Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spurgeon's Science

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), the 19th century “Prince of Preachers,” is said to have preached to ten million people, delivered 3600 sermons, and produced 49 volumes of theological commentary. He frequently delivered his messages to audiences of 10,000 or more without even the benefit of electrical sound amplification. Lately I have examined his commentary volumes on Psalms. This “Treasury of David” consumes four inches of shelf space. It consists of overviews of each Psalm, expansive comments verse by verse, and a collection of “explanatory notes and quaint sayings” collected by Spurgeon from the writings of dozens of other commentators of his day. My thoughts run along these lines: How could one man, in a lifetime of 57 years, have been so productive?

In researching his writings on Psalms 19 and 29--the subject of our 5/5/09 post--I encountered several of Spurgeon’s statements which are far ahead of their time with respect to their insights regarding the relationship of science and scripture. Spurgeon’s introductory remarks on Psalm 19 follow: “We may rest assured that the true ‘Vestiges of Creation’ will never contradict Genesis, nor will a correct ‘Cosmos’ be found at variance with the narrative of Moses. He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” Opening his exposition of Psalm 29, he further says, “Thus we have God’s works and God’s word joined together: let no man put them asunder by a false idea that theology and science can by any possibility oppose each other.”

Some of my conversations with fellow Christians in the Young Earth camp have uncovered their belief that the special revelation of inspired scripture holds domination over the general revelation of our natural world. Such beliefs overlook many important points far beyond the scope of this brief discussion. These fellow-Christians insist on interpreting the six Genesis creation days as consecutive, 24-hour periods which occurred within the past 6,000 to 10,000 years. They claim their view of scripture, along with their interpretation of “yom” (day) in Genesis 1-2, predominates over the findings of good scientific research which reliably indicates that the earth and the cosmos are of great antiquity.

Several well-known scientists/theologians have endorsed the idea, implicitly or explicitly, that the general revelation of nature is tantamount to the 67th book of the Bible. Mistakenly, these scholars have been accused of “adding to” the Bible. God has provided many sources of truth, biblical and extra-biblical. We must not reject any of those sources because they contradict our interpretation of the biblical revelation. Rather, we must strive to eliminate wrong interpretations in both special and general revelation. The former includes scripture hermeneutics; the latter embraces interpretations of the scientific data. This is an ongoing process, enabled by our God-gifted abilities. Charles Spurgeon’s statements should not be seen as “inspired,” in the same way scripture is inspired. They may, however, be viewed as wise statements worthy of serious thought.