Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Reconciling Science With Scripture

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Every Friday, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay
from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue. This week’s guest entry was written by John Walton, Ph.D., a Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His publications include The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP, 2009); Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
(Baker, 2006); and A Survey of the Old Testament
(with Andrew Hill, Zondervan, 3rd edition, 2009).

For many of us who take the Bible seriously our approach to the relationship between the Bible and science is determined by our belief that the Bible is true. If empirical science is perceived as offering an understanding that would mitigate or deny the truth of Scripture, an impasse is created that leads people to believe they have to choose between the two.

Before such choices are made, those who take the Bible seriously should ask the question, “What are the truths of Scripture that I should be prepared to defend?” I would contend that we should not feel obliged to defend the “science” of the Bible because its truth is not vested in the science that it reflects. This should not be an uncomfortable thought. Over the centuries since the Bible was written, generations of readers have had all sorts of scientific viewpoints. If each generation felt that the Bible had to be reconciled with the science of its day that would come with a cost–that when science progressed, the science of the Bible would no longer be true. Rather than thinking that the science of the Bible has to be infinitely flexible so as to reconcile with any generation’s view of science, it is preferable to understand that the Bible does not offer a science. Instead, the truth that it has to offer is independent from the science of the ancient world into which God’s Word was communicated.

In the ancient world, people believed that the earth was flat, that the sun moved around the earth; that rain came from a body of water that was held back by something solid; that people thought with their entrails; and that the stars were in the same area as the sun, moon, birds and clouds. God did not seek to give them different information; he was not revealing “true” science. Consequently the science of the Bible is not what has to be defended when we are seeking to understand its truth claims.

I have proposed that the way forward can be found in a renewed analysis of what the biblical text of Genesis 1 is communicating. Those of us who take the Bible seriously believe that the Bible was given by God for all of us. Yet at the same time it is evident that it was not given to us. It is not in our language and it is not communicated with our culture in mind.

Our understanding of Genesis 1 may change radically when we understand two important details about the ancient world. The first is that in the ancient world people were inclined to be much more interested in issues like order, functions, roles and general operations than in the material stuff of the physical world. Because of this, even their thinking about creation is more focused on the functional rather than the material. Creation has more to do with preparation, identity and assignment than physical structures and components. In my writings I have tried to support this focus from the Bible and from the ancient world and have tried to demonstrate that for the author and audience of Genesis, Chapter One is an account of functional origins, not an account of material origins. “Creation” for them involved assigning functions and bringing order rather than manufacturing material.

The second detail concerns the seventh day. What we are unaware of is that in the Bible and the ancient world, God rests in a temple; in fact, temples are built for God to rest in. Consequently when day seven reports that God rested, it conveys unmistakably the idea that the cosmos is being presented as a temple. It is common in the ancient world for temple and cosmos to be closely associated since the earthly temple was considered to be a micro-cosmos. The number seven is often used in connection with temple inaugurations, so the seven day structure in Genesis 1 likewise supports the identification of the chapter as a (cosmic) temple text. This makes the seventh day the most important of the creation week because if God has not entered his rest, it is not a functioning temple.

If we are correct in identifying Genesis 1 as a creation account that intends to inaugurate the functioning cosmic temple, then that interpretation is going to express the truths being conveyed by the biblical author. When we seek to take the Bible seriously, we would therefore no longer have to try to defend the “biblical” view of the age of the earth. The age of the earth is a material issue not addressed in a functional account. Likewise, if Genesis 1 is not an account of material origins, the Bible offers no account of material origins. If that is the case, then empirical science could not possibly offer a view of material origins that we would have to reject in defense of the Bible. The Bible only insists that God is the one who is the Creator and that however it took place, he is responsible for creation. When we read science into the text or build science out of the text, we are following our own modern agendas, rather than explaining or defending the truth of the biblical text.

Though Genesis 1 may not be an account of material origins, God is still to be considered the one who is responsible for material origins whether he used processes that scientists can deduce that took place over long periods, or whether he used instantaneous acts that could never be explained using empirical methods. God is the only Creator and he is acting with purpose. These are the truths that we defend and that Genesis 1 affirms.

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Daniel Mann

posted September 18, 2009 at 11:07 am


BioLogos Foundation,
This is beginning to sound quite monotonous—the same old point supported by the same faulty reasoning: “The ancients were narrow and ignorant. Therefore, Scripture, namely Genesis is narrow and ignorant, and therefore you can’t trust its accounts as historically accurate. Therefore, ‘Welcome to Evolution!’”
This does not represent sound exegesis, but a prime example of eisogesis—the imposition of alien assumptions upon the text of Scripture. On the contrary, all of the NT writers affirm the historicity of the Genesis accounts. For instance, Peter warns:
“But they [the “scoffers,” verse 3] deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (2 Peter 3:5-6)
If Peter had regarded these accounts as unhistorical, he would have had no basis to censure the “scoffers” for denying them. What exegetical grounds do we have for asserting otherwise? I pray that you might see the violence you are doing to Scripture! (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19)



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KW

posted September 18, 2009 at 11:17 am


Daniel,
Nobody’s saying the ancients were narrow and ignorant. Mistaken, yes. That hardly makes them ignorant. Undoubtedly we’re still mistaken in some of our science; does that make us narrow and ignorant? I hardly think so.
That 2 Peter verse you mention actually backs up what they’re saying. That is, the idea that they understood creation in the same way that all ANE peoples did. That God formed the world out of the waters of chaos. It certainly doesn’t back up the idea of creation Ex Nihilo. (Which I do accept, by the way.)



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Nancy Janisch

posted September 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm


Prof. Walton. Thank you for your book,I have enjoyed reading it. I am glad to find another voice writing that Genesis One simply isn’t about science. It is about the much more important question of who God is. Sometimes I suggest to people that they think of Gen.1 as Israel’s statement of faith- their belief in one creating, relational, loving God over against the prevailing polythiesist view of the people and nations around them.



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Daniel Mann

posted September 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm


KW,
You responded, “That 2 Peter verse you mention actually backs up what they’re saying. That is, the idea that they understood creation in the same way that all ANE peoples did. That God formed the world out of the waters of chaos. It certainly doesn’t back up the idea of creation Ex Nihilo.”
I think you misunderstood my intention in citing this verse. I wasn’t trying to prove that Peter was right, wrong, or even whether he was unduly influenced by “ANE peoples.” I was merely trying to demonstrate, by using this verse, that Peter regarded the Genesis accounts as historically accurate—-something that the rest of the NT writers have also affirmed.
By denying the historicity of the Genesis (1-11) accounts, BioLogos has pitted itself against the position taken by the Apostles (and Jesus). In doing so, it has declared itself as right and the Apostles wrong.



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Your Name

posted September 18, 2009 at 1:51 pm


Daniel,
Can you please tell me what physical evidence, if any, there is for a recent world-wide flood? You seem to keep forgetting that in your defense of 2+2=5, the answer is actually 4. That should be enough to illustrate the weakness of your hermeneutic.
Gordon



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Michael Thompson

posted September 19, 2009 at 12:41 am


I don’t think there is any evidence for a recent global flood. I am a bible believer though, I don’t know what to do with the flood account. What it a local flood? but then why did he need to build the boat? Was it just myth? but then why do the NT writers quote it like it really happened? Help!
What are the views on this here?
Cool site by the way! :)
MT



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Arv Edgeworth

posted September 19, 2009 at 9:42 am


In Exodus 20:11 the Bible says that in six days God created heaven (or space), the earth, the sea, and everything in all three. As far as our physical universe, that doesn’t leave out anything. Of course Hebrews 11:3 does indicate God spoke everything into existence from nothing.
In Genesis 1:1 when it says “In the beginning,” that has reference to time; when it says “heaven,” that has reference to space; when it says “earth,” that has reference to matter, because the earth wasn’t formed to be inhabited yet. In Isaiah 45:18, the Bible says God didn’t create the earth for no purpose, He formed it to be inhabited. If you go through the six days with the thought in mind that God is forming it to be inhabited it will make more sense. To create anything takes an enormous amout of energy, and God has an inexhaustible supply. The first verse of the Bible tells us where space, time, matter, and energy all came from.
God doesn’t dwell in this physical universe. The Genesis 1 account gives us the creation of inner space, and outer space. Those are the first two heavens in relation to the earth. The Bible says that God dwells in the third heaven, and that is not the physical universe. The sun, moon, stars, and planets were not created until the fourth day. On day one we had space, and one planet. Everything God created up until He created man, including the whole universe, was created for our benefit. He created all of this for us, and He created us just for Himself. If you give it enough time, eventually science might catch up with the Bible.



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KasW

posted September 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm


When the flood story speaks of water covering the whole “earth” it is important to note that “earth” means land, as it does throughout the rest of the Bible. Of course the writer is emphasizig the great extent of the flood and that God had to start over with the animals from the ark. So knowing that the waters covered all the land does not diminish the stress the author is putting on God’s regret for making humans and God’s desire to start over. But people should not use the flood story to explain fossils in the strata of the Grand Canyon.



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Your Name

posted September 19, 2009 at 7:50 pm


Hi Arv, interesting post
it may very true that God created the earth for being inhabited, but isn’t that question for the realm of philosophy and theology
you said: “To create anything takes an enormous amout of energy, and God has an inexhaustible supply. The first verse of the Bible tells us where space, time, matter, and energy all came from.”
Mabye so, but where in the bible does it say that?
Arv: “If you give it enough time, eventually science might catch up with the Bible.”
What science is in the bible that we need to “catch up with”?
thanks
MT



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Your Name

posted September 19, 2009 at 7:58 pm


Hi KasW
So you believe the flood was local then?
Why did noah have to save animals then? couldn’t they have just headed for higher ground? Mabye they were his domesticated animals?



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Beaglelady

posted September 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm


“I don’t think there is any evidence for a recent global flood. I am a bible believer though, I don’t know what to do with the flood account. What it a local flood? but then why did he need to build the boat? Was it just myth? but then why do the NT writers quote it like it really happened? Help!”

Hello Michael,
Welcome to the blog! I believe that the compelling story of Noah and the flood is an inspired teaching story, the inspired message being that we live in a moral universe where God judges the immoral but preserves the righteous. It may very well have roots in an actual local flood, but the that is of only secondary importance. After all, Jesus taught in parables.
Did you know that there are actually 2 flood stories, artfully merged into one?
Anyway, for more info on this and much more please see “Evolutionary Creation: a Christian approach to evolution” by Denis Lamoureux, who is a frequent contributor here.



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Michael Thompson

posted September 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm


ooops i forgot to fill in my name in the last too posts, no way to go back and correct things I guess?
MT



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Your Name

posted September 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm


Hi Beaglelady, thanks for the welcome…
you said
“Welcome to the blog! I believe that the compelling story of Noah and the flood is an inspired teaching story, the inspired message being that we live in a moral universe where God judges the immoral but preserves the righteous. It may very well have roots in an actual local flood, but the that is of only secondary importance. After all, Jesus taught in parables.”
MT—I have thought about this being the case, but the references to historical names and all bothers me some.
Did you know that there are actually 2 flood stories, artfully merged into one?
MT— No I did not know that, tell me more!
Anyway, for more info on this and much more please see “Evolutionary Creation: a Christian approach to evolution” by Denis Lamoureux, who is a frequent contributor here.
MT –Sounds interesting, I will check it out now, thanks for ther suggestion!



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Beaglelady

posted September 19, 2009 at 8:10 pm


Michael,
This blog apparently doesn’t allow people to edit their posts. It certainly would be nice if it did!



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Scott Jorgenson

posted September 20, 2009 at 1:55 am


Daniel, the point here is that the biblical witness reveals spiritual truths, not physical ones. It does not reveal or endorse matters of science and history, but conforms itself to the science and history of the place and time, and adapts them to its own spiritual ends. To the degree that contemporaneous scientific and historical understanding is accurate, so are the biblical allusions to such understandings; and likewise to the extent they are not physically accurate, so too with the Bible.
Now, if that is so in Genesis, it is not inconsistent to say it is no less so in the Apostles and Jesus himself. So yes, the author of 2 Peter apparently believes in the historicity of a global flood, but he is not revealing and teaching that as knowledge, but rather is using that tradition to draw-out a spiritual teaching about remaining steadfast. Jesus too sometimes draws spiritual points out of incidental and technically incorrect understandings (the mustard seed being the smallest of seeds, for example).
It seems that neither the Apostles nor Jesus were possessed of any more accurate science and history than their contemporaries. But far from being a failing, this allowed them common connection with the people so that they could teach of more important things.
I know that some Christians have a rather docetic understanding of Jesus in which, being God, he must have possessed accurate knowledge of science and history, but frankly I find this unbiblical. In the gospels Jesus is said to have learned and grown as a child, and as a man he is sometimes portrayed asking genuine and sincere questions during his ministry, as if he does not already know the answer.
Paul explains this in Philippians by saying God emptied himself in the incarnation, and the orthodox creedal confession has always been that Jesus, while being divine, was at the same time entirely human except in this: that he did not sin. Accepting mistaken ideas of science and history from one’s contemporaries is not sin; building upon them to teach spiritual truth in a manner thus accessible to all people is wisdom. And so these occasional references by Jesus and the Apostles to ancient scientific and historical traditions are not problems for someone who already finds Walton’s take on Genesis acceptable: that God would condescend to meet with humans on their level, even in matters scientific and historical.



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takanahana

posted September 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm


So all one needs do is say “God did it” and everything is straighten out?
A bit circular isn’t it?



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Amy

posted September 20, 2009 at 11:15 pm


MT,
I always found it interesting that at least two references to “all the world” in the New Testament have to be read in a local way. Remember in Luke 2:1, in the beginning of the story of the birth of Christ that “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (ESV)” Clearly, that was the known, inhabited world governed and taxed by Rome.
Also, in Romans 1:8, Paul is expressing his desire to go to Rome and he thanks “God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (ESV)” Paul is talking about the gospel spreading to the gentiles in the Roman world. The work of proclaiming faith to all the world has yet to be realized.
Everything in context…Did you ever wonder…Where did all that flood water go?



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Your Name

posted September 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm


Hi Amy
No, didn’t even think of having an issue with where the water went. it was the fossil record, and the fact that animals are different in all parts of the world, that make it hard to buy into the flood story I guess



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Daniel Mann

posted September 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm


Scott,
I’m deeply grieved that you’ve concluded that “the biblical witness reveals spiritual truths, not physical ones.” The reason for my grief is that your conclusion contradicts Scripture in many ways:
1. Scripture doesn’t explicitly teach this distinction.
2. Instead, Scripture demonstrates its profound interest in history. Not only is Scripture very clear that it is teaching history, it also draws lessons from these actual events. It reveals, through history, the grace of God towards the Patriarchs in the midst of theirs sins and backsliding. Had these events not taken place, we would have no evidence that God was truly gracious. Scripture describes how God redeemed Israel out of Egypt, and His miracles served as proof that God was truly redeeming them (Deut. 4:35-36). Had they not happened, Israel would have been very justified in their turning away from God.
3. Scripturally, we cannot separate the history of the Bible from the theology of the Bible. Had the Exodus never taken place, then Israel would have lacked a basis for their faith. Had the Flood never taken place, Peter’s argument that the Flood proved that God was willing and able to judge would have been proved erroneous. Had Jesus not historically died on Cross, we would have no forgiveness.
4. All of the subsequent writers of Scripture, including Jesus, regarded the Genesis accounts as historical. If they had been wrong about this, the Scripture they penned would have been wrong. Besides, the theological points that they were drawing from these events would have been wrong.
5. Philosophically and scientifically, we can’t maintain this spiritual-physical distinction. My spiritual well-being affects my physical well-being. The functioning of my mind depends on my brain chemistry.
Scott, if you want to believe in evolution, I will not argue with you. However, many of us are deeply troubled because, in your attempt to reconcile evolution to your faith, you compromise Scripture. BioLogos is even more culpable. Not only have they denigrated Scripture, they are also attempting to lead many down this same path (Romans 1:32).



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Scott Jorgenson

posted September 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm


Daniel, I didn’t mean that its not important whether any of the history recorded in the Bible happened or not. In fact, the general arc of later biblical history (from the Israelite kings down to the New Testament) is roughly accurate (some would deny that, but not me). What I meant was that the historiography reflected in the Bible is according to the standards of the day, and those standards (to varying degrees) allow for an admixture of what we would call actual history as well as what we would not. I’m aware of no evidence that the historiography in the Bible ever markedly departs from contemporary standards. So the revelation is not in the “quality” of the historiography, but in what the events thus related mean about God; which certainly does not mean that whether any of those events happened is irrelevant.
So yes, the historicity of the crucifixion and resurrection are important to an integral faith because so much of the New Testament is insistent about it; and the historicity of some kind of Exodus event is important as so much of the Bible rests on that example of God’s deliverance; but those events are remembered and retold in the Bible using the historiography of the day. And the historiography of the day, when telling of primeval events such as those related in early Genesis, was much more mythic than historical. The God who can teach through parables would not seem to me to care about that, though. (Your assertion that theological points drawn from ahistorical stories would necessarily be wrong, is flatly false in the face of that.)
You know, there is much you wrote in your response to me that I would agree with. Scripture is very concerned with history, as the events of history reveal God moving among the people. Where we differ is in the nature of the historiography, whether it was historically accurate to a degree foreign to the culture, or accommodated to it like Jesus accommodated himself to the culture among which he lived. The latter is where the evidence leads much more than the former, and evolution is only one small part of that; its also archaeology, anthropology, literary criticism, physics, geology, astronomy, ANE history, and many other fields — all of which come into conflict with a strictly literal interpretation of biblical science and history.
Frankly, your view constructs an amazingly brittle edifice which is everywhere in tension with post-enlightenment scholarship in so many fields, and which fears even the slightest crack. Your view necessitates fighting a continual and futile rear-guard action against the entire academy and state of learning since the 1700′s on so many fronts. The view put forth by Walton and the other writers here, in contrast, is so much more resilient and organic – it rolls with the punches – that there is just no comparison, in my opinion.
One thing our discussion does illustrate, though, is that it is impossible to simply plug evolution acceptance (or geology acceptance, or archaeology acceptance, or acceptance of any one of those many fields I mentioned) into an otherwise-fundamentalist understanding of scripture. Evolution (and all of those other fields) require shifting how we view scripture in directions which are flatly incompatible with strictly fundamentalist biblical literalism. Biologos needs to be transparent about this, head on.
As for Biologos supposedly “leading people down this path”, that’s certainly the wrong way to see it. The viewpoint espoused by Biologos (and other Christian approaches compatible with modern science and scholarship) saves some people (such as myself) as much as it turns off others (such as yourself). I thank God for the work of bright Christian thinkers who have figured out how to make these fields work together; because their work has kept me in the faith. So even as some find these claims dangerous and and even threatening or offensive or grievous to their faith, others find them beneficial. Consequently, Romans 14 would seem to apply here.



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patrick wilbanks

posted September 23, 2009 at 9:51 am


to daniel mann and thompson and whoever else..you are letting your minds either overthink or underthink. dont let your minds get in the way.. the holy spirit is the one who gives revelation to questions you might have.. at the same time some things are irrelevant to your salvation.. i believe that science only proves what the bible has been saying for years.. in the beginning was nothing but darkenss then came light.. God spoke it into existence.. the Bible is to show you the author and finisher of our faith. we was humans can try to take His subjects to another level but in th eend wont get anywhere. Please stop disputing about beliefs and separating yourselves and come together in unity to understand the Maker as God and Father.



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K. R. Fountain,PhD,Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, Truman St. Un.

posted September 23, 2009 at 11:21 am


Interested readers might want to read Tipler’s “The Physics of Christianity” and Polkinghorne,s. “Quantum Theory and Theology” to see the development of a possible new hermeneutic among quantum physicists.
Keep in mind the notion that the sceince of the Bible is spare, but pregnant.



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Daniel Mann

posted September 23, 2009 at 11:59 am


Scott,
Thanks for your thoughtful, irenic, and transparent response. I’m glad to hear that your solution isn’t quite as radical as that of others, and that you still retain respect for the historical Biblical narratives.
While one part of me rejoices that you have found a way to reconcile your faith with modernity, another part of me grieves. As someone who has struggled painfully with my faith, I certainly want to be compassionate with your own struggles to find a place of harmony and peace. However, when we achieve this reconciliation by diminishing Scripture, we’ve chosen the wrong solution (and there are others!). When we use the prevailing scientific consensus to judge and correct Scripture, we have erroneously concluded that this consensus is more trustworthy and reliable than Scripture. Instead, Scripture directs us to take the opposite tact (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
I am not arguing that we should be blind to the world of scholarship around us. Indeed, various scholarly contributions have assisted us in both interpreting and translating Scripture. However, it is entirely a different matter to allow scholarship to rise up above Scripture to correct, sensor, replace, or to add to it (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19). In such case, our true authority and faith has become the scientific consensus and not God’s Word.
You raise a critical issue when you claim, “Frankly, your view constructs an amazingly brittle edifice which is everywhere in tension with post-enlightenment scholarship in so many fields, and which fears even the slightest crack. Your view necessitates fighting a continual and futile rear-guard action against the entire academy…”
You make some good observations. Since the traditional Christian faith shouldn’t retire under a bushel basket, it does require that we “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). This does mean that there will be painful conflict and that we will have to endure harsh denunciations by those who have found other ways.
You also correctly point out that this represents “an amazingly brittle edifice.” However, the important question is whether or not this brittle edifice is something Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have erected or did we find this very edifice already standing in Scripture! Another way to put it is, “How accommodating or how rigid should we be?”
The Bible is filled with admonitions to neither turn to the left or to the right, but to abide exclusively in God’s Word (John 14:21-24; 15:7-10). Regarding his conflict with the circumcision party, Paul boasted that, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (Galatians 2:5). The circumcision party hadn’t been denying Christ, they were simply, quite understandably, adding an amendment—that the Gentiles had to first become Jews. Nevertheless, Paul declared, “Let them be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9)—not very accommodating!
This “brittleness” wasn’t simply reserved for particular heresies. It was a general principle that the Apostolic teachings had to be pre-eminent:
“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing…” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).
You are not alone in your desire to accommodate. I had come from a radical background and was appalled by Paul’s teaching that we were bound to obey all the authorities (Romans 13), including the police. I had been convinced that Cops were “pigs” and should be treated accordingly. Fortunately for me, there wasn’t an articulate and educated Christian sub-culture that would have enabled me to resolve this issue the way I had wanted.
We are surrounded by pressures to accommodate. The claims of religious pluralism exercise great appeal and apparent reasonableness: “There are good people found in many different faiths. It’s both arrogant and unchristian to claim that only you have the truth and salvation, and that everyone else is damned.” If we are willing to accommodate to the prevailing scientific consensus, why not also to this reasonable claim?
Then there are the arguments for feminism and homo-sexism, which sound remarkably like those of BioLogos—“Paul was a product of his errant culture, and so we shouldn’t regard his teachings, in these areas, as authoritative.” This reasoning goes something like this: “If the writers of Scripture had errant ideas, then we should expect that these ideas have manifested themselves in Scripture. We therefore have to factor out this errant influence.”
However, this thinking forgets an essential element—that Scripture is also God’s Word. This means that our God has already done the factoring out and has given us a Bible that is totally God-breathed, enabling us to be “complete and thoroughly equipped unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). This was the understanding of all the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12).
If a rigid, brittle adherence to God’s Word is what is called for, then this is our responsibility. If instead we pick-and-choose those teachings which suit us, we aren’t really trusting God, but instead in our own ability to construct a viable faith.



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K. R. Fountain,PhD,Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, Truman St. Un.

posted September 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm


The fact that there are many eminent scientists, such a Tipler or Polkinghorne, who have been driven to Christ by their research, or have held their faiths through an eminent, productive lifetime, indicates that there really is no conflict between the Bible and science. If there were we might expect to find no scientists of any noteworthiness being a Chrisian.
It would be best if we carefully examine our hermeneutic (how we interprete what we think we know)before we act as if our way of looking at things is the only truth. Recall Peter’s admonition to apologetics…But do this with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3:15(NIV)



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Daniel Mann

posted September 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm


Patrick,
I too grieve the conflict, the hurt feelings and the divisions. I know that our Lord desires unity among believers, and so this must also be my priority. In view of this, there are many differences among us that we should be willing to tolerate (Romans 14:1-5).
However, the Bible also talks about a unity based upon the truth of the Gospel. This means that there are differences of opinion and activity that are too important to overlook. Jesus castigated the religious leadership of His day. Seldom do we see Him accommodating to their ideas in order to make peace. Even within the church, there is a place for confrontation and disputation. Paul specified that one of the duties of the elder was to refute those who opposed sound teaching (Titus 1:7-11). He even publicly confronted Peter about his sin (Galatians 2).
In fact, when we examine the letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2-3), we find that some of them are commended for their lack of tolerance for certain teachings. Relationships require admonishments, although they are a painful part of life. Church discipline and putting the unrepentant out of church is also painful, but in view of the hope of bringing repentance, it is understood as loving.



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Charlie

posted September 24, 2009 at 11:51 am


Just wondering what some of your opinions are: Biologos says “We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation.” Can any of you please elaborate how faith can lead to truth? Isn’t faith believing something that is not based on any evidence? How can one define what is true without evidence? Many people have very different beliefs not based on evidence and they cannot all be right because so many contradict each other. This is why evidence supporting a theory is all we have as human beings to guide us to the truth. I agree there is much we don’t know and I understand many (including Biologos) choose certain beliefs to explain what we don’t know, but how can they say that this explanation is the truth?



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K. R. Fountain,PhD,Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, Truman St. Un.

posted September 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm


To Charlie:
It is really faith alone that even gives us an opinion about truth. For example science for a very long time had faith in the belief that operations used by them to examine objects (i.e., to meassure Cartesian coordinates to determine position) were deterministic.
The shock to physicists of the early 20th century was the fact that on an atomic level they were not. This shock is very apparent in Albert Einstein. He could never accept Heisenberg, and Bohr’s uncertsainty principle. Actually it is Heisenberg’s Principle of Indeterminancy. Bohr insisted on an uncertainty principle nomeclature because Einstein would never accept indeterminancy.
The cenral mystery of quantum theory is the two-slit experiment, wherein the electron exhibits a dual parcle-wave characte..
Richard Feynman used to begin his classes on quantum theory with this fact, and stated “We can tell you how this works. But we can’t explain to you how this works.” This mystery remains today. We do well to realize that some mystery will remain, even in such fundamental science as physics. To have faith in this case is to accept what we can and continue to explore what we don’t uinderstand.



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Charlie

posted September 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm


The fact that we cannot now accurately determine a microscopic particle’s position and momentum at the same time does not suggest we have faith in believing a specific aspect of science. It more or less just shows us where we stand as humans intellectually. It’s just a problem that has yet to be solved (or it’s unsolvable, but who knows?). What is your definition of truth? I see truth as fact and I understand fact to be a theory with enough supporting evidence that the contrary is almost infinitely improbable. Ex: When we see a dog, we confidently say it is a fact that what we are looking at is a dog, even though it is just our receptors in our eye transferring different light wavelengths which gets turned into a chemical signal. It is possible that this data could be processed as a fish however; the probability of this happening is so low we consider it to be false. Like the uncertainty principle, science has many unanswered questions and we don’t claim we know the truth about them. We simply say we don’t know. What is your definition of faith and how can truth come from it?



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K. R. Fountain,PhD,Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, Truman St. Un.

posted September 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm


You missed my point entirely. Tell me something about yourself and maybe I can get at the probledm in a different way.



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Charlie

posted September 25, 2009 at 10:35 am


I am a biochemist so physics isn’t my specialty. You state “It is really faith alone that even gives us an opinion about truth.”
How does evidence supporting a theory NOT teach us the truth? Can you give me an example of where science believes in something with no evidence to support it (they must have faith in believing it)? I guess I would need to know your definitions of faith and truth.



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KenFountain

posted September 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm


Hi Charlie,
Consider a case from the history of science–Galileo and falling bodies. The dispute between himself and Church sanctioned Aristotelian physics was as important as
his support of Copernican astronomy. Aristotelian physics declared that heavier objects fell faster than lighter objects. Their quantitative model was based on the relative masses. Thus a mass of 4 lb would reach the ground from a standard height 4 times faster than a 1lb object.
When tested (whether from the Leaning Tower of Pisa or not) the heavier object actually did reach the ground first, by a distance of about two fingers width. Galileo’s hypothesis was refuted in the eyes of the Church. Galileo’s reply was, “Surely my model is better than Aristotle because you cannot explain a cable-length’s difference between what I predict and what Aristotle says.” His faith in this case in his model, in the face of contrary fact. led him to experiment with inclined planes and rolling balls. It was soon apparent that friction was important and that some how the heavier object was more able to displace the air in front of it.
This is an excellent example my point that faith alone allows us an opinion about truth. Another way of getting at it is that the operations Galileo used were thought to faithfully give general results.
KRF



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Charlie

posted September 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm


Galileo’s hypothesis was not based on faith. It was backed up with data. Because an object with a mass 4X bigger did not reach the bottom 4X faster, he now had data that disagreed with Aristotelian physics. Also, dropping objects from the leaning tower, as Galileo scientifically determined, was not the most accurate way to determine the answer (explaining why they didn’t land exactly at the same time). He used ramps to create a more accurate experiment with respect to time. It was not faith that led to the ramp experiment, it was his pursuit for accuracy and the optimization of his experiment. Now after looking at his results, if someone still believed in Aristotelian physics, they would base their belief on faith alone (with no scientific evidence supporting it).



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Ken Fountain

posted September 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm


Did you forget the context? Torquemada model for Inquisition was still in use. If you read Galileo’s papers you’ll find he had plenty of faith. It’s still a question whether the Leaning Tower was actually used. I think you are much too hasty in dismissing faith in scientific research. Certainly intuition, which is akin to faith plays a major role in research.
BTW All of his students showed a great deal of faith, particularly Torecelli.



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Charlie

posted September 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm


I know Galileo was religious, however that doesn’t explain how faith led to truth in his experiment. Tell me what he had faith in (his theory?) and how it led to truth (a better understanding of gravity and friction). If it is faith in his theory, then you will need to prove to me that his theory was not based on any scientific evidence.



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Ken Fountain

posted September 25, 2009 at 5:28 pm


I think we need to talk about words before I do any of that. I do have a question or two for you. Are you capable of embracing paradox? Have you math skills? Do you understand operational theory? (Or in philosophy Operational Positivism?)
Ken F.



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Charlie

posted September 25, 2009 at 10:28 pm


Before getting too of the subject, how about we just get everyone’s definitions of faith and truth. That might make this discussion easier.



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Ken Fountain

posted September 26, 2009 at 9:09 am


As you well know definitions are highly language dependent. It seems in what you’ve written you will have a problem with what anybody defines. No lack of respect meant, but I’m a really old guy, and having quite limited energy, would like to establish some common ground to see if any discussion between us could possibly bear any fruit.
My background includes training in theology at Wheaton College, and quantum theory at Un. of Illinois and SUNY at Buffalo. I’m a physical organic chemist who is still active in research (alpha-effects in SN2 reactions). I think quite physically, and with a strong mathematicaal component.
What I have asked from you is not at all off the subject, but is directed toward establishing some basis for discussion between us.
Your statements seem to be qjite consistent with the more extreme form of Operational Positivism, which came to be called Logical Positivism (Carnap and following thinkers.)This has been largely displaced in, at least the physical sciences by people like Karl Popper(a severe critic of Logical Positivism) who objected to the ideas of the verification principle on which Logical Positivism was based. The principle he defined was of falsification. A result cannot be accepted as valid unless it is performed by a process wherein the outcome could, at least in principle be shown experimentally to be false. Verifications can be accepted only if they are obtained by risky experiments wherein the entire theory stands or falls on the basis of the outcome.
BTW, there is much more to quantum theory than what you’ve written.
So how about it? Can we start slow and establish a basis for discussion or not?



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Charlie

posted September 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm


My stance is that if there are results that contradict a certain belief, one must be basing that belief solely on faith. If someone were to believe something and they claim it is faith that is the reason for the belief, one must assure no scientific evidence plays a role in their belief. So back to the original question with respect to how faith can lead to truth, I feel one must assure science is not involved in creating their belief so that, with this criteria, one would be searching for truth through faith alone. With this said, how can faith lead to truth?



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Ken Fountain

posted September 26, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Are you aware of Christ’s appeal to evidence?
KRF



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Ken Fountain

posted September 27, 2009 at 9:36 am


Thank you for your definitions. I don’t own any definitions of faith, nor do I own any definitions of truth. Your statements seem to be very postmodern. I’ve been a bit ill. (Nothing very serious, but a bit debilitating) so I’ve been delayed a while.
I’m back at it, and taking great pains to make sure that I can explain a faith that is generally understood, and acceptable to anybody who sees it. (Quite scientific and all that!) Likewise for truth. Thank you for the intellectual stimulation your statements provide. I’ll be back.



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Ken Fountain

posted September 28, 2009 at 10:00 am


To Charlie,
Thank you for your definitions. I don’t own any definitions of faith, nor do I own any definitions of truth. Your statements seem to be very postmodern. I’ve been a bit ill. (Nothing very serious, but a bit debilitating) so I’ve been delayed a while.
I’m back at it, and taking great pains to make sure that I can explain a faith that is generally understood, and acceptable to anybody who sees it. (Quite scientific and all that!) Likewise for truth. Thank you for the intellectual stimulation your statements provide. I’ll be back.
In order to provide a definition of faith that would be general, and understood by anyone who saw it I’ve undertaken an analysis that involved word study, consultation with people who know more than I do, particularly in the area of Biblical faith as expressed in the original Biblical contexts and languages. It turns out that faith has many meanings and is always context-sensitive.
A good discussion model is provided by C.S.Lewis treatment in his book “The Four Loves.” The model of faith I discuss may be incomplete, and may be inadequate in asome discussions, but I think it is at least a cogent starting point, which has an advantage in that no one can make a claim to specialized ownership ( as in post-modern thought) , and provides wide levels of understanding.
The simplest of the four loves is Storge- This is not discriminating love. It is as a child would love a toy, or an adult love an old pair of shoes.
A simple faith exists, like a first grader trusting a crossing guard to get them across a busy street on the way to school. The demand on the one trusting this faith (trust and faith are inextricably linked) is that she allows the guard to make the decision of when she can cross the street safely. A consequence of not trusting might be disaster.
A second level of faith goes with the philia (love between brothers and friends) we experience in having friends. We rely on friends and friendship bonds. This kind of faith may or may not have religious content. For example, I have a Muslim friend to whom I have loaned money in an emergency.
A third level of faith exists between lovers, particularly married lovers. This corresponds to its counter point in love, Eros. The point of this faith is that Eros is committed, and faith is presented in the wedding vows as promises. Faithfulness is defined here as keeping the vows.
A fourth level of faith is salvivic. If you are at a summer camp as a young boy, and are swimming in the lake and you begin suffering cramps, you realize you are in deep trouble. Screaming and flailing you sink as you swallow water. Unable to reach the surface you begin trying to breathe the water, and realize you are going to drown. Just as you begin to lose consciousness you become aware of a strong arm around your chest, and your face is thrust into clean sweet air. You cough violently and still struggle. Vomiting up water you at last get a breath. Still struggling, you hear a strong voice, “Don’t struggle, I’ll get you there!” Faith consists here of trusting the voice.
Moments later you are weak and shivering, but wrapped in a blanket before a fire on the beach. You realize you have an addition to your name “Rescued”
If you haven’t had this experience personally I suggest you read about it. A good starting point is the story of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis.
It is this salvivic faith that the Bible is most interested in.
Truth is another story, and I’ll deal with it a bit later.
Ken F.



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Charles Tysoe

posted September 28, 2009 at 2:33 pm


Professor Walton,
With respect, we do have to chose when it comes to the speculative doctrines of evolution. The god you say ..”must be considered to have made..” is not the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ.
This so-called “science” is more dangerous than useful. Moreover professor, your accomodationist principles differ in no respect at all from those of the 19th century Anglican Clergy, gentleman of leisure with time and minimal spiritual duties, free to wander the countryside, write learned papers on algebra and gravel distribution and discourse on “modern”, enlightened views of Genesis and the doctrines of Moses.
Since you have added nothing to the theology here, and simply echoed the views of a multitude of your contemporaries, perhaps you could consider a doctorate in one of the hard sciences?
Yours Truly,
C. Tysoe



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Ken Fountain

posted September 28, 2009 at 4:29 pm


To Charles Tysoe:
Wow! You must be a man of tremendous insight! You’ve told us all about everything Dr.Walton’s belief system by reading only the 947 words he used in one article. I’m a Wheaton College Grad, ‘59 , who got a PhD from Un. Of Illinois in organic chemistry. I thought this was a very hard science! Since then I’ve done research with undergraduates for over 45 years, published papers in front line journals, and am still active doing quantum chemistry and publishing in front line journals. I certainly could not have seen as much as you did in Dr. Warren’s essay.
I’ve made several posting in this forum from the standpoint of a “hard scientist.” Would you please critic what I’ve said? Please tell me about myself. If you look up my name, K. R. Fountain, in some sourcing website, such as SciFinder you’ll be able to see everything I’ve published, including what I published in education. I’d really like to know what you might think of me.



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Charlie

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm


To Ken Fountain:
I’m just trying to breakdown your 4 definitions of faith. Your first seems to simply be defining faith as trust. Your second is kinda the same only you know the individual you’re trusting. The third: is it defining faith as commitment or is it trust in the one you love? I don’t really see how you’re defining it in the fourth. Are you defining it as an improbable event occuring (being saved in a difficult situation) or are you defining it as the intent or power to save someone? If your definition is trust, how does trust in someone lead to truth? Also, if the fourth is either of those two definitions I gave you, how does that lead to truth? When you define faith as a belief in something for which there is no proof, it cannot lead to truth.



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Ken Fountain

posted September 29, 2009 at 6:55 pm


To Charlie.
Whoa Charlie! These aren’t my definitions of faith. I don’t own them. The way I presented them was clearly stated to be a model for discussion. Second, they are quite common (though probably not exclusively so) among people of faith. I’ll defend them.
Recall we are exploring whether we can have a cogent discussion or not. I’ve presented what I think, and you claim ownership of faith definition. It’s your turn to explain how you own it, and what you mean by it. As I’ve noted, you write like a postmodern thinker. I’d like to know that before we continue.
Ken F.



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Charlie

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:51 am


My original question when we started this was how does faith lead to truth. For any of these definitions, or any others you can think of, how can it lead to truth? I’m not trying to be confrontational, I’m sorry if it came off that way, I’m just interested in the logic behind that statement since I don’t agree with it.



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Ken Fountain

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm


To Charlie
I’ve been confronted by real experts at the art. I don’t thing you’re confrontational at all. Like most profs. I’m interested in how peoples’ minds work. Many of my colleagues take a post-modern viewpoint without even knowing it. They write and talk as you do, hence the wonder at what you are saying.
Ken F.



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Charlie

posted September 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm


So how do you think faith can lead to truth?



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Ken Fountain

posted September 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm


To Charlie,
If you can say you disagree with my enumeration of what faith consists of you probably have a thought or two of your own. How about sharing it with me? Don’t worry about the truth thing just now. There are several examples from the history of science that illustrate the process.
Truth itself can be a quite slippery proposition. Post moderns think there is no real truth, but that it is conditioned by social factors. I think they are quite wrong about that. “All truth is relative.” is a mantra stemming from this stream of thought also.
Ken F.



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Charlie

posted October 1, 2009 at 10:40 am


I think philosophically it is impossible to assure truth, however because of this we rely on evidence supporting a theory. The more evidence there is that supports a theory, the more probable that theory is the truth. It is widely accepted that our genetic makeup is DNA. This is because we have overwhelming evidence supporting that statement. All of this evidence is indirect (one cannot see DNA with their own eyes), but the fact that an abundant amount of evidence supports it, makes it true in the eyes of humanity. I see it as kind of a gradient where there are things we consider true (we have enough evidence), things that are possibly true (there is evidence supporting it but not a sufficient amount), things that are probably false (evidence countering the statement but not a sufficient amount), and things we consider false (an abundant amount of information refutes it). Therefore, to determine the truth, one must determine the evidence that supports or rejects a theory. How else could one find the truth? I cannot see how faith, whatever definition you give it, leads to truth. In a common definition of faith (belief that is not based on proof), it is the exact opposite strategy to finding truth. If your definition is trust (in a person or God), it doesn’t make sense to me with respect to how it could lead to truth.



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Ken Fountain

posted October 1, 2009 at 11:36 am


Hi Chralie,
You’re getting warm! Now to understand the source of my problem with you, why don’t you re-read what I said and look at what you’ve said I said up till now. We mat get somewhere after all.
Ken F.



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Charlie

posted October 1, 2009 at 4:03 pm


you say “If you can say you disagree with my enumeration of what faith consists of” but I dont even know what you definition of faith is. Is it trust? Belief without evidence? Both? I would like to know what definition of faith can make faith lead to truth? (Pick any definition to make that statement work)



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Your Name

posted October 9, 2009 at 1:04 pm


It seems you folks are getting a bit logged down. Maybe I can help, maybe not. I think you are making it harder than it needs to be. Faith is just believing in, or trusting in, something or someone. Everyone, including scientists operate by faith to a certain degree. I would tend to agree with what Charlie seems to be saying, that faith does not necessarily lead to truth.
I will give an example. Creationists usually start out with the assumption that the Bible is true. Scientific naturalists start out with the assumption that the Bible is false. Starting with different assumptions almost always lead to different conclusions. If one’s assumptions happen to be true, that might lead to more truth.
Reality and truth are often separate from what we believe. Our faith is only as good as that which sustains our faith. Many scientific naturalists (which is a philosophical worldview) view everything in life by the filter of their philosophical worldview. They will then view their interpretations as proof that their worldview is correct.
If one’s views seem to be in alignment with a particular view once held in the past, we should not assume we automatically understand their viewpoint and put a label on it, not completely understanding how they arrived at their particular view. By the way, if you have not done so, I would recommend reading the book about Science’s Blind Spot, by Cornieles Hunter.



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Arv Edgeworth

posted October 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm


When I refreshed the page I didn’t retype my name in for the last comment.



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Ken Fountain

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:29 am


To Your name
I’m glad you entered the conversation! My probing of Charlie’s statements was to determine just what he meant by faith and truth. You seem to have a pretty solid grip on what science has to do with faith. In fact my initial statement about faith alone
“It is really faith alone that even gives us an opinion about truth.” reflects the initial; state of a scientist beginning a research or at the beginning of his research career. (Been there, done that, and still do it.) The equation is faith leads to opinion about truth Of course faith rests on evidence! Also on experience. Also on the experience of trusting. Faith is quite complex and responds to complex circumstances we experience. It is never isolated from data. Truth is also complex, whether we are doing science or loving someone other than ourselves. Truth is conditional, but not arbitrary. It can be absolute, or incomplete. Scientifically most established truths are held as (at least potentially) incomplete.
A very concrete example comes from my own research on the so-called alpha-effect. (This is an enhanced reactivity observed in the ’60s.) Most chemists when I started the work publicly doubted that there even was such an effect. My faith in the efficacy of operational philosophy led to an opinion that most of the doubters were not basing their doubt on operations. This opinion about truth has led to publications on the subject wherein my undergraduate students and I demonstrated operationally that not only did it exist, but it responded to structures in the molecules involved.
Without faith and an opinion about the truth I never would have undertaken the work. Few now completely doubt its existence, especially since it has been shown in high level quantum chemistry calculations to occur in the gas phase.
The complexity of faith and truth are thus illustrated in this single scientific research. Post-modern colleagues still confront me with the statement “Well, you just made a lucky guess.”



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charlie

posted October 23, 2009 at 11:05 am


To Your name,
You stated “Creationists usually start out with the assumption that the Bible is true. Scientific naturalists start out with the assumption that the Bible is false.” I don’t really know what a scientific naturalist is but I don’t what this getting confused with science. Scientists cannot assum when determining truth. Science defines truth only when a sufficient amount of evidence supports a theory.
To Ken,
You say “Of course faith rests on evidence! Also on experience.” If a belief is based off of evidence, how can you claim it is faith and not science with respect to that belief. Is is something that does not have a sufficient amount of evidence (there is some evidence supporting a hypothesis but it is not enough)?



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Charlie

posted October 23, 2009 at 11:05 am


To Your name,
You stated “Creationists usually start out with the assumption that the Bible is true. Scientific naturalists start out with the assumption that the Bible is false.” I don’t really know what a scientific naturalist is but I don’t what this getting confused with science. Scientists cannot assum when determining truth. Science defines truth only when a sufficient amount of evidence supports a theory.
To Ken,
You say “Of course faith rests on evidence! Also on experience.” If a belief is based off of evidence, how can you claim it is faith and not science with respect to that belief. Is is something that does not have a sufficient amount of evidence (there is some evidence supporting a hypothesis but it is not enough)?



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Ken Fountain

posted October 26, 2009 at 11:23 am


To Charlie
Did you actually read everything I said? Did you actually see anything I said? Have you any idea what I meant by faith in operations? What does operation mean to you in science? You write as though you believe only in what a postmodern would call apodictic truth. You can look up this word on the web to ascertain its connection with postmodern thinking. Please do this so we can continue our discussion at least understanding what I’ve been getting at. If you do this I could provide many examples of what I mean, both from my own (continuing) scientific career and from the history of science.
Ken F



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