Monday, June 29, 2009

Is Reformed Academic Reformed? II

Allow me to respond to Dr van der Meer's reply to my "Is Reformed Academic Reformed?":

1. Does Reformed Academic accept the naturalist myth of origins (from Big Bang to the evolution of man)? Dr vdM denies that RA accepts naturalism or its myths.

My concern is that RA promotes the origins account of mainstream science, which is driven by naturalist presuppositions.
Dr vdM may disagree with my assessment of this as naturalist myth but he himself promotes an evolutionary origin of man. Perhaps Dr vdM could elaborate on how his view of evolution differs from that of mainstream science.

2. Should we judge scientific theory in the light of Scripture or vice versa? Dr vdM calls this a false dilemma, leading us to deny either the Bible or the realism of scientific theories.

But this is itself a false dilemma: why should an authoritative Bible lead to an anti-realist view of science? Dr vdM seems to think that science is worldview-neutral. I, on the contrary, maintain that science is heavily worldview-dependent, particularly concerning origins. Hence Christians should do their science using biblical principles, rather than naturalistic ones. Scientific theories should thus conform to biblical facts. I have no problem with scientific realism as such; I simply claim that we should reject those origin theories that contradict the Bible.

Conversely, Dr vdM, by embracing mainstream origin theories, is forced to take an essentially anti-realist approach to Scripture, thereby undermining biblical authority.

3. Why should the Bible trump mainstream science in eschatology but not in origins? Dr vdM asserts that biblical eschatology is immune from scientific disproof since miracles fall outside the competence of science. Dr vdM further argues that, unlike the resurrection, "Scripture does not provide its own interpretation when it comes to questions as to the details of how God created this world because it simply does not address them."

But Gen.1-11 does give a detailed account of how God created. The specific details denied by RA are all confirmed elsewhere in Scripture: creation in six days (Ex. 20:11), a universal Flood (2 Peter 2:5; 3:6), the direct creation of Adam and Eve (Luke 3:38; 1 Tim.2:13). Further, why could miracles not serve equally well to place biblical origins beyond scientific disproof?

4. The bulk of Dr vdM's response concerns his dismissal of biblical inerrancy. Here we come to the heart of the matter. Dr vdM claims that inerrancy makes it impossible to acknowledge the humanity of the Bible. Dr vdM appeals to Berkouwer, who in his book "Holy Scripture" distinguished between the Bible's fallible human, time-bound form and its infallible divine content. Regarding origins, Berkouwer took Gen.1-11 to be largely literary form; he doubted the historicity of Adam.

I maintain, however, that just as the humanity of Christ did not cause him to sin, so the humanity of the Bible does not cause it to err; the Bible is still fully reliable.

If Dr vdM believes that, due to its humanity, the Bible is full of errors, how does he discern which parts are trustworthy? What are the criteria? Does Dr vdM, like Berkouwer, believe Gen.1-11 is mostly fallible human form?

How does Dr vdM reconcile his rejection of biblical inerrancy with the confessions, which affirm "everything God reveals in his word is true…" (HC Q&A 20) and "we are to believe without doubt all things contained in the Bible" (BC 5)? This certainly entails more than Dr vdM's watered-down version of infallibility.

5. How does Dr vdM address the theological questions arising from an evolutionary origin of man? The only answer Dr vdM gives is to refer me to a list of five books, three of which actually reject human evolution. Only one (by the Haarsma's) considers the issue. But it makes various suggestions that can hardly be called Reformed: Adam & Eve might be an historic couple that evolved or might just be representative or symbolic; the account of the Fall might be metaphorical; human death might have existed before the Fall; God may not have fore-ordained all events but may have used random processes; God may have accommodated His revelation to erroneous views…(See Joseph Pipa's review).

Is this really where Dr vdM wants to go? Would it not be prudent, before promoting unorthodox novelties, to consider their theological implications?

6. In sum, Dr van der Meer has not provided any compelling grounds for preferring the origins account of mainstream science--particularly human evolution--over the plain, historical reading of Genesis. Nor has he shown his approach to be consistent with the Reformed confessions and the high view of Scripture they affirm.

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