Christianity & Science

- Many smart, educated believers have thought about how science relates to Genesis 1-3.

- But the church has never coalesced around one single approach to that question.

- Contrast doctrine of the Trinity, incarnation; this question has been left open.

- My goal: lay out different approaches today; then (next time) look at biblical text.


  1. THE CONSERVATISM PRINCIPLE (from Controversy of the Ages by Cabal/Rasor)

Two Assumptions

(1) Assume biblical inerrancy, not inerrant interpretation.

(2) Nature and Scripture cannot disagree.

Two Interpretive Steps

(1) Traditional biblical interpretations govern unproven science.

(2) Proven scientific theory requires biblical reinterpretation.



(1) Young Earth Creationism

- Examples: Answers in Genesis; Is Genesis History?; Creation and Change (Douglas Kelly)

- Bishop James Ussher’s chronology (17th century): creation was 4004 BC.

- YEC: The age of the universe/earth is 10,000 years or less (some may allow for more)

  1. Approaches to scientific issues:
  2. Light from distant stars

- One approach: speed of light may not have always been constant.

- Another approach: God’s creative work sped up the process (cf. Gen. 1:11-12)

  1. Geological column

- One approach: flood geology; fossils were created during the events of Genesis 6-9.

- Another approach: mature creation; the earth appears old b/c it was created mature.

- On the second approach, scientists can investigate “ideal time.”

iii. Radioactive decay

- One approach: Question the uniformitarian assumptions behind these dating methods

- Another approach: Mature creation

  1. Approaches to theological issues:

- Genesis 1:31: The “very good” creation must have been very different from natural world today

- Majority YEC view: No death (human or animal) before the Fall

- Curse of Genesis 3 had radical effects on creation, substantially transforming it


(2) Old Earth Creationism

- Examples: Reasons to Believe; Science and Faith (Collins); Redeeming Science (Poythress)

- Universe may very well be 13.8 billion years old; earth 4.5 billion years old

- God’s creative work stretched over that time, with long periods of “ordinary providence”

- God created different kinds of life directly and created humanity directly in the recent past.

  1. Approaches to scientific issues:

- Follows mainstream science on most issues except those that involve Darwinian assumptions

  1. Approaches to theological issues:

- Genesis 1:31: Creation was “very good,” but not perfect; see the potential in Gen 1:28.

- One possibility: life inside the Garden was very different from life outside it.

- Animal death (but not human!) happened before the fall for ages, at least outside the garden.

- Curse of Genesis 3 was more a frustration of potential than transformation of created order.


(3) Evolutionary Creationism (Theistic evolution)

- Examples: Biologos; John Stott

- Darwinian/Christian synthesis that we have already discussed

- There are different approaches here, some better than others.



- Should we see YEC as on its own and OEC and EC as allies against it?

- I hope not; I think YEC and OEC are closer to each other than either to EC.

- What do YEC and OEC have in common?

(1) Clear distinction between creative work and ordinary providence.

(2) Special creation of Adam and Eve.

(3) Evident teleology in creation.

(4) Commitment to the Conservatism Principle

- YEC is clearly committed to the authority of Scripture as our highest authority.

- True for OEC too; most of the original “fundamentalists” were OEC; Scofield Bible was OEC.

- Contrast: Darwinism was a driving force in the rise of Protestant Liberalism

- Darwinism has been described as a “universal acid” (Dennett); eats through everything

- Protestant Liberalism: Christian faith is itself the result of an evolutionary process.

- Machen: “…our principal concern just now is to show that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene.”

- Cabal/Rasor: “BioLogos unifies around evolution but only a fairly sparse doctrinal basis. Its mission is to encourage evangelicals to realize that evolution can be accepted without theological worries. Yet how to construe important doctrines evolutionarily often seems to be a work in process, including how much to trust the Bible. The evangelical outsider might be forgiven for feeling like the message is: ‘Evolution is true, but we’re not sure about all of the Bible, and we’re hard at work now to figure out how to retain as much traditional evangelical theology as possible.’”

- BioLogos does not affirm biblical inerrancy; AIG and RTB both do.

- YEC and OEC interpret Scripture differently, but both are committed to its absolute authority.

- Both are seeking to apply the Conservatism Principle with different evaluations of evidence.


- What’s my goal for you in this debate?

- Don’t fall for the myth of a simplistic opposition between science and Scripture.

- Be aware that Christians committed to Scripture have done work on these questions before.

- We will almost certainly evaluate that work differently, but we can stand w/Scripture together.