Faith and Science
Dept. of Biology, Eastern University
1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids, PA 19087
In our culture, there are two basic positions regarding ultimate reality and thus the origin of the universe. (Here and below, universe, world, and nature are used to refer to the sum total of all matter and energy in existence.) Broadly, the first position is theism, which holds that the universe results from the action of a Creator God, however he chose to work. The second position is naturalism, a type of materialism, the belief that matter and energy are all that exist, or at least all that affect events in the universe. Naturalism holds that undirected, purposeless natural processes have accidentally resulted in the existence and characteristics of everything.
The Primary Issue
Christian orthodoxy has always held that the God of the Bible is the ultimate cause of the universe around us; thus all Christians agree that God made everything. (The term Christian is used here to denote those who believe that the Bible is inspired—God’s supernatural revelation to humanity—and who believe the historic creeds of the Christian church.) Christians agree that God made everything because the Bible clearly and repeatedly says so (e.g., Genesis 1:1, Exodus 4:11 & 20:11, Job 38:4, Proverbs 3:19, Isaiah 51:13, Jeremiah 32:17, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:10, Revelation 14:7, and many other places). Christians also find support for this conviction from science. The more scientists learn about the structure and function of the universe, the more we appreciate the degree to which it is just right for the existence of human life.
Consistent with Scripture and historic Christian belief, Eastern University insists that God made the universe. We teach that the universe does not exist by accident, and that the better we understand its structure and function (which is the goal of science), the more impressed we will become with its Maker (Psalm 19:1, Proverbs 3:19).
It is important to recognize that while Christians agree that God made everything, we cannot be dogmatic about exactly how and when God did it. The most obvious reason is that the Bible speaks much less clearly and frequently about how and when God made everything, than of the fact that He did so. As a result, Christians reach different conclusions about what God is saying regarding the timing and method of creation. Christians also differ in their awareness of relevant scientific data, and in their convictions regarding how such data should be used to clarify their understanding of the Bible.
Probably all Christians alive today believe that the earth orbits the sun, despite objections to this idea by some prominent Christians at the time astronomy as a science developed, including both the Roman Catholic Pope and Martin Luther. Evidence from science eventually convinced Christians that figurative Biblical language (such as references to the sun’s rising and setting, and statements about the sun—not the earth—standing still in Joshua 10) had been misunderstood as figures of speech rather than scientific statements.
However, as regards evolution, Christians today have not reached consensus on whether we have misunderstood the Bible, the scientific data, or both, about how and when God created. The result of this disagreement is that Christians who believe in the inspiration of Scripture may be found in each of the following three camps: young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and theistic evolutionists.
At Eastern University, we believe that solving puzzles like how and when God created requires careful attention to both God’s special revelation in the Bible and His general revelation in nature. We teach our students that neither God’s Word nor His world lie to us, although either or both can be misunderstood. Thus, accurately discerning how and when God made everything requires careful study of both the Bible and nature. This is one reason why it is a high calling for Christian young people, confident of the Bible’s reliability, to pursue training in the sciences.
In light of the diversity of opinion among Christian Bible scholars and scientists regarding exactly how and when God created, Eastern University does not take an official position. It would be honest to say, however, that probably all of us who teach in the Natural Sciences at Eastern personally hold to some type of theistic evolution – that God can and has worked providentially for his purposes in geological history as well as human history – but also that God can and does work miraculously, as revealed in the Bible and in the lives of his people. We teach that God is the maker of the universe, that we exist for a purpose, and that it is false to claim that life (or anything else) exists by accident. We teach that naturalistic (i.e., impersonal, undirected, accidental) evolution is not Biblical, but also that Christians hold a variety of views on how and when God created. In terms of how and when God created, we try to present both the scientific data to date and the various interpretations of the Bible sincere Christians have taken.