Scripture in the Hands of Geologists (Part One) -- By: Davis A. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 49:1 (Spring 1987)
Article: Scripture in the Hands of Geologists (Part One)
Author: Davis A. Young

Scripture in the Hands of Geologists (Part One)*

Davis A. Young

I. The Problem

1. Introduction

The evangelical community is still mired in a swamp in its attempt to understand the proper relationship between biblical interpretation and scientific endeavor. Evangelical scientists are anxious to know how biblical data and principles affect the data and theories of geology, cosmology, biology, and anthropology. Can we scientists pursue our work with integrity and faithfulness to the inerrant Word of God if we draw from Scripture only generalized statements and principles about the interrelationships among God, man, and the created world? Or does submission to biblical authority also bind us to an interpretation of the details of the text that provides us not only with controls on the scope and character of scientific theories in general, but also with detailed data that are directly relevant to the content of specific theories? As scientists we hope for a clear word from the biblical scholars about how to deal with the biblical text, but instead we are confronted with exegetical and hermeneutical cacophony. We still wait for satisfying answers.

In turn, exegetes wonder about the relevance of extrabiblical data to the interpretation of portions of the Bible widely regarded to bear on questions of scientific interest. Should the exegete be immersed in the text alone and completely ignore the findings of geology and archeology? Or should the

* This paper was written during my tenure as a fellow in the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship during the 1984–85 academic year. For their invaluable comments throughout the year I wish to express my gratitude to my colleagues in the center: Robert Snow, Howard Van Till, John Stek, George Marsden, Clarence Menninga, and John Suk.

exegete take into account scientific data and use them to establish or suggest constraints on exegesis? Exegetes face the mirror-image of the problem of the scientists, for those who want to take extrabiblical data into account are also confronted with confusion of voices. Scientific creationists, atheistic naturalists, theistic evolutionists, and progressive creationists1 present conflicting views about current scientific data and theory. To whom should exegetes listen? Exegetes may have favored certain biblical interpretations because they think there is validity either to the “origins model” of scientific creationism or to the standard scientific models of cosmic and terrestrial history.

To exacerbate an already confused situation, proponents of the various approaches to the relationship between scientific work and biblic...

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