In Manhattan, defending creation is woman's work...

Here's a delightful piece written by Virginia Heffernan, a former fact-checker for The New Yorker who's written for Talk, Harper's, Slate, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine. Clearly Heffernan understands why no Manhattan pastor would admit to believing in creation. 

In New York City saying you’re a creationist is like confessing you think Ahmadinejad has a couple of good points. Maybe I’m the only creationist I know.

How poverty-stricken New York City is, that while PCA pastors promote Darwin and the high priests of Science, a female journalist is left to defend the Word of God. Like they say, "a woman can do anything an ordained man can't do."

A teaser...

Though it’s sometimes poetic, “The Origin of Species” has an enchantingly arid English tone to it; this somber tone was part of a deliberate effort to mark it as science and not science fiction—the “Star Trek” of its time. The book also alights on a tautology that, like all tautologies, is gloriously unimpeachable: Whatever survives survives.

(Thanks to Joel Linton.)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Isn't it sad that so-called evangelical preachers have to resort to ear-tickling to evangelize/entice the lost of urban and academic America into their big tents?  Really, it's more about avoiding being lampooned for believing the Word of God from cover to cover.

I always thought the charge that fundamentalist Christians are anti-science was a gross exaggeration. This article seems to show there might be some truth to the charge. I’m not sure Mrs. Heffernan (Ph.D Harvard 2002) understands the purpose of science. She correctly identifies the component parts of the scientific process (observation, hypothesis, testing the hypothesis) but I think she fails to identify the end product of this process which is another hypothesis which, when combined with further observation and testing (especially from other scientists) will yield yet another hypothesis. Optimistically, each successive hypothesis is closer to the real truth than the previous one. Obviously, a new hypothesis could actually be further from the truth that the previous one but in no way should the result of the scientific process be considered the complete, final or perfect truth. The purpose of science is to yield a better picture of truth or reality over time. She seems to think that if the process yields contradictory results, “maybe it’s time to retire the whole approach.” She fails to see that the scientific process could be good, but imperfect, or that something could be wrong with the people involved in the process such as limited observations or selfishness, greed, pride, etc.

Some Christians believe that they have a perfect and final way to the truth which contains no errors. These Christians tend to think that the scientific community also has the scientific process as its infallible way to the truth. But the scientific process is just one more imperfect tool we have to find the truth. Its imperfect because the people who implement it are imperfect and the process itself has its own assumptions and blind spots (like, spiritual forces do not affect the physical world.) Fortunately, Heffernan ends on a note of moderation, “I guess I don’t ‘believe’ that the world was created in a few days, but what do I know?” But, I think we can know something, however imperfectly. There are many imperfect and incomplete tools out there for us to use to find The Truth, to know. We should incorporate them all into the larger process of seeking God. At some point we all must make some assumptions and must at the end admit the circularity of our reasoning. It would be good to admit that our assumptions are necessary but temporary (subject to further observation/revelation) and we should try to make the circle of our circular reasoning as wide as possible.

>>I guess I don’t ‘believe’ that the world was created in a few days...

Yes, I was disappointed by that.

For myself, I am certain that I do believe the world was created in a few days. Six, actually; with God resting on the seventh.

Concerning scientists' claims, we must keep two things in mind: first, that all man's reason and logic are corrupted by the Fall as man himself is; and second, that Scripture is God-breathed and therefore not corrupted at all by the Fall.

As for Christians being anti-science, not at all. Cotton Mather was honored as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and died serving as a guinea pig for a smallpox vaccine. Which is to say we were here first.

Love,

 

Another good example of a scientist who was a Christian is Isaac Newton.

By day do you mean a literal 24 hour period of time? I only ask because a day on earth is relative to which side of earth is facing the sun. And the sun or heavenly "light," according to Genesis 1, was created on the fourth day. Could it possibly be that the language is poetic and the word "day" could be referring to an era of time? All scripture is God-breathed, but Scripture is also a collection of many different genres of literature.

>>By day do you mean a literal 24 hour period of time?

Yes. I believe trees were created with the appearance of age (rings) just as the water Jesus turned into wine had the appearance of age (fermentation).

And yes, 'yom' could mean a period of time as it does elsewhere in Scripture. But you're asking me what I believe. Meanwhile, I note that Covenant's Jack Collins and other PCA men who argue for evolution allow for the view that Adam was not the real first man, but a tribe (group) of hominids.

"Many different genres of literature?" Sure, but all of them without error. Plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture, brother, has across all ages been the doctrine of the orthodox Christian church. And if we choose the authority of the High Priests of Science over the authority of the Word of God, we're fools. That's what I believe is at stake in this battle.

"All Scripture is God-breathed." It didn't come out of a sweat lodge after men did peyote and got in touch with the mythical.

In the same way, from the words of Moses, uttered in all brevity but destined to serve a host of preachers, there gush clear streams of truth from which each of us, though in more prolix and roundabout phrases, may derive a true explanation of the creation as best he is able, some choosing one and some another interpretation...

But if any man despises the words of Scripture as language fit for simpletons and, in the stupidity of pride, climbs out of the nest where he was reared, woe betide him, for he shall meet his fall. Have pity on such callow fledglings, O Lord, for those who pass by on the road may tread them underfoot. Send your angel to put them back in the nest, so that they may live and learn to fly. (Augustine, Confessions, translated by R.S. Pine-Coffin, p. 304.)

Love,

I don't think you have to interpret the six days as literal 24 hour days, although I think that is the most sensible interpretation.  What is required in my opinion is this:

- The historicity of Adam
- There was a time when man was and woman was not
- Death entered the world through sin

Those are non-negotiable and are utterly incompatible with theistic evolution.

My spidey senses go wild when Genesis 1 is described as "poetic." In a sense, it is...but rarely for the reason men say. Typically, when Genesis 1 is described as "poetry", what is meant is that the words offer little (no) illumination...good poetry is illuminating, and helpful. There's depth for diving in with no fear of cracking your skull.

If Genesis 1 is "poetry" as many are saying, put on your neck brace because, at best, it's just plain bad poetry where the Holy Spirit failed to say anything particularly helpful. He gave us filler. Of course, that leaves no room for it being particularly authoritative as the Word of God.

Repetition means something in poetry:

1:5 "And there was evening and there was morning, one day."

1:8 "And there was evening and there was morning, a second day."

1:13 "There was evening and there was morning, a third day."

1:19 "There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day."

1:23 "There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day."

1:31 "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."

And the concept and his metaphor were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

...and the concept lay with the abstraction, and she conceived.

Dear Scott,

Describing Mrs. Heffernan's statement about the number of days of Creation as a "note of moderation" shows a lot about your real understanding of the nature of man.

>>She fails to see that...something could be wrong with the people involved in the process...

The problem is not that something could be wrong with the people--the problem is that there is something wrong.  It is called total depravity.  Man cannot reach a knowledge of the truth through his rational, emotional, observational, experiential attempts.  At least Mrs. Heffernan is wise enough to recognize the inherent temptation of the scientist.  Science is the inherent religion of the materialist and allows him to sit as god over nature.  Do you think that there will be no corruption in Science?  You present the "textbook" scientific process, including the assumption that man is (not perfect of course!, but) inherently good.  I have a close perspective on real science.  I am a fully initiated high priest (I even get to wear the festal robes and train the novices.)  And I need to keep repenting, allowing God to sanctify me, and use my scientific vocation for His Glory.

Is your point that it is admirable to find moderation between the rationalism of fallen man and the revelation of a perfect Father?  Between those two choices, moderation is wicked.  So how are we to come to an understanding of how God created the world?  Why do I think that God created the world in six 24-hour days, not through an evolutionary change process?

 Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

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Dear Ben,

I was too coy. Of course there is something wrong with man. Yes, there is corruption in science as there is in any activity involving man. She seemed to be saying that if the work of science produces unsatisfactory results, the work should be abandoned.  I’ve never heard someone say this before. How did she know it was the work that went wrong? Maybe it was the people. In the end, it was probably both because both are imperfect. Imperfect things should not be discarded as she seems to be saying, but rather made better. If we give up the work of science, we may just as well give up the work of the Church, which, at least in the short term, can also produce unsatisfactory results.

We should differentiate between the process of science and the results of science. The process of science is the familiar work of observation-hypothesis-testing. This process doesn’t seem to have changed much of the last several hundred years. The result of this process is a continually changing picture of reality. This picture has changed quite a bit just in the last century and changes in some small way daily. It will almost certainly continue to change indefinitely into the future just as the work of temporal sanctification produces at continually different (hopefully better) person. In a way, I look at the scientific process as a process on continual intellectual repentance. This is hard work and is full of all the problems and sins you would find in any church. Despite these setbacks, the participants soldier on, counting those temporary problems as rubbish, in order that they may obtain the prize, which in science is a better picture of God’s reality and in church it’s a sanctified person. To me, the very strong similarity between scientific work and the work of sanctification is the best explanation why the first scientists were Christian.

I must disagree with your statement, “Man cannot reach a knowledge of the truth through his rational, emotional, observational, experiential attempts.” We can’t reach THE knowledge of the truth in a complete and certain way through these tools. At the same time, we don’t completely lack truth. Rather, through rationality, our senses, and other means we do have some knowledge, however imperfect and incomplete, of the truth of God. Think about how you get the Word of God—it’s the same way we get knowledge of galaxies, stars, and molecules. You observe them with your senses. You read the Word off a page made of paper that exists in an imperfect and corrupted universe. The ink is imperfect. The light that transfers the words from the page to your brain is corrupted. The message is processed by neurons and molecules that are also corrupted. It seems impossible to me that any message from God could get to us uncorrupted because it must first enter in our corrupted world. At this point the theologian may step in and say, “Yes, but the Holy Sprit which dwells in us uncorrupts the message and gives us certainty so we can, in fact, know for sure. The Holy Spirit confirms the Word.” Has anyone noticed that this very idea came to us through our corrupted observations? Yet, something good has come to us. We still have the Bible. Let’s use it. We have science, also useful. We have our senses and experiences. We have each other. We have a record of the work left by those who came before us. Let’s use all these tools despite their imperfections to get to a better picture of God and rule for action. This is what I mean by moderation. Extremists deny all this. To me, the materialistic scientist who denies God but is completely certain about the age of the universe and our origins is very similar to the fundamentalist Christian who is equally certain about certain doctrines. Both have seized upon some part of God’s revelation as the sure truth while neglecting the other tools He has given us.

 All this makes me thankful for two things: death and Jesus. Death, because this never-ending and imperfect work we do will end someday and we can rest. Jesus, because he, being God, has completed the infinite series of steps to God and All Truth for us.

Dear Scott,

Certainly we work to perfect our knowledge of God and His law, and certainly we haven't attained yet; and not everything in Scripture is equally clear to us---

But when you say,

the materialistic scientist who denies God but is completely certain about the age of the universe and our origins is very similar to the fundamentalist Christian who is equally certain about certain doctrines

you contradict God's Word. Here's the Holy Spirit's command by the Apostle Paul in the book of Titus, for example:

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. - Titus 2:1

The apostle then gives commands on how to instruct older men, older women, young men, and bondslaves, culminating in this: 

These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. - Titus 2:15

Scott, your philosophy is utterly opposed to speaking and exhorting and reproving with all authority such that no one can disregard you, and you need to understand that by opposing these things you are opposing God.

Look at the men of faith God describes in Hebrews 11---look at the deeds of righteous Noah:

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:7

Noah's worked on an ark for probably decades because he was warned by God about things not yet seen, and God calls this faith and declares that by these acts of faith he condemned the world. What place does the faith you describe have for specific work done over decades because of being warned by God---work that condemns the world?

Then there's the matter of Joseph's bones:

By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. - Hebrews 11:22

Joseph inconvenienced his brothers' descendants by extracting an oath from them that they would not bury him in Egypt---which meant that they had to remember that oath over the course of generations for 400 years, then carry his bones all around while they wandered in the desert for an additional 40 years. Misguided? Fundamentalist? But God calls it faith. How would something like this ever be labeled faith in your system?

The men of faith in Hebrews 11 hung their very lives on the Word of God:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment... - Hebrews 11:32-36

How could the kind of faith you describe ever lead to such acts?

Or would we say that perhaps it was clear in the Bible days but has been corrupted getting transmitted to us? But again we would be contradicting God, who teaches us that things are better now:

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. - 2 Peter 1:19

Dear Scott, you talk like you're examining things in a neutral way, but you need to understand that you are opposing God and denying His Word. Repent, brother, and humble yourself before God. You will be amazed at how the fog clears---and how all of a sudden you have the opportunity to bear the brand marks of Jesus. May you bear them gladly.

With love,

Daniel

>>Yet, something good has come to us. We still have the Bible. Let’s use it. We have science, also useful.

Dear Scott,

Daniel has done a good job answering you, but no harm in another one trying.

The sentence above is what I fear from Christians: a construction that places the Bible and reason on the same level and says "both favorites." You may quibble that science isn't reason, but something superior to reason. Yet when we speak of "science," we're really only speaking of reason and logic used in a particular way and particular disciplines.

Reason and logic are lies compared to the truth of God's Word and words. Which is to say I fear I am the fundamentalist Christian you condemn because I have truly "seized upon" God's Special Revelation "as the sure truth" while not simply "neglecting," but condemning every part of general revelation as infinitely inferior to the Word and words of God.

Nothing else will do.

Either the Bible is superior to science or the Bible is inferior to science. The true Christian who is immersed in academe or research will note the conceit of science and philosophy and judge the establishment of a pecking order to be essential. The man who claims "both favorites" is naive in the extreme. No man can serve two masters. And, make no mistake about it, the Word of God commands you to obey it just as the Academy and Science command you to obey them. As in, "Look, Science tells us how old the earth is. We've got it down and, read rightly, the first couple chapters of Genesis present no final conflict. To those of us smart enough to see clearly, and not through our own religious insecurity, the beginning of Genesis is simply the poetry, myth, fairy tale, or allegory of 'those who came before us.' Adam could have been a tribe of hominids: it's no threat to the truth of the Bible to say so."

Or, as in, "Look, the Bible tells us how old the earth is. Scripture cannot lie and It says six days of evening and morning. Simply put reason under Scripture and there is no final conflict. To those of us humble enough to see clearly through the conceits of philosophy and science, the beginning of Genesis is not the poetry, myth, fairy tale, or allegory of 'those who came before us,' It is the very Word and Words of God, written, and therefore without error in everything He there declares. So no, Adam could never have been a tribe of hominids: it's no threat to science to say so. Adam was the first man created by God from the ground and Eve was the second man created from Adam's rib. The Bible tells us so."

As you cannot serve both God and mammon, you cannot serve both God and Science. Either you will love one and hate the other, or you will hate one and love the other.  And yes, we all should and do employ both mammon and reason throughout our lives. We employ reason in the reading of Scripture, yet make no mistake about it: the reason we use to understand Scripture is not Scripture Itself. Nature or natural revelation reveal enough to condemn us as idolaters (Romans 1), but not enough to save us. For that we must have the Word of God preached. Scripture is clear on this throughout Its Holy Pages.

With love,

Ok thank you. This was very helpful to me.

When men won't do their jobs, God raises up women.

Good for Dr. Heffernan.

This is a link to her article on creationism: http://news.yahoo.com/why-im-a-creationist-141907217.html

It's not as strong as I might like, but it's certainly written in ways which appeal effectively to an audience which is predisposed against her views.

Apropos of none of the above comments, but apropos of Ms. Heffernan's article: In my experience, it seems that the zealots with the most vocal, militant, and unshakeable faith in science are those with the least experience and understanding of it. Whereas honest scientists admit that science is rife with error, and researchers always spin their results.

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