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Friday, February 14, 2014

Can Old Dogs Who Have Learned Old Tricks Learn New Tricks Too

In the light of the recent Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate on evolution vs creation and the age of the earth and universe, not the subject of this post, comes an interesting discussion filmed for Ligonier Ministries. This discussion, as you look at the screen (click here for the video) from left to right, includes a moderator, R.C. Sproul Jr., Michael Horton, Del Tackett, Stephen Meyer, and R.C. Sproul Sr. They discussed a number of topics, but our concern here is the first 4-plus minutes and the last 33 minutes when they talk about science issues . The exact times are listed as a part of the video outline on the page below the video. 

In this video, you will see a divide between those Christians who believe in a "young earth" and those who believe or accept the possibility that the earth is old. Those who believe in a young earth believe that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old and they get their starting point for that belief from applying a literal interpretation to Genesis chapters 1-2--they will also supplement that belief with scientific support and that is fine. This blogpost is not concerned with the age of the earth. It is those who believe or accept the possibility that the earth is as old, as most scientists, think who are receiving our concern here. 

Those Conservative Christians who believe in an older earth seemed to have learned from the Copernican Revolution. Copernicus was labeled a heretic by past icons of many of today's Conservative Christians, including Luther and Calvin, for proposing that the solar system is heliocentric (sun is the center), as opposed to geocentric (earth is the center). The reason why Luther, Calvin, and many, if not all, of the churches resisted this description of the solar system is because it went against their literal reading of the Bible. Copernicus was called a heretic and it took the Church more than a while to admit the error of its ways.

So we'll note that those Conservative Christians who favor an old earth are trying to avoid a grave mistake from the past. But more important than that is the idea that Conservative Christians, even professional theologian ones, can receive help in interpreting the Scriptures from non-religious  sources. This is what Michael  Horton, Stephen Meyer, and R.C. Sproul Sr., not Jr., demonstrate when they allow for an old earth. They are allowing truth discovered by science to help them find the truth in the Scriptures. But by saying this we should note that that does not imply that discoveries from science can deny what is clearly taught in the Bible. We just have to be certain about what the Bible teaches clearly.

Now, here is the thought for this blogpost; if scientists can help us understand the Scriptures better than before, how about others? For example, can we better learn how to interpret Scriptures about taking care of those in need by reading Rachel Corrie's journal entry on the homeless (click here)? Can we get practical lessons on a national level of what the Scriptures mean when they say not to judge others lest we be judged too by reading Noam Chomsky on the principle of universality (click here)? Can we get a more Biblical view of war by reading Howard Zinn (click here) or should we be content with Augustine (click here to see description of Augustine's view of a just war)? And finally, can we learn from Marx regarding how to treat workers more Biblically despite his lack of fondness for theism? 

I ask the above questions because of what is written in the Bible. For doesn't Romans 2:14-15 challenge those who are religious by mentioning how godless Gentiles can have the law written on their hearts? And perhaps what best signifies our knowledge of God's Word is whether we can recognize it when it comes from unexpected places and unauthorized sources.

We must always remain true to the Bible, to God's Word. But somehow we have shown that loyalties and a penchant for authoritarianism has filtered out helpful sources in understanding God's Word. If what is said does not come from our favorite teachers, we too easily discard what is said or written. And this is even done by our teachers too. Too many times, we have all sacrificed Biblical truths in order to maintain a certain chain of command. And in so doing we lean toward learning from accepted authority sources  in our society and culture only. And because of the influence of society and culture, we also tend to support the status quo when we should be challenging it.

The old trick is to let science help us understand what the Scriptures say. The new trick is to let those who don't have God but whose consciences have been blessed by God instruct us, when they can, on how to better understand God's Word. If all truth comes from God, as is often said in the video we are reviewing, what is the harm of learning from unexpected sources? In saying this, however, we do want to guard against merging or even conflating nonChristian thinking with Christianity.

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