Religion’s Unanswerable Question
In my last entry I discussed the question(s) that evolution and evolutionists are incapable of answering. And so, in the interest of honest disclosure, in this post I want to share what I believe to be the question(s) that religion cannot answer. I want to underline, in bold face, and in italics, that this is my opinion, and others may disagree completely or in part. I have come to this conclusion after years of study, and as my study is ongoing and ever developing, I am sure that in future days my conclusions will change somewhat. As the apostle Paul said, here on earth we all see as “through a mirror darkly.” So, I am in no way going to claim some kind of spiritual omniscience here.
First, specifically in regard to the question of the origin of life, religion can answer the questions of who and why and what, but the question of when is totally beyond the realm of religion. Our biblical text begins, “In the beginning God created…” That is as far as I, as a Christian, can go. How many years ago did that creating begin? The Bible is silent. The years that are given in the records of the genealogies are given to place certain individuals in certain time frames that the original audience understood. As an assignment in one of my college courses I traced the lineage of the priesthood of Zadok. That singular exercise convinced me that genealogies in the Old Testament are used in a far different way from the “scientific” way in which we used them today. Does Genesis 1-3 give us a photographic image of the creation of the earth? Not as I understand the Hebrew language, the Hebrew method of storytelling (poetry), and the theology that the Genesis author (who, in a large way I believe to be Moses) wanted to convey. Instead of a “photographic” image I prefer to use the idea of a “painting.” Compare a painting of, say, the Revolutionary War with the gritty black and white images of World War II or Vietnam. The paintings convey what the artist wanted us to see and learn about the battle. The pictures showed everything exactly the way it was, no glamour, glory, or rapturous elements looking down from heaven. Moses did not give us a photograph of the creation of the world, he gave us a mural. And, as with any other mural, we have to look at the whole painting to understand each little part.
The other question in regard to creation that religion cannot answer is “how?” Once again our text simply says, “God created.” The most specific it gets is when it says, “God spoke.” We are told God formed man from the elements of the earth, and that is confirmed by our sciences. We are also told that woman was formed from man. Beyond that we are given no details, because, quite frankly, nobody really cared about such things until about 100 years ago. The questions related to how our world operates are a legitimate exercise of the field of science. I happen to believe that a Christian scientist is in a far better position to answer these questions, but once again, that is my opinion. There are many other questions of “how” that the Bible does not answer, and therefore I believe are illegitimate issues for Christians to attempt to answer dogmatically. We can search for clues and work to learn how God has acted in our world, but all of our answers need to be provisional and suggestive.
By way of summary, I would simply like to suggest that somewhere along the way we as Christians have allowed our antagonists to set the agenda and we have surrendered our Spiritual birthright for a mess of scientific porridge. We got sucked into answering questions that we honestly do not have any firm evidence to use, and our own political infighting over these tenuous answers has only served to embolden our opponents. Just as one example, I cannot begin to hold the figure of a 6,000 year old earth. I cannot because (1) my understanding of the Hebrew language and aspects of the Hebrew historiography, (2) I studied about how Archbishop Ussher [the source of the 6,000 year old claim] came to his conclusions, (3) my own [albeit limited] understanding of physics, astronomy and even archeology. However, Ussher’s chronology was incorporated into the printed text of some King James editions of the Bible, and soon it became sacrosanct. Therefore to challenge Ussher’s chronology was the same as denying inspiration of Scripture. Even today we are dealing with Ussher’s legacy, even though few even know about Ussher, and far fewer would subscribe to his methodology if they knew about it.
However, to continue the story, the evolutionists and atheists jumped on Ussher’s chronology and ridiculed it. Instead of saying that the chronology was just a human calculation and letting the theory rest on it own strengths or weaknesses, by defending it as a part of Scripture Christians bought into bad science and seriously weakened their case. I fear that now what most evolutionists ridicule about the faith of Christians and our beliefs about the Bible are only a caricature of what the Bible actually teaches, but is itself a caricature that is actually defended by Christians themselves. In the immortal words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.
Is there a solution to the impasse between Christianity and science? Absolutely! We need to return to a serious and in-depth study of what the Bible actually does teach and the ways in which it teaches those truths. This means a return to the original languages and the original forms of teaching. It also means we must hold an open mind to the discoveries of archeology, physics and astronomy, as well as the other hard and soft sciences. If our universe is as ordered and as well planned as Christians have been arguing it is for the past several hundred years now, surely God will not mind if we explore how that order and plan actually works. And, scientists need to understand that a pure faith in God is not antagonistic to their life’s work. Science and theology can be, and must be, supportive of one another.
The fact is that science and theology are seeking to answer different, but inter-related questions. Let us work together to find all the answers.