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Vibrant Dance: Christian Vision vs Naturalistic Vision

{Apologies for the missed post yesterday—I returned home after midnight, so figured I’d just do Saturday’s post, and now I’m in danger of missing that!}

The first plenary talk was by Andy Crouch of Christianity Today, entitled “Christian Vision vs Naturalistic Vision:  What is at Stake and a Call for Graceful Discourse Among Brothers and Sisters in Christ.” I’m not sure who titled these talks, but they are nearly blogposts in their own right!

As the opening batter in the plenary lineup, Crouch’s job was to set the tone for the attendees (and the speakers). Given the vitriol that “Creation Science” has even within the Church, it was an apropos start. The main theme as the title states is the encouragement to have “graceful discourse.” We can disagree strongly, but remember our ties as siblings in Christ.

He described the idea of a wall between science and faith that inhibits discussion and how as Christians, we have an opportunity to reach across those walls and engage science again in graceful (and informed) discourse. He suggested we use phrases such as “yes, and” rather than “no, but;” that we earn the right to be heard by listening first. We need to discuss in an attitude of hope rather than one of fear.

He reminded us of the historical facts that 1) Science has done more than it promised, and 2) the Church has done less than it promised, so we as the Church have much to be humble about. (If this statement is problematic for you, let me know and we can discuss it!)

He reminded us that ultimately what really matters is the image of God. Now, of course, God does not need a PR firm to maintain His image, but as His physical representatives on Earth, tasked with the Great Commission, it is reasonable to examine the quality of our representations. Christians have said many foolish and ignorant things about science and the world as a whole.

So what do we bring to the table? We have insights from Scripture and the indwelling Holy Spirit on the very nature of what it means to be a human being.

Crouch also asked, what does it mean in Genesis where we are told to have dominion? When we see folks radicalized by passion for the environment, many Christians object, seeing it as a form of idolatry (see my post “Top of the World, or, Bottom of the Heap?”), so what then is an appropriate Christian view? (and what does this have to do with the topic?)

An examination of Genesis 2 shows how God views the idea of dominion—He has Adam in the Garden and brings to him an example of every living creature for him to name, and Scripture goes on to record, “whatsoever he called them, that was its name.” Jokes have been made about Adam calling them “Joe, Bob, Frank, etc.,” implying random or arbitrary designations, yet, when he names his wife, it gives his reason for her name and the name of her gender—that she would be the mother of all living, and that she came out of man. In many cultures, names have profound significance, and in some cases, a person does not receive their name at birth, but after a time, when folks have had a chance to observe them and learn something of who they are.

So we see that the idea of naming something is more than putting letters and sounds together, it requires observing that thing, learning about its nature. Gee, that sounds an awful like what scientists do. So maybe exploring the creation is part of having dominion.

Also, Adam was to “till and keep” the Garden—he was to help it to flourish, to tame it for the purpose of helping it to reach the fullness of its potential in bounty, health and beauty. This too is part of having dominion. What is our purpose as humans? To glorify God. How do we do this? By doing what He has tasked us to do--care for the Creation He has given us. In this we bring Him praise and honor.

Is this not something profound, beautiful, positive and hope-ful that we can bring to the discussion with those in science? Is this not a common starting point for building walls of understanding rather than ones of contention?

Thanks, Andy.


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