God, science and evolution Part 1 July 19, 2011
[please note that further chapters will appear only at intervals of 2-3 weeks; I have to scan them in and in some cases update the content]
In 1980 I published a book entitled “God, science and evolution” which has long been out of print. Re-reading it recently however I was struck by the fact that it seems just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, and possibly even more so. I have therefore decided to make it available on this website as a series of articles (one per chapter) that I plan to post at intervals. This offering (“Part 1”) is the introduction to the original book.
The divorce between science and religion is one of the most significant aspects of our modern philosophical scene. The unity of truth and knowledge, which has always been a prime objective of thinkers down the ages, has been all but abandoned by our Western culture. It has been replaced by a schizophrenic world-view which divorces the ‘real’ pragmatic world of science (the material universe) from the insubstantial thought-world in which philosophy and religious belief are permitted to function, like birds imprisoned in a cage of subjectivity.
This dichotomy between our inner and outward lives is bound to introduce serious tensions on both the personal and social levels. The ‘real’ world of social intercourse and political decision is no longer regulated, as it once was, by considerations of a philosophical and religious character. Legislation and morality alike are guided by a doctrine of blind pragmatic convenience rather than by moral absolutes, however dimly perceived. We do not today mould our social and political institutions by reference to God’s moral laws, or even to the nature of man as a being created in the image of God. All is empirical and the only guiding principle we recognize is the law of cause and effect
It is quite unfair, of course, to blame this state of affairs upon ‘science’. Rather, science has merely provided an excuse for the rejection of spiritual principles and a belief in the moral authority of God. The founders of modern science actually saw the new ‘natural philosophy’ as demonstrating the order and harmony of creation and thus the existence and power of God. Today these same scientific disciplines are used by many to urge the redundancy of the spiritual dimension and banish God from His own universe. The god of evolution has replaced the God of creation and revelation.
That this has been allowed to happen is the fault of religious leaders rather than of scientists. In our own ‘Christian’ society the churches have themselves largely rejected the concept of objective revelation and a belief in the authority of the Bible, in favour of pragmatism. They have tried to carry over the scientific method into theology, not realizing that empiricism, which is a proper basis for physical science, is entirely inappropriate in our approach to God. This is not to say that Christianity is not experimental. Indeed, it is. But, unlike the physical world, God cannot be known by a humanistic methodology which begins with ourselves and our unaided senses. His transcendent nature together with our human blindness to spiritual truth require God to make Himself known, that is, they necessitate revelation, a concept both unknown and inappropriate to scientific endeavour.
Other Christian leaders, while clinging to biblical authority, have erred by withdrawing from the real world of practical experience into subjectivism. By confining the gospel of Jesus Christ to the purely personal realm, they have inadvertently underwritten the very dichotomy between the natural and spiritual worlds upon which materialism thrives. Admittedly, Christianity is a personal issue, involving the reconciliation of the individual sinner to God through the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is more than a personal matter since it involves a unified world-view in which man, nature, society and God are set in their proper relationships to one another. Starved of this philosophical unity, the Christian message becomes emaciated and the individual believer is forced, by default, to accept an essentially humanistic and even materialistic interpretation of the ‘real’ or natural world in which he has to function day by day. The tension between his inner beliefs and his practical life can become well nigh unbearable and may lead to demoralization and tacit withdrawal from the warfare of faith.
Perhaps I have overdrawn the picture, but the problems described are undoubtedly genuine. It would seem, then, that those who are both scientists and Christians have a special responsibility to do all in their power to correct the mistakes that have been made in these matters. Negatively, they must expose and reject the misuse of science as a handmaid of materialistic philosophy. They must refute the claim that science demonstrates the irrelevance and subjectivity of religious faith. They must argue that materialistic and evolutionary world-views are just as much philosophies as are Christian and religious world-views, that science no more authenticates the one than the other. They must show that science of itself is incapable of providing a complete philosophy of life and being; indeed, that science can only be understood in terms of ultimately spiritual principles. Positively, they must present an alternative biblical philosophy of nature and man that is true to both science and revelation and that will enable ordinary men to appreciate the essential unity of truth, both religious and scientific. They must offer a framework of thought in which the glories of God and man (as His special creation and the object of redeeming love) may be appreciated and in which also the individual, sinner though he be, may discover a dignity, liberty and purpose which materialistic humanism denies him absolutely.
This book is offered as a modest contribution to the fulfilment of these responsibilities. A collection of lectures and essays is not, perhaps, the best means of doing this, since it runs the risk of being disjointed and incomplete. On the other hand, the lectures and writings reproduced here have proved helpful to the few who have received them and may therefore be of value to a wider audience.
The chapters have been arranged to give a progression, from statements of broad principles and options, to much more detailed arguments on the nature of science and creation and the interpretation of miracles and providence in an age of science. Next the question of theistic evolution is considered and rejected as a means of reconciling biblical teaching with a scientific view of origins. The positive alternatives are then brought forward once again. Finally, almost as a postscript, there is an essay on the age of the earth, a subject fundamental to the evolutionary world-view which is so totally inimical to the biblical outlook.