Fall 2020 was a tough semester. Last winter, before COVID-19 became a household word, I agreed to double teach in the Fall to fill a need in our department. (In exchange I have a light load this winter term.) Teaching in an unsettled environment with evolving expectations and constraints, with one new course and another needing significant adaptation to spatial separation in discussions, whether online or in person … suffice to say, the workload was significantly more than doubled. Writing regularly and even thinking about science and Christian faith took a back seat. It is time to get back into the groove.
I recently received a copy of a new book by Denis Lamoureux “The Bible & Ancient Science”. Much of the material in this book will be familiar to those who have read many of Denis’s other books, especially his large book “Evolutionary Creation”.
Like many Christians, Denis found the questions raised by the intersection (or conflict) of science and our faith troubling. Unlike many, however, he took the time to explore the questions in depth. When he felt called to engage in the battle between science (specifically evolution) and Christian faith, he began by pursuing a PhD in theology. This challenged many of his preconceptions about the way to read Scripture as the word of God. A second PhD in biology, focused on the evolution of the jaw, convinced him that the theory of evolution is grounded in solid empirical evidence. This background led him to a career as a Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta (see his site here). This latest book focuses on a series of hermeneutical principles to help guide Christians to a deeper understanding of Scripture. Drawing from his long experience teaching the topic to college students, he has pulled together a helpful guide for lay Christians. In a series of posts we will think through many of these principles.
The first important point – before getting into the principles of interpretation – is that the Bible is the word of God. Far from dismissing or undermining the divine nature of Scripture, Denis begins by emphasizing it.
The Bible is a precious gift from God. It reveals who our Creator is and who we are. Scripture sets down the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. The Word of God affirms the creation of the universe and living organisms, the sinfulness of all men and women, the offer to restore our relationship with the Lord through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and the hope of eternal life. The Bible is an everlasting spring of spiritual living waters for our thirsty souls. (p. 11)
Even those who disagree with some of Denis’s conclusions will be hard pressed to deny his appreciation for Scripture and its importance for Christians. The purpose is not to undermine Scripture, but to learn to interpret it properly. The central question of relevance in the discussion of science (evolution) and Christian faith is the nature of the Bible: Is the Bible a book of science? More precisely, does it teach science? Of course the purpose of the bible is not to teach science. Ideas we now view as “scientific” tend to be incidental to the main purposes of Scripture, but do they intentionally reveal information about God’s world? If so, how and what?
Denis argues that the Bible is not a book of science. Quoting from his website “Instead, it is a God-inspired revelation that offers inerrant, life-changing, Messages of Faith. Holy Scripture does indeed refer to the natural world, but it features an ancient understanding of nature.” Considering the Bible to be a book of science misinterprets the message, sometimes insignificantly and sometimes quite badly.
In the next post on this book we will begin to look at some of the principles of interpretation that will help make sense of the relationship between modern science and scripture.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
This post is also available at Jesus Creed, now published as a Christianity Today blog.