So this week has been full of buzz regarding the relationship between faith/religion and science. For those of you sleeping under a rock, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis participated in a “debate” about creation (video here). I watched it and found it pretty interesting.
In fact, I received quite a few questions from people asking me for my thoughts. Quite frankly, I found the debate much better than what I was expecting. I’m not convinced either of the participants “slam dunked” the other and I disagree with both of them are significant aspects of their respective positions. Truth be told, I neither embrace Young Earth Creationism (YEC) or Theistic Evolution or Nye’s evolutionary position. I think it’s important to note that in the same way that there are a variety of positions found within Christianity regarding creation, there a variety of positions under the banner of “evolution.” That’s an important part of the discussion.
Well I’ve found that the Molt has something to say about creation. After all, he’s a systematics kind of guy, so it makes sense. What I appreciate about the Molt here is his fascination with science. That’s something I do not really share, but I realize that the connection between “faith” and “science” is an important connection and that in agreement with Ham, it’s perfectly legitimate to be a great scientist and hold to YEC. I also agree with Nye that being a faithful Christian need not be attached to YEC. Here, I’ll allow the Molt to share his thoughts concerning the relationship between theology and science in his own words
“From very early on, the theological discussion with scientists fascinated me. When I was a schoolboy I dreamed of studying mathematics and physics. When I was called up in 1943, at the age of 16, I was just reading Louis de Broglie’s book Matière et Lumière, which had recently appeared in German with a foreword by Werner Heisenberg. But then experiences of life and death in war and captivity overwhelmed me. Existential questions became more important than scientific ones, and these existential questions led me to theology. But for all that, the scientific questions were never forgotten. Unfortunately I never found the time to study physics thoroughly, either parallel to theology or afterwards. So in this respect I remained a dilettante, and am still so today—an amateur in the double sense of the word: though lacking professional expertise in the scientific field, science is nevertheless for me a subject of interest and delight. Later, I took every opportunity of entering as theologian into dialogue with scientists, read standard scientific books with interest, and tried to understand them. All this convinced me that theologians can learn something about God not just from the Bible but from ‘the book of nature’ too.” (Creation and Wisdom)
First, I appreciate that Molt sees theology and science as both being important and as something that he delights in. I appreciate that the Molt is a human here.
Second, I appreciate that the Molt is open and transparent in the fact that he is not a professional scientist. When I hear some people talk about faith and science, I often find myself wondering if they are aware of the fact that their undergraduate degree in marketing isn’t the same thing as a PhD in physics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting academic arrogance here. I’m just saying that there should be a little bit of humility when we converse on subjects that we may not have the best training on. Of course, one can have a PhD in a field that is built on a foundational idea that is shaky and has significant consequences. At any rate, I appreciate the Molt’s honesty here.
Third, I appreciate the Molt acknowledging that God can be revealed in addition to Scripture. This does not require that those two “revelations” conflict either, in my opinion. But I appreciate that the Molt clearly understands the implications of Romans 1:20. Now strict Fundamentalists who hold to a certain type of inerrancy will take issue with this, but the vast majority of Evangelicals will agree here.
Lastly, the Molt recognizes that there is good that can come from advocates of different positions talking to each other. I actually think Nye, whom I disagree with, certainly modeled that. And so did Ham.
And again, I was fairly surprised that Ham acknowledged some of the differences that are found in Christianity in regards to creation. He did a decent job of acknowledging that one can be a genuine Christian while also make sure to state his differences and why he believes that there are consequences to rejecting YEC. He also was, surprisingly, helpful in clarifying the hermeneutical issue of “literalism” that Nye kept mentioning.
So I was surprised. And I think the Molt, who would likely disagree with both of these two conversation partners, would still find it encouraging that the discussion took place.
And I hope a lot more take place beyond Nye and Ham. Maybe they can start here… 🙂
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Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
So are there any charismatics you are aware of out there that are *historically* conservative and believe the historical/grammatical meaning of the Bible that don’t do so out of ignorance or tradition?
I must admit, seeing you refer to an academic like Moltmann with such praise is quite disappointing. I was starting to like you Luke.
It is always interesting how quickly MacArthur followers jump to conclusions! Never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps I should just give up! Ha
Your question regarding charismatic hermeneutics is cute though!
At any rate, I AM reading through the Molt and I am finding a lot of good with a lot of questionable material. Yet I see no reason to damn all of his ideas simply because I have serious disagreements with many of his approaches.
Yet here is where you can go beyond your usual/typical fundamentalist rhetoric and methodology. How about you demonstrate what you disagree with here in the Molt quote.
PS: I was first assigned reading the Molt at a Reformed seminary. Dang them Calvinists!! 😉
Dang them all.
I find it enjoyable how a loose and distant connection to MacArthur makes me a “MacArthur follower”. I’ll start calling you a Whimberite.
I aim for cute…and cuddly. I think you misread my question. I am well aware that there are historically conservative AoG/Vineyard/FourSquare/etc. folks who would hold to a straighforward understanding of the Genesis account of creation (more or less YEC), but I don’t know many educated ones that remain in there. The exclusive fruit of education on AoG/Vineyard/FourSquare/etc. folks that I’ve personally witnessed is the erosion of their former theological positions. I keep running into AoG/Vineyard/FourSquare/etc. folks with graduate degrees who have completely abandoned their previous view on creation because they discovered that Genesis is a polemic against ANE deities, or because they discovered a symmetry to the creation account and were told that the only possible exegetical significance of it was one of overturning their previous beliefs.
As for the Molt quote, points 1 and 2 are just personal points with nothing contentious either way. Point 3 is where he starts applying his theology to the question of origins and says something that, though common, absolutely betrays basic Christian doctrine:
“Later, I took every opportunity of entering as theologian into dialogue
with scientists, read standard scientific books with interest, and tried
to understand them. All this convinced me that theologians can learn
something about God not just from the Bible but from ‘the book of
Now it’s great that he talks to scientists and want to learn the tools of their trade/engage their intellectual resources in their fields.
But the “two books” line is utter theological hogwash for two reasons:
1. The unregenerate man cannot rightly asses the facts of nature in any ultimate sense because their meaning is revealed & their implications are moral. (Romans 1:18 is the real kicker here; the carnal observer of nature sees the facts but suppresses the truth about those facts on moral grounds. There are plenty of other passages that address the noetic shackling of the carnal mind – Luke 16:19-31, Heb. 11:3, 2 Peter 3:1-13 are other places to start). If nature is some sort of “book”, even metaphorically, then to the unregenerate man it’s a book in a foreign language…
2. …But nature is not a book, at least not in any reasonable sense of the word. The difference between nature and scripture is the difference between a picture and an explanation. The standard example of this whole charade is the starlight question: Nature appears (given an unsubstantiated uniformitarian view of natural processes calculated back into history indefinitely) to suggest that the light from distant stars “tells us” that the universe a LOT older than, say 50,000 years. In total contradiction to the apparent story “told” by nature is the text of Genesis 1:14-19. The starts (all of them) were made for a two-fold purpose: marking time (as in seasons) and giving light. Every single star fulfilled it’s purpose at the same time (Gen. 1:17-18) and that all occurred on the fourth day (Gen. 1:19).
Now was there some sort of detectable physical process/mechanism involved in both near and far stars illumining the night sky simultaneously?
I don’t have a clue.
What I do know is that the Bible clearly says that the stars all fulfilled their purpose on the very day they were made, regardless of their distance from the earth. Also, that purpose doesn’t include “telling mankind how old the universe is”..so if someone looks in “the book” of nature for that information and claims to find it, they’re *actually* wrong.
That’s why I am sad to see you praising an academic (notice I didn’t say “liberal”) like Moltmann. Career academics are usually next to useless in addressing problems that common people have…and you’re an educated pastor. I’d hope that you could see through academic wheelies covering up exegetical incompetence on issues that are of pastoral importance.
Also, just kidding about the Whimberite thing. We both follow Christ alone, not MacArthur or Calvin or whoever, right?
This seems quite straining. I am not quite sure the intentions of the Molt are even remotely close to where you are headed here. Of course nature isn’t a “book.” Furthermore, one has to make a pretty huge leap in order to equate a recognition of what boils down to an expression of general revelation as being on par with or even above biblical revelation. As an evangelical, I clearly do not believe nature trumps Scripture. But I do think God is revealed in nature (as the Molt suggests).
So it seems like a lot of straining.
After all, you jump from a very basic acknowledgement on the Molt’s part regarding two sources of revelation (my words) to telling us why nature isn’t “telling” us anything. Sounds a lot like YEC talk… are you a YEC?
I guess we need to get a list of all of these academic theologians that you speak of. I wasn’t given that list in seminary. I’m thinking it’s probably quite subjective of a list, but I guess having it would be helpful nonetheless.
Career academics need to be judged on the basis of their work. You may find the Molt next to useness whereas I find him fascinating. Many people suggest Barth is next to useless but I find him also fascinating (and super helpful).
And for the record, you assume so much in your responses above that I find rather curious. Allow me to explain.
Perhaps you should simply write, “Luke, what is your position on creation.” That way you wouldn’t look so silly! Nowhere did I suggest what position I hold regarding creation! I simply said I am not a YEC. And your understanding of the “positions” found within the movements you mention gives me the impression that you are not as familiar with the diversity found within. Or of the facts regarding the positions advocated by these “educated” people you speak of.
So you sound kind of like a chump for so many assumptions 🙂
I am not a YEC. I do find Genesis 1-2 having more to do with a theological point rather than laying out specific historical data. So I see it as being literary rather than literal. In fact, I would say that the Framework view is probably where I’d hang my hat. I don’t know if the earth is 6,000 years old or 10,000 years old or a million years. I’m fine with saying, “boy, I don’t know.” I also can see the exegetical reason to view the days “literally” (I won’t deny that a 24 hour period of time is in view with the Hebrew yom). I’m still reading on the subject and trying to figure it out (or at least be better informed).
So many of your assumptions are just plain wrong. Plus, they reveal a wide distance from my experience within the pentecostal/charismatic tradition. But who knows… maybe you know more than I do about that… I can’t claim to be an expert!
Now, I don’t want to discount your ideas regarding nature and your constructive push back on the Molt. Like I said: fine and dandy. I’m just not sure that your reading him without your “he’s a liberal so I can’t trust anything he says” lens. It’s like how a lot of people read Barth. Or, on the other side of the coin, how a lot of Arminians “read” Calvin!
And yes, I sure hope we both follow Jesus more than Wimber, Calvin, or good old Menno. Jesus the Christ died on a cross for my sins and his death entirely and completely satisfied the requirements of the Father. I love him for that (and much more!)
It seems quite straining? Okie Doke.
I wasn’t suggesting that Moltmann had any motivation. I was simply reading his comments and extrapolating them into practical ramifications.
When someone talks about the “two books” idea, specifically in reference to creation, are they headed towards developing ideas about the scripture from the text of Genesis? When people talk about “learning about God from nature”, in the context of discussions about the *ultimate* origins of the universe, are they ever really sola scriptura?
Of course not.
God is revealed in nature, but not at the level that people like to suggest. The Bible tells us about the scope of God’s revelation in nature; there’s not a ton that one learns from creation about God outside of his eternal power and divine nature.
People who talk about things beyond that are always doing one of two things:
1. Discussing the interpretations of creation made by unregenerate practitioners of empirical science (as if they are remotely as neutral as Bill Nye thinks he is).
2. Discussing the systems of thought, based on point 1, made by unregenerate practitioners of philosophy (as if they’re any less free of the rational bondage of sin).
I’ve done a whole lot of reading and interaction on creationism over the decades, and I’ve never once seen someone read the “book of nature” and end up at a biblical view of creation.
As for the YEC question, I’m nuanced YEC hybrid; the bible inescapably presents the days of creation as 24 hour periods of time, and the Bible is unapologetic about the spontaneous existence of comprehensive ecosystems and mankind descending from a single human pair, as well as the instantaneous functionality of starlight in it’s illuminating purposes. Show me an old earth model that allows for that all, and I’ll highly consider it. Believe me, I would love to. It would make my life a whole lot easier!
“Career academic” theologians are theologians whose circle of existence is mainly the academy, as opposed to pastoral ministry (and regular people). Career academics are people who tend to follow the academy itself, disconnected from the common folks. A hyperbolic example of this would be a scholar I once knew who had verbatim memorized entire books but had never heard of Tom Cruise (not kidding). Slightly Ivory Tower? Yessir…
This may surprise you, but I’ve read Moltmann and Volf and Barth and Hegel and even 11 books by Bart Ehrman (and 3 by Robert Price, no less). I don’t reject them out of some knee-jerk blindness. I’m glad that you find Moltmann helpful. For what exactly, I don’t know and struggle to imagine. I struggle finding worth in his writings for common folks in the pew, especially understanding his writings in the context of his professed worldview. I also tend to not filter the batter when I make pancakes with hopes of finding doubloons. Call me crazy…but more on this in a second.
And I’m not sure if you were really reading what I wrote in my previous comment. I didn’t insinuate anything about your position on creation. Please point to where I did. I expressed disbelief at your citation of Moltmann and I addressed the idea he propounded directly. I wasn’t addressing your position, nor did I talk about it. You’re the one making assumptions partner…but I won’t suggest you’re a chump.
My experience in AoG/ACOP/PAOC/FourSquare/Vineyard/Victory circles is just that; my experience. It’s not monolithic, but it is uniform. I also live on a different continent than you, correct? I would, and will, praise the Lord to find some educated charismatics who hold to non-naive biblical theology in areas like creationism.
Okay. Back to Moltmann.
As for the “he’s liberal”, I openly admit that I see Moltmann through the lens of his beliefs. For example, on page 181 of his book “The Theology of Hope” he openly denies the historicity of the resurrection of Christ and on page 227 of the same book he openly denies the second coming as an actual future event in history. Jurgen Moltmann, in no uncertain terms, thinks that Jesus is still in the grave and therefore cannot possibly come back to earth. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:12-18, suggests that Moltmann’s religion, whatever it is, isn’t Christianity. That means that he’s not a Christian; his spend his entire career as a theologian “dead in sin” (Eph. 2:1-3) and he cannot possibly have any ultimate understanding of the scripture because he lacks the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11-16). As a Charismatic Christian, I’m guessing you’d think the Holy Spirit was somewhat important to understanding the scriptures, right?
What’s even more interesting and ironic is that 1 Corinthians 15:19 states “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Moltmann’s “theology of hope” was a hope in hope for this life only, seeing that he openly denied the reality of the bodily resurrection and the second coming, and the apostle Paul labels it “pitiful”.
So call me crazy for wondering why anyone would run to a theological toilet looking to quench their thirst.
Yikes! I think we are reading and understanding the Molt in almost diametrically opposed ways! As I have understood his approach to the Resurrection, he isn’t denying anything but is simply changing the way in which we understand “history” (if I recall, he sees the Resurrection through the lens of history making rather than historical). This all tends to be related to his push back on Modernism and anti-supernatural epistemological, etc.
I am by no means a Moltmannian scholar, but I have read a number of his works as well as a fair amount of evangelical essays dialoguing with him. I think JETS has one on his view on the resurrection that I find a bit more nuanced than what you have suggested.
Plus, of course, there has been significant development in his theologizing over the years… His earlier works, while considered classic by many, are by no means without areas he has developed (from what I understand).
Have fun with Bart 😉
I labor to let people speak for themselves, and that includes Moltmann. I’m not sure how you’ve been taught to read him, but I’m wondering where you got your training…not because you’re dumb or anything, but rather because it may not have been as historically evangelical as you were led to believe. I got my BA at a school that I only later learned had been infested by liberalism (much to my sorrow). There was a process of years where I thought a whole number of ideas (i.e. higher critical theory, postmodern linguistic relativism, etc.) that I now have wholeheartedly rejected.
You wrote: “As I have understood his approach to the Resurrection, he isn’t denying
anything but is simply changing the way in which we understand “history”
(if I recall, he sees the Resurrection through the lens of history
making rather than historical).”
You DO know that’s Hegel coming out, right? Are you familiar with Hegel and his philosophy of history? That’s probably something you’d like to brush up on if you’re planning on reading Moltmann more. Moltmann wasn’t coming out of a context of American fundamentalism, or even conservative charismatic evangelicalism, that’s for sure.
Are you talking about this JETS article?
I don’t read Barth anymore either.
Yep. Quite familiar with Hegel (and the other people influencing or dialog using with the Molt).
For the record, suggesting you have somewhat misunderstood the Molt’s point isn’t to suggest that insurer with his view of redefining the way we talk about the Resurrection 😉 I am simply saying it is more complex than that.
And I am quite sure we read things differently and approach theology from different perspectives. That is evident in so any ways I am surprised we are now visiting that. Haha.
For my part, I want to dialogue and interact with the Molt for a number of reasons and will continue to do so. I am fine with others disliking him. His work on the Trinity is far more concerning to me than some of his approaches to historicity because his approach to historicity is standard German Protestant liberalism.
Anyways, got to get my morning Calvin in… 🙂
Okay. I’ll just leave this at “firing past each other” and “we’ve both got better things to do” and we’ll move on.