Origins: Two models
When we wonder how the world came to be, we find two models. Which one best matches the Scriptures?
Dr. Arthur A. Eggert
We see them everywhere—on television, on the Internet, and in magazines. They are scientific claims that the earth has evolved and that numerous events happened many millions of years in the past. The claims sound so official. With the incredible advances of technology, it seems almost foolish not to believe them. Yet we need to understand both the biblical and the scientific approach to truth before we are taken in by them.
THE BIBLICAL APPROACH TO TRUTH
The fundamental assumption of historic Christianity—including WELS—is that the Bible is the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God. Christians believe this assumption is true because when they study the Bible, the Holy Spirit convinces them that it is true. The Bible describes a supernatural being called “the Lord” and states that he created and manages the universe. The Bible is studied through a set of principles called “hermeneutics,” which permits doctrines to be properly formulated.
All the teachings of Christianity about God and salvation are based on its fundamental assumption and hermeneutical study. If the Bible is indeed inerrant, then we can have full confidence in the absolute truth of these teachings.
But what if this fundamental assumption of Christianity is false, and the Bible perhaps only contains the Word of God? Then we can never be sure about any of the teachings of the Bible. For example, was Jesus true God? Did he atone for our sins? Did God create the world? If the fundamental assumption is false, then no matter how good the hermeneutical study, everything will be mere speculation, the teachings of men and not of God. Christian churches that abandon the assumption that the Bible is inerrant eventually deny almost every biblical teaching. The human heart cannot, on its own, discern the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). St. Paul wrote about the futility of false faith: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO TRUTH
The physical and biological sciences are different from Christianity in that they cannot determine absolute truth because the universe is too big to study completely. Scientists can only create models—also called theories or laws—that explain events which have been observed in nature (for example, an apple falling from a tree). To develop such models/theories, scientists use what is called the “scientific method.” When they observe an event, they weigh, count, and measure whatever appears to be related to the event. After gathering data from several events (e.g., observing other objects fall), they develop a theory to explain the data. They use this model/theory, such as the law of gravitation, to predict what will happen in yet untested cases. When they observe such cases, they refine their theory if the observed results are different from what it predicts.
This cycle is repeated until they conclude their model/theory/law is good enough for its intended use. A good model is the scientific equivalent of “truth,” but it is always subject to change based on new observations.
The physical and biological sciences are like Christianity in that they are based on a fundamental assumption, namely, that all observed events can be explained in terms of the inherent properties of matter, energy, time, and space. This assumption means that there can be no supernatural interference with the workings of the universe. Consequently, no actively involved god can exist. Furthermore, without an outside agent like the Lord to have created it, the universe must have evolved by itself. There is no other logical alternative. Macroscopic evolution, therefore, is a forced conclusion that follows from the fundamental assumption of science, not an outcome of the application of the scientific method. Scientists cannot prove evolution because they have assumed it!
But what if an active god exists? Then the fundamental assumption of science is false because of the existence of such a god. Therefore, when scientists see an apple fall, they cannot know if it fell as a result of the natural properties of matter or whether a god knocked it off the tree. In fact, every observed event might be a result of natural forces, of a special supernatural act, or of a combination of both. For example, if someone rolled dice, would the numbers they see be the result of random processes of nature, which can be statistically modeled, or the result of divine intervention, which cannot be modeled. No matter how faithfully the scientific method is applied and no matter how cleverly the theories—such as those of evolution—are developed, they have no validity because they are based on a false assumption.
Scientists make their fundamental assumption because their work is meaningless without it. Even Christians who are scientists use it as a general guide in their research, although they do not believe it is absolutely true.
EACH IS BASED SOLELY ON FAITH
The conflict is clear. Both the fundamental assumptions of Christianity and of science cannot be true because they lead to opposite conclusions about the existence of a god and the origin of the universe. One or both must be false. The important thing for Christians is that neither of these assumptions is independently provable; each is based solely on faith.
Some will object, claiming that the overwhelming evidence gathered in numerous fields of science forces one to accept the fundamental assumption of science rather than that of Christianity. In reality, however, this evidence is equally well explained because the Lord is almighty. The reason scientific models/theories often appear to work is that the Lord is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33). He usually controls the universe in such a manner that we can use our intellect to make reasonable decisions. We call God’s usual management of the universe the “laws of nature.” Yet the Lord exercises direct supervisory control over everything, tweaking natural processes so that things work out as he desires, without scientists ever being aware of this (i.e., things happen “under their radar”). This can involve the outcome of rolling dice (Proverbs 16:33), the lives of sparrows (Matthew 10:29) or the positioning of the stars (Isaiah 40:26).
The Lord can also act supernaturally through spectacular miracles such as those recorded in the Bible (creating the universe, sending a huge flood, or causing the sun to stand still). When he acts outside the laws of nature, scientists will completely misrepresent the cause of their observations because their models/theories assume that only natural processes occurred. God is not bound by natural processes nor obligated to leave behind evidence of how he acted. The psalmist wrote, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3).
To stay close to the Scriptures and avoid the evolutionary trap, we must realize that it is only by faith that we accept the Bible and its teachings as the inerrant Word of God. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (11:3).
Simply stated, we believe the Lord made the world in six days because the Bible says so and for no other reason.
Dr. Arthur Eggert is a member at Peace, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
This is the first article in a two-part series on creation.
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Author: Dr. Arthur A. Eggert
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015
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