Musings of the ASA Director Emeritus
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This blog compiles the occasional musings of Randy Isaac who was ASA Executive Director from 2005 to 2016 and is now ASA Director Emeritus.

 

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Theistic Evolution: Goals of the book

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Part 2 of a series discussing:

J. P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

Two of the editors, Steve Meyer and Wayne Grudem, helpfully provide a “General Introductions” section at the beginning of the book. In 45 pages, they offer a synopsis of all thousand pages. It is a good way to understand the essence of the message before looking at the details in the remaining pages.

On pages 64 and 65 of the book, Wayne Grudem offers this summary of the goals of the book:

“Our goal in this book is to say to our friends who support theistic evolution, and to many others who have not made up their minds about this issue,

1. that recent scientific evidence presents such significant challenges to key tenets of evolutionary theory that no biblical interpreter should think that an evolutionary interpretation of Genesis is “scientifically necessary”;

2. that theistic evolution depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science that is philosophically problematic; and

3. that the Bible repeatedly presents as actual historical events many specific aspects of the origin of human beings and other living creatures that cannot be reconciled with theistic evolution, and that a denial of those historical specifics seriously undermines several crucial Christian doctrines.”

My response is as follows:

1.       A. All scientific challenges of evolutionary theory concern the details of mechanisms and specific applications and none has yet arisen concerning the basic overarching theory. To the contrary, a tremendous amount of evidence for the basic theory of evolution has been amassed and its foundation is stronger than ever. B. I do not know of anyone advocating an “evolutionary interpretations of Genesis.” All that is sought is an accurate biblical hermeneutic that reflects the truth. While the truth of evolution may be helpful in some way, there is no evolutionary interpretation per se.

2.       No theistic evolutionist I know thinks that it depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science. The scientific data are vast and compelling independent of a strictly materialistic definition of science. A proper theistic definition of science does just fine.

3.       Grudem’s presupposition here is fundamental concordism, in which the Biblical message must correspond to modern science. I do not know of any biblical passage that teaches such concordism. The basis for concordism is no more than human imagination of how biblical inspiration might have occurred. A more proper presupposition is that the Bible is the inerrant revelation of God to us and that its theological message is inerrant, using phenomenological language understandable by all people of all ages, and specifically the cosmology accepted in the era in which it was written. No contradiction to evolution is evident.

 

Clearly, I have made many assertions that I will need to explain and justify in future posts as we address various specific chapters in the book. Stay tuned.

Tags:  concordism  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  faith  science  theistic evolution 

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The Two-Book Model

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, May 13, 2016

The two-book model is a well-known and oft-used construct for articulating the basis for harmony between science and the Bible. In the model, God is the author of two books, the book of God’s works and the book of God’s words. Having the same omniscient author who cannot err means that the two books cannot conflict. Hence, any perceived conflict between the two is the result of an inaccurate interpretation, either by science of the book of God’s works or by theology of the book of God’s words. It seems to me that there is no or very little controversy in the Christian community about this model. The secular community doesn’t necessarily accept the premise that God authored either book. But Christians invariably accept both. I have read only one article that objects to the model and I haven’t been able to find it again. This model is therefore an excellent starting point for bringing harmony to the debates on science and faith.

The difficulties soon begin when it becomes obvious that the model doesn’t provide any insight on how to resolve perceived conflicts. Which interpretation needs to be changed if there is a difference of opinion? In several of my talks, I have taken the time to explore different variations of the two-book model which lead to different schools of thought.

The first chart in the attached file (downloadable from the link below this post) shows my personal version of the two-book model. I like to refer to the author as “Logos” in light of my favorite passage of creation in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Science and theology are the study of the books of God’s works and words, respectively. The remaining pages reflect a somewhat playful modification of the model in ways that lead to various types of errors.

Consider the one-book model which reflects the view that the material world is evil or at least irrelevant and not worthy of consideration. Where is theology, however, when it cannot relate to the world in which we live? This version has little survival value.

Alternatively, a one-book variation might consider only the book of God’s works and not admit to God’s words. In that scenario, theology would seek to find God solely through the study of nature. This was a popular form of study a few centuries and we refer to it as natural theology. However, there is no calibration of the conclusions to be drawn about God from nature. Is he full of beauty and grace as the sunset over the calm ocean? Or is he full of rage and fury as the wind and waves in a hurricane?

Without the book of God’s words, would scientific study of God’s works lead us to God? This is essentially the basis of much of scientific apologetics. Many people feel that science, by itself, reveals the existence of God, another variation of natural theology. But who is this God? How is he related to the one revealed in the book of God’s words?

Another approach is to study the book of God’s words through scientific methodology. We refer to this as higher criticism. It presupposes primarily a human authorship of the Bible. While it can bring great insight into understanding the Bible, it can also be taken to extreme to minimize divine inspiration.

It is also possible to study the book of God’s works through the book of God’s words. In the early 18th century this approach was sometimes called “Scripture geology.” This leads us to the concept of concordism. The two-book model seems to me to be inherently non-concordistic in the sense that it makes no claims about the content and teachings of God’s word, particularly whether or not God’s word describes nature inerrantly. Concordism assumes that the Bible does teach science accurately and presages modern science and not ancient cosmology. This sets up a potentially inherent conflict model in which the study of God’s works through science is pitted against that study through God’s word. A non-concordistic approach assumes that the teachings in the two books are not of the same kind and therefore not inherently in conflict.

A true two-book model therefore can help us avoid many variations that lead to conflict and disagreement. Perhaps by seeing these conflicts as originating in a deviation from the two-book model, we can help diffuse the disagreements.

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Tags:  concordism  Two-Book Model 

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Concordism

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I’m still thinking about the link posted on the ASA website a few days ago (the twitter feed on the homepage features four links each weekday) about Genesis 1-11. It is a good start to a discussion I wanted to have here on concordism. This relates to the first meta-question I posed in my comments, reference in an earlier post and discussed in my remarks on April 8.

Every study of the Bible needs to address at some point the issue of what does the Bible teach about history and science and how does it relate to our modern science? The natural assumption of Christians seems to begin with a direct correlation. Countless questions about the Bible deal with how to understand a biblical passage in light of current science. Examples abound, often as legends that refuse to die.

One well-known example is that of the missing day. Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and it did until the Israelites won the battle. Bewildered at the implications of such a miracle, concordists have offered all sorts of explanations. On one side, skeptics note that the inertial forces due to the earth halting its rotation would have ripped apart the entire globe. On the other side, a myth continues to propagate that NASA astronomers have determined that there is a missing day in the history of the path of stars. The legend goes that as computer calculations have been done of the path of stars over history, that observations could not be understood unless a missing day was assumed in approximately the year of Joshua’s battle. No such observation or calculation has ever been nor could it be made. No stellar observations in those days were anywhere near precise enough for such a determination. Yet the story persists.

The stakes are high. If there isn’t a missing day, concordists have a hard time rationalizing the sun standing still. Fortunately, theories abound with alternative interpretations and ancient ideas. But it doesn’t stop skeptics from scoffing at a Bible with errors in it and mythical stories. What all of these have in common is the assumption of concordism, the basic idea that there is a correlation of biblical teaching and modern science. So a biblical teaching of the sun standing still must correlate with some scientific observations.

Some theologians will draw the line after Genesis 11, asserting that concordance is important only after Genesis 11 while the earlier passages have no claim to being historical. Others feel that no concordance is necessary in the entire Bible.

The sheer volume of articles and books on attempts to correlate biblical teaching with scientific observations indicates the strength of the assumption of concordism. But is it really true? Must it be true? If it isn’t all true and it isn’t all false, how do we decide what is and what isn’t historical? Let’s ponder these questions in the next few posts.

Tags:  concordism 

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