Bernard Ramm: The Imperative Necessity of a Harmony of Christianity and Science

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Excerpting from Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and Scripture is like eating salted peanuts: impossible to stop. It's a scandal that this work is ignored by people who put out reams of trash. Significant statements in Ramm's text are highlighted in yellow. My own comments are in blue

Chapter I: The Imperative Necessity of a Harmony of Christianity and Science

The Christian View of Science and Scripture pp. 17-31.

I. The Present Status of Christianity and Science

If we were to examine the faculty of a large medieval university we could be sure that practically to a man the faculty would be composed of those who accepted without any reservations the full inspiration of the Bible, and its reliability in all matters pertaining to Nature (1). If we were to visit the faculty meeting of some American or European university of a hundred years ago the situation would be changed somewhat. We would find materialist and atheist, but we would also find some of the greatest men of arts, letters, and sciences, to be sincere and devout believers who trusted all the Bible said on matters of Nature. If we were to go from office to office in our modern universities we would discover that considerably more than ninety per cent of the faculty are either completely naturalistic or materialistic in creed, or very nominally religious. In many schools not a single firm believer in the trustworthiness of Scripture can be found; in others there may be two or five at the most. From medieval universities with faculties composed completely of Bible believers we have now reached the point where very few modern universities have Bible believers on the staff.

The battle to keep the Bible as a respected book among the learned scholars and the academic world was fought and lost in the nineteenth century. The astronomy of Copernicus did not begin to have the influence on human thought as did the events of the nineteenth century. During that period there was a mushrooming of anti-Biblical, anti-Christian movements. There was the growth in radical Biblical criticism, and the emergence of religious modernism. In philosophy able representatives defended positivism, naturalism, materialism, and agnosticism. Orthodoxy was barraged from every side.

The battle was a battle of strategy. The victors were on the side of modernism and unbelief; not of evangelical faith and the Bible. Why did the battle go as it did? Why did the populace, the universities, and even much of the clergy yield to the critical and scientific attacks on the Bible? Why was Huxley or Tyndall or Colenso or Lyell so eagerly heard, and why did Gladstone or Mivart or Pratt have such a limited success?

1. At the most fundamental level was the continuing revolt of man from the religion and authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church in its medieval expression. These roots go back through the Aufklarung to the rise of modern philosophy in Descartes and Spinoza and to humanism and the Renaissance. It was at first a revolt against Catholicism but it also became hostile to Protestant orthodoxy. This deep-moving secularism - life without God, philosophy without the Bible, community without the Church -was all in favor of the radical and the critic, and against the Christian and the apologist. It was an irresistible tide which set men's minds, the popular and the scholarly, in favor of Huxley or Spencer.

2. The development of modern philosophy from Descartes, and modern science from Galileo, have shown the value of sharp, critical, nonconventional mentality. Descartes impressed modern philosophy from its very source with his principle of radical doubt, and Galileo and his trial prophesied that science would progress only when freed from clericalism. Locke set before men the results of a refined analysis of concepts, and Hume showed how little was left of the world of common sense when dipped in acidic scepticism. Kant ponderously but deftly showed the impossibility of metaphysics as traditionally conceived. The progress of modern thought is then such as to put a premium on criticism and scepticism, and to put anything religious, theological, or synthetical at a great disadvantage even before the debate commences. In less than one hundred years Paley is moved out of place in British thought and Huxley or Spencer takes over. In this atmosphere Bible-and-science fought its battle with modern mentality and came out the loser as far as which was to dominate the thinking in academic and learned society.

 

The entire psychological and social advantage was with the radical or the critic as over against the orthodox. It was far easier for the radical to draw blood than for the Christian to do so.

In other words, Christian thinkers failed to keep pace, complacently assuming their doctrines were immune to challenge until it was too late.

3. In the nineteenth century battleground of the Bible and science another advantage accrued to the critic. Science was developing with an amazing rapidity. All the practical and theoretical success of science added weight to the arguments of Christianity's critics. The rapid strides of science in the nineteenth century were enormous. We have become so accustomed to the scientific marvels of the twentieth century that we have forgotten the days of the scientific giants of the nineteenth century. It was the century of the founding of sciences, of the development of the sciences, of the birth of many fundamental theories of science, of the creation of remarkable experiments. The scientists could point to such concrete things and to such remarkable successes. Then, too, the theoretical aspects of science found practical expressions which reached into every civilized hamlet. Steam engines, electricity, and chemistry were powerful and practical apologists for the scientific point of view. Inoculations, surgery under an anesthetic, and brilliant new progress in surgery were medical marvels which preached irresistibly the gospel of science.

What could theologians offer as a parallel to this? A theologian's product is a book, but so few of our population read the books of the theologians. Further, the reasoned argument of a book cannot compete popularly with the practical gadgets of science. Here again, Huxley could vex and tease the theologians, and carry with his vexing and teasing the enormous prestige of the practical and theoretical strides of the progress of science. The theologian's use of logic, history, or reason seemed like sputterings of a confused man to common people unaccustomed to such argumentations, and very much accustomed to the scientist's claims demonstrated very concretely and at times so dramatically.

 

4. Another one of the reasons why the radical and the critic made such headway and the orthodox and evangelical so little was that divisions plagued the Church. There was the major cleavage of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. In Protestantism there was denominationalism with seemingly unlimited powers of spawning new denominations or cults or sects. There was deep and serious division as to the interpretation of the revelation, and right in the midst of it all developed religious modernism which created another great cleavage in Protestantism. Science, in sharp contrast, was developing a measure of unanimity. Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation, and fellow physicists could check it and agree with him. Pasteur discovered the principle of immunization and all bacteriologists eventually concurred.

Eastern Orthodoxy has been essentially outside the scientific revolution, and Catholicism, though it produced few major participants after Galileo, at least learned to exercise caution. The historical villain here is the fragmentation of Protestantism, driven by doctrinal hair-splitting and intolerance of unorthodoxy as bad as anything the medieval Church had to offer. However, lacking a central authority to enforce doctrine, Protestantism expresses its doctrinal hair-splitting and intolerance of unorthodoxy by splitting into sects.

Once again, the psychological thrust here is great. There is less unanimity among scientists than the layman is aware of, but that is usually considered one of the growing pains of science. Scientists for the most part seem to be able to agree on certain things when these things are adequately demonstrated, but theologians never seem to be able to agree. The antichristian philosophies (materialism, naturalism, positivism, agnosticism) lost no time in preempting science to themselves, and presumed that orthodoxy and science were divorced. This was taken as the facts of the case. The divergences among the theologians enervated their case, and the measure of unanimity which prevailed among scientists enhanced the position of the antichristian philosopher who taught his philosophy in the name of science.

 

5. The very strategy of the hyperorthodox and even the orthodox was such as to defeat itself. We must be charitable at this point in the realization that the orthodox had little time to develop a strategy to combat the critic. He had to pitch in and fight the best he could. But this was not good enough. Sometimes he was woefully ignorant of the simplest facts of science. It must be kept in mind that university training up to the early part of the twentieth century was principally literary and classical. Science courses and scientific laboratories on the grand scale now found in the modern university are strictly phenomena of the twentieth century. Most of the clergy were trained in the classics, and were strangers to the sciences. Therefore, they did not even have the facts to create a telling strategy.

The term "hyperorthodox" is a useful one, since people within fundamentalism vary widely in their flexibility and ability to cope with alternative interpretations.

We can be charitable up to a point, but only to a point. If someone's going to speak out on a subject, he needs to learn the subject first. If you want to write about the original meaning of the New Testament, you need to learn Greek. (Unfortunately, Christian bookstores are full of commentaries by people whose understanding of the original language comes only from the dictionary in their concordance, embellished by fanciful elaborations.) If you want to write about science, you learn science. If you can't be bothered to do the job properly, stay out of the debate.

 

The other deficiency was that of improper spirit. Too frequently orthodoxy fought the critic with sarcasm or vilification or denunciation. This too often involved a similar treatment of the facts of science. Such a strategy was futile. The sure advance of empirical data, and the analytic mentality modern science developed in her devotees, could not be coerced or routed by ridicule or wholesale depreciation of science.

6. Another cause for the success of the critic and the defeat of the evangelical was that science was developed by non-Christians in increasing numbers. Men like Newton and Pasteur and Clerk-Maxwell were devout men, but they were replaced by men of atheistic or at least antichristian bent of mind. The God-fearing scientist became rare, and the conservative or orthodox scientist (with reference to religious belief) became an oddity. This had many ramifications. The prestige of science went to the scientists and to their philosophical and religious views. Science was developed on non-Christian premises. The thousands of students passing through science courses were influenced for naturalism and against religion by the antichristian or naturalistic convictions of their professors of science.

7. Orthodoxy did not have a well-developed philosophy of science or philosophy of biology. The big problems of science and biology must be argued in terms of a broad philosophy of science. The evangelical always fought the battle on too narrow a strip. He argued over the authenticity of this or that bone; this or that phenomenon in a plant or animal; this or that detail in geology. The empirical data are just there, and the scientists can run the evangelical to death in constantly turning up new material. The evangelicals by fighting on such a narrow strip simply could not compete with the scientists who were spending their lifetime routing out matters of fact.

It must be admitted that the discipline of philosophy of science is a development of recent years. True, all great philosophers have had a philosophy of science implicit in their works, and even a philosophy of biology, e.g., Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes. But these matters have not been sharpened up till recently, and they could hardly have been till more empirical data were on hand. In view of this the evangelicals cannot be blamed for not having either a philosophy of science or biology on hand to meet modern science. But the case is the same. It was impossible to settle the complex problems of Bible and science, theological and empirical fact, without a well-developed Christian theism and philosophy of science.

 

 
For example, the idea of creation is a rather complex idea. Evangelicals were not always aware of the great deal of thought put into this matter by Augustine and Aquinas. As a result evangelicals posed the problems of modern science as resolving down to: (i) fiat, instantaneous creationism; or (ii) atheistic developmentalism. This is certainly a gross over-simplification, not a genuine probing, of the entire concept of creation. By putting the question this way, every bit of developmentalism in science made the evangelical position that much more difficult of defense. Evangelicals, by putting such a premium on discontinuity, had no recourse but to fight any continuity in any of the sciences as if it were the devil himself. With no real philosophy of creation, evangelicals defended a position that violently contradicted the findings of science. Evangelicals of today who fail to see these problems in their larger dimensions are but perpetuating the losing strategy of their brethren who lost the battle in the previous century.

I'm constantly amazed (actually I'm not) to see people on all sides of the divide utter remarks on religion as if they are totally original ideas, that betray that they don't have a clue that anybody ever thought about these issues before. But even if evangelicals are aware what Aquinas or Augustine said on creation, they tend to ignore anything that conflicts with their pet doctrines.

Non-believers are far worse, though, when it comes to superficial thinking on religion. Dialog about religion in the movies and on TV is mostly random assemblages of buzzwords.

The tendency to equate any kind of developmentalism with evolution and hence with atheism is one of the central fallacies of creationism.

 

The result of losing the battle of the Bible and science in the nineteenth century is simply and tragically this: Physics, astronomy, chemistry, zoology, botany, geology, psychology, medicine and the rest of the sciences are taught in ignoration of Biblical statements and Christian perspectives, and with no interest in the Biblical data on the sciences, and no confidence in what the Bible might even say about the same. Evangelical Christianity is obtaining a measure of success in education, in evangelism, in missions, in journalism and publications, in church expansion, but in the field of science evangelicalism is apparently the lost cause (2). For all practical purposes science is developed and controlled by men who do not believe in the scientific credibility of Holy Writ. Evangelicals in science are considered by scientists as anachronisms or unnecessary perpetuations of the medieval mentality into the modern period.

 
The detrimental influence of this on Christianity is beyond any possible calculation. To enumerate the resultant influence on the Christian church is heartbreaking. First to be mentioned is the revolt within the church itself in the nineteenth century in which thousands of ministers forsook an evangelical theology under the pressure of radical criticism and scientific allegations against the Bible. The principle of the uniformity of Nature became the first axiom in all theology and Biblical criticism. All miracles and all supernatural activity of God had to go under this royal principle. Evolutionary biology and uniformitarian geology made serious inroads on theology. Next to be mentioned are the numerous intelligent and gifted young men who could have served the church with distinction but who live and work outside the church in the belief that Holy Scripture is scientifically untrustworthy. Thousands of splendid, trained, capable men now lost to secularism could have provided the church with an imposing array of scholars in every department of learning and provided for a stronger ministry and a more intelligent laity. Today these talented people in education, business, and professions using their talents and energies for these tasks leave a crippled and weakened church in their aftermath. Finally, the influence on the masses is a great imponderable quantity. The spirit of the times is such as to make evangelical headway difficult. It is the popular belief that the Bible and science are at odds, that intelligence is on the side of unbelief, and that only childish or sentimental or uneducated people still trust the contents of the Bible. No longer do people respond to Scripture because it is the voice of God, but armed with the belief that science has broken the credibility of Scripture they cynically ask how we know the Bible is God's voice. Apart from those circles in which the church exerts its influence early in life it is very difficult for Christianity to get a sympathetic hearing.

This is a sentiment echoed in the title of C. S. Lewis' God in the Dock (the idea being that once people believed they were being judged by God, but in modern times people judge God for permitting war, injustice, famine, and so on). It is a viewpoint for which I have not the tiniest shred of sympathy. Any religion worth believing in should be able to face the most rigorous challenges. In fact, it should deal with them before skeptics bring them up. If there is anyplace we have a right to demand absolute honesty and the most rigorous self-criticism, it is in religion. People have a right, in fact an obligation to know if religious claims are true, and why, and to ask penetrating questions about theological inconsistencies.

The offensive thing about this sentiment is that it leads so easily to a Uriah Heep kind of religion. Uriah Heep was a slimy character in Charles Dickens' David Copperfield who used bogus protestations of humility to hide his ulterior motives. Ramm and Lewis were far better men than that, but pulpits and the shelves of Christian bookstores are thickly infested with Uriah Heeps. A religious Uriah Heep uses the exaltedness of Scripture to brush off legitimate serious questions on grounds like 'who are we to judge God?,' questions that might force him to revise or even scrap his theology. He puts God on a pedestal and climbs up beside him. When the religious Uriah Heep says 'who are we to judge God?,' what he really means is "Who are you to criticize me?"

The last sentence in the paragraph above echoes Demea in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, who argued that people ought not be instructed in theology until they had acquired an instinctive devotion in childhood. Atheists, of course, would brand such a tactic brainwashing.

 

The immediate prospects are that unless something very revolutionary develops in science to reinstate the Bible before the scientists of the world the situation will continue in its aggravated state. The world of scholarship will continue to ignore Biblical teaching; the liberals and neo-orthodox will still hold to the scientific fallibility of Scripture; and the masses at large will believe that the development of science has exploded the scientific reliability of the Bible.

Before we leave this subject of the embarrassment of Christianity by science, we must indicate that it is not evangelical Christianity alone that is embarrassed. Religion in general has been embarrassed. The strict naturalist or positivist or materialist is opposed to neo-orthodoxy and modernism as well as to orthodoxy. It is not only difficult to get a hearing for evangelical Christianity on our large state campuses; it is hard to get any sort of religious hearing. Metaphysics is also embarrassed by science (3). Naturalism and materialism are philosophies which have renounced any special philosophic methodology and have espoused the scientific method for philosophy. Even more extreme are the logical positivists or scientific empiricists who rule out all metaphysics whatsoever. These scientisms are the dominant philosophies of our times and they all affirm the pan-applicability of the scientific method, and sternly oppose any type of idealistic reconstruction. Science has thus made a cleavage all the way through modern mentality and culture, and not merely in evangelical theology alone.

 

In fact, the so-called modern mind is the scientific mind. Although somewhat of an over-simplification it could be said that there has been the classical mind, the medieval mind, and the modern mind. The modern mind is distinguished from the classical and medieval by the impact of scientific theory and attitude in formulating it. The making of the modern mind is actually the formulating of a mental attitude guided by science. Idealism, metaphysics, and religion are all under suspicion by modern scientific mentality.

Parenthetically, we must insist that one of the greatest mistakes of modern scholars is to equate the Christian mind with the medieval mind, and then to accuse the Christian mind of all the mistakes and fallibilities of the medieval mind.

Especially since many of the purported fallibilities of the medieval mind are modern fictions. Medieval man did not believe the universe was small or that the earth was flat. Witchcraft trials were relatively rare in the Middle Ages and much more common during the Renaissance, and so on.

II. The Approach that Creates Disharmony

In view of the present antagonism of science to evangelical Christianity, the situation will continue and perhaps grow worse if no reconciliation takes place. The movement of reconciliation may come from the scientist or from the evangelical. Although the movement from the scientist is least likely to occur, it must not be completely ignored. Recent studies in astrophysics suggest a moment of creation; and the sobering considerations over atomic power have reawakened some scientists to the important role of religion in civilization. Perhaps in another hundred years of experimentation geneticists will admit that the evolutionary theory must be abandoned, and if they do they will be amenable to some sort of creationism. Ramm may have put this in to offer a glimmer of hope to die-hards. Fifty years later, it doesn't look likely.

However, for any positive and successful reconciliation of science and evangelicalism the obligation is upon the evangelical. It is up to him to set forth the terms of rapprochement. Evangelicalism has been exceedingly slow in learning certain fundamental lessons in this controversy. In this regard the Roman Catholic scholars have far outstripped us. They have worked out a set of principles setting the boundaries of science, the boundaries of theology, and the canons of interpretation. These matters are set forth in the encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893) of Leo XIII, and in the decrees of the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies (1902 and following years) (4).

One wing of evangelicalism whose orthodoxy and zeal are commendable but whose judgment is to be seriously questioned is that group which took a very negative and castigatory attitude toward science, and in many other ways was very inept in its efforts. Men of this group are not limited to any country nor to the past, but are with us to this day. Although there was some good in such Fundamentalist journals as the Bible Champion or Christian Faith and Life, most of the articles reflect not orthodoxy, but hyperorthodoxy. So many articles lacked the measured control of cultured men, and a judgment seasoned through much use of logic and experimentation.

Taking as its watchword the "oppositions of science falsely so called" (5) hyperorthodoxy assumed that unsaved man is in open rebellion against God and will use science as well as anything else to oppose Christianity. The Bible, it asserted, was in accord with true science, but obviously in conflict with most of the world's practicing scientists These scientists, unsaved and antichristian, must be written off the record in science as well as in religion.

 

Sad has been the history of the evil that good Christian men have done in regard to science. Bettex laments that far too often the Christian attitude toward science is an attitude unworthy of itself and "where not positively hostile, treats it with petty distrust, and an admixture of scorn, or at least with some aversion and distaste" (6).  Dawson complains of "slipshod Christianity" which rests smugly in dogmatic theology, and has the most contemptible estimation of geology (7). John Pye Smith complained

[Evangelical castigators of science] are unwittingly serving the designs of [Christianity's] enemies [and are] secret traitors to the cause of Christianity (8)

The judgment of White is proved a thousand times that the cheap weapons of religious opposition to science are like "Chinese gongs and dragon lanterns against rifled cannon" (9).

If this is the damage that hyperorthodox critics have done, why does Ramm call them "good?" Ramm is probably constrained to use these words by personal loyalty and affection, but we need have no such reservations. True, they may not have beaten their families, kicked their dogs, or committed carnal acts in the street and frightened the horses, but even the Bible makes it clear that adhering to the minimal demands of civilized society is not a very high order of morality. "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47)

Matthew 12:34-35 is even more revealing: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." The vituperative language of hyperorthodox critics shows their motives have nothing to do with reverence for God or the Bible; it's all about pride and lashing out at authority. In many cases, these may well be people who secretly hate their own hyperorthodox and authoritarian rearing, but who lack the courage to admit it to themselves or to break away and who displace their anger onto evolution.

Does not the most hyperorthodox among us realize that most of the views he now holds about the Bible, medicine, science, and progress which he thinks are so orthodox, safe, sane, and Biblical, would, a few centuries ago, have cost him his life?

If evangelicalism continues to have a strong, outspoken group within it with such a negative approach to science, the prospects of instating the scientific respectability of Scripture are not good. If this pedantic hyperorthodoxy continues to be the representative voice in evangelical apologetics, the great cleavage between science and evangelicalism which occurred in the nineteenth century will not only be perpetuated through the twentieth, but it will be widened.

But pedantic hyperorthodoxy must not be allowed to speak for all evangelical Christians as such a position as it holds is impossible of credible defense. We present the following reasons why such a position is indefensible.

1. It is, as already asserted, hyperorthodoxy. We can sin to the right as well as to the left. Patriotism can degenerate into jingoism and enthusiasm into fanaticism and virtue into prudishness. It is possible not only to have slack theological views, but to have views far more rigid and dogmatic than Scripture itself. Hyperorthodoxy in trying to be loyal to the Bible has developed an exaggerated sense of what loyalty to the Bible means.

2. Hyperorthodoxy does not believe its platform "to the hilt." It is willing to retain faith in the Bible no matter what the scientists say. But would it really believe the Bible if at every point the Bible and science conflicted? If the differences between the sciences and the Bible were to grow to a very large number and were of the most serious nature, would it retain faith in Scripture? True, we may believe some of the Bible "in spite of" science, but certainly the situation would change if we believed all of the Bible in spite of science. That is to say, the hyperorthodox have made a virtue of disagreeing with science,

 
and have not set any sort of limits as to how serious the divergences with science may go before they must rethink their position. Their guiding principle cannot be extended without making their entire position indefensible or simply absurd. We question that the hyperorthodox would follow their principle through to its extremity, and therefore can only judge that it is an inadequate principle. Superficial philosophers all across the spectrum reject the methodology of extrapolating a belief system to its extremes, preferring to say "we'll deal with that issue when it comes up."

3. Hyperorthodoxy is inconsistent in actual practice for it will certainly use the practical achievements of modern science, e.g., radio, television, phones, cars, medicines, furnaces, glasses, artificial teeth, etc., etc., etc. It is not intellectually consistent to condemn science as satanic while having teeth repaired by scientific technicians, wearing glasses prescribed and ground by other scientists, covered with clothing produced by chemists and engineers, with a body saved from premature death by an appendectomy performed by a scientist, and with a mind trained in a school system working with methods provided by educational scientists.

4. Such a position makes the words of God and the work of God clash. Certainly, the pragmatic truthfulness of science as witnessed by a modern industrialized society, modern rapid transportation and communications, modern medicine, and modern warfare, cannot be denied. This is incontrovertible proof that in many regards science is on the right track. To this extent science has opened up the secrets and meanings of Nature, the creation of God. To set theology against science is simply to oppose Creation to Revelation, and Nature to Redemption. Yet, it is the uniform testimony of Scripture that the God and Christ of redemption are the God and Christ of creation.

Further, without a rather extended tour of the sciences the hyperorthodox have no idea of the relationship of Scripture to science. Scientific knowledge is indispensable to a knowledge of the Bible - at least to know it fully and completely. We do not see how it is possible to gainsay what Shields has written in this connection: "Without astronomical knowledge he cannot tell whether the astronomical scriptures are in accord with the discovery of suns and planets. Without geological knowledge he cannot tell whether the order of the creative days agrees with the order of the earth's strata. Without ethnological knowledge he cannot tell whether the Mosaic genealogies include or exclude pre-Adamite and co-Adamite races of mankind. Without archaeological knowledge he cannot tell whether the Mosaic cosmogony was of Hebrew or Chaldean origin, or derived from primeval tradition still more ancient; nor whether the Elohist and Jehovist sections were original or compiled documents; nor whether Moses wrote the whole or parts of the books which have always borne his name. Without historical science he cannot tell whether the Mosaic codes formed a logical or chronological series; nor whether they date before or after the Babylonian exile. And without some knowledge of psychology, sociology, and comparative religion he cannot even approach the higher problems of the soul, the Church, and the future of Christianity (11).

 

 
5. Even though the non-Christian scientist is unsaved and even though he is spiritually ruled by the Evil One, nonetheless, that is no basis for writing scientists and science off the record. That this cannot be done can be proved on the sole grounds that in the vast majority of cases of matter of fact the scientist who is Christian and the scientist who is not Christian concur. Chemical formulas, laws of physics, occurrences of fossils, physiological processes are not determined by being Christian or non-Christian. Granted, when we deal with wider problems such as the why there are any laws at all, and as to the origin of matter and its properties, the metaphysical issue intrudes and there is a definite Christian answer. But if a Christian should write an introductory textbook on physics or chemistry it would be practically identical to the one written by a non-Christian save for a note in the preface which might say (i) matter is created by God; (ii) the laws of Nature are as they are because God so made them; and (iii) the rationality of both man and the universe derive from the same God. That iron has a certain specific gravity, that the chemical families of Mendelyeev's tables have certain common traits, that tadpoles go through stages x, y, z to become frogs, is common property to Christian and non-Christian.

This is emphasized to show Ramm's core adherence to evangelicalism. Nevertheless, he continues, truth is truth and it's so obvious that non-Christian scientists are telling the truth that it's artificial and contrived to assert that scientific conflicts with Biblical interpretation are solely motivated by a desire to undermine the Bible.

The plain fact is that apart from scientists who deal specifically with relations between science and religion, the Bible is just not on most scientists' radar as a target. Nonbelieving scientists consider the battle over and believers assume that a reconciliation will always be possible. Scientists simply do not spend any effort on specifically trying to prove or discredit the Bible.

But let's delve into the theology a bit deeper. If Satan is "the father of lies" and "there is no truth in him" (John 8:44), and "a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit " (Matthew 7:18; Luke 6:43) , then how can people whose work passes all tests for truth be "spiritually ruled by the Evil One?"

In Perelandra, C. S. Lewis describes the Satanic figure in the story as

nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties ... It was... like being set to guard an imbecile or a monkey or a very nasty child .... it regarded intelligence simply and solely as a weapon, which it had no more wish to employ in its off-duty hours than a soldier has to do bayonet-practice while on leave. Thought for it a device necessary to certain ends, but thought in itself did not interest it. [note the use of "it" rather than "he."]

We would expect people ruled by such a spirit to dissipate their intellectual powers on irrationality, sophistry, rationalizations and trivia. We would expect them to use their rationality to seek empty status rather than real accomplishments, like characters from a Victorian "manners" novel or a Tom Wolfe book. We would expect a society ruled by such a spirit to spend its energies on trivial squabbles and amusements, not building roads, hospitals and schools. We would, above all, not expect it to do any science. In fact, we would expect it to embrace pseudoscience and magic.

We conclude that it is impossible for us to follow the pattern set by the hyperorthodox in their proposed relationship of Christianity to science. Their efforts in the past have increased the gap between Christianity and the scientists, have embittered the scientists, and have done little to provide a working theory of any creative dimensions for the rapprochement of science and evangelicalism.

 

This just can't be emphasized enough.

An ancient saying holds that "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." This saying has Biblical counterparts: "For it was the Lord Himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally" (Joshua 11:19-21) or "I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen." (Exodus 14:17) The hyperorthodox might ponder whether they are defending the faith, or being set up for intellectual and denominational annihilation.

The Christian View of Science and Scripture pp. 40-41.

Having taught Bible and science over a period of years the author is aware of a very difficult psychological problem in discussing the matters of this book with his Conservative brethren. The psychological problem is that so many Christians fail to differentiate interpretation from inspiration. For example, if from childhood a student has heard only of a universal flood, he will consider a local flood as a heretical innovation. Or, if a Christian has known only the gap theory of Genesis 1, having read it in The Scofield Reference Bible or in the popular writings of Harry Rimmer, such a person will feel that other interpretations are trifling with Sacred Scripture.

 
In both cases it is clearly a mistake in failing to distinguish between inspiration and interpretation.

 

This is a central theme to which Ramm returns over and over, and which later hyperorthodox critics of Ramm simply ignore.

 

First, one must realize that revelation is not interpretation, and conversely, interpretation is not revelation. Revelation is the communication of divine truth; interpretation is the effort to understand it. One cannot say "I believe just exactly what Genesis 1 says and I don't need any theory of reconciliation with science." Such an assertion identifies revelation with interpretation. The problem still remains: what does Genesis 1 say or mean or involve us in? Our mutual problem is not this: is Genesis inspired? On that we agree. Our problem is: what does Genesis 1 mean - how do we interpret it? To profess belief in its divine origin does not necessarily help us in understanding how it relates to science. It's common to hear hyperorthodox believers say "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" without the slightest consciousness that they are simultaneously interpreting the Bible. Generally, of course, what they mean is they believe what they were taught from childhood, or by their pastor. A teacher at one conservative church once related to me her experiences teaching a class on the Jehovah's Witnesses. She taught the class from the viewpoint of the Witnesses. She was constantly interrupted by challenges that "you're not taking the Bible literally!" She replied "I am taking it literally; this is exactly what this passage says." Her audience had never realized you could take passages absolutely literally and put them together to build a completely different set of doctrines.

Nor can we identify our interpretation with the infallibility of revelation. We can dogmatize if we wish and equate our interpretation with orthodoxy. John Pye Smith must have had a difficult time with some of his contemporary hyperorthodox brethren for he wrote:

It is not the word of God, but the expositions and deductions of men, from which I dissent.

Later he mentions:

[The dogmatic orthodox] represents his own interpretations of Scripture as unquestionable; and so confident is he in the infallibility of his own deductions as to identify them with the Divine Veracity, and to think himself entitled to take it for an analogy to his own reasoning (16)

All the interpretations we ourselves shall defend in subsequent pages are tentative, exploratory and not given in a dogmatic spirit. Second, we must recognize latitude of interpretation in these matters and not confuse differences of interpretation with belief in inspiration. Because men believe in a local flood does not mean they believe less in divine inspiration. Nor because Christian men seek harmonization of Scripture and science are they to be accused of trifling with Scripture. These are extremely serious matters and there is no legitimate place for small minds, petty souls, and studied ignorance.

 
 
The author of this book believes in the divine origin of the Bible, and therefore in its divine inspiration; and he emphatically rejects any partial theory of inspiration or liberal or neo-orthodox view of the Bible. Again, Ramm's orthodoxy is beyond challenge.

Footnotes

1. Because the word nature has so many meanings we have capitalized it in this work at all places where it stands for such notions as "the universe," or "creation," or the material dimension of reality.

2. Cf. "If Protestantism is to win America it must win science." C. C. Morrison, "Protestantism and Science," Christian Century, April 1946, p. 524. Evangelicalism is certainly not winning science which makes winning America that much more difficult.

3. Cf. E. W. Hall, "Metaphysics," Twentieth Century Philosophy (1943), pp. 145-194. 26 The Christian View of Science and Scripture

4. Exposition of these principles and their importance for the Catholic dealing with Christianity and science will be found in Canon Dorlodot, Darwinism and Catholic Thought (1923), Vol. I.

5. 1 Tim. 6:20. The Greek word here is gnosis, "knowledge," not science in its technical meaning.

6. F. Bettex, Christianity and Science (1903), p. 123.

7. J. W. Dawson, The Origin of the World According to Revelation and Science (1877), p. 323.

8. John Pye Smith, On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and some parts of Geological Science (1840), pp. 148 and 150. In many stalwart treatises which we have read on Bible and science, the learned authors have complained that they were more bitterly attacked by the hyperorthodox than by unbelieving scientists.

9. White, I, 225.

10. An expression used by such a loyal believer of the Bible as J. W. Dawson (op. cit., p. 135). Although most evangelicals would not appreciate a reference to Maynard Shipley's The War on Modern Science (1927) they cannot deny the very words of the hyperorthodox which Shipley quotes. There they are in all their extremisms, and even fanaticisms. Just as heartbreaking and deplorable is the story told by Norman F. Furniss in "The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918-1931," (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation; New Haven, Yale University, 1950) whose elaborate documentation cannot be denied even though at some points he fails to see the controversy in its fuller dimensions.

11. C. W. Shields, The Scientific Evidences of Revealed Religion (1900), pp. 35-36.

16. John Pye Smith, On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and some parts of Geological Science (1840), pp. 70 and 157.


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