A scientist looks at the Doctrine of Creation


In our Defenders class, we have been talking for the last several months about the Doctrine of Creation. So I was interested to see recently that Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelical Christianity, carried an article on creation written by an astrophysicist.[1] However, in reading this, I discovered that he takes a very different view from the view that we’ve expressed in our class and I thought it might be interesting to interact with what he had to say. Quoting from the article, he says:

Focusing on the Creator poses the fundamental question of how that Creator is known. In Colossians, Paul is explicit in saying that the Creator God is known supremely in Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (1:15),

That’s fine, Christ is the supreme revelation of the Creator God. But then the scientist goes on to say,

To know, then, what our Creator is like, Christians must look to Jesus.

And I thought to myself, “How does that follow? How does it follow that the Creator is supremely revealed in Christ that he is the only revelation of the Creator?” Doesn’t the Bible itself teach, in Romans 1, that, from the creation around us all, persons can know God’s eternal power and deity so that they are without excuse? There is a general revelation of God that is available in nature of God’s existence and this is epitomized, of course, in Jesus Christ. But to say that Christ is the fullest revelation of God is not to say that he is the only revelation of the Creator. But the writer goes on to say,

In the third volume of his Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth [the German theologian] put this clearly: “I believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son our Lord, in order to perceive and to understand that God the Almighty, the Father, is the Creator of heaven and earth. If I did not believe the former, I could not perceive and understand the latter.”

Now, I was dismayed to see this scientist quoting Karl Barth on this score because Barth was infamous for his denial of God’s general revelation in nature and of the value of natural theology for coming to know God through the created order. For Barth, God was to be known and could be known only through Jesus Christ and he denied any other access to the knowledge of God, a radical position on which many theologians disagreed with this neo-orthodox German theologian. And it was dismaying to me to see this scientist quoting Barth as though this were the supreme authority.

He goes on to say,

This means that I do not need to prove God through some kind of logical argument.

Well, of course. Saying that God is revealed in nature isn’t to say that you need some sort of logical argument in order to know God. God is knowable through the witness of his Holy Spirit independently of whether or not we have good logical arguments for God’s existence. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t such arguments for his existence.

Then he goes on to say,

In fact, this kind of argument is always vulnerable to someone like Hawking finding a scientific way around it.

Well, that is true. If you have an argument for, say, the existence of God on the basis of the beginning of the universe and someone could show that in fact the scientific evidence doesn’t support that, then the argument is vulnerable. But I take that to be a positive feature of the argument. It means that your position is falsifiable, that it is open to the evidence and you can follow the evidence where it leads.

He says,

This was exactly what happened with Charles Darwin. Many Christians had put their faith in the axiom that a created object—whether a single watch or a whole world—implies a creator.

I thought this is bizarre. That is just a tautology – that is true by definition – that a created object implies a creator. That is just tautologous. Obviously, a created object implies a creator.[2] The question is – are the objects around us created? Are they created objects so that there is a creator? So, such an axiom is undeniable. It is just true by definition, it is a triviality. But then he says,

When Darwin suggested that natural selection explained the biological world better than God's design, they felt very threatened. Those whose faith stemmed from biblical revelation were much more relaxed.

Is that true? I should have thought that it was precisely those who believed on the basis of biblical revelation, in Young Earth Creationism, were far from relaxed about Darwin’s discovery. It was those who were open to following scientific evidence where it leads who could be very relaxed about Darwin’s theory. It was those that thought that the Bible teaches six-day, 24-hour creationism that were not relaxed by Darwin’s discovery.

He finally says,

My belief in the existence and nature of a Creator God comes from his own self-revelation in Jesus.

Well, that is just a personal, auto-biographical comment, isn’t it? That is fine that that is where his belief in the existence and nature of God comes from. That doesn’t deny the fact that God, according to the New Testament, has also revealed himself in nature but that is just a matter of this man’s personal auto-biography that his belief comes from God’s self-revelation in Christ.

But then he says,

This is a word of caution to Christians who want to use science as an evangelistic strategy, whether through creationism or intelligent design.

How does the fact about his personal biography constitute a word of caution to creationists or intelligent design theorists who think that there are good grounds for inferring the existence of a creator and designer of the universe? I just don’t see how this follows logically from one point to another.

He then says,

. . . any apologetic that stems from the doctrine of Creation must have a key place for Jesus. . . . we can never isolate our efforts in this area from a Creator God who reveals himself in Jesus.

I would simply say if, by that, he means that you can only know the existence of the creator God through Jesus, that is simply unbiblical. That constitutes a denial of God’s general revelation in nature and conscience that Paul teaches in Romans 1 and is said elsewhere as when he and Barnabas are in Lystra and the people were going to worship them as gods and says, “We’re not gods. The God who made the heavens and the earth has not left himself without a witness but has given you fruitful seasons and years and so forth.”[3] God’s revelation in nature was his witness to his reality.

So while it may sound very pious or pioustic to say that we know the creator God only through his revelation in Christ, I think that is simply not true. It is unbiblical and there is no basis for saying such a thing, as we’ve seen in this class.

Indeed, I thought it was telling that this Christian magazine should turn to a scientist for articulating a Christian doctrine of creation. It seems to display that same proclivity toward the idolization of science that goes on in our culture today and that you see especially in the secular press. I can understand why the secular press would turn automatically to scientists to articulate a doctrine of creation. But why would a Christian magazine turn to a scientist to tell us what is the proper theological doctrine of creation rather than to a biblical theologian or a systematic theologian who is skilled in exegesis and theology? Those are the persons who are expert in articulating a doctrine of creation, not a natural scientist and indeed we see here, I think, too clearly in this article how someone who is skilled in the natural sciences but somewhat naïve in biblical and theological studies can be lead astray into a doctrine of creation that is in fact quite unbiblical.[4]

[1] David Wilkinson, “Bigger Than We Think,” Christianity Today, March 2013. See http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/bigger-than-we-think.html?paging=off (accessed September 7, 2013).

[2] 5:02

[3] cf. Acts 14:11-18

[4] Total Running Time: 10:00 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)