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The Creator on the Cross: Science in the Light of Christ and Him Crucified

“How is the cross of Christ relevant to science in general and the theory of evolution in particular? How does it throw light on the way we should understand Genesis 1-2? As Mike Anderson shows, these questions lead us into profound truths at the heart of Christian faith. Carefully argued, clearly expressed and biblically based, this book is important reading both for Christians and those interested in exploring Christianity.”

Revd Dr Ernest C. Lucas (Vice-Principal Emeritus, Bristol Baptist College, Honorary Research Fellow in Theology and Religion, University of Bristol. Author of Can we believe Genesis today? The Bible and the questions of science, Exploring the Old Testament, Science and the New Age Challenge.)

The Creator on the cross:

Science in the light of Christ and him crucified

Mike L Anderson

Published by Smashwords

Copyright 2015 Mike L Anderson

ISBN 9781311630414

Discover other titles by Mike L Anderson at Smashwords.com

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. This ebook is freeware and may not be sold.

Unless otherwise stated, quotations from the Bible are taken from Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright © 1978 by the International Bible Society, New York.

To conserve trees, please try to avoid printing this document.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to all my prayer and financial supporters.

Acknowledgments

I am spiritually and intellectually indebted to many people, but want to especially mention Dr George Murphy for teaching me the importance of the theology of the cross, the late Prof Donald Mackay for teaching me to relate science and theology in a way that does justice to both, to my fellow presenters at the Science and Biblical Faith Christian leadership summit – Prof George Branch, Dr Phil Calcott, Dr Mike Jarvis and the Revd Dr Earnest Lucas, for their very helpful comments and encouragement, and my ever-faithful editor, Dr Andrew Potts.

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: the crux of the cross

The cross is crucial to understanding God

The cross is crucial to understanding God as Creator

The cross-shaped pattern to divine and natural agency

This cross-shaped pattern is most clearly seen in Christ’s suffering

The cross endorses Creation – the vertical

The cross endorses science – the horizontal

The cross exposes scientism

The cross-shaped pattern to divine and human agency in events in Biblical history

The cross-shaped pattern of events in all of life

Appreciating the vertical axis

The Creator as author

Genesis in light of the cross

Understanding Genesis

Evolution in the light of the cross

Knowing God in light of the cross

About Mike L Anderson

Other titles by Mike L Anderson

Preface

This book is based on presentations given at the Science and Biblical Faith Christian leadership summit in April and May of 2015 and hosted by Africa Enterprise.

It may seem odd linking an instrument of torture with the majesty of the Creator of the universe as the title of this book does, but there are good reasons for doing so. The Apostle John says that the carpenter from Nazareth who died on the cross is the Creator of the cosmos, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Furthermore, mere belief that the world is created is not distinctively Christian enough – it is common to many faiths. We do not believe in just any old creator, but in the Incarnated Creator who died for us.

There is another crucial reason – Jesus on the cross is God’s greatest self-revelation. As we shall see, it is the Cross that most clearly reveals God’s true nature as Creator and his relationship to creation. To think truly biblically about Creation, Genesis, science and evolution we must go through Christ and him crucified. Indeed, I want to put it to you that the shadow of the cross casts a great light on these things – that in Christ and him crucified there is a deep, deep repository of resources for dealing with all manner of difficult issues such as these. We will see, for instance, that the Cross glorifies the Creator and makes a public spectacle of those that would deny him – triumphing over them. The great benefit of going through Christ and him crucified is that this is a light available to everyone – you do not need to be a scientist in order to avail yourself of all the resources in him. Indeed, this book could have been sub-titled “A Christian perspective on science for non-scientists” or “How to think Christianly about science, in principle¸ without having to know a great deal of scientific detail.”

My hope is that this book will be useful to pastors and Christian leaders in helping their charges draw on the rich resources in Christ and him crucified in negotiating the tricky science and faith arena.

Introduction: the crux of the cross

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). The writer’s point is that Christ is God’s greatest, clearest and fullest revelation of himself. This is why Jesus can say to Philip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Now Jesus did many things that revealed God – which reveals him most clearly?

Many will think that it is his resurrection, but according to Jesus, it is his death. The resurrection does not nullify the cross but vindicates it. His death reveals God like nothing has done before or since. Jesus says that through it we “will know that I am the one I claim to be” (John 8:28). Just before his death he says, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him” (John 13:31 The Message). This is said at the last supper just after Judas goes out to betray him. Later that evening Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). John Stott says, “According to John’s gospel Jesus referred to his death as ‘glorification,’ the event through which he and his Father would be supremely ‘glorified’ or manifested.”^^1^^

The cross is crucial to understanding God

The cross is so central to understanding God because the cross is so central to theology. This has to be stressed because as theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg says, “It is a commonplace that Christian theology is concerned with that kind of knowledge about God that is obtained through Jesus Christ. But it is not a commonplace that the cross of Jesus is the criterion for the authenticity of such knowledge.”^^2^^ Theologian Jürgen Moltmann avers, “The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the centre of all Christian theology. It is not the only theme of theology, but it is in effect the entry to its problems and answers on earth. All Christian statements about God, about creation, about sin and death have their focal point in the crucified Christ. All Christian statements about the future and about hope stem from the crucified Christ.”^^3^^ Scientist-theologian George Murphy concurs: “The work of theology must begin on Calvary, where God is paradoxically revealed just at the point where God is most hidden.”^^4^^ Theologian D. A. Carson says, “Jesus’ death was itself the supreme manifestation of Jesus’ glory. It is not just that the shame of cross is inevitably followed by the glory of the exaltation, but that the glory is already fully displayed in the shame.”^^5^^ Leon Morris says, “The crucifixion is no denial of the exaltation of Jesus. In fact, paradoxically, the crucifixion is the exaltation…the hour of his suffering is paradoxically the hour of his greatest glory.”^^6^^

The cross is crucial to understanding God as Creator

The crucifixion is not only central to theology in general, but central to a theology of creation in particular. It is natural and right to look at the Cross to see how great God is as Redeemer, but it also reveals how great God is as Creator. For some, science, particularly the theory of evolution, presents a great challenge to the Creator because it seems to account for why things happen without reference to him. George Gaylord Simpson, the eminent palaeontologist once made the sort of statement that so often riles Christians. He said, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”^^7^^ However, it is the cross that provides both the greatest challenge to God as Creator and the greatest vindication of him as Creator.

To see why, we will need to recover a fully biblical view of God. We will need to throw out, for instance, the deistic god that started the universe going and is now standing back watching things unfold or the demigod that makes some things but not others. The Apostle Paul had a much loftier view when he said, “for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities-all things were created through him and for him.”^^8^^ With this in mind, let us ask ourselves this question, “Would it be possible for God to create something designed to slowly torture someone to death?” Let us get very specific. Did the Father make that wooden cross on which his Son died? God seems to be in a dilemma. He cannot have made the very thing he must have made! God’s creatorship would be diminished if he did not make the cross, but his holy character would be diminished if he did! This is why the cross, not science or evolution, provides the greatest challenge to God’s Creatorship.

Now, we might try to rescue God from the dilemma and still give him something to do by suggesting that he didn’t actually make the cross, but merely supplied the wood. The trouble with this approach is that in trying to reduce God’s involvement in the cross, God still ends up being less than fully holy (an arms dealer is not as guilty as the one who pulls the trigger, but is not blameless) and ends up being less than fully Creator. He becomes a semi-holy semi-creator.

We know that God in his wisdom has found a way to redeem us that fully satisfies both his love and his justice. So, should it surprise us that God in his wisdom would find a way to make a wooden cross that fully satisfies both his Creatorship and his holiness? We shall see that the cross reveals God’s wisdom as Redeemer and as Creator. As Theologian Ron Osborn has said of the cross, “It is the complete revelation of who God is as both Creator and Redeemer.”^^9^^ The Bible says much about the Creator from Genesis to Revelation, but it is at the cross that God is revealed as Creator most clearly.

Here is why: Through the Cross the Father both creates and resolves the dilemma. Consider Acts 2:23. “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Here, in a single verse, the Bible puts the Father and the means he uses to accomplish things together as if they could not possibly compete. The same principle is echoed a few chapters later in a prayer to God, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4: 27-28.) So, did the Father make the cross on which his Son died? Yes, and he used wicked men to do it.

When our daughter Sharon was about four years old, she asked my wife Janice, “Mommy, did God build this house?” Some people might say, “No, humans did” but then in order to give God something to do they might add, “But He did supply the materials.” This is a profoundly unbiblical answer. It just does not take God’s making all things (John 1:3) seriously enough. My wife wisely replied, “Yes, Sharon, God did and he used people to do it.” Janice knows what Psalm 127:1 teaches about the Creator, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

The cross-shaped pattern to divine and natural agency

Did humans make the wooden cross? Yes. And did God make it? Yes. Humans foolishly designed it. God wisely created it. You could say that God and humans were at cross-purposes. The cross did not appear miraculously on Calvary, yet it was still made by the Father quite naturally through his creatures. “Nature is what God does,”^^10^^ said Augustine. (Strictly speaking, nature is one of the things God does. The other is miracle – for example, the resurrection). The Father is not a natural cause on the same level as a wooden cross, but the immanent and transcendent reality behind and beyond it. For theologians there is a cross-shaped pattern to divine and human or natural agency (see accompanying figure). For instance, Tanner says, “The theologian talks of an ordered nexus of created causes and effects in a relation of total and immediate dependence upon divine agency. Two different orders of efficacy become evident: along a “horizontal” plane, an order of created causes and effects; along a “vertical” plane, the order whereby God founds the former.”^^11^^

This cross-shaped pattern is most clearly seen in Christ’s suffering

This pattern is most acutely evident in the events at Calvary. Along the horizontal, natural or proximate axis humans are fully culpable and the Father is fully innocent. Along the vertical, supra-natural, or ultimate axis the Father is fully involved and humans are fully absent. Berkouwer says, “The interlacing of Divine and human activity is revealed pre-eminently in the history of Christ’s suffering.”^^12^^

Consider, for instance, an event just prior to Christ’s death. Along the horizontal axis there are the wicked men hammering nails into Jesus. Along the vertical axis, these men are utterly dependent on God to be able to even lift the hammer. Epimenides said, and the Apostle Paul affirmed, “For in him [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Or consider something that happened shortly before that – the engagement between Jesus, Pilate, the Jews and God the Father. Here we see rather clearly, the necessity and contingency of the cross. The death of Christ on the cross could, humanly speaking, very easily not have happened. The most significant event in all of history was hanging on a thread. The Jews who wanted to sentence Jesus to death did not have the power to do so (John 18:31). Pilate, who had the power to condemn Jesus, was sure of his innocence and wanted to release Him (Luke 23:20). There was a problem, humanly speaking, in ensuring the success of God’s salvation plan. Here, at the horizontal level is the contingency of the cross.

Pilate tries three tricks to avoid condemning Jesus. First, he tries to evade the problem by sending Jesus to Herod. Herod sends Him back. Second, he offers the compromise of having Jesus flogged. Will the crowd accept it and thwart God’s salvation plan? Just a few days earlier they were waving palms and singing “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Perhaps there is sufficient residue in this sentiment to keep them from pressing for his death. Perhaps they will remember God’s injunction, “I desire mercy rather than sacrifice.” What is God doing pivoting his salvation plan on the fickleness of the crowd? They don’t accept just flogging. His plan is still on track. Next Pilate offers the Passover amnesty as a way out. The crowd could have Jesus declared a criminal without actually having innocent blood on their hands. Will they take the offer? Cleverly, Pilate tries to force their hand by asking whether they want the innocent Jesus released or the known murderer Barabbas. Given such a choice, maybe the crowd will choose amnesty for Jesus and block God’s salvation plan. They don’t. His plan is still on track.

Then Pilate’s wife tries to upset the proceedings. She mentions her troubling dream the previous night as a bad omen and strongly admonishes him to have “nothing to do with this innocent man.” Pilate has to live with his conscience (and his wife). Perhaps this Roman will not bow to the crowd.

Even Jesus says things that seem to obstruct Calvary. He had set his feet resolutely towards Jerusalem and the cross – let’s be clear about that (Luke 9:51, 18:31-33). Why, then, does he say things that induce Pilate to make efforts to release him (John 19:12)? “Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11). “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free” (John 19:12) Will Pilate thwart God’s salvation plan? Jesus knows that he will not.

In effect, Jesus is saying to Pilate that God above has ensured (here is the vertical necessity of the cross) through the greater sin of another, that Pilate will horizontally commit the sin that he is desperately trying to avoid. It is important to understand that “It is not God’s sovereign hand behind Pilate’s authority that mitigates his guilt; that would be to disown the compatibilism^^13^^ of which the biblical writers are so fond and would imply that God is less than sovereign over the person with the greater guilt.”^^14^^

Pilate has the sobering words of Jesus and the shrill voice of his wife ringing in his ears as he faces the clamour of the crowd. Who is he going to listen to? He has exhausted his evasive options. All he can do is try again. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” Their firm answer, “Barabbas.” Pilate asks as many as three times, “Why, what evil has he done?” The crowd is insistent – they want him crucified. Finally, he cowardly bows to the crowd and delivers Jesus over to be crucified. Why did God not play it safe? Why did he balance such a huge matter as his salvation plan on a knife-edge? Was he not declaring the supremacy of divine necessity over what is contingent from the human perspective? God’s vertical sovereignty always trumps human horizontal decisions.

Who is the one guilty of a greater sin that painted Pilate into a corner by handing Jesus over to him? We have to go back even earlier – at a meeting of the Sanhedrin when the chief priests are bemoaning all the miracles that Jesus had performed. Caiaphas speaks up saying, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” They immediately begin plotting to take his life. Caiaphas’ words provide a horizontal impetus for a chain of events leading to Jesus’ death. But John also says that Caiaphas “did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation.” Did Caiaphas speak horizontally on his own wicked initiative? Yes. And did he speak vertically in prophecy? Yes. Human will and God’s will intersect in a moment. Theologian D A Carson says “…when Caiaphas spoke, God was also speaking.”^^15^^

Many have noticed this intersection between divine and natural agency using different terms, and with various understandings of the precise nature of divine action. The issue of understanding divine action and its relationship to natural causation has received much attention.^^16^^ There are deep mysteries about it and God does not explain himself in Scripture. Apparently he has left the job of integrating theology, philosophy and science to us – to the extent that we are able as mere creatures. God simply acts. The cross shows that we do not need to wait for an understanding of how divine agency is compatible with natural agency before we can accept both. Theologian G.C. Berkouwer says of the example of Caiaphas, “Scripture does teach us to note carefully the connections between human thought and action and divine thought and action. To observe these connections is a far cry from speculative imagining.”^^17^^ I will leave it to scientist-theologians to try to penetrate the deep mysteries and merely note here the overall pattern.

In Frederich Schleiermacher’s view as described by Tracy, “On the one hand, there is the “horizontal” order of created (secondary) causes, that is, the individuals that in their activities and relations across time jointly make up our world. On the other hand, there is the vertical order of divine (primary) causation, God’s continuous creation/preservation of all finite things. Every event can be understood both in terms of its place within the nature-system of the world and in terms of its relation to God’s agency.”^^18^^ Berkouwer described the intersection as “the profound congruity between God’s and man’s actions”^^19^^ and famously said, “God acts in men’s acts.” Theologian Austin Farrer called it “double agency.”^^20^^ He said, “We may say of the Hebrews that they commonly saw divine effects as having creaturely agents.”^^21^^ There is a concurrence, to use another commonly used term, between God’s action and human action. “… in the divine act of concurrence both God works and the means … work. However, the operation of the means is not coordinate with that of God, but rather subordinate to it, so that the secondary causes work only so far and so long as God works through them …”^^22^^ Mathematician Charles Coulson^^23^^ and philosopher-neurobiologist Donald Mackay used the concept of complementarity to denote the logical compatibility between divine and natural agency. Mackay says, “Explanations in terms of links within a created world are logically not in contradiction with, but complementary to, explanations in terms of the power and purpose of the Creator of that world.”^^24^^ Mackay uses the helpful analogy of a man sending a message from a ship to shore. At the horizontal level, if you like, “all that is coming from the ship is a series of light flashes of light” that “can be correctly labelled thus by a physicist” – this is the medium or mechanism. At the vertical level, if you like, a sailor reads an SOS message – this is the meaning. “The message here is related to the mechanism … not as an effect is to a cause”^^25^^ because causality is a relationship between two events at the same or horizontal level. Philosopher-theologian Paul Helm distinguishes an eternal Creator standpoint and a temporal creation standpoint.^^26^^

The cross endorses Creation – the vertical

At Calvary, God seems to accomplish his greatest act by doing nothing at all. He lets wicked men make the cross and then appears to abandon his Son to murderers. Yet we know, biblically, that God has foreordained all the events of Passion Week – he is behind every single one of them – from the selling of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver to the placing of Jesus in the tomb. The Creator is so in charge of everything, that what was prophesied would happen did indeed happen. Somehow, when it comes to the suffering and death of Jesus, where the issue is most acute, Christians are able to hold simultaneously to God’s sovereign agency and to natural agency. Surely, then, where it is less acute, we can simultaneously hold to divine action and natural explanations? If the Father is ultimately or vertically most involved at the very place he appears most absent, then a fortiori, God is vertically involved in every other event that happens in the universe. This is very significant. What it means is that scientists can come up with any natural or horizontal explanations they want for the universe and its inhabitants; it does not challenge the Creator’s vertical relationship to creation one whit. He remains the Creator whatever natural explanations are discovered by science. If God made the cross on which his Son died, then he has made everything. Indeed, without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3).

The cross endorses science – the horizontal

We know from the Bible that Jesus died at the hands of wicked men by the foreordained plan of God (Acts 2:23). Imagine that the Bible was silent on exactly how Jesus died and we had to turn to a forensic scientist to establish the cause of death. Let us give him a name – Professor Richard. Now Professor Richard happens to be the best forensic scientist available. He goes away, returns later and states, “We have carefully examined the cause of the death of Jesus and have located the spear that was thrust into his side. DNA on the spear matches the DNA of Jesus. Fingerprints on the spear match those of a certain Roman soldier. Other Gentiles have been implicated as well as Jews. Jesus was murdered.” Are you happy with Professor Richard’s explanation? Have you noticed anything missing?

He hasn’t said anything about God. Did I mention that Professor Richard is an atheist? He adds with glee, “I find no shred of forensic evidence that God was involved in the death of Jesus.” Are you still happy with his explanation? You should be. The Bible teaches that God conceals himself. The prophet Isaiah says, “Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and Savior of Israel.”(Isaiah 45:15). This concealment of God is not because he is less than absolutely real, but because we are – at least relative to him. We are like Lady Macbeth, as a mere character, trying to detect the hand of Shakespeare in his play. God is hidden because of his inscrutable greatness relative to us.

There is another extremely important reason you should be very glad that God’s name does not appear on the death certificate. If it did, God would be culpable for the death of his own Son. The cross requires that forensic scientists be unable to find God as a cause along the natural or horizontal axis and be able to find a total, complete, fully naturalistic account of the death of Jesus along this axis. It is the cross that reveals God’s concealment most acutely. Allow me to put this as explicitly as possible. There has to be an explanation for the death of Jesus that leaves God so utterly superfluous as a natural cause of it that his holiness remains thoroughly untainted by even the slightest hint of sin. The cross compels us to radically distinguish the vertical from the horizontal axes. Not the slightest deviation from the perpendicular will do.

Theologians have made this point repeatedly. For instance, philosopher of theology Thomas Tracy says that Schleiermacher insisted “that these two orders of causation can and must be kept distinct; it is always a mistake to offer explanations of events that mix or cross them. On the horizontal level, our explanations must exclude reference to God and appeal only to other events in the created order. … On the vertical axis, by contrast, we must … attribute all events to God’s direct creative agency ….”^^27^^ Tracy critiques Scheiermacher’s occasionalist view of divine action, but my purpose is not to get into deep theology of divine action. It is important to recognise that it is not that God was partially involved and humans were partially involved. Theologian Louis Berkhof warns against “the notion that the two [God and humans] divide the work – God doing a part and man doing a part. The same deed is in its entirety both a deed of God and a deed of the creature.”^^28^^ Does this mean that the cross endorses atheistic science? In an important sense, emphatically yes! This is why the Christian historian Richard Hooykaas could claim that there is a “proper secularisation” of science.^^29^^ To use philosophical language, the cross requires that forensic scientists be methodological naturalists. When investigating natural causes scientists should never consider God as if he were a rival hypothesis.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin made a statement that upsets many believers, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”^^30^^ From the perspective of the cross, Lewontin’s statement should be welcomed.

Biophysicist Douglas Spanner said it very well, “The Bible provides itself, in effect, with a naturalistic explanation of the death of Jesus Christ – priestly jealousy, an individual’s resentment, social unrest, foreign domination. Given these (and a few other common circumstances) the secular historian would be quite satisfied that he knew why events took the course they did.”^^31^^ We should be far from surprised that a coherent naturalistic picture emerged. Indeed, for the events at Calvary to even happen the Creator has to make a world that operates consistently and intelligibly and it is that which makes forensics even possible.

The cross exposes scientism

Professor Richard is not just a scientist who happens to be an atheist – he tries to use science to defend his atheism. So he adds, “God was not involved in the cross.” Now he is going outside his expertise as a scientist and far beyond science’s legitimate scope. He has left the horizontal axis and is trying to speak about the vertical one. He is speaking as an ontological naturalist or materialist ideologue. This is a metaphysical position, not a scientific one. What he is expressing is a kind of scientism – an ontological scientism. He is implying that the only reality that exists is the one to which science has access.^^32^^ It can also be seen a kind of inept theologising in the guise of science.

How do we know Professor Richard’s statement is false? Not because science says so, but because the Bible does. After recognising the Bible’s naturalistic account of the death of Jesus, Douglas Spanner continues, “Yet, the Biblical writers robustly affirm that there is a truth taking precedence over any naturalistic explanation – that this happening was both in broad outline and in fine detail God’s doing, the central act of his plan for ‘reconciling the world to himself.”^^33^^ As we have seen, Jesus was handed over to his murderers by “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). God’s involvement in the cross has not been discovered by us through science, but revealed to us through Scripture. Education is a good thing, but you do not need a PhD in philosophy or theology to dispose of scientism and naturalism and materialism. The Gospel does it.

It is not just believers that have crossed swords with scientism but atheists too. For instance, Palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould has said, “To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth million time … science simply cannot … adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists.”^^34^^

Now imagine that some scientifically-orientated believers are unhappy with Professor Richard’s determination. So they bring in their own equally brilliant forensic expert, Dr William. He goes away, returns later and reports, “I have carefully examined the cause of the death of Jesus. The evidence implicating Romans and Jews is not watertight. For instance, the fact that blood and water (lymph) flowed when the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus indicates, medically, that Jesus was already dead. So, the soldier cannot be held culpable on this basis.”

Dr William is not just a scientist who is also religious. He tries to co-opt science to defend his religious views. So, he adds “Professor Richard came to his conclusions not because of the scientific evidence, but because of his atheistic or naturalistic presuppositions. He cannot fully explain, forensically, who caused the death of Jesus. So, there are scientific grounds for believing that God must have been involved in the death of Jesus after all. We reject atheistic forensic science in favour of theistic forensic science.” What Dr William is doing is as much scientism as Prof Richard’s rejection of God’s involvement at the cross because it is “as a misuse (or misapplication) of the facts and/or methods of science.”^^35^^ In Dr William’s case it is a form of religious scientism. He may have a devout impulse in wanting to give credit to God for the Cross, but he is going about it in entirely the wrong way. His approach is thoroughly self-defeating at many levels. I will mention just a few here. First, it makes God look evil. If he succeeded with his approach, God would become culpable for the death of his Son. Second, it makes God look tiny. Dr William has tried to plug up the holes in science with God. The result is that the more successful the forensic science becomes the smaller God looks. This is the so-called god-of-the gaps argument. From the perspective of the cross, what a thoroughly inadequate and unbiblical view of God this is!

Third, what Dr William has done is to conflate the distinction between divine and natural agency so that the axes are not perpendicular to one another. What we are left with is not the cross of Calvary, but an oblique one called the Crux Decussata or St Andrews cross. Tradition has it that St Andrew was crucified on such a cross at his own request because he felt he was unworthy of dying on the same cross that his Lord had died.

For all his good intentions, Dr William has an abysmal theology of divine agency. He would have benefited from theologian Farrer’s warning against thinking about divine agency in such a way that “we degrade it to the creaturely level and place it in the field of interacting causalities. The result can only be … monstrosity and confusion.”^^36^^

Theologian Thomas Torrance made a similar point when he wrote, “The difficulty that faces us is that this span of space-time is a coordinate system of divine and human, eternal and temporal, invisible and visible, spiritual and material relations and we want to coordinate them in one and the same language. But this is exactly what we cannot do. Yet it is because people keep trying to do this that they continually introduce confusion into theology…”^^37^^ Theologian Berkouwer said of God, “He is the Holy One, the Incomparable who fulfils his purposes in the actions of the sinners of all generations. To place God and man in one line as comparable powers is to fail to understand this activity of God.”^^38^^

In philosophical terms, using scientific standards to argue for divine action is a category mistake, because God is not an immanent cause like other natural causes.^^39^^ Theologian-philosopher, Taede Smedes explains, “The point is this: if God and the world are in competition with each other, then God and the world are on the same ontological level. In that case, God’s transcendence – God’s otherness – evaporates…If God and our universe share the same ontological nature, God’s transcendence is no longer defined as being other than the universe, but as being somewhere else. In other words, God is not omnipotent and omnipresent, but God is limited: God can only act in our universe when other forces stop acting, and God can only be in our universe if something else makes room for God. The consequence is that God is limited by the nature and existence of our universe. As a theologian, I find such an assumption simply outrageous…”^^40^^

Fourth, Dr William’s approach is anti-gospel. A telescope is a wonderful instrument for peering into the heavens. It is a terrible instrument for peering into heaven. This is not to say that humans haven’t invented an instrument that does so. The irony is that they were not trying to look into heaven, but defy it. That instrument is the cross at Calvary. Could God have more clearly and emphatically communicated the utter futility of human prowess – intellectual, scientific, philosophical, theological, religious or moral in accessing the Godhead? The Gospel exposes the efforts of religious scientism to reach heaven as a veritable tower of Babel. We do not reach up to God. He reaches down to us. According to Scripture we come to know God only on his terms – by grace through faith. These terms exclude any basis for boasting. The apostle Paul says, “For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, [and scientists demand scientific evidence?] but we preach Christ crucified …” (1 Corinthians 1:19-22a).

Martin Luther warned about the human propensity for self-glory, saying, “For because men put to wrong use their knowledge of God which they had gained from his works, God determined on the contrary to be known from sufferings. He sought to condemn that sort of knowledge of the things invisible which was based on a wisdom from things visible. So that in this way those who did not worship God as made known in his works, might worship him behind his sufferings.”^^41^^ Theologian Jurgen Moltmann, following Luther, sounds this warning, “Natural knowledge of God is potentially open to men, but in fact they misuse it in the interest of their self-exaltation and their self-divinization. Just as man uses his works to justify himself, to conceal his anxiety from God and from himself, so too he misuses the knowledge of God to serve his hubris. In this situation, this knowledge of God is useless; it merely does him damage, because it ‘puffs him up’ and gives him illusions about his situation.”^^42^^

Dr William may have had pious intentions in wanting to lend God his professional expertise, but seen from the cross his escapade is a theology of forensic science glory. The cross should lead us to pour contempt on our professional pride.

The cross-shaped pattern to divine and human agency in events in Biblical history

We have seen that divine and human or natural agency have a cross-shaped pattern in the events at Calvary, but this pattern applies to all natural events in Biblical history and indeed, as we shall see, in all of creation.

Consider Joseph getting put down a well by his brothers and then sold into slavery in Egypt. They hung Jesus on a pole and they thrust Joseph down a hole – the particulars are different but in terms of double agency the very same principle is in operation – wicked humans and a holy God at cross-purposes. Did Joseph get there because of his brothers (Genesis 45:4)? Yes. And is it because as Joseph said, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8)? Yes. Joseph says to his brothers, “You [horizontally] intended to harm me, but God [vertically] intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). He is saying in a rough-and-ready way that his brothers are only proximately the reason for him being in Egypt. God is the ultimate reason.

Or consider the Assyrians. God calls them “the rod of my anger.” (Isaiah 10:5-12) The irony is that the haughty Assyrians had no clue that they were God’s instruments in disciplining a godless nation or that they would eventually be punished for this very action. That they were punished indicates that they were horizontally fully responsible for their actions despite God’s sovereign vertical foreordination of the discipline.

Or consider Ahab, King of Israel. Did the evil Ahab die because “someone [horizontally] drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor” (1 Kings 22:34)? Yes. And is it because the prophet Micaiah had earlier said of him, “The Lord has [vertically] decreed disaster for you” (1 Kings 22:23)? Yes. It is a matter of standpoint. Matthew Henry commentates, “That which to us seems altogether casual is done by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God.” Some believers are rather unnerved by chance as if it is a threat to the sovereignty of God. They needn’t be. According to Scripture, all chance events happen by the will of God. As Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” From human’s horizontal standpoint the decisions are by chance. From God’s vertical standpoint they are pre-ordained. This is why Donald Mackay says, “…the question of ‘God or chance’ is a theological howler.”^^43^^

The cross-shaped pattern of events in all of life

The cross-shaped pattern to divine and natural agency applies not only to history, but here and now in ordinary life. It applies to making houses. And it applies to the food arriving on your plate.

Is grain horizontally produced because, as Jesus says, “all by itself the soil produces grain?” (Mark 4:28). Yes. And is it vertically produced because, as Paul says, “God gives wheat its body?” (1 Corinthians 15:37-38b). Yes. The Psalmist brings the vertical and horizontal together saying, “God makes plants … bringing food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14). It is entirely appropriate to thank God before meals. Donald Mackay says, “When Jesus asserts for example that God feeds the sparrows, he does not seem to imply anything extra to, or incompatible with, a physical explanation of sparrow-feeding. He rather suggests that when we have finished analysing it in mechanical terms, there is fresh sense to be made of the same pattern of events in a complementary way…”^^44^^ John Stott says, “God feeds the birds indirectly.”^^45^^)

The development of the child in the mother’s womb is a stupendous wonder of nature, but it is theologically sloppy to call it a miracle as so many do. Developmental biologists can account for the development of the baby in purely natural terms without referring to God. Where does that leave the Creator? Well, the development of the child is no less a stupendous wonder of God. The Creator is nowhere along the horizontal axis, but eternally present along the vertical one. David says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

And the cross-shaped pattern applies to all human decision-making. At this very moment you made a decision to read this sentence. Along the horizontal axis you made that decision all on your own and you know that full well. But along the vertical one it is God’s decision. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1 NASB). Your free will is real and God’s sovereignty is real. People often pit these against each other because we struggle to understand how both can be true at the same time. This is our problem not God’s. Theologian J. I. Packer describes the appropriate attitude a person should take when confronted by an apparent incompatibility between two truths. “Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it. Refuse to regard the apparent inconsistency as real; put down the semblance of contradiction to the deficiency of your own understanding; think of the two principles as, not rival alternatives, but in some way that at present you do not grasp, complementary to each other.”^^46^^

The cross is the window into God’s involvement in the world. It needs to be extended forwards and backwards in time and throughout the universe. God is deeply involved vertically in every event that has ever happened and every event that ever will. The image of Jesus Christ as the one placed cross-wise in the universe goes back to Justin Martyr in the second century.^^47^^ This is represented in the following figure with the dots as events and the arrows as divine and natural agency:

Appreciating the vertical axis

We struggle to appreciate or remember God’s continuous vertical relationship to creation for several reasons. One reason, as we shall see, is that much of our thinking about God’s relationship to the creation is heathen – not very biblical at all. A common view even among Christians is that the universe rolls on its own for most of the time with God only intervening every now and then. But as the clergyman Aubrey Moore pointed in the 19th century, “… a theory of occasional intervention implies as its correlative a theory of ordinary absence” an idea which “fitted in well with the Deism of the last century.^^48^^ And as scientist-theologian William Pollard notes, “The idea of a nature which was capable of running along on her own course apart from God even for a short time is entirely foreign to Biblical thought. Providence in the Bible is a continuous relationship of dependence of both man and nature on God of such mutuality and intimacy that the latter could not continue at all if ever the relationship were broken.”^^49^^

Every morning I go through the same ritual. I switch on the light of my tropical fish tank and then feed the fish. I do this so that I never forget to feed them. When the light comes on, the fish go berserk expecting to be fed. From the fish’s point of view the tank is the world and light causes food to drop from above. It is my faithfulness that has led the creatures to their presumption.

Similarly, God’s faithfulness, paradoxically, is another reason we struggle to appreciate God’s continuous vertical relationship to creation. We presume, if one thing invariably follows another, that the other thing is the cause. But as theologian Colin Gunton pointed out following Berkeley, “What we call causality is not a type of logical implication, but observed regularities, regularities whose reliability derives from the fact that God causes them contingently – and so intentionally and voluntarily – to be what they are.”^^50^^ As someone once noted, if the sun arose for the first time today, we would be flabbergasted, calling it a stupendous miracle. Because it happens every day we don’t give it a second thought.

The biblical picture is that it is God who ultimately causes everything to happen and he does it faithfully. “This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them’” (Jeremiah 33:25-26). If there are such things as horizontal “causes,” then what must be emphasised is that they are subject to God causing them to happen in a very different, vertical, sense. God is the Primary Cause and the other causes quite secondary – to use the language of Thomas Aquinas. “God is the ground of all being, all life and all motion …Apart from his power of motion (primary causality), nothing can move, change, act or bring about effect.”^^51^^ This is why many philosophers and theologians prefer to speak of vertical ‘grounds’ in contra-distinction to horizontal ‘causes.’ Physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne said it well, “Theology has always insisted that God is not a cause among causes or an object among objects. His relation to the world is wholly different from that of any of its participants. God is properly to be understood as the ordainer and guarantor of natural laws.”^^52^^

Another reason that we may struggle with God’s continuous vertical relationship to creation is that as mere creatures, we are stuck in the horizontal axis. This is perhaps why for some, as theologian John Haught expresses it, “… there isn’t enough room in the same human mind to hold both scientific and theological explanations simultaneously, so we must choose one over the other.”^^53^^ Envisaging the vertical axis from within our standpoint requires some effort. We are localised and time-bound. God is omnipresent and eternal. As merely creature-sized creatures we are trying to have a Creator-sized understanding of Creation. Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis and Donald MacKay have developed an analogy that is very helpful in this regard.^^54^^ They invite us to imagine God as an author of a play.

The Creator as author

Consider a particular event in say Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. At one point Lady Macbeth starts to sleepwalk and wash her hands saying those famous words: “Out, out damn spot.” This odd behaviour begs for an explanation. One explanation that we could give is that she was involved in the murder of Macbeth with her guilt-ridden conscience leading her to imagine blood stains on her hands. What we are doing here is giving an explanation in terms of other events that occurred earlier in the play. This is the sort of explanation scientists provide. They explain events in the universe by referring to earlier events. This is an explanation along the horizontal, natural or proximate axis.

But notice that we could give another, very different explanation for the same event. We could say she washed her hands because that is what Shakespeare wrote. He is the author. He can write what he likes. What we are doing now is giving an explanation in terms of the author who is outside the play altogether. This corresponds to Creation. Creation explains the universe by referring to Someone outside of it altogether. This is an explanation along the vertical, supra-natural, or ultimate axis.

Did Lady Macbeth behave the way she did because she was [horizontally] involved in a murder or because that is what the author [vertically] wrote? Yes to both questions. Although these explanations are very different they are not mutually exclusive, but complementary. We do not have to choose between them. With the author/play analogy in mind we can easily see why it is so important to distinguish between the vertical and horizontal axes and not conflate them.

Imagine a student being asked in an examination paper to explain the behaviour of Lady Macbeth. It would not do for the student, in an attempt to honour Shakespeare to say, “She behaved that way because that is what Shakespeare wrote.” The student would get an “F,” not because his statement is false, but because he gave a vertical answer to a horizontal question. It would certainly not do for him to invoke Shakespeare on the basis of puzzles in the storyline. This would correspond to Dr William’s religious scientism that we saw earlier. Philosopher-neurobiologist Donald Mackay pointed out, “When we say that a novel has an author, we do not imply that there are inexplicable discontinuities in the past of the world he has created; nor would the discovery of such things strengthen our belief in his authorship.”^^55^^ On the contrary, it is the coherence of the story that brings the best credit to the author. Similarly, it is not the gaps in science that suggest a rational Creator behind the universe; it is that the universe is so scientifically comprehensible that brings the best credit to him. As Coulson said, “… when we come to the scientifically unknown, our correct policy is not to rejoice because we have found God; it is to become better scientists.”^^56^^

It would also be a mistake to try to contain Shakespeare’s creativity to the beginning of the play. This would correspond to deistic accounts of creation. Shakespeare is not merely the author of Act 1, Scene 1; he is author of the whole story. He crossed every “t” and dotted every “i.” Similarly, God is behind each and every miniscule detail in the entire history of the universe. It is to have too low a view of the Creator to get excited about the Big Bang over the Steady State theory as if this provided special evidence of creation. The scientific status of each theory is quite irrelevant to the Biblical view of creation.

Genesis in light of the cross

Consider the following illustration.

Sally and her boyfriend Richard are sitting together at the coast. She whispers into his ear, “Isn’t that a beautiful sunset?”

Richard replies, “Don’t be silly. The sun doesn’t set. It is the earth that rotates.”

Sally wisely drops Richard. She next goes out with Henry. Again she says, “Isn’t that a beautiful sunset?”

Henry replies, “Anything you say. Copernicus and all the other scientists must have got it wrong when they said that it is the earth that rotates.”

Sally wisely drops Henry. She next goes out with Hugh. Again she says, “Isn’t that a beautiful sunset?”

Hugh replies, “I’m sure when you say sunset, you really mean that the earth rotates.”

Both Richard and Henry take Sally literalistically or at face-value. Richard thinks that Sally is making an unscientific statement. Henry thinks that she is making a scientific one. Hugh takes a concordist approach – he tries to make what Sally says conform to what science says. Now, all the guys disagree sharply with each other, but in one critical respect, they are in the same camp. They all agree that Sally is talking science. They all presume that valid communication has to have a scientific basis. This viewpoint can be called scientism, because they are being inappropriately scientific. Let us just call them nerds.

They may think they are taking Sally seriously by interpreting her scientifically. Actually, they are not really listening to her at all; they are foisting their own interests upon her. Sally is being neither unscientific nor scientific. She is not talking about science at all and does not have to. They merely analysed her words. They failed to appreciate that the romantic was romantic – not a conference! They failed to understand the purpose of her words and they failed to engage her as a person. In the romantic moment, she really could not care less about the precise movements of the sun in relation to the earth. They not only misunderstood Sally, they have also undermined her message. She called each of them to enjoy the beauty of an event with her; they put the focus elsewhere. Whether Sally spoke truthfully when she said the sunset was beautiful does not depend on her making a scientific truth-claim. It is important to see this. Richard might say he that cannot believe anything Sally says because she is so obviously wrong about science. Henry might say that he has to believe her regarding science in order to believe anything else she says. Hugh may think it is charitable of him to interpret Sally in a way that makes her agree with modern science. But they have all misinterpreted her. Sally’s statement has to be understood in terms of her intent not their pre-occupations.

Sally wisely drops Hugh. She next goes out with Barry. Again she says, “Isn’t that a beautiful sunset?” Barry replies, “Yes it is, but you are even more beautiful!”

Only Barry has really understood Sally, the romantic setting and the purpose behind her words and engaged her as a person.

Richard represents the view that the Bible is unscientific.^^57^^ Henry represents the view that the Bible is scientific and secular science is wrong.^^58^^ Hugh represents the view that the Bible is scientific and agrees with secular science. Christians may be tempted to take sides, but neither of the approaches takes the Bible seriously enough. All approaches are inappropriately scientific, that is, scientistic. Just as they missed Sally’s message, so we can miss and even undermine the Bible’s message by following their approach.^^59^^ This is a disservice not only to the written word, but also to the Living Word because it undermines his gospel mission. Just as Richard, Henry and Hugh misheard Sally because they did not engage her as a person, so we will fail to understand Scripture if we fail to engage the Person and purpose behind it. And just as it is a mistake to require that Sally speaks scientifically correctly before we will listen to her, so it is a mistake to require that the Bible speaks scientifically correctly before we will listen to God’s Word. Barry represents the view that the Bible has neither an unscientific nor a scientific message but a romantic one. Barry’s response is like the one frequently attributed to the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth,”Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”^^60^^

The principles behind properly understanding Sally, apply no less to understanding the Bible and Genesis.^^61^^ There is a Person and a setting and a purpose behind Scripture. Unless we interpret Genesis with this in mind, we will misinterpret it. Jesus said to certain Jewish leaders, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). These leaders failed to realise that Scripture is about him. If we approach the Bible merely with the purpose of knowing about stuff we will miss the point. If we approach Genesis specifically with the purpose of knowing about scientific stuff we will seriously miss the point. We have to approach it with the purpose of knowing the Person behind the Bible – the Creator himself. The overall setting of the Bible is human estrangement from God and the redemption that Christ achieved for us on the cross. Its purpose is to call us into a love-relationship with God. Jesus expressed the theme of the Bible when he said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Bible is much better seen as an extended love-letter from God to humanity than as a scientific or even a theological text. Genesis is not the key to understanding Scripture. Christ and him crucified is the key to understanding all Scripture, including Genesis.

The cross shows that God limits himself in order to communicate to us. We see this so poignantly in the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Here is the Living Word himself limiting his omniscience out of love for us. If this is true for God’s greatest self-revelation, how true must it be the Written Word?

That the cross is central to understanding Genesis is not a new-fangled idea. For Irenaeus in the second century, for example, “It is the Gospel message of Christ that is the absolute of the Christian faith; all meaning to be drawn from Genesis finds the canon of its relevance in this witness.”^^62^^ Christ must not be far away from our minds when we read Genesis, otherwise we are liable to misread it and have a sub-Christian view of it.

The Bible teaches that its purpose is not only to teach the way of salvation, but also righteousness:

“And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work “(2 Timothy 3:15-17). God is selective about what he imparts to humans through the Bible. The Apostle John says, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20: 30-31). Not even God Incarnate knew the time of the Second Coming saying, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). How ironic that whereas the Living Word did not presume to be an authority in all matters theological, some of his creatures want to make the Written Word an authority in all matters scientific! What an inappropriate use of the Bible! God’s purpose for Scripture is not to make us godlike in his omniscience, but godlike in his character.

As we have seen, the Apostle Peter said, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). And we saw that Prof Richard and Dr William were at odds over exactly how Jesus died. One accused the Roman soldier who thrust the spear into the side of Jesus. The other found evidence that brought his level of responsibility into question. It is possible to so squabble horizontally over exactly how Jesus died – whether it was the Romans or the Jews that had the greatest culpability – that one misses the vertical point that Peter gives a few verses later, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:26). The crucial point is not who had the greater responsibility in Jesus’ death, but that he died for us for the forgiveness of sins. Anyway, are we not all responsible for the death of Jesus?

Just as we can miss the vertical meaning of the cross by fixating on horizontal issues, so we can miss the vertical meaning of Genesis. The intended important message of Genesis is not how we are created, but that God created us and would redeem us. Many theologians and Bible scholars have emphasised this. For instance, theologian Klaus Nűrnberger says, “They [modern readers] do not realise that the creation narrative is a soteriological [concerned with salvation] paradigm, which is meant to witness to the power and benevolence of God, rather than a description of how the world came into being.”^^63^^ According to the New Bible Dictionary the biblical doctrine of creation “must not be confused or identified with any scientific theory of origins. The purpose of the biblical doctrine, in contrast to that of scientific investigation, is ethical and religious.”^^64^^ What is true of Genesis is true of the Bible as a whole. J. I. Packer, a leading, conservative evangelical theologian, says the Bible “claims in the broadest terms to teach all things necessary for salvation, but it nowhere claims to give instruction in (for instance) any of the natural sciences … and it would be an improper use of Scripture to treat it as making pronouncements on these matters.”^^65^^ Billy Graham said, “… I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption.”^^66^^ The church leader, Caesar Baronius, in Galileo’s time said it well, “the intention of the Holy Spirit [through Scripture] is to teach us how one goes to heaven and not how heaven goes.”^^67^^

Understanding Genesis

We have seen how the overall setting of the Bible is important to understanding it properly. To understand a particular passage we need to understand the kind of language employed and what it would have meant to the original readers. This approach is called literary-cultural interpretation. This is not a new-fangled approach in response to modern science, but as Bible Scholar Ernest Lucas points out, has a long tradition among Jewish and Christian commentators.^^68^^ The literary structure and historical context of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 suggests that it was not designed to communicate technical information about how God created but rather that he created, and how humans are to respond to this fact. Here are just a few of the lines of exegetical evidence that have led biblical scholars to these conclusions.

a) Why are the sun and moon not even named in Genesis 1 and 2?

This is very strange if Genesis was intended to be a scientific account. The first time the Bible mentions the sun by name is in Genesis 15:2. Before that it says “greater light” and “lesser light” in the original Hebrew. It is not that God does not know the names of these things, of course. It suggests that God is not interested in communicating everything he knows, but only that which is important in knowing him. Bible Scholar Ernest Lucas says, “The probable answer is that, in the Semitic languages, of which Hebrew is one, the words ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ are also the names of gods. The peoples around the Hebrews worshipped the heavenly bodies as god and goddesses. Genesis 1:14-19 is an attack on all such thinking. The heavenly bodies are simply ‘lights’ (just like great big oil lamps!) created by the God of Israel to serve humans (not for humans to serve!) as calendar-markers.”^^69^^ Theologian Conrad Hyers concurs, “The issue was idolatry not science; syncretism, not natural history; theology, not chronology; affirmation of faith in one transcendent God, not creationist or evolutionist theories of origin.”^^70^^ The focus was vertical not horizontal!

b) What was created first – humans or plants?

Before looking at this let us look at another case that is neutral with respect to origins – the sequence of Satan’s temptations of Jesus. In Matthew 4 the temptations are in the order ‘stones to bread, throw yourself down, worship me.’ Now, imagine that an archaeological discovery was made that indicated the sequence of temptations was different – say ‘stones to bread, worship me, throw yourself down.’ How should we respond? Who should we believe the Bible or archaeologists? Now imagine that the gospel account of Luke gave a different sequence of temptations. Who should we believe now – Matthew or Luke? Luke does, in fact give a different sequence – ‘stones to bread, worship me, throw yourself down.’

Is there a contradiction? Well, there would be if the Bible were trying to teach sequence. The fact that we have different sequences is indicating that God is not interested in communicating this aspect of what happened. Anyone who claims that the reader is forced to accept the sequence in Matthew 4 is forcing a conflict between Scripture and Scripture.

With this in mind, look at Genesis. In Genesis 1, plants were created on the third day and humans on the sixth. “Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the third day” (Genesis 1:11-13).

But, according to Genesis 2, plants were not around when humans were created. "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-- and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:4-7). This suggests that Genesis is not interested in communicating chronological sequence. If we get technical about sequence in Genesis we have missed its message.

c) How many days are there in a week?

How long does it take for a shrub to appear? Surely it takes longer than six days? Yet Genesis 2:4 says that humans were made before plants had had a chance to spring up. Furthermore, while in Genesis 1 the heavens and earth are created over days, in Genesis 2 it happens in a single day.

“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven” (Genesis 2:4 NASB). It seems that chronology was not the concern of the writer of Genesis. Those who make it so “are guilty not only of creating a conflict between the Bible and science, but in effect, of pitting Scripture against Scripture” says Old Testament scholar Meredith Kline.^^71^^ The apparent contradictions disappear, he says, if the sequence of days in Genesis 1 is ordered thematically not chronologically. The arrangement draws attention to the Creator as provider. The New Bible dictionary says, “the first three days are preparatory. The giving of light and the preparation of firmament, seas, land and vegetation are preliminary to the setting of inhabitants in a prepared home.”^^72^^ Ernest Lucas points out that this topical pattern was discerned by early Christian writers such as Origen in the third century AD.

Evolution in the light of the cross

The shadow of the cross, as we shall see, casts a great light on a theory that causes so much trouble for many Christians – the biological theory of evolution.

To see why, consider this question: Is our redemption the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have us in mind? Your gut reaction may well be to say no, but the Bible says yes. The agents that effected Christ’s death and our redemption did not have a clue about what they were doing. The Apostle Paul said, “None of the rulers of this age understood [God’s secret wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Even the High Priest Caiaphas when he said prophetically, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” did not realise what the prophecy meant. He understood his statement politically, not spiritually. That God used blind agents to achieve our redemption takes nothing away from our redemption. He, not his human instruments, sees the beginning from the end. From the human standpoint, the horizontal process leading to our redemption was totally blind. From God’s vertical standpoint, Jesus is the Lamb “chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20).

It is the same with our creation. Simpson’s statement, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind” is not wrong, but trivially true. To say otherwise is to tantamount to worshipping a mere process rather than the Person behind the process. So, Simpson’s statement is, theologically, perfectly innocuous. As Christian biochemist Kenneth Miller says, “The discovery that naturalistic explanations can account for the workings of living things neither confirms nor denies the idea that a Creator is responsible for them.”^^73^^ This is why the Christian evolutionary biologist Sam Berry can say, “I find no difficulty in agreeing wholly with Richard Dawkins that ‘The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’”^^74^^ As I said, there are deep resources in the cross for dealing with evolution.

Anti-evolutionism provides a very precarious basis for faith in the Creator. This is well illustrated by an incident involving one of my students, a devout Christian. In previous conversations she was always very dismissive about evolution saying, “It is just a theory.” Now, during a practical class, she had picked up a fossil ape-man skull – an australopithecine. She didn’t see me looking at her, but I caught her facial expression as she picked it up. It was full of fear. She put down the fossil and walked out of the lab. Imagine that you happened to be her spiritual mentor, had peeked through the laboratory door and had seen all that had happened. What would you say to her as she came out?

One option is to deny that genuine transitional fossils actually exist or that evolutionary biology is able to provide a satisfactory natural account of the apparent design in living things. This counsel is very problematic at multiple levels. First, it is not Christian enough – it is not centred on Christ and him crucified. How about reminding her, instead, that the Christian faith does not hang upon this or that fossil, but on Christ? Second, it is does not have a high enough view of the Creator. How about helping her, instead, to see that she has unwittingly amalgamated her Christian faith with unbiblical views of the Creator? You could do this by asking, “If God created all things, did he create that australopithecine fossil?” And you could ask. “How could a fossil that God has made possibly challenge him as Creator?” So what if natural selection provides a satisfying explanation for adaptation in living things? God is not in competition with the means he uses to accomplish things. Third, it does not honour the God of truth. Since God made the fossil, we should take it seriously. It has a story to tell. It isn’t Gospel Truth. It is only about scientific truth, but it is about truth – God’s truth – nevertheless. Fourth, it is unwise. A Christian counsellor is called to be competent in the gospel rather than the fossil record. If the student discovers that the counsellor is wrong about fossils, it may compromise her hearing from him when he speaks within his competence.

Evolution is far too flat to reach the vertical doctrine of Creation. One view of divine action, called occasionalism, says that “finite created beings … have no causal efficacy whatsoever.” “God is the only true causal agent and is immediately, proximately, and solely responsible for all events in nature.”^^75^^ Occasionalism may well be theologically indefensible, but science is utterly powerless to adjudicate on this issue. To claim differently is to misunderstand the biblical view of Creation. A properly biblical view fully allows natural explanations for the diversity of life. Theologian John Haught expresses it well, “Thus Darwin’s ideas – which may be quite accurate, scientifically speaking – carry not even the slightest threat to theism. The apparent contradiction arises not from the scientific theory of evolution itself, but from the confusion of the biblical accounts of creation with “science” in the case of biblical literalists, the confusion of Providence with intelligent design in the case of ID theorists, and the equally misbegotten confusion of evolutionary data with metaphysical materialism in the case of some evolutionary scientists and philosophers.”^^76^^ Which scientific theory or theories actually best explains this diversity should be left for scientists to discover. The theologically discerning Christian has no vested interest in any particular one whatsoever. This is why the perhaps most celebrated theologian of recent times, Jurgen Moltmann, can write a book on Creation that mentions Darwin – not unfavourably – only five times! ^^77^^Whatever truth scientists discover can be welcomed since all truth is God’s truth and it is the scientific intelligibility of the biological world that brings the best credit to the Creator.

Simpson did not stop there, but added, “He was not planned.”^^78^^ This is a little like an ant crawling across the Mona Lisa and saying that the pigment patterns under his feet were not planned. Simpson and Professor Richard, earlier, have gone outside their expertise as scientists and far beyond science’s legitimate scope. What they are doing is atheistic scientism, which, as we have already seen is a kind of inept theologising that tries to use the scientific method to address theological questions. Simpson is far from alone in conflating science and theology. Historian of Science William Provine, for example, says, “Modern Science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with deterministic principles or chance. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature.” So far so good, but then he adds, “The frequently made assertion that modern biology and the assumptions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are fully compatible is false.”^^79^^ Evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma says, “Some shrink from the conclusion that the human species was not designed, has no purpose, and is the product of mere mechanical mechanisms-but this seems to be the message of evolution.”^^80^^

Perhaps a bigger problem for many Christians is not that God did not ordain evolution, but the possibility that he did. How can the process of evolution, with all its attendant suffering and death, fit in with the holiness and love of God. Philosopher of biology, David Hull asks, “What kind of God can one infer from the sort of phenomena epitomized by the species on Darwin’s Galapagos Islands? The evolutionary process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror.” And the answer he gives: “The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.”^^81^^ For Hull, evolution provides the decisive test of God’s character.

It doesn’t. The cross provides the greatest challenge to God’s character. Here is why. Some could argue that God’s creatures may be lacking in either innocence or sentience so that their suffering is either deserved or diluted in some way or both. However, Jesus, the Flawless One, had no such disability. Animals are certainly innocent because they do not have the capability that humans have in choosing between good and evil. How much more innocent is Jesus who always chose good over evil? Yet the truly Innocent One suffered and died unjustly under God’s set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). As George Murphy says, “It is natural to ask how a God who is all-good and all-powerful could create the type of world in which processes involving massive loss, death, and extinction would be involved in the development of life. But things look different if we view evolution from Golgotha – the place of the crucifixion.”^^82^^ Golgotha is a far greater test of the character of God than the Galapagos.

The One the Father abandoned was not only innocent, but also his very own Son. And he sent him not only to die, but also to a humiliating, lingering, tortured death. And he sentenced him not only to physical death but also to spiritual death. God joined men in cursing his very own Son. “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) Jesus felt the curse so deeply he cried on the cross, “My God, My God why have you abandoned me.”

What abandonment. What a terrible way to die. What excruciating pain. What waste. What kind of God can we infer from the cross? If evolution is a threat to the character of God, how much more so is the brutal fact of the cross?

So, what kind of God can we infer from the cross? He is very same kind of God that died on the cross. What the Father did to the Son he did to himself and out of love for the world. Jesus is “the crucified God,” to use Martin Luther’s phrase. Moltmann puts it this way, “When the crucified Jesus is called the ‘image of the invisible God,’ the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this.^^83^^ Tom Wright says, “The cross is the surest, truest and deepest window on the very heart and character of the living and loving God…”^^84^^ The cross puts evolution in perspective. It shows that evolution is far from being the greatest threat to God. The greatest threat is the cross, and Jesus has more than survived that.

Knowing God in light of the cross

Jesus did not go to the cross as a theologian, philosopher or naturalist and certainly not as a combination of these, but as a saviour. His greatest communication was not in lofty words, but in silence when Jesus breathed his last. This sends a very clear signal. Knowing stuff is good, but God places the highest value in knowing him and knowing stuff is not the basis for knowing him. Knowing stuff requires intellectual performance. Knowing God requires faith. But what is faith? At the cross, Jesus not only died for us, he revealed to us what it is. Jesus went to the cross trusting and knowing his Father. We see this in his prayers. Just before his arrest he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) abandoning his fate to his Father. At the same time he also prays “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you.” (John 17:25). And we see this in his actions. Jesus goes to the cross not holding onto his human profession. The carpenter from Nazareth left the making of the cross to wicked men and his Holy Father. He also leaves the foreordaining of his death to his Sovereign Father. On the cross he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” leaving the mystery of suffering and death to his Omniscient Father. And Jesus leaves his rising from the dead to the Holy Spirit. The Father, from his side, leaves the dying for our sins to his Son. Together in mutual trust they achieve our redemption.

If no members of the holy Godhead were solely responsible in achieving this great matter of our redemption, why should any of his sinful creatures think they are in a privileged position in knowing the Creator through creation? Human professionals may have exquisite knowledge, but when they try to make their particular disciplines individually or jointly the key to knowing Truth they will fail because they are trying to intellectually capture a Person. To be sure, we captured him and placed him on a tree, but we did not and cannot capture him intellectually. God freely chose and condescended to reveal himself – supremely through Christ and him crucified. In the end it is God that captures us, if we allow him, through the self-sacrificing love of his Son. It is striking that out of those around the dying Jesus, the two recorded as responding in faith had nothing to offer God. The centurion who said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) had nothing to offer him religiously. The criminal who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) had nothing to offer him morally.

Furthermore, we are sinners. Since the Truth is a Person and Holy, he can only be known by grace through faith. It is not our intelligence that enables us to know God; it is God’s intelligence and love and wisdom and everything else about him that enables us to know God. Jesus is very clear about this, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-27).

Indeed, we need the Holy Spirit to accept the foolishness of the gospel. Paul says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is possible to know that God is Creator without knowing him as Saviour. It is fine to ask questions about the deep mysteries of the cross – how God Incarnate could die or how the cross was created, but this is not the same thing as responding in faith to the Person dying for you. Paul is clear, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6), he was not saying that he is the only truth there is, but that he is the only uniquely deeply significant Truth there is. All we need for faith is found in him. Who he is does not depend on a resolution of any scientific issue whatsoever. He is who he is whether the earth is flat or round, young or old and whether evolution is true or false. God’s acceptance of me depends on his grace. It does not depend on my taking a position on any scientific issue whatsoever. I can believe that the earth is flat and still be a child of God. I would just be a scientifically ignorant child of God. I am a child of God whatever I believe about the age of the earth or evolution. Taking positions on scientific questions is a matter of intellectual performance, whereas God’s acceptance of us (salvation) is by grace through faith; it is based on Christ’s performance on the cross. As evolutionary biologist Sam Berry has said, “Salvation does not depend upon assent or dissent from any claim of science”.^^85^^ He also said to a sceptical friend that “… neither belief nor disbelief in evolution had anything to do with his relationship with the crucified Christ…”.^^86^^ Intellectual performance is important for our professional vocations but our salvation does not depend on it.

Yet, some would redefine faith to make performance a requirement. For example, J P Moreland, a Christian philosopher and intelligent design proponent writes, “…biblically, faith is a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God…” ^^87^^ To see where he has gone wrong we can take the term ‘faith’ in Ephesians 2:8-9 and substitute his definition for it. We get, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” We have a contradiction. Either we are saved by some prowess we have – then we can boast. Or, we are saved by grace – then we cannot. Moreland cannot have it both ways. He should have used the power of his mind to pick up the contradiction – that would be a good use for it rather than making it integral for salvation. The New Bible Dictionary gives the biblical definition for faith: “Faith is an attitude whereby a man abandons all reliance in his own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, or ethical goodness or anything else.”^^88^^ While intellectual performance is not a requirement in our redemption, we are commanded to fully use it in loving and serving God and others (see Matthew 22:37, Psalm 32:9, 1 Corinthians 14: 13-20).

Here is an illustration that shows the distinction between knowing about truth and knowing Truth. There are literary experts today who know William Shakespeare’s plays in detail – perhaps even better than he did! Do they know him personally? No, indeed they cannot. Did you know that Shakespeare’s wife was illiterate? She probably could not compete with today’s experts in knowledge about her husband’s plays. But did she know her husband? Indeed, despite her relative ignorance, she knew him personally and intimately. One may be philosophically astute enough to understand the distinction between knowing Shakespeare’s plays and knowing him personally. This does not, in itself, enable one to know the great author personally.

It is the same with knowing God. We can know that God created the universe and how he did it – through evolution or some other mechanism. We can even know something of the deep mysteries of divine action. And we can know all this without knowing in the most important sense of all – knowing the Creator himself. If Shakespearean experts cannot know Shakespeare, how could the characters in his play possibly know him?

That is our difficulty as mere creatures trying to know an unfathomable Creator. It is worse than this because we are sinners trying to know a Holy Creator. The problem is so huge, that it cannot be solved by us. No amount of human prowess – intellectual, scientific, philosophical, theological, religious or moral would get us anywhere close. Forget the religious scientism program – it can only be solved by God. The Author of the story of the universe would have to do nothing less than write himself into the play. And this has happened according to the Gospel. The Creator has written himself into our story through the Person of Jesus Christ. In him Truth became accessible to us all. God invites you to look at this man and especially at him dying on the cross for your sins. Scientific truth is good, but if you want to know God come to the cross. Come with no more pretensions than the thief at his side and the soldier at his feet. Come and offer him no more than yourself. Come and see far more than a mere intelligence. Come and see the Creator and the Holy One, the Just and the Loving, the Omnipotent and the Humble, the Gracious and the Truthful and the Omniscient and the Wise. Come and see all this in Person. Ask yourself, “Can I put my trust in him?” He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. To know God simply put your faith in Jesus Christ and him crucified.

About Mike L Anderson

Mike has a PhD in the philosophy of evolutionary biology from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has taught philosophy of science at Wits and taught evolution and coordinated a graduate course in religion and science at the University of Cape Town. He is a writer and educational software developer and plays Starcraft.

Other titles by Mike L Anderson

A Horde of Humbugs

Bee Wise

According to Jesus?

Is Jesus an Evolutionist?

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mikelanderson

Notes

1 Stott, J. (1986) The Cross of Christ. IVP, Downers Grove, p. 204.

2 Pannenberg, W. (1988) A Theology of the Cross Word & World 8(2):162-172.

3 Moltmann, J. (1974) The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. SCM press, Ltd., London, p. 204.

4 Murphy, G.L. (1998) The Theology of the Cross and God’s Work in the World. Zygon 33(2): 221-231.

5 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, p. 437.

6 Morris, L. (1965) The Cross in the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p.167.

7 Simpson, G.G. (1951) The Meaning of Evolution. The New American Library, New York, p. 179.

8 This passage is declaring Jesus Christ as the Creator. The question arises ‘how could Jesus, as God Incarnate, have created the cross?’ The answer is that he did so in virtue of being in his Father.

9 Osborn, R. (2010) The Literal Meaning of Genesis and the Cross of Christ. Spectrum. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/news/2010/02/05/literal-meaning-genesis-and-cross-christ.

10 Augustine (c AD 391) Literal Commentary on Genesis.

11 Tanner, K (1988) God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny and Empowerment? Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN, pp. 89-90.

12 Berkouwer (1952) Studies in Dogmatics: The Providence of God. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 95.

13 Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas.

14 Carson, D.A. (1991) p. 602.

15 Carson, D.A (1991) p. 422.

16 See, for instance papers in part II of Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. R.T. Russell, William R. Stoger, S.J. and F. J. Ayala (Eds.) (1998). Vatican Observatory Publications and Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, California, Edwards (2010) How God Acts – Creation Redemption and Special Divine Action. Fortess Press, Minneapolis.

17 Berkouwer, G.C. (1954) Studies in Dogmatics: The Person of Christ. Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, p. 233.

18 Tracy, T. F. (2000) Particular providence and the god of the gaps. In Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine action. R.J. Russell, N. Murphy and A.R. Peacocke. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame. p. 297.

19 Berkouwer, G.C. (1952) p. 97.

20 Farrer, A. (1967) Faith and speculation: An Essay in Philosophical Theology. A & C Black, London.

21 Farrer, A. (1967) p. 62.

22 Mueller, J.T (1934) Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo. p. 190.

23 Coulson, C.A. (1955) Science and Christian Belief. Oxford University Press, London, pp. 67-96.

24 Mackay, D. M. (1978) Science, Chance and Providence. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p.15.

25 Mackay, D. M. (1966) Man as a mechanism. In Christianity in a mechanistic universe. D. M. Mackay (Ed.), Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London. pp. 57-58.

26 Helm, P. (2004) Eternal creation: The doctrine of the two standpoints. In The doctrine of Creation. C.E. Gunton (Ed.) T & T Clark, International, London, pp. 29-46.

27 Tracy, T. F. (2000) Particular providence and the god of the gaps. In Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine action. R.J. Russell, N. Murphy and A.R. Peacocke. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame. p. 297.

28 Berkhof, L. (2003) Manual of Christian Doctrine. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 43.

29 Hooykaas, R. (1960) The Christian Approach in Teaching Science. Tyndale Press, London.

30 Lewontin, R. C. (1997) Billions and Billions of Demons. The New York Review of Books 44(1): 24-33.

31 Spanner, Douglas C. (1987) Biblical Creation and the Theory of Evolution. The Paternoster Press, Exeter, Devon, pp. 13-14.

32 Stenmark, M. (1997) What Is Scientism? Religious Studies. 33(1)15-32.

33 Spanner, Douglas C. (1987) p. 14.

34 Quoted in Collins, F.S. (2006) The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Simon & Shusterm Inc., pp 165-166.

35 Bolger, R.K. (2012) Kneeling at the Altar of Science: The Mistaken Path of Contemporary Religious Scientism. Pickwick Publications, Eugene, OR. p.16.

36 Farrer, A (1967) p. 62.

37 Torrance, T. F. (1969) Space, Time and Incarnation. T & T Clark, Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland, p. 76.

38 Berkouwer (1952) p. 97.

39 Smedes, Taede A. 2008. “Beyond Barbour or Back to Basics? The Future of Science-and-Religion and the Quest for Unity.” Zygon: 41:445-64.).

40 Smedes, T.A. (2006). Intelligent Design & Theology: What Place for the Creator? Presentation at AAR Conference, Washington D.C.

41 Luther, M. (1962) The Heidelberg Disputation. In Luther: Early Theological Works. James Atkinson, (Ed. & Trans.), SCM Press Ltd, London, p. 291.

42 Moltmann, J. (1974) p. 211.

43 MacKay (1988) The mythology of chance. In The Open Mind and Other Essays , M. Tinker (Ed.). Inter- Varsity Press, England, p. 211.

44 Mackay, D. M. (1958) Complementarity II Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, Vol. 32:105-122.

45 Stott, J. (1999) The Birds our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology. Candle books, U.K. p. 14.

46 Packer, J.I. (1976) Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Inter-Varsity Press, Leceister, England, p. 21

47 Murphy, G.L. (2001) Chiasmic Cosmology and Creation’s Functional Integrity. Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith. 53(1):7-13.

48 Moore, A.L. (1843-1890), cited in Moore. J.R. (1979) The Post-Darwinian Controversies. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. pp. 263f .

49 Pollard, W.G. (1958) Chance and providence. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, p 27.

50 Gunton, (2004) The end of Causality? The reformers and their predecessors. In The doctrine of Creation. C.E. Gunton (Ed.) T & T Clark, International, London, p.64.

51 R C Sproul (1997) What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p.174.

52 Polkinghorne, J.C. (2007) One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology. Templeton Foundation Press, West Conshohocken PA, p. 78.

53 Haught, J. (2006) Darwin, Design, and Divine Providence. In Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. W.A. Dembski and M Ruse (eds.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp 229-245.

54 Sayers, D.L. (1941) The Mind of the Maker. Meridan Books, Inc., New York, Sayers, D.L. (1946) Creative Mind. In Unpopular Opinions. The Camelot Press, Ltd., London, pp. 43-58, Lewis, C.S. (1949) Transposition. In Transposition and other addresses, Geoffrey Bles, London, MacKay, D.M. (1974) The Clockwork Image. Intervarsity Press, Leicester, England. While complementarity is very helpful in understanding the relation between God’s creative activity and biological evolution, it should not be seen as an over-arching model of the relationship between science and religion. It has been criticized as such (for example Ratzsch, D. (2000) Science and its Limits: The Natural Science in Christian perspective. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, pp 144-148, Duce P.P. (1996) Complementarity in Perspective Science and Christian Belief 8(2):145-155). It is important to specify the entities and specific conditions under which it applies as MacKay and van Till, amongst others, have done. See MacKay (1988) The Open Mind and Other Essays , M. Tinker (Ed.). Inter- Varsity Press, England and van Till, H. J. (1996) In Search of a More Fruitful Question. Science and Christian Belief 8(2):157-161.

55 MacKay, D.M. (1988). The Blind Watchmaker – a review. In The Open Mind and Other Essays , M. Tinker (Ed.). Inter- Varsity Press, England, p. 214.

56 Coulson, C.A. (1953) Christianity in an Age of Science. Oxford University Press p. 16.

57 A good example of this perspective is Asimov, I. (1981) In the Beginning: Science faces God in the book of Genesis. Crown Publishers, Inc.

58 See, for example, Whitcomb J.C. and H.M. Morris (1961) The Genesis Flood. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

59 I have avoided using the expression ‘literal interpretation’ in favour of ‘literalistic interpretation’ because of the ambiguity of the former. Packer, J.I. (1977) Fundamentalism and the Word of God. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Copnay, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 102-106, says that the reformers such as Martin Luther contrasted literal with allegorical interpretation. The latter went off into fanciful interpretations unintended by the writer. In the reformers sense, all Scripture should be interpreted literally, that is the proper, natural sense intended by the author. The expression now refers to wooden treatments that do not do justice to metaphor or other figures of speech.

60 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Barth.

61 For a very readable discussion of these and other principles of biblical interpretation see Deist, F.E. and J.J. Burden (1980) An ABC of Biblical Exegesis. J.L. van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria. They say (p. 33) “texts … enter into a wider network. This network in which a text is embedded is also a kind of context: but is extra-linguistic and extra-literary. In this wider sense, context refers to life in general. Any text is produced by one or more human beings, functions within a human community, and is heard or read and understood by human beings. In short, texts have their being within human contexts. ”. Richard and Henry ignore this context.

62 Steenberg, M.C. (2008) Irenaeus on Creation: The Cosmic Christ and the Saga of Redemption. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, p. 87.

63 Nűrnberger, K. (2002) Theology of the Biblical Witness: An Evolutionary Approach. Lit Verlag, Munster, Germany, p. 369.

64 Thompson, J. A. (1982) Creation. In New Bible Dictionary. J.D. Douglas (ed.). Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, pp. 245-248.

65 Packer, J.I. (1977) Fundamentalism and the Word of God. Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London.

66 Frost, D. (2014) Billy Graham: Candid Conversations with a Public Man. David C Cook, Eastbourne, England, p. 81.

67 Galileo Galilei (1989) Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, In The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History. M.A. Finocchiaro (Ed.), University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 96.

68 Lucas, E. (2001) Can we believe Genesis today? The Bible and the questions of science. Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, England, pp. 94f.

69 Lucas, E. (2001) p. 99. See also Davidson, R. (1973) Genesis 1-11. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 21.

70 Hyers, C. (1983) Biblical Literalism: Constricting the Cosmic Dance. In Is God a creationist?: The religious case against creation-science. R.M. Frye (ed.), Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, p. 102.

71 Kline, M.G. (1996) Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 48(1):2-15.

72 Thompson, J. A. (1982) Creation. In New Bible Dictionary. J.D. Douglas (ed.). Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, p. 246.

73 Miller, K.N. (1999) Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, p. 268.

74 Berry, R.J. (2005) The Lions Seek Their Prey from God: a Commentary on the Boyle Lecture. Science & Christian Belief 17: 41-56.

75 Nadler, S (1993) Introduction In Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and preestablised Harmony. S. Nadler (Ed.), The Pennsylvania State University Press, pp 1-8.

76 Haught, J. (2006) p. 236.

77 Moltmann, J. (1985) God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. Harper and Row, San Fransico, CA.

78 Simpson, G.G. (1951) The Meaning of Evolution. The New American Library, New York, p. 179.

79 Provine, W. (1989) Evolution and the foundation of ethics. In Science, Technology, and Social Progress. S. L. Goldman (Ed.) Associated University Presses Incorporated, Cranbury, New Jersey, p. 261.

80 Futuyma, D.J. (1982) Science on trial: The case for evolution. Pantheon Books, New York, p.13.

81 Hull, D.L. (1991) The God of the Galapagos. Nature 342: 485-486.

82 Murphy, G. L. (2001) Chiasmic Cosmology and Creation’s Functional Integrity. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 53(1): 7-13.

83 Moltmann, J. (1974) p. 205.

84 Wright, N. T. (2000) The challenge of Jesus. SPCK, London, p. 69.

85 Berry, R.J. (1988) God and Evolution. Hodder and Stoughton, London, p. 21.

86 Berry, R.J. (1991) Genes, Genesis and Greens. In Real Science, Real Faith. R.J. Berry (ed.) Monarch Publications, Ltd., Eastbourne, p. 185

87 Moreland, J.P. (1997) Love your God with all your Mind. Navpress Publishing Group, Colorado, p. 25.

88 Morris, L.L. (1982) Faith In New Bible Dictionary. J.D. Douglas (Ed.) Inter-Varsity Press, Leceister, England, p. 366.


The Creator on the Cross: Science in the Light of Christ and Him Crucified

It may seem odd linking an instrument of torture with the majesty of the Creator of the universe as the title of this book does, but there are good reasons for doing so. The Apostle John says that the carpenter from Nazareth who died on the cross is the selfsame Creator of the cosmos, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Furthermore, mere belief that the world is created is not distinctively Christian enough - it is common to many faiths. We do not believe in just any old creator, but in the Incarnated Creator who died for us. There is another crucial reason - Jesus on the cross is God's greatest self-revelation. As we shall see, it is the Cross that most clearly reveals God's true nature as Creator and his relationship to creation. To think truly biblically about Creation, Genesis, science and evolution we must go through Christ and him crucified. Indeed, I want to put it to you that the shadow of the cross casts a great light on these things - that in Christ and him crucified there is a deep, deep repository of resources for dealing with all manner of difficult issues such as these. We will see, for instance, that the Cross glorifies the Creator and makes a public spectacle of those that would deny him - triumphing over them. The great benefit of going through Christ and him crucified is that this is a light available to everyone - you do not need to be a scientist in order to avail yourself of all the resources in him. Indeed, this book could have been sub-titled “A Christian perspective on science for non-scientists” or “How to think Christianly about science, in principle, without having to know a great deal of scientific detail.” My hope is that this book will be useful to pastors and Christian leaders in helping their charges draw on the rich resources in Christ and him crucified in negotiating the tricky science and faith arena.

  • ISBN: 9781311630414
  • Author: Mike L Anderson
  • Published: 2015-09-09 08:50:09
  • Words: 17316
The Creator on the Cross: Science in the Light of Christ and Him Crucified The Creator on the Cross: Science in the Light of Christ and Him Crucified