August 22, 2012

Origins: Beliefs Have Implications

In his book Stories of Mr. Keuner poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht writes: “A man asked Mr. K. whether there is a God. Mr. K. said: ‘I advise you to consider whether, depending on the answer, your behavior [toward this question] would change. If it would not change, then we can drop the question. If it would change, at least be of help to the extent that I can say, you have already decided: you need a God.’ ” Beliefs have implications.

Faith and Science Spotlight
The importance of our beliefs having implications on life and practice was a recurrent theme at the 2012 Field Conference on Faith and Science sponsored by the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI). This conference, for church administrators and leaders, was held in northeast Italy, where GRI scientists and scholars made presentations on the subject of creation and origins. It was a working conference with professional lectures, on-site field stops, and frank discussions, complemented by devotions and prayer.

More than 50 attendees affirmed that the conference deepened their understanding and convictions regarding biblical creation. The GRI team used Bible-based presentations that incorporated the latest scientific research and addressed current issues of the origins debate.

2012 1524 page27For 10 days conference attendees traversed the Dolomite Mountains in the stunningly beautiful Italian alpine arc. On hands and knees we examined rock formations, fossils, and dinosaur footprints that shed light on biblical creation and a catastrophic flood. Field stops were punctuated by presentations on such subjects as history, philosophy, biology, paleontology, and geology. Participants became conversant with such terms as theistic evolution, fossil records, geological process, plate tectonics, igneous and metamorphic rocks, human origins, and biodiversity. Discussion ran from hermeneutics to apologetics and a moving session conducted by the GRI staff entitled “Why I Believe.”

The conference facilitated a sense of revival and reformation in regard to faith and science. I won’t delve too deeply into the technical aspects of the conference. Frankly, the beauty of the conference was the fresh affirmation given to the spiritual importance of a person’s beliefs about biblical creation and origins.

An Organizing Principle
To talk meaningfully about this important topic, we need an organizing principle—what I call the dilemma dissolve principle. It goes like this: since no one was present at creation, our knowledge of what happened is dependent on the eyewitness account of God as outlined in Genesis 1 and 2.

The supposed dilemma comes when it appears that the biblical account conflicts with science. There may be discrepancies, or gaps, between Scripture and science. If the two don’t harmonize, where do we place our faith and confidence? Ellen White addressed this by writing: “Many accept mere theories and speculations as scientific facts, and they think that God’s Word is to be tested by the teachings of ‘science falsely so called’ ” (The Great Controversy, p. 522). This position supposedly solves the dilemma by placing science above Scripture. Another person believes that “the Creator and His works are beyond their comprehension,” and does not feel it necessary to explain miraculous creation events by what appear to be natural laws. This person places Scripture above science, and by faith, without apology, regards Bible history as reliable and trustworthy.

So Ellen White’s counsel about the dilemma dissolve principle is straightforward: when there appear to be discrepancies, we should deliberately place our confidence in the Bible. Why? Because both creation and evolution have to be accepted by faith, the safe path is to place our confidence in the Bible. Ellen White wrote about the danger if we don’t: “Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments too often go a step further, and doubt the existence of God, and attribute infinite power to nature. Having let go their anchor, they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity” (ibid.).

Next month I will provide a summary and three take-away affirmations about creation and origins. 

Delbert W. Baker is a general vice president of the General Conference. This article was published August 23, 2012.