Items posted on 1 October 2014
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Proverbs 3.5-7 – Living with a paradox.
Posted: 1 October 2014 in Psalms

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

Scarcely has wiser advice ever been given, but until the last paragraph, it might sound as if I am about to ignore it.

In recent days I have been contemplating the relationship between the Theory of Evolution and Genesis 1-3. Speaking personally, when Genesis 2 says that man was created from the dust of the ground, and science postulates that life emerged from a primeval soup, they do not seem to me to be saying fundamentally different things – provided that God is acknowledged to be the active agent in both cases. That is not where the difficulty lies. The difficulty arises when we come to the doctrine of the fall. That there was a fall, that guilt for that first sin attaches to all mankind, and that only Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to redeem our thereby corrupted nature, is a doctrine which could hardly be more central to Christianity. But the fall is not something with which the Theory of Evolution even begins to concern itself, and nor does it seem to leave room for it. On the other hand, we have the testimony of even Christian biologists that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

In contemplating that conundrum, I hit upon, of all things, the situation quantum physicists find themselves in. As is perhaps generally known nowadays, an electron can sometimes behave as if it was a wave, and sometimes as if it was a particle. “Well, which is it?” is the obvious question, but is not one which physicists have been able to answer. So, instead of trying to answer it, they adopt the purely pragmatic approach that, when it is most useful to think of an electron as a wave, they will think of it as a wave, and, when it can most usefully think of it as a particle, they will think of it as a particle.

So generalising that approach, when a Christian biologist is at work, he might perhaps think in terms of evolution as being the adequate account of human origins; at least for the purposes of doing his job. But when he goes home at night, and becomes an amateur theologian, then the biblical account of creation may be the more appropriate way of describing the origin of life, and of the universe itself. As in quantum physics, the question, “Well, which is it?” is likely to immediately thrust itself upon our consciousness. But, as in quantum physics, the only answer may be that we have to live with the paradox of having two apparently conflicting accounts, both of which appear to be true.

NEVERTHELESS, and this is where the sage advice of the biblical author comes in, if somebody is unable to live with such a paradox (although given paradoxes such as the Trinity, they ought to be able to), and if they feel that they have to choose between the two, apparently conflicting, accounts of human origins, then the words spoken by God must always take priority. It is his truth we need above all others, and it is foolishness to think otherwise. Scientific theories are provisional, so perhaps a future theory will remove the paradox, and perhaps it won’t. But in either case, we must be faithful to the biblical witness – remembering from whom it comes.

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