Over the past few years, I worked on a pamphlet sponsored by the Board of Faith and Life of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches about a theology of creation. It came out in print recently (you can find it here). But there was a lot more material that ended up on the cutting room floor, especially material related to the relationship between science and faith. I am committing to doing good, God-honouring theology. I am also convinced that what God reveals in nature is consistent with what God reveals in Scripture. As a result, what we glean from studying nature and what we glean from study of Scripture ought to agree. History has shown that this is not always the case — but why not? Here is some food for thought on science and faith. It does not reflect an official position; rather, it is nothing more than my own contribution to a larger conversation. But the questions that arise are ones that a thoughtful Christian ought to weigh carefully.
A Challenge: Understanding Science and Creation
For many believers, there is a great challenge regarding the origin and purpose of creation posed by developments in science in the past 150 years. Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, raised provocative questions about the origins of life, and scientific investigation since the time of Darwin has often been difficult to harmonize with the biblical account of creation. Science and Christian faith are sometimes presumed to be incompatible, as evidenced by influential writers on both sides of what may seem an impassable divide. And yet there remain committed Christians who seem able to reconcile their faith with scientific work in fields usually considered hostile to Christian faith.
After the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, some understood Darwin’s theory to be contrary to Christianity, rendering it obsolete. But natural selection was also hailed by Christian theologians as a helpful supplement to theology, one which might give insight into the processes by which God’s creation of the natural world unfolded. Indeed, there were several notable Christian theologians who believed that Darwin’s description of evolution was consistent with their understanding of divine sovereignty, providence and predestination as acting through the laws of nature. For example, B. B. Warfield (author of The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible), A. H. Strong (a prominent Baptist theologian), and some of the authors of The Fundamentals (a set of articles published in the early 1900’s to defend Christian orthodoxy) were critically supportive of Darwin’s ideas. Warfield, a staunch defender of Scripture, even wrote: “I am free to say, for myself, that I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Gen. I & II or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.”
It is easy to assume that all Christians have always believed what we believe (whatever that is and whoever we are), but the truth is often not so clear. Sweeping statements and unqualified assumptions often hinder constructive conversations, and can place unnecessary obstacles in the way of faith for those investigating Christian faith.
From the Christian side, see, for example, Henry Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). From the scientific side, see, for example, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Bantam Books, 2006).
For example, neurochemist, Director of the Faraday Institute, and evangelical Christian author Denis Alexander, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2008). Denis Lamoureux, Associate Professor of Science & Religion at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, holds three earned doctoral degrees, in dentistry, theology, and biology. He wrote I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009).
B. B. Warfield, Lectures on Anthropology, (December 1888), Speer Library, Princeton University, cited by Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 371.