March 6, 2004
(Note: The Japanese version on the Japanese page is a much shorter version of this talk done as a sermon in a Japanese church. Hopefully, I'll be able to post a fuller version at a later time.)
Before I get into the meat of my talk, I want to give a brief report on my work in Japan, particularly as it relates to the topic of science and faith. I first went to Japan as a college student on a program sponsored by the East-West Center in Hawaii, where I studied Japanese while continuing my major in physics. I entered graduate school on a National Science Foundation fellowship to work on my PhD, but I was drafted into the military and had to quit. But the Lord used that to eventually direct me into mission work and I served in Japan for 3 years as a lay missionary, where I received a call to go into the ministry. After graduating from seminary and serving a church in this conference for 4 years, my wife and I returned to Japan in 1982 under a dual appointment with the Presbyterian Church, and after a term in Hokkaido, we came to our present position in Tsukuba Science City in 1986. We are involved in a variety of ministries there, with the "faith and science" issues being just one of them. I first became aware of Hugh Ross and his ministry about 10 years ago, and as our relationship developed, we've had Hugh over to Japan 5 times for speaking engagements where I served as guide and interpreter. We've translated and got published 3 of his main books, a couple of booklets and a couple of videos during that time. We also have a web site with a number of translated articles on it. We've had a good response to these efforts from a wide variety of people, and I know of numerous anecdotes of people coming to faith in Christ at least in part because of these efforts.
I'm basing my talk today on a sermon I wrote a couple of years ago by the title of "Darwin and the Problem of Evil". The problem of evil and suffering has been something humans have thought about and discussed for thousands of years. It has been a stumbling block for countless thinking people over the centuries, and as Dr. Ross has pointed out in numerous forums, the problem of how to explain the existence of evil and suffering in a world that is supposedly controlled by an omnipotent, loving God is the primary evidence that atheists use to support their worldview. And so it is a critical issue that we need to deal with.
In my research on the historical development of modern science, one thing that has become increasingly clear to me is how important one's philosophical understanding of the world, or "worldview", has been in the development of modern science, as well as its relationship with religion and other aspects of human culture. Historians of science concur that the very beginnings of modern science depended on people coming to have what we can legitimately call a "biblical worldview", namely that natural phenomena are not governed by the whims of various competing gods, but are governed by laws set in place by a single, universal Creator. They recognize that this basic prerequisite first came together with other necessary prerequisites during the Renaissance in Europe. Other prerequisites include having an economy that allowed certain people the time to specialize in the study of nature. If basically all members of a society had to struggle just to exist, then irrespective of what their belief system was, there would be no room for the scientific enterprise to get going. But primary on the list of prerequisites was having the right mindset to begin with.
The absence of this basic concept is the reason science was "stillborn" in every other civilization prior to that. With the exception of the Jews and Christians, who accepted the message of the Bible, all other ancient societies believed that natural phenomena were governed by various gods according to how they felt at the moment and by various events in the realm of the gods as they engaged in activities common to human cultures as well, such as fighting with each other and procreation. If you've ever read some of the creation myths found around the world, you'll immediately recognize the vast difference there is with what we have in Genesis. For instance, in the ancient Babylonian cosmology, the "Enuma elish", the forces of nature are personified and portrayed as engaged in bloody battles. The climax was the dividing up of the body of the mother goddess Tiamat to make the various parts of the world, the sky, the ocean, the land, etc. This same mindset, then, dominated ancient thought that was uninformed by the biblical revelation, and this is clearly reflected in the ancient mythologies one sees around the world.
All of these ancient cosmologies, with the exception of the Bible, start with pre-existing space and time in which various gods and goddesses engage in activities that are common to human societies. These activities, then, were thought of as the unseen causes behind natural phenomena. Thus, natural phenomena were not thought of as something human beings could understand in anything other than a superficial sense.
As an example of this mindset, take the Japanese word for "weather", "tenki". It is made up of two characters, "ten" for "the heavens" and "ki", which has to do with "feelings". Now, this is a bit of speculation on my part, as I'm not aware of the existence of any direct evidence that would support my conclusion, but I see in the makeup of this word that ancient concept. The weather is governed by the "feelings" of the "gods". If the "weather god" were angry about something, there would be a destructive storm - or so the reasoning went. At least the association of these two characters to mean "weather" certainly does fit with what the ancients thought was behind the weather.
At any rate, such thinking would surely short-circuit any attempt to actually understand such natural phenomena. Instead, people would focus on how to placate the gods through various religious rituals and magical incantations. The traditional religion in Japan is called "Shinto", or the "Way of the gods", and it is a kind of "animistic" religion that deifies nature as well as human ancestors. A Shinto priest is called "kannushi" in Japanese, which is made up of the Chinese characters for "god" and "lord". Given the understanding of what a "kannushi" does, it is apparent that the association of these characters is meant to convey the meaning of the "lord of the gods", namely, he who "controls" the gods. Of course, animists realize that a human being cannot in an absolute sense really control the spiritual forces that they think control nature, but they do believe that those who have learned the proper rituals and magical incantations can influence the spiritual powers to grant their wishes. Nevertheless, the spiritual forces that control nature are unpredictable, and so a worldview that presupposes this could not serve as an incubator for the birth of science. It was only as people began to realize that natural phenomena are governed by natural laws instituted by the Creator that modern science became possible.
It is also important to note that essentially all of the early scientists during the formative years of modern science were dedicated Christians. They had gleaned out of Scripture the principle we now call the "scientific method" and used that as their methodology to try to understand the world that God had created. Their work, then, became the foundation on which all of modern science is based.
So, how is it that an enterprise that began with such distinct Christian beginnings later became so anti-Christian in many respects? Was it that scientists were led by the evidence to the conclusion that there wasn't a Creator God after all and that life arose and evolved by undirected chance? It is this issue that I want to look at today. It is my conclusion - and not mine alone, of course, but of a growing number of scholars - that the failure of the Christian Church to really deal with the issue of evil and suffering and to provide a satisfactory resolution to this problem has been in the background all through this fundamental change in the scientific enterprise. This dilemma of how to explain why a God who is supposed to be loving and all-powerful could allow evil and suffering is an important issue that cries out for a resolution. (If I can put in a plug at the point, one product produced at Reasons To Believe is "Message of the Month" on tape or dvd, and the theme this year is this very topic and how it relates to science apologetics. I enjoy getting it every month and highly recommend it both for stimulating thought as well as supporting the ministry.)
Today, I don't propose to solve this issue once and for all, as it is a difficult issue far beyond my ability to do in a short seminar - or even a long one for that matter. It is comparatively easy to give general answers to the problem of evil, but when it comes to doing that on a personal level, that is an entirely different matter. Each time a major disaster such as "9-11" a couple of years ago or more closer to home for you here, the fires last October here in California, we are reminded again of the personal tragedies that so many people suffer. For people caught up in such situations, general answers to the problem of evil and suffering are not very satisfying. After all, they want to know, "Why me?" And so general principles as to why God allows such things to happen won't give us such specific answers - at least not ones that we can understand. We are finite beings limited to one place at one time, and so we cannot know the specifics of why God heals in one case while allowing suffering and death in another. Nevertheless, we can come to an understanding of the role of evil and suffering in God's overall plan, and it is this understanding that strengthens our faith and allows us to trust in God whatever our circumstances may be.
Before we delve further into this, however, I want to first go back and give a bit more of the historical background. After all, I've entitled this presentation "Darwin and the Problem of Evil." I've chosen Darwin both because he was a central character in the takeover of the scientific enterprise by naturalism and also because we have a considerable amount of information into his personal experiences and how those experiences affected his thinking.
Charles Darwin was raised in a Christian home and as a young man he even studied theology with the intent of going into the ministry. As was all too common in that day, Charles Darwin experienced such tragedies as the loss of his mother when he was only 8 years old. After finishing his theological studies for the ministry, his goal in life was to become a clergyman in a rural parish that would allow him time to do "natural history", along the lines of the famous William Paley. In 1831, he had planned to go on an expedition to the Canary Islands with a dear friend, but suddenly, that friend died, leaving Darwin quite despondent. That ruined his trip, but eventually it led to his going on the HMS Beagle's expedition as a naturalist.
While there were no doubt numerous factors that played together in driving him away from the faith he once embraced, there was one pivotal experience that nicely illustrates the dilemma we face in dealing with the problem of suffering and evil. When Darwin's 10-year-old daughter Annie came down with a serious illness, he prayed fervently for her recovery, but it seemed to him that God just didn't care, for the young girl died. Needless to say, this grieved him greatly, and it is not difficult to understand why that experience would make him angry with God. It caused him to question God's love and then even God's very existence. Darwin also later lost another child and he also had his own rather severe health problems. So over time, these and other experiences and influences we know little about led Darwin to reject the biblical God all together. He never went so far as to become a complete atheist, however, as even in his "Origin of the Species" book, he continued to refer to the Creator who he believed endowed life with its ability to evolve naturally. But he clearly rejected the biblical concept of a Creator God who is intimately involved in the world. Thus, he opted for a form of deism, where he viewed God as only getting things started and leaving everything else up to the natural laws he instituted with no subsequent intervention.
Anyway, when Darwin began his search for a naturalistic way to explainlife that didn't require a Creator's intervention along the way,he did so with an agenda in mind. It may not have been all that clear in his mind at the beginning, but as his life experiences with evil and suffering accumulated without being resolved in his mind, that agenda strengthened. And thus, as he later thought about the tiny variations in finch beaks in the Galapagos Islands and other such phenomena that he had observed, he gradually came up with what appeared to be a plausible way to explain how life forms could evolve naturally without the need for a Creator being involved. His conclusions, however, were not really based on where objective evidence clearly pointed to but, in my opinion, were strongly influenced by his emotional response to the problem of evil and suffering. This in itself, of course, wouldn't necessarily mean his conclusions were false, as that can only be determined from a fair and honest evaluation of the evidence. But it does show that the objectivity claimed by those working within a naturalistic paradigm is often suspect. They, just like all of the rest of us, have subjective biases, but they don't often want to admit that.
Now, it is my conclusion that this kind of emotional response is always a significant factor in the development of one's worldview. There are two magazines in the US put out by "secular humanists", one called "Free Inquiry" and the other "Skeptical Inquirer", that promote an atheistic worldview. I remember hearing Dr. Ross describe an article in one or the other of those magazines from about 15 years ago that gave details of a survey of its membership. We were trying to locate the exact issue so that I could document this, and I hope to do that at a later date, but the gist of it is the point I want to make, and that is that the overwhelming majority of its membership stated that they were raised in fundamentalist Christian homes. The figure I recall is 98%, but even if that's not quite right, it was still the vast majority. Whatever the exact figure was, the fact that so many atheists had that kind of background is relevant to this discussion. When it comes to something as complex as human beings, I don't think we can make hard and fast claims, but given that relationship, I think it is highly likely that these people are reacting very strongly to negative experiences from their overly strict religious upbringing. Likewise, I would imagine that in most cases, there is more to it than just that one factor. But still, this seems like a rather logical conclusion to reach.
A related bit of evidence comes from a book I read recently by the title of "Faith of the Fatherless; The Psychology of Atheism" that I got from the RTB bookstore. The author looked at the family backgrounds of many of the well-known atheists of the last few centuries, and he concluded that without exception, these people had very poor relationships with their earthly fathers, who had abandoned or abused these people as children.
The obvious conclusion from all of this is that atheism is usually, if not always, at least partly the result of an emotional reaction against very negative experiences that were perceived to be related to God and religious experience. That doesn't mean, of course, that such negative experiences would necessarily lead to atheism, as often other influences can overcome such factors. Nevertheless, it sets people up for wanting to embrace such a worldview.
Let's consider, for a moment, a person like Richard Dawkins, a British scientist who is an eloquent spokesman for atheism in today's world. If you're not familiar with his pronouncements, he certainly minces no words as he attacks any form of faith-based religious beliefs (seemingly blissfully unaware that his own belief system is really based in a kind of "religious" belief in itself, namely the power of chance and time alone to create complex information!) To give you a flavor of his rhetoric, here is a quote from his writings concerning those who believe in a Creator. "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." (Gee, I wonder which one of those categories I fit into?)
Now, I know nothing about this man's personal history, but based on what we can see in the lives of others, I would predict that he too has had some very negative family experiences connected with the Church. I doubt very seriously that the passion with which he and others like him fight against "creationism" in particular and religion in general could be fueled by anything other than such personal grudges. The fact that so many "secular humanists" come from strict religious backgrounds that they have obviously rejected shows that their main motivation isn't any kind of objective search for the truth wherever that may lead. It is a way of justifying their rejection of their upbringing. They claim to be skeptics, but I would say that they really aren't skeptical enough. They need to be skeptical about their own motivations as well as the various religious claims they fight against. Skepticism can be a very good thing. In fact, the Bible encourages us to be "skeptical", in that is tells us to not believe too easily and to check things out to make sure they are true. I Thes. 5:21 tells us to "Test all things and hold on to what is good." This, of course, is the essence of the scientific method. You should put any claim to the test to verify its truthfulness or lack thereof.
One other point I want to make before we take a quick look at the problem of evil is the philosophical presupposition of naturalism. I have listened to numerous debates between proponents and critics of what is called "Intelligent Design", and invariably the point is made by the critics that science must operate on the basis of "methodological naturalism." This is defined as "Science can only investigate natural causes and thus there is no room within science for any supernatural input." Thus, "Intelligent Design", which allows for the possibility of input from an entity beyond nature, is declared not to be science but is instead "religion".
What has struck me as critical in this whole debate is the failure to distinguish between two very different domains of science - namely "empirical science" and, what I call for lack of a better term, "historical science". "Empirical science" is the ordinary science we normally think of - namely, things we can directly observe and do repeatable experiments on. When it comes to this aspect, I would readily agree that "methodological naturalism" is a prerequisite. No one in the "intelligent design" camp, for instance, would argue otherwise. In other words, we can't allow for the possibility of "divine input" each time we make a direct observation or do an experiment. In fact, that is the very basis on which modern science was developed in the first place. If we believed that some sort of direct supernatural control is involved each time we do some scientific experiment, then science could not function and we would be right back to that ancient mindset of natural phenomena being controlled by the whims of various gods. Even if we accept that there is only one God, if we think that, instead of instituting natural laws to govern nature, God just arbitrarily decides on what will happen with each chemical reaction or whatever, then again there would be no reason to assume that you could repeat a given experiment. The "scientific method" would no longer apply and thus science could not function.
But does this automatically preclude miraculous intervention by the Creator? We assume that ordinarily things work according to natural law, and so we cannot predict the miraculous if, in fact, it actually does exist. I, of course, believe that it does, but we cannot assume that from the beginning. We can only look at evidence for it in the past, and judge from that. This, however, is not empirical science. But then, neither are evolution and the study of the past history of the earth and its life. It is what I'm calling "historical science", and rather than operating strictly according to the rules of the scientific method, it more legitimately operates according to the rules of historical analysis. Certain aspects of fields such as paleontology are, of course, empirical in nature, but as a whole, fields of study dealing with origins and past, unrepeatable events are by their very nature historical and not empirical. Even such a basic science as geology is only empirical science in the sense of present-day observations of geological forces and experiments that can be done to see how geological processes work or how to develop diagnostic tools such as radiometric dating. But one enters the realm of "historical science" when attempting to interpret the earth's history by reading the rocks. We often have very powerful evidence that makes a certain interpretation very likely, but such interpretations are never absolute.
When it comes to ordinary human history, how do we really know what happened in the past? How do we know that some particular historical individual actually existed? For instance, since I've mentioned the historical person Charles Darwin already, let's use him as an example. I could ask you how it is that we really can be sure that Charles Darwin ever actually existed. After all, it is possible to imagine an elaborate hoax involving faked pictures, newspaper articles, etc. that merely portray a fictitious figure as though he were real. We may have copies of a book entitled "Origin of the Species" that claims to be authored by a person named Charles Darwin, but then that could just be a pseudonym used by some unknown author. Well, needless to say, I doubt that any of you would lend much credence to someone who claimed Charles Darwin never actually existed. But then, I cannot prove in any absolute sense that he actually did. In fact, in an absolute sense, I cannot prove that even you who are listening to me now really exist. Maybe I'm hallucinating right now and I'm just talking in a room all by myself. Well, your reaction assures me that I really am here and that you all are real, but still, it's only a relative proof and not an absolute proof of reality. I want to make a further point about that in a minute, but first let's complete this thought concerning empirical versus historical science.
When it comes to historical persons and events, we can only analyze the evidence that we can uncover to determine which possible scenario is logically consistent with the facts, and by elimination work out the details of what happened as best we can. So, just as the historical evidence clearly points to, for instance, the miracle of Christ's resurrection, so does the evidence from the world of nature clearly point to the miraculous input of information and design in living organisms. It is only an a priori "philosophical naturalism" that says science cannot allow for supernatural input and must only entertain naturalistic causes. Again, I would agree that science can't allow for supernaturalism in the realm of empirical science in the sense that it cannot predict or control the miraculous (that is, one can't repeat the experiment and bring about the same "miracle"), but the study of origins is not empirical science. I think the failure to distinguish between these two separate domains of science is at the root of a lot of the confusion we see today. Thus, I think it is critical that this difference be pointed out and the naturalists not be allowed to confuse the two.
It's just like the "shell game" of switching definitions of the word "evolution" in order to make people think random-chance, Darwinian evolution is a proven fact. "You all believe in evolution, don't you?" Well, yes and no. I can answer that both ways, as it all depends on what one means by the word "evolution". I have no problem saying I believe in evolution if the meaning of that word is simply that things have changed through time. That is, in fact, the meaning an astronomer would have in mind when talking about the development, or evolution, of the universe. It says nothing at all about the cause behind that change through time. But when it comes to the history of life on earth, people who are trying to push naturalism regularly engage in what we could call "linguistic bait and switch" tactics. They point to things such as bacteria developing resistance to drugs or viruses mutating to become some new strain as "evolution happening before our eyes". This level of change is what is called "micro-evolution", and it is indeed a proven fact. But to extrapolate this into a supposed "proof" of Darwinian evolution as the explanation for all of life's history is to change the definition of the term. So, again, not distinguishing between "micro-evolution" and "macro-evolution" becomes a smokescreen with which those with a philosophical agenda have been able to confuse people. Thus, I feel that it is imperative that we insist on these distinctions being made in the public discourse on this topic.
Recently, I ran across a quote from an evolutionist where the philosophical basis for this subterfuge is clearly admitted. It is by Richard Lewontin, a genetics professor at Harvard, from an essay on Carl Sagan in The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997. Here is what he wrote: "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."
This statement is the clearest admission I've ever seen from someone on the other side of the debate that science has indeed been illegitimately hijacked by materialist philosophy. You'll notice that he begins by saying he is "on the side of science", as though science itself is threatened by allowing the "Divine Foot in the door." Again, because this basic distinction between empirical science and historical science is not made, he can get away with this. The "unsubstantiated just-so stories" he refers to are the kinds one reads about in biology textbooks, were one imagines, for instance, the evolution of flight as having taken place by a process where the forearms of a flightless ancestor are gradually transformed through selected mutations into proto-wings that allow the animal to jump a little higher or glide a little further with each tiny variation. As that gives it a slight survival advantage, this trait then gets passed on, and after millions of years, you have full-fledged flight. It sounds rather plausible as a "just-so story", but the only trouble is that the fossil record doesn't give us any evidence whatsoever that would back that scenario up. On the contrary, the actual fossil record clearly points to sudden appearance of major innovations in life forms and not their gradual development. But admitting sudden appearance is tantamount to letting the "Divine Foot in the door," and so that must be resisted at all cost. And so instead of actually seeking truth and "letting the chips fall wherever they may" by objectively looking at the real evidence, anything other than a totally naturalistic explanation is ruled out of bounds by definition.
I think a good analogy of this comes from the field of "forensic science", namely the attempt to find out what happened at a crime scene by piecing together various lines of evidence. This is a field of science that clearly fits into the "historical science" category and not that of "empirical science." Now, let's imagine a society in which philosophical concerns are allowed to dictate what conclusions are allowed in forensics. Suppose the people in charge of the forensic science enterprise in this society had an a priori, total commitment to the proposition that all human death is the result of natural causes alone. Given what we know of the actual human situation, it would be difficult to think of a more ludicrous presupposition than that, but for the sake of the analogy, let's suppose that all of the investigators firmly believed that no human could be killed by another human.
So, in this land of "Forensic Oz", let's suppose that investigators run across the dead body of a man who has a small hole in his head. They do an autopsy and discover a small, cylindrical piece of metal of unknown origin. Since their a priori assumption is that the killing of a human by another human does not exist, they are only allowed to look for a natural cause for the man's death. Their belief system requires that they find a natural source for the cylindrical piece of metal in the dead man's brain. If this belief system allows for the accidental firing of a bullet into someone, then that would be one thing, but even that is disallowed by definition, and so they are left with the daunting task of coming up with a theory to explain how this piece of metal got there. But no matter how bizarre it might seem, there will always be a possible way for this to happen. Perhaps, millions of years ago, a piece of molten metal was flung out into space by an asteroid collision, where it hardened into a cylindrical shape. Then, by chance, that piece of metal fell to the earth just right where that man was standing, and so that's how he died.
Well, needless to say, I think you'd have a hard time believing that scenario. Yet, that is actually a more likely scenario than is the random-chance coming together of chemicals to form a living organism. And yet, because philosophical concerns have been allowed to dictate what conclusions are allowed in origins research, we have a situation not all that different than what we saw in the land of "Forensic Oz". People who are intent on not allowing the "Divine Foot in the door" claim that to allow for any kind of divine input in explaining the natural world would stifle science. Invariably they then use examples from the empirical sciences to bolster their claim. The examples of what would happen if theproverbial"god of the gaps" arguments were allowed to stand sound rather convincing on the surface. After all, if a miraculous intervention by God is appealed to for any particular phenomenon, the motivation for further investigation into any possible natural cause will be eliminated, since it is just a matter of "God did it."
Again, in order to counter this powerful argument, we must make a clear distinction between empirical science and historical science. As I mentioned before, when it comes to empirical science, then yes, methodological naturalism is a prerequisite. When it comes to the historical sciences, however, this importation of the premises of empirical science is illegitimate and, it seems to me, automatically incorporates philosophical naturalism into its basic paradigm. This is not to say that we therefore should assume "methodological supernaturalism" as an explanation for everything, but only that we allow for the possibility of outside intelligent input into our theories of origins. Naturalists' fears of allowing "intelligent design" into our theories of origins necessarily stifling the search for truth are unfounded, and in fact, the very opposite is true. It is they that end up wasting valuable research efforts in pursuing what is clearly a failed paradigm. It is true that intelligent design might in the end "stifle" the efforts of searching for a naturalistic cause that doesn't exist in the first place, but that is as it should be. What science should be after is a search for what is true and not for what is philosophically (and politically) convenient.
One more point about this before I move on. I mentioned earlier that we cannot absolutely prove anything, as that would require absolute knowledge of everything. There will always be an at least remotely possible alternative explanation for anything we try to prove, including the existence of God. The evidence we can marshal from the natural world overwhelmingly supports belief in the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. But it does not constitute absolute proof. For instance, when it comes to the fine-tuning of the universe that appears to defy any reasonable possibility of a natural explanation, a materialist can simply call it "apparent design" and appeal to the possibility of an infinite number of universes, each with different characteristics. Since we would only show up in the one that is just right, they would say that it is only natural that the universe we live in has an apparent design that allows for our existence. This allows them to ignore the evidence for God's purposeful design and assign our existence to pure chance.
This is the ultimate "out" for anyone who simply does not want to believe in God, and there is no way anyone can absolutely disprove this hypothesis. Since we will never be able to make any observations of any other possibly existing universes, there is no possibility of moving beyond mere speculation in this area. Actually, I think that God has purposely set things up this way so that we cannot have absolute proof of his existence. For if we could, then faith would no longer be necessary. And as Hebrews 11:6 declares, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." Nevertheless, even though God does not give us absolute proof, he gives us powerful evidence to back up faith in him. But it takes humility to accept that and a desire to accept the gift of faith he offers all human beings. Actually, it takes a kind of faith either way. In fact, in one sense, I think we could say it takes a whole lot more faith to believe in chance as our creator when there is no good evidence at all to back it up than to believe in God being our creator with all of the strong and growing evidence to support it.
So, what is the motivation for clinging so desperately to the naturalistic model? It is most certainly not because the evidence points that way. It is merely an a prioriassumption. And it is my conviction that the underlying reason for this is strongly influenced by an emotional reaction against the failures of religion, particularly the Christian Church. Just as the birth of modern science took place in the context of the Christian Church, its rejection of that heritage likewise took place within that context.
In a culture like Japan, which has a very different historical context, there is a very different dynamic going on. Modern science is very much an imported commodity, and thus the kind of long, historical process that in the West led to the kind of emotionally laden conflict one now sees in the evolutionism vs. creationism debate is lacking. Thus the debate is rather meek and mild by comparison.
This is illustrated by an interesting quote I heard recently from a Chinese scientist working on the tremendous Cambrian fossil finds in China. These fossils, by the way, document the extremely rapid diversification of life forms in what is termed the "Cambrian Explosion" (or "Life's Big Bang"), and they provide a very strong challenge to Darwinian evolution. Anyway, he commented on the dogmatism of Darwinism in America saying something like (I'm paraphrasing here), "You American scientists are free to criticize your political leaders, but are not allowed, it seems, to criticize Darwin. We Chinese are not allowed to criticize our political leaders, but we have no problem criticizing Darwin's views."
While there are many failures that could be pointed to, I think the primary one in this regard is the failure of the Church to adequately deal with the problem of evil and suffering. It's been reported that this was the primary reason for Einstein's rejection of the God of the Bible. He was convinced from his scientific research that there had to be a Creator, but when he challenged the Christians he was associated with to explain how a loving, all-powerful Creator could allow such evil as he saw, they could not give him a satisfying answer. And so the end result was that he opted for a distant, uninvolved Creator and not for the God of the Bible.
Well, this does get us to the meat of the issue. Perhaps I'm biting off more "meat" than I can chew in trying to now deal with this issue in the time remaining. And certainly, I can't do a detailed analysis in just a few minutes. And so I want to close with just a brief overview to try to keep this issue in perspective.
In John chapter 9:1-9, Jesus' disciples wanted to know why a certain man was born blind. They were assuming that it was the result of sin, and in a broad sense, there is some truth to that assumption in that we live in a fallen world that in the final analysis is the result of rebellion against God. Jesus, however, points out that this man's condition was not the result of his own sin or that of his parents' and that its purpose was to serve as a means for God to show his power and glory. This example puts the issue in a whole new context, as it brings in God and his long-term goals into the equation. The problem is that we tend to look at everything through our limited frame of reference, namely this short, human life we live on earth. That's only natural, of course, as that is all that we can directly experience. We can only perceive the larger context through the eyes of faith as they are illuminated by what God reveals through his Word.
It is within this larger context, however, that we need to resolve the seeming contradiction of evil and suffering in a world that is under God's ultimate control. The Scriptures tell us that God's ultimate goal is the final conquering of evil and suffering without compromising the free will of his creatures. There were two purposes in God creating the universe. One was to prepare an environment where spiritual life could be merged together with physical life in the form of us human beings, and the other is to conquer the problem of evil in the shortest possible time while at the same time maintaining human free will. We humans are the only of God's creations where the two forms of life are wed together as one. All other living beings were created by God with just one or the other. Physically we are animals and yet we house a spirit created in God's image. All other animals lack a spirit created in the image of God, and angels are spiritual beings that exist in other dimensions that are not part of our physical world. As creatures endowed with free will, we can choose allegiance with the Creator or rebellion against him, either through passive indifference or active resistance. Our free will, however, is limited, as so much is predetermined. We do not, for instance, have the option of violating the laws of physics, and likewise, we cannot choose to do anything that would defeat God's ultimate purposes. These are boundary limitations of our free will.
This is related to another paradox of the Christian faith, as the Bible clearly teaches that while we have this limited free will, God also has predetermined much of what happens. In fact, some faith traditions within Christianity interpret the Bible to be teaching that absolutely everything is "foreordained" by God. Whole books have been written about that debate, but suffice it to say that it is a matter of perspective. From the human perspective, whether a person chooses one course of action or another, it is based entirely on his or her free will operating within the given boundaries. But from God's perspective from outside the constraints of space and time, God has already predetermined at least all important aspects of the future if not the details as well. Here, though, even saying "already" has put it back into our time frame, which is part of the reason it is so difficult for us to comprehend this in the first place.
So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with lots of questions about specific situations, but it gives a framework in which to view whatever happens to us in this life from an eternal perspective. It's like someone once said concerning the 2 principles of living life happily. The first is, "Don't fret over the small stuff." And the second is, "It's all small stuff!" If we think this short, earthly life is the main thing, then it matters very much how long and how comfortably we live. Now I don't mean to imply that we shouldn't strive to help people, including ourselves, to live long and healthy lives. As followers of Christ, we are called to do that. But we must always keep in mind that this life is not the totality of our existence as eternal creations of God. It's not really even the main act of the play. It's all we know experientially, of course, and so it seems that way. But compared to the "New Creation" God has promised, this life is only the prologue.
It is this perspective that gives us the proper mindset with which to weather life's storms. When viewed from only a human perspective, life is inherently unfair. Some people die young or have to endure terrible hardships, while others have it easy. We cannot know why specific individuals find themselves in one category or the other, but when we realize that somehow it all fits into God's great plan, we can put our trust in God whatever comes our way. This, however, doesn't mean we are to just sit back passively and not try to change things for the better. But we are to do so with discernment. I'm reminded of a short prayer that has become known as the "Alcoholic's Prayer", which says, "Lord, give me the courage to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Would such an understanding have changed Darwin's response to his crisis of faith? We'll never know, of course, but I believe it probably would have. Who knows? If Darwin had had the insight to properly deal with the death of two of his children, he might have become a great theologian instead of the naturalist who first theorized descent with modification, what we call "biological evolution". It would have only been a matter of time before some other disgruntled person figured out the principles Darwin espoused, but today we would call it something other than "Darwinism". But somehow, "Jonesism" or "Smithism" just doesn't have that ring to it, does it! So, I guess we can be glad it was someone with a name like Darwin.
Well, in closing, I simply want to encourage each of you to remember that we can truly trust God and leave things in his hands. We need to take seriously the commission we have been given to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, and be willing to be instruments in his hands for peace and justice in this world. But we are to leave the results up to him and not fret over things we have no control over. We each need to pray that prayer I mentioned earlier, and so I'd like to close with it again. Let us pray it together: "Lord, give me the courage to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference." Amen