Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is "Creation Science" Reformed?

Recently, the Clarion editors have rejected this article by Tony Jelsma (listed in our "collected papers" in the sidebar, along with other background papers relevant to the topic). It discusses the history of "creation science" as a movement, and points out a number of serious issues with its approach to Biblical hermeneutics. It is important to remember that the Canadian Reformed churches have not taken a particular position on young earth creationism, and that there is a rich tradition within our background which allows for serious thought in which many of the results of mainstream science regarding historical astronomy, geology, biology need not be considered opposed to Scripture. Over the past few decades, young earth creationism has been understood by many to be the default position of our church members. However, this article suggests we ought to oppose young earth creationism on both theological and scientific grounds. We invite your comments on this article, and in some of the upcoming blog entries we will be highlighting some its main arguments.


Gerard Torenvliet said...

Thanks for posting this paper. Would you be able to share with us the rationale for rejecting this paper from the Clarion?

Tony Jelsma said...

There were several reasons. They were concerned about escalating rhetoric in the submissions on this topic to Clarion. They also felt the paper was too long and the reader would lose interest over several issues. But mostly they felt the readers were getting tired of this topic and that a balance had already been achieved by articles by Dr. Oosterhoff on the one side and Herman van Barneveld and Dr. Van Dam on the other side.

hjvb said...

I think I'm accurately paraphrasing the first point made in "Is Creation Science Reformed" by Tony Jelsma as follows: "Creation Science looks to the Bible for Scientific explanations." I find that this does not accurately describe the general approach of creation scientists. There are some who put more into certain poetic Biblical expressions than they should. (E.g. some take Isa. 40:22 farther than its intended meaning, saying that "...He who sits upon the circle of the earth..." contains a reference to the earth being like a globe.) Another question should be asked: does the Bible shed light on creation, on the world, on Science? Yes it does. It tells us that God created the world. So the Bible sheds light on Who created everything. We can all agree with that. So why are Creation Scientists all of sudden un-reformed when they repeat what the Scriptures say about HOW God did it?

Another pertinent question must be asked: "Is it within the realm of science to speak authoritatively on historical matters? (especially when it contradicts the Word through which God "...makes Himself more clearly and fully known as far as neccessary His glory (Belgic Confession Art. 2)) Science can try speaking on history, but it can't do so without saying 'maybe' or 'we think' and make numerous assumptions.

Herman van Barneveld

Tony Jelsma said...

I thank Herman for his feedback and questions.

I would like to correct his paraphrase, “Creation Science looks to the Bible for scientific explanations.” I was focusing my attention on Genesis 1. I agree with him that Scripture contains many poetic passages which are not intended to teach science. My point, and he may disagree with me on this, is that Genesis 1 is also not teaching science, therefore it is not saying HOW God did it. The reasons I say this, as I wrote in my article, include the evidences in Scripture itself e.g. Deuteronomy 4, Calvin’s own approach to Genesis 1, the Reformed principle of the organic inspiration of Scripture and yes, even modern scientific evidence which indicate that Genesis 1 is not a scientifically accurate account.

Herman’s second question is indeed pertinent because it does partially explain our differences in hermeneutical approach to passages like Genesis 1. Yes, science certainly must be tentative in its findings. The history of science is replete with mistaken interpretations of the creation and we must not be lulled into thinking we finally have it right. But our interpretation of Scripture is also fallible (there are Baptists, Lutherans, Calvinists, Roman Catholics who all believe in the Bible but they can’t all be right on every point!).
A few years back I heard a very helpful explanation, which goes as follows: God’s Word and God’s world both infallibly tell us about God, thus if we misunderstand either, it’s not God’s fault. On the other hand, the study of God’s Word (theology) and God’s world (science) are both human activities, and therefore are fallible.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be certain of anything Scripture teaches us, nor of anything we learn from science. But there must be a tentativeness in both. Some passages in Scripture are clearer than others. Note that even 2 Peter 3:15-16 acknowledges that some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand. Humility in both theology and science is in order.

Reformed Academic said...

For a further response, see Jitse's post on the history of nature.