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Sunday, September 12, 2010

More on Evangelical Declension (Part 2)

What follows is the completion of the 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."

What Gordon Keddie had to say some forty years ago remains strictly relevant today.

I was impressed by the comment of correspondent John who mentioned a schizoprhenic approach to the issue by evangelicals today. It was as if John and Keddie have seen things the same now and then, respectively. I allow Keddie to complete his article herewith:

"(d) A schizoid approach. The neo-evangelical solves this problem first by making the Bible and science complementary and then by separating the two so that each is supreme in its own sphere with hardly even an overlap. This position is basically schizoid since the authority of the Bible is only applicable to the sphere of faith, while the sphere of physical reality is the domain of science alone.21

The practical consequences of this view are exemplified by the dichotomy in the published writings and utterances of F. H. T. Rhodes, Prof of Geology at Swansea and a well-known evangelical Christian. As an evangelical believer, on the one hand, he has addressed conferences of evangelical scientists on the relation of the Bible to science,22 while, on the other hand, he has written a popular textbook on evolution23in which there is not a single reference to God and where the only reference to creation describes the Biblical teaching on creation as something we 'now regard as a naive concept.'24 The account of evolutionary development would do credit to the most ardent evolutionist.

(e) Implications for evangelical theology. The implications of the neo-evangelical recension of the doctrine of creation for the Reformed system of theology have received scant consideration. There are a number that might be mentioned,25 but we shall confine our attention to one that is of crucial importance - the creation of man.

If, as Bube et al,26 Kuitert27 and Jeeves28 have suggested, 'Adam' was not necessarily the literal first human being created out of actual dust, how are we to interpret such clear comparisons between the first Adam and Christ, the last Adam? as we have in Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15.22, 45? Dr Gleason Archer, Prof of Biblical Languages at Fuller Theol. Seminary states that,

'it is virtually impossible to accept the authority of Romans 5 . . . . without inferring that the entire human race has descended from a single father.'29

Archer further affirms that,

'the inspired record tells of a literal Adam and Eve, and gives no indication whatever that the account is intended to be mythical. It was certainly taken as historical by Christ and the apostles.'30

Surely it is the heart of the gospel that is being hazarded in the attempt to remove interpretations objectionable to modern science. If Adam is merely a hypostatization of sinful mankind in general rather than the actual federal head of the human race who fell into sin for himself and his descendants, then how can we comprehend the work of Christ in the new covenant if by no one man death reigned, then what assurance have we that through Christ's death many shall have eternal life ? What sort of soteriology do we have left?

The implications for theology do not stop at the rejection of an old 'literal reading of the creation account.' Why ? Because the science of theology reveals the system of truth in Scripture and if a system is more than the sum of its parts - it is an integral and interdependent whole reflecting the self-consistent nature of God - then any undermining of the foundations must eventually have profound consequences for the whole body of doctrine. The above example serves to emphasise the present necessity for Christians to examine, in faith, the foundations of their belief and to cast themselves on Christ, putting their trust in His Word as their sufficient authority in all things.


It is the contention of this paper that the neo-evangelical 'trend' is a down-grade movement from truly evangelical Christianity. We shall briefly summarise the characteristic views of this group and comment thereupon by way of conclusion.

1. Scripture, while held to be divinely inspired and infallible, is nevertheless handled in such a way as to subordinate it to modern science where the Bible speaks on topics common to theology and natural science. [e.g., creation, miracles].

(a) The Bible is assumed, a priori, not to reveal 'scientific' information, that not being the purpose of special revelation.

(b) General disregard for strict exegesis of the Scripture is evident. This also holds for the practice of comparing Scripture with Scripture before arriving at any interpretation.

(c) There is increasing use of the inductive method of studying Scripture - a methodology inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of inspiration.

2. Science, in its widest sense, is regarded as complementary to the Bible in contributing to a view of reality. The two are independent but interdependent. Thus science is autonomous and speaks for the realm of nature as the Bible does for that of faith.

(a) Modern science is regarded as the study of natural revelation and its best authenticated results [according to its own standards of course!] are considered to represent a valid picture of that revelation.

(b) Any conflict between 'traditional Biblical interpretation' and modern scientific discoveries must result in a re-examination of the former with a view to reinterpretation.

(c) No distinction is recognized in principle between the science practised by Christians (true science) and that of unbelievers (apostate science). There is no consistently Christian philosophy of science.

In practice, this unscriptural dualism divests the Scriptures of their absolute authority in all matters of faith and life. The announcement that they are inspired of God and therefore infallible becomes a hollow assertion when the plain teaching of the Bible is sidestepped to accommodate the most recent discoveries of science. Not that all neo-evangelicals deny, for instance, the historicity of the first Adam -there is considerable variance in views held - but all take the creation account out
of history and either use it as a literary framework on which the process of evolution, euphemistically termed 'progressive creation', is worked out (Ramm, N. H. Ridderbos, Lever, Henry) or reduce it to a few grand theological statements about God, man and the universe [Bube et al, van de Fliert, Kuitert]. Thus the conflict between the Bible and (apostate) science is neatly circumvented. Hear the words of Carl F. H. Henry, 'If by the evolutionary fact is meant that the universe is billions of years old, and that millions of years were required for the development of all the various species of plant and animal life, and that the antiquity of the human race is somewhat greater than the brief span of six thousand years assigned by scientists and theologians alike a few centuries ago, then warfare between science and Christianity is at an end.31

Henry is quite correct if he means neo-evangelical Christianity - obviously the war is over when one side has capitulated! The above statement has the ring of an epitaph. No more do we need to contend for an embarrassingly realistic Genesis account of creation! It is now dead and buried! We have reinterpreted the Light of the Word of God in the light of evolutionistic science!

The words of the apostle Paul are surely apposite here, 'O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith' (1 Tim 6.20-21a)."

Sam Drucker

References (cont. from previous post)

21. The Bible is not a 'textbook' of science (nor even of theology) - rather it is the ultimate primary written source of information - it is given. When the Bible speaks on any topic, therefore, it is authoritative in an ultimate way. Thus statements bearing on scientific subjects are normative for the prosecution of the science concerned. (See note 19.) The precise nature of such statements is to be decided on the basis of faithful exegesis of the best texts available.

22. See IVF Symposium, Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe [D. M. Mackay, ed.] and Jeeves, op. cit., p 164.

23. F. H. T. Rhodes, The Evolution of Life, London, Penguin Books, 1962, pp 302.

24. ibid., p 276.

25. e.g.. The questions concerning many miracles, the resurrection, the nature of history in the Bible.

26. R. H. Bube, op. cit., p 105.

27. M. H. Woudstra, op. cit.

28. Jeeves, op. cit., p 108.

29. G. L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Chicago, Moody Press, 1965, p 190.

30. ibid., p 191.

31. In R. Mixter [ed.]. Evolution and Christian Thought Today, London, Paternoster, 1961, p 219.

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