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Faith and science: are there any absolutes?
The fall 2012 Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal is devoted to helping those in ministry reach the world for Jesus Christ in this scientific age. The issue is a collection of articles by scientists, philosophers, and theologians debating “the biblical and scientific evidence for the age of the earth,”1 discussing “how to minister to a scientifically literate culture,”2 and dealing with “the New Atheist misuses of science.”3
An introductory message from Assemblies of God general superintendent George Wood, “Faith and Science: Interpreting God’s Word and God’s World,” recalls his own crisis of faith brought on not by scientific concerns but by the apparent hypocrisy of some people who claimed to be mature Christians. His crisis was resolved, he reports, when he realized that “Christianity was based on fact, not feeling” and that “subjective experiences are a weak foundation for Christian faith, but objective truth is solid ground.” (To all this, I believe most regular Christian readers of this column would say a resounding “Amen.”)
Following this strong beginning, however, Dr. Wood then explains that in order to equip Christians in his denomination to minister to those who find their faith threatened by science, the journal does not take sides on the age-of-the-earth debate. He deems this the best way to win scientifically literate people for the gospel. That non-committal philosophy is reflected in the journal, not only by the multiplicity of views presented but also by clear instructions that the best way to reach people for Christ is to avoid taking sides.
Dr. Wood . . . explains that in order to equip Christians in his denomination to minister to those who find their faith threatened by science, the journal does not take sides on the age-of-the-earth debate.
The Young Earth Creationist (YEC) position—the view that God created the earth and all that exists about 6,000 years ago in six literal days as described in Genesis—is presented as a position that pastors simply should not take for fear of implying people should check their brains at the door.
The colossal inconsistency of Dr. Wood’s position here should be apparent. The “facts” on which Christianity is based—the “objective truths” that provide a solid foundation for all the doctrines of Christianity—are the truths in the Word of God. God did not provide a book with a few scattered truths and nice thoughts amidst a morass of fairy tales from which individuals were expected to root out some individual happy-thoughts.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, told His Father, “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). The ever–self-deceiving hearts of men and women described in Jeremiah 17:9 could never determine which parts were true if God left it to us to decide which parts were worthy of belief. Jesus Christ Himself referred to key events in the Old Testament as factual. Those Christ-attested events include the creation of man and woman (Matthew 19:4), the global Flood of Noah’s day (Matthew 24:38), and the three miserable days and nights Jonah spent inside the great fish’s belly (Matthew 12:40). And Jesus made it clear that belief in the writings of Moses is foundational to understanding and believing in Him (John 5:46–47).
Thus, while acknowledging the importance of absolute truths based on God’s Word, Dr. Wood gives his blessing to a journal that teaches ministers to refrain from suggesting there is a solid basis for all the major doctrines in the Bible, even including the doctrines that explain the origin of sin, death, guilt, and the need for a Savior. Those doctrines (and all the other major biblical doctrines) have their roots in Genesis. Dr. Wood describes this approach as “tough sledding, intellectually speaking.” What he is really recommending isn’t just “tough sledding” though, but a slippery slope that starts out telling people that the Bible might very well be wrong from its beginning. This approach encourages people to pick and choose what parts of God’s Word they want to believe until they finally realize that approach is so farcical they throw out the whole thing. Dr. Wood’s “anything goes” approach to the foundational book of the Bible is no way to win people to Christ. It is a way to build their faith on an unstable basis, destined to crumble.
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