A BIBLICAL AND PHILISOPHICAL PARADIGM FOR
THE DOING OF NATURAL SCIENCE
The Basic Paradigm
A thorough knowledge of the world in which we live is absolutely essential to human existence. Unfortunately, when one steps out into the realm of nature, one does not find the road-map to deeper knowledge carved into the trunks of trees or spelled out in the leaves, or verbalized upon the lips of animals. Such a system (or paradigm) is simply not supplied by nature alone. Discernible orders and patterns of behavior in nature may seem to suggest particular paradigms; but in the end, the fact that such systems are derived from human observation, renders them subjective, and therefore susceptible to error. What is needed, therefore, is a model, which is not based upon subjective human observation, but rather, revealed by an infallible source.
It has already been stated that Revelational Reunionism regards Scripture as the missing link within the discipline of natural science. Scripture is understood in this context to be the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. Turning to Scripture, then, in search of an authoritative paradigm for the doing of natural science, becomes a mark of highest prudence. Upon investigation, it turns out that Scripture does reveal a paradigm, implicitly throughout, and explicitly in certain places. The paradigm, simply stated, is the proposition that the witness of nature (i.e. natural revelation) and the witness of Scripture (i.e. supra-natural revelation) have been bound together by God with an essential, organic unity, out of which they are meant to speak to us with complete unity of voice. The separation of the two is unnatural and can only lead to error.
In the very first chapter of the book of Genesis, we find God’s revealed paradigm implicitly taught by the eight-fold repetition of the formula: "Then God said . . . and it was so." This formula demonstrates in no uncertain terms, the existence of an essential, organic unity between the Word of God and the physical universe in which we live. Without the Word of God, our world simply would not exist. The same paradigm is implicitly taught in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Through John, Christ reveals Himself to us as "the Word;" and the Scripture states that, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Once again, the essential, organic unity between the world and the Word of God is clearly implied. Furthermore, according to the first chapter of the book of Hebrews, He "upholds all things by the Word of His power." If this is the case, it was not simply the creation of the world, which was dependent upon the power of God’s Word; but it is the actual abiding presence of that Word which maintains its very existence even now. The organic unity of natural and supra-natural revelation is so essential, that without it the very universe itself would plummet back into the abyss of nothingness and simply cease to exist.
If the implicit teaching of this paradigm is found to be compelling, the explicit teaching of it ought to obliterate all doubt. Psalm 19 does exactly that. It is divided into three parts. The first part, verses 1-6, demonstrate the witness of natural revelation, with its highest expression contained in verse 1: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." The second part, verses 7-11, demonstrate the witness of supra-natural revelation, with its highest expression contained in verses 7 and 8: "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." The third part, verses 12-14, demonstrate the final results which may be achieved when both natural and supra-natural revelation are allowed to speak to us with complete unity of voice; verse 14 says: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." The entire Psalm is dedicated to the demonstration of this paradigm. The Works and the Word of God are meant to speak to us with complete unity of voice. When they are allowed to speak together as they were intended by God, humanity is enabled to think wise and enlightened thoughts about the physical universe, and recognize all of it for what it truly is, the work of God’s hands.
The Value of Natural Revelation
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." This passage testifies to the great value of natural revelation; and it is a testimony, which ought to encourage the Christian in the discipline of natural science. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. Ever since the enlightenment, Christians seem to have retreated from the field of scientific investigation in mass, believing it only to produce conclusions, which are antithetical to the testimony of Scripture. This retreat from science is, of course, a reaction against enlightenment philosophy and Darwinian theory. But to take such a position is to dishonor God who created the natural realm for His own glory and for the benefit of mankind. Ironically, in shying away from what is thought to be antithetical to Scripture, retreating Christians have adopted a response which itself, is antithetical to Scripture. It is, after all, Scripture that has given us the mandate in Genesis 1:28 to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it. . ." But in order to subdue the earth, we must possess a knowledge of the earth; which mandates the discipline of natural science. The fact that secular science uses the raw data of natural revelation to support non-Christian conclusions is not a call to retreat, but a call to battle. It should motivate Christians to exercise with relentless tenacity their God-given mandate to subdue the earth in order that they might take back the territory, which the secularists have high-jacked and once again claim it for the glory of God. Anything less than this constitutes a departure from historic Christianity.
It was the Protestant Reformation that called Christendom out of the ignorance of the dark ages into the light of scientific investigation. Abraham Kuyper speaks to this very fact, saying: "And so it came to pass that the people itself, who had until now refrained from encouraging science, by a new and sparkling energy, suddenly called it into action, spurring it on to a sense of liberty, hitherto unknown." Furthermore, the Scriptures themselves speak to us in a way that demands our knowledge of the world in which we live. For instance, it would be useless for the Scripture to speak to us about Christ walking on the sea of Galilee, or an axe-head floating in the river Jordan, if we were completely ignorant of the fact that human-beings and large pieces of steel generally sink in water rather than float. Moreover, the Scriptures continually speak to us through parables involving agriculture, rain cycles and astrological observations. All of these passages are premised upon our possessing some knowledge of the world in which we live.
Christians must awaken to a new recognition that the raw data of natural revelation does not demand the conclusions of secular science. Abraham Kuyper again has a word for Christians today: "Everything astronomers or geologists, physicists or chemists, zoologists or bacteriologists, historians or archeologists bring to light has to be recorded by you - detached of course from the hypothesis they have slipped behind it and from the conclusions they have drawn from it - but every fact has to be recorded by you as a fact that is to be incorporated as well in your science as in theirs."
Clearly, then, natural revelation is of great value, and is, in fact, absolutely indispensable. It must be remembered, however, that the data from natural revelation alone, cannot lead one to proper conclusions about the world in which we live because it was never meant to stand on its own. When natural revelation is isolated from supra-natural revelation and forced to bear witness by itself, error is the inevitable result.
The Value of Supra-natural Revelation
"The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." These words represent the great value of supra-natural revelation, and demonstrate the absolute necessity of consulting Scripture in order to arrive at wise and enlightened conclusions about the world. In Scripture, God Himself speaks to us about His creation. He tells us how he brought it into existence: by the power of His spoken Word. He also tells us why He brought it into existence: for His own glory. Armed with this knowledge, the natural scientist is free to investigate the physical world on any level without being misguided with regard to the question of origin or purpose. The witness of supra-natural revelation, therefore, enables natural science to exist. And although the Scriptures were not meant to be a natural science textbook, they nevertheless, speak to us about nature on almost every page; and when they do speak to us about nature, they do so inerrantly.
Supra-natural revelation goes above and beyond natural revelation in terms of value, because it is the only infallible source of revelation available to humanity. When Adam and Eve sinned and brought down the curse of God, all of humanity as well as the entire physical universe suffered the devastating consequences. God, speaking to us through the apostle Paul, says in Romans 8:20-22, "the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption . . . for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." The clarity and accuracy of natural revelation, then, has been obscured by the curse of God due to the fall of mankind into sin. All Scripture, however, in Second Timothy 3:16, is said to be "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." The Scriptures, then, are the only source of revelation that can speak to us with absolute clarity and accuracy about the physical universe. But here, again, there is a problem. This time, however, the problem does not exist within the source of revelation, but within the receiver of the revelation. For the radical corruption of sin has left no part of man untouched, including his intellect. While Adam and Eve enjoyed the full potential of an unfallen intellect before the fall, after the fall, every faculty of man became corrupted. Humanity no longer possess the original, unfallen intellectual power with which it was created, and is, therefore, prone to error even when confronted with a perfect source of revelation.
Hermeneutics is a system of interpretive principles by which to ensure accuracy of Biblical interpretation. Thankfully, God has providentially allowed the development of hermeneutics to serve as a caveat against the erroneous interpretations, which would be the inevitable result of fallen humanity attempting to deal with Scripture devoid of guiding principles. Hermeneutics, therefore enables us to push through our own corruption in order to arrive at the radiant perfection of God’s pure truth contained in supra-natural revelation. In this, once again, we see the gracious character of our God. Not only did He provide us with an alternate source of supra-natural revelation after humanity’s perfect fellowship with Him was broken at the fall, but He has also provided us with a system of interpretation to ensure that we can understand it. The value of supra-natural revelation, then, cannot be overstated.
The Necessity of Reunion
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were surrounded with the wonder and grandeur of God’s creative handiwork revealed in nature. They possessed a perfect specimen of unfallen creation as well as the full potential of an unfallen intellect with which to comprehend it. Yet God was not content to leave them with natural revelation alone. God spoke to them directly by way of instruction, prohibition and commission. The very fact that He chose to speak to them rather than remain silent testifies to the inadequacy of natural revelation alone to lead them to a proper understanding of the world in which they lived or the way in which God desired them to interact with it. What was needed in addition to natural revelation was a kind of supra-natural revelation, a source of information not revealed in nature alone but equally essential. The perfect fellowship, which Adam and Eve enjoyed with God before the fall, enabled them to receive this supra-natural revelation directly through the spoken word of God. This perfect fellowship, however, was broken for all of us when they decided to disobey Him; and along with this loss of fellowship came also the loss of God’s direct, supra-natural revelation. Thankfully, God is gracious and did not leave us destitute of supra-natural revelation. But instead of receiving this revelation through direct fellowship with God, it would now be given to us through the written testimony of Scripture. Nevertheless, from that moment forward, this unnatural dichotomy between natural and supra-natural revelation has existed in one form or another, leaving all those who reject the Scriptures doomed to wander aimlessly in the darkness of error and vain speculation. What is needed, finally, is a proper reunion of these two revelations, in order that humanity, once again, may be able to arrive at a proper understanding of the world in which we live and the way in which God desires us to interact with it.
The Glorious Reunion
Having stated the thesis, laid out the basic paradigm, explored the value of natural and supra-natural revelation, and demonstrated the necessity of reunion, it only remains now to suggest how such a reunion ought to be facilitated. In order to avoid the imposition of anything arbitrary, our methodology must arise naturally from both thesis and paradigm. At least three guiding principles seem to arise naturally from the foregoing discussion.
First, all data must be complete. That is to say that we must forbear the development of any final conclusions until all of the available data has been collected and properly taken into consideration. This is where many scientists go wrong today. Secular scientists, such as Stephen J. Gould, do not recognize the Scriptures as viable data at all, and it is, therefore, completely rejected, leaving them with only half the data from which to derive their conclusions. This approach is doomed to failure. On the other hand, most Christian scientists today recognize the Scriptures as viable data, but do not unite it with the data from nature before rendering conclusions. Instead, they make one conclusion based upon natural data alone, and another based upon Scriptural data alone, and then try to harmonize the conclusions. This approach is also doomed to failure. We must seek to possess all of the available data contained in natural revelation, as well as all of the available data contained in supra-natural revelation, and allow them to speak to us together with complete unity of voice. Only then can we arrive at any proper conclusions.
Second, all data must be accurate. It has already been stated that natural revelation has been corrupted by the fall, and therefore, does not speak to us infallibly. It has also been stated, that although we possess the inspired and innerant Word of God, our intellectual capacity has been effected by the fall in such a way that we cannot interpret it properly without the guiding principles of hermeneutics. These truths demand that we take the utmost care in how we obtain our data. We must use trained scientists to render accurate data from nature, and trained theologians to render accurate data from the Scriptures. We cannot be too careful in this area. In order to produce accurate conclusions, accurate data is of absolute necessity.
Third, all conclusions must be in line with Scripture. It has already been stated that Scripture is the only infallible source of revelation that we possess. If that is the case, it follows that if we should ever find ourselves confronted with data from nature, which does not seem to harmonize with data from Scripture, the Scriptural data must take precedence. It is our earnest intention to give all data equal weight, but since natural revelation has been corrupted by the fall, we must never let it dictate final conclusions over against Scripture. In some cases we may have to live with a certain amount of ambiguity or embrace a paradoxical conclusion. Revelational Reunionism leaves room for exercise of faith.
In the final analysis, Revelational Reunionism simply seeks to do in the realm of natural science, that which David sought to do in Psalm 19:14, when he prayed: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." The underlying assumption of Revelational Reunionism is that this goal is achievable in the realm of natural science by reuniting that which should never have been separated. Let us bring natural revelation and supra-natural revelation together once again in glorious reunion; and emblazon upon them forevermore the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6).