Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Language of God

A few weeks ago at my local Chapters store I picked up a copy of "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," by Francis S. Collins. The book is very interesting and easy to read, which is an accomplishment for the author who is the head of the Human Genome Project and one of the world's leading scientists. I found his journey from atheism to faith fascinating and have no doubt that he loves God and is sincerely trying to bring the worlds of scripture and science together. His testimony of how the Lord used C.S.Lewis's "Mere Christianity" in his life, and particularly Lewis's "moral argument" for the existence of God, is great reading and shows once again that God has stamped his image on the human heart.

However, in my opinion, his attempt to reconcile science and the Bible was disappointing. Everyone who has thought deeply about the relationship between the science and the Christian faith and has tried to figure out exactly what is going on in the opening chapters of the Bible has come away with many more questions than answers. I was hoping that Dr. Collins would be able to shed some light on these issues. But instead, he tries to resurrect "theistic evolution" under the new name of "biologos" as the best explanation for the universe. In curious way, and with a faith that left me shaking my head in disbelief on more than one occasion, he sees God's hand in the evolutionary process even though there are still enormous plausibility gaps he must jump and a wasteful excess that he must explain as he tries to convince the reader that God is somehow working through this clumsy process to bring about the amazing complexity we see around us today.

Bible students have pondered the first few chapters of Genesis for many years and most are convinced that they tell us about the creation of the world in non-scientific way that we can understand. Much more could have been said but God has told us what we need to know to know him and live for his honor and glory. The Bible after all is about knowing God and never presents itself to us as a scientific textbook.

But that being said, Dr. Collins well meaning attempt to fit evolution into the "six days of Genesis" makes nonsense out of the passage and out of later biblical injunctions to imitate God's activity, as for instance, in the keeping of the weekly Sabbath. Furthermore, and most telling, he did not once comment on the relationship between the "first man Adam" and the "last man Christ" as set out by Paul in Romans 5:12-21 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. If human beings evolved from great apes, as Collins suggests, the representative headship of Adam is destroyed and Paul is sadly mistaken when he tells the Athenian philosophers that "from one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands" (Acts 17:26). The bottom line is that theologically "theistic evolution" or "biologos" creates more problems than it solves!

On the positive side, Collins does a good job of reminding Christians of the danger of tying their interpretation of the Bible to current scientific knowledge. He shows that science is constantly revising its understanding of the universe and if we follow science too closely and read the Bible accordingly when science modifies its views, or there is a paradigm shift, the Bible may be unnecessarily criticized for saying something it does not.

In my mind the final word should go to the author of Hebrews: "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" (11:23). If we keep this in mind as we go about our exploration of the universe and that place of human beings in it, we will not go far wrong. Without a doubt Dr. Collins is a brilliant scientist, but this debate is far from over, and the relationship between scripture and science is one that all Christians need to continue to explore.

No comments: