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 Christian Perspectives on Origins

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Jarrax Volk
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PostSubject: Christian Perspectives on Origins   Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:27 pm

The following is adapted from a booklet of the same name, written by Dr. Steve Badger and Dr. Michael Tenneson.

This is a short presentation to settle questions some people may have about Origins (that is, HOW do Christians integrate science and theology?) In order to provide the relevant information, I must go into a brief discussion on HOW we know WHAT we know.

1. Knowledge

When we talk about Knowledge, we are generally talking about the combination of two separate fields. One field is Truth, which is everything that is true, regardless of whether one believes it. The second field is Belief, or that which one believes, but is not necessarily true. Knowledge then, is "justified belief, a belief you have reason to think is true".

There are two types of knowing:

Knowledge gained by the interpreting the physical world (science).

Knowledge gained by interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics--the process of determining what the Bible actually MEANS).

There are several different ways to KNOW things:

1. Authority: The past, transmitted culture. (This is when you pick up a history book and memorize facts--things you already believe to be true--written by an authority on history).

2. The Senses: Things perceived via the Five Senses.

3. Reason: Logical truths, deductions, inferences.

4. Self-Revelation: Persons.

5. Phenomenology: General or Universal Ideas.

6. Intuition: Friendship, love, hunches.

7. Apprenticeship: Skills, Connoisseurship.


God has given us TWO "books" so to speak: General Revelation (Creation), and Special Revelation (the Bible). Everyone interprets both of these according to their presuppositions (prior or basic assumptions).

Your view of each "book" is filtered through YOUR past, YOUR experiences and education, YOUR beliefs, YOUR personal agenda/motivation, and YOUR fears (both conscious and subconscious). This means that NO ONE interprets the Bible or Science objectively (without bias). It also means that everyone comes to slightly different conclusions about different things.

Though the natural world and the Bible AGREE when properly interpreted (because they are both created by God), man's explanations and interpretations of both science and theology often DO NOT agree. BOTH interpreted fields are fallible (that is, subject to human error).

As Christians, we ideally seek a complete unity of Science and Scripture. More often than not, we end up having an awkward balance of the two. How do we resolve this? That is the point of this presentation.

There are five different stances on Creation/Evolution:

Young-Earth Creationism:

1. God created everything.
2. In six, consecutive 24-hour periods.
3. About 6,000 years ago.
4. Reject theories of speciation and common descent.
5. Accepts microevolution.

A. Often call their position "Scientific Creationism".
B. Believe that the Genesis Creation Account (GCA) is a scientifically accurate historical narrative.
C. Sometimes believe that any other interpretation leads to a slippery slope of the denial of the Salvation of Christ.
D. Rejects scientific conclusions when they do not line up with a recent creation. This does not, however, mean that YECs are unscientific. They may instead formulate other hypotheses and theories which can support a recent Creation.

Old-Earth Creationism (aka Progressive Creationism)

1. God created the universe and life billions of years ago.
2. GCA is mostly historical narrative, not scientific.
3. Reject speciation and common ancestry.
4. Accept Microevolution.
5. Belive there were frequent creative actions of God through history (not necessarily in a literal 6 days).

Theistic Evolution

1. God created everything billions of years ago.
2. Accepts both micro- and macroevolution.
3. Believes God guided Biological Evolution.
4. GCA not historical narrative.
5. GCA probably involves accommodation.
6. Most doubt the existence of Adam and Eve.

Deistic Evolution

1. God exists, but He is not involved in His Creation.
2. God left life to evolve on its own (ateleologically, or without design).
3. Universe and life are billions of years old.
4. Accept micro- and macroevolution.
5. The Bible is not inspired nor authoritative.
6. The physical realm is the best revelation of God.

One cannot be a Christian and a Deist at the same time--it violates basic Christian Doctrine, and disallows a personal Savior.

Atheistic Evolution

1. Deny God's existence.
2. Life arose naturally from non-life.
3. Accepts micro- and macroevolution.
4. Universe and life are billions of years old.
5. Bible is fiction.
6. Promote ateleological evolution.
7. Some may be functional atheists (leave religion at the door of the lab).

One cannot be a Christian and an Atheist at the same time.

2. The Age of Creation

Here are some basic assumptions every scientist approaches the issue of Origins with.

Science and Presuppositions

1. Catastrophism

a. George Cuvier (1760-1832) was the main creator of this train of thought.
b. Catastrophism states that the earth was affected by sudden, short-lived, violent events (e.g. Noah's Flood), which shaped our world.
c. This was the dominant view of scientists and theologians until the late 1800s.
d. Age of Creation = Young (thousands of years).

2. Uniformitarianism

a. James Hutton (1726-1797), Charles Lyell (1797-1875), and Charles Darwin (1809-1882) were proponents of this theory.
b. Uniformitarianism states that natural processes occur in the same way and at the same rates today as they did in the past.
c. This is the dominant view of scientists and non-YEC (explained later) theologians.
d. Age of Creation=Very Old (billions of years).

Some scientists break down the scientific realm into three parts: Historical Science, Empirical Science, and Predictive Science. If one imagines a straight line from Point A to Point B, that would be Empirical Science, the sum total of all working scientific knowledge (like chemistry, physics, biology, etc.). Before Point A, even though Uniformitarianism believes the line would be straight FOREVER, we do not know that for sure. Empirical Science and its methods may or many not apply well here. This is the realm of Historical Science, where the theoretical line may remain straight, curve any number of ways, or even be a wavy line (where, since we do not KNOW, with absolute certainty, that our current scientific beliefs apply, much more is possible). Predictive science carries the same basic idea, but we will concern ourselves with HISTORICAL Science.

3. Macroevolution

This is the cause of the entire Creation/Evolution debate, but the term Evolution has several different definitions. Evolution IS NOT the following:

Darwinism. It says that Evolution is due to Natural Selection, and is not goal-driven.

Evolutionism. This is a philosophical term, one describing the universe in a constant state of flux, for both life and non-life. Evolutionism is goal-driven.

Materialism/Naturalism. These philosophies say that only the physical realm exists.

Scientism. This idea merely states that science is the only path to certain knowledge.

Atheism. There is no supreme being.

Origin of Life Evolution assumes life exists; it doesn't say how life came to exist.

While Evolution may be used to support any one of these ideas, it is not any one of those.

4. Evolution and Natural Selection.

Not the same thing. Natural Selection is the mechanism that causes Evolution.

5. What Evolution IS:

1. Change in gene frequency over time.

2. Common Descent (the "Tree of Life").

6. Microevolution

1. Small changes.
2. No new "kinds".
3. Accepted by all Creationists and Non-Creationists.
4. Microevolution does not make waves--it is standard empirical science.

7. Macroevolution

1. Large Changes
2. Results in new kinds.
3. Rejected by some because it depends on an ancient physical realm, uniformitarianism, and species plasticity.

8. Evangelicals and Macroevolution:

It is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE to believe in Evolution and still be a Christian. However, believing in Theistic Evolution or Old-Earth Creationism make make it difficult to reconcile Christianity and other issues, while still remaining true to orthodox Christianity.

Francis Collins, MD, director of the Human Genome Project--NIH, Biologos, is an adamant Theistic Evolutionist.

Denis Lamoreaux, DDS, PhD, PhD, is also an adamant Theistic Evolutionist.

Hugh Ross, PhD, head of Reasons to Believe Ministries, is an Old-Earth Creationist.

Ken Ham, BS Env. Sci., two Hon. Doctorates, head of Answers in Genesis Ministries is a Young-Earth Creationist.

9. Conclusions about Origins:

Opinions about Origins are controlled by:

1. Your concept of knowledge.
2. Your presuppositions/worldview.
3. Your idea of what science is and isn't.
4. Your idea of the correct reading of the GCA.
5. What the GCA actually says,and how it was intended to be read.

_________________
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"Victims run off and hide. Prey runs off and hides. But I'm not a victim. And I'm not prey. I am the ultimate predator."

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