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by Carl Henry


We have decided to look for and add solid Christian information so that our readers may be encouraged to get away from the modern pop ideology that permeates much of modern Christianity today and to get into the ‘meat’ of the word in order that they may grow in their faith.

So we have decided to publish some excerpts from Carl F.H. Henry’s Contemporary Evangelical Thought Series. We have included 2 complete excerpts from each volume except for Basic Biblical Doctrines, which has 4, mainly due to their brevity.

We also want to encourage our readers to purchase these and other books which provide a solid foundation for their faith. For the most part, the modern believer has been ridiculed by unbelievers for being ignorant and uneducated in their own faith and that is not the reputation God wants us to have.

We need to know what we believe, what our history is and why we believe it as well as know our own faith. Ignorance is not a Christian trait, nor is it a desire of God for his followers. God spoke much on his followers to be educated and to study thus we should make sure we study the right materials so that we can be mature believers who are ready to encounter the enemy.

So use these pages to both learn from and motivate you to becoming educated believers who know what they are talking about.As a disclaimer, we do not agree with 100% of the information we are posting in these 7 page. We would like our readers to thinkabout their faith and get it right.


CONTEMPORARY evangelical thought in the field of education may be

likened to a fabric in process of weaving — not a mere patchwork but a

tapestry, unfinished, to be sure, yet with design so unmistakably woven

into warp and weft that there can be no doubt of its nature. The purpose of

this chapter is to examine this fabric in order to see the nature of the design

which, as the tapestry grows, is being unfolded.


Without laboring the analogy, we may begin by pointing out that

evangelical education, or, for that matter, any other type of education,

exists within a frame. As a tapestry is woven upon a loom so education has

for its context a frame of reference. In the case of evangelical education

that frame of reference is historic Christianity, set forth in Scripture and

expressed in the great doctrines of Protestantism, such as the existence of

God the Father, the Maker of heaven and earth; man’s creation in God’s

image, an image ruined through sin but not beyond God’s power to

regenerate; the incarnation of God the Son for the redemption of lost

humanity; the work of God the Holy Spirit in calling out of the world a

community of believers, the Church; and, finally, the end of earthly history

through the “glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus

Christ.” To these there is always basic the divine inspiration of the Bible,

the infallible Word of God.

As the loom does not change while the tapestry is being woven, so these

truths remain the unalterable context of evangelical education. But the

weaver of a tapestry is free, within the framework of the loom and the

limits of the warp strung upon it, to develop his design. So Christian

education works out its own particular practices and patterns within a

spiritual framework which, while usually expressed in doctrinal terms, may

also be summed up in the single word — “truth.” And by “truth” is meant

not just religious truth, but truth in all its myriad manifestations — in

science, in art, in literature, in human endeavor and human relations of

every sort — for it is axiomatic that there can be nothing true that is not of


It is not the purpose of this chapter to debate the theological context of

evangelical education; it is assumed that it consists of those central

doctrines, summarized above, that are the common heritage of

Protestantism and that are set forth in the inspired Word of God.

Evangelical education has a long and honorable history in the United

States, a history during which the theological frame of reference has in its

essentials not changed. Emphasis may indeed vary from generation to

generation, but revealed truth is not relative but absolute. This does not

mean, however, that it is ever fully comprehended at any particular time;

the great doctrines of sin and redemption, of God and what He requires of

man in worship and service and of how He governs the world — these

contain depths yet to be sounded. Composed of truth of infinite

dimensions, this frame of reference is spacious enough to enclose all that

man can know and plan and do in the field of education as well as in any

other field.


Within this frame, or, to go back to our original figure, upon this loom,

how is the tapestry of evangelical education being woven in America

today? To answer the question, we must first of all see contemporary

evangelical education against its background. That background consists

broadly of several periods. First, there was the time of beginnings when all

of American education was evangelical, because biblical truth was the

spiritual matrix of our first schools and colleges. This was succeeded by a

period during which many institutions which were once evangelical shifted

in response to pressures of current thought from the biblical to a secular

frame of reference and thus drifted from their historic orientation. This in

turn was followed by a time when, spurred by the controversy between

modernism and conservatism, evangelicals either founded new institutions

committed to the biblical frame of reference or strengthened old ones in

their allegiance to such truth. That evangelical education is still in this

period is evident from its progressive “coming of age” in relation to

awareness of its educational philosophy and a concern for intellectual


Now to confine these periods to precise spans of years is impossible.

Schools and colleges are living organisms; like individual human beings

they develop at different rates. Similarly their response to the climate of

opinion and the thousand and one other influences that lead to educational

change varies according to such things as the traditions, control, student

body, and locale of the particular institution. The most we can say is that

the first period began with the founding of Harvard in 1636 and extends

until the impact of evolution and the higher criticism upon American

theology — i.e., the post-Civil War period. For it is a fact that historic,

evangelical Christianity is the true alma mater of the American school and


In some cases, as with Harvard, the shift from biblical doctrine

began comparatively early with the influence of New England Unitarianism

and transcendentalism. In other instances, it was delayed until well after the

post-Civil War years. Also within this first period there were ebbs and

flows of spiritual vitality inside the various institutions, as at the end of the

18th century when Deism and French rationalism all but stifled the

Christian life of the colleges, so that at Princeton there were reported to be

only two professed Christians among the students, and not more than five

or six who did not use profane language in common conversation. (J.

Edwin Orr, The Second Evangelical Awakening in America, p. 18). Such

fluctuations of belief, however, left the religious frame of reference

unaltered with the result that when, as at Yale and Princeton, revival came,

there was a general return to the original Christian commitment of the


The second period was a shorter one, stretching from after the Civil War to

World War I, although here again changes came to different institutions at

different times, so that in some instances the retreat from evangelicalism

was still in process after 1918.

As for the third period, this, at least in part, overlaps the second.

Generalizing again, we may say that it began with the early years of the

present century and is continuing today. Particularly since the Twenties

there has been an upsurge in evangelical education; new schools and

colleges have been founded and old ones have witnessed new access of life

and strength.

In these mid-century years, evangelical education is coming of age.

Materially it is receiving growing support. Intellectually and culturally its

position is being consolidated. Philosophically it is showing an awareness

of educational ends and a self-consciousness in relation to method that is

leading to higher standards. At the same time it shows signs of moving out

of the spiritual and intellectual parochialism that has in the past limited its



Such, sketched in a few broad strokes, is the background of evangelical

education today. From this background we turn to a closer view of our

Christian schools and colleges, of the thinking and planning that underlie

their work, and of the direction in which they are going. There are two

ways to take such a conspectus of the present educational scene. One is the

way of precise documentation, whereby quotations build up the picture.

The other is through passing in review the significant trends and

movements in evangelical education, not forgetting also its intercommunication

with thought beyond its own immediate territory. To be

sure, this too requires documentation, but in a chapter of these dimensions

not to the extent of the first method. As we continue, ours will be the

second way of approach.

The trends in contemporary evangelical education that we shall pass in

review are seven in number: first, the growing awareness of the need for

the study and formulation of the Christian philosophy of education; second,

an increased consciousness of the value of higher intellectual standards not

only as a requirement for accreditation but also as an obligatory

accompaniment of Christian education; third, a new consciousness of the

relation of Christianity to culture; fourth, a penetration of isolationism in

evangelical education through the recognition of values in the educational

philosophy and practice of other Christian groups not commonly associated

with evangelicalism; fifth, a mounting realization of the need for the

Christian education of youth on the elementary and secondary levels; sixth,

a concern regarding the secularism dominant in public education; seventh,

a growing drive toward a more articulate and competent scholarship,

especially on the graduate and seminary levels.

Doubtless other observers would identify somewhat differently the chief

tendencies in evangelical education. Yet a consideration of these seven

trends will go far toward giving us a conspectus of the present state of

evangelical Christian education.


(1) The growing awareness of the need for the study and formulation of

the Christian philosophy of education. At once honesty compels an

admission. Until very recent years, evangelical education, at least in the last

of the periods we have identified, has been backward in formulating its

philosophy. It was not always so. One may find among the older

evangelicals, such as A. A. Hodge of Princeton (Popular Lectures on

Theological Themes, 1887, pp. 283 ff.), some acute discussions of

educational problems. And just the other day the writer of this chapter

reread the sections in What Is Faith? by J. Gresham Machen (1925, pp.

15ff., pp. 123ff.) dealing with education. For cool and incisive criticism of

the anti-intellectualism and growing idolatry of democracy that thirty years

ago were latent in American education, Machen’s words are worthy to

stand alongside the writing of a Bernard Iddings Bell or an Arthur Bestor.

But among evangelicals, Machen was somewhat of a voice crying in the

wilderness of progressive education and his references to education were

incidental to his chief concern, which was always theological.

To put it bluntly, only very recently have evangelicals become at all

articulate regarding the philosophy and objectives of their kind of

education. Sheltered behind the rightness of their cause and convinced of

the error of the other side, they were for years content to go their way with

little understanding of why they were doing what they were doing. Thus,

while public and liberal religious educators were struggling with some of

the central problems of philosophy and practice, evangelicalism for the

most part withheld its pen if not always its tongue. The years that saw the

publication of the enormously influential works of John Dewey and, in the

field of religious education, those of George A. Coe, witnessed, with

certain exceptions, little writing of a comparable nature among

evangelicals. There was, for example, the work of Herman Harrell Horne,

Dewey’s most able critic, an evangelical at heart, though not generally

recognized by the stricter brethren. Likewise, mention should be made of

Walter Albion Squires, whose Educational Movements of Today (1930)

leaves no doubt of the fact that its Presbyterian author saw clearly the

extent to which the naturalistic philosophy of Dewey was pervading not

only public education but also religious education. Notable also was the

point of view expressed by the Christian Reformed Church, a denomination

committed to the Calvinism of leading Dutch theologians such as Abraham


For years members of this group have maintained and supported a system

of Christian day schools in conjunction with the National Union of

Christian Schools. These schools, not parochial but parent-controlled,

represent a Protestant effort of long standing and successful experience to

maintain for Christian parents God-centered elementary and secondary day

schools. Reference to the outreach of this movement through the more

recent National Association of Christian Schools will come later in this

chapter. The point of interest now is that the Christian Reformed group

was one of the first to show a realization of the need for formulating a

Christian philosophy of education.

Some thirty years ago, three members of the faculty of Calvin College

translated a small book by T. Van Der Kooy, Principal of Dr. A. Kuyper

School of Vlaardingen, Netherlands, entitled The Distinctive Features of

the Christian School (1925). In the light of future developments in

evangelical thinking about education, these statements in the translators’

preface are noteworthy:

A book in English, setting forth the distinctive principles of Christian

education is, in our opinion, a necessity… It is true that our institutions have

certain needs in common with every school… but it is equally true that in

addition to, or rather qualifying all similarities between the Christian schools

and others, there should be a definite educational consciousness on the part of

our People revolving about the ‘why’ of Christian education…

But there is a second consideration. We arc in the midst of the stream of

Americanization. And just because we have so long stood on the banks, the

danger is now greater that we shall be swept along by the current.

The foregoing is doubly interesting; first, because of its clear recognition of

the need for spelling out the “why” of Christian education; and second,

because of its frank admission of the impetus for doing this. It is the latter

that sets apart from most other evangelicals what we may call the Dutch

school of educational philosophy. This desire to preserve in their schools

the distinctive Calvinism of the Netherlands was a motive that continues

today among the Christian Reformed groups; along with the influence of

older thinkers like Kuyper and Bavinck, the Dutch strain is still potent

among them. An excellent illustration is seen in the recent anthology edited

by Cornelius Jaarsma of Calvin College, Fundamentals in Christian

Education: Theory and Practice (1953); among the sixteen contributors to

this book, five are now resident in the Netherlands, the others being

Americans of Dutch heritage like Berkhof, Heerema, Jellema, and Van Til.

A similar example is Basic Concepts in Christian Pedagogy, the Calvin

Foundation Lectures for 1954, delivered in Grand Rapids by Jan Waterink

of the Free University of Amsterdam (1954). Works like these contain

much first-rate thinking about education; in fact, no student of the

philosophy of Christian education can afford to neglect them. Yet the

significant point is that the impetus behind their writing and publication is

closely related to a special theological and national background.

Turning from the Dutch school to the other evangelicals, we find, first, a

lag in systematic formulation of educational philosophy, and next a quite

different motivation for articulateness. The conservative evangelicalism of

recent years has a marked undenominational cast; while it includes

institutions under denominational control, some of its strongest

representatives have no denominational ties at all. Thus it lacks the

theological homogeneity of the Dutch school. Nor, by the same token, is

there among the rank and file of evangelicals a continuing national

influence. Consequently, the catalyst which has precipitated recent

formulations of the philosophy of evangelical education outside the Dutch

school must be sought elsewhere than in a unified theology like Calvinism

and in a common old-world heritage.

Actually, the catalytic agent in this case contains several elements: reaction

against the naturalism of public education on the one hand, and the antisupernaturalism

of the secular college or the modernistic seminary on the

other hand; demands of accrediting agencies for written formulation of the

aims and objectives of institutions seeking academic recognition;

publication of notable studies of educational philosophy, particularly the

Harvard Report of 1945, General Education in a Free Society.

It is not possible to assess with precision the degree to which each of the

foregoing catalytic elements has contributed to the various formulations of

the philosophy of evangelical education. As we have already seen, J.

Gresham Machen thirty years ago gave pointed expression to the dangers

of “progressivism” in education and, as time passed, his strictures were

shared by other Christian thinkers, among whom might be mentioned

Robert L. Cooke of Wheaton College, whose Philosophy, Education, and

Certainty (1940) is not only one of the earlier but also one of the most

discerning discussions of educational philosophy written by an evangelical.

In short, the flooding opposition to the naturalistic bias of progressivism

was bound to break through the dam of evangelical inarticulateness.

A second catalytic element leading to the precipitation of evangelical

opinion has undoubtedly been the accrediting program of the regional

associations, like the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary

Schools and the North Central Association. The evaluation program,

conducted in various parts of the country as a prerequisite to regional

accreditation, demands that the school or college furnish the visiting

committee a succinct declaration of its philosophy and objectives. Thus

more than one institution has been forced for the first time to set down a

plain statement of what it is trying to do and how and why it is doing it.

Without doubt this too has been an impetus to the study of the philosophy

of evangelical education.

Another catalytic element has been the appearance of such books as the

widely heralded Harvard Report (1945) and Spencer Leeson’s

distinguished Bampton Lectures at Oxford (1947), entitled Christian

Education, which, though published in England, have been widely

influential among American evangelicals. The Harvard Report, General

Education in a Free Society, was directly responsible for the preparation of

an important evangelical document; for it was discussion of the Report in

the meeting of the Group on Secondary Schools at the 1946 Convention of

the National Association of Evangelicals that led to the Convention’s

authorization of a committee to study the philosophy and practice of

education, and this in turn led to the publication of Christian Education in

a Democracy (1950, a book soon recognized by liberals as well as

evangelicals as the most comprehensive and thorough study of education

yet made by a conservative group.

Christian Education in a Democracy does not, however, stand alone. It

had its predecessors, such as Edwin Rian’s able Christianity and American

Education (1949), to name but one; and it has a growing number of

successors. For one thing, a number of the Christian colleges have through

faculty study given thorough consideration to the formulation of their

philosophies of education. Among such are Wheaton and Houghton

Colleges; the Wheaton study, entitled A Blue Print for Christian Higher

Education, is of book length and is now in process of publication.

Significant also is the Winter 1956 Issue of The Asbury Seminarian,

published by Asbury Theological Seminary and devoted to Christian

education with special reference to the Wesleyan tradition.

Other more general treatments of the evangelical philosophy of education

include Abiding Values in Christian Education by Harold C. Mason

(1955), certainly one of the most competent volumes on education yet

written by an evangelical; The Pattern of God’s Truth (1954), which deals

with the integration of Christian truth throughout the whole educational

program; and the publications of Mark Fakkema, Executive Secretary of

the National Association of Christian Schools. Dr. Fakkema’s work (cf.

Christian Philosophy: Its Educational Implications) is important because

it has been and continues to be given as special lecture courses in many

colleges, seminaries, and churches throughout the country. This unique

exposition of Christian philosophy, which reflects strongly the views of the

Dutch school, is thus influencing the educational practice of the rank and

file of evangelicals.

(2) An increased consciousness of higher intellectual standards not only

as a requirement for accreditation but also as an obligatory

accompaniment of Christian education. This trend, though obvious, is far

from insignificant. The day when evangelical schools and colleges were

doing little to raise educational standards has passed. Recent decades have

seen a deepening concern for accreditation and improved standards on the

part of evangelical schools and colleges throughout the nation. Whether or

not in some cases this preoccupation with academic standing has in it

something of the “have-nots” reaching after accredited status merely for

the sake of prestige, the fact remains that by and large this trend has served

to elevate evangelical education. Twenty-five years ago, the number of

deeply conservative evangelical schools and colleges which had gone

beyond state recognition and gained accreditation by the regional bodies

was almost non-existent; today a growing company of institutions have

achieved regional approval. And to their credit it should be said that they

have done this without lowering their doctrinal colors. Despite a minority

who insist that the attainment of accreditation entails spiritual compromise,

a school or college never has to buy academic standing by selling out its

evangelical distinctiveness.

It should be also observed that the drive toward accreditation goes beyond

the evangelical secondary schools and liberal arts colleges. Since the

foundation in 1943 of the National Association of Evangelicals with its

Commission on Education, the Bible institutes and Bible colleges have set

up their own accrediting association. This led in 1949 to recognition by the

U. S. Office of Education of their criteria as the standard for a new field of

accreditation in American higher education — namely, the field, “Bible.”

Now there are inevitable corollaries of this drive toward accreditation on

the part of evangelicals. Unquestionably it has jolted some schools out of

intellectual ruts, opened up new vistas of academic achievement, and

hastened the development of essential educational equipment, such as

libraries and laboratories, to meet legitimate demands of accrediting

agencies. As never before, evangelical education is becoming aware of its

responsibility for the maintenance of excellence. No longer can an

institution contented with inferior standards take refuge behind the excuse

that it is spiritually sound. Of course, any school or college, whether

secular or Christian, must begin. It is no disgrace for a new school not to

have full recognition. But the constant aim must be for first-rate attainment

in the classroom, in the library and laboratory, in extracurricular activities,

as well as in the chapel. It is no light thing for a school to declare openly its

commitment to Christ and the Bible. Such commitment carries an

obligation to do everything possible to achieve excellence — not for pride

or prestige, but for God’s glory. For evangelicals must never be content to

offer a poor education in the Name of God.

(3) A new consciousness of the relation of Christianity to culture.

Although worthy of separate notice, this trend does not require extended

analysis. Actually it is linked closely with the preceding trend. Higher

standards have opened up for evangelical education a new appreciation of

the best in culture. Moreover, education that takes seriously the principle

that all truth is God’s truth cannot stand aloof from truth in music,

literature, and in art. The question of Tertullian about what Athens has to

do with Jerusalem, is not relevant to evangelical education today. As a

matter of fact, even the evangelicalism of the Puritans did not insulate itself

against true culture, as Percy Scholes and C. S. Lewis have shown in their

studies of Puritanism. For evangelicalism to shun culture is not a valid

option; according to Emile Cailliet, what is needed is rather a conversation

with culture in which evangelicalism stands firmly within “the Biblical

landscape of reality” (The Christian Approach to Culture, New York,

1953). That this is realized by many an evangelical institution is evidenced,

for one thing, by the revival of good music. Never was there more and

better music well taught and capably performed in many of our schools and

colleges and Bible institutes than today. To be sure, a good deal of the

second-rate music too often associated with evangelicalism remains with

us. Yet notable progress has been made.

(4) A penetration of the isolationism of evangelical education through the

recognition of values in the educational philosophy and practice of

Christian groups not commonly associated with evangelicalism. At the

Kent Seminar on “The Christian Idea of Education,” held at Kent School in

Connecticut in November, 1956, and attended by some four hundred

educational leaders from coast to coast, the Chairman of the Seminar, Dr.

W. G. Pollard, Director of the Oak Ridge Atomic Laboratory, advanced

the thesis that we stand today at the beginning of a Christian renaissance.

For a long time modern thought and culture have been, he pointed out, in a

virtual dark age, during which the Graeco-Roman strain in Western

civilization has dominated the Judaeo-Christian strain. But now the climate

of opinion is changing. There is a new awareness of the relevance of

Christian truth. Under the impact of the present distress of men and

nations, we are turning back to biblical categories and supernatural

Christianity. The outright evangelical might say that we are entering upon a

period of revival. Be that as it may, the fact remains that today Christianity

is being taken seriously by many people, including a significant number in

academic life, who twenty years ago would not have considered it.


course, we still have our hard core of naturalists in education like E. F.

Chave, Harl Douglass, and Theodore Brameld. But whereas in the past

there were very few educational thinkers standing on middle ground

between the naturalism of such men as Dewey and Bode, and the biblical

supernaturalism of the N.A.E. Report, the mediating position is now to the

fore. But “mediating” may not always be an accurate word, because much

that is being published on religious education by writers not usually

identified with evangelical orthodoxy is clearly on the side of historic,

supernatural Christianity. To this statement, however, an exception must at

once be made. In nearly every case, writers who represent a return to

genuine Christianity in education balk at the high view of Scripture as the

inerrant Word of God that is the common premise of the more

conservative evangelical schools and colleges. They insist on equating it

with theories of mechanical dictation and a pre-critical, slavishly literal

outlook simply not held by enlightened evangelicals today.

But let us go on to consider some examples of the mediating position. An

illustration of this position with a strong bias toward Bushnell’s theory of

Christian nurture and the liberalism of George A. Coe is Protestant

Nurture — An Introduction to Christian Education by Harry C. Munro

(1956), in which the author attempts with indifferent success to bring the

older liberal views up to date and at the same time hold on to some

Christian doctrines. Far more successful and quite crucial in its influence is

Faith and Nurture by H. Shelton Smith (1941). Theologically neoorthodox,

the book has done much to expose the inadequacy of liberalism

in religious education.

In this connection, three other books may be mentioned. The Mind’s

Adventure by Howard Lowry (1950) is a beautifully written discussion of

the philosophy and problems of Christian higher education, definitely

opposed to secularism and broadly evangelical. Less evangelical and most

hostile to “Biblicism,” yet making some surprising admissions in

advocating for the Christian college much of what conservative evangelical

education already practices, is Christian Faith and Higher Education by

Nels Ferré (1954). Of high significance is The Teaching Ministry of the

Church by James D. Smart (1954). To a large degree this study takes a

thoroughly evangelical position. Much of it is a trenchant analysis of the

weakness of modern programs of religious education as deficient in

genuine Christianity. Despite misapprehension of the thoroughly

conservative view of the Bible, this is an extremely competent discussion

that moves far to the right theologically.

Among the most brilliant critics of secular education are some of the

Episcopalians, such as James A. Pike, J. Langmead Casserly, Chad Walsh,

and Bernard Iddings Bell. These men believe in supernatural Christianity,

albeit in a church-centered context. Bell’s writings, such as Crisis in

Education (1949), have been read with approval by many evangelicals. In

short, there is in the educational philosophy of Episcopalianism a swing

away from liberalism and back to traditional orthodoxy.

The influence of writings such as these has been leading evangelical

thought outside the parochialism that has long encompassed it. It has been

refreshing and stimulating for earnest proponents of the integration of

education with biblical Christianity to realize that there are others besides

themselves on the side of the angels. And there are those who hope that, as

other Christian thinkers come nearer the position of biblical evangelicalism,

the current misunderstanding of what evangelicals mean by the inspiration

of the Scriptures will at last be clarified.

(5) A mounting realization of the need for Christian education on the

elementary and secondary levels. With a few notable exceptions — The

Lutherans, the Christian Reformed, and the Mennonites — evangelicals

have until recently failed to maintain a proper balance in Christian

education. Their chief efforts have been expended upon the upper levels —

colleges, Bible institutes, and seminaries. In comparison with these,

secondary and elementary schools have been poor relations. The result has

been an educational program that may be likened to an inverted pyramid

resting upon its apex.

Today, however, there are signs of a change of heart. All over the country,

Christian day schools, both elementary and secondary, are springing up in

such numbers as to point to a grass-roots movement. In this field the

National Association of Christian Schools (an affiliate of N. A. E.), with its

clearly-defined philosophy of education, exercises growing influence. It is

apparent that when it comes to building lower schools, evangelical parents

are reacting constructively against the secularism of public education.

(6) This brings us to the sixth trend — a concern regarding the secularism

dominant in public education. Such concern finds clear expression in the

Christian day school movement. But this movement by no means cancels

the responsibility of evangelicals for the American public school. Here is an

area where Protestants, from modernists to fundamentalists, stand together

against secularism, just as they do against the encroachments of Romanism.

Protestant spokesmen of varying convictions are alive to the tendency in

public education to elevate democracy to a religious or even semi-religious

status. So Henry P. Van Dusen in God in Education (1951) sees some of

the same problems identified by Leslie R. Marston in his chapter on the

public school in Christian Education in a Democracy (1950, or by Edward

K. Worrell in Restoring God to Education (1950).

Regarding the unsatisfactory status of religion in public education, most

Protestants agree. But when it comes to solving this stubborn problem, the

Gordian knot has yet to be cut. While some, like certain of the Baptists,

would ban anything savoring of religion from the public schools on the

ground of a strict interpretation of the constitutional principle of separation

of church and state, others are quick to point out that such removal of

religion from public education teaches by the potent eloquence of silence

that religion is unnecessary and God inconsequential. Others press for

released time programs, or for Bible reading, and, where the climate of

opinion is favorable, as in parts of the South, even for Bible-teaching in the

public schools. But whatever be the particular attitude, it is reassuring that

many evangelicals are waking up to the spiritual dilemma of the public

school. The fact cannot be blinked that public education is a bulwark of our

freedom. Evangelicals have a perfect right to support their own schools.

But doing this in no way excuses them from the responsibility of assuming

their share of support of public education. It is a cardinal teaching of the

New Testament that Christians are obligated faithfully to discharge their

duties as citizens.

(7) A growing drive on the part of evangelicalism toward a more

articulate and competent scholarship, especially on the graduate and

seminary levels. It was Sir William Ramsay who said, “Christianity is the

religion of an educated mind.” Through a combination of influences, such

as those discussed in the preceding pages, evangelicalism is becoming alert

to the truth of Ramsay’s statement. This alertness is manifest in what bids

fair to be a renaissance of evangelical scholarship. Professors in evangelical

colleges, Bible institutes, and seminaries are better trained than before.

Academic in-breeding, once a contributing factor to what might have

become intellectual and scholarly sterility, is being lessened, so that there is

arising a generation of evangelical scholars trained in the great universities,

competent in their particular intellectual disciplines, yet holding with

enlightened conviction to the faith once delivered to the saints. Not only

that, but these scholars are producing work that compels the respect and

attention of a liberalism that has too long assumed that evangelicalism has

little to offer from a scholarly point of view. Nor is this renaissance of

productive scholarship confined to the Bible and theology. Increasingly,

evangelicals of real competence are expressing themselves in such diverse

fields as philosophy, psychology, education, archaeology, and science.

Admittedly, there is much land yet to be taken. But an important beginning

has been made and evangelicals are producing a growing number of

scholarly books. Moreover evangelical scholarship is becoming increasingly

self-critical. Studies of biblical and theological views long considered

sacrosanct are being made, not in an iconoclastic spirit but with a sincere

desire to arrive at the truth as set forth in the Word of God. One does not

need to agree with all the conclusions of such studies to recognize in their

publication a wholesome symptom of the maturation of evangelical



With this survey of trends, we conclude our conspectus of contemporary

evangelical thought as it relates to education. If the conspectus has shown

us anything, it has revealed the complexity of the tapestry which, in

response to present-day needs and tensions, is being woven upon the

unchanging framework of Christian truth. Movements in education may

come and go. Fashions in the theory and practice of our schooling may

change. But there is One who abides unchanging. With the writer of the

Epistle to the Hebrews, we may say of the variegated designs upon which

we are at work, “they shall all wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture

shalt thou fold them up, and they shall all be changed: but thou art the

same, and thy years shall not fail.” For the abiding center, the unifying

factor that gives meaning and permanence to our education is now, as

always, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”



Certainly there is no need to argue the fact of this cleavage. For it is the

conflict between science and religion which supplies modern life with one

of its most evident tensions. Secular publications allude to the situation

with monotonous regularity. Fortune magazine reports that forty-five per

cent of the younger American scientists of distinction now lean toward

agnosticism. The impressive articles published periodically by Life since

December 8, 1952, on the origin of the universe, of man, of religion and of

civilization, contribute no rapprochement with historic Christianity. Despite

the widespread acknowledgment that a renewed interest prevails in

religious realities, that the need for a theological answer to totalitarianism

is more firmly sensed, and also that democracy founders without a spiritual

basis, the cleavage of science and religion remain nonetheless a patent fact

of our era.

Anyone who faces this condition with a sense of cultural concern must

move inevitably to thoughts of pathos, of peril, of prospect and of

program. The pathos of perpetuating the cleft, the peril of compromising

the cleft, the prospect of transcending the cleft, the program for repairing

the cleft — such considerations obtrude irresistibly into view.

Like human beings generally, the prime contenders in this conflict are

indisposed to ready an inventory of their own liabilities. The scientist is

prone to think only of the cost to religion if the warfare is prolonged. And

the theologian meditates on the cost to a scientific age if the tensions

remain unsurmounted. The price of continuing this controversy, equally to

science and to religion, and beyond that, to modern life and culture, and, in

truth to the whole human enterprise, is more staggering than the multitudes



Beyond doubt, religion has suffered most from this modern conflict.

Everywhere the dissolving effect of science upon religion may be detected.

Religious life no longer supplies the strategic center of our cultural pattern.

In fact, today the life of religion is not regarded as an indispensable element

of cultural completeness and integration.

The achievements of religious faith, consequently, are dismissed as

irrelevant by scientifically enlightened men. The prevailing tendency is to

classify faith along with the irrational and emotive aspects of life. Religious

experience is viewed, therefore, as a special problem requiring justification

to the modern outlook. Full-orbed religious commitment is not only

ignored, but in many circles is regarded as an oddity. The refusal to assign

a determinate role to religion is no longer confined to extremists like Marx

and Nietzsche. Many Anglo-Saxon leaders, while repudiating a barbarian

way of life, today devaluate religion as catering only to human weakness.

From such considerations the enormous cost of this cleavage to the

religious side of life is painfully clear; science rules the center of our culture

while religion survives as a displaced refugee. The form in which the

religious question is put today already salutes this state of things: “What is

the relevance of religion in a scientific age?” Even an evangelical work like

Bernard Ramm’s implies a certain priority by its title: “The Christian View

of Science and…” The benefits science bequeaths the modern world; its

embarrassment to religion; the futility of prolonging this cleavage: these

emphases supply the primary orientation of the current debate.

The modern era tends to ignore, therefore, the loss accruing to science if

the cleavage with religion is not repaired. Only recent glimpses of a world

wavering in all its spiritual loyalties have brought into anxious purview this

settled indifference to religion.

The very foundations of the scientific enterprise are imperiled by the

cleavage with Hebrew-Christian monotheism. The Christian religion,

referring reality as a whole to one ultimate, rational, sovereign principle of

explanation, was historically the source of the scientific confidence in the

unity of the universe. Christianity provided the climate of conviction which

stimulated the rise of science and then guided its growth. Science

originated in the West, not in the Orient; in the West, moreover, it sprang

from the Christian view of nature, not from Greek philosophy. Science

without Christianity is metaphysically vagabond.

The readiness to invoke a plurality of explanatory principles in accounting

for phenomena amounts to a sophisticated return to polytheistic divinities,

and ultimately will deprive science of confidence in a single ultimate


Furthermore, Western European civilization, the highest yet achieved by

the human race, gained its main inspiration from the Hebrew-Christian

religion. The weakening of ties to biblical religion started and sped the

decline of Western culture. Dismissal of the traditional world-life view as

scientifically untenable is a main ground in the cultural breakdown, since all

attempts to perpetuate Christian morality in the absence of Christian

metaphysics have crumbled.

The integrity of human experience is also threatened. The modern man is

torn psychologically by irresolvable tensions and inner frustrations. He

finds himself irremediably religious by nature, yet he is unable to correlate

the scientific claim and the spiritual-moral claim. The resulting scientificreligious

conflict, productive of a divided self, has impaired the intellectual

and practical vigor of multitudes. An unintegrated personality is forerunner

to a disintegrated personality. Since no satisfactory integration of the

scientific and the sacred is achieved within the same mind and heart, the

unresolved division in the self easily leads either to the scientific demonspirit

or to the anti-scientific religious zealot.

Science itself can provide neither ethical sanctions nor ethical norms, and

therefore lacks the power to strengthen our civilization morally. For

experimental science deals only with the is, with the descriptive; it cannot

determine the ought, the normative. The modern segregation of science

from religion leaves the scientific temper devoid of final standards. This

neglect of theological and moral realities has shorn our generation of moral

restraints and has escorted society to the verge of a shameful collapse.

The totalitarian state, moreover, stands before us today as the incarnation

of scientific power detached from a superior religio-moral claim. Loosed

from ethical imperatives, the whole atomic age has been placed at the

disposal of the demonic in and through the moral prodigality of its

scientific parenthood.

These far-reaching effects mirror the pathos of prolonging this cleavage.

Whether measured by its price to the religious enterprise, or by its price to

the scientific, it can no longer be doubted that the opposition of religion

and science has already escorted modern culture to the hazardous brink of


From this sad situation, in what direction may modern man go? Without

question, from the predicament sketched in this preamble, men today turn

in hundreds of diverse directions. Tens of thousands of individuals, no

doubt, seek subjective mystical solutions. Like most home-made remedies,

these offer no promise of social antidote, and are not really intended for

retail to others. We are concerned especially over the evangelical turn,

which dare not, if it aims to be culturally significant, lead down some

private lane, inaccessible to the multitudes.

Whoever would orphan either theology or science at this stage of world

affairs contributes to the delinquency of the whole human family. The

scientist bears, therefore, a proper obligation to guard any projected treaty

from dismantling his empire of assured results; the theologian is rightly

concerned that the essential requirements of religion be not disregarded nor


Is there a solution which mixes fully both with science and with theology?

Is there a program which preserves the requirements of general and of

special revelation alike, harmonizing God’s activity both in nature and in

redemption? Can significance any longer be saved for the cherished

Hebrew-Christian conviction that God’s speech is translated both into the

word of power in nature, and into the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible?


The younger evangelicals today are deeply distressed over the tragic

bifurcation in our culture. Quite understandably, they long for the swift

reconciliation of theology and science. For science seems to win all the

practical battles, while theology is left only with the impractical disputes.

Any working compromise might therefore seem better than none, provided

only that it gains a hearing in scientific circles for the religion of

redemption, by casting evangelical theology in scientifically respectable


It would be unfair to imply that, in such hands, the evangelical philosophy

of science ventures to accommodate as much evolutionary theory as can be

thrust into the biblical silences. Yet certain dangers seem to this writer to

attend some recent efforts to bridge the gap between Christianity and

science. Such attempts to reconcile biblical theology and contemporary

science frequently run the risk of needless concession. If they do not

actually fail to grasp the essential contrast between creation and evolution,

they imply, perhaps unwittingly, an acceptance of principles hostile to

biblical theism.

Especially is this the case in the espousal of concepts like “progressive

creationism” and “threshold evolution” as acceptable categories of a

Christian and evangelical doctrine of origins. The difficulty is that these

phrases contribute to a verbal illusion which attracts the interest of the

contemporary evolutionist somewhat under false pretenses, and his

enthusiasm over their surface impression can only embarrass the

evangelical overture. For creation, in its biblical sense, is something quite

distinct from what the scientist insists is “progressively” knit into the warp

and woof of reality, while “threshold evolution” can hardly be a part

purchase of the developmental rationale if it presumes to be biblical.


other words, while Christian theism leaves room for progression of a sort,

it repudiates the notion of a continuing, advancing divine creation; while it

insists on thresholds, it does not abandon any sphere of reality to what the

developmentalist means by evolution. Little can be gained, and much lost,

by a failure to clarify from the outset the distinctive components of the

biblical doctrine of origins. The Bible doctrine of origins admits of no

merger, even at the secondary level, of theistic and non-theistic categories

of explanation.

The important fact is that two competitive doctrines of origins are

contending for the primacy today. In the history of ideas, the terms

evolution and creation have developed independently, and communicate

distinct concepts of origin. Until their essential differences are brought into

view, it is futile to tour the horizon in search of concord between them.

From the standpoint of mediating apologetics it may seem strategic to

identify theistic origins with “threshold evolution” or with “progressive

creation.” But have the terms “evolution” and “progressive creation” a

right to biblical sanction unless and until we are assured that current usage

does not interpret such concepts by principles destructive of Hebrew-

Christian doctrine?

Essential to the biblical idea of creation are three elements: (1) a sovereign

mind and will, (2) origination by fiat command, (3) fixed grades of being

and life. Whatever additional appendages attach to the Hebrew-Christian

doctrine of origins, these are its primary and definitive components.f5

Essential to the speculative idea of evolution are three contrastive

elements: (1) an endowed or unactualized primitive entity, (2) temporal

development, (3) progressive acquisition of new capacities. Whatever else

may be added to the formula of evolution, these elements are its warp and


The fundamental contrast between the Hebrew-Christian doctrine of

creation and the Greek-modern doctrine of evolution is therefore crystalclear.

The Genesis creation account depicts a personal supernatural agent

calling into existence graded levels of life by transcendent power. The

Greek-modern theory depicts a simple primitive reality temporally

differentiated by immanent activity into increasingly complex entities that

retain this capacity for future development.

In the evolutionary approach the principle of becoming is metaphysically

determinative. Time is not merely the actualizer of new forms, but it

originates them. Reality is intrinsically developmental.

This representation of evolution may be protested as narrow and

unimaginative. For do not numbers of influential evolutionists today

repudiate such an exposition of origins as over-simplified? Certainly this is

not what Christian theistic evolutionists at the turn of the century proposed

as a bridge between Christianity and science. Nor, admittedly, is this what

our evangelical apologists intend today by threshold evolution and

progressive creation. Edward John Carnell, as the exponent of threshold

evolution, specifically repudiates “total evolution” (An Introduction to

Christian Apologetics, p. 239); Bernard Ramm, while supporting

progressive creation, insists that the processes actualize nothing but the

“master forms” in the mind of God anterior to creation (The Christian

View of Science and Scripture, p. 116). Certainly no friend of theism

intends to import a chunk of naturalism into his system.

But every such protest overlooks an important semantic consideration. The

terminology of debate today is largely fixed not by the theological

endeavor but by the scientific enterprise, especially by the secular

philosophy of science which today holds the ideological initiative. The

employment of conventional phrases with a contrary intention therefore

runs needless apologetic hazards. What does “evolution” signify today to

the man of science, and especially to the current philosophy of science, to

which our overtures for reconciliation are extended? What does

“progression” imply in the atmosphere of contemporary debate?

For background in answering these questions let us recall the outlines of

the modern controversy over origins. For this will bring into focus the

debate over immanence and transcendence toward which evangelical

criticism was specially directed.

Evolutionary theory took its rise in a century in which Christian intellectual

loyalties had already turned lukewarm. The Hegelian philosophy had

excluded a transcendent Deity, and already viewed development as the

essence of things by supporting the thesis of the unity, and indeed the

identity, of mental and material processes. The speculative pantheistic

dogma that the universe is a logical evolution of the Absolute lurked in the

background of the Darwinian thesis that man and the other forms of life are

a biological evolution from the inorganic. Hegel stressed reason and

appealed to philosophy; Darwin stressed sensation and appealed to science.

Both disallowed transcendent miracles. Darwin derived all the complex

forms of life by natural development, slow, gradual, almost imperceptible,

from simpler forms.

But the closing paragraph of The Origin of Species offered a sop to the

Christian tradition. There Darwin admits the possibility of a divine

origination of the first living cells from whence all else came. The storm of

criticism which this concession aroused can be appreciated only by those

mindful of the history of ideas, wherein evolution enthrones becoming or

space-time process as the ultimate explanatory principle. What made

Darwin an evolutionist was not his tolerance of a deity of sorts at the

beginning of the process, but rather the insistence that all the forms of life

are fluid, emerging by temporal process from an unendowed primitive


The evangelical controversy with Darwin centered especially in the

questions of divine transcendence and immanence. Darwin’s confinement

of divine activity to the primal beginning of things was too deistic;

champions of speculative pantheism and of traditional biblical theism both

decried the view. And on each side, pantheistic and theistic, evolutionists

arose to insist that the developmental process itself must be traced to an

immanent activity of God. The pantheistic wing disallowed any role for fiat

miracle, and many theists likewise, while defending some measure of

supernatural transcendence, abandoned the traditional emphasis on

miraculous creative acts divinely interspersed through the process. The

devout scientist and theistic evolutionists were content to refer natural

selection and evolutionary process to supernatural design, and to insist on

this ground that the mechanical explanation had not crowded out the


In this shift the teleological argument — from design and purpose in nature

to an intelligent architect of the universe — underwent an obvious but

important change. Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) and evangelical works

of a similar nature expounded the Creator’s method by the analogy of the

watchmaker and the watch. Emphasis fell on God’s operation from

without. The post-evolutionary statement, to the contrary, placed the

emphasis on God’s immanent activity. Given the new role of geological

time and gradual evolution, the moderns could tolerate only a deity whose

continuous association with this process was assured. Traditional

representations of God’s operation from without now appeared

objectionably deistic.

In this dispute, a rigid antithesis was in the making. Whereas Christian

theology wore the insignia of fiat creation, modern science raised the

banner of a leisurely evolution. Christian theism (whatever else it entailed)

implied external design, design from without; whatever shaped itself from

within had no need of a Creator. Evolution, however, implied immanent

design. These two conceptions drew further and further apart as modern

thought banished the miraculous, and their divorce was virtually

guaranteed by the additional revolt against every last vestige of

supernatural transcendence.

The evangelicals soon divorced God from the idea of a temporal process

gradually actualizing new forms. The evolutionists divorced God from the

idea of divine miracle calling fixed forms into being.

To the evolutionist, biblical theism implied deism; to the biblical theist,

evolution implied atheism.

Both these judgments, of course, were radical. Biblical theism was not

deistic in temper. And many evolutionists were professed theists of one

sort or another.

Actually, the religion of incarnation champions God not as transcendent

Creator only, but as the immanent Preserver of the space-time world as

well, to Whose sovereign will its providential development is continually

referred. Biblical theology relates all God’s works, from the moment of

their origin, to a continuing providential preservation, development and

control. In the face of this Hebrew-Christian insistence ondivine

immanence, the modern indictment of biblical theism as deistic has no

justification. But the fact that modern philosophies of science tend to be

pantheistic or idealistic in tone, rather than theistic, encourages such a bias.

For these speculative viewpoints reject the doctrine that the divine creative

activity has ceased, and they refuse to refer the present universe simply to

divine control and providential development.

Yet it is significant that evangelical theologians like Charles Hodge

rebuffed the evolutionary attempt to ascribe natural selection to divine

immanence. Simply to call evolution the “divine method of origins” was

hardly an evangelical solution. Hodge pointed to Darwin’s own emphasis

that while the selective process might appear to be divinely ordered, in

actual fact it is not; natural selection for Darwin was a self-sufficient

principle of development.

The real question, as evangelical theology saw it, was not whether natural

selection should be supplemented by considerations of genetics and

mutations, and then referred to God, but whether the evolutionary principle

itself adequately expresses the cosmic revelation of divine purpose and

activity. The new theory of immanent teleology, asserted by the

evolutionary gradualists, worked against the traditional doctrines of

miracle, of a primal creation, and of fixed kinds of life. It encouraged

instead the notion that “creation,” “miracle,” and novelty permanently

characterize the whole space-time process.

Since the second decade of this century, secular philosophies of science

have bolstered this emphasis on continuing creation and miracle through

controlling ideas presumed to shed light on the ultimate mystery of origins.

The tendency to regard the whole of reality as incipient mind is now in

vogue. The philosophy of modern science is stated more and more in the

framework of panpsychic, or of personalistic or quasi-pantheistic theories

of reality. Consequently, the distinction between the non-mental and the

mental, and between the inorganic and the organic is viewed as relative.


second and related tendency is the widening approval of a doctrine of

continuous evolution. On the basis of ongoing creativity, the scientist is

regarded as possessing a standpoint from which he can make

pronouncements about the ultimate organization of the universe and the

origin of its forms of life. A revelation of the ultimate mystery of creation is

sought, therefore, within the speculative notions that distinctions between

all creaturely forms are relative, and that new forms continue to appear.

That new forms originate as continuing temporal events is a central plank

in the modern evolutionary platform. Whether by the methodology of

Darwinian gradualism or by the leaps and bounds asserted by the emergent

view, the prospect of new forms continues. Evolutionary theory, whatever

scope it may allow an immanent God, is predicated still, and in some circles

even more deliberately than a century ago, upon a denial of the origination

of fixed kinds of life by divine fiat. Hence evolutionary hostility to the

concept of a transcendent Creator is sharp. Where God is invoked as the

dynamic surge of the developmental process, He is not superior to the

principle of becoming, but rather represents instead the divinization of that


It is tempting at this point to show that this hostility to a transcendent God

already obstructs the religion of sin and redemption, and to labor the point

that a compromise on secondary positions which tolerates a fatal

concession at this level is not worth the investment of Christian energies.

The alternatives are no less staggering and important if the issues of sin and

redemption are ignored for the moment, and if only the Christian doctrine

of creation be kept in view. The consequences of a theory which pictures

the origination of new kinds of life as ongoing are far-reaching. An open,

indeterminate universe arises in which increasingly complex and

increasingly significant forms must be anticipated. Consequently the

uniqueness and supremacy of man in the creature world is thrown into

doubt, since the process may be expected sooner or later to transcend him.

Moreover, if movement and fluidity be ultimate, science is stripped of all

ability to predict the novel and striking evolutionary emergents which hold

the key to the future. Indeed, when spun out philosophically, the ultimacy

of becoming involves also the irreconcilability of the fixed concepts of

human reason to the flow of reality. The reigning importance of the idea of

a predetermined goal toward which the whole process is teleologically

directed is likewise jeopardized.

The biblical doctrine of the creation “rest” of God, on the other hand,

asserts (1) that the creation of new kinds reached its climax and completion

in the originally graded orders of being and life, (2) that fixed laws and

limits govern the creation, (3) that the law of stability is now more

fundamental in the space-time universe than that of changing forms, (4)

that man bears a permanent dignity and supremacy among the animals.

Whoever seeks a reconciliation between biblical theism and evolution must

clarify these differences at once. Otherwise, he either compromises

Christian theology or he gains merely a verbal truce, the value of which is

only that of “a scrap of paper.” The apologist who scurrilizes the

evangelical churches for not accepting evolution, and thinks thereby to

make orthodox Christianity relevant to scientific circles, strikes the same

hard bargain as the scientist who insists that he will give fair hearing to the

Christian doctrine of the Creator-Redeemer only if the dogma of evolution

be first exalted. No scientist, before he will consider the evidences for

theism, has the right to exact in advance from the Christian theologian an

assent to the doctrine of evolution, for the result can only be some

speculative monster, a hyphenated form of creationism-evolutionism,

whose future is without hope either in this world or in the next.

If the

scientist demands a verdict for evolution as such, before discussing the

case for biblical theism, he should expect resistance from those who are

unwilling to worship process as a god. The doctrine of creation is capable

only of superficial connections with the philosophy of evolution. How can

declarations about development, as part and parcel of an explanation of

reality which conceives the emergence of new kinds of life as an ongoing

process, be grafted on an explanation of origins which insists upon graded

and fixed levels of existence?

The Christian must indeed concede, and insist upon, the reality of process

and of providential development, but only as secondary and not as primary

facts of the cosmos. Acceptance of the dogma of change, without

clarifying the fundamental principle of created fixity, gives the modern

mind unnecessary and undeserved leverage against the Christian view. If

Christianity be true, not one spark of life can be explained by the advancing

complexity of immanent process, but the whole movement of space-time

existence rests rather on the principle of providential development within

created bounds.

These considerations attest the perils of apologetic mediation. If Christian

theism holds hope for spanning the chasm between science and religion, it

requires something more than the adjustment of biblical theism to

evolutionary philosophy. Not even on the level of secondary interaction

can their differences be advantageously ignored, for here two competitive

metaphysical ultimates contend for the mastery, and one must concede to

the other.

The one involves a universe essentially predictable and foreseeable by man,

except for divine miracles, and even these the sovereign Creator-Redeemer

may disclose prophetically. The other involves a universe foreseeable only

at secondary levels, one in which the forms of life and existence ascend

ever higher through the latent dynamic surge of the universe. The former

belongs to the Hebrew-Christian view, from which the scientific enterprise

actually took its rise; the latter is part and parcel of the Greek-modern

theory, which threatens the integrative competence of the scientific task.


Having dwelt so long upon the pathos of perpetuating, and the peril of

compromising, the cleavage, the evangelical reader may despairingly

conclude that he is foredoomed in this debate to an existence between

nostalgia for the past and apprehension over tomorrow. Nonetheless, the

hopeful prospect of transcending this cleavage brightens our perspective.

Reconciliation between science and religion will come, as every

reconciliation, only through repentance and faith. The conflict runs deeper

than a divergence over the interpretation of objective facts. The facts

indeed exist, and men transfer them from one perspective to another,

without essentially changing or altering them. But they are interpreted and

colored, and in this process of reconstitution not even the data of natural

science can be isolated from the danger of misconstruction by the operation

of volitional and emotional as well as intellectual factors.

Repentance is not a need confined simply to one or the other of the

contenders; it is due from both theologians and scientists.

The present readiness of both groups to re-examine their entrenched

dogmatisms is one of the signs of hope in the search for mutual


On the side of evangelical theology, greater humility and caution prevail

today in defining the content of the scriptural revelation in its bearing upon


This observation requires careful analysis and comment. It would be false

to the facts to imply that evangelical theology has weakened in its

assurance of an inspired biblical revelation. Evangelical theology holds fast

to the reality of special divine revelation, of the propositional and verbal

nature of that revelation, of the identity of Scripture with special

revelation. Moreover, it generally defends the reliability of the Genesis

creation account as an exposition of historical-empirical origins.

But the evangelical movement is increasingly aware that it, no less than

non-evangelical thought, is exposed to the danger of subjective bias in the

exposition of biblical teaching. The risk of unjustifiable dogmatism is

always near.

No one feels as keenly as evangelical scholarship the embarrassment

brought to the Christian cause by earnest contemporaries, all treasuring the

Bible as the revealed Word of God, yet dogmatically fissuring over

competing interpretations. The evangelical cause runs the risk of

bankruptcy by such widespread assignment of divine sanction to erroneous

speculations. Arbitrary identification of the chronology of creation with the

date 4oo4 B.C., of the specially created “kinds” with the “species” of

modern science, of the creation-days with six successive twenty-four-hour

periods, has reduced respect for Christianity as an authoritarian religion,

and has multiplied doubt over its unique knowledge of origins.

Contemporary evangelical theology is more determined not to speak

beyond the bounds of exegesis in such areas of controversy and to stress

the normative character of the biblical narrative even over against

evangelical interpretations of that record.

Today, fortunately, dogmatic insistence upon the gap theory of Genesis or

a literal six-day creation, or the age theory, or some other exclusive

alternative, is not requisite to a reverent regard for the creation narrative.

Alert to large gaps in the biblical revelation, evangelical theology today

marshals the data of Scripture primarily for its special relevance to

redemption, rather than to answer all the questions of concern to history

and to the sciences. There are many biblical gaps — gaps in history, gaps in

genealogy, as well as gaps in the creation story; whoever ventures to

prepare an exhaustive index to the events of history or to the behavior of

nature exclusively from the Bible undertakes the impossible.

Virile centers of evangelical theology today find in the creation account

abundant room for the antiquity of the earth, room for a staggering

aggregate of intermediary species and varieties between the specially

created “kinds” of life; room even for a greater remoteness for primal man

in the genealogies of Genesis; room alongside the transcendent fiat acts of

God for the providential development of novel space-time forms of life by

an immanent divine operation. In fact, evangelical thought reveals a

growing impatience with those who, in the name of infallible exegesis,

disallow such correlations in the Genesis narrative.

It would be incorrect, however, to imply that contemporary evangelical

thought shares in common no assured truths on the basis of the Genesis

creation narrative. That a sovereign, personal, ethical God is the voluntary

creator of the space-time universe; that God created ex nihilo by divine

fiat; that the stages of creation reflect an orderly rational sequence; that

there are divinely graded levels of life; that man is distinguished from the

animals by a superior origin and dignity; that the human race is a unity in

Adam; that man was divinely assigned the vocation of conforming the

created world to the service of the will of God; that the whole creation is a

providential and teleological order: the whole front of evangelical theology

finds these irreducible truths of revelation in the Genesis creation account.

That the word of creation is no mere instrumental word, but rather a

personal Word, the Logos, who is the divine agent in creation; that this

Logos permanently assumed human nature in Jesus Christ; that the God of

creation and of revelation and of redemption and of sanctification and of

judgment is one and the same God: these staggering truths evangelical

theology unanimously supports on the basis of the larger New Testament


The importance of these evangelical unanimities is apparent. Not one of

these affirmations can be discarded without fundamental violence to

biblical theism. Some bare form of theism may still be salvaged in the

absence of these convictions, but it will be speculative in temper, moving

far outside the range of the Hebrew-Christian revelation, and needlessly

concessive to the modern spirit. For precisely these affirmations supply the

characteristic marks of Hebrew-Christian theism, distinguishing it from the

modern scientific world view. They constitute primary emphases within

which Christian reconciliation must be ventured; any concord on secondary

issues, indifferent to these foundational tenets, demeans the distinctives of

evangelical thought.

If a new humility and caution may be detected in evangelical scientific

pronouncements, the prevalent philosophy of science also reveals today a

changing conception of the bearing of scientific realities upon the concerns

of religion.

To overstate this change would be easy, but unjustifiable. The newer

theories in physics and biology do not signify a restoration of what, by

evangelical theology, might be designated as Christian physics or Christian

biology, i.e., science which proceeds consciously and deliberately from the

standpoint of Christian theism. Such evaluations represent more of a

romantic hope than of concrete actuality.

Nonetheless, the changes in the scientific temper during our generation are

nothing short of remarkable. In 1929, the world of thought was being

catechized in the thesis that only scientific illiterates any longer believed in

the supernatural. Not only Russia but Anglo-Saxon intellectuals

pronounced this charge; not only the followers of totalitarian Karl Marx,

but those of democracy — befriending John Dewey as well; not in a

naturalistic setting but rather in that supplied by the Gifford lectures; not by

someone on the fringe of American thought but by the prime mover at the

very base of contemporary secular philosophy of education was belief in

the supernatural discounted as naive and untenable. Less than the span of

one generation has brought tremendous change. Although bitter attacks

upon supernaturalism in the name of science are still found (cf. Oscar

Riddle’s The Unleashing of Evolutionary Thought), the speculative

character of such assaults is more widely detected today.

Several developments within science account for the new tolerance of

religion. Development of powerful instruments adequate for international

and perhaps even global destruction, alongside widening confession of

science’s inability to provide absolute moral guidance, has provoked

spiritual concern. Even great scientific centers like M.I.T. have introduced

courses in religion. Summer conferences for scientists now consider the

place of religion in modern life. Foundation grants are multiplying seminars

and conferences on the subject of science and the spiritual.

The unsettling of evolutionary theory is another significant sign. While

science today looks to the evolutionary framework as its profoundest

organizing principle, the scientific ipse dixit is conspicuously more mellow.

Even a contributor to the Hibbert Journal (October, 1955) ventures the

words: “I do not suppose that anyone would argue that, say, a Darwinian,

or neo-Darwinian, theory of evolution is finally ‘proved.’ But at any rate it

is respectably thought out and in many ways is borne out by observation”

(L. Arnaud Reid, “Religion, Science, and Other Modes of Knowledge”).

The evolution of evolutionary theory itself and the widening front of debate

by competent representatives of diverse viewpoints, have aided this

transition. The signs of disorder are now conspicuous among evolutionary

claims; consequently, some scholars prefer to speak of “conservative

hypotheses based on facts” rather than of “the fact of evolution,” since the

nature of this fact is so much in debate today. Derivation of new forms first

from inherited characteristics, then from environmental influence; paucity

of missing links to confirm the rise of species by minute intermediate

transformations; repudiation by scholars like T. Dobzhansky of sudden

derivation of new species by gene mutation; growing readiness to attribute

new forms to inexplicable emergence: these reflect the unending revision in

science today. Criticisms of evolutionary theory similar to those offered a

generation ago in the ablest evangelical circles, but then swiftly countered

as the backwash of religious ignorance and of an anti-scientific temper, are

now openly voiced in evolutionary circles.

To the evangelical observer, the most striking evidence of a changed mood

among scientists is their revolt against the mechanical, deterministic view

of nature prevalent at the turn of the century. Its reduction of reality to

iron-clad causal uniformity had ruled out in advance the very possibility of

miracle and hence assailed the credibility of incarnational religion. Today

that view is almost everywhere in disfavor. That an absolutely uniform

causal connection prevails between all events, thus excluding all miraculous

exceptions, whether in the history of the Hebrews or in the life of Jesus

Christ, is now recognized for what evangelical theology declared it to be,

namely, a speculative dogma arbitrarily imposed on the data of nature. The

newer interpretations of the universe — Heisenberg’s role for

indeterminacy in nuclear physics, Planck’s quantum physics representing

the energy of nature as discrete rather than as continuous, the rising favor

especially in biology of theories of emergent evolution — all worked

against the mechanical view.

The new sufferance of religion, the new debate over a superscientific (and

perhaps even supernatural) sanction and source of morality, the new

reserve in the statements of evolutionary theory, the new indeterministic

approach to nature, are signal evidences of a shift in scientific perspective.

To claim, however, that this changed outlook involves the scientist actually

in a mood of repentance is to interpose a category which to the

contemporary scientist seems irrelevant. Since tentativity is the essence of

his methodology, the scientist tends to justify every doubt and revision.

The sense of ultimate responsibility, of a verdict in the presence of the

sacred in nature, is all but gone. Yet it is ill-becoming for the evangelical

theologian to broadcast the scientist’s flight from contrition. For while a

new and welcome reserve breathes through the finest evangelical theology,

academic repentance, or contrition in the presence of excessive

dogmatisms, which perchance have contributed to an unfortunate scientific

misunderstanding of the biblical claim, is nowhere a conspicuous virtue.

Reconciliation between science and theology, we have said, will come only

through the avenue of repentance and faith. Evidence of today’s more

favorable interaction of theology and science is heartening. Neither

theologian nor scientist, however, yet welcomes that personal humiliation

and contrition commensurate with his professional responsibility for the

cultural cleavage. Rightly might their prayer of confession read, “Almighty

God, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; we [theologians] [scientists]

acknowledge and confess our manifold sins which we most grievously have

committed by thought, word and deed. We have failed to think Thy

thoughts after Thee, yea we have exalted our own words as the word of

revelation, and we have broadcast speculations that have needlessly

provoked the [scientists] [theologians] and misled the common people.


do earnestly repent, being heartily sorry for these our misdoings. The

remembrance of them is grievous unto us. Have mercy upon us, have

mercy upon us, merciful Father. For the Redeemer’s sake forgive us all that

is past. Grant us future service pleasing to Thee, and enable us to proclaim

Thy revelation in nature and in Scripture. Amen.” Yet such a prayer moves

far above the realities of the present hour; indeed it gains an air of

artificiality from the climate of the times. Yet only from mutual contrition

is a new spirit of liaison likely to arise.

The prospect of transcending the current cleavage depends not only upon

repentance but, as already indicated, upon faith as well — the faith which

grasps the Living God revealed both in nature and in Scripture.

With faith, the problem is not whether to exercise faith or not to exercise

it; rather, the real issue is whether faith be turned to the right, or to the

wrong. Christian monotheism subsumed nature rationally under a single

principle of explanation, that of ethico-rational will. The neglect of

incarnational religion resulted in a failure to understand reality in relation to

personal categories. The scientific appraisal of ultimate reality only by the

sub-personal categories of weight, measurement and mathematical

formulae led finally to relativity. For confidence in an orderly universe, and

in the interdependence of all the forces of nature, declined swiftly when

detached from a supernatural religious basis.

Yet even the modern scientist could not operate without faith (even if

detached from supernaturalism and biblical religion). Science continually

works within undemonstrable postulates; without them, the scientific

enterprise itself would collapse. At point after point, the scientist believes

in order to know. He believes in the continuity of personal identity; in the

evidence of his senses; in the reliability of the laws of thought; in the value

of honesty in research; in the dependability of the laws he charts. These

beliefs make demonstration possible, yet they are not demonstrable beliefs.

The scientist is faith-qualified, for all men by nature are prone to faith. The

difference between scientist and non-scientist therefore lies not in their

disposition to worship, but rather in the object of worship. The reverence

paid to false gods distinguishes the unbelieving scientist and philosopher

from the devout believer. Science will bolster its undergirding principles

somehow; if not by an appeal to Christian theism, it will lean upon some

non-Christian metaphysics. The scientist who cuts himself off from the

changeless norms of Hebrew-Christian ethics, sooner or later will smuggle

in absolutes and idolatrous value judgments on his own. No sooner does

the scientist glory in deliverance from the worship of a personal God than

he is tempted to bow down and worship the v–1, or Einstein’s E=mc2.

Nowhere is the scientific proneness to faith-postulates more obvious than

in the modern devotion to the undemonstrable principle of the uniformity

of nature. Nothing in the regularities of nature today actually dictates the

certainty of regularities tomorrow. The present events of nature may

accord with uniform principles, or future events (if any) may prove totally

dissimilar; or, intermediate to these extremes, a whole range of

combinations of regularity and irregularity is possible. No scientist, on the

basis merely of a century of observation, can pronounce an absolute

verdict. Given a dozen centuries, or were he a contemporary of Jesus

Christ, his judgment might, indeed, be radically different from that ventured

from the twentieth century stance alone.

The influence of the faith-factor in science can be detected still, despite the

current withdrawal of science from its earlier commitment to an absolute

uniformitarianism. Recent scientific interpretations are gravitating already,

perhaps even unconsciously, into a new hostility to the Hebrew-Christian

view of the universe. This judgment conflicts, no doubt, with a growing

readiness to hail contemporary views as hospitable to orthodoxy.

The scientist’s acknowledgment of indeterminacy in nature, or at least of a

measure of scientific unpredictability, has encouraged many hurried and

excessive theological claims by voices friendly to Christian orthodoxy.

Both evangelical scientists and evangelical ministers have joined the eager

chorus of hopeful vindication.

This kind of apologetics, however, is headed for disappointment. To share

the contemporary scientist’s questionable premise that Christian miracle

depends one-sidedly upon the activity of nature chartable in the twentieth

century, or worse yet, upon the scientist’s confession of momentary gaps in

knowledge, really depreciates credible evidence for historical actualities in

the prophetic and apostolic eras. Evangelical theology does not suspend its

confidence in miracle upon the relativities of modern scientific experiment,

but rests rather upon the accomplished purpose of God in biblical times.

Evangelicals who have found ideal weather in recent scientific climate

might have discovered a basis for caution in the direction given the new

winds of thought in scientific circles. For the indeterminacy of nature is

now widely interpreted in a manner unfriendly to the biblical conception of

creation, of the fixity of kinds, and of miracle.

Current scientific theory no longer regards its plotting of nature as

unveiling an absolutely uniform network of causal necessity. Rather, its

index to nature is likened to statistical averages which, like life insurance

figures, are reliable as a general summary of events but useless for

anticipating particular instances with certainty. Moreover, instead of

considering the scientist as the passive observer of an objectively-given

causal order, emphasis is now placed on the scientist’s own creative

contribution to his charting of nature. Some circles tend, in fact, to depict

nature objectively considered as haphazard contingency.

Obviously, any theory which conceives novelty as part of the structure of

nature can hardly attach absolute significance to an irregular event at any

one time and place. A theory which makes exceptions the rule no more

supplies a biblical basis for miracle than does a theory which rules out

exceptions. The current scientific doctrine of contingency in nature must

not be misread, therefore, as a return to the biblical doctrine that the

Creator-Redeemer publishes His redemptive revelation by a series of oncefor-

all acts in nature and history, greatest of which is the Incarnation of

Jesus Christ.

Recent scientific favor for the doctrine of continuous creation should also

bespeak the fact that the new views of nature are being ranged

antagonistically against the Hebrew-Christian concept of creation.

According to the continuing creation theory, new forms of being and life

perpetually exist on the horizon of nature. The possibility of novel and

unpredictable emergents is thus permanently sustained. This conception is

consistent with the essential idea of evolution, namely, that space-time

realities are actualized by resident forces into increasingly complex forms.

But the theory is inconsistent with the essential idea of creation, that the

limits of life originally established fix the spheres within which development

takes place. The emergent theory involves essentially the unforeknowability

of the new forms of space-time reality at the strategic future levels of

advance. The biblical view, on the other hand, involves the idea of a fixed

and permanently predictable order containing a providentially bracketed

realm of change within established kinds.

These considerations supply evidence that contemporary philosophy of

science continues to defer to metaphysical faith-constructs, especially to

the important dogma that all pronouncements about the nature of ultimate

reality must be vindicated to present scientific observation and

experience. The philosophy of science wants no doctrine of creation unless

it can vindicate creation today. It wants no doctrine of miracle unless it can

vindicate miracle today. It suspects the doctrine of Incarnation unless the

Logos will enter the virgin’s womb today. The only conceptions of

creation and miracle it will tolerate are those patterned after the field of

experience today.

It is obvious, therefore, that the dogma of uniformity still shapes

contemporary speculations, more than one might be led to expect from the

scientific admission of indeterminism and its defense of emergent evolution.

The contemporary philosophy of science retains its basic hostility to

transcendent divine activity. Whatever range it assigns to the idea of

novelty, it is committed still to the bias of uniformity.

This faith in uniformity promotes the main plateaus of conflict between

science and Christianity. True as it may be, and is, that without a prevailing

uniformity science would be impossible, it is equally true that the

confidence in uniformity which Christianity inculcated has been

transformed into a fetish which is now invoked against Christianity in an

endeavor to discredit it. Wherever modern science falters in the presence of

Christian claims — the unique creation of man, the virgin birth, the bodily

resurrection, and so on — it is always faith in uniformity as an idolatrous

principle to which the scientist pays his vows. This mocking of the

miraculous in the name of absolute uniformity is not modern; the Bible is

already aware of it, and repudiates it. In <610303>2 Peter 3:3-6, the sacred writer

challenges skepticism over the final divine judgment of history on the part

of those who appeal to the regularity of events: “In the last days mockers

shall come with mockery… saying, Where is the promise of his coming?

for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they

were from the beginning of the creation.” The God of Hebrew-Christian

revelation makes possible the scientific enterprise, yet He casts down the

idol of uniformity. He is the God of anthropology, fashioning man uniquely

in His image; the God of biology, entering human history by the virgin; the

God of astronomy, guiding the wise men of old by Bethlehem’s star; the

God of physics, raising the Redeemer from the dead; the God of history,

planting the Cross at its midpoint and climaxing the long sweep of events.

An original creation distinct from the providential development of the

graded kinds of life; an Incarnation distinct from all human births; a

resurrection contradicting all human deaths; a future supernatural judgment

of history distinct from all human catacylsms — such is the miracle-fibre of

which Hebrew-Christian theism is loomed.

The scientist stands already in the place of theological decision at this

crossroads of uniformity and miracle; he is already involved in a theological

verdict at the juncture of evolution and creation. Whoever declares that

becoming or process is the ultimate metaphysical principle, whoever

declares that miracle is impossible, simultaneously defies the Logos

revealed in nature. This negative spiritual verdict inevitably extends the

distance between the scientist and the Logos become flesh. The faith to

which the scientist resorts may range him in determinate opposition to the

God of redemption and sanctification. While Christian theism supplies the

field and conditions which make science possible, the modern scientist

nibbles readily at the bait of false gods, and shows himself prone to

worship cosmic idols. And this revolt against the God of creation provides

him leverage for the revolt against the God of redemption.

The present situation in the religio-scientific cleavage is therefore highly

ambiguous. There exists, on the one hand, a new mellowness on the part of

both scientists and evangelical theologians, manifest in the readiness to

appraise critically the inherited dogmatisms, the former group in the light

of nature’s revelation, and the latter in the light of biblical revelation. But

this does not imply, on the other hand, that fluidity has completely

displaced fixity of thought, for the areas of re-investigation are limited by

each group. The evangelical retains the historic Christian confidence that

the God of nature has also revealed himself authoritatively in Scripture; the

scientist retains the confidence that the contemporary behavior of nature

supplies the master key to nature’s possibilities and implications for our

generation. Beyond the new amiableness of current theory stands the

scientific tendency, already discernible, to list away from biblical theism

and toward secular reconstructions of nature.

The prospect of transcending the cultural cleavage seems therefore, even at

this highly opportune moment, to be slipping away from us. Indeed, it may

even seem as if evangelical Christianity has no effective point of contact

with scientific theory in this strategic hour of scientific re-examination,

revision and restatement.

But the situation is not so unpromising and hopeless as this. For the

twentieth century scientist has ample evidence for the truth of the Christian

view of nature. No scientist is justified in a non-theistic or an agnostic

conclusion about reality. The scientific enterprise must deal with the

Christian insistence that the evidences for theism are accessible to the


On some of the most troublesome and vexing questions which remain for

contemporary science — e.g., the origin of life, the origin of kinds, and

specifically the origin of man — the Hebrew-Christian account of creation

clearly enunciates a principle of explanation, referring all inquiries to the

transcendent activity of the Living God.

Yet the internal inadequacies and difficulties in contemporary scientific

theory hardly constitute the only ground on which the Christian alternative

is to be pressed.

The evidence for biblical theism, according to Hebrew-Christian theology,

is unambiguous. The scientific data are not so ambivalent that the scientist

requires special revelation and regeneration to reach a theistic conclusion.

The inference to God is the most natural and the most consistent inference

from his field of daily experience. That the scientist is faced continually

with evidence for the Living God in nature is the consistent emphasis of the

Bible. This is the message of the Old Testament, wherein the Davidic

psalms assert that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament

showeth his handiwork” (<191901>Psalm 19:1), and of the New, wherein the

Pauline letters contend that “the invisible things of God since the creation

of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are

made, even his everlasting power and divinity” (<450120>Romans 1:20). The

underlying premise is that all the space-time evidence which confronts the

scientist in his examination of nature and man is at one and the same time

evidence for the Living God.


Contemporary evangelical scholarship has not as yet produced a fullfledged

Christian philosophy of science. But it is grappling earnestly with

the basic related issues, namely, the unity of truth, the validity of the divine

revelation in the universe, the nature of evidence and of knowledge, the

question of common ground, and the connection between common grace

and restorative grace. These subjects enter unavoidably into any serious

discussion of the connection between theology and physics, biology,

anthropology, psychology and the other sciences. No program for repairing

the cleft between Christianity and science dare long ignore them.

In dealing with the cultural conflict, evangelical theology appeals to more

than the divine general revelation in nature; it exhibits also the special

divine revelation in Scripture. The cosmic witness of nature does not abide

alone; the redemptive witness of the Bible stands written alongside it. God

is no terrestrial cadaver, stretched taut upon the racks of the constellations

and awaiting scientific autopsy. He is alive, a living Mind and Voice and

Will. What He thinks and says and does is part of the field of human

experience. His active purpose embraces both the plan of creation and the

plan of redemption. The concord and unity of His revelation in nature and

in the Incarnation, as a disclosure of the Creator-Redeemer, is a basic

premise of Hebrew-Christian theology. The scientist is therefore

confronted by two revelations of God in relation to nature: the general

revelation given through the created universe, and the special revelation

given in the inspired Scripture.

If God spoke in Scripture only about redemption, and not about nature, no

conflict of science and Scripture would be conceivable; no verdict of

science could in that event trespass against the biblical revelation. But

because nature is a divine creation, and because the Creator-Redeemer

works out his purposes in nature and history, incarnational religion dare

not disjoin science and theology.

The Bible presents, above all else, a theology; its primary doctrine is of the

Creator, its primary message religious and ethical. But it is not on that

account disinterested in man and nature. It cannot be dismissed either as

disinterested in scientific concerns, or as unscientific.

Admittedly the data of Scripture lack scientific form of systematic

arrangement, but this is true of its theological and ethical content also.

Admittedly the writers use popular or common language, rather than a

technical scientific vocabulary, but this actually confers a permanent and

universal intelligibility upon their words, since intricate scientific constructs

are often grasped only by highly trained minds, and, moreover, frequently

are retired as antiquated by the next generation. Admittedly the writers use

phenomenal conceptions, employing the language of appearance rather

than detailed scientific formulas. But it cannot be argued that because of

this use of language of appearance, the Bible nowhere postulates the actual

order of the universe.

The mediating theology of the late nineteenth century often resorted to this

view, that biblical statements about the universe are merely phenomenal,

whereas modern science defines the inner constitution of nature. Ramm’s

volume, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, assumes this

contrast, although he insists that biblical statements do not cease to be

factual because they are phenomenal rather than postulational. Apart from

his awkward contrast of the factual and the structural or postulational,

Ramm apparently attributes to science a competence in defining objective

reality which leading philosophers of science have more and more

disowned, among them John Dewey, E. Mach and P. W. Bridgman. The

present drift of scientific theory, regarding the “laws of nature” merely as

statistical averages of high utility, rather than as an absolute index to

nature, actually suggests that science (rather than the Bible) is confined to

a phenomenal account of nature. And on what ground can it be argued, on

the other hand, that the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures, when they deal with

specific events in nature and history, do not intend to be understood


The prime issue between the Bible and science, therefore, is not whether or

not the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures make postulational statements, but

whether any of its postulational statements touching science are

demonstrably false. In assessing this question, what the Bible itself says

must be carefully discriminated from what has been attributed to it secondhand,

by theologians and scientists alike.

No claim is made that the sacred writers, as individuals, were personally

exempt from the naive world-view of their own day, nor that their writings

articulate a classified and systematized science involving general laws.

What is claimed is that, as the messengers of holy revelation, they were

lifted beyond their own capacities, and that their declarations bearing upon

nature and upon man are as reliable as their teaching about God and His

activity. To free the discussion of the Bible and science from those tense

emotional overtones which the subject has inherited in our century may be

difficult, but theologian and scientist alike can further the cause of truth

only by a spirit of scholarly objectivity in this dispute. The facts and mere

hearsay can be as different in dealing with the Bible as when dealing with

the universe. It is one matter to reject the biblical teaching on science as

inevitably culture-bound, and consequently to dismiss its outlook as preCopernican

and pre-Ptolemaic; it is quite another to realize that the Bible

nowhere specifically asserts that the earth is the astronomical center of the

universe (even if Turretin thought he had vindicated the sun’s movement

around the earth, against Copernicus, on biblical grounds), but only that it

is the moral and spiritual center of the redemptive drama; and it is still

another to assume that modern astronomy has given us a fixed and final


In evaluating biblical teaching of scientific relevance, three types of content

call insistently for fair and just appraisal: the use of figurative and poetic

language; the categoric assertion of events in nature and history which are

intrinsic to the theistic view of incarnational religion; the remarkable

absence, from the opening of Genesis to the close of Revelation, of timebound

speculative notions about the universe by which the biblical writers

were everywhere surrounded in the cultures of their day.

Evangelical theology, if it is to make a major contribution to synthesis,

must propound a Christian philosophy of science tracing the implications of

the sovereignty of God for all the branches of science. The only real

alternative to the segregation of science and theology is their integration.

This is guarded by the evangelical emphasis that evidence constantly

confronts the scientist in support of a unitary principle of creation, of

redemption, of sanctification, and of judgment. The God who regenerates

and sanctifies men by the Spirit is the same God who creates and preserves

the space-time universe and all creaturely life, and who came in the flesh of

Jesus of Nazareth to accomplish redemptive atonement in history. The

power which awes the astronomer and which intrigues the physicist has

been disclosed in Jesus Christ as the power of righteousness and of love.

The evasive handling of the cleft between theology and science, which

assigns each to separate and inviolate compartments, characteristic of

Protestant liberalism influenced by Kant and Ritschl, and perpetuated by

the dialectical theologians Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, inevitably does

violence to incarnational religion. For it implies falsely that redemptive

religion can be maintained in all essentials although the inherited theistic

belief in creation and miracle be suppressed. It eliminates the conflict

between Christianity and science by depriving Christianity of the right to

speak with scientific and historical relevance.

Since no category other than Jesus Christ is vast enough for

comprehending the space-time process, and since the cleft between science

and religion can be transcended only by latching the cause of science and

theology alike to the revelation of the Creator-Redeemer God, what

common ground exists between theologian and scientist for grasping the

universe as the revelation of the God who is Logos, Lord, Light and Love?

Science has tended to seek the meaning of the universe through impersonal

categories, while Hebrew-Christian theology defends a special avenue of

knowledge over and above the scientific method of experiment and

observation. What solid ground exists, therefore, for hope of a mutual

relating of all existence and experience to the God of creation and

preservation, of redemption and sanctification, of judgment and

glorification? What proposals are offered for reconciling the knowledge of

created reality adduced respectively by modern science and by Christian


Evangelical scholars are devoting careful attention to this issue. For all

evangelical theology it is consequential that the modern man is a sinner;

even his evaluation of nature cannot be divorced from this fact. The noetic

effect of sin, or the negating and distortive consequences of spiritual

rebellion in the comprehension of God and His creation, enters into the

discussion of the cultural cleft. But the implications for faith and

knowledge are worked out in various ways, and some brief mention of

these representative positions is relevant.

The widest emphasis on the antithesis between Christian and secular

(regenerate and unregenerate) knowledge is found in Cornelius Van Til’s

writings. The antithesis is contingent, and provisional, and not ultimate and

absolute; that is, it has been introduced into human experience as a

consequence of the fall of the race in Adam, and is due therefore to man’s

predicament in sin. The unregenerate man interprets all facts from his own

perspective of moral revolt; the regenerate man aspires to God-interpreted

experience. Hence the man of faith and the unbeliever have no common

ground. Regeneration alone supplies the methodological standpoint which

provides a common ground between Christian and non-Christian scientists.

Van Til allows all men a surviving point-of-contact with the truth of

general revelation on the basis of the imago Dei, but the unregenerate man

gives this no principal significance. And he grants that regenerate men do

not consistently apply the standpoint of revelation, and hence an accidental

point-of-contact exists with the unregenerate perspective also. The imago

preserves the truth in all men, but sin deflects it; regeneration restores the

truth, but the remnants of sin blunt it. The virtue of this view is that it does

not ignore the relation between the mind and the will, between

interpretation and morality; its weakness is that it attaches the hope of

reconciliation between science and religion too onesidedly to the

requirement of regeneration. If the gulf between Christianity and

contemporary science can be narrowed only by the regeneration of the

scientist, the prospects are meager; if the revelation of nature is addressed

to man as man, biased scientific theory may be repudiated for what it is,

and the Christian view vindicated.

Gordon H. Clark bluntly challenges the validity of the empirical method in

science. There is no denial, of course, that science is highly useful — but

“however useful scientific laws are, they cannot be true” (A Christian View

of Men and Things, p. 209). The argument emphasizes the creative

contribution of the scientist to his data, the selective and revisionary nature

of descriptive scientific theory, the disagreement of scientists over

methods, the disavowal of faith and choice by some scientists while science

itself acts within such categories. Clark’s conclusion is that science is

“incapable of arriving at any truth whatever” (ibid., p.227), but supplies

only highly respected opinion constantly subject to revision. The reply to

Clark that scientific empiricism supplies its own corrective, so that science

becomes “more and more true,” presupposes what Clark denies, that truth

is in process of “becoming” (i.e., that truth is not absolute but relative) and

forgets that all scientific verdicts, tomorrow’s as well as yesterday’s, are

inherently tentative. Science by nature is always forced to a premature

verdict on the basis of less than complete evidence. If scientific conclusions

are correlated with revealed doctrines on a single plateau of truth, either

the truths of revelation are demeaned to the status of tentative and

revisable judgments, or the verdicts of science are absolutized beyond the

rights of the empirical method.

Edward John Carnell protests that this view exaggerates the disjunction

between revelation-truth and scientific truth. The truths of revelation have

a probability side, and the probabilities of science have a legitimate truth

status, Carnell contends. Even in the handling of divine revelation, certainty

is psychological and subjective; the logical evidences upon which belief

rests never rise above probability, even in the sphere of revelation. Carnell

is a champion of common ground at the level of scientific knowledge;

regenerate men of faith and unregenerate scientists hold this realm of

impersonal description of objects in common. While there assuredly is a

Christian theology and a Christian ethics, it is as inane to speak of a

Christian physics as to speak of a Christian monkey-wrench. But when

metaphysical judgments enter they color this neutral ground by divergent

systems of interpretation (An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, p.

213ff.). Yet even here Carnell rejects an absolute antithesis, due to the

imago Dei which survives in all men. Critics have asked whether this

defense of a neutral block of information in regenerate and unregenerate

thought minimizes the noetic effect of sin in human experience, and also

the scope of the restorative work of the Holy Spirit. Carnell’s insistence

that the coherence of Christian evidences never exceeds probability does

not, moreover, constitute a reply to Clark’s argument that empirical

science cannot lead to truth, whereas revelation, and revelation alone, can.

Granted that all certainty is subjective, and that all rational coherence is

less than absolute, are the declarations of revelation and experimental

verdicts thereby leveled to the same plane? And must we ignore the

conviction that it is the Spirit who carries the ego, and not the ego the

Spirit, in every theology worthy of the name Christian?

Henry Stob is less than happy with any representation of Christianity “as a

total commitment that embraces the whole of life, and nevertheless believes

that certain of the sciences cannot be qualified as Christian” (The Reformed

Journal, Vol. V, No. 4 [April, 1955], p. 2). To hold that certain of the

sciences are not amenable to religious qualification, he contends, is a

needless concession to dichotomal thinking. The Christian and secular

researcher may use the same methods and arrive at the same conclusions in

the investigative phases. But science is always in the service of some

principle of faith and value, proceeding within the framework either of true

or false faith. Hence a Christian physics, mathematics and logic are as

requisite as a Christian theology. This does not mean that Christianity

supplies novel laws of thought nor that it alters the data of the various

sciences; rather, it contributes a different perspective within each of the

sciences. A verdict can be given for or against Christian mathematics no

less than in philosophy.

Bernard Ramm refuses to trace the modern cleft primarily to the fact that

the scientific outlook is forged by unregenerate scholars. Rather, he

ascribes it to a neglect of the limitations of their respective methodologies

by theologian and scientist alike. He promotes a truce by the subtraction

from Scripture of the right to speak scientifically, and by its restriction,

insofar as it maintains scientific relevance, to assertions of phenomenal fact.

While Ramm contends that the inspired writers were safeguarded from the

grotesque and mythological, he disallows them any transcendence, in

scientific matters, of the cultural standpoint of their day. Thus we are left

with an awkward view of inspiration, which expunges error without

communicating scientific truth. Is not such a view, we may ask, precluded

from exhibiting a Christian philosophy of science? And does it not tend

uncritically to invest the current view of nature with an excessive and

sacred authority?

Perhaps the most hopeful sign in these diverse efforts, despite their intramural

differences, is that many evangelical scholars are now grappling

vigorously with the essential outlines of a Christian philosophy of science,

in the interest of rapprochement. They reflect, moreover, a unanimous

confidence in the unity of truth — and thereby avoid the fatal concession to

the dualism of science and theology made by many liberal Protestants and

perpetuated by the dialectical theology. They hold firm to the essential

clarity of the created universe as revelatory of God’s existence and

purposes, and hence reject the dialectical-existential disjunction of Godtruth

and world-truth. The loss of confidence in the universe as a revelation

of God has abetted modern doubt that a unitary science and rationale exist,

and that the whole of reality and experience can be comprehended in a

unified world-life view, and has weakened belief also in an orderly

universe. The evangelical temper resists this widening despair over the

ultimate significance of the devout reason.

In addition, evangelicals regard scientific empiricism and scriptural

revelation as legitimate approaches to truth, although they resist the

attachment of finality to scientific verdicts and also the demotion of biblical

revelation to the same plateau as experimental tentatives. While

experimental science is not permitted to fix the content of the biblical

revelation of nature, it is welcomed as a negative check against false

exegesis, and as a complement and supplement to the biblical data.

Moreover, evangelical theology insists that God speaks in nature as well as

in Scripture. Its hope of harmony between science and religion is fled to

this emphasis on this twofold revelation of the Creator. The Hebrew-

Christian view, indeed, is that the scriptural revelation is contingent (a

redemptive supplement because of sin), and hence will be unnecessary in

man’s final state of glorification, whereas the natural revelation will

continue while the universe endures.

We have emphasized that science and Christianity share the standpoint of

knowledge in the context of faith. But the evangelical failure to articulate a

Christian philosophy of science is a distressing fact, for its absence

deprived the scientific movement of an external written stimulus to the

biblical view. An obligation rests on evangelical Protestantism to state the

biblical view of science with contemporary force. The venture of the

American Scientific Affiliation, Modern Science and Christian Faith (F.

Alton Everest, ed., 1948) represents a commendable beginning, but its

effort is conspicuously weak in the discussion of philosophy of science. If

the physical universe is not to be comprehended exhaustively in terms of

weight, measurement and mathematical formulas, but rather as a

commentary on the Logos, the implications of this must be spelled out.

This is a task which the science and philosophy departments of our

Christian colleges neglect at great disservice to the evangelical enterprise.

Yet the basic blame for scientific unbelief must not be imputed to the

evangelical movement. The invasion of Protestant theology by secular

philosophy encouraged the illusion that prevailing scientific attitudes were

Christian long after they had defected to rationalism. The Christian

contribution to science cannot be narrowed to the shadowland idealistic

observations that space-time realities constitute a cosmos, that the universe

yields verifiable results to sustained investigation, that the marks of

intelligence are inscribed upon all its processes — although biblical

theology indubitably sustains these emphases. The contemporary scientist

does not bow before the sacred in nature; his passion is to conquer and

exploit; his standpoint is that of utility and control. He cares not a hoot

about the why, but only the how; not an iota about the who, but only the

what. His search of nature is tapered to his own arbitrary limits. Things —

their weight, measurement, regularity Or irregularity — become the object

of his devoted concern.

The unqualified thrust of Old and New Testament alike is that the Living

God is revealed in nature, not merely above it. Scripture does not assert

that nature behaves thus and so, but rather that an eternal power and

divinity are disclosed in and through nature. Nowhere does the Bible soften

its stress that the space-time world confronts the scientist continually with

evidence sufficient for the acknowledgment of the Living God. The Bible

does not supply technical knowledge and general laws about the universe,

but leaves this to the revisionary judgments o[ science. The question of

general revelation, as G. C. Berkouwer notes, “is never one of the

knowledge of nature as such (itself), but it is a question of the glory of

God, or what Paul calls ‘His eternal power and divinity’” (General

Revelation, p. 290).

The revelation in nature therefore includes much more than is disclosed by

laboratory experiments. Christian theology, in its appeal to special biblical

revelation, admittedly includes much which falls outside the scope of direct

observation, but the cosmic Christ already confronts the scientist in his

day-to-day interaction with the created universe.

The general revelation, moreover, does not stop with this divine

confrontation of man (the scientist included) in external nature. The

scientist is faced not only by light from the outside, but by an inner light;

the Logos is manifested in the conscience and mind of man, not simply in

nature and history. And this inner and outer revelation interact and agitate

each other constantly, supplying the silent background of all human

thought and action. Even before the scientist comes to decision about

nature and God, he is enmeshed in inner spiritual tension as a responsible

moral agent. No scientist ever reaches his verdict about nature and nature’s

God without a previous spiritual case history — indeed, a history of moral

revolt against God. The scientist is a sinner in revolt against light, both the

interior and exterior light of the Logos. This doctrine of universal moral

revolt is as fundamental to Hebrew-Christian theology as that the Living

God is revealed in nature.

The effect of sin upon human thought and volition provides, therefore, an

important consideration in the Christian evaluation of scientific theory

about God. The effect of sin upon the mind and will promotes the

scientist’s disposition to settle for less than, and for other than, the true and

Living God revealed in nature.

But while man as sinner distorts the natural revelation of God in handling

it, he is unable to destroy it. Hence its essential original function, to light

the way to fellowship with the Creator, yields to an accidental or

condemnatory function: it renders man guilty, adding new and longer

chapters of culpability to his biography of moral revolt.

The scientist’s verdict passed upon nature, therefore, is no mere logicalrational

verdict; it is a religious, an ethico-spiritual verdict, which he passes

equally upon himself. For he is constantly bracketed, even in the twentieth

century, by multiple evidences — for an almighty mind and will, in nature;

for a sovereign good, in conscience; for a gracious Redeemer, in the Bible;

and for a divine renewer of the souls of fallen men, in the living witness of

the regenerate. If he turns aside from these — from the proclamation of

the Church, from the Book of redemption, from the witness of conscience

which hales men constantly to moral judgment, and from the anthem of the

stars in their courses and of the earth and its movements of life, then the

twentieth century scientist will stand inevitably in an adverse relationship to

nature and to nature’s God. In Christ’s day, “not many wise, not many

mighty, not many noble” read the glories of nature aright, and hailed the

Redeemer as the incarnate Creator. But the company of the regenerate,

though ignorant, ignoble and impotent in the world’s eyes, became the

moral leaders in a pagan age; they dared to turn a self-destroying world

upside down, and their descendants saw the proud Roman empire crumble

into that same dust of earth which had already powdered the ruins of the

worldly-wise civilizations of ancient Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Syria,

Phoenicia, and Greece.

That the final cause of redemption is also the final cause of nature, that the

universe is a revelation of the righteousness and love of God as well as of

the power and wisdom of God, indeed that the meaning of creation which

manifests the invisible Logos is inseparable from the manifestation-in-flesh

of the Logos as the Redeemer of fallen man — these great Christian beliefs

maintain their vital relevance to our confused century. They bear relentless

testimony to a unitary principle of creation, of redemption, of

sanctification, of judgment.

From the foregoing considerations, it is obvious that the discussion of

Christianity and science involves much more than debate over the opening

chapters of Genesis. Yet the creation account is, nonetheless, the locus

classicus of the Hebrew-Christian doctrine, and, in contrast with the

speculative philosophical accounts of ancient times, it maintains a

permanent interest, even in secular scientific circles. W. F. Albright has

commented on its “sequence of creative phases so rational that modern

science cannot improve on it, given the same language and the same range

of ideas in which to state its conclusions. In fact, modern scientific

cosmogonies show a disconcerting tendency to be short-lived and it may be

seriously doubted whether science has yet caught up with the biblical

story” (in Old Testament Commentary [Alleman and Flack, ed.]: “The Old

Testament and Archaeology,” 135).

The danger of all attempts to reconcile Genesis and science, from the

standpoint of revealed theology, is the troublesome assumption that

prevailing scientific theory has achieved finality. Those who, like A. H.

Strong in his Systematic Theology, correlated the Mosaic narrative with the

then-popular nebular hypothesis, contributed unwittingly to the impression

that Genesis was superseded when that scientific view was no longer


Yet, if the Genesis account purposes to touch the sphere of empirical,

historical origins, its comparison with scientific theory is inevitable and

necessary. For by their living interaction, revelation and science best

stimulate each other.

When one surveys the diverse interpretations of the creation account by

theologians, the growing emphasis that the biblical narrative holds a

normative significance over and against all interpreters and interpretations

appears timely indeed. Speculative ideas about Genesis have provoked the

Bible and science conflict no less than speculative ideas about nature.

The conflict with science is removed, of course, though at an exorbitant

theological price, by those theories which deprive the creation narrative of

all relevance to empirical-historical origins.

The ancient view, of a meta-historical creation, which depicts the present

historical world as fallen, has been revived in our century by Nicolas

Berdyaev and Karl Helm. The Genesis account, however, regards God as

Creator of the concrete historical world, and gives no comfort to the

theory that the historical is intrinsically sinful.

The mythico-historical view has been popularized by Emil Brunner and the

existential theologians, who regard the creation account as a literary

expression of the psychological tension between man’s predicament in sin

and his status on the basis of creation. But the view can supply no

consistent reason, on its own premises, for not dismissing the biblical

narrative in toto as significant only psychologically and not historically.

Moreover, it presupposes a dualistic theory of knowledge, highly

objectionable to incarnational religion, since it disjoins scientific theory

from all responsibility to the content of revelation, while denying to

revelation the right of pronouncements relevant to science.

The older liberal Protestant view dismissed Genesis as scientifically

irrelevant, while prizing it as a reliable source of eternallyv alid spiritual

principles (cf. Theodore Haering, The Christian Faith, I, 377). But the

sacred writers made no such distinction between their trustworthiness in

spiritual and in scientific-historical matters; indeed, the two are often

inextricably inter-woven. The so-called neo-orthodox theology moves to

the left of this inconsistency, by repudiating all revealed doctrine,

theological and ethical, no less than scientific-historical truths. Neither

view deals earnestly with biblical pronouncements which, in the interest of

the religion of incarnation, bear directly upon natural and historical events.

The question of concord between Genesis and science arises only where

the creation narrative holds its relevance for the empirical-historical origins

of the universe. A transition theory is the pictorial-revelation view, which

has been defended recently by Ramm. The pictorial-revelation theory finds

in Genesis a description of six days of revelation-activity, rather than of

creation-activity (P. J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days, 1948).

The importance of the creation account is theological, emphasizing that

God is Creator, but it does not disclose the specific order of creation.

Ramm supplements the view, curiously, with an appeal to “moderate

concordism,” pointing out the fact that the sequence of Genesis and that of

modern scientific theory is comfortably similar. One weakness of the theory

is that exegesis will not sustain the substitution of the notion that “God

showed” (or revealed) for the reading “God made.” Moreover, the narrator

implies that a chronological significance attaches to the creation narrative

(<010204>Genesis 2:4). Indeed, this view seems to make vulnerable concessions

to the objectionable spiritual-truth theory, and to deprive the biblical

revelation needlessly of statements of scientific relevance.

The creation of the universe in six literal and successive days is supported

in Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology (3rd rev. ed., 1946). This theory

calls forth many elaborate attempts to account for scientific evidence for

the antiquity of fossils. It is widely correlated with argument for a worldwide

Noahic flood, especially under the influence of George McCready

Price (The New Geology, 1993) carried forward by Byron Nelson (The

Deluge Story in Stone, 1931) and A. M. Rehwinkel (The Flood, 1951).

The theory is confronted, however, by lack of persuasive archaeological

evidence for a global flood, and by the insistence of scientists that the

geological and paleontological data resulted not from a single catastrophe

but from a plurality of temporally distributed forces.

An alternate theory by which some scholars have attempted to correlate a

literal six-day view with geological claims is the gap theory, which finds in

<010102>Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” the judicial

desolation of an original creation, and refers the subsequent account to the

subsequent rehabilitation of a portion of the present earth in six days. The

Scofield Reference Bible popularized this view. Its difficulties are multiple:

the theory deprives Hebrew-Christian religion (except for the bare opening

words of Genesis) of a revealed account of the original creation; it

artificially wrenches the continuity of the creation account; it finds no

explicit confirmation elsewhere in Scripture; it offers no theistic standpoint

for interpreting the actual geological data.

The age-theory of Genesis interprets the creation-days as successive

epochs rather than literal days. Exegetes point out that the term is used

even in the creation account in several senses. By assigning the Hebrew

word yore the metaphysical sense it sometimes bears in the Bible, time is

provided for the geological ages. Most of the evangelical scientists in the

American Scientific Affiliation today favor this view. It differs from theistic

evolution in that the major kinds of life are referred to a transcendent

divine activity, rather than simply to a power of development immanent in

nature. Its difficulties are that, even when regarded as epochs, the Genesis

days do not harmonize fully with the chronology proposed by modern

science; that its enumeration of the forms of life is incomplete alongside

contemporary schemes of classification; and that the literal sense of yore

seems exegetically more natural (although cf. <199004>Psalm 90:4, in a prayer

which the Hebrew tradition ascribes to Moses).

The transcendent-activity view supplies a novel bridge between the day

and age theories. It does not deny the vast antiquity of origins, nor the

slow providential development of new forms, yet it finds in the Genesis

account the divine fiat acts which punctuate this process at dramatic

intervals. The days of Genesis are miracle-days, not necessarily contiguous;

they represent the fiat divine acts which control the whole movement of

origins (Peter Stoner, Science Speaks, 1953). The Bible often discloses a

foreshortening of prophetic perspective (as when it links the First and

Second Advents); here it reflects a foreshortening of prehistory. One

difficulty of this view is that Genesis does not distinguish the antiquity of

the world from the creation days, by explicitly wedging special periods

between the days. Moreover, the view inherits the same difficulties of

chronological harmony as the age-theory, with the added burden that man

and all the animal forms on this theory would presumably be created


The competition between these several views and yet the further fact that

several seem to have a certain merit, provokes an observation about the

nature of the biblical revelation. The biblical history is selective. Its data are

organized especially with a view to the divine interest in and redemption of

man. Even this redemptive history is excerptive. The Gospels supply us no

complete biography of Jesus Christ; they hasten over the eternal hinterland,

barely touch the youth and early manhood, concentrate on the three-year

public ministry. John’s Gospel, indeed, is mostly preoccupied with Passion

Week. Important as the excerptive chronological standpoint is, even it is

sacrificed at times to topical arrangement. These facts are not without a

certain parallel in Genesis. The book hastens over the pre-Mosaic history,

with most attention to the participants in the Abrahamic covenant; it moves

swiftly from prehistory to the story of man as its central interest. Genesis

One allows the topical arrangement to dominate; even plants and trees and

animals are called into existence in relation to man. But already in Genesis

Two the topical intrudes into the chronological, and even the chronological

is selective and incomplete. Indeed, we may well ask ourselves, since

divine revelation has not provided us with a complete history of the

Incarnation, do we have reason to expect from the Genesis account a

complete history of the creation? The striking absence of any reference in

the creation account to the angels, elsewhere in biblical theology an

important element, serves to emphasize the concentration on man; only on

the periphery of the temptation and the Fall, implicitly in the account of the

temptation, explicitly at the gates of Eden from which rebellious man is

excluded, are such creatures even recognized.

Yet there can be little doubt, once the incompleteness of the history and its

occasional deviation to topical arrangements are acknowledged, that a

certain chronological intention persists in the creation account. Yet it is

surely not the purpose of the author to supply us with a geological timetable.

The primary thrust of the Genesis account is teleological rather than

chronological. The days of creation, indeed, are enumerated in sequence;

they begin, succeed each other, and end, giving place to the divine rest. But

another category dominates the Genesis account, persevering through the

first two chapters, and then through the entire book, and the Bible as a

whole. That is the category of moral purpose. The sequences of creation

are punctuated with the divine verdict: “and God saw that it was good”

(<010104>Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, etc.), intensified as a crescendo after the creation

of man to “and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was

very good” (<010131>Genesis 1:31). The climax of the account is therefore that

a creature bearing the divine character is called into being. Man is made,

like his Maker, for an existence in social relations; it is “not good” that he

should dwell alone (<010218>Genesis 2:18). The moral purpose of God in

creation dominates the account. The fall of man introduces a tragic rupture

of relations, and redemption aims to restore man to his lost holiness. The

day of creation becomes the background for the day of redemption. The

interest in the historical and chronological is never merely secular.

Yet the secular reconstruction of the past is regarded as normative by the

modern mind. The question of concord arises therefore at levels of

secondary concern to the biblical record. The problems are not simple, and

about some of them we may be confident that neither theology nor science

has yet come up with the last word. The origin of life, the origin of man,

the antiquity of man, are as vigorously debated today as a century ago. The

question of animal suffering — has the scope for “tooth and claw” in

nature a theological explanation (is it an aspect of the curse upon sin?), or

is it an element in the created structure of things? — comes again to the

fore with the expanding emphasis on the natural ideal of adjustment to

environment, rather than competition, in plant life. The origin of culture

and the origin of language raise similar problems. The modern view is that

language was differentiated through man’s geographical distribution; the

biblical view is that it was differentiated through divine judgments —

perspective is theological, not secular.

The antiquity of man and its bearing on the unity and solidarity of the

human race in Adam supply at present the crucial pivot of debate. That the

race is a unity in Adam is a central Bible doctrine; its implications for

Hebrew-Christian theology are far more fundamental than the question of

the antiquity of man. The loss of the biblical view that man is a unique

creation at the apex of the sequence of earthly life, and the substitution of

an evolutionary view of his development, has gnawed away at confidence

in man’s dignity and destiny. Nietzsche wrote off the bulk of mankind as

insignificant; only superman has permanent significance. Thus, through

prophecies about the future, Nietzsche assailed the doctrine of the essential

unity of mankind. Current evolutionary theory weakens the doctrine by its

reconstructions of man’s past.

There is no disagreement over the relative recency of the human race, nor

the recency of culture. That the preponderance of human forms have

existed in the last six thousand years, that the present generation represents

a fifth or sixth of all human beings who ever lived, that civilization dates

back less than seven or eight thousand years — on all these issues there is

virtual unanimity. The much-lampooned date of 4004 B.C., which Ussher

speculatively attached — and the best scholarship of his day with him — to

primal origins, as Arnold J. Toynbee notes, “approximately marks the first

appearance of representatives of the species of human society called

civilization” (The Atlantic Monthly: “Civilization on Trial,” Vol. 179 [June,

1942], p. 35). Sir Arthur Keith would trace the beginning of “the era of

man the tamer of nature who ushered in the present world of human

history” to “only about 9,000, or perhaps 10,000 years ago” (A New

Theory of Human Evolution, pp. 267ff.). Not before 6,000 B.C. in the

Neolithic age, according to most current scientific calculations, does man

appear in the biblical role of the domesticator of nature.

The correlation of this time-span with the Genesis account has presented

no great problem. John Urquhardt has shown from within the narratives

that a strict chronology is not preserved in the genealogies, but that they

are selective, so that the spiritual representative of a family or line, rather

than the first-born son, is sometimes obviously given (How Old Is Man?,

1904). Warfield argued that the genealogies are carried forward toward the

Messiah through tribal connections and representative persons, rather than

by a strict line of father-son descent, but it is difficult to prove that only

representative individuals appear. The representative or abbreviated

character of the genealogies is supported by Edward J. Young (An

Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 414) and Merrill F. Unger

(Archaeology and the Old Testament, p. 339). Thus a date for the

beginning of civilized man reaching back eight or ten thousand years is a

distinct biblical possibility.

The center of debate, however, is the relation of the Homo-like animate

forms, and whether they are in fact to be regarded as human, sub-human or

non-human species. Contemporary evolutionary thought catalogues these

forms as human, on the premise that anatomical similarity implies physical

descent, and dates them not merely ten, but hundreds of thousands of years

ago. The new method of carbon-dating the past has steadily dissolved

evangelical reservations over the antiquity of such forms, and many

evangelical anthropologists today no longer regard the antiquity of man, as

long as 200,000 to 500,000 years ago, an unproved assumption.

The projection of a pre-Adamic human race, to reconcile these manlike

forms with the biblical account, faces difficulties. The catastrophe theory is

unconvincing as an exposition of <010101>Genesis 1:1-2, and in the matter of

fossil forms it provides no solution of the problem of where the supposed

first race ends and the second begins. But the theory of a pre-Adamic race

is not dependent upon catastrophism. The pre-Adamic Homo-forms, it has

been argued, bear a structural relationship to Adam, but not an ethicospiritual

relationship. Anthropologists reply that creatures skeletally similar

to modern man utilized crude stone implements at least 500,000 years ago;

that at the time of Neanderthal man (100,000 years ago) there is evidence

of burial of the dead; that by 30,000 or 40,000 years ago these creatures

produced fairly detailed drawings. Their continuity with the biblical Adam

is therefore argued on the ground of physical form, skills and customs.

Among these early manlike-forms, mutational subspecies or variants —

and hence several types of Homo — are said to have existed. The current

classification distinguishes Homo erectus from Homo sapiens, in view of

the latter’s enlarged brain capacity, absence of brow ridges, presence of

chin projection, and these in turn from Homo sapiens sapiens, or modern

man. The critical point in the naturalistic transition of animal forms to the

genus Homo is now thought to be the abandonment of the forelegs for


Yet evolutionary theory in recent years has evidenced increasing interest in

the theory that the human species, and other orders of life, originated

suddenly. R. Goldschmidt declares that “the large step from species to

species is neither demonstrable nor conceivable on the basis of

accumulated micromutations” (The Material Basis of Evolution, p. 199).

G. G. Simpson calls attention to the “regular absence of transitional forms”

(Tempo and Mode in Evolution, p. 107). The whole discussion of

evolution today is more amenable to the acknowledgment of gaps or

discontinuities existing objectively in nature, rather than existing merely in

the observation and evidence of the scientist.

Alongside this new readiness to bow to mystery in the presence of these

gaps one may detect, at least in some quarters, an uneasiness over the

dogmatic dating of human history hundreds of thousands of years in the

past. Ruth Moore tells us that “since 1950 the scientific evidence has

pointed inescapably to one conclusion: man did not evolve either in the

time or in the way that Darwin and the modern evolutionists thought most

probable. The physicists and geologists by 1950 had dearly shown that the

world is older and man is younger than anyone had dared to estimate

before” (Man, Time and Fossils, p. 391). She contends that fluorine-dating

now indicates that “humans who had the requisite intelligence to be called

man did not reach that high status until about 50,000 years ago.… And if

our 50,000-year tenure of earth must be adjusted, the chances are that it

will be shortened” (ibid., p. 403). It must not be forgotten that geochronology

is among the youngest of the sciences, and that progress

remains to be made in its imposition of concise time-scales upon the distant

pre-historic past. The biblical record does not settle the uniqueness,

antiquity, and unity of the human race by a central appeal to morphological

considerations. The disjunction between man and the animals, of the sub-

Adamic forms and the Adam form of life, in Genesis, takes place with the

formation of a creature under moral command. Man’s basic distinction is

that he is divinely endowed with the imago Dei, through the specially inbreathed

breath of life. The Bible knows man as from the beginning

intended for fellowship with God, for rational-moral-spiritual

discrimination, for social responsibility, for dominion over the earth and the

animals. The record moves swiftly, in biblical theology, from the primal

Adam, who is already a “cultured gentleman,” to the beginnings of society

and civilization. And here it must not be ignored that the study of the origin

of religion discloses that religion is as old as man; no primitive tribe is

without a form of religious life and activity.

Perhaps we are not to rule out dogmatically the possibility that the “dust”

of man’s origin may have been animated, since the animals before man

appear to have been fashioned from the earth (<010124>Genesis 1:24). The Bible

does not explicate man’s physical origin in detail. The fact that, after

<010101>Genesis 1:1 the narrator deals with a mediate creation, which involves

the actualizing of potentialities latent in the original creation, should

caution us against the one-sided invocation of divine transcendence. The

new levels of being arise with quite obvious dependence on the lower in

the creation account. Yet man’s disjunction from the animals appears

specific enough, especially since fiat beginning is an essential idea in the

Hebrew-Christian revelation of origins, and since Eve, while deriving her

body from an anatomical form, gains it from Adam in distinction from the

lower forms.

Be that as it may, it is the ethico-religious fact about man which marks him

off most conspicuously from the animals. Only an age secular in spirit

could concentrate its interest in Homo on morphological structure, seeking

to understand man’s origin and nature by focusing solely on pre-human and

sub-human forms, then naming man for the brute, and finding his imago at

last among the beasts. From the Hebrew-Christian viewpoint this course,

by which man in a scientific age makes bestiality self-respecting, is but

another chapter in his sophisticated revolt against God. If the cleft between

Christianity and science is to be repaired, the theology of revelation will

not ascribe to nature and nature’s God any course disputed by the assured

results of science, nor will science find man’s dignity, and its own renown

also, in anything inferior to thinking the Creator’s thoughts after Him.