Avoiding a religion v science conflict
Edwin Poots, the DUP leader-designate, has left the political pundits wondering what, if anything, he can do about the Northern Ireland protocol, writes Rev David Clarke.
However, he has left them in no doubt that he is a new-earth creationist, someone who believes, despite all the geologists tell us, that the earth is only 6,000 years old.
That position may lead many to assume that all Christians are inherently anti-intellectual and anti-scientific.
That issue has been addressed in recent years by Armagh-born John C. Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University.
He has debated Christian truth with the aggressively atheistic Richard Dawkins and has also been a speaker at our local ‘New Horizon’ Christian gatherings.
He is, therefore, not a Bible-denying liberal, but one who takes seriously both scientific insights and biblical authority.
The basic thrust of his book, entitled ‘Seven Days that divide the world’, is that it is perfectly defensible to be a Christian and not believe that the earth was created a mere 6,000 years ago, the date assigned to the creation of the world by Archbishop Ussher of Armagh in the seventeenth century.
Lennox points out how in the early sixteenth century, the Polish astronomer Copernicus challenged the view that the earth was not the centre of the universe, and that the earth moved round the sun.
This challenged Bible verses such as ‘The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and on them he has set the world’ (1 Samuel 2;8).
We know, of course, that the earth does not rest on pillars made of stone or concrete.
What the verse does assert is a certain idea of stability, and science has shown that the earth is stable in its orbit over long periods of time.
Indeed, it is that stability which enables scientific calculations to be made.
Similarly, when considering the six days of creation in Genesis, Lennox points out that even a simple word like ‘day’ can mean different things. For some it means a period of twenty-four hours, for others it means a period of time, as when an older person says, ‘it wasn’t like that in my day’.
This leads Lennox to one suggestion which combines scientific data and biblical teaching.
After each word of creation, ‘and God said’(Genesis 1;3,6,9,14,20,24), there followed a day of unspecified length.
Lennox observes; “One consequence of this is that we would expect to find what geologists tell us we do find...fossil evidence revealing the sudden appearance of new levels of complexity, followed by periods during which there was no more creation.”
Someone pointed out that the Post Office provides an essential service, even though occasionally there will be an inefficient staff member behind the counter.
Likewise, the claims of Christian truth ought not to be hastily brushed aside because some individuals have obscurantist views.