Copyright © 2004 by Creation Research Society. All rights reserved.
Beyond Scientific Creationism
John K. Reed, Peter Klevberg, Chris Bennett, Jerry Akridge, Carl R. Froede, Jr., Thomas Lott
CRSQ Vol 41 No 3 pp 216-230 December 2004
Scientific creationism's surprise attack rocked the late Twentieth Century intellectual establishment-acolytes of the worldview of Naturalism. Who could possibly imagine that religion would mount an empirical attack on evolution and its handmaiden, uniformitarian history? But that was decades ago, the shock has worn off, and surprise alone will not finish the job. Empirical arguments developed by an unfunded, outcast minority cannot penetrate the hidebound armor of modern Naturalism despite its many empirical flaws, because at its core Naturalism is not an empirical construct but an integrated worldview. To finish the job started by the scientific creationists, that worldview must be shown to be contrary to truth and thus destroyed. We advocate the primacy of formal over empirical arguments because: (1) they transcend disciplinary boundaries, (2) Naturalism is highly susceptible in that arena since its virulently anti-Christian exterior rests on presuppositions derived from Christian theology, and (3) a formal approach is consistent with Christianity's historical strengths (and Naturalism's inherent weaknesses) in theology and philosophy. A well-founded formal attack would also by example correct derivative and serious modern misunderstandings about the nature of knowledge and truth. Once Naturalism is demonstrated formally invalid, empirical research can take its proper role of building science and exploring natural history within the default, superior Christian worldview. Some Intelligent Design advocates have initiated this argument with great effect against biological evolution, but they fall short because they fail to recognize uniformitarianism as foundational to modern Naturalism.
We have been educated by our modern intelligentsia to believe that Western history consists of a glorious classical age of Greco-Roman culture, followed by 1,000 dark, dirty, and dangerous years of Christian superstition. As the story goes, this unhappy state of affairs lasted until a hardy group of fearless intellectuals rediscovered classical thought, introduced the world to science, and brought the light of the Renaissance. After a prolonged struggle against ignorance (with a few nasty religious wars thrown in), they finally reached the intellectual nirvana of the Enlightenment. The same intellectual elite would have us believe that only fundamentalist morons spout their humorous (or is it dangerous?) nonsense, usually in the dark rural recesses of the "Bible Belt." It makes for high drama, but:
It was against this backdrop that scientific creationism burst on the scene in the last half of the Twentieth Century. Naturalists1, convinced that such troubles were behind them, were shocked, and decades of complacency led to embarrassing defeat in a series of early debates spearheaded by Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish. Their embarrassment was only slightly less than their anger and they quickly labeled creationists as the epitome of anti-intellectual superstition. But victory and defeat in these types of battles are not measured in tenure, publications, and grants within an entrenched elite, nor in judicial decisions, nor even in the number of pandering Christian academics. As the evolutionists are fully aware, they are measured by the surprising (to them) numbers of the general public who still have not bought into their worldview.
So what has been gained over the past decades? As with most issues, the news is mixed. There is no doubt that the topic of origins has become an issue for lively debate rather than a relic of the past. A minority of religious colleges rejects evolution and some even deny uniformitarian history. So do many individual Christians, but their leaders are often at odds with them, as is reflected by rifts in conservative denominations-rifts that run (with few exceptions) between the laity and the elite. A few organizations promulgate the creationist message and publish scientific journals, as opposed to the thousands supporting Naturalism. No secular educational institution presents creationism as a serious alternative. Most prominent Christian colleges and seminaries (even those of conservative denominations) reject a young age for the cosmos, and do well to express polite doubts about Neo-Darwinian evolution. In spite of the labor of the pioneers, the edifice of evolution still strongly resists biblical history as it always has. It could be argued that progress has been made within the church, but not the world.
If the modern creationist movement was such a shock to the secular
establishment, why has it not made greater inroads into modern education?
What will it take to complete the revolution begun by those courageous
scientists and engineers? The tide is clearly not advancing as it once
did, and it is the Intelligent Design proponents, not the creationists,
who are creating the greatest turmoil at present among secularists.
The first generation is passing the torch to the next and as we look
ahead, we must consider a more effective strategy for our time so as
not to lose the ground already gained. While a commitment to truth remains
constant, flexibility in method is often needed. We suggest that it
is time for such flexibility: if Naturalism is not defeated as a worldview,
then we face the possibility that creationism may end as an historical
footnote; an oddity of late Twentieth Century American culture.
We propose a method that we believe will rekindle the intellectual revolt against secular mono(a)theism - a belief that heartily deserves a place amid the ruins of failed ideas. To this end, we propose:
Figure 1. The worldviews of Naturalism and Christianity are contrasted by a triad of metaphysics, epistemology, and their basis for history.
Today, Naturalism is the dominant worldview of Western intellectual
culture. Its advocates trace its roots to ancient Greece and Rome, but
Enlightenment Naturalism is a post-Christian absence of conscious faith
in which ultimate reality is reduced to physical matter (Figure 1),
a metaphysic that is paradoxically a denial of metaphysics. The reductionistic
nature of Naturalism is perhaps one of its most profound weaknesses,
a weakness conveniently obscured by the rapidity of scientific and technological
advancement (Plantinga, 1967; Schaeffer, 1982, pp. I:309-310). In classical
terms, Naturalists jettisoned Plato and Aristotle for Democritus. The
position and motion of matter/energy cause everything that has happened,
is happening, or will happen. God is a false myth, the supernatural
a dream, the soul an illusion, and the afterlife nonexistent. In short,
only fools or weaklings cling to religion.
Since reality is defined as matter and motion, there is no essential difference between mind and matter. This corollary has created many thorny philosophical issues for proponents of Naturalism, such as that of human freedom in the face of an inevitable determinism (Øhrstrøm, 1990). A crucial corollary to metaphysical materialism is the epistemological primacy of science. No God means no revelation, and thus theology is a waste of time. Reality is restricted to physical phenomena, and knowledge consists of the best human understanding of these phenomena. The logical connections between metaphysical materialism and epistemological positivism are an important point of internal consistency in Naturalism. Science, and only science, offers hope for sure and certain knowledge. David Hume captured the spirit of positivism early on in his famous conclusion:
When we run over our libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, "Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?" No. "Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matters of fact and existence?" No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion (Hume, 1777, section 12).
Following the empiricist trail of Hume and his predecessors, Auguste Comte (1798-1857) became the progenitor of modern positivism. Comte proposed the evolution of knowledge: from primitive theology, on to philosophy, and finally positive science. Although extreme forms developed in the Nineteenth Century have been widely repudiated, the general concept remains the dominant epistemology of modern scientists today.
Most scientists today are positivists, claiming, along with Comte, that all valid descriptive knowledge of reality belongs to science . The dogmatic claims of positivism are widely prevalent at the end of the twentieth century, not only among scientists, but also among all those who have been miseducated in our colleges and universities, as well as in the unthinking multitudes who are overly impressed by the achievements of science and technology (Adler, 1993, p. 76).
One of the diagnostic features of positivism is its swallowing of other disciplines, such as history.
This attempt to make history scientific originated in the positivism of Auguste Comte. The term positivism was used to contrast the reliable methods of natural science with the ethereal speculations of metaphysics; and while later positivistic historians may not accept other parts of Comte's philosophy, the term itself is not too inaccurate. The aim is to discover laws by empirical observation (Clark, 1994, p. 99-100).
Because of its belief that reality is matter in motion and is understood
through the method of positive science, Naturalism faces a profound
dilemma regarding history. It needs a strong theory of history to support
the concept of evolution and natural history (its heavy artillery in
the war against Christianity). But the logical consequence of a strong
positivism appears to preclude history, since only knowledge based upon
observation is valid. Furthermore, any theory of history needs nonscientific
The basic propositions are, first, that the present relics of the past cannot be interpreted as historical evidence at all unless we presume that the same fundamental regularities obtained then as still obtain today (Flew, 1997, p. 49).
Science applies special forms of observation to physical phenomena (i.e., experimentation with controlled repeatability). Experimentation is impossible with reference to the singular events of the past. However, in order to argue against Christianity, Naturalists must be able to both accurately describe history and interpret it (Figure 2). We are often puzzled by events of 100 years ago.
Figure 2. Meteor Crater, Arizona. Crater, viewed from the rim. 1891. For many years, scientists argued the origin of this feature. Photograph by G.K. Gilbert. Image courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.
Historians fight over those that happened thousands of years ago in
the midst of abundant textural and archeological evidence. How then
can there be confidence when Naturalists glibly make a leap of faith
back in time three to six orders of magnitude further? Any sane consideration
of the enterprise forces us to conclude that it has moved from the realm
of the merely difficult to that of the impossible.
Only one thing can salvage history for Naturalism-un-limited extrapolation.
What then can lay such a foundation from the (observable) present into
the (unobservable) past? Lyell, who was known as a great observer of
geologic phenomena, held to a strict uniformity of rate and process
because he understood the philosophical meaning of uniformitarianism.
Uniformitarianism offered to save history for science by abducting it
from the Bible. But over time, uniformitarianism has lost the philosophical
purity it once enjoyed. One of the generally ignored aspects of the
development of geology is the slow, but dramatic erosion of the concept
as proposed by Hutton and Lyell. Two centuries of examining the Earth's
crust have demonstrated that geologic processes operated in the past
in ways unknown and unobserved today (Figure 3). Observation (supposedly
the most valid basis for knowledge) has invalidated the basis for a
credible history for Naturalism, but no one seems to have caught on.
That itself is incredible!
Figure 3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Grand Canyon, viewed from in front of the El Tovar Hotel. August 30, 1905. Radically varying interpretations of Grand Canyon between uniformitarian and creationist geologists illustrate the role of interpretive templates. Photograph by R. Arnold. Image courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.
To escape the contradiction, geologists today recognize that rates and even processes differed in the past, but resort to a bait-and-switch defense of uniformitarianism as "methodological" to preserve their ability to interpret the past (Gould, 1965; 1984; Klevberg, 2000, pp. 36-38; Reed, 2001). Methodological uniformitarianism is nothing more than the assertion that the laws of nature operate consistently through space and time, a fundamental axiom of science predating Lyell by centuries. But Lyell defended much more than "methodological" uniformitarianism; he safeguarded a uniformity of rate and process (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Niagara Falls, New York and Canada. American Falls, viewed from Goat Island. 1895. Niagara Falls was one of Lyell's examples of steady rate uniformitarianism. Meyer and Williams (1999) documented its failure to do that from strictly empirical grounds. Photograph by G.K. Gilbert. Image courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.
The difference between Lyell and his intellectual children is that Lyell was a better philosopher. He fought catastrophism because it supported the dominant world-view of Christianity. He could not afford any concession to Cuvier or Moses without risking all. An atheistic view of history requires the extrapolation of scientific certainty into deep time, which in turn requires strict uniformity. But modern scientists are not sensitive to these philosophical distinctions. Since the Naturalists have long ago won the debate, scientists no longer feel the need to avoid any stain of catastrophism. But ignorance cannot make the problem go away. Thus, they are stuck on the horns of their dilemma: Lyell's uniformitarianism is philosophically necessary, but empirically discredited.
Most creationists date the revival of modern scientific creationism
from the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961. Soon after, the Creation
Research Society was founded. By the early 1970s, Drs. Morris and Gish
were unveiling scientific flaws in evolution in debates held around
the United States, and then internationally. Since then, the modern
creationist movement has grown to include a variety of individuals represented
by at least three principal organizations, all committed to (1) a traditional
interpretation of Genesis 1-11, including creation in six 24-hour days,
(2) a young Earth, and (3) a global flood responsible for most of the
rock record that uniformitarian scientists assert took billions of years
to form. These organizations include the Creation Research Society,
founded in 1963; the Institute for Creation Research, founded in 1972;
and Answers in Genesis, founded in 1993. Numerous local organizations
also work hard to propagate the creationist message.
Modern creationism initially attracted attention because of the emphasis
on a scientific rebuttal of evolution and uniformitarianism-a method
that would prove impossible if there were any truth to Naturalists'
claims of a science-versus-religion conflict. But there were also problems.
The scientific approach led to friction between creation scientists
and some professional theologians. The theologians were biased against
the conservative denominational affiliations of the creationists and
hesitated to associate with those the academic establishment had labeled
"anti-intellectual." Many sincere theologians were indifferent
to the age of the Earth and the length of the creation days, ignorant
of the role of uniformitarianism and blind to its challenge to biblical
authority. Thus, the early attacks on Naturalism emphasized scientific
evidence against evolution.
What has come from the past decades? Thankfully, many individuals have
recovered proper confidence in the Bible as an authoritative revelation.
Furthermore, Christians have seen the once-invincible aura of uniformitarian
history founder on incisive critiques and contrary data. However, no
mainline Protestant or Orthodox denomination nor the Roman Catholic
Church actively defends a young Earth or special creation as opposed
to evolution. Few evangelical denominations do either, and many are
rent by strife over the issue. Apart from a few brave teachers, no public
university or school condones teaching even a comparative evaluation
of creationist and evolutionist natural history. Relatively few private
universities do either, and some of the most virulent anti-creationist
rhetoric emerges from "Christian" institutions. No major seminary
and only a few small ones teach a recent creation and universal Flood.
Despite the inroads of the 1970s and the continuing laudable efforts
of individuals and organizations, progress on the creationist front
appears to have slowed.
Unfortunately, the efforts of such stalwarts as Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish that created such turmoil among Naturalists have given way to those who seek a compromise between the "extremes." The most recent trend in that direction is that of Intelligent Design (ID): prestigious scientists and scholars present complex evidence for the creation, but they either tactfully avoid the young-Earth controversy or affirm its contrary. They are welcomed with comparative relief by theologians who were placed in very uncomfortable positions only a few decades back. One of the leaders of this movement is Dr. Phillip Johnson, author of several popular books (Johnson, 1993; 1995; 1997). He epitomizes both the positive and negative aspects of the Intelligent Design movement. Positively, he has done something that the "scientific" creationists neglected: a logical critique of evolution as it resides within the worldview of Naturalism. Negatively, he has failed to see the internal linkage between Naturalism's epistemology-positivism-and its justification of history in uniformitarianism. We seek to correct this oversight. In summary, scientific creationism was an appropriate argument to start the battle, but it is not the major theme that will ultimately lead to victory.
In the final analysis, Christians recognize that proper theology teaches us to strive for faithfulness, while God provides victory or defeat (II Chronicles 20:15). However, it is certainly reasonable to expect victory, especially when warring against ideas raised up against God (II Corinthians 10:5). No creationist can afford to minimize the spiritual dimension of these battles. What follows is an intellectual strategy that is consistent with biblical truth and hopefully with biblical wisdom. Most of the following points warrant much greater discussion. Therefore, this section is merely a broad outline for recovering a sound, biblical view of natural science and natural history.
If the correct interpretation of Genesis is to regain broad acceptance
in the church and grudging respect-or at least fear-outside the church,
then the true extent of the obstacles must be recognized. The frontal
attack on Darwinian biology and Lyellian geology has rekindled hope,
but few have yet to acknowledge the true extent of the opposition, which
like an iceberg lurks mostly beneath the surface. Worldviews are the
mythologies that underlie culture. Christianity is a worldview. It has
been challenged not by improper science, but by a competing worldview
that has used science as a cloak to hide its moldy philosophical and
theological skeleton. Scientific creationism has torn that cloak, but
as long as the bones beneath cling together, there will be no true victory.
The next step is to disarticulate those bones. A few have seen that
clearly (Johnson, 1997; Noebel, 1991; Schaeffer, 1982); it remains for
the rest of us to get aboard.
Creationists need a clear appreciation of the extent of the battle. Scientists commonly shy away from theology and philosophy, and creation scientists rightfully distrust the theologians who have abdicated origins and history. However, we are all theologians by default; it only remains whether to be competent or incompetent ones. The coming generation of creationists must fight a worldview, not simply empirical data and derivative theories. Modern militaries recognize the effectiveness of the "combined arms" model; creationists also need a broad array of intellectual weaponry. Proponents of "Intelligent Design" have seen this more clearly than creationists. We hope that as creationists are willing to learn that approach from these advocates, that they will be open in turn to learning from creationists the need to derail uniformitarian natural history.
How does one go about attacking a worldview? First, one must recognize
that it is an integrated entity that spans the breadth of intellectual
disciplines and is held together by the glue of faith. Thus, a worldview
cannot be totally destroyed; it can only be rendered foolish in the
eyes of most. Finding and attacking presuppositions or logical foundations
is a method that goes immediately to the vitals. We recognize three
cornerstones of modern Naturalism: (1) metaphysical materialism, (2)
epistemological positivism, and (3) a uniformitarian justification of
history (Figure 1). Logical connections exist among each of these. The
first two are linked as follows: if reality is matter, then science
is the means to comprehend reality.
But Naturalism was shaped by its own early history. Rising in opposition
to Christianity, it needed to destroy the Christian monopoly on history.
Uniformitarianism provided a philosophical justification for the abduction
of history by science. If the present could be perfectly extrapolated
into the past, then science could rescue history from its revelatory
shackles. Lyell opened the door. That is the connection the Intelligent
Design advocates have missed, and that is why despite their brilliant
attacks on materialism and positivism, they will not topple Naturalism
until history is anchored back in its Christian moorings.
What about evolution? Evolution in one sense is not the foundation
of modern naturalism, but in another sense is. It does provide the underlying
mythology for modern Naturalism, but destroying evolution will not ensure
the destruction of Naturalism. In any case, it has proven itself the
most effective weapon against Christianity over the past two centuries.
Scientific creationism blunted the blade, but did not break it. That
probably will not take place until the worldview that nurtures it is
Origins and Earth history, however controversial, comprise only one facet of the Christian worldview. Because it belongs to a larger whole, it must be constrained and fenced by other truth. This constraint becomes more powerful when we see that there is a hierarchy of knowledge. What is the basis for deriving such a hierarchy? We suggest that the weighted dependence of one branch of truth on another as a good criterion. The Bible is at the apex, because truth is inherent in God, and man's comprehension of truth relies on God's revelation (and all the more given the effects of sin). Men have labored for millennia to systematize and apply revelation in the discipline of theology. Theology depends on the Bible, and thus is subordinate to it. Philosophy correlates the wisdom of common experience with theological axioms, and is thus subordinate to theology. Philosophy and theology provide axioms for other empirical disciplines and are thus superior to them. It is only out of our understanding of reality and knowledge by theology and philosophy that we find axioms that make science possible. The same is true of history.
History requires philosophy. Not only is the need for philosophy seen in the earlier difficulties and puzzles, but it is also seen, where some people do not expect it, in the very definition of history . The definitions of history, listed above, all reflect the philosophy of their authors. Those authors who have reflected but little on philosophical problems give looser definitions. Those who have puzzled through many difficulties become more pedantic, more careful, more accurate. Implicit in their formulations are their views of man, of society, of God, and therefore of knowledge whatever his definition and extended views of history are, there must always be an underlying and controlling philosophy. It can be ignored, but it cannot be avoided (Clark, 1994, p. 21-22).
History, however, has a significant advantage over other disciplines.
Its boundaries, method, and significant content are readily available
in the Bible, thus providing a validation of that fraction of history
within the Christian worldview.
It is difficult for even thoughtful Christians to escape the presuppositions
of the age. Positivism is a relevant example. Many do not adequately
distinguish between science and history and elevate science to the level
of Scripture. We commonly see statements to the effect that science
is the "67thbook of the Bible." Another popular Christian
position recognizes the primacy of Scripture, but sees only vague distinctions
between science and history. For example, we often see a distinction
drawn between "operations science" and "origins science."
While this position is closer to truth, neither appears to see clear
boundaries between disciplines, because they have abandoned the philosophical
basis that allows such demarcations. Three theological axioms are required
to clear up this mess: (1) the unity of truth, (2) the multiplicity
of human knowledge, and (3) the priority of the end (truth) over the
These points are somewhat paradoxical: on one hand is the need for
the clear boundaries between various disciplines, and on the other,
the need to reassert the unity of truth and its primacy over method.
There is not room for a thorough discussion of this topic in this paper
(c.f., Clark, 1991;pp. 197-228;Morris, 1984;Schaeffer, 1968a;1968b;
1972), but we would offer one trail through the tangle of modern thought.
In both the manifestations of positivism cited above (the equivalence
of general and special revelation and the labeling of origins studies
as science), there is the recognition that science plays a role in natural
history, although in the latter case there is also the correct recognition
that natural history is not quite the same thing as controlled experimentation.
We believe that this dilemma can be resolved by the application of the
eminently sane "mixed question" approach of Adler (1965) to
origins and history-two areas that demand such an approach. With this
strategy, methodological differences between different areas of knowledge
are retained, while allowing roles for more than one discipline. Combined
with this approach is the need to subordinate method to the goal of
all knowledge - truth. Thus "biblical" creationism does not
produce a different quality of truth from "scientific" creationism;
rather our quest for the truth about origins integrates knowledge from
the Bible and science, as well as philosophy and history. Defining validity
by method is a trick of Naturalist epistemology to denigrate absolute
truth. We see it commonly in the dismissal of the Christian worldview
as "religion" and its own as "science." The unspoken
assumption is that the method of science provides hard truth and that
of religion, only wishful thinking. It is this method-based, rather
than truth-based, approach to knowledge that has allowed Naturalists
to separate science from Scripture and then set them in opposition to
Figure 5 is a diagram differentiating among the various empirical disciplines,
correcting the positivist error that any empirical discipline is science
(for more details on this arrangement, see Adler, 1965). This error
has supplied Naturalism with a tremendous advantage especially in the
confusion of history and science. Clear thinking recognizes that:
Similarly, when scientists (such as geologists, paleontologists, and evolutionists) sometimes attempt to establish the spatial and temporal determinants of particular past events or to describe a particular sequence of such events, they cease to be engaged in scientific inquiry and become engaged in historical research, sometimes called natural history. Though both history and science are investigative modes of inquiry that submit their conclusions to the test of experience (i.e., the data obtained by investigation), history by its method can answer questions that science cannot answer; and science by its method can answer questions that history cannot answer (Adler, 1993, p. 15).
Figure 5. Adler's (1965) divisions of the disciplines. See his discussion for a complete explanation.
It is easy to get caught up in defending the history of Genesis, and
to forget the significance of the events. One that creationists would
do well to remember is the Fall and its effects on mankind. Genesis
states that after Adam rebelled, it took little more than 1,500 years
for all people, with the exception of Noah's family, to give themselves
completely to evil. Romans 1-3 summarizes the teaching of all of Scripture
when it states that no one is righteous, that man's natural state is
to suppress the truth, and that only God's action can overcome this
terrible prejudice. Although this is not the place for an expanded debate
on the noetic effects of sin, we simply note that the Bible teaches
that all men apart from God are strongly biased against God, His truth,
and His people.
What does this mean for creationism? First, it should provide clear expectations for the role of empirical arguments on either side. On one hand, evolution and uniformitarianism did not triumph, nor do they continue to enjoy victory, based only on empirical argumentation. Rather, their empirical arguments provide a justification for a deeper, ongoing bias against the Creator and His truth.
Naturalists are committed to their worldview not because of its intellectual supremacy, but because they are committed to its opposition to Christianity. Thus, creationists will not convert the masses that reject God by some "silver bullet" of empirical truth. Should we abandon science or natural history? Of course not! However, we should recognize the true purposes of our research: (1) to support the church in its apologetic task against unbelievers, (2) to fight against the lies of our enemy, and (3) to carry out the command of God to exercise dominion over His creation.
We noted above the need to destroy the foundations of Naturalism. If
Naturalism is the full-orbed worldview that we assert it to be, then
such a task cannot be done empirically. It is impossible to empirically
overthrow axioms and assumptions. Instead, creationists must make the
difficult transition from their primary attack, that of empirical argument
to the mode of formal, logical argument. This style will strengthen
the Christian attack, because it attacks a point of weakness in Naturalism
from a position of strength in Christianity.
A mark of Naturalism's success is the degree to which its epistemology
of positivism has dominated thought over the past two centuries. What
is positivism? Adler (1992, pp. 31-32) noted:
I know that there are enough varieties of positivism to permit the professors to retain their individuality, but I insist that behind the multiplicity of technical jargons there is a single doctrine. The essential point of that doctrine is simply the affirmation of science, and the denial of philosophy and religion.
Theology and philosophy have always been strengths of Christianity.
Early proponents of Naturalism required a means to neutralize these
powerful defenses. Instead of taking them head on, Naturalists found
that science could be distorted to make them supposedly irrelevant.
Ironically, it was the success of Christian theology that defined a
"background" role for theology in its relationship to science
and made this attack possible (Clark, 1991;Reed, 2001;Schaef-fer, 1976).
Once science was established in the forefront of empirical knowledge,
it was easy to assert the irrelevance of theology and the primacy of
empiricism. Over decades of inculcation, even large numbers of sincere
Christians have accepted the claims of positivism. Perhaps, its strength
has even influenced the "scientific" creationist approach
to the problem of evolution and uniformitarianism.
How should Christians view science? Science is only one aspect of the
totality of Christian knowledge that is summed up in the term "revelation."
By means of general revelation, man comes to understand himself, nature,
and God through the action of his created mind as he apprehends and
comprehends himself, nature, and God. But man's mind is finite, fallen,
and fighting against the knowledge of God (Romans 1-3). God graciously
provides special, direct revelation that supplies absolute truth about
Himself, man, and nature through the Scriptures, often correcting human
errors in natural knowledge. The revelatory basis of Christianity justifies
a strong view of truth. For centuries, philosophers have ignored the
Bible and consequently struggled with truth and certainty. Their historical
problem has always been how contingent, limited, fallible humans can
achieve absolute, unlimited, and infallible knowledge. At present, they
appear to have settled for the abolition of knowledge in favor of emotion
If Christians retreat from the authority of the Bible, they are swept
into that endless philosophical morass. If men depend upon God for knowledge,
then acquiring knowledge is not an exploration of the unknown, but the
discovery of God's creation that is already known by God. Human limits
that result in incomplete knowledge do not mean that truth does not
exist, since the infinite God guarantees a unity of truth. Because truth
is consistent even when it is not known comprehensively, science is
possible. Even today, scientists operate on that assumption as researchers
work individually, assuming that their conclusions can eventually be
integrated with those of distant colleagues.
Thus, the Christian view of truth is essential for science. That being
so, science must accept the entire package, and learn to respect its
place within Christian epistemology, submitting itself to special revelation
and limiting itself to its proper boundaries.
History holds a special role in the Christian worldview, because the
Bible uses history and its lessons as much of its medium of truth. Man
exists in the context of history and God reveals Himself in the same
medium. Thus, like Naturalism, the Christian view of history is closely
tied to its epistemology. But the differences between revelation and
positivism breed equally severe differences in their outlooks on history
(Figure 1). Revealed history is trustworthy and true precisely because
it is revealed. The revealed record may not include exhaustive explanations
of all events, but it contains sufficient explanations of events that
God (who knows and understands all things perfectly) deems important.
Because human beings learn well through stories and examples, much of
Scripture consists of historical narrative and explanation. Because
God is personal and has intervened in space and time, His written revelation
of Himself is largely historiographic. Any denial of the importance
of history contradicts the validity of the Christian worldview.
The formal argument against Naturalism rests on that worldview's dependence
on science. Science will ultimately betray Naturalism, because science
is the child of Christian faith. Although science has been turned to
the "dark side," its internal logic screams for close links
to Christian theology. Recent studies in the history of science demonstrate
this historically, and the dependence of science on theological axioms
demonstrates logical links. For example, scientists assume that the
laws of nature are not restricted by space or time. This cannot be a
"scientific" conclusion since it has not been and cannot be
tested empirically in every location at every time in the entire universe.
The fatal flaw of Naturalism lies in this fact: the axioms of science
rest squarely in the Christian worldview. In essence, Naturalists have
merely purloined the presuppositions of Christianity. It is as though
they were crusading against faith while unknowingly wearing large, red
crosses on their backs!
" Christian theology was essential for the rise of science. In demonstration of this thesis I first summarize much recent historical work to the effect that that not only did religion not cause the "Dark Ages;" nothing else did either-the story that after the "fall" of Rome a long dark night of ignorance and superstition settled over Europe is as fictional as the Columbus story. In fact, this was an era of rapid and profound technological progress by the end of which Europe had surpassed the rest of the world. Moreover, the so-called "Scientific Revolution" of the sixteenth century was the normal result of developments begun by Scholastic scholars started in the eleventh century. (Stark, 2003, p. 123).
What this means for creationists is that there are limits to the effectiveness
of "scientific creationism." To debate only on scientific
grounds is to accept the epistemology of Naturalism, supporting the
very worldview we are trying to destroy. Christians must reject positivism
and uphold revelation. There is another advantage to the Christian way.
The debate over origins has always been restricted to "experts"
because the public bought the lie of positivism. Christianity opens
the floodgates. No longer must believers not trained in one of the sciences
cower behind closed doors. Any Christian willing to think with logic
and in terms of worldviews can participate effectively in the origins/history
debate. We can eliminate the home field advantage of the Naturalists,
where the debate was restricted to specialists engaging in "factoid
fights"-still too often the common currency of dispute today.
So how does it work? First we must consider the relative positions
of theology, philosophy, and science, and the basis for ordering those
relationships. All Christians should realize and proclaim that the origins/history
debate is a debate between worldviews, not between competing-but-somehow-otherwise-neutral
scientific theories. Next, we must look at the two worldviews from a
different perspective. Many books detail the differences between them,
but a more profitable line of investigation is to look instead to their
similarities. These similarities are present because the fathers of
modern Naturalism were steeped in the Christian worldview and assumed
many of its truths without reflection. While modern Naturalism may present
itself as an independent competitor to Christianity, antithetical in
every way, in reality, it is not. Its Enlightenment founders were more
"Christian" than they realized. Therefore, many of the paradigms
of Naturalism are supported by presuppositions that are Christian.
Early proponents of Naturalism could not have realized that they were
making Christian axioms part of their program. Since presuppositions
usually are the part of the iceberg below sea level, most people then
(and now) never noticed their existence. If we shine the light of truth
on the hijacking of Christian axioms by Naturalism, the Naturalists
will have only one way out. They must provide self-consistent substitute
presuppositions (with appropriate justifications) to replace the pilfered
Christian ones. If they cannot do so, then their worldview will be demonstrably
flawed, having failed formal truth tests of consistency and coherence.
At that point, the origins/history debate must be settled wholly inside
the Christian worldview.
What will that mean? First, the means by which any questions are answered
must be consistent with the Christian worldview. Naturalism ignores
revelation and theology; Christians cannot do that. As a consequence,
the Bible and sound theology must provide necessary constraints for
scientific and historical investigations. Next, it means that the big
questions must be answered before the small ones. By that we mean that
questions pertaining to the meaning of Scripture or theology take precedence
over those of science or natural history, because the Christian worldview
includes an implicit hierarchy of knowledge.
But, first things first. What are the formal flaws in Naturalism? What
follows is a concise summary of several such contradictions from previous
work (Reed, 2001).
Science developed when people began to understand nature within the
Christian worldview during the medieval period. The Scholastics were
forced to choose between the rational universe of Aristotle and that
of the Bible, freely created by a transcendent, infinite, eternal, and
No Christian could ultimately escape the implications of the fact that Aristotle's cosmos knew no Jehovah. Christianity taught him to see it as a divine artifact rather than a self-contained organism. The universe was subject to God's laws; its regularities and harmonics were a result of providential design. The ultimate mystery resided in God rather than in Nature . The only sort of explanation science could give must be in terms of descriptions of processes, mechanisms, interconnections of parts. Greek animism was dead . The universe of classical physics, in which the only realities were matter and motion, could begin to take shape (A.R. Hall as cited in Glover, 1984, p. 83).
This new paradigm gave the world a mechanistic flavor. God was a superior engineer and man could comprehend His marvelous works. Since God created freely, creation could not be understood by fixed rational principles, but by critical reflection on observation and revelation. Final cause existed in the will of God, was relegated to theology, and left science unencumbered by teleology.
Modern Naturalists reject the Christian doctrine of creation, but retain the derivative mechanistic method of studying it. Thus they have kept the empirical tradition without being able to justify its use. Also, they cannot explain final cause in its historical context. They reject both Aristotle's view that purpose is inherent in nature and the Christian view that purpose is imposed upon nature. Thus, their only logical alternative is that purpose does not exist relative to nature, but if purpose does not exist neither is there any purpose in their science (or their lives) nor is there a logical basis for expecting nature to act purposefully, a feature often observed.
If nature is a scientific wonderland, can anyone play? If scientific
thinking comprehends physical reality, there must be a connection between
human thought and nature. How can scientists act as objective observers
unless they transcend nature? How can they transcend nature if they
are simply a part of the system? During the formative years of modern
science, those questions posed no problem because man: (1) was created
in the image of God, (2) was an immortal spiritual being, transcending
nature, and (3) had the promise of dominion over the creation, implying
the ability to comprehend it.
Naturalism attempts to preserve man's scientific potential by making
him the pinnacle of evolution and holding out the possibility of future
evolution into "gods." But man, the pinnacle of evolution,
is still a part of the system; without the imago dei there is
neither transcendence to support objective study, nor does wishful thinking
about future godhood secure the promise of dominion. The internal logic
of Naturalism is better reflected by those who assert the place of plants
and animals to be equal or superior to that of man. Thus, Naturalism
traps man within nature without any of the attributes that permit him
to be a scientist, but still he practices science-because he believes
that it disproves Christianity.
History in the worldview of Naturalism seems doomed to determinism,
rendering it and man's study of it of no consequence. Faith in the value
of history and in man's central role results from a thoroughly Christian
appreciation of the relationship between God and man played out on the
stage of time. Part of that relationship is the freedom of man relative
to nature (see above). Naturalists have removed God, but cling to their
own significance through the pursuit of "missions" in life.
They never ask why they should bother to "save the whales"
in a deterministic world. This misplaced mission-oriented character
of man reveals yet another stolen Christian presupposition. This inability
to live within the confines of a worldview at odds with God's created
world is what Schaeffer (1982, pp. I:129-142) called the "point
of tension." And tension it is-Naturalism has no valid basis for
Similarly, concepts of linear, unidirectional time, the idea of progress,
and of transcendent purpose in history are derived from theology. Naturalism
shares with Christianity a concept of "creation" (the Big
Bang), followed by a period of conservation of the created order, followed
by the end of the universe as we know it (oscillation to another big
bang). Similarly, Naturalism has stolen the idea of progress from Christian
theology. The Bible presents history as moving from the starting point
of Creation to a purposeful end (Judgment). Inherent in the biblical
presentation of redemptive history is the idea of progress, man moving
toward the fulfillment of ultimate perfection on a new Earth. Naturalists
assume linear, progressive time in evolution, but are stymied when pressed
for a goal. "Increasing order and complexity" seems quite
devoid of any purpose or moral imperative. But the comparison of these
similarities-millennia old in Christianity; centuries in Naturalism-certainly
suggests that Naturalists have been caught once again with their hands
in the cookie jar of Christian axioms.
The primary historiographic axiom of Naturalism is uniformitarianism,
a logical necessity that allows unlimited extrapolation of observation
(positivism) backward in time. Logic demands the pure uniformitarianism
of Hutton and Lyell.
But Lyell held a complex view of uniformity that mixed this consensus about method with a radical claim about substance-the actual workings of the empirical world. Lyell argued that all past events-yes, every single one-could be explained by the action of causes now in operation. No old causes are extinct; no new ones have been introduced. Moreover, past causes have always operated-yes, always-at about the same rate and intensity as they do today. No secular increases or decreases through time. No ancient periods of pristine vigor or slow cranking up. The earth, in short, has always worked (and looked) just about as it does now (Gould, 1997, p. 105).
The only problem is that observation, the sine qua non of positivism, contradicts this view of history. How did he get away with it, and more importantly, why do his disciples continue to?
Lyell then pulled a fast one-perhaps the neatest trick of rhetoric, measured by subsequent success, in the entire history of science. He labeled all these different meanings as "uniformity," and argued that since all working scientists must embrace the methodological principles, the substantive claims must be true as well. Like wily Odysseus clinging to the sheep's underside, the dubious substantive meanings of uniformity sneaked into geological orthodoxy-past an undiscerning Cyclops, blinded with Lyell's rhetoric-by holding fast to the methodological principles that all scientists accepted (Gould, 1997, p. 119).
Reed (2001) argued that Lyell's trickery was not valid. But avoiding for now that level of analysis, there is a more fundamental dilemma faced by Naturalists-the Christian origin of the uniformity axiom that underlies any definition of uniformitarianism. It does not matter what kind of tortuous explanations of "catastrophic uniformitarianism," have made their way into geologic literature, we only need to realize that Naturalism cannot justify faith in invariant natural law apart from God. Positivism demands justification via observation, but the universal axiom of uniformity cannot be so demonstrated. Lyell got away with it. Today we know better, and Naturalists are once again left needing a justification that does not exist in their worldview.
The fundamental assumption of knowledge in general and science in particular
is the conjunction existing among human knowledge, reality, and truth.
Creation, and only creation, supports this very basic requirement. God
is ultimate reality, and if God tells us to understand Him and enjoy
an intimate relationship with Him, then it stands to reason that man
can understand reality. If God created the physical universe, then His
image-bearers could be expected to acquire a valid, though not comprehensive,
understanding of nature. Absolute knowledge exists; God has it. Thus,
while we do not know everything, what we know is guaranteed to be true
if it corresponds to God's knowledge. Revelation provides the means
to test correspondence.
To put it in practical terms, how can we justify the multimillion-man
research effort of science? Most scientists assume that the parts will
fit after the work is done. This bold assumption makes sense in the
Christian worldview: man's similarity of thought is guaranteed by the
image of God as is the unity of truth. But why should there be an integrated
truth to discover in Naturalism, and even if there were such a thing,
how could man put it together? There cannot even be any assurance that
what scientists think has any relationship to truth or reality. The
last four hundred years of philosophy have emphasized the uncertainty
of knowledge apart from revelation: scientists have been far too busy
operating (usually unconsciously) in the Christian worldview to keep
In summary, Naturalism is formally invalid because it relies on axioms
antithetical to its methods and conclusions. Naturalism sprouted from
the soil of Christian presuppositions. Larceny is profitable as long
as no one notices, but when the spotlight is aimed in the right direction,
the long arm of logic must act. The formal weaknesses of Naturalism
are reflected in the success of Dr. Phillip Johnson's works. We contend
that unless Naturalism can recreate these axioms and justify them in
a way that is consistent with the rest of its worldview, creationists
should be screaming that the entire worldview is false and should be
ignored in discussions about origins or Earth history. All of the empirical
data in the world cannot save Naturalism from formal flaws.
The philosophy which forbids you to make uniformity absolute is also the philosophy which offers you solid grounds for believing it to be general, to be almost absolute. The Being who threatens Nature's claim to omnipotence confirms her in her lawful occasions. Give us this ha'porth of tar and we will save the ship. The alternative is really much worse. Try to make Nature absolute and you find that her uniformity is not even probable. By claiming too much, you get nothing. You get the deadlock, as in Hume. Theology offers you a working arrangement, which leaves the scientist free to continue his experiments and the Christian to continue his prayers (Lewis, 1961, p. 106).
The battle against Naturalism irrevocably changed late in the Twentieth
Century. Resting on a string of successes that dated back to the Enlightenment,
evolutionists were stung by their weaknesses against the frontal assault
launched by the scientific creationists. Evolutionist after evolutionist
fell in debates on university campuses. They were even forced into court
to explain to sympathetic judges that the Christian brand of origins
was just religion, while theirs was science, the mother of air conditioning
for the courtrooms, computers for the clerks, and convenient polyester
robes. In short, they were on the defensive for the first time in more
than two centuries. It was difficult to argue that the laws of Thermodynamics
and gaps in the fossil record were just some of that "ole time
religion" that had managed to find its way out of its closet. Courtroom
successes revealed only the sympathetic religious commitment of Naturalists
on the bench.
But just as the evolutionists began to adjust and use their advantage
of an overwhelming number of entrenched academics, they were rocked
by a new challenge. Qualified scientists who were not creationists began
to argue that evidences of "intelligent design" existed in
nature. They did not argue the age of the universe or the Earth, which
eliminated some of the more popular arguments against the scientific
creationists (radiometric dating, age of starlight, etc.). Even worse,
a lawyer named Johnson began to write books poking holes in their assumptions
and challenging their worldview. Those books were written for an educated
general audience and roused significant interest in university settings.
But Johnson has not advanced a creationist argument for a young Earth
or a universal flood.
As time passes, it becomes evident to more people that issues of origins
have more to do with worldviews than with science. The focus of the
Intelligent Design movement on evolution has been especially telling,
and the outmoded ideal of the white-coated, objective investigator with
an answer for every question has slipped into the past. As with any
intellectual revolution, a host of confusing compromises has been advanced,
muddying the waters for many sincere Christians and interested unbelievers.
The environment is ripe for a new attack on Naturalism by creationists.
The times, however, call for a formal attack, not another empirical
one. No special education or training will be necessary for the public
to see the glaring contradictions in Naturalism. Unless they abandon
reason, they will be forced to admit (grudgingly and under compulsion
of the truth) that Christianity again has the high ground. Total victory
is unreasonable since the inherent biases of fallen human beings will
believe anything, even a failed worldview, as long as it is not Christianity.
More importantly, it is time to extend the formal critique of men like
Phillip Johnson to the third cornerstone of Natural-ism-uniformitarianism.
This was the first triumph for Naturalism in the Nineteenth Century
and remains the most deeply entrenched.
Only God has a monopoly on truth. We acknowledge our heartfelt admiration
and intellectual indebtedness to the pioneers of the modern creation
movement, to Dr. Phillip Johnson and the other Intelligent Design proponents,
and to the centuries of Christian thinkers who developed the worldview
that has provided the advantages that we enjoy. We are not accusing
the scientific creationists, who have our profound respect and gratitude,
of error. All we are saying is that it is time for the creation movement
to look forward. There should be no change in the Bible's teachings
about Creation and the early history of the Earth, although we do call
upon the Intelligent Design proponents to recognize the Bible's clear
teaching of a global flood, the role of uniformitarianism in Naturalism,
and the necessity of a biblical natural history based on those truths.
Furthermore, we strongly encourage the continued empirical investigation
and publication in scientific disciplines by creationists within the
framework proposed in this paper.
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