A Father’s letter to his Son
Sent to the Editor on 22 March 2011
Last night you witnessed a set of presentations regarding rapid evolution in cane toads and snakes, anthropology and a rebuttal of the views of Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion.” My assessment of what boys were saying afterwards was that the Evolutionary Biologist and the Anthropologist easily demonstrated the superiority of an atheistic scientific view of “life, the universe, and everything in it” as opposed to the theistic anti-Dawkins viewpoint of the Theologian and perhaps others who were present. I feel that the necessity and superiority of the Christian world view was not presented adequately. So I write this letter to give you a record of my view.
In the discussion/debate last night the overwhelming impression, despite denials, was that one could have either an atheistic/scientific viewpoint or a theistic/Christian one. I believe each of these is inadequate by itself. The premise of my view is that an authentic Bible-based Christian viewpoint is one where both God and science are complementary and integrated. Science by itself is like going through life hopping on one leg. You need a thoughtful understanding of both to be equipped to think and navigate through life with maturity, freedom and peace. My argument is that one needs an integrated understanding of both God and science to walk on two legs and to be satisfied in life with all its struggles, sadness and joys. Jesus says that he came that we might be free and live life to the full.
God has given science to us to investigate, reason and marvel at the universe within which we live. “The heavens declare the wonder of God, The skies proclaim his works” (Psalm 19:1-2) describes essentially what science helps a Christian to do – marvel at the creator who created all this wonder. The more we discover through the scientific method, the more we marvel at God’s power and majesty as Christians. The paradox is that it has the opposite effect on people like Dawkins. Ask yourself the question why? The Bible answers this paradox – the work of the Spirit.
Scientific reasoning is essentially limited by a number of factors, the most important of which is our human intellect, our instruments, and the fact that through science we can only see within the universe in which we exist. This is a sort of ‘frame of reference’ argument. God exists outside this universe and he is almighty with unimaginable intellect. He therefore knows things that science cannot discover and that human intellect cannot grasp. Therefore, God tells us some of those things things by revealing them to us – this is revelation.
So we can know things in two ways. One is human reasoning through scientific endeavour. The other is God’s revelation of things that are otherwise unknowable (‘mysticism’ is often seen as a third way but I consider it to be simply superstition and nonsense). There are a number of assumptions that atheistic/scientists like Dawkins make that that can never be proven scientifically, and when held onto ‘religiously’ (as Dawkins does) are a form of intellectual dishonesty. That path leads to nihilism and hopelessness. It is these assumptions that that are rejected by equally intelligent Christians who have an integrated scientific outlook. Here are some of them.
- That before the ‘big bang’ there was nothing.
- Science is trapped in time and within the confines of the laws of this universe so that it cannot ‘see’ before the’ big bang’.
- The Bible tells us that before the ‘big bang’ there was God. Not only that, but that the Word was there and that the Word was God and the Word was with God. I find it extraordinary that the Bible would seek to go outside our universe unless it is God’s helpful revelation of something we would never understand or discover ourselves.
- Science and revelation therefore complement each other and are incomplete without each other in terms of knowledge.
- That the universe is expanding due to dark energy and eventually all life will disappear.
- This Bible is not inconsistent with this observation, but it draws very different conclusions.
- The Bible makes it clear that the universe will end, but that there will be a continuity with the old universe in a “new heavens and a new earth” so that life will not disappear. From an evolutionary perspective there won’t be ‘natural’ selection but ‘divine’ selection of individuals who will continue to live in the “new creation”.
- The Bible teaches that as creator of this universe, God can recreate it as He sees fit.
- Those apparently random events in scientific construction of “life, the universe and everything in it” are simply random.
- That is an unprovable view held by many non-Christian scientists.
- ‘Actual’ randomness is a mathematical matter.
- ‘Apparent’ randomness, including the teleological identification of who is the fittest to survive through natural selection can just as easily represent God’s supernatural intervention. This divine manipulation of ‘natural’ events too cannot be proven scientifically or mathematically. Again a non-Christian scientist sees one thing; a scientist who is a Christian sees another.
- That God does not exist.
- God cannot be known by the scientific method because He “is spirit”. He exists outside the limits of the universe and is not constrained by the laws upon which science depends for it’s method. Therefore, scientific instruments operating according to those laws cannot see him.
- Therefore, Dawkin’s denial of God due to the absence of scientific proof is particularly problematic. It seems to me that Dawkin’s position is actually unscientific and a matter of “atheistic” faith. At best, to maintain intellectual integrity, he should say “I don’t know”, and purport an agnostic (fence-sitting) position.
- The reason the Bible says that “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1a) is more than simply the fools atheism. It’s the illogicality of it as well.
- If God exists, he set up the universe to work like a clock to run down by itself, and that he doesn’t interfere with it in any way.
- The Bible argues God is involved in the universe, directing it, sustaining it. How he does so is by using the inherent laws that hold it together, by interfering in apparently random events and by acting supernaturally, as he sees fit.
- That amino acids were formed in the ‘primordial soup’ and then randomly arranged themselves into genetic material and that’s the explanation of how life came into existence.
- Dawkins will argue that the scientific proof of this is that life exists. However, Dawkin’s essential argument is that this is a random event. But the fact that life exists is not proof of randomness.
- The likelihood of this happening in the time-frame described is so infinitesimally low that it should cause one to wonder about the existence of God as the one who made it happen. This is a common position for many non-believing scientists who then take an agnostic position and acknowledge that philosophy, theology and science cannot really be separated. A modern example is Stephen Hawking.
- That the Bible’s account of creation is a literal 7 day creation and this is inconsistent with scientific observation.
- Genesis 2:3 is remarkable because it doesn’t say that the 7th day ended as it does for the previous 6 days. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that the 7th day continues to exist today (Hebrews 4:7-11). Therefore it is illogical to argue in 6-7 literal 24 hour period creation as some Christians do.
- The Bible actually doesn’t appear to concern itself with ‘how’ God created the universe.
- That the Bible’s account of how man came into being and scientific observations are incompatible.
- The Bible doesn’t exclude the co-existence of multiple hominid species pre-flood. Eg one interpretation of Genesis 6
- The creation of man appears to be primarily concerned with the creation of a being in ‘His image’ and only rudimentarily deals with the ‘how’ man was created. Since the purpose does not appear to be the ‘how’ of man’s creation but to outline the unique relationship of man to God in man’s very being, I don’t really think that science can really comment on the Biblical account.
- That because the Bible doesn’t explain the scientific ‘how’ of the universe, it is flawed.
- This is an illogical insular argument because it misses the fact that the Bible is not a scientific document.
It needs to be understood that it is inherently unscientific to argue that if science cannot prove something, then it doesn’t exist. The ancient Greeks didn’t do that because the inquiring mind that seeks to understand using the scientific method begins with the assumption that all things are possible. If the Greeks believed that what they couldn’t see didn’t exist they would not have founded the scientific process that led to the development of instruments that allow us to see beyond our senses. Microbes existed before microscopes, as did super novae prior to telescopes. Gamma radiation existed prior to Geiger-counters, as did sub-atomic particles prior to particle accelerators. This also applies to God. The scientific problem with the existence of God is that His existence can be inferred from scientific observation of things which Dawkins dismisses as randomness, or by documented observation of His miraculous interventions. But by His very nature He cannot be proven scientifically. All Dawkins could honestly say is that God could possibly exist and intervene in His creation but that Dawkins prefers an alternate non-theistic explanation. He can only say God doesn’t exist if he can prove it scientifically which he cannot.
The ancient Greeks were right because they wondered at the universe around them and sought to understand it with reason and rational scientific observation, hypothesis and experimentation. Ultimately, the only difference we have with the Ancient Greeks today is that we have a much longer history of cumulative scientific endeavour upon which to draw. They were also right in that they understood that human reason through science would never allow them to completely understand. So they included philosophy, pantheistic theology and mystery religion to try and understand. But it didn’t satisfy because man could never work these things out himself. It is this that the apostle Paul observes and seeks to correct in Acts 17:16-34 at the Areopagus in Athens – a melting pot place of ideas, discussion and debate. This is our inheritance today as Christians who walk on ‘two feet’, trying to understand our existence and this universe in which we live and die.
We should be using all the information available to us – both scientific reasoning and revelation by God of things science cannot ever see that intimately affect us.
The last thing to understand is that there are two types of theistic knowledge about God. One is an intellectually derived acknowledgement or knowing, and one is knowing God spiritually. Solomon is an example of the former, and his father David is an example of the later. Even miracles won’t sway the ‘wise’ Solomons of this world (Solomon actually spoke to God and the wisdom he asked for and received is essentially a scientific understanding).
By intuition many people acknowledge the truth of the existence of God and may even believe the Bible is trustworthy, consider themselves Christians and be part of Christian Churches, even as leaders. Others just know God is there because they sense Him spiritually – their struggle is to stay connected to God despite the distractions of life. Consider this illustration. You know rain is wet, cold and real. When you think of rain you might consider a scientific explanation for its existence as you feel it falling upon you by recalling the precipitation diagram from high school science. But few of us who know rain do that. That precipitation diagram is not actually why you think the rain is real. Some people may have not experienced rain, but they believe it’s real because they recall the precipitation diagram from school which they were taught. They believe but don’t know. You know and you believe. It is the same with the spiritual awareness of God. Once you are aware spiritually, science alone will not satisfy. Interpretations of the universe which exclude God will not satisfy. If that is you, then you are a Christian, and Dawkins has failed you.
This is an open letter Peter, which I will also distribute to Timothy and Luke who were present. As an open letter, feel free to distribute it to anyone whom you think it may help.