Last Wednesday Science and The Sacred posted an essay by Darrel Falk entitled On Living in the Middle. The essence of the essay is a discussion of the difficulty in charting a course between extremes – in this case the extreme of young and old earth creationism and the extreme of evangelistic atheism. On one side there is a conviction that our Christian faith requires a specific kind of constrain on both our understanding of scripture and our understanding of nature. As James Hannam points out in his essay on Patheos, it is not that these people are stupid or ignorant, rather many are quite simply convinced that the Christian faith stands or falls with this interpretation.
On the other side many today are convinced that scientific naturalism, atheism (or at least agnosticism and practical atheism) is the only rational approach to the world we see and the life found within. To open a conversation on the topic of intelligent design or the historicity of Adam and Eve is to walk into a world of primitive superstition and fairy tales. The only appropriate response is derisive dismissal.
This essay spawned a long comment thread – 340 entries at this writing – with extensive involvement from both extremes. I have not read all of the comments, and frankly don’t have the time (or the stomach for some of them). But the essay started me thinking.
Is there any intrinsic value toward seeking a middle ground, living in the middle? What are we seeking?
I don’t think either Darrel Falk or BioLogos are intentionally seeking a middle ground. I know that I am not seeking the middle ground. In fact, there is no intrinsic value in the middle ground or in an unwillingness to take sides. Rather, I suggest, on the issues of science and faith this “middle ground” is
where a search for truth leads.
There is no anti-intelligent design agenda, there is no anti-creationism agenda, there is no anti-science agenda, there is no anti-bible agenda. There is a search for truth and an attempt to go where the evidence leads.
As far as I am concerned this is the starting point for discussion:
I am convinced that scientific naturalism, the position that the material universe described by the laws of chemistry and physics is the whole story, is an untenable position. It conflicts with the intrinsic evidence in the very core of our being. It is difficult to reconcile with the nature of the human mind.
I am convinced of the truth of the essence of the orthodox Christian faith – found in the creeds and baptismal formulas of the early church and the apostolic witness of the NT writings. This rule of faith has, as Tertullian put it some 1800 years ago, come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics.
I am convinced that our God given minds do not deceive us on the evidence for an old earth, evolution, common descent, or the antiquity of the human race. The scientific data is empirically trustworthy. The scientific method is a reliable method for uncovering the truth of the natural world. Evolution is a demonstrable fact – the detailed understanding of mechanism continues to be revised and refined.
I am convinced that God is not a deceiver who made the earth look old, with unnecessary imperfection and deeply embedded details, but gave us Genesis so we would know the truth. Such a position can only arise from a misunderstanding and misreading of scripture. We need to take scripture on its own terms, not turn it into something it is not and was never intended to be.
I do not have a fully worked out picture for how all this fits together. Much of what you see in the posts on this blog are attempts to put forth ideas and think in public. The nature of Adam and Eve in particular is a sticking point. The comments and conversation from all sides are invaluable for me and, I hope for others. I especially appreciate comments from and conversation with those who disagree with any and all of my statements above, both Christians and non-Christians. But the conversation is only of value if it is civil – and if positions are stated thoughtfully and defended honestly.
For the Christians, I suggest that we need to look at these issues with tradition – but not through tradition. We stand alongside or on the shoulders of those who came before, but we don’t bow before them. We have no institute or confession to fall back on – only belief in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, as we move forward.
What do you think? On what foundation do you approach an understanding of the nature of the world around us? Why? What questions are open for discussion?
If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net.