Scientism 10, “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” Part 1

I’ve got good and bad so far.

The Good

Within the first couple pages, he’s already laying out the terms. There is no battle between science and Christianity. Science is a tool…it’d be like saying WWII was a battle between the Allies and the guns. Doesn’t make any sense. The war is between differing philosophies – the philosophy of Christianity and the philosophy of materialism.

At root, materialism is “an epistemological critique of religion.” The materialist claims that the Christians basis for truth is incorrect (God) and that there is a better source of truth (which varies but is inevitably dependent on the infallibility of man). These sorts of debates are never about the actual proofs or evidences involved; those may help or hurt a case, but the real issue is “Who do we believe?” Who is the more credible witness?

Of course, because materialism is not based on the Triune God of Scripture, it is inherently illogical from the start. There is also a glaring error in assuming that the self is the basis of knowledge.

For a person to accept as knowledge only what he had discovered and proved for himself from direct personal experience would put his knowledge at the level of the Stone Age.

There is very little (if anything) that we know based on our own experience. Even that which we claim to know from our own experience is interpreted based on rules or methods we picked up from other people.

Science is not scientism. Scientism is essentially materialism in the specific guise of the scientific community. And it is not the basis of truth.

The Bad

Then he started to go into specifics. The first problem he tackled was that of genesis, concerning beginnings.

He considers the theory of the Big Bang a great leap for Christian science, because it implies that time had a finite, defined beginning. Unfortunately, this is the common conception of the Big Bang, not the scientifically stated theory, which says nothing about the Big Bang being the absolute beginning. The theory was developed in light of anti-creationism and only holds true in that light. Barr appears to be (at least so far) in favor of a theistic evolutionary mindset, which Bolton Davidheiser eloquently demonstrated was paramount to denying the Gospel altogether.

We shall see how this develops.

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9 comments

  1. thecoldcomposure

    Does he try to use the Big Bang Theory as evidence for the “First Cause” argument? That tends to be a common tactic used by apologists who hold to the theory. I personally don’t know enough about the Big Bang Theory to make an educated judgment, but even if the First Cause argument is sound, (and I think it is), it is unable to do anything more than point people in the general direction of theism, and doesn’t do a lot to advance the cause of Christianity–the unmoved mover didn’t die on the cross.
    I am aware of people using the cosmic singularity in the Big Bang Theory as evidence for the existence of God (or at least something outside of spacetime.) What is your take on that?
    Also, what do you mean by saying that the “theistic evolutionary mindset” is “paramount to denying the Gospel,” and how do you define “theistic evolution.” Do you mean the position held by Kenneth R. Miller and Francis Collins that evolution took place without any form of Divine direction? Do you mean the idea of an old earth? Do you mean the denial of a historical Adam and Eve?

    • MadDawg Scientist

      I think that’s where he’s coming from, but it’s not entirely clear that he’s pushing for First Cause.

      My beef with this, again, is that of compromise. There are some things I’m willing to go halvsies on for a while, but creation/evolution/Big Bang is not one of them. While BBT does perhaps imply that the universe has a finite beginning (which most scientists deny it implies, and I think it’s not clear in se), by accepting it, we’ve already denied the young earth (which is biblical). The interesting thing about the theory of the event itself is that it is using a principle that Peter actually warns us about. “Scoffers will come down in the last days…saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water.” (2 Pet 3:4ff) I call this historical extrapolation, and it can be dangerous.

      Earlier in this series I treated with Bolton Davidheiser’s book “Christianity and Evolution.” This is a detailed attack on theistic evolution (God-directed evolution) and why is it incompatible with anything the Bible tells us, and more specifically why it is an incredibly dangerous road for the Bible-believing Christian to be on. In and of itself, it denies historical Adam and Eve (again de-railing the Bible). Saying that it either a) didn’t occur in history or b) occurred in history both raise problems with either the biblical account or the evolutionary theory.

      As you’ve no doubt surmised, I have strong feelings toward theistic evolution, since I regard it as dangerous compromise with the enemy

      • thecoldcomposure

        Can you expound more upon the “historical extrapolation?” I was a little confused with this point.
        Personally, I’m not so sure how important the young-earth idea is to Christian thought. I don’t necessarily hold to it, though unlike many dogmatic theistic evolutionists, I don’t totally deny its possibility. To me, the main issue is the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Say that Adam and Eve are not historical, and you have de-railed a large chunk of Christology of the New Testament and made a hash out of the idea of original sin. Say that the earth is probably not 6000 years old, and I don’t think that most theology will be disturbed.
        I think its necessary to have personal sympathy for theistic evolutionists themselves (something that they rarely, if ever, show to creationists), but I would agree with your wariness of compromise. I think that the larger enemy that we need to look out for is accomodationism, the idea that Christians must work hard to get approval from non-Christians in every field. I don’t want to have a methodological fideism, where we reject offhand everything that an unbeliever in any area has ever said, but on the other hand I think that Christians are often far too eager to to try to impress the secular establishment.

      • MadDawg Scientist

        Certain measurements seem to indicate that the universe is expanding. If we assume that it was always expanding, and that it had enough time to do so, we can then assume that at one point all of the matter contained in the universe was confined in a singularity. By itself this is not such a bad thing, but it assumes that things have been this way forever, which is dangerous at the best of times. The other thing is, you need vast amounts of time for this to occur. The universe, as far as we know, is a pretty big place.

        This is where 6000 comes in. This number comes from the detailed genealogies provided in Genesis. If this account is true (and being Bible, it is), then there is simply no room for billions and billions of years. It’s that simple.

        I would perhaps agree with your statement that denial of the historical Garden is more important. In my mind, however, the two facts are inalienable. I’ll try to find a link to a previous post on 10 Things Wrong with Evolution or something where I explain a bit more about how it’s highly unlikely that the Biblical account occurred alongside an old Earth.

        Personal sympathy, yes, I agree.

        Wariness of compromise bring up some interesting issues. It’s easy for us to see how rejection of the Garden account leads to problems, so conservative Christianity usually sticks with this. It’s harder to see that belief in an old earth is dangerous, though (leading to rejection or disbelief in the genealogies). Getting around the 6000 number is difficult without some complex maneuvering of the Biblical account that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      • thecoldcomposure

        I don’t think that the genealogies in Genesis necessarily entail that the earth is 6000 years old, merely that human civilization is 6000 years old. The genealogies only speak about life in the post-Edenic period, and say nothing about how long the pre-Edenic period. To get an idea of how old the earth is, you would have to evaluate the linguistics of Genesis 1. I personally don’t think that the idea of an old earth and a historical Garden are necessarily incompatible. I also don’t know how a young earth view would get around things like the White Cliffs of Dover, which, short of a miracle, could have only formed over long periods of time. I can understand the idea of “Apparent Age” and If I get to Heaven and God tells me it’s true, I won’t be surprised, but I still feel like there is a sketchy element to it.
        Also, I am curious as to what you think the “complex maneuvering of the Biblical account” is and how you think it “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny?”
        Alas

      • MadDawg Scientist

        Remember that any existing geographical features that existed pre-Flood would have been changed.

        Mainly the fact that “day” means “day.” It means an “evening and a morning.” That, to me, speaks to the chronological relationship between Eden and Adam.

        I think appearance of age is valid, but I’m a lot more careful with it than most people, because I think there’s a danger there in saying that God made it look like something happened that did not happen, and therefore lied.

        I think to clear up some of the confusion, we need to look a bit deeper than chronology to see the connection between Eden and Adam. From what I can tell, you’re saying that either the Earth or Eden existed before Adam did? That seems like it would cause problems.

      • thecoldcomposure

        Yes, geographical features that existed before the Flood would have changed, but that does not mean that the Flood could have caused any geographical figure to spring into existence. In the case of the White Cliffs of Dover, the formation is made up of millions upon millions of skeletons of microscopic creatures, and could not have been formed short of either long periods of time or being created ex nihilo.
        “Day” does mean “day,” except when it doesn’t. The debate over whether the days of Genesis are literal or figurative is, to me, not a scientific debate but a linguistic one. One would have to look at A.) The meaning of the original Hebrew within the narrative and B.) The story in the context of similar literature at the same time in order to have a better interpretation. Personally, I am confused how a literal day could exist in the absence of the sun. If a day is signified by morning and evening, how could you have a morning and evening if there is no sun for the earth to revolve around?
        Your point about the appearance of age is a good one.
        I don’t quite understand your concern about the Earth and Eden existed before Adam. As far as I can tell, the Biblical Narrative does state that the Earth and Eden existed before Adam did, although how long they existed is a matter of debate. Further, the Biblical Narrative states that the Earth existed before the days of creation, and apparently before the existence of the sun if you take them literally. Perhaps I’m missing what you’re saying and we’re talking past each other.

      • MadDawg Scientist

        I think there’s a good deal of talking past going on, haha.

        To answer your question about literal day, I think we have to look at the symbolic (which is the primary) meaning of things. The sun was created to rule the day, not to create a division between night and day. That division took place on Day 1. The sun was created later to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night. We’re used to thinking in very scientific terms about all this, so it’s harder for us to understand than it would be to someone well versed in biblical symbolism. That to me says that “day” is what it is regardless of the existence of the sun. Part of it may be confusion in that we have shifted the definition of “sun” from “ruler of the day” to “creator of the day,” i.e., “when the sun comes up, it makes day,” whereas it should be “when the sun comes up, that means it’s day.” I might be splitting hairs here but I think linguistically it makes a difference. Perhaps it’s easier to say that day/night was created separately from the sun/moon, but was made synonymous at the creation of the heavenly bodies.

        While it is interesting, it’s dangerous to ask the question too much, “where did the Light come from?” because it’s tempting to deny the Creation account in favor of what we think might be a more plausible explanation.

        As far as the Cliffs of Dover: back when Mt. St. Helens erupted, creation scientists flocked to the scene to witness firsthand the effect of cataclysm on geology. Their findings are astounding. I’ll leave the details to your own research, but suffice to say that they confirmed that enormous geological formations were formed in a matter of seconds or minutes due to the incredible upheaval from the volcano. It’s quite fascinating. Look at that research, then imagine that happening simultaneously all over the world. I can very easily see how the Cliffs of Dover could have been formed in 40 days.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you are taking certain phenomena (chalk cliffs, presence of light) and attempting to reason them back into the Bible. I can understand the line of reasoning: “from what we [think] we know, this [should] take so long to form, so we need to find that time in the Bible somewhere.” Is it really that likely that there are millions upon millions of years occurring between Gen 1:25 and 1:26? You could make the argument that there’s no proof otherwise, perhaps, but that seems like kind of an important detail that’s just plain ignored in Scripture.

        Of course, I might be completely misinterpreting your position.

  2. thecoldcomposure

    I think we’re getting into dangerous waters here when we start talking about the symbolic meaning of things. You seem to be reasoning from a symbolic reading of the passage to a literal reading. Certainly I don’t think that there is a necessary break between symbolism and literal meaning (modernism has done much to create a false dichotomy between symbol and reality), but I think it is important to know how to appropriately approach a passage. For example, when Jesus says “I am the door,” he is making a statement that is purely symbolic or purely metaphorical–he’s not really a door. When Jesus turns water to wine, the action is both symbolic and literal, and these levels of interpretation do not count each other out. When I am trying to get to here is that it is important to know whether there is an adequate justification from the text and context for the assertion that the days of Genesis are twenty-four hour periods. Certainly God intended to tell us something by using the word “day,” but what he intended to tell us is something else entirely. Church history is full of many good people interpreting the Bible in wrong or somewhat wrong ways–look at some of the medieval commentaries on Song of Solomon. The important thing is to get back to the text and the context in which it was written.
    If I was taking the days literally (and I by no means deny the possibility), then there would not be a question of where the Light comes from. It all depends, again, on hermaneutics. (Interestingly enough, I believe that medieval theologicans interpreted this verse as God separating the evil and good angels from each other.)
    There are definitely geological features that can be formed in a very short amount of time, but I don’t believe that absolute catastrophism can be used as the interpretive key for every single geologic formation/event. (At least not at this point in scientific history) Some things don’t have an adequate scientific explanation other than that they were formed over a long period of time. I think the example of Mt. St. Helens is irrelevant in this case because the formations it created were different than the White Cliffs of Dover. The formations caused by Mt. St. Helens would have been caused by a large, sudden explosion of magma and pyroclastic flows, and the resulting formations would have been, (I assume) formed from igneous rock or ashes, or other things from the volcano. The White Cliffs of Dover are formed from the remains of millions upon millions of microscopic organisms. There is no way (to my knowledge) that they could have been built up in a short period of time.
    I will tackle your last point at some other time.
    Cheers.

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