Friday, November 11, 2011

Contending for the Faith

The brother of Jesus Christ wrote a one-chapter epistle in which he urges believers to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3 NASB). My personal preference for the translation of this verse comes from Eugene Peterson’s The Message: “I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.”

Many of our posts have stated the value of science as an apologetic tool to strengthen our faith. Apart from fundamental doctrinal pillars of the Christian faith such as the truth of Christ as God in the flesh and Christ as Redeemer of fallen man, science provides apologetic value at a different level. Science in general offers evidence of the supernatural creation event described in Genesis 1:1 as well as knowledge of a cosmos functioning in an incredibly orderly manner. The cosmos offers clear and ubiquitous evidence of intelligent design. By extension, the scientific knowledge gained over the past few centuries is a powerful apologetic for the very existence of God. Paradoxically, lurking in the consciousness (or subconscious) of many science professionals is the very question, “Does God exist?” This question has likely occurred to most people, science professionals or not.

Identification of intelligently designed features in our universe is not regarded as a scientific enterprise. Science, according to established modern standards, must investigate only natural events. The supernatural is ruled off-limits. There is an advantage to this ruling. It avoids assigning every unknown effect observed in nature to the direct, deliberate action of God. Naturalistic scientists are fond of proposing the “God-of-the-gaps” accusation against creationists and believers in intelligent design. In reality, most skilled theistic scientists reserve design explanations only for unique features of our physical cosmos such as the DNA code in living things.

The disadvantage of the paradigm that science must investigate only natural cause and effect is that events of probable supernatural origin are excluded from the discussion of what really may have happened. Scientific naturalism has been established as a rock solid, indestructible “rule of the game.” Theistic explanations are ascribed to a separate realm of reality. Many of my theistic evolutionary friends have subscribed to the doctrine of separation of the realms as an unalterable principle. One theistic evolutionist friend wrote, “They (science and theology) are not a single, self consistent whole but rather two very different ways of viewing reality.” Rigid adherence to this principle is a discussion stopper. The science establishment’s adherence to this paramount “rule of the game” is a brilliant accomplishment. It is also an unfortunate fact.

How does this discussion relate to the biblical exhortation to contend or fight for the faith? The oft-repeated exhortation to “get on board with science” in the matter of origins deflects seekers from a frank acknowledgement that God has ever acted interventionally along the timeline of life’s history on Planet Earth. Marriage to a “naturalism only” paradigm may preclude our embrace of a thoroughly Christian worldview. My TE friend, at the conclusion of lengthy discussions, stated, “Both of us believe that God is the Creator of all things, including humans.” But the unsolved question of how God created remains a troubling impasse.

Recognition of the evidence for sudden rather than gradual biological creation events on earth is established by careful analysis of great amounts of evidence and carefully reasoned interpretation of the evidence. The historical record of life on earth and the entire physical cosmos comprises the general revelation provided by God. We have the capability of inspecting and interpreting the evidence of general revelation. This capability is provided by the gift of reason. Revelation and reason, therefore, provide mankind with a double-edged tool for contending for the faith. In this context, our faith affirms the facts that God exists and that God acts in this cosmos.