Friday, February 5, 2016

Lectures in Smithville and Hamilton

Last week I gave a number of lectures in Ontario. I had been invited to give a speech for a post-confession series for Canadian Reformed churches in the Niagara peninsula. Two weeks earlier Dr. C. van Dam had presented a lecture on "Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2: Faith Seeks Understanding".

Dr. van Dam stressed that the Bible is the Word of God; it should be read in its natural sense, and accepted as truth. The Bible is not a textbook on science, but is authoritative in what it says about history and reality. In particular, Dr. van Dam argued against non-literal views of the creation days, such as framework hypothesis of M.Kline and analogical days of J.Collins.

My lecture, as a follow-up, dealt with "Scientific Evidence and the Bible: Is there a Conflict?". My main points that we should distinguish between actual observational data and theoretical explanations and extensions of those facts. Worldview plays a large role in assessing scientific theories. The prime conflict is between naturalist science, which bans the supernatural, and Bible-based science. The outline is below.

It was presented in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church on Wednesday, Jan.27. The next evening I gave the same lecture in the Hamilton Providence Canadian Reformed Church. Both lectures were well attended, with people from both Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches.

On Wednesday morning I also gave a talk at Covenant Teachers College on"Teaching Math from a Christian Perspective." Present were faculty, students, and some teachers from Guido de Bres Christian High School, which is conveniently located next door.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon I spoke to faculty and students at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary on the question "Is theistic evolution compatible with Biblical truth?"

I must say that both the Teachers College and Theological Seminary have very nice facilities. I was impressed also by the dedication and enthusiasm of the faculty, teachers, and students whom I met. 

My lectures seemed to be well-received. During my short stay I experienced warm hospitality, made some new friends, and re-established some old connections. A worthwhile visit.  The last time I was in Ontario was in 1992. Perhaps I won't wait another 24 years before visiting Ontario again.
Scientific Evidence and the Bible:
Is there a Conflict?
Dr John Byl
Smithville, Jan.27, 2016

Scientific Evidence against the Bible?
      Heliocentricity (1600): Contra Gen.1? Joshua10?  Acts 1?  Rev.21?
      Ancient Earth (1800): Contra Gen.1?
      Ancient humans (1860): Contra Gen.4-11?
      Human evolution: Contra Gen.2-3? No Adam? no fall? no atonement? (Harlow, Schneider)
      Material man: No soul? (Stott)
      Fixed laws: No miracles?  No resurrection? (Bultmann)
      Inherent chance (1980): Does God know the future? Open theism (Polkinghorne)

Scientific Evidence against God? (Dawkins, Hawking)
      Miracles are impossible: God can’t intervene
      Science explains all: God is unnecessary
      No evidence for God: faith is irrational

How Certain are Such Scientific Claims?
      Science = Study of the physical world; grounded in observation
      Scientific evidence = observations supporting a belief
      The Myth: objective, rational science versus subjective irrational religion
      The reality: hard data versus subjective theory
      Same data interpreted by many theories
      Theory choice driven by worldview

      What is a worldview? story, glasses and map
      Presuppositions – always necessary, usually implicit
            Story: nothing evolves into everything. Matter-energy is the ultimate reality.
            No purpose - man is an accident - no soul, no hope after death
             God is the ultimate reality, Sovereign Creator & Sustainer. God’s Word is truth
             History unfolds according to God’s plan: creation, fall, redemption through Christ
            Man was created in God’s image to serve Him
Limits of Observational Data
      We observe only the visible physical world (can’t rule out angels, demons, heaven, …)
      We observe only the here and now: the problem of induction (can’t rule out miracles)
      Can we trust published data? Bias and fraud
      Operation science versus historical science
            Historical science is constrained by historical facts
            The Bible as evidence (John 20:30; Luke 1)
Shortcomings in the Naturalist Story
      Problems with Big Bang: no good theory for formation of galaxies, stars, planets
      No plausible theory for origin of life; no observed macro-evolution (fruit flies, E. Coli)
      Fossils: species appear fully formed, then stay the same
      Dinosaur soft tissues contradict dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago
      No fossil evidence for human evolution (Homo erectus very similar to modern humans)
      Genetic differences between humans and apes
      Genetic diversity can be explained in terms of only two humans
      Naturalism is self-refuting: no freewill (Crick, Hawking), no morals, no purpose, no science

Science and Christianity
      Christianity enabled science: humans image a rational Creator, the cultural mandate
      Reformed view of knowledge: human reason submits to the Bible (BC 3, 5, 7)
      The book of nature and general revelation (Rom.1; BC 2): the Bible interprets nature
      Would God let us be deceived? Self-deception (2 Thes.2:9-12)
      Common grace and knowledge (CD 3&4:4)
      The anti-thesis: a global conflict (Kuyper)(1 Tim.6:20; 2 Cor.10:3-6)
      Two scientific systems: naturalist science versus Bible-based science
      ● No conflict between scientific data and the Bible.
      ● Conflicting worldviews: naturalist science versus Bible-based science
      ● Be Consistent: Worldviews come as package deals (Mark 12:30)
      ● Credibility: Christianity is foolishness to the world (1Cor.1:18-25)
            But, unlike materialism, Christianity gives coherence, meaning, purpose, basis for science

Further Reading

Byl, John 2001. God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.
Byl, John 2004. The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.
Byl, John and Tom Goss 2015. How Should Christians Approach Origins? Winnipeg: WordAlive.
Nevin, Norman C.(ed.)2011. Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Biblical and Scientific Responses, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
Otis, John M 2013. Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise”, USA: Triumphant Publications.
Gauger, Ann, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin 2012.Science & Human Origins, Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute.
Kulikovsky, Andrew S. 2009. Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation. Fearn, Scotland:  Christian Focus Publications Ltd.
Rossiter, Wayne . 2015. Shadow of Oz: Theistic evolution and the absent God. Eugene:OR: Pickwick.
Sarfati, Jonathan 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical  and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries.


JohnV said...

Dr. Byl:

I was very glad to have been one of those in attendance. The scope of the presentation was more than I expected, even though I’ve read your discussions on the issues on this blog site. I was keen to pick out certain things that I was particularly interested in, and was not disappointed.

In our area the interest in the subject of approaching the Bible so as to leave open the possibility of evolution being true was slowly dying out. Then a church in our area proposed amending the Belgic Confession, and that brought the issue to the fore again. My concern was that the real issue, that of losing Sola Scriptura, was still every bit as much a danger to us, especially since the issue that brought it to the fore was fading away.
I think, Dr. Byl, that you addressed this concern for us very well in your presentation. The Bible must be regarded as fully true, not just partially true. The methodology that subjects the Bible to a human worldview is a disregard of Sola Scriptura, no matter how they make it sound. The Christian faith, as you indicated, is also a worldview, but one that is fully subject to the Scripture, to God’s testimony of what is true. All the physical “evidence” to the contrary (see, for example, the “100 Reasons”) are strange confusions of fact and theory: one cannot tell which is which anymore. Your presentation stressed a worldview which is subject to divine authority; and the Bible is God’s authoritative revelation of Himself, of who man is, and of His works in this creation. The one worldview corrects even the worldview itself by the Word of God; while the other worldview is not afraid to correct the Word of God where it is claimed to have erred.

I was also very happy to have met you personally. You were on a tight schedule, so we didn’t have time to enjoy each other’s fellowship except for those few moments at the meeting in Smithville. My schedule didn’t allow for much time either. But I am very grateful for the time that we did have.

Thank you for taking the time to visit our area to present your study on this issue.

You’ve just gotta come again!

john byl said...

Hi John

Thanks for your comments and kind words. It was a pleasure to meet you. Too bad we didn't more time to talk.

JohnV said...

Dr. Byl:

The question that I asked at the meeting was: What is the Christian's relationship with objectivity?

My reason for that question had to do with the emphasis on "worldview". Worldview-based argumentation is okay, as long as we realize that the Christian does indeed have a relationship with objectivity. That is, he can know what the Bible says, instead of just having to be satisfied with the best interpretation of the best theologians.

If the latter is all that we have, then we really don't have Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura requires that we can know what the Bible itself says, not just what men say the Bible says.

Reinterpretations of the Bible, such as re-interpreting Genesis 1 to allow for eons of evolutionary processes, assume that any interpretation is, after all, an imposition by men; and that one is as good as another as long as it does no violence to the legal wording. So, different and even many interpretations are possible. That is, every interpretation is equally subjective in nature, and never objective. In short, re-interpretation assumes no relationship with objectivity.

On the other hand, saying "only Scripture", or "Scripture alone", says that there is only one right interpretation: the one God intended; and it assumes that we can know what the Bible itself says: its own interpretation of itself.

Your answer was that the Christian does indeed have a relationship with objectivity, that objectivity is possible and that therefore, because of the Word of God, the Christian has access to it.

That is not to say that the Christian is absolutely or completely objective, but that he can have an assurance that he can be a bit more objective each time he gains in understanding of what the Bible says.

I know this was not your wording, but it is how I understood your answer.


john byl said...

Hi John

Yes, if we define objectivity as the ability to see things as they really are—God’s view of reality—then we can attain this only to the extent that God reveals it to us. The Christian has access to such objectivity through God’s Word, interpreted objectively (i.e., in its natural sense, and in the context of the entire Bible), and accepted in faith. Of course, such knowledge is only partial (now we look through a glass darkly, then face-to-face), and we must constantly test our beliefs and opinions to ensure that they are indeed consistent with God’s revealed Word.