Why We Must be Steadfast In Science, Too

Lutherans have always been great about arguing the fine points of theological minutiae.  This is important, as painful as it may sometimes sound.  The gift that God has given us in His revelation of Himself in Christ is the most precious one we have in the world.  Without it we have no true wisdom, no true knowledge.  To safeguard that revelation is worth considerable time and effort.

You may ask, then, why a blog about science?  Why not let the scientists be scientists, and let the theologians be theologians?  Many confessional Lutherans are happy to “agree to disagree” when it comes to research and technology.  Others don’t understand it, and who wants to talk about what they don’t understand?  Still others are happy to see study of nature and study of the Scriptures as “non-overlapping magisteria” to use the phrase coined by the late Stephen Jay Gould.

But as in all other areas of life, there is only one appropriate Christian response to research in science and technology: engagement.  After all, our God did not leave the world to run its own course, watching from a distance as sin unraveled what had been a very good creation.  Our Lord literally got his hands dirty, taking human flesh and walking among us that we might be saved.  He dealt with the difficult topics of the day: “Who is my neighbor?” “Tell my brother to divide his inheritance with me!” “Shouldn’t this have been sold and the money given to the poor?” “Who sinned: this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” I believe he continues to speak through the Scriptures on the difficult subjects of our day.  That includes difficult issues raised in scientific research and development.

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod should have much to say about the significant ethical and moral issues arising from our growing but still limited understanding of our Lord’s creation.  Yet too often we would rather argue ad nauseum over who has told more people about Jesus, rather than discussing in thoughtful ways how the world to which we have been sent to preach is being changed before our very eyes.

Consider these words from a Jewish physician as recorded in Joel Garreau’s book, Radical Evolution:

You religious people, instead of sitting on your duffs and watching us and then critiquing, you should be the ones figuring out where the dignity comes from for all this.  Why is it that when medicine changed and we started to have operations, that the religious people weren’t there with new rituals to try to lend some sense of comfort, dignity, meaning and community connection when somebody has an operation?  Why is it still only the same old birth, marriage and death?  Why are you guys sitting on the sidelines? (p.263)

And how, exactly, are scientific research and technological developments changing our world, and challenging our understanding of what it means to be human?  Consider this:

  • Oscar Pistorius, a double –amputee, was banned from the 2008 Summer Olympics for having an “unfair advantage” over those with natural legs.  He was later allowed to compete in this year’s Olympics in London.
  • Wal-Mart is currently pioneering the idea of placing an almost-microscopic chip on every object it sells.  Special transceivers can now identify where those products are located.  Imagine every piece of clothing you wear, every article you own, containing a microscopic chip that identifies its manufacturer, store of purchase, and cost to any nearby detector.
  • In 2001 it cost over 100 million dollars to sequence someone’s genome, identifying what genes they possess.  By 2011, the cost had been reduced to less than 10 thousand dollars.  If you choose to have your DNA sequenced, you may be able to head off dangerous diseases down the road.  On the other hand, you may lose your health insurance if your provider finds you have a genetic disorder, even if you have no symptoms of a disease.
  • It is estimated that by 2030 a $1000 computer will have the hardware capacity of 1,000 humans brains.

But what do any of these changes have to do with the timeless message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Amputee or not, you still need the forgiveness of sins.  Whether you have health insurance or not, you still need to be born anew in baptism.  Where does the Church come in?

Consider this.  There is a group of people in the world dedicated to advancing “strategies for engineering negligible senescence,” or SENS.  In English, that means they are working on technologies that will increase human life spans by decades, if not centuries.  The National Institute of Health believes that “the first person who will gracefully make it to the age of 150 is already alive today.” (Radical Evolution, p.244)  Imagine then a world in which technological intervention can extend your life almost indefinitely.  How might a late 21st century congregation reflect that kind of a reality?  Could it happen, theologically?  And if so, how would be address congregants of people for whom death is rare?  How much more difficult will it be to explain “giving up your life for the sake of your friends” to a group for whom death is a quaint artifact of the distant past?  Noted historian Frances Fukuyama contemplated such a world and said,

“[In such a world, could] people conceive of dying for a cause higher than themselves and their own little petty lives?  I mean, can they think of dying for God or for their country or for their community or anything beyond themselves?  I think that the very aspiration is wrong – this aspiration to live forever – because your own petty life trumps all other values, and I think that any traditional notion of transcendence began with the notion that the continuation of your personal human life is not the highest of all goods.  No animal is capable of formulating an abstract cause to die for.”  (Radical Evolution, p.163)

The time for us to apply our robust Christian theology to these issues is now.  The time to apply our Scriptural doctrines to scientific and technological advances is now.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, but our fallen world is not.  As research challenges many of the things we thought to be true about being human, it is time for the Church to speak. That’s what “Steadfast in Science” will be about.

Have a topic you want us to discuss? Use our Ask a Pastor button on the sidebar.


Why We Must be Steadfast In Science, Too — 46 Comments

  1. “The time for us to apply our robust Christian theology to these issues is now.”

    Prior to the 20th century, the average life expectancy was approximately 30-40 years over the last three millennia, mostly because of high infant/childhood mortality. In the 20th century life expectancy has doubled, even more so in technologically advanced (high GNP) countries. Such longer average expected lifespans have affected the nature and size of families, where people live, years spent on education, travel, pensions (and SS), insurance, risk reduction, etc.

    Of interest to discuss is how Christian theology dealt with these 20th century effects of doubling the average life expectancy. Such discussions might be helpful in how Christian theology might deal with (a wildly speculative claim of) lifespan doubling during the 21st century. It should be noted that while life expectancy doubled during the 20th century, the maximum lifespan stayed pretty much the same; it’s just that more people lived to an older age.

    The speculative “age of 150” quoted from p. 244 in Radical Evolution comes from Aubrey David Nicolas Jasper de Grey, with a BA in computer science and now Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation. The full quote is:

    “de Grey thinks–as do some researchers at the National Institute on Aging–that the first person who will gracefully make it to the age of 150 is already alive today. He thinks scientists soon will triple the remaining life span of late-middle-age mice. The day this announcement is made, he believes, the news will hit people like a brick as they realize that their cells could be next. As the prospect looms of exceedingly long life–on the order of 5,000 years–he speculates that people will start abandoning risky jobs, such as being police officers, or soldiers. He thinks people will start putting more of a premium on health than wealth. Twirling the ends of his mustache back behind his ears, he [de Grey] says slyly, “So many women, so much time.”

    Hype. According to Scientific American and Popular Science articles in the 1950s and 1960s, we should have large colonies on the moon and on Mars by now.

    BTW, Joel Garreau is not a scientist, but a journalist (of unknown educational background) and the person quoted from p. 263 in his book is not a Jewish physician, but Jaron Lanier, a Jewish philosopher, painter, musician, and computer expert (with an honorary doctorate).

  2. @Carl Vehse #2
    We could have large colonies on the moon and Mars now. We’ve decided it’s easier to send robots instead – an option that few in the past considered a realistic possibility.

    The ability to increase lifespans hinges in no small part on our ability to understand and control the telomerase decay that causes our bodies to, essentially, fall apart. It also hinges on our ability to master the manufacturing of nanomachinery capable of rebuilding decaying cells one by one.

    There’s is always the option of saying “we’ll never be able to do that.” I don’t agree that that’s a responsible option for the Church anymore. Better to have said “what if” to something that turns out to be impossible, than to say “couldn’t happen” and be caught with our kerygmatical pants down.

    Christians, of course, use health care to extend our physical lives. Anytime we use an antibiotic aren’t we “cheating the death” that is the wage due our sin? So why not avoid having to pay that wage altogether? Even if that remains an impossibility, thinking about it forces us to think about the implications of things that are possible here and now.

  3. @Pastor Charles St. Onge #3: “Anytime we use an antibiotic aren’t we “cheating the death” that is the wage due our sin?”

    Only if everytime I look both ways before crossing the street I am also “cheating the death” that is the wage due our sin.

    “So why not avoid having to pay that wage altogether?”

    Practically speaking, there needs to be more explicit knowledge available between such techniques as taking antibiotics or looking both ways before crossing the street and controlling telomerase decay in order to extend human lifespans to 5,000 years or more.

    This is not to say that a longer maximum lifespan than humans have had for centuries, and one that maintains physical and mental acuity, could not be achieved in the future. There is also a political question of who controls the control of telomerase. I can think of some people, including politicians, whose telomerase should be allowed (or encouraged) to decay as rapidly as possible. 😉

    Alternatively, instead of waiting for telomerase control infomercials, one might try extending his lifetime long enough for technology to be able to fuse his consciousness with cybernetics, which was Sheldon Cooper’s goal on the TV episode, “The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification.” But then one is just exchanging problems of biological viruses for those of computer viruses, programming bugs, and brownouts. Maybe one’s consciousness will be able to connect with a computer help desk in India and communicate with a technical consciousness call “Dave”… or HAL.

  4. I like the concept being proposed, although I don’t think the examples suggested are the best ones to start off with. There’s a lot more to aging than controlling telomeres – many body structures simply wear out over time or otherwise degenerate without any impact of telemeres- teeth, eyes, bones, cartilage, etc. I’m involved with research to help regenerate such tissues, but its got a long, long ways to go before being able to regenerate native tissue with properties comparable to the originals. Similarly, it’s not true that we could have ‘large’ colonies on Mars and the moon if we wanted to. The human body can’t sustain those long periods of microgravity and I don’t believe that the problem of how to return from Mars has been solved (not a problem that needs to be solved for robots of course). It would be insanely expensive with no good purpose in any case – I’m not clear what Lutheran theological principles would suggest that this would be a good expenditure of the precious resources entrusted to us by God. Similarly we’re nowhere close to have nanomachines to repair individual cells – simple targeted drug delivery with nanoparticles is difficult enough (another research area I’m involved with).

    More significant issues where Lutheran theology can inform scientific research and technology development include use of embryonic stem cells in medical technologies, ethics of organ donation, end of life issues and so on. The idea of how genetic information should be used is one that perhaps could be informed by Lutheran theology though I don’t know so much about the financial aspects as to the question of how a Lutheran should live life with such knowledge and possibly how that affects selection of marriage partners and decisions about procreation.

    So I agree with the need for such discussions, but I’d suggest keeping a focus on the many issues that are upon us now rather than the nearly sci-fi ones that are thought exercises more than anything.

  5. Nearly two decades ago Hollywood provided an example of a fictitious biological scenario not covered in Lutheran theology – the 1994 movie, Junior, with a pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    More recently, a news article, “British Bioethics Council Gives OK to Three-Parent Embryo,” discussed a real lifespan-altering science experiment for which Christian theology, or the LCMS FAQ site, hasn’t yet to provide any advice.

    British scientists have been told by their bioethics council to go ahead with plans to create a human embryo with the DNA contribution of three different parents. The three DNA contributions would come from:

    1. the mitachondrial DNA (mtDNA) contained in a normal unfertilized egg which has had its nucleus removed and replaced by
    2. the nucleus of an egg containing defective or mutated mitachondria, and
    3. the sperm used to fertilize the egg containing the transferred nucleus.

    If the plan works, this might require an different version of the book, Heather Has Two Mommies.

    Another related biological scenario is the selection and replacement of individual (defective or undesired) genes prior to or after fertilization in order to produce desired (or government-mandated?) characteristics in the resulting human. This is probably closer to reality than 5,000-year-old birthday cards.

    The one obvious objection to developing these experimental techniques is that such fertilized eggs would probably be destroyed at the completion of the initial test phase rather than being implanted in a viable womb, which would be the goal in future testing. But what about the objective of the biological methods themselves?

  6. Another issue in the category of theology being applied to lifespan extension:

    The LCMS has a FAQ on organ donation, and in 1981 the LCMS adopted Resolution 8-05: To Encourage Donation of Kidneys and Other Organs.

    Because there are too few available matching organs for people who need them, there is a recipient waiting list. One topic for which there might be Christian input from learned Lutheran theologians, especially ones who may be considering the need for an organ transplant themselves, is whether a Christian transplant candidate, knowing he is assured of a place in heaven, should (in light of John 15:13) consider giving up his place on the list for a person who is not a Christian and thus, after receiving the transplant, would have the additional opportunity to become a Christian.

    Or does the view in Romans 8:29-31 assure Christian transplant candidates that their accepting a transplant cannot override God’s will on whom he has chosen to be saved, just as a Christian soldier on the battlefield does not have to worry about killing an enemy who is not a Christian?

  7. I am kind of scratching my head, because my own personal experience is one of engagement. But then my background lends me towards engaging science and the ethics surrounding technology. I was working on a master’s in microbiology prior to seminary. I have been engaged with science for a very long time.

    I think the NIH is overly optimistic on the extending of life. Also, remember NIH is almost like an aggregator, you will likely find another NIH paper saying the prediction of the cited paper is laughable.

    I also want to add, I want to volunteer to be the chaplain on the either the Lunar or Martian colonization missions. =) I always wanted to go where no man has gone before.

  8. Science, or at least what gets published in science journals, seems to have one view of how religiosity (defined here as the extent of religious dedication associated with religious attendance, rather than as ‘excessive’ piety, with its negative connotations) affects (increases) life expectancy –

    In his paper, “Religious Attendance: More Cost-Effective Than Lipitor?” (Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Vol. 19:2, March-April 2006, 103-109), Daniel E. Hall, MD, MDiv, notes:

    “Weekly attendance at religious services accounts for an additional 2 to 3 life-years compared with 3 to 5 life-years for physical exercise and 2.5 to 3.5 life-years for statin-type agents. The approximate cost per life-year gained was between $2,000 and $6,000 for regular exercise, $3,000 and $10,000 for regular religious attendance, and between $4,000 and $14,000 for statin-type agents.

    “The real-world, practical significance of regular religious attendance is comparable to commonly recommended therapies, and rough estimates even suggest that religious attendance may be more cost-effective than statins. Religious attendance is not a mode of medical therapy, but these findings warrant more and better quality research designed to examine the associations between religion and health, and the potential relevance such associations might have for medical practice.”

    However it has another view of how increased life expectancy affects religiosity –

    In a paper, “The greying church: the impact of life expectancy on religiosity” (International Journal of Social Economics, 2011; 38 (5): 438), Elissaios Papyrakis, Geethanjali Selvaretnam use mathematics to conclude:

    We have shown that an increase in life expectancy leads to postponement of religious participation. A higher life expectancy heavily delays expected benefits in the afterlife and in effect discounts them in current decision-making on religiosity. In poorer countries where life expectancy remains low, a larger share of the population (comprising of both young and older members) is concerned about what happens after death.

    An important message from the analysis is that given an increase in life expectancy, religious establishments should be prepared to accept and expect a “greying church”, with a membership composition skewed towards the older generation. Particularly for religious doctrines that attach a small “penalty” to the postponement of religiosity, individuals are more likely to decide to postpone.

    These studies are probably as useful as the ($2.4 million) scientific study trying to measure the power of prayer.

  9. It is so important to not commit scientic heresy as well as Scriptural heresy. God commands us to look at the Book of Nature in Romans One for many of the answers relating to science.

    The Bible does not make a case for how old the universe is (and neither do our Lutheran confessions) but that all races came from Adam as our federal head, and that God is the first cause. God created all things after its kind and does not teach evolution.

    Great sources of study would be by Ken Samples and Hugh Ross in “Reasons to Believe” and the “Framework Hypothesis” endorsed by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger of the White Horse Inn.

    I personally lean towards the “Framework” theory. And no, a person is not a heretic because they don’t believe in a “young earth, 24 hour” creation account.

    Whether the universe is 7,000 years old, or 5 trillion years old, God created it from nothing and He gets all of the Glory!

  10. Lloyd,

    I disagree with you. A person is a heretic if they reject the 24 hour creation account. A common sense reading of Scripture tells us that Lazarus was truly raised from the dead, despite what human reason says. A common sense reading of Scripture tells me that Jonah was in the belly of a great sea creature despite what reason says. A common sense reading of Scripture tells me that the earth was created in seven 24 hr days despite the protests of reason.

    If we give up on a common sense reading of Scripture we have lost any sense of truth of the Word of God. Replacing the common sense meaning of Scripture with critiques from the natural sciences, the “psychological” or “social” sciences just does not work.

  11. @Pastor Tim Rossow #11
    Pastor Rossow –

    The Hebrew word for day is “Yom” (No, I am not a expert in Hebrew), which can be 24 hours, in Gen. 2:2 it is more than 7,000 years. In Peter and the Psalms it says that with the Lord a “day is as a thousand years”, or it can mean 24 hours.

    In my opinion the Book of Gen. cannot be a chronology because you have dry land and vegetation on day 3 and you don’t have luminaries (sun and stars) until day 4. which is against the natural order of creation. Could God have made the vegetation before sunlight? Yes He could have, but He makes a case for the natural order of creation in Gen. 2:5., which seems to indicate that the creation account is not a chronology but more of a “Framework.”

    Folks like myself, Hank Hanegraaff, the hosts of the WHI, Ken Samples, Hugh Ross, Norman Geisler and many others are not heretics because we are not “young earthers.” We all believe that Lazarus was raised from the dead and that “Johah was in the belly of a great sea creature.

    Another problem with the 24 hour six day account is that you have Adam created only two days after the luminaries. This forces you into a 7,000 year old universe. Starlight and supernovas take at least 15 billion years to reach us. That being the case, in Romans 1:20 after God has commanded us to look at the Book of Nature for the answers to science (God is the author of both), if the universe is created with age on it, that means that God is tricking us when starlight takes 15 billion years to reach us. In other words, what we are seeing is not reality because God is fooling us. God is not the author of confusion.

    Whether God created the universe in 6-24 hour days or Gen. 1:1 is 5 trillion years old, we can’t be certain. (Everything has a cause. God is the first cause. God is uncaused. God is the uncaused first cause.) This is not a test for christian orthodoxy. It is not an issue to divide over. Let us not confuse the creation account with the Gospel.

    Peace and blessings,

  12. @Carl Vehse #13 Carl –

    Yes, I was a 24 hour, six day creationist. In doing apologetics, I owed it to God to at least do a lengthy study on this issue (way too much time!).

    If I misrepresent God on this issue just to uphold a pet doctrine that I held, I would be no better than the evolutionist in telling a lie. So, I researched it out.

    There was one fellow manager where I worked that was an atheist. He asked questions about the age of the universe. I told him that the universe was only 7,000 years old based on recorded history. I was totally dogmatic about it. He laughed at me (remember we are in the age of scientific enlightment), and I felt that since the Bible nor our confessions told us about the age of the universe I was going to study the issue so I that wouldn’t have to run for cover every time a rocket was launched.

    A person can be old earth or young earth (again, the Bible doesn’t tell us), but for the sake of God we can’t be dogmatic, but we can be Scriptural and present intelligent arguments to unbelievers.

    By the way, the “Framework” theory doesn’t put an age on anything. It lets the scientists do science and the theologians do the Bible.

    If science can accurately determine that the universe is 80 zillion years old, so be it. God gets the Glory. Christ took on a human body, died on the Cross to save us in His great creation. That is very important as well!

    We can have a pet doctrine. So be it. But when God tells us in Romans 1:20 to look at the Book of nature, we need to look at it for the answers to the question. We should not fear science, just bad science. We owe that much to God!

  13. Lloyd,

    Listen to yourself! You are trying to convince yourself with human reason.

    Hugh Ross, et. al. are hardly people I would look to as examples of true believers.


  14. @Lloyd I. Cadle #12
    You said: “The Hebrew word for day is “Yom” (No, I am not a expert in Hebrew), which can be 24 hours, in Gen. 2:2 it is more than 7,000 years. In Peter and the Psalms it says that with the Lord a “day is as a thousand years”, or it can mean 24 hours.”

    Context Lloyd – the Peter reference is in context of the end of the world, that we want it to be now, but the Lord is holding off for His timing.

    The fact is this: The Hebrew has this combination 1)definite article “the” 2)numeric qualifier “first” 3)description of its makeup “evening and morning” AND 4) the word YOM. These things all together form the best grammatical argument for six literal days

    Another fact is this: Moses said six days (Exodus 20:11). The Holy Spirit would not leave it to vague interpretations such as yours, instead He inspired another place in Scripture to confirm what Genesis 1 says, no doubt seeing what scoffers would come in these days. Scripture interprets Scripture.

    You say it best when you say “in my opinion”. You have a fools opinion, but you are entitled to it – however know this – your opinion runs contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture. Repent, submit to the Word once again and let God be God.

  15. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #16 Pastor Scheer –

    I agree that you have to look at the context of any passage in Scripture. I was making the point that the Hebrew word “Yom” is used for a wide range of hours or days in the Scriptures, even in the creation account itself.

    So you are saying that that the creation account is a chronolgy? What about Gen. 2:5 which makes a case for the natural order of creation? That being the case, the Gen. account cannot be a chronolgy. My view is not the “day age” theory of Hugh Ross and many others(which by the way is much better than a 7,000 year old earth), but I lean towards a “Framework Hypothesis” as outlined by Meredeth Kline. After much study, I have this interpretation of the Gen. account memorized, so I will let you take the time to research it for yourself.

    Again, the creation account is not intended to give us the age of the universe, or how God created it, but, that He did create it and that we came from the historical Adam. God created everything after its kind (not evolution). God is the first cause. When? We don’t know, because the Bible nor our Lutherans confessions tell us when.

    In light of Gen. 2:5, where God establishes His decree for the natural order of creation, the Genesis account appears to be a Framework, not a chronolgy.

    You are forced into defending a 7,000 year old earth with the luminaries created within two days of Adam (good luck with that one). At least the “Reasons to Believe” folks (Day Age) which tend to more of a chronolgy have many years separating the days.

    Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute has folks on his board that are “young earth”, Framework (which he is) and “Day Age.” It is not an issue to divide over. It is a secondary issue. None of these folks believe in evolution, and all of them believe in “Sola Scriptura” as the final court of arbitration.

    Your view on this is no more Scriptural than mine. I will not repent over something that is a secondary issue, not addressed in the Bible (how old the universe is) in order to defend a pet doctrine that may or may not be correct.

  16. @Lloyd I. Cadle #17
    I would say that when God says “first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh” He is making a chronological case for creation.

    You seem to be hinging a lot of things on one verse (2:5). Doesn’t that cause a red-flag for you? That verse can be easily tied by context to verse 8, the creation of the Garden of Eden and also verse 4 which is one of those generations “divides” which happen in the Pentateuch.

    You say that the creation account is not meant to tell us how God created it? He spoke it (And God said…). God’s Word has a power to it (efficacy). It is a long lost and not often taught aspect of the Word of God, that undergirds all understanding of the Sacraments (founded upon the all-powerful Word of God).

    I have a question, was Adam created mature or as a baby? Do you think the same principle may apply to the two luminaries? God created a mature creation (again, Gods Word is powerful). Do you realize by your question/comment on luminaries you are letting 21st century assumptions about the constancy of the speed of light dictate the meaning of the Word of God? This is a pattern for you, letting reason use the Bible as it wishes. In the end you let your mind be god, a poor one at that.

    Your view is Scriptural, I will give it that – but not in the way that you say, instead in the way that Peter describes as a dog returning to his own vomit (see 2 Peter). Your view is that of a man who has departed from the sound pattern of words and now rests in the flawed and failed reasoning of man.

  17. @Lloyd I. Cadle #17

    Couldn’t have been created in less than six 24 hour days? The Bible states repeatedly that Jesus was dead for three days, but it wasn’t a full 72 hours. Creation could have been the same way. God may have finished up before breakfast on Friday and taken the rest of the day off.

    How long were Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall? 10 minutes? 500 thousand years? When were Satan and his angels cast from heaven and where did they go? How did Satan get in the garden and where did he come from? How could an angel guard the entrance to the garden after Adam and Eve were booted? What is the point of putting luminaries in the sky if it is going to take a billion years before people will be able to see them? If they can’t be seen then they aren’t really luminaries are they?

    How do you have a 24 hour day before the sun was created? How do you start a nuclear reaction like the sun and have the heat rates in the solar system stabilized to the point that life can exist and transfer seamlessly without everything freezing to death or roasting? Where did the energy come from to initiate all this movement we see daily in the sky? How does space and matter spontaneously exist where previously it was not? The rational problems with the creation account only start with a 7,000 year old earth and the planets being created within a matter of hours of Adam. Stretching the process out doesn’t make it any more reasonable. Something doesn’t come from nothing – quickly or slowly.

    How can the death of a Jewish peasant nearly 2000 years ago have anything at all to do with me or where I spend eternity? How can God choose me before he foundations of the world yet I still pass from death unto life in the temporal realm? How can omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God fully dwell bodily in a man? How can Christ be present in little bits of yucky bread and wine? The rational questions of Christianity don’t end with Geneis either.

    It’s a package deal. It’s true or it isn’t. Trying to impose reason and calculate a 7,000 year old earth is dangerous. It could be 7,000 years old but it could be older. Insisting that the earth is billions of years old and that sun existed before plants is more dangerous – even though this may make more logical sense – because you are twisting scripture and holding outside reason above God’s Word.

    Hanegraaff is not the best resource on this. He holds extra-biblical references above and/or beside scripture in his escatology too. Look at his explanation of the number 666 and ask yourself if this is really scripture interpretting scripture. Additionally, what does Hanegraaff consider to be within the “pale of orthodoxy?” He has said before that the “pale of orthodoxy” includes the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther pointed out how the Roman Catholic Church officially pronounced the true Gospel as anathema. Who is right? Hanegraaff or Luther?

    Francis Pieper held a geocentric view of the earth largely because of Joshua’s long day and he was quite obviously wrong. That is an example of a good teacher imposing logical conclusions on the scripture. A geocentric view of the universe could be one of the possible explanations of Joshua’s long day – but not the only one. Joshua really had a long day though – you can have a long day without requiring the sun to orbit the earth. I don’t think you can have a correct “framework” of creation if the events all happened in drastically different order seperated by billlions of years. A house is no bigger than the framework. I can’t suddenly discover a mountain inside it. What good is the framework if the actual construction doesn’t build on it?

    By logic and reason, one can and should deduce that an unmoved-mover, a self-sustaining life gave life to all lesser forms of life that we see and are not self-sustaining. People have done this for centuries. Why is it logical to impose laws of physics and natural revelation on the one we both acknowledge has the power and authority to establish those laws in the first place? He is Lord of light and space too. It exists where He says it does. He wanted luminaries in the sky that people could see and there they were. How long is a day when God hadn’t made the sun yet? Exactly as long as He intends.

  18. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #18 Pastor Scheer –

    I am not of the camp that God created the universe fully matured because He commands us to look at His creation in Romans 1:20 for such answers, and in doing so I don’t see a 7,000 year old universe. Please see my above referenced notes about starlight reaching us over a 15 billion period.

    Again, if God requests us to look at the Book of Nature for such answers, and we see a supernova (an exploding star) are we to deny what we have seen because our eyes are not seeing reality? Does God trick us? God commands us to look at His creation and learn from it (we live in an era of scientific enlightment) which God has blessed us with to learn about Him and His creation.

    This is one area that the brilliant Lutheran theologians have embarrassingly neglected to research in light of the Word of God and the Book of Nature.

    On this topic, we are no better than the folks in the likes of a Calvary Chapel. To be dogmatic in areas not addressed by the Scriptures, and to defend a pet doctrine even if it means keeping folks from hearing what we have to say about the Gospel is most unfortunate.

    You take a swipe at me for only doing what God has commanded us to do–learn about Him in His Word and in His creation. In the eyes of God, they go hand in hand.

  19. Joe –

    The universe may only be 7,000 years old or it may be 5 trillion years old. Only God knows the answer (and the Bible does not tell us). In your 6 days of creation account you are locked into a 7,000 year old view. If that is true, you can make a case for your viewpoint.

    If God created the universe 5 trillion years ago and science accurately proves it will you change your viewpoint? You can’t hold to a 5 trillion year universe and a 24 hour, 6 days of creation account because man would have to be 5 trillion years old.

    In the Framework Hypothesis, the universe could be 7,000 years old or 5 trillion years old. Why? It allows the scientists to do science and the theologians to do the Bible–which is what God wants us to do.

    Very few folks are experts in both areas.

  20. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #18: “… 21st century assumptions about the constancy of the speed of light…”

    More like the start of the 20th century, as it was one of the postulates in Albert Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, one of three Nobel Prize-worthy papers he published in 1905, of which only one (on the photoelectric effect) received the Nobel Prize.

    Both before and after Einstein’s SR theory, scientists have tested and looked for variations in the speed of light (in vacuum) and have found none.

    So the constancy of light speed is more than an “assumption.” While it may never be proved absolutely, any extraordinary claims that the speed of light varies, or has varied in the past, will need to be supported by extraordinary proof.

    Furthermore, any changes in the speed of light would affect the fundamental forces of nature, radioactive decay, fusion resulting in sunlight, stability of nuclear particles, atoms, and the stability of complex chemical molecules (like, well, us).

    Perhaps, the speed of light in vacuum is different in one of the many quantum worlds conjectured to exist, but to which we do not have access to make experimental measurements.

    As I’ve noted in the past, during the 17th century most scientists thought light traveled instantaneously. In 1676, Danish Lutheran astronomer, Ole Christiansen Roemer, published measurements that showed light had a finite speed. The discover was so revolutionary most scientists rejected it until confirmed some twenty years after Roemer’s death.

  21. Lloyd,

    Again, listen to yourself. You say “it appears to be…” That is not the way of speaking of a positive, common sense Bible beleiver but of a scientist or philosopher.

    You use all of these scientific theories for what? To satisfy your reason. There is not need to satisfy your reason. Just let the words say what they say. The Bible is not vague and open-ended but simple and straight-forward. It does not take a science degree to understand it. Scripture interprets Scripture, not science.

    I am a learned man that has read at least as much and probably more than you. I have four degrees including a Doctorate in Ministry and a Masters in Philsophy from the Jesuits at St. Louis University (medieval metaphysics). I have read and parsed the hardest texts known to man including Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. All of this learning and yet I am happy to let the plain words of Scripture speak for themselves. I respect learning but I also fear it because I have seen it destroy faith.

    On another front I know Hank Hanegraff and I know Walter Martin. Hank Hanegraff is no Walter Martin. Walter Martin was a classic, common sense, Bible beleiving theologian. Hanegraff, sadly, is the relativistic, post-modern version of the classic, truth accepting Walter Martin. Your listening to the wrong folks.

  22. I had always thought Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics by DeGroot and Mazur was the hardest textbook known to man. My blood pressure has jumped just thinking about the derivation of the Onsager reciprocal relationships. Still I almost feel like going through it again just for old time’s sake. I guess the classics will do that to you.

  23. @Pastor Tim Rossow #22 Pastor Rossow –

    I disagree with Hanegraaff on many theological doctrines. I just cited him as one of many highly respected christian leaders that have converted to an old earth viewpoint. Some of those that I cited are regular guests on the fine Issues, ETC. program.

    I owed it to God to take a long, hard view of the creation account in light of the Scriptures. If we do the basic hermaneutic principles of testing Scripture with Scripture, and the obscure passages in light of the clear ones, it is even more difficult to come to a young earth conclusion than an older earth viewpoint, especially if the Bible doesn’t teach it.

    This is clearly an adiaphora, a secondary issue, an issue not to divide over. A person can hold either a 6-24 hour, Framework, or a Day age view and still hold to “sola scriptura” and respect each other’s points of view on this issue. The fact is, there are great, great scholars within each camp.

    I was a young earther, and took a long, long time of study on this issue. I hope that others will do the same. They owe it to God to not misrepresent Him just to protect their own pet doctrines. There are many unbelievers lives at stake here.

  24. Spell check typo – in my post’s it should read chronology not chronolgy. Pls forgive me!

  25. In being steadfast in science, there are two other issues for discussion by Lutheran theologians. One is the appearance of age in which a variety of terrestrial and extraterrestrial objects appear to have ages of tens of thousands to billions of years based on a variety of scientific techniques.

    The second issue is geocentrism, which was held by many of the early Lutheran and also prominent Missouri Synod Lutherans well into the 20th century. Even in the 21st century there are Lutherans in various synods who still believe in geocentrism and reject the explanation that the earth and other planets rotate on their axis and orbit the sun.

  26. Folks –

    We can still be 100% confessional and biblical and develop our theology–and no, I am not talking about contemporary music in the church.

    Luther, if alive today would have advanced our theology while still adhering 100% to the BOC.

    As Lutherans, we believe in the Amillennialism viewpoint. Why aren’t our theologians writing books and developing that theology for Lutherans?

    Yes, we live and die with our great doctrines such as justification–and rightly so. Yes, we live and die with Law and Gospel preaching and the proper administration of the Sacraments, and rightly so.

    Luther would still be teaching those great truths, but he probably would have developed a type of a covenant theology to go along with Law and Gospel, to fit in and enhance and build on the great work of the Book of Concord.

    This young earth stuff is a good case in point. We are spending all of our time fighting heresy such as women deacons preaching and administering the sacraments if the pastor is gone. It is good to do so (fight heresy), but let our theologians wake up and get to work on things theological. That is what Luther would have done!

    Thats my two cents worth.

  27. @Lloyd I. Cadle #28

    Theology isn’t developed. Theology was given by God in the revelation of His Word, and only through it can any true theology be known. Human ideas and concepts are developed. Man’s perception of reality grows and is altered or revised depending on what a person concludes. Theology was once and for all delivered to the saints.

    You are correct that this issue is directly related to hermanuetics. If the creation account is a framework – where the order, duration and any or all other characteristics of the biblical account in no way coorelate to the actual events of history – what other biblical accounts are also a “framework?” Are the gospel accounts a “framework?” Are the epistles?

    How do you know you aren’t misapplying Romans 1:20? If Romans is a “framework,” then you could be doing the same thing as the young earthers. Why is your conclusion any better than theirs? At least with them – I am sure that justification by grace through faith isn’t a “framework” which could really mean something else entirely.

  28. Joe –

    God created doctrine (In His Word), man develops theology from it. Look at how the Reformed have developed covenant theology, a great work in understanding the Scriptures.

    Regarding your other question on what else can be a framework? Basic hermanuetics: You read historical narrative as history. Psalms, Proverbs and Songs of Solomon are poetic books, and books like Revelation and Daniel use apocalyptic literature and judgment language. A person should have a solid understanding of the old testament and books like Ezekiel in order to interpret Rev. correctly.

    How am I misapplying Romans 1:20? God says that the answers to our scientific questions are found in looking at His creation. You can be young earth or old earth. Just don’t misrepresent God in your position. In doing so, (in defending a pet doctrine) at the expense of truth, you will be no better than the evolutionist in telling a lie.

    helen – Luminaries are not created until day 4. Could God have created vegetation before sunlight? Yes, He could have created water and land above us and the sky below us if He chose to. But, He makes a case for the natural order of creation in Gen 2:5. Framework seeks to answer those questions. Please study the other viewpoints in this area in light of the Scriptures. I took a long, long time in doing so. Day Age, Framework and 24 hour, 6 day creation folks are all “sola Scriptura” folks. This is not an issue to divide over. It is not the Gospel!

    Modern day Lutherans are resting on the laurels of Luther. We can still be confessional and biblical and develop a type of a convenant theology in order to enhance our understanding of Law and Gospel preaching.

    Our understanding of the creation account is an area that Lutheran theologians need to do more research in. We sould like Calvary Chapel for a lack of study in this area.

  29. I do need to add to a comment on Romans 1:20. What Romans 1:20 gives, Romans 1:21 takes away: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” To what extent Romans 1:20-21 has to do with knowledge of the world, and to what extent it deals simply with knowledge of the existence of God (but not God in sich), is another question to struggle with.

  30. @Charles St-Onge #32
    Romans 1:21 in no way takes away from my argument for Romans 1:20. I never heard of anyone else coming to that conclusion either.

    Romans 1:21 is full on, 100% law (general revelation).

  31. @Lloyd I. Cadle #33

    You may find this summary of thoughts helpful.

    In terms of others who have come to this same conclusion, one could include Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, and most recently Richard Bell in his seminal work “No One Seeks for God.” Here is a short excerpt from the work referenced above:

    Paul, however, focuses more on the lack of knowledge. He talks about what people should have known and acted upon. Eugene Rogers summarizes the view of Thomas Aquinas by saying that the cognition in Romans 1 “exists in order to show what is being denied. It does not show what people possess, but what they lack. Their cognition amounts, in Preller’s words, to ‘a felt ignorance,’ and it is in that sense alone a cognition rather than a failure of cognition. A “felt ignorance” is an awareness that never attains to the level of knowledge as understanding. People are aware they do not know, but they have no understanding of what exactly it is they do not know. It is an awareness of “a felt ignorance.” Barth agrees with Aquinas that what Paul is talking about is not true knowledge at all. It is simply an awareness of ignorance. It is an awareness of our finitude that is ignorant of what limits us.

    In other words, Romans 1:20-21 is more about the impossibility of accurate knowledge of God than about deriving accurate historical and future conclusions from present observations.

    I wish I had more time to add to this discussion. However, I am also a pastor and have other duties to attend to. Please forgive me if I don’t drop in as frequently as you might like!

  32. @Pastor Tim Rossow #15

    Pr. Rossow, when we suppress our reason, we become no better than Baptist King-James-Only fundamentalists. Lutherans are better than that.

    Hugh Ross is most certainly a saved, Bible-believing Christian.

  33. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. That is undeniable, indisputable, fact. God has revealed this to us through carbon dating. Do we suppress this knowledge for the sake of our fallible interpretation of Genesis? It is clear that the word “yom” is not referring to a literal, 24-hour day in this case. Clearly the YEC interpretation of Scripture is wrong, as it has proven to be so by linguistic study of the text and the study of the age of the earth.

    There are some Christians who to this day use bad interpretations of Biblical verses in order to argue that the sun revolves around the earth. An example would be Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. Another example would be the King-James-Only fundamentalist Tychonian Society.

    I’m disturbed when I hear Lutherans deriding “human reason” whenever they can’t win an arguement. Reason must be subordinate to Scripture, but we must not throw away our reason! Reason is a gift from God.

    Lutherans are supposed to be thoughtful and intellectual. That is one reason that led me to become a Lutheran and abandon rootless evangelicalism.

    You may not change your views, but at least show some Christian charity on these secondary issues and recognize that Old Earth Creationism is not heresy. I am an LCMS member by the way.

  34. @Jason #37

    If God reveals to us through science (carbon dating) that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, then we do no service to the Faith if we deny it. Many atheists today are former evangelicals and fundamentalists who were falsely taught that the Christian faith hinged on a young earth. When they find out how old the earth actually is, their world collaspes in on them and they apostatize. We must be honest with the scientific evidence. And as I said, the word “yom” in Genesis 1 does not demand a literal 24-hour day view.

    While I’m an evolution-skeptic myself, there are conservative Christians who believe in evolution. A most famous example was Presbyterian scholar B.B. Warfield, who was an adamant defender of Biblical inerrancy and the fundamentals of the Christian faith. So we can’t broad brush.

  35. @Nicholas Leone #38: “The earth is 4.5 billion years old. That is undeniable, indisputable, fact. God has revealed this to us through carbon dating.”

    “If God reveals to us through science (carbon dating) that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, then we do no service to the Faith if we deny it.”

    Neither God nor science has revealed to us through carbon dating that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.

  36. I’ll correct myself, there are several ways in which God has revealed to us that the earth is 4.5 billion years old: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html

    When we say that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old, we lie, we damage the faith of our young people who will inevitably discover earth’s actual age, and we bring reproach on the name of Christ.

    The Bible does not tell us the earth’s age. God has told us through the book of nature how old the earth is.

    Let us not be like evangelicals and fundamentalists who could care less what the scientific evidence says. Lutherans should be better than that.

    Let us not fall into the trap of scientific obscurantism that possessed the Catholic Church is Galileo’s day.

  37. Nicholas,

    Scientists have proven in several ways that homosexuality is not a sin, including the science that tells us it is a genetic predisposition, therefore it is not a sin. Not!

    Lutherans take a stand on Scripture. The plain and common sense reading of Genesis is that the earth is “young” and not “old.”

  38. Pastor Rossow, thanks for your reply.

    Obviously, science cannot tell us what is and what is not a sin, and secular scientists who make pronouncements on such a subject are driven by political agenda.

    Even if homosexuality were caused by genetic predisposition, it would clearly be the result of the fallen state of man and nature. Homosexual acts would still be sinful.

    I used overly strong language in my previous comments, and I’m sorry for doing so. I respect your belief in a young earth.

  39. Nicholas,

    Thanks for your gracious reply.

    In response I would say that old earth science is also politically driven. It may not be the exact politics of this day but it is the politics of reason and freedom that moved mankind to question the common sense reading of the Bible.

  40. @Nicholas Leone #40

    I am not an expert in science, however, over the years I have come to see that science and archaeology are amenable to more than one reading or interpretation. Furthermore, the claims of science’s unique rationality are seemingly waning. Chapter 3 of Placher’s book is a great place to start. Fortunately, chapter 3 can be found at the following link:

    I would recommend it to your reading in light of many of your previous posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.