Putting the conflict in perspective
The following is excerpted from Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, 2nd ed. (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011):
Debate the Weather?
To illustrate why the debate about origins isn’t simply a matter of science versus religion, imagine living in a culture where there is a similar debate about the weather. The Bible clearly teaches that God governs the weather. Many Bible passages proclaim that God causes rain and drought (see Deut. 11:14-17; 1 Kings 8:35-36; Job 5:10; 37:6; Jer. 14:22). Writers of Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and Jeremiah refer specifically to storehouses of rain and snow (see Deut. 28:12, 24; Ps. 135:7; Jer. 10:13).
What causes the rain? Most of us were taught that water evaporates from the ground level, rises to where the air is cooler, and condenses into water droplets that form clouds. We learned how cold fronts and warm fronts and low pressure systems bring rain. When we watch meteorologists on television, we hear that scientists now use sophisticated computer models to help them understand and predict the weather a few days in advance. Their ability to understand meteorology is especially important for farmers, airline pilots, military personnel, and coastal residents. Every year scientists develop increasingly accurate computer models of the weather.
Now imagine that debates arise about what should be taught in schools about the weather. Imagine that prominent scientists write popular books about meteorology that state, “From our scientific understanding of the causes of wind and rain, it is clear that no divine being controls the weather.” Imagine that a professional organization of science teachers writes a set of guidelines that state, “Students must learn that all weather phenomena follow from natural causes; weather is unguided and no divine action is involved.” Meanwhile, other people insist that these scientific explanations of rain and wind must be wrong because the Bible clearly teaches that God governs the weather. These people write books and give public speeches saying, “Atheists have invented their godless theories about evaporation and condensation. But we can prove that their so-called scientific theories are false and that the Bible is true.” They go to churches and teach, “If you believe what these scientists are saying about the causes of wind and rain, then you’ve abandoned belief in the Bible.” They petition school boards and courts to require that science classrooms also teach their “storehouses” theory of the weather as an alternate explanation to evaporation and condensation.
If you lived in a world with that sort of debate going on, would you be content to see it simply as a conflict between science and religion? Would you be willing to agree wholly with one side or the other?
More Than Two Options
Fortunately, we don’t have such debates about what causes the weather. The majority of Christians say that when it comes to the weather, both science and the Bible are correct. God governs the weather, usually through the scientifically understandable processes of evaporation and condensation. And the majority of atheists today would also agree that having a scientific explanation for the weather, by itself, neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. So there are no court battles about what science classrooms should teach about the weather.
Debates about creation, evolution, and design have some similarities to the above example, but in many ways they are more difficult. The questions about how to interpret Scripture are more challenging, and these debates raise more theological issues. A good place to start in making sense of these debates is to remember that more than two options exist.
Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, 2nd ed. (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011), 13-14. Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions.
“The first edition of this book . . . (2007), was commissioned for a target audience of Christians familiar with Reformed theology and tradition. This new edition is intended for a broader audience. The content is substantially unchanged. In various places we have . . . removed most ‘insider’ references to the Reformed tradition.”