In Oxford

I’m in Oxford, England, doing interviews for a prospective book on faith and science, with a particular emphasis on questions of evolution. Yesterday I had the interesting experience of looking at my watch during an interview and realizing it was past midnight. Only once, as far as I can remember, have I ever before gone past midnight in an interview, and that was with the rocker Larry Norman, many years ago.

This time it was Ard Louis, a physics professor at the university. I can only plead exhilaration. Ard is a fascinating person to talk to. He’s very young to hold such an exalted position–in his thirties, I would guess. He grew up in Gabon of Dutch missionary parents, went to missionary boarding schools in Gabon and Ivory Coast where he was taught six day creationism, and eventually found his way to Cornell for graduate school. He’s wonderful to talk to, remarkably committed to helping and encouraging graduate students and international students, and rather bright.

In the last decade he has been doing a lot of talks on faith and science–if you google his name I think you’ll find some. He’s also got some stimulating essays on the Biologos website.

He commented that for Christians concerned about science undermining biblical interpretation, evolution really isn’t the big problem. The difficulty is geology with its absolute assurance of the ancient age of the earth–and also anthropology, with its discovery that human beings have existed as hunter gatherers for a lot more than 10,000 years. And also astronomy, with its ways of measuring the age of the universe. Thinking within that context, questions about evolution are interesting, but secondary.

I thought that helped put evolution debates into context. It’s not really biology that young earth creationists are quarreling with. It’s several disciplines. In fact the largest question is: what do we do with science, when it appears to contradict our understanding of Scripture?

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2 Responses to “In Oxford”

  1. James Says:

    And the answer to this question, I think, is obvious: we should accept the science, even if it means we have to admit that we didn’t understand the Scripture as well as we thought we did.

    Advocates of the oxymoronic “literal interpretation” of the Bible have bigger problems than this. Apparently, they will have to start with the book of Jeremiah: http://www.theonion.com/articles/slight-inconsistency-found-in-bible,4194/

  2. David Graham Says:

    The young earth creationist Ken Ham has talked about some of these very issues. For him, “The Bible says God created the earth covered with water, the sun, moon, and stars on day four; well that’s very different to the Big Bang. If the Big Bang’s true, well the Bible got it wrong in astronomy. The Bible says there was a global flood, but today we have a lot of people saying no there wasn’t. Well, if the Bible gets it wrong in geology…and the Bible says God made distinct kinds of animals and plants to reproduce after their own kind; well, today evolutionists would say no, one kind of animal changed into another over millions of years, so the Bible gets it wrong in biology; then why should I trust the Bible when it talks about morality and salvation?”

    In the June issue of Christianity Today about searching for the original Adam, many old earth creationists (Tim Keller, John Bloom, Richard Phillips) struggle with this very issue…

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