Theologians stick to your trade

January 14, 2013 § 4 Comments


In the creation vs evolution debate participants do not stick to their trade. This has very nasty consequences for the credibility of the Christian faith. Creationists think that one way or another Genesis 1 forms a blueprint for the actual events of creation. They make two serious mistakes. The first one is that of taking Genesis 1 literally. Who reads a texts needs to do justice to it. This starts at the very least by looking at genre, audience, and the authorial intention. The creation story in Genesis is quite probably intended by the author as an explanation for the existence and calling of Israel (away from the garden > back to the garden/promised land). To read Genesis 1 as a scientific text about the origin of the universe is in a strange way an ‘evangelical’ variation on treating the Bible with contempt. One wants to take the Bible seriously but ends up making a laughing stock of it by letting it act as a dummy on the lap of the ventriloquist (i.e. the creationist theologian).

The second mistake is that the insights gleaned from this disastrous reading of the text are then used as a framework for the interpretation of scientific data from geology and archeology. Wrong assumptions are exacerbated by a faulty method. Who really wants to do scientific research, will try to let the data speak for themselves, try to follow the trail wherever it may lead, whatever the conclusion. But in the case of creationism the result is a forgone conclusion (because God’s Word ‘teaches’ this or that). The scientific data are thus uninvited guests on a private theological party for which beds are quickly made ready in utter embarrassment. There is no genuine interest in making scientific discoveries but rather an attempt to keep the chasm between science and theology manageable.

Of course, scientists who promote evolution are not without guilt either. The comical arrogance with which some of them assert, with grave earnestness, that science ‘proves’ that God doesn’t exist, is a equally grave over-reliance on their own ability and that of the data they interpret.

Theologians really should stop playing scientist (‘scientific proof for a 6 day creation!’) and scientists need to tone down their rhetoric (‘we don’t need a god anymore’). If both camps simply stick to the interpretation of their own data (the Bible for the theologian and scientific data for the scientist) we already get a collection of ideas that defies the imagination. Theologian stick to your trade! That is really important if the Christian faith wants to remain relevant in the 21st century.

 

(Originally published as a column in Dutch)

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§ 4 Responses to Theologians stick to your trade

  • Reggie says:

    While I can agree that there have been abuses in theology and science, as each seeks to apply a particular worldview to categories outside of their area of expertise. At the same time, because everything comes from certain presuppositions about reality, and overall interpretation of data and which data is in fact relevant, there must also be a forum for listening to a multiplicity of viewpoints, which each side seems unwilling to facilitate. To do this it would require a real dialogue and discussion of the issues, not an ad-hominem argumentation (which I see in this article) that are often presented.

    The issue becomes from the Christian side of things, who is to determine, thousands of years after the documents were written, what the author of Genesis intended to convey, be it saga or history. As it relates to science, to what extent should we allow contemporary advances in science to operate as a lens through which we read scripture, a lens which undoubtedly the audience would not have had.

    As you know in the Dutch reformed tradition there is an emphasis on reclaiming every square inch for Christ. This would undoubtedly include the sciences. This would necessitate some level of theology and kingdom principles to inform the way that Christians reclaim the sciences for God. Theology, it would seem, does have a place in the sciences.

    • Josh says:

      Agreed! I never said there’s not to be dialogue. On the contrary it is much needed. But it starts with getting rid of wrong presuppositions and faulty hermeneutics on both sides. Showing that was the sole aim of the column. Behind it there’s a worldview war going on. The battle could much benefit from honest and open dialogue toward reconciliation. The fact that this is a long way off is shown by the fact that I received a lot of terrible comments on this column. I should repent and go on my knees, etc.

  • Science and intelligent design go hand-in-hand. When one acknowledges the wonders and intricacies of creation, one is naturally curious and tends to gravitate towards the sciences–either in study or in making new discoveries. This has been demonstrated by scientists in the past (the majority being theists), and by many scientists today.

  • John Wallace says:

    Don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water. Theology and Evolution can go hand-in-hand. Check out my blog post A Theology of Creation which explores this very topic at http://www.johnsramblings.com. I’ve linked to your article here on that post also.

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