
Many outstanding books have been written on the subject that I would recommend. "Science Held Hostage" explains that the naturalists who deny the existence of God have no other option than to teach naturalistic evolution against all evidence. On the other hand, fundamentalist Christians who insist on six 24 hour days of creation and a young earth feel that this view of Genesis 1 is the only view faithful to Scripture also against all evidence to the contrary. Another book taking Christians to task for this narrow mindedness is, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" by noted Evangelical historian, Mark Noll, formerly of Wheaton College and now at Notre Dame University.
Arthur F. Holmes, Philosophy Professor at Wheaton College wrote a book in 1977, "All Truth is God's Truth" breaking down the segregation of sacred and secular knowledge. He asserts that all facts or truth no matter their origin are from God. Therefore, properly interpreted there is no conflict between science and the Bible. God created all things that exist apart from Himself and the sciences observe what God has created. We call this the general revelation of God and much can be learned about God from observing the creation. Romans 1:18-20, Psalm 19. On the other hand, God has also spoken and guided the prophets and apostles to write what He wanted mankind to know of his purpose for creation and how people are to live and order their lives. His written Word is the final rule for what we are to believe and how we are to behave. It is the Owner's Manual so to speak. Since God is the origin of creation, general revelation and of the Scriptures, special revelation there is no conflict between them when correctly interpreted. The Bible is not a scientific textbook. It explains the "Why" of creation and science explains the "When and How" God did it and is still learning as knowledge is advancing at significant speed.
Conflict has arisen when people who deny God's existence and his creation misinterpret the data of origins and literalists among Christians who misinterpret the intended meaning of the text. Since the best of Bible scholars verify the days of Genesis 1 may refer to long ages of time the big bang of Genesis 1:1 could have been ca. 13 billion years ago and the earth formed 4.6 billion years ago. Since time and space originated with the creation and God always existed before creation what is that time frame to him? Let us not squeeze the eternal, infinite God into our small time frame, but let Him enlarge our thinking as He has the universe which has been expanding since "God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1 represents the big bang. Honest scientists admit matter is not eternal, but had a beginning, hence the big bang.
In years past Fundamentalist Christians became anti-intellectual and were afraid of sending their youth to secular colleges and universities lest they lose their faith. It is far better to give our youth the correct perspective on these issues and arm them with the tools to stand firm and evangelize among academia with truth to answer the questions of sincere seekers. The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization of Evangelical Christians who are in all fields of the sciences and seek to defend the faith among non-believers and strengthen believers with reports of research that affirms the faith of the ancient creeds rather than erodes them. A sub-group affiliated with them is the Affiliation of Christian Geologists who study the earth sciences. On their website you will find many helpful articles including a statement on the age of the earth. Check out both of their websites for much helpful information. These are people who are not afraid of truth no matter where it is found and dispel the myths of non-believing scientists "who suppress the truth in ungodliness". Romans 1:18ff. These Christian scientists believe in true academic freedom and are not held hostage by the politically correct on the left nor fundamentalists on the right.
I also recommend reading the three books by Lee Strobel, "The Case for Christ", "The Case for Faith" and "The Case for a Creator" readily available from Amazon or any Christian bookstore. In my writing on this controversial subject I do not desire to enter into a debate with young earth proponents. Folks of that persuasion may write their own blogs. There is much online on both sides of this issue which is a non-essential on which honest Christians may disagree. I am happy to recommend many good books on the subject to the sincere seeker. My desire in writing these blogs is to aid people looking for honest and intelligent answers to the questions they face in the real world as Peter enjoined us to do. I Peter 3:15,16 May God have mercy on us all.