Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Has Reason found a place to die?

I am constantly amazed at the positions some Christians make when it comes to science and religion.
For example here is another quote from J. David Newman over on Adventist Today:

I see that discussing uniformitarianism in any depth seems to "fiighten" many of you.  Maybe it is because if we do challenge that concept a lot of things could change.  But let me switch points a litte.  Grossmont College in California has a powerpoint presentation call The Assumptions of Science.  In Four panels they listed the assumptions.  Here are just a few of them.
The world is real.
The real world is knowable and comprehensible.
There are laws that govern the real world.
Those laws are knowable and comprehensible.
Those laws don't [radically] change according to place or time, since the early stages of the big bang.
Nature is understandable.
The rules of logic are valid.
Language is adequate to describe the natural realm
Human senses are reliable.
Mathematical rules are descriptive of the physical world.

However it was panel 5 that caught my attention.
Assumptions are accepted without proof.
They form the basis of all scientific thinking.

This is what I have been trying to say that whether we use the Bible or Science we first have to agree on our assumptions.  And scientific assumptions are accepted by faith not by proof.  And the way we come to those assumptions determines which ones we will accept.   Thus the atheist will come to the subject with a different set of assumptions from what the Christian will have.

Which means we should be open to question the assumptions.
I looked at the powerpoint presentation and it is pretty accurate. However Newman did not note the footnote at the bottom of the page which reads:
Just to make the point as clear as possible, these assumptions of science, like all such assumptions cannot be demonstrated to be correct as #5 correctly states.
In fact the presentation also addresses the supernatural in slide #8
Limitations of Science
Science can't help us with questions about the supernatural.  The prefix "super" means "above."  So supernatural means "above (or beyond) the natural."  The toolbox of a scientist contains only the natural laws of the universe; supernatural questions are outside their reach.
So notice what those many assumptions are. The world is do you prove that, perhaps it is just a part of some dream inside some creatures head? The rules of logic are do you prove that maybe what we think is logical is simply based upon are biological inheritance and we actually have no choice in what we choose? These are the assumptions that the power point slide is addressing, the logical assumptions of life. We can provide all kinds of evidence for most of the things on that list but proof is much more difficult because proof has to be able to defeat any other possible objections to the theory. So science accepts the logic of the evidence but often can't provide the proof.
But why then if Newman read that slide presentation did he assert anything against Uniformatarianism. Wikipedia begins it's article on Uniformatrianism with this:
Uniformitarianism is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" and is functioning at the same rates. Uniformitarianism has been a key principle of geology, but naturalism's modern geologists, while accepting that geology has occurred across deep time, no longer hold to a strict gradualism.
Simplified; what we see is reality and the reality is not judged by whatever claims to the supernatural may exist. So Newman thinks he is challenging the concept and science because he asserts supernatural activity. But science is not meant to deal with supernatural events and pleading to supernatural events can not change science in the slightest. It would be like putting science back to the middle ages when spirits caused bad whether or the even more ancient belief that spirits caused diseases. Science comes to its assumptions not on faith but by applying logic to the reality we see. Just because it can't be proven does not make something based simply on faith. That should be true for every Christian as well, we come to faith by the evidence.
I am very concerned for the future of Adventism as long as its adherents persist in their practice of twisted logic. But I have to grant that I can't prove that logic should never be twisted or that logic is the best and only solution to problem solving. But it is the best that we have now, based upon the evidence from the use of logic and the misuse of logic; that is real world application. But they can assert their faith without evidence and the wisdom of abandoning scientific methods...where faith just becomes what anyone wants to believe and therefore any faith is equivalent to any other faith.
It is sad to watch a segment of the Christian religion self destruct. But it appears to me to be what is happening when the traditionalists take over reasoning for the church.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Rationalizing the Bible

Continuing on the related subject of the last two blog articles, Clifford Goldstein's insistence that a theist evolutionist explain to his satisfaction his Biblical suppositions and the next article on the paradigm shift in theology that is coming to Adventism and Christianity. I would like to begin by quoting a comment from the Editor of Adventist Today magazine J. David Newman:
Now those who have followed my exchanges on various threads know that I believe in a short creation and not one of millions of year. I believe this because of my presupposition that I understand nature through the bible. Others work from the presupposition that they make the bible fit into their understanding of science. My main concern is the issue of why Jesus Christ came to die for us and how sin and death relate to what he saves us from. I have not yet read anyone with an evolutionary veiw point explain how to fit the bible concept of a time without sin and without death into the evolutionary framework.
There are a couple of notable things in this quote. First the understanding of Nature through the Bible. The Bible is not and has never been about nature, you could argue it is about human nature or maybe even the nature of God or the nature of characters in the stories of the Bible but it is really not even in the slightest bit about nature. Even the agricultural nature statements like early and latter rains are about a specific geographic area's weather. So they are in themselves not even about nature as one very limited version of nature. You don't learn nature from the limited examples, you have to broaden the base of knowledge to come to understand nature.

So the question is why does Newman think to understand nature by the Bible? I imagine he took Biology in high school or college and even if he took the theology students science course their textbook was not the Bible. So what he is really saying is that he has rationalized his understanding so that he can claim it is from the Bible. No Gregor Mendel for him, genetic inheritance is from the Bible, perhaps the story of Jacob and the spotted sheep produce his understanding of inheritance of physical traits. It could be like the article linked to above about Jacob and the spotted sheep which is from some publication that says it is “Science in Christian Perspective” which seems to be more about finding the science behind a miracle and thus validate their religious beliefs. By such reasoning Newman means that he understands nature based upon his assumed Christian positions. Thus the assumed position in recent 6 day creation period, based upon the assumption that the Genesis story was intended as a literal and historical representation of reality.

What is important to notice here is the way a shorthand term is used, “I understand nature through the bible” That is not what he means surely. He means he has certain interpretations he applies to Biblical texts and he rationalizes that such understanding defines his knowledge of nature as well. You can see why the shorthand is really does not sound to clever when you unpack the information in the shorthand verbiage. Let me just define rationalization here so that we are clear:
to ascribe (one's acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes.
The first part of the above quote is shown to be a rationalization and we can move on the the more important information and really the reason for this article. Newman says:
My main concern is the issue of why Jesus Christ came to die for us and how sin and death relate to what he saves us from. I have not yet read anyone with an evolutionary veiw point explain how to fit the bible concept of a time without sin and without death into the evolutionary framework.
Here I am on my second page of this article in the word processor and I am just getting to the most important part, why not just separate it into a second article. The answer is that though the material and subject matter are different, his presuppositions are the same. That is they are traditional Christian perspectives masquerading as this is what the Bible says, interpretation can only be via traditional views. Shorthand verbiage, “in the Bible”, that's what “the Bible says”, and of course, I am judging nature “by the Bible”; these are often just rationalizations.

But what Jesus' Atonement did is subject to what your presuppositions are. If the point is reconciliation between God and man it does not really matter how the separation first occurred, what matters is that it is the reality we live with. We are not really any better off because we have a story about the first sin on earth whether it was thousands or millions of years ago. What our ancestors may have done at some point in time is not that useful for us. I think my answer to what Jesus did by the atonement will be quite different from Newman's. As for the so called Bible concept of time without sin or death. Well even with the story in Genesis it is preciously short. Again that time that he wants explained is not necessarily what the Bible means, inspiration has the affect that it works upon people differently when they have different facts in front of them.

A good example is the verse where Jesus says:  
John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (NIV) 
Nature if judged by the Bible requires that seeds die, cease respiration, but science tells us seeds that no longer respire are dead and they don't ever grow again...a farmer can tell you that as well even before they determined how to find out the germination rate using other methods besides actually germinating seeds. Now it may be that at one time the ancients really thought the seed died because it was buried, but we know now that is not the death of the seed. Has the meaning been lost because we now know that the seed did not really die? So is the point of the Genesis story to tell us about a time when death of any kind did not exist. Doubtful, there is nothing in our world that would allow us to conceive of a world with no death. We eat plants they die, we eat fruit the cells die, if bacteria did not die they would reproduce so quickly that they would cover the earth 50 feet deep in a month, if the bacteria didn't do it then the insects would. It simply does not work on any level we know of. Yet you don't see the traditionalist trying to explain the nature of life during that supposed length of sinless time. No they only want you to explain what happens with theistic evolution. God can make everything work in their perfect world of rather limited time in the Genesis but don't expect them to allow God to do anything if God chose to use some form of evolution.

The sad thing about this is that they think they are being so logical and so certain that they are “in the Bible”. But while they maybe in the Bible so can the theistic evolutionist, it is just that they are using different interpretation criteria and facts to arrive at their beliefs. No doubt we are far from figuring it out...Probably both sides, the young earth creationist and the Theistic evolutionist. But the young earth creationist seems to have stopped trying to understand and just begun to defend their interpretations. Thus they don't really grow any longer, they assume they have the truth but what they really have is traditions that are called truth. It stops their growth in practically every area of theology, from origins to the the atonement to inspiration. It is really time to begin to grow again.