Monday, February 8, 2010

Science, Faith, and Syncretism

Syncretism means mixing belief systems. In the Old Testament we read of people worshipping both God and Baal, for example. These days we do much the same thing, only the other "god" is usually Money, Popularity, Respectability, or something like that. The idea I mentioned last time, that there must be a scientific explanation to support Genesis, is such a case. Unless God jumps through the hoop of our personal expectations, we just won't believe in him.

So there!

I still don't see why Creation is any different from the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection, neither of which gets the imprimatur of science. If God wants to commit a miracle now and then, we can either rely on him to be telling the truth or rely on our amazing fallen minds to find an alternative explanation. This is the major reason I consider Creation Science dangerous on theological grounds: since the goal is to find a cause-and-effect sequence to explain miracles, it tends to deny or minimize miracles on the one hand and support a mechanistic view of God on the other.

Case in point: the Flood. In order to explain where all the water came from, proponents of Creation Science usually conjure up a vapor canopy nowhere attested in scripture and have the earth's crust upthrust, downthrust, and sidewaysthrust without ever generating a really good dance step. I, on the other hand, just figure that if God wants enough water to flood the whole planet, he can just call it into existence. It's called a miracle, and no, I can't make a science out of it.

So what if the science happens to be right anyway--what if God used a vapor canopy without mentioning it? Occam's razor, friend: the vapor-canopy explanation is complex; a miracle is simple. Nor is that always true: quite often positing a miracle is a needless complication. Just not here.

This need for an acceptable mechanism leads in worse directions, though. For example, it is Law-oriented rather than Grace-oriented. Earning your salvation by good works is simple cause and effect; it's a kind of science. Accepting salvation by faith that has been granted by grace is miraculous thinking: it's simply not good cause and effect, because it doesn't provide a good way to manipulate God.

C. S. Lewis talked about this in The Abolition Of Man: science and magic tend to be different ways of gaining power over nature (and thus God) by reducing it to rules you can manipulate. This is the reason the Creation Science crowd doesn't like miracles (beyond the fact they aren't acceptable to the scientific establishment): miracles confer no manipulative power. We can't use them to get what we want; we can't make them happen whenever we feel like it.

That's also why I don't really care about the scientific claims of Creation Science: if they were presented with proper rigor, I couldn't understand them, much less judge their validity, but if they are presented in a looser, more popular style, even a scientist in relevant field couldn't assess the data. So I stick with the theological ramifications--a topic friends and enemies both seem to ignore.

Next up: sciolism.

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