Patrick Henry College has been described as “God’s Harvard” by a secular journalist in a best-selling book devoted to the institution. This is due to the ethereal SAT scores of its students, their having beaten Oxford University twice in debates, and their acceptance at the best American graduate schools and as White House internees.
Great students of course mean great teachers–and lively ones who can’t resist expanding their own knowledge base and integrating learning and solid Christian theology at all levels. Thus, during the current spring semester (2008), physics prof Dr Michael J. Kucks brought together an informal group of faculty members from diverse disciplines to discuss epistemology (the search for and establishment of truth) in the interlocking realms of science, history, law, classical rhetoric, and religion. Needless to say, the sessions have been valuable, stimulating–indeed, an intellectual and theological hoot!
Readers of my Tractatus Logico-Theologicus (available at www.ciltpp.com) will know that in Propositions 2 and 3 I have dealt with these questions in much detail (see especially 3.1 – 3.13 and 2.7 – 2.7311). In preparation for one of the faculty sessions at PHC, I prepared the following short note–which readers of the Global Journal may find helpful if they too are concerned with the question of how to relate science and the Bible.
Not so incidentally, if this whets your appetite, come to Patrick Henry’s International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, July 7-18, 2009—www.apologeticsacademy.eu Sorry, but we can’t suggest your attending in July of this year, for we are full up! Take your cue from the wise vs. the foolish virgins (Matthew 25), and register in the September preceding an annual July session . . .
A NOTE ON THE INTERRELATIONSHIP OF SCIENCE AND BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
1. Two primary errors are made in this area:
(1) The separationist error (= the Bible deals with values, whereas science deals with factual considerations). Example: Karl Heim.
(2) The fundamentalist error (=the Bible is equally concerned with scientific fact as with theological fact).
2. Why are these two errors so debilitating?
(1) If one commits the separationist error, one undercuts the essence of biblical revelation, i.e., God’s entering ordinary history and our phenomenal world (through divine acts in the history of Israel, by way of prophets and apostles, and—centrally—through the Incarnation of His Son for the salvation of our fallen race).
(2) If one commits the fundamentalist error, one loses track of the purpose of Scripture, which is not to provide a kind of Encyclopedia Britannica of cosmic knowledge, but to present the history of salvation. All biblical facts are genuine facts—every “scientific” statement in the Bible is factually true—but these facts are presented tangentially in relation to salvation history, not as having an importance equal to salvatory facts or offered as a final explanation of scientific data. Example: Joshua’s “long day” (it indeed happened, but the text describes it phenomenally—from the standpoint of an observer on earth; it was in fact the earth which stood still, not the sun, but the observation of what happened is correctly described in every respect).
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The current issue of the Global Journal features a major article by Erick Nelson, who has made important contributions to our publication in the past. The title: “Knowing and Showing: A Critique of William Lane Craig’s Position regarding How We Know Christianity is True.” Nelson criticises Craig’s “sharp contrast between knowing Christianity is true and showing it is true”–a contrast which is “beset with logical and epistemological problems” and “does not squarely face New Testament evidence to the contrary.”
To be sure, the Global Journal recognises William Lane Craig’s valuable contributions to the defense of the faith—his debates and iconic position in the Evangelical Philosophical Society. However, none of this justifies a muddy epistemology or an unfortunate reliance on the testimonium internum Spiritus sancti. (For a different approach, see the Editor’s Tractatus Logico-Theologicus, together with his article, “The Holy Spirit and the Defense of the Faith,” Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December, 1997.) It is also rather sad to note that Craig refused (1) to interact with Nelson’s article, or (2) to contribute to the forthcoming Festschrift for the Editor, to be published next year by Broadman & Holman under the editorship of intelligent design guru William Dembski and distinguished European evangelical theologian Thomas Schirrmacher. (Incidentally, Craig’s was the only refusal–which, however, made no difference considering the unexpected volume and impressive quality of the scholarly contributions.)
This issue also contains a trenchant article on Evangelistic Politics by Bob Lockhart of the Northside Baptist Church, Del Rio, Texas, in which the author defends full-scale involvement in the sociopolitical area by serious believers–as well as a wonderful contribution by Dr Donald Williams: “The Everlasting Hobbit: Perspectives on the Human in Tolkien’s Mythos.”
— John Warwick Montgomery