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‘Creation, the Bible and Science’ Conference

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Category Articles
Date September 23, 2008

It was good to be one of around 150 present at the John Owen Centre, Finchley, to hear this year’s Dr Lloyd-Jones memorial lecture by Philip Eveson on Gospel and Creation – the significance of a theology of creation for preaching. A very full paper, it considered what a theology of creation should include (making some 12 points including the fact that there can only be one universe, that creation is the work of the triune God, who is also a relational God and insisting on the distinction between Creator and creation, creation and providence); the message of the gospel; the centrality of Christ and the significance of all this for preaching. Relying heavily on the work of Herman Bavinck, both creation and the gospel were expounded and asserted in the face of Muslim, Hindu, atheist and other deviant views to the contrary. It closed with an alliterative admonition to adore our Maker, appreciate his creation, understand the ache or groan that we presently know, anticipate the new creation and be active in making the message known.

The lecture came at the end of a busy first day of lectures and discussion under the title of Creation, the Bible and Science. About a hundred, mostly men and most of them ministers, had listened to three papers. The first was by Dr John Currid from Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, Virginia, on Interpreting Genesis 1 & 2. This focused almost exclusively on Genesis 1 and was perhaps rather narrow as it simply sought to show that Genesis 1 is not poetry. Other interesting matters were raised in the paper and in discussion, however, and it was good to hear and discuss this paper.

Dr Robert Letham from Wales Evangelical School of Theology spoke next. Billed as Genesis 1 & 2 – the History of Interpretation this was inevitably boiled down to a history up until the Westminster Assembly and so did not interact at all with post-Darwin reactions. Indeed we may get through the whole conference saying very little about Darwin or Darwinism. Dr Letham’s agenda was to suggest that there has never been much of a consensus on anything beyond the fact that the Bible teaches an ex nihilo creation by the triune God. He made a great deal of the popularity of Augustine’s idea of instantaneous creation for hundreds of years.

The third paper of the day was Genesis 1 & 2 – a Scientist’s Perspective. Because Professor Stuart Burgess was the chosen speaker this was really an engineer’s perspective. This was the most conservative, the warmest, the easiest and perhaps the most interesting paper of the day. He spoke of God’s power, skill and goodness in creation and then spoke briefly in favour of ‘a young Adam’ and a ‘young earth’ and against the possibility of extra-terrestrial forms of life.

The first day was a very stimulating one with lots of good questions and good answers and many expressions a genuine desire not to demonise fellow believers, seriously grappling with the biblical text and the scientific data but coming to differing conclusions to our own but within the biblical requirements. As ever, it was good to talk over the meals about these issues and others.

On Day 2 of the Conference, in a most interesting and thought provoking paper, Dr Stephen Lloyd of Biblical Creation Ministries looked at The New Testament and Creation focusing chiefly on agony and death but also on the flood and, very briefly, Adam, and pointing out the difficulties with the ‘bad stewarding view’ that sees the groaning of creation not as death and the other effects of the fall (these being something that was part of the original creation) but the general malaise upon the world caused by sin.

Equally interesting though largely cautionary and negative was Professor Helm’s paper, Design Arguments and Apologetics, raising questions regarding the intelligent design argument and its prosecution. See here for the fine paper more or less as given. I particularly liked this:

Apologetics, the business of offering apologiae for the Christian faith or for some part of it is, presumably, a part of the missionary and evangelistic calling of the Church. That strategy is set by the Great Commission. It is (where the words are understood in a comprehensive sense), ‘the preaching of the Gospel’. The New Testament also indicates the manner of such preaching: ‘I am among you as the one who serves’, (Luke 22:27); ‘The servant is not greater than his master’, (John 13:16); ‘I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling’, ‘Not in plausible words of wisdom…’ (1 Cor. 1:3-4 ); ‘For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Cor. 4:5); ‘To the Jews became I as a Jew, in order to win Jews’ (1 Cor. 9:20). The New Testament is full of such expressions. The Church fulfils her mandate when her preachers preach Christ, in the manner in which Christ should be preached. Matter and manner together. That, in a nutshell, is the strategy.

There is not, as part of that strategy, something in addition, a revealed apologetic system. I’d say, there is no more a revealed apologetic system than there is a revealed way of heating church buildings. But there is a revealed Gospel and a revealed way of spreading it. This way of spreading it is, naturally enough, often given to us in Scripture in the form of examples.

If the preaching of Christ in the manner in which Christ ought to be preached is the Church’s strategy, what, then, are the tactics? I’d say Apologiae, defences, is one type of tactic. In the case of tactics, there are no separate ends, but the means, the apologetic tactics, are justified by the ends. This, surely, is clear enough. Paul preaches, delivering his apologia for the Gospel, differently in Lystra and Athens than in Antioch and Thessalonica.

So what is Paul doing? What are his tactics? They differ from place to place.

Finally the bow-tied Dr Jason Rampelt of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion addressed the subject of Authority: Bible and Science. Though very engaging and thoughtful the underlying assumptions which appeared to give more ground to the unbelieving scientist than is warranted left the more conservative members of the audience much more concerned than they were with Professor Helm’s negativism. If you examine the Faraday site as against the BCM one you might gather how much more favourable to theistic evolution the former is. It was nevertheless good to hear what Dr Rampelt had to say.

Notes

The above appeared in two posts on Gary Brady’s Heavenly Worldliness blog, 15 & 16 September 2008.

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