Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Introduction 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The Canonization of Scripture"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The New Hermeneutics
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice

In the second essay of his book Collected Writings on Scripture, Carson surveys "recent developments in the Doctrine of Scripture."* One noteworthy development regards the common suggestion that Scripture is "inerrant" in matters of faith and practice and nothing else - science, astronomy, history, etc.

Carson rightly begins by stating clearly "All sides agree that the Bible is not a textbook on, say, high-energy physics; but those who hold a high view of Scripture argue that wherever Scripture speaks, it speaks truthfully" (67). Inerrantists have always understood that "allowance" must be "made for the genre of any biblical text, generalizing language, phenomenological descriptions, the problem of the hermeneutical circle, and so forth; but there is till i this camp a reasoned defense of the vie that whatever the Scripture says, properly interpreted, is true" (67)

"This reconstruction of history," however "does not appear to stand up very well to close scrutiny" (68) and for the rest of this section, Carson shows why.

First, there is an epistemological reason. Highlighting the third in a series of lectures given by Dr. John Woodbridge, Carson criticizes the bifurcation between religious knowledge and scientific knowledge. The problem with this is made evident with the second reason: history.

Secondly, there is a historical reason to reject this reconstruction. Carson points us to the Middle Ages where "the Bible [was] held the supreme place of honor as the highest source of knowledge" (68). An unexpected example of this is Copernicus. The criticism he face was the result of a fundamental belief that "they thought the Bible flatly contradicted a heliocentric view of the universe - which, of course, presupposes that they believed the Bible could address such scientific issues" (68). Johannes Kepler defended Copernicus by making as much an exegetical defense as a scientific one.

Of course other examples can be given. We should note here that this is not to undermine science itself. Neither Carson nor myself is suggesting that the Bible is primarily a scientific textbook. It isn't. But when it addresses the natural world (as it does the supernatural world) it speaks truth. We should be careful in coming to Scripture to primarily make scientific discoveries, but at the same time, we must not fear science. Science, done without the biases of naturalistic materialism, will concur with the claims of Scripture when all the evidence and proper interpretations are given.

I am reminded at this point the following from Francis Collins book The Language of God
The sense of awe created by these realizations has caused more than a few agnostic scientists to sound downright theological. In God and the Astronomers, the astrophysicist Robert Jastrow wrote this final paragraph: “At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries”.

* Essay originally written in 1986.
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