Two columns ago, I discussed the issue of science and noted that science is a human study, and therefore cannot be treated as wholly objective – human beings are involved in the process of data interpretation, and are often wrong as a result. I used questions of forensics as an instance where scientists were involved in convicting innocent men of crimes. I then noted that the larger elements of scientific interpretation, the “paradigms” of science are not merely science but science and philosophy, and we noted the naturalistic response to the “red shift,” based largely in the presumption of atheism.
Defending the Models versus Defending the Faith
When it comes to origins, there are several of what I could call specified models Christians have put forward and there are three basic groups of models that of theistic evolution, that of Old Earth Creationism and that of Young Earth Creationism. I am unapologetically a young earth Creationist, largely because I consider the problem of death before the fall to be a larger issue than that of distant starlight reaching earth. In a sense, these models are systematic theological constructions (drawing on science) that have ramifications for Christian apologetics (in both discussions of the problem of evil and in the modern atheistic worldview’s evolutionary framework), and they should be treated as such.
And yet, all three of these models have been the central argument used by various camps in defending the Christian worldview as a whole. In a sense, however, both OEC and YEC advocates have the same problem – we are arguing from assumptions, including our belief in the Bible; beliefs that the unbeliever has not previously accepted. By focusing on a specific model we must kill all birds at once, rather than allowing theological development to occur more organically. After all, when explaining Christianity to unbelievers there are a number of theological discussions we generally don’t bring up: for example, the various debates about the imputation of sin (federal headship, natural headship, semi-pelagianism, etc), Calvinism/Arminianism/Molinism, precise definitions of the trinity the fourth century discussion on the person of Christ, nor church government. In general we field only the questions necessary to remove obstacles and hurdles from those honestly interested in Christianity.
We all innately understand that new converts need time to grow in the faith, intellectually as well as practically; we don’t seek to make them instant perfect theologians overnight, so why do we treat models of origins differently? In this sense, then, a minimalist approach seems to be a better starting point for these discussions with the world rather than a more fully developed argument. Of course, in many cases being able to defend one’s own specific model is still important – but perhaps it is better to fill in details as needed in response rather than assuming we must sell the entire model from the beginning of an evangelistic conversation.
Intelligent Design – a Minimalist Defense
Think of the controversy between Atheism and Christianity for a moment as two armed men fighting with swords and shields. These two gladiators have been battling for centuries now without respite. Both have an offensive weapon (a sword: arguments that their beliefs are true) and defensive armament (a shield: arguments that their beliefs have not been falsified). Discussions of origins typically are the main offensive approach taken by atheists, particularly with emphasis on Evolution based in part on a confusion of philosophical naturalism with science. This means we are on our defense in this area; our offense is ultimately found in the resurrection of Christ, the foundation of the Christian Church, and its impact on the world.
Defensively with the atheist, (1) we must minimally demonstrate a logical consistency of a belief in a Creator, and (2) we hope to demonstrate enough uncertainty about their model so that they will be willing to listen actively to our positive case; in effect to disarm them of their arguments or certainty. Thus, the goal need not be to prove the YEC or OEC model to be true; instead, we need to demonstrate only that an atheistic model cannot account for all of the evidence.
This, I think is best done by an intelligent design approach (in philosophical terms, Intelligent Design is a restatement of the Teleological Argument for the Existence of God an argument that goes back to the Greek Philosophers); one can argue by concession that atheistic and naturalistic explanations without a Creator are insufficient to explain the evidence of the universe itself. Books such as Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box is a better entry point for making the case that Christianity is true than trying to sell more fully developed models.
I say specified models because this includes not only interpretations of the Biblical attempts, but more specific correlations. For example, the early model put forward by Morris, which focused often on the water canopy theory is fairly distinct from the model put forward by Andrew Snelling, but both are Young Earth Creationists. There are, within the old earth creationists model similar distinctions between Gap theorists, or Day Age theorists, along with some allegorical interpretations. A few of the fathers put forward some models that were similarly related to the opinions of Greek writers in the first century.
Young Earth astronomers have put forward several models of time dilation to solve this problem, but I am not in a position endorse them, nor pretend to have explored the issue in depth; I can only acknowledge that they fit my viewpoint. I will only note from last time, the bigger areas of sciences the “paradigms” (including Einstein’s work and it’s ramifications on our understanding of the speed of light) are the areas I consider the most doubtful, and we should hold most tenuously. Time dilation may have been demonstrated – but are we really so arrogant to believe we have mastered the issue?
So why side with those culturally considered underdogs? I consider the YEC groups to have a better handle on the theological premises. Many OEC argue that theology is like a Rubik’s cube; while I’m not sure I wholly agree with them, it is not completely wrong either. What is really striking, however, about the Rubik’s cube analogy is that it appears to be the case with the sciences as well (see for example the global warming debate, or the debate between those advocating Neodarwinian evolution who assert the absence of transitional forms is not a problem versus punctuated equilibria proponents who assert precisely the opposite view that these gaps are fatal to neodarwinian models); my first two articles should make clear why I think the sciences are treated as more certain or settled than they should be. I believe science and theology and philosophy in discussions on origins are different faces of the same Rubik’s cube. Whatever evidence is judged to be primary by any given party will mean explanations deemed incorrect by another party.
I do not include theistic evolution because most theistic evolutionists I am aware of have given up on inerrancy, something I cannot agree with in systematic theology. I disagree with the interpretation of Old Earthers, many for example gravitate to something called the framework hypothesis (which I think is inconsistent with the waw consecutive imperfects that dominate the passage), but this is different from a denial of inerrancy.
For example, a defense of the trinity is needed when someone says it is an irrational belief, since this prevents them from being willing to believe in Jesus Christ. Similarly, a defense of a particular a model may be important to demonstrate the viability of Christianity.