A recent article on the Reasons To Believe web site tried to address the conflict between science and faith. I say “tried to” because organizations like Reasons To Believe do more to obscure the issue than resolve it. They mean well, but their conflicted worldview prevents them from speaking with clarity. Supporting their belief in establishment science inadvertently puts them at odds with fellow believers; and as I will explain, even at odds with Scripture itself. The article’s author wrote,
“The conflict between science and religion is best understood as a conflict between materialistic naturalism and biblical literalism, a position that takes Scripture “literalistically” (such as misunderstanding metaphoric phrases and imagery) when other interpretations reflect the meaning of the text more faithfully.”
My first thought when I read this passage focused on the word “literalistically”. It’s a word that accommodates our modern propensity for argumentative misdirection, and it moves the discussion from science and Scripture toward a literary emphasis. The people at Reasons To Believe are fully on board with establishment science. They believe in the Big Bang origin of the cosmos, billions of years of stellar evolution, and biological evolution too. Nevertheless, they claim the Bible is 100% accurate, and reconciling the Biblical timeline with an evolutionary one requires them to leap from science into the realm of literature.
That’s my realm, because my university training and credentials are in the field of English Literature. By the standards of academia, I do not “misunderstand metaphoric phrases and imagery. “Metaphoric phrases and imagery” as well as poetic expression, allegory, and hyperbole are literary techniques that I understand and identify with ease, and my expert testimony is that the language of Genesis contains no obvious cues suggesting the account means other than as it reads.
So why do the sciency folk at Reasons To Believe and other old Earth organizations take this approach? They don’t believe what Genesis says, but they know that saying the Bible is wrong would lose their support among their largely Christian audience. Therefore, they have come up with a clever but devastating subterfuge: the Bible isn’t wrong, but the words don’t mean what they plainly say. It may seem that I am bashing Reasons To Believe, but that’s not my point. They are fellow Christians who mean well, but their strategy is the issue.
If this subterfuge merely affected how Christians feel about science, it would be tolerable. After all, it’s only science. What makes this strategy devastating is that it has discouraged modern believers from immersing themselves in God’s Word and using it as a guide for their lives. Many modern Christians resist reading the Bible because it can’t be trusted to mean what the words say. When you read “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and a respected authority explains that Genesis isn’t describing the origin of heaven and earth, the logical reaction is to not bother reading more. It’s a book of code that can’t be deciphered.
The current rush of church denominations to accommodate gay marriage illustrates the effect of discounting a plain reading of Scripture. The words of the apostle Paul are recorded in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “You know that wicked people will not inherit the kingdom of God, don’t you? Stop deceiving yourselves! Sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” We can all read what has been written, but what does it really mean? A Christian friend of a friend argued on a Facebook post that homosexuality is different than it was back then because modern gay people live in stable, supportive relationships. In other words, the Bible doesn’t speak against homosexuality in general, but homosexuality in that particular time. I wonder then about the slanderers, adulterers, and thieves. Are they off the hook too?
My conclusion is that we should all speak more honestly, avoiding subterfuge. If you don’t believe what the Bible says, just say so. It’s usually not a matter of salvation. If an old Earth creationist supports materialistic science, don’t misdirect people to think your view agrees with Genesis. And if you support gay marriage, admit that it’s a break from what the Word says. Let the people have a clear choice between the ideas of men and the written Word.