Bernard Ramm: Epilogue
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Excerpting from Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and Scripture is like eating salted peanuts: impossible to stop. It's a scandal that this work is out of print, ignored by people who put out reams of trash. Significant statements in Ramm's text are highlighted in yellow. My own comments are in blue
The Christian View of Science and Scripture (347-351)
It has been the intention of the preceding pages to establish two different sets of convictions which we may conveniently describe as (i) denial and (ii) affirmation. We have tried to show in denial that certain beliefs attributed to evangelicals are not believed by all evangelicals and are not to be considered part of evangelical faith. Therefore, no man of science may withhold faith by reason of any of the following allegations:
- It is not true that all evangelicals believe that the world was created 4004 B.C., but to the contrary, evangelicals in large numbers believe that the universe and the earth are as old as the reliable evidences of science say they are. Evangelicals may (and many do) believe that the universe is four billion years old.
- It is not true that all evangelicals believe that man appeared 4004 B.C. Many evangelicals will push the date of man's origin back to the time of the earliest civilization (say, 10,000 B.C.), whereas others are willing to admit that man is hundreds of thousands of years old. A scientist may accept such an antiquity for man in good Christian conscience.
- It is not true that evangelicals believe that the earth is flat or that the earth is the center of the solar system. Neither of these is the Biblical position, so evangelicals may believe in a spherical earth and in the Copernican version of the solar system.
- It is not true that all evangelicals believe that evolution is contrary to the Faith. Most Fundamentalists and evangelicals are opposed to evolution to be sure, but we have given evidence to show that men whose orthodoxy is unimpeachable have accepted some form of theistic evolution or at least were tolerant toward evolution theistically conceived. We indicated that within the strict orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church with its huge dogmatic edifice evolution is not condemned.
- It is not true that evangelicals believe that the last word on specific details of physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology, and psychology is to be found in the Bible. Evangelicals believe that the great metaphysical backdrop and historical setting is given in the Bible for the sciences. But by so asserting this evangelicalism does not seek to stifle all reason, all research, nor does it seek to dogmatize beyond the facts nor to have theologians dictating to scientists.
Besides these denials we have tried to make the following important affirmations:
- It is impossible to separate Christianity from history and Nature. The hope of some to relegate religion to the world of pure religious experience, and science to the world of physical phenomena may suit some religious systems but not Christianity. The historical element alone in the Bible is too dominant to permit this treatment, as is the repeated reference to creation. Christianity appears in a universe created by God, and in historical situations under the providence of God. Creation and history are indispensable to a loyal evangelical theology. Although to some this appears as a weakness in Christianity in reality it is part of the strength of Christianity, for it shows that Christianity is deeply woven in the UNIVERSAL SCHEME OF THINGS.
- The Bible does not teach final scientific theory, but teaches final theological truth from the culture-perspective of the time and place in which the writers of the Bible wrote. We do not expect modern science in its empirical details in the Bible. In that the Bible had to be meaningful to the people who received its various parts in the course of its writing, the Bible had to be in the culture-terms of the time. The theological and eternal truths of the Bible are in and through the human and the cultural. Evangelical Christianity reprimands the religious liberal, who seeing the cultural accommodation so large, failed to see the divine revelation in and through the cultural.
- The Biblical statements about Nature are non-postulational or phenomenal; and its statements are free from the grotesque and the mythological. There is no deism, no animism, no pantheism, and no dualism in the Bible. It is free from the absurd views about Nature prevalent among the Greeks and Romans. Scripture is committed to no theory of the solar system nor the structure of matter, etc., and it is at the same time free from the polytheistic, mythological, and grotesque. Therefore, although the revelation in Scripture is in terms of the culture of the people who wrote and received it, divine inspiration spared the writers from adopting the grotesque and mythological, and in turn presented the divine inspired concepts and categories for the understanding of God, man, and God's relationship to Nature and man.
- We have tried to show that no man of science has a proper reason for not becoming a Christian on the grounds of his science. We have tried to show the inoffensive character of the Biblical statements about Nature; the tangency of so much of Biblical truth to fact; and the credibility of the miraculous. We have not tried to force a man to Christ by these chapters, but if a man is a Christian, a scientist cannot question on scientific grounds the respectability of that man's faith.
- Christianity is a religion and not a science. In science the principle of inter-subjectivity or objectivity prevails. What is true for one scientist must be true for all. But this is not true in religion, for if the pure in heart see God, then the impure do not, and what is true for the pure is not true for the impure. God draws near to those who draw near to him, and He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him. He is not known to those who do not draw close to him nor to those who refuse to seek him. What is true for some is emphatically not true for all.
Therefore, if a scientist comes to God he must come the same way as any person comes to God. He must make the appropriate spiritual motions. He must repent; he must confess his sin to God; he must believe in Jesus Christ with all his heart. In the Gospels a very wealthy young man refused to make the motions of faith. He was intrigued by Jesus Christ but when the issue became sharply one of Christ or his possessions, the tug of his possessions was the stronger, and sorrowfully he left Jesus Christ. He wanted religion without the motions of faith. It is not a rash presumption to believe that many scientists and educated men wish for peace of mind, relief from a guilty conscience, hope for the life to come, and the blessedness of faith in God. But they find themselves caught between their science and their religious hopes, unable to move. Being possessed of great intellectual riches which manage to come first in their sentiments, they leave Jesus Christ.
Just as Jesus refused to pursue the rich young man and make other terms, so today we cannot lessen nor cheapen nor alter the terms of the gospel for our men of science. There is no other Saviour than Jesus Christ, and there is no other means of having him than by the motions of repentance and faith. Our word to the men of science of this generation is the word of one of the great men of science of a former generation, the biologist St. George Mivart:
Assuming, for argument's sake, the truth of Christianity, it evidently has not been the intention of its author to make the evidence for it so plain that its rejection would be the mark of intellectual incapacity. Conviction is not forced upon men in the way that the knowledge that the government of England is constitutional, or that Paris is the capital of France, is forced upon all who choose to inquire into those subjects. The Christian system is one which puts the strain, as it were, on every faculty of man's nature and the intellect is not exempted from taking part in the probationary trial. A moral element enters into the acceptance of that system. [On the Genesis of Species (1871), pp. 286-87. Italics are his.]
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