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Creationism and the Bible

QUESTION: Creationism and the Bible - Fallible or Infallible?


The theory of evolution is trumpeted as an immovable proven scientific fact. In the previous article (Creationism and Science) it was argued that this theory is far from proven: on the contrary, it is highly speculative. Creation scientists strive to formulate theories about origins, reconstructions of the past that take into account the biblical data about the history of the earth. Furthermore, they attempt to refute the claims of secular science.

But isn't this a dangerous venture? Isn't this a biblicist or fundamentalist approach? Doesn't this shift the focus of our efforts towards "proving the Bible was right after all"? And what if such a theory proves to be wrong in the future? Will this not shake your faith?

The religious starting point of secular science is that God and the Bible can play no role in our explanations of the world and its origins. Christians have a different religious starting point: God's revelation has provided reliable knowledge; more reliable than our mind. God Himself was an eyewitness to the origin of the world and has given us an account of this creation in His Book, the Bible. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not a difference between beliefs and science, but between beliefs and beliefs.

The different religious starting points of secular and biblical origins science are called presuppositions. These act more or less like a pair of glasses through which the hard evidence (the "traces of events in the past") is viewed, data is gathered, evidence is sought, and theories are built. From his biblical presupposition, a Christian will look very differently at the past of our planet and will reconstruct a very different history of our world. Again, this is not a battle between faith and science, but between one scientific model versus another scientific model.

Creationism and the Bible - Research using God's Word.
Biblical and scientific arguments lead to a dual conviction. First, there is the conviction that the earth's layers on our continents did not develop over the course of millions of years. Second, there is the conviction that the order of the fossils does not speak at all about macro-evolution. These convictions raise the following question: what story is the earth's layers and fossils telling us? Is it possible to explain the origin of the complete record of fossil bearing layers within the short biblical chronology? These questions take us into the domain of the creationist.

Among Christians, we find a very hesitant attitude towards creationism. There are indeed examples of biblicist and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible, that would make us cautious. Ds. van der Jagt recently summarized this problem: God's Word is invoked, but the Bible texts are being read as if they answer all sorts of scientific questions2. In doing this, these texts are taken out of context and isolated from the rest of Scripture, in which God reveals first and foremost a redemptive history.

However, pointing out incorrect usage of the Bible in the area of science is not all we need to do. More important is the question of how to use the historical data from Scripture in a correct, Scripturally responsible way in scientific research.

Which criteria can be defined for the research of biblical texts, if these are to be used correctly in scientific research and the formulation of theories?

  • Most important is the fact that the Bible was written to reveal God's redemptive history. The message of the Bible does not focus on providing scientific data, but on God's dealings with people and His involvement in history. Every text will have to be carefully researched exegetically to see what the message is within this wider context.
  • While doing this, it must be remembered that the Bible does not speak scientific language, but is using the descriptive language of common every day observations. In the days of Galileo, the church lost sight of this. When the Bible says, "Sun stand thou still" (Joshua 10:12), this cannot be interpreted as scientific language. The statement does not imply that the sun is usually moving around a stationary earth. At the same time, this is not an incorrect scientific statement either; it is observational language, similar to our modern expressions that describe "sunrise" or "sunset."
  • So we can justly say that the Bible is not a scientific manual. It does not answer our current scientific questions. But even though the Bible does not provide exhaustive information about nature and natural history, it does provide reliable information. This applies to descriptions of past events such as those in Genesis 1-11 as well. The Bible does provide factual information about the history of the earth, humanity, and nature, even though it is in the margins and matter-of-factly.3
  • From this religious starting point, it is possible to determine what "basic data" can be gleaned from the Bible with regards to the history of earth and mankind. This data serves as a biblical framework; pre-scientific foundational starting points for our scientific endeavors.
At this point, a clear line must be drawn. Thus far, we have been talking about assumptions based on faith, the certain knowledge that the Bible gives us. This knowledge is not subject to discussion. But after this the scientific work begins: analyzing and interpreting data of natural history within this framework of biblical pre-scientific knowledge.

Read Part 2 of Creationism and the Bible Now!

[1] This article was written by W.A.M. von Lindheim - Westerink and first published (in Dutch) in the magazine Nader Bekeken (Vol. 17, Nr. 12, December 2010). Used with permission and (where necessary) adapted for internet publication.
[2] “Many things have not been revealed. This should not tempt us to suppose that creation is any different from those things that have been revealed... The Word of God speaks after its kind. After its kind it is not exhaustive. It is reliable.", J.W. van der Jagt, Nader bekeken, Vol. 16 Nr. 6, 2009, p. 169.

This article is also available in Spanish.

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