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Origins: Two Models Part: 2

We must teach no more and no less than what the Scriptures say.

Arthur A. Eggert

It’s common to hear of people who are working to prove evolution is false and to validate the biblical account of creation. They have written a lot of literature, they run websites like Answers in Genesis, and they even have a Creation Museum. Their arguments can sound very convincing, just like the models of the evolutionists can sound very convincing. Before we accept their arguments, however, we need to evaluate how they fit with the Bible and scientific practice.

The fundamental assumption of science is that all phenomena we observe can be explained in terms of the natural properties of matter, energy, time, and space. This assumption precludes the existence of supernatural beings.

Because the Bible teaches that the Lord God (a supernatural being) exists, that he created the world, and that he actively manages it, Christians reject the fundamental assumption of science. Due to the Lord’s active involvement with the universe, anything observed by scientists may be a result of natural processes, of miraculous acts by God, or of a combination of the two. This makes all evolutionary models or theories wholly unreliable and impossible to validate.

Alas, the same statement is equally true of all explanations developed by “creation scientists.” For example, did the Lord bring the Grand Canyon to its present state of existence through natural processes, supernatural acts, or both? Neither evolutionary science nor creation science can answer that question if the primary assumption of science is false. Moreover, the Bible does not give us the answer either.

While scientists must believe that nothing is a miracle (i.e., unexplainable), Christians must believe that everything is a miracle (i.e., we don’t really know how God causes anything to happen). This profound truth is inherent in our belief in an almighty God who controls even the “laws of nature.”

This truth is made very clear when the Lord challenged Job (Job chapters 38–41) to explain the hidden things of God. Job couldn’t. Nobody can. At any one time humans can observe only the tiniest fraction of the universe and can know only what their senses and their instruments reveal to them. The Lord is not obligated to limit his activities to what humans can detect and model. He reveals the breadth of his power throughout Scripture. He has absolute control over all things, both large and small. He leads the stars out (Job 38:31,32). He guards little sparrows (Matthew 10:29). He numbers people’s hairs (Matthew 10:30). He “clothes” lilies (Luke 12:27,28). He provides food for all (Psalm 145:15,16). He guards our safety (Psalm 91:11,12). He builds our structures (Psalm 127:1), and he establishes governments (Romans 13:1). The only way we know anything about God’s hidden actions is through revelation, not through science or other means of human investigation (Isaiah 8:20). Even perfect science can tell us nothing for certain.

Second, scientific models are not like religious tenets. For example, we understand the meaning of such teachings as transubstantiation and double predestination because they have precise definitions. We can formulate scriptural arguments against them that will endure throughout the generations. Conversely, scientific models are the result of the scientific method, which cause them to undergo frequent refinement. For example, the constant that relates the height of an object to the length of its sun-caused shadow changes continually based on the time of day and time of year. Every scientific model/theory is hostage to the next observation, which may force it to be revised. If one develops a scientific argument against a model, that argument will become obsolete as soon as the model is refined. That’s how science works. Scientists criticize each other’s models continually to try to disprove them, and they are better than amateurs at finding the weaknesses in such models.

It is precisely in this regard that churches that try to argue scientifically against evolution often make themselves look foolish. To understand the implications of scientific models takes a substantial amount of training, usually in several fields of science. Scientific models are built on many assumptions, not all of which are usually expressed, because everyone working with them supposedly already knows these assumptions.

For example, it is seldom mentioned in elementary science courses that common laws of motion are only true for perfectly elastic uncharged point-masses at slow speeds in vacuums where there are no frictional or gravitational forces. Sound complex? It is, but one needs to understand such complexity to challenge scientific models. Most scientific models, even generally accepted ones (sometimes called “laws”), have boundary conditions that greatly limit when they can be applied. It is also common for models to contain conclusions that do not sit comfortably with human reason. For example, how can the lengths of objects decrease as they go faster? It is common for those who are not thoroughly trained in science, such as most pastors and teachers in the church, to make caricatures of the actual scientific models/theories and beat on them with arguments that are scientific nonsense. Such efforts can diminish called workers’ credibility and undermine their authority on spiritual matters.

Finally, the Christian church is not commissioned to reform the institutions of the world, neither through the social gospel nor through improving society’s morals nor through creation science. In this sinful world such efforts are like trying to empty an ocean with a teaspoon. The time and effort expended to perform them do nothing to fulfill the Great Commission. It is more important that we preach the gospel and teach the faith. It is even of little value to point out the irrationality of some of the claims of evolutionists because Christianity itself is not based on logic but on revelation. The Holy Spirit works through the Word, not through our reasoning, to change hardened hearts with the saving message.

We must teach no more and no less than the Scriptures teach about how the Lord created and preserves the world. That means we accept six-day creation and the universal flood. We accept the miracles performed in both the Old and New Testaments. We hold this position because, “Thus says the Lord.”

On the other hand, we do not try to peek behind the curtain of how the Lord brought the world to its current state. We admit that we do not know what changes he made when he cursed the ground in Genesis chapter 3, through the flood, or at any other time unless they are specifically mentioned in the Bible. We acknowledge the usefulness of science and the value of the scientific method in helping us to live more comfortably in the world God gave us. We insist, however, that scientific models/theories be accepted for what they really are—the results of the efforts of fallible human beings to explain the universe, efforts that are limited by what the Lord allows us to observe, and results that are worthless when they contradict the revelation the Lord has given us in the Scriptures. We dare not buttress our faith with any such human-devised models lest we slide off the rock of Scripture and into a ditch.

Dr. Arthur Eggert is a member at Peace, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

This is the final article in a two-part series on creation.

 

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Author: Arthur A. Eggert
Volume 103, Number 1
Issue: January 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Dr. Arthur A. Eggert
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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