When Science and Faith Collide

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday I saw a headline that really grabbed my attention:
400,000 year old human DNA adds new tangle to our origin story.

It’s not really as big a tangle as the headline would have you believe – it seems that the DNA of Neanderthals in Spain is similar to a different ancient population from Siberian known as the Denisovans.

The family tree is more webbed than science originally thought.

Okay.

That’s fine.

The idea that remains in Spain are genetically connected to remains in Siberia doesn’t bother me. To me it speaks of a single creator and a common ancestor to all of humanity. Hmm…even the Bible talks about that.

Where many Christians will take issue with the article is the age assigned to the remains and DNA. If the remains are 400,000 years old then the stories in the Bible can’t be right…right? But if the Bible is right then the science must be faulty…right?

And once again science and faith collide.

The problem comes when we insist on a rigid, literal reading of the biblical stories. We get lost in the nitty-gritty details rather than step back to see the big picture of what is being communicated.

Simply put – the Bible is not (and never was) intended to be a science textbook. It is a book of faith. It doesn’t teach us how to be forensic experts. It draws us into relationship with God, the Creator of the universe.

The idea of an “Old Earth” doesn’t bother me. Even conservative theologians like Millard Erickson concede that the Hebrew creation stories don’t have to mean a literal six days but could refer to epochs or long periods of time (you can see Erickson’s Christian Theology for his detailed presentation).

So we can go with an Old Earth – but what about humanity? The Bible is clear that humanity has an origin in God, not a spontaneous arrival. Ancient genealogies were not exact for the purposes of record keeping like Ancestry.com is. Genealogies are as much of the storytelling process as any of the narrative portions of the story. They inform the story, but are not intended to be scientific records for all posterity.

In the end I look at it like this: does the Bible fit science’s understanding of an Old Earth? Yes, it does. If humanity is older than a literal reading would have us believe – if there are massive gaps in history that the genealogies don’t cover – is my faith ruined? No, it is not.
The story is till the same. Everything has value because it has been made by God. Out of nothing, God created everything. Does it matter how long He took to do it? Not to me.
In the end the clash between science and faith is not as big as many would try to trick us into believing, and faithful Christians can fully embrace their faith and scientific discovery.

Because the world that God has made is a unique and marvelous thing – and we should learn as much about it as possible.

Related Post:
Jesus Loves Dinosaurs

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs

Awww!!!
Awww!!!

I’m part of a Christian bloggers group. Every week we have a “challenge” where we all take the same theme and write our own blogs based on the shared theme. Then we link each other’s posts to our own.

Our theme this week: Genesis & Creation.

So I decided to write about dinosaurs! I’ve never written on dinos before, and I thought it would make for an interesting experience. Oddly enough, one of the most frequently asked questions about the Bible is about how dinosaurs fit into the picture. This brings up a whole bevy (I’ve never actually used that word before today!) of arguments from Christians, scholars, scientists, and everyone in-between. Here’s my take on it.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe that it is how God has revealed himself and his will to humanity. I believe the Bible is supposed to draw us into a richer spiritual experience and understanding of God. Buckle your seatbelts…here’s where many Evangelicals and I part company: I do not think that the Bible was written as a scientific textbook.

God never intended for the Bible to be the end-all resource for understanding geology, astronomy, archaeology, botany…the list goes on and on. The Bible isn’t about science – it’s about faith. The Creation narratives in Genesis are not about telling us the scientific method and model of God’s activity – it’s telling us THAT GOD HAD ACTIVITY! He created. Life in the universe has a point, a purpose, a reason for being. God did it. He created us to be people in relationship with him. He created us to be people of worship. That is the overwhelming story of creation. When we look at the Bible as a textbook we lose sight of the big picture of God’s activity and design for humanity.

We get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of the text and try to “figure out” how the text jives with empirical data. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how the empirical data lines up. Even if archaeology did not support the biblical narrative (yes, archaeology DOES support much of the biblical narrative) the science is not the point. You cannot move someone to faith through science. Science touches the head. Faith moves the heart.

The Bible is a book of faith, designed to move our hearts closer to God’s heart.

If we actually stopped to think about it, science and faith are not enemies. They are different ends of the spectrum. Science measures what is there. Faith is about what science cannot touch. It does not damage my faith to hear people talk about the earth being millions of years old. I don’t have to take the six days of creation as scientific fact in order for me to know in my heart that there is a Creator behind the Cosmos.

As Genesis 1:1 says ~

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Don’t get so consumed with scientifically proving God that you miss the bigger picture. In the end it’s not our factual recognition of God he wants. The New Testament writer James says even the demons recognize that there is one God. No, he doesn’t want your assent – he wants your heart.

So, coming full circle, did God create dinosaurs? Probably. I don’t think the bones and fossils manifested spontaneously. 😉 Does it damage faith to believe in dinosaurs? Not one bit. In fact, when we learn to let go of looking at the Bible as a science textbook we are freed to expand our faith and see the mystery of God at work everywhere. Besides, how can you look at Jesus holding velociraptor and NOT be moved? 🙂

Related Posts:

~ Absolute Authority
~ Part of His Glorious Plan
~ The Genesis Code
~ The Image of God