If you have a lively interest in the intersection of the Christian faith and the natural sciences, you should, if you have not already, familiarize yourself with the ministry Reasons to Believe. Founded by astrophysicist Hugh Ross in 1986, the ministry aims to fulfil a part of the Great Commission by demonstrating the harmony between the book of scripture and the book of nature. The scholars at RTB have produced a solid body of research, scholarly papers and books in their fields, and the ministry itself regularly produces video presentations on new discoveries and their implications for the field of Christian apologetics. One such video came to my attention recently for an unexpected reason.
The presenter is astrophysicist Sarah Salviander, whose testimony you can read on her page. The point she made that got my attention comes at about the 55:00 mark of her presentation to the University of Texas (Austin) Chapter of RTB, uploaded to YouTube on July 7th:
Do watch or listen to the whole presentation, but the key point she makes in those two minutes or so is that Christians in particular must not wage rhetorical wars against each other over questions about the interaction between the Book of Nature and the Books of Scripture, particularly in the area of origins of the universe and origins of life. Loosely stated, there are three main camps among Christians (as well as Jews and Muslims to some degree): The young-Earth /young-universe creationist camp (YEC), the theistic evolution camp (TE), the old-earth creationist (OEC) camp and the intelligent design (ID) camp. And does the vitriol ever fly between these groups at times. It’s not that there is no reasoned and polite dialogue between advocates of ID and TE or believers who adhere to OEC or TE accounts of origins or even or between both of those groups and representatives of a denominiation generally known as YEC. Yet, over time, I have seen that the most intense conflict is (perhaps unsurprisingly) between the young-Earth creationists and…anyone else.
I wish I were kidding. For that matter, I wish Dr. Salviander had been kidding when she noted that the most painful attacks on her faith when she began speaking publicly as an apologist came not from the Devouts of the First Church of Richard Dawkins, but from fellow Christians who take belief in a literal six-day creation as the indispensable foundation of any biblical faith. It isn’t. At all. Ask St. Augustine about that one. But this fact has not and does not keep some YECs from appointing themselves the Heresy Police Special TEOECID Division. And Dr. Salviander is quite right in pointing out that this conflict between believers is a true hindrance to our witness to the unbelieving world around us. Instead of attacking each other for holding different views of the relation between the Book of Nature and the Books of Scripture, we ought instead affirm the essential, shared elements of our faith, best embodied in the Nicean Creed, and let debatable matters (like how God created the cosmos, not that He did) remain open to research, debate and discussion.
Later I will post an update about our ministry and plans for the next weeks. Hint: We’re visiting the U.S. in August. Details available by request only.
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