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Monday, September 6, 2010

More on Evangelical Declension (Part 1)

In response to recent comments by Eric I thought it relevant to reproduce an article written by Gordon Keddie in the June 1970 edition of the Banner of Truth Journal on the subject "Towards a Christian View of Science." The article is a continuation of the subject first addressed in the May 1970 edition of the Journal. Because of its length I will divide the article into two instalments separated by a few days. Keddie uses italics in several instances to emphasise points so, to retain his emphasis, I will not put the whole article in italics as I usually do when reproducing an article.

It is interesting to know the strength of argument against the trend within the evangelicalism to adopt evolution some thirty years ago. The increasing strength of argument today makes only for an increasingly uncomfortable time ahead for evangelical cowards.

What follows is my Part 1 of Gordon Keddie's article of June 1970:


1. Proposition.

The neo-evangelical understanding of the relationship between the Bible as the special revelation of God and science as the legitimate investigation of His general (nature) revelation in the works of creation and providence closely resembles the dualistic thought of Thomas Aquinas, the mediaeval scholastic who gave the world the so-called Thomistic philosophy, still fundamental to modern Roman Catholic philosophy. This is an unscriptural position which has far-reaching consequences for evangelical theology, philosophy and special science.

2 Dualistic thought.

In this system there are two means of achieving a knowledge of absolute truth. One is using 'reason' - the so-called 'light of nature'. The other is by means of revelation from God's Word - this is 'grace'. These two aspects, nature and grace, are quite separate and independent means of learning truth, and so the system is said to be dualistic.1

Dualism considers the facts or findings of the sciences to be philosophically and theologically neutral, and so may be known as true by believer and unbeliever alike without reference to God. The facts may be apprehended by reason [nature] without any recourse to grace. (This is an over-simplification since obviously many facts can only be obtained by faith. The dualism extends in Romanist thought to two classes of fact - the natural order and the faith order. The point is that faith is not required prior to understanding truly facts of the natural order. This is in contradistinction to the Calvinistic view.) Thus it is claimed that the non-Christian can know some ultimate truths about the universe without first understanding them as facts made and interpreted by God. Facts, that all may know by use of reason alone, are assumed to be autonomous and reality is viewed as a 'sea of factuality' over which may roam with equal facility, theist and anti-theist alike.2

3 A Reformed evaluation.

Professor Cornelius Van Til has asserted that the dualistic view of facts as neutral 'brute facts' is tantamount to denying that God created the facts and even now sustains them. It denies the centrality and absolute sovereignty of God.3

Central to the Reformed system of truth, argues Herman Dooyeweerd, is the basic ground-motive of the sovereignty of God in creation, fall and redemption.

[i] God created all things ex nihilo, with the crowning act of creating man in His own image as a perfect and free moral being.

[ii] The fall of Adam [a literal first man] into sin whereby all men become totally depraved and are blinded to the truth of God.

[iii] The redemption through the blood of Christ of an elected people, who by the grace of God are saved through faith in Him.4 These regenerated people recover, in principle, the perfection of Adam as created, so that they can now see the Truth i.e., are no longer spiritually blind.

(a) Sin and the apostate scientist. Sin is a vital issue in the whole discussion, for it cuts off men from God and a knowledge of the truth.5 Professor Nigel Lee, in his recent Calvin on the Sciences, writes,

'In fact, the results of sin are of cosmic proportions, for "the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures" ' (quoting Calvin, Comm. on Rom 8.19)6

The non-Christian, consequently, always, in principle, views the facts from a standpoint antithetical to that of the Creator of these facts. Whenever any facts impinge on religious and philosophical questions, they will be interpreted according to the anti-theistic ground motive of the fallen man, i.e., in terms of justifying his continued rebellion against God.7 A scientist who is an unbeliever is therefore an apostate scientist in principle and his science is accordingly apostate science.

(b) Common grace and the apostate scientist. One may justifiably wonder if what has just been said is not too extreme. Is it not saying that it is impossible for the non-Christian scientist to find out anything that is really true? Is it not also an easy way out - whereby any scientific findings that conflict with our own views are rejected as fictions because they are the products of unbelievers? Certainly not! Calvin, as noted above, emphasised the disastrous effects of sin but he also recognized that in spite of sin God was still immanent in the world of men and actively sustaining the order of creation by means of common grace. Calvin asserts that God has been 'pleased to assist us (Christians) by the work and ministry of the ungodly in physics . . . .' and describes the work of unbelievers as a gift of God.8 This means that although the theoretical thought of the apostate scientist is anti-God, his actual scientific work, to a degree dependent on the common grace of God, may be based on Christian principles of which he is not aware.9 The apostate scientist 'possesses goods as a thief,' the goods being made available solely by the grace of God.10

In passing, we should also note that the fruits of the work of the ungodly will accrue to the redeemed and to the Lord's glory and that although that work may be uncovering ultimate truth, the unbeliever is never in a position to recognize God's interpretations of the facts for what they are. It follows that it is incumbent on Christians to use the fruits of unbelieving scholarship and show how they reveal the glory of God. This is part of the cultural mandate of the believer (Gen 1.28). To lapse into anti-intellectual obscurantism is simply sin.11"

(c) The nature of true science. As we noted earlier, neo-evangelicals have a penchant for viewing modern science as the valid study of God's natural revelation. This naturally begs the question, 'Is modern science in fact the God-ordained study of the works of creation that it should be?' Is it true science or just a counterfeit ? What is true science and who are its rightful practitioners ?

The Christian philosopher, Hendrik Van Riessen, has given us a definition of true science. He writes,

'Inherent in the vocation of men on earth is the goal of knowing God through His creation. That is the area of inspiration for science. The general goal of science is to know God's creation through the laws by which God reigns and which enable every creature to walk on earth with trust. God is trustworthy. This is the sole basis for every scientific effort.'12

Science should never be thought of as independent of God. Christ is the Lord of science and He desires that men acknowledge Him in their scientific labour and knowledge.13 All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him and so only through Christ may we in our science come to know any of that truth for what it really is.14

Prof Nigel Lee reminds us that Calvin emphasised that.

'. . . . special grace [and its resultant faith in Christ] is not only indispensable to salvation, but that it is also essential for the pursuit of true science.15

Calvin further stated that a true scientist was one who was born again to life in Christ and, while highly intelligent, submitted himself to the Word of God in general and 'the foolishness of the cross' in particular.16

What of modern science and scientists ? Ever since Laplace assured Napoleon that the successful pursuit of science did not require the 'hypothesis' of God,17 the presuppositions of the mass of scientists have rendered any supernaturalism quite irrelevant in this sphere. It should appear obvious that a scientific method which presupposes no God and no supernatural can only produce 'findings' which support these original presuppositions. Basic naturalism will not produce a picture of the glory of God in nature. Modern science, affirms Prof Van Til,'assumes that what Christianity teaches with respect to nature cannot be true.' The ideas of creation and a controlling providence are 'assumed to be intolerable.' On the contrary, it is claimed that the 'order of nature .... is what it is because of an impersonal unchangeable regularity.18'

Modern science as a whole is not true science. In essence, it is apostate and, as such, needs to be redeemed to the service of God. The Christian engaged in scientific work should be a true scientist, i.e., one who investigates nature with Biblical presuppositions and in accordance with Biblical norms.19 Modern science needs a reformation. Considering its present status, the Christian believer has no warrant to assume that it is a valid study of God's natural revelation producing results which bear some correspondence to that revealed truth. In principle, the opposite is the case as sinful men turn the truth of God into a lie (Rom 1.25). It should be noted, however, that the unbelieving scientist is better in practice than his basic presuppositions in principle allow. This is due, as we noted earlier. to the 'common' or temporal conserving grace of God20 overruling the apostasy in order to the fulfilment of His will. Conversely, the believing scientist is worse in practice than in principle, because the depredations of indwelling sin tend to draw him into conformity with the worldly pattern of the apostate. The distinction is not a simple case of black or white. Rather the situation is a dynamic one with a whole spectrum of inconsistencies between the two principal extremes. Notice also that science can never be neutral, for however inconsistent a man may be he is always governed by the god of his camp - either the living God or the god of this world.

Neo-evangelicals consistently treat modern science as if it were true science. They do so by ascribing neutrality to the scientific enterprise on the basis that the facts of nature are themselves neutral (See see. 111 [2]). Having thus accepted the findings of a science inimically disposed to the Biblical view of nature that they are attempting to defend, they are faced with the colossal and somewhat embarrassing problem of synthesising two irreconcilables into a meaningful whole.

To be continued

Sam Drucker

References (My numbering, not Keddie's)
1. E. L. H. Taylor, The Christian Philosophy of Law, Politics and the State, Nutley, N. J., Craig Press, 1965, pp 142 ff.

2. C. Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, Philadelphia, Pa., Presb. & Reformed, 1967, pp 67 ff.

3. C. Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences [Syllabus], 1961, pp 85-86 ff.

4. H. Dooyeweerd, The Secularisation of Science, A.A.C.S. [mimeo] n.d., pp 3 ff.

5. Isa., 59.2-8.

6. F. N. Lee, Calvin on the Sciences, S.G.U., 1969, p 15.

7. Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p 48.

8. J. Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion [Beveridge trans.] II, 2.16.

9. Lee, op. cit., pp 16-19, cf. Taylor, op. cit., pp 46 ff.

10. R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, Philadelphia, Pa., Presb. & Ref., 1965, p 24. See Rushdoony, Van Til (Modern Thinkers series, P & Ref.) for an analysis of Van Til's thought on this point, pp 16 ff.

11. C. Van Til, Particularism and Common Grace, L. J. Grotenhuis, n.d., p 15.

12. H. Van Riessen, The Christian Approach to Science, Hamilton, Ont., A.R.S.S., 1966, p 58.

13. H. Van Riessen, The Society of the Future, Philadelphia, Pa., Presb. & Ref., 1952, p 137.

14. Col 2.3.

15. Lee, op. cit., p 20.

16. ibid, p 20.

17. R. E. D. Clark, The Christian Stake in Science, Exeter, Paternoster, 1967, p 29.

18. C. Van Til, The Doctrine of Scripture, [Syllabus] den Dulk, 1967, pp 48-49.

19. The Bible is to be understood as being normative for science (and all things). For instance, the Biblical fact of miracles means that our science must never rule out the possibility of the miraculous, i.e. the intervention of God in the world in such a way as to use means other than the natural laws that He has established. Modern science consistently denies this normative principle.

20. Taylor, op. cit., p 60.

1 comment:

John said...

"[T]he Christian believer has no warrant to assume that it is a valid study of God's natural revelation producing results which bear some correspondence to that revealed truth."

If only SADs would take that pearl onboard. Clearly the SADs have made an idol out of modern origins' science and taken as CERTITUDE that a man in a white coat in a lab can tell you more or less (give or take a few million!) how old a piece of rock is. Neil, it's a continuing debate as to whether or not coffee is bad for you or not, so how can a SAD be so certain that the world is 4 billion y.o. At least you can do empirical science on coffee.

SADs have a completely schizophrenic attitude to truth. But what's worse is that they'll jump into bed, epistemologically speaking, with an atheist view of the world i.e. this rock HAS to be old.