Believing in Creation but Also in Science (Science and Faith 1)

One of the biggest challenges to a Bible-based faith in today’s world is the evidence we encounter when we take up the study of science. For one thing, while science has answered many questions and has provided many enhancements to our lives, it has not generally brought us closer to God. And it is impotent to prove that God exists (neither is it able to disprove that God exists). Furthermore, while Scripture does not itself set a date for creation, a plain reading of the text certainly implies that life began a relatively short time ago. Multiple trails of scientific evidence, on the other hand, imply that life began an extremely long time ago.

The relationship of faith to the evidence of science, therefore, is a very important point of discussion. Unfortunately aspect of this topic is that once an issue like this becomes politicized, and it has been politicized, the conversation tends to be controlled by extremists on both sides and those who represent the center are often intimidated into silence. But it is at times when courage begins to fail that those who “cannot be bought or sold” must be all the more prepared to speak. In doing so, however, we must not confuse rudeness and disparaging speech with integrity. Genuine integrity must be combined with respect for those who may disagree.

One way for believers to resolve the issues of faith and science is the “head in the sand” approach. Assume that there is something seriously flawed somewhere in the scientific enterprise and go on believing as if science never happened. Another way some believers resolve the issue is to assume that science has settled some of these ultimate questions and that the Bible is unscientific enough to be ignored on all issues where science has a legitimate voice. But neither of these approaches works if you are a Seventh-day Adventist. From the beginning, Adventists have been firmly committed to the teachings of the Bible, but also firmly committed to God’s “other book,” the book of nature, and therefore to the scientific enterprise. Adventists do not see these two tasks, understanding the Bible and understanding reality as exposed by science, as two parallel tracks that never intersect. Adventism has always been committed to integrating faith and the scientific enterprise.

Because of this passion for wholeness and integration, Adventists not only have institutions of higher education that focus on the humanities, like Andrews University, they have institutions of higher education that focus on science, like Loma Linda University and the Geoscience Research Institute. Given the challenges and the possibilities inherent in attempting to integrate faith and science, church leadership has encouraged me to ponder these issues afresh and offer some guidance and encouragement to all who struggle with these issues. As a professor of religion in a science-based university, I do not have all the answers, but I am in a place to understand some of the questions. This series of blogs is my own reflection. I have not sought feedback before putting these out there, so my choice of words and themes may be deficient. I have a lot to learn. So I welcome response and will not be offended by criticism. And in the process, I hope that this series will build faith in the God who I believe makes science possible and offers His blessing on our best efforts to understand His creation.

5 thoughts on “Believing in Creation but Also in Science (Science and Faith 1)

  1. Zog Has-fallen

    Dr. Paulien,
    Regarding the extraordinarily compelling scientific arguments that dominate the unsettled controversies of instantaneous creation versus evolution, I wish that believing Seventh-day Adventists would aspire to be the head and not the tail. To inspire the Remnant Church with the belief that going forth conquering and to conquer is a possibility in the scientific realm, I wish to alert your audience to an important 2-page summary of Dr. J.C. Sanford’s book, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome (Classroom Edition). http://everythingimportant.org/genome.pdf

    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Sharyn

    I feel that your series of an integrated approach of scripture and science will only harmonise truth to reveal a better understanding of God’s character. I also feel that you need to add an additional evidence thread of “experience”- see Psalm 34:8.

    Reply
  3. Robert Whiteman

    Regarding the Bible teaching of a “recent” creation vs the teaching of long ages of evolution (due to how the evidence is being interpreted by “science”): if today’s scientists had arrived here on earth the week following creation, let’s say, the following Tuesday(the 3rd day of the 2nd week), and happened to meet Adam and Eve there in the garden, to their observations, Adam and Eve would appear to be at least in their 30’s, the the trees in the garden and all around would appear to be quite old themselves, perhaps 50 years or older, though they were just now one week in existence, along with the soil they were growing in, while Adam and Eve would be 4 days old. God created a mature world fit for habitation. The sun and moon, barely 5 days in existence would appear(in the light of today’s scientific reasoning) to be several million(billion?) years in existence.

    What does this tell us? Those of faith accept the Word of God above the evidence and it’s interpretation by finite men who by their conclusions are saying “there is no God[i.e. Creator]”(Ps 14:1), and thus are defined by God’s Word as fools. Are the servants of God to contend with such people, if we accept all the instructions contained in God’s word? Is this Word truly a “lamp for [our] feet and a light for [our] path”?

    So why are they called fools in the Word of God? The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us: “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,…”. Do we believe this, or do we accept the arguments/excuses of those God calls fools? Do we have faith in God(Ps 118:8,9)?

    Any “evidence of science” which is contrary to God’s Word must be seen as misunderstood, and left for God to explain when we finally see Him face to face, when He will address subjects which today are really not important compared to the work of saving sinners in the waning hours of their probation, which Christ has commissioned His servants to do. What has not been revealed to us must wait, and not distract the servants of God from doing their appointed work. We have no example from Christ to follow in debating with the foolish over “facts” that deny the truth, and of those things not yet revealed to us. He never taught His disciples to take on such challenges, and has even given counsel to “avoid questions that gender strife”. Also, according to scripture, what will be the outcome of reproving a “fool”?

    Based on my personal understanding of God’s word, this is the only way I am able to view this topic presently, so if there is anything wrong with the above perspective, please point it out.

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      A pretty compelling outline to anyone who privileges their understanding of the Bible over other sources of evidence. My point in this series is that we may have misunderstood what the Bible allows and does not allow us to think about origins and therefore a satisfying, but speculative approach like the one you have taken is not a solution for most struggling with these issues. Not everything that satisfies is true and not everything that is true satisfies.

      Reply

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