St. Augustine on Science and Scripture

One of the many abuses of science is Christians trying to prove Scripture with science.  There are many well-meaning Christians who both use Scripture to validate their pet theory but also then try to use their pet theory to validate Scripture. Scripture needs no validation other than what the Lord has provided (Luke 16:29-31).  After all, there is no guarantee just because a Christian came up with the theory that it is correct.  If the theory is undermined and hope is put in it rather than in Scripture, people’s faith can be undermined.  As St. Augustine says:


Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” (1 Tim. 1:7)

-St. Augustine of Hippo (The Literal Meaning of Genesis Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39)-

Thus it is important that we get our facts straight and not over interpret Scripture or science, which St. Augustine does after this very warning in this ironically named work by reading Genesis allegorically in order to fit his philosophical predilections.  Science is trying to understand things as they are and how they work.  Scripture tells us the why.

Scripture is about Jesus (John 5:39).  That is the primary mission and use of Scripture to tell us about Him (John 20:30-31).  Historical accounts, facts, and figures are used in Scripture and hence may impinge on science, as in the case of Creation and archeology verifying the events, places, and people of the Scriptures.  However, Scripture is not a science textbook.  It tells us things happened, but not how they happened.  Likewise science has nothing to say to us about divine revelation and only talks about things as they are.  One should not hold up science as above Scripture, or use it to prop up Scripture. To say nothing of the philosophical and theological issues with trying to explain miracles with science, which will be a topic of a future post (spoiler: Job 38-41).  Rather Scripture and science work together, one showing us divine special revelation, the other showing us what God has revealed in nature.

For more discussion on this topic read the excellent LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations report “In Christ All Things Hold Together”.

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon


St. Augustine on Science and Scripture — 18 Comments

  1. Question, Dr. Edmon.

    Do science and the Bible contradict each other?

    If so, only apparently? Or truly?

  2. Yes they do. One example would be the observed age of the universe as compared to what one would expect from Scripture. Observations peg the universe at 14 Gyr (billion years), where as Scripture indicates about 6000-10,000 (give or take a bit for if you consider the genealogies to be complete or not). It is pretty clear from Scripture that a literal reading of Genesis is required. Too many theological problems occur otherwise, not to mention that the context requires a literal meaning. On the other side the dating of the age of the universe is very robust and follows multiple lines of evidence. This is a pretty big contradiction. The question then becomes can you explain it such that there isn’t one and are you pinning your hopes on that explanation or on Scripture itself. Also are you putting more trust in your reason and doing violence to Scripture when you do.

    You have to preserve Scripture as our primary foundation as it is inerrant and infallible. Reason, as powerful as it is, is subservient to the Word. That said we don’t have to check our brains at the door and certainly we need to pay attention to observational facts and try to square them as we can with Scripture. But we can’t change Scripture or abuse the plain reading of it when we do so. If we do, we might as well just jettison Scripture as we are putting our foundation on our reason.

    It’s a fine line to walk I will admit. On one side you have the ditch of theistic evolution and allegorization. On the other we have the complete jettisoning of reason to be able to know anything. There is a middle path. That path accepts Scripture as true, and confronts the observed facts by reason as they are. We then explain things in a way where we put our trust in the text of Scripture and realize that scientific understanding is provisional.

    For instance one possible resolution for the above contradiction is that God creates a universe that is old when He makes it (Omphalos hypothesis). After all God in His infinite power can certainly create a universe that looks old and is self consistent. He can create photons in transit, He can create trees that are fully grown, and animals that are fully mature. This would square the observed age of the Universe with Scripture with out doing violence to either the scientific method or to Scripture itself.

    After all the scientific method has no access to miracles other than the after effects of those miracles if there are any. Miracles abridge all natural law and reason. Thus the scientific method fails in the face of them as the basic assumptions of science are violated. Science would only have access to those after effects of the miracle that the miracle permitted. After all the power of miracles is such that they need not leave any observable lasting effect other than the historical record we have in Scripture. In some cases miracles do leave lasting effects such as the Resurrection of Christ or any of the number of people who were healed of diseases. However there is no lasting effects of say the Transfiguration or the Sun standing still for Joshua or Jonah being swallowed by the whale other than what Scripture testifies too or any historical account we would find recording them. Science doesn’t work well with one time unique events, especially when they violate its most basic rules.

    In the end we have to have humility. Our reason, while exceedingly powerful, is not the end all be all of all truth. Science is not the sole source of truth. Scripture while infallible and inerrant, only tells us what God needs us to know. It is not a scientific text book. Any number of explanations can exist for things that happen in Scripture. This is part of why one shouldn’t use Scripture as a proof text for scientific theories. It just isn’t a scientific text, though it does describe historical events. To my knowledge as matter of historical fact Scripture has never been disproven.

    So while contradictions do exist, most can be explained with out doing violence to either Scripture or science. In some cases a paradox may exist, in which case we should be comfortable as Lutherans with accepting that and admitting that our minds and reason cannot understand how it is, but Scripture says it is and that is sufficient.

    This is a part of faith. I struggle with these things as well. Current scientific theory is very appealing to my reason and has abundant evidence. In cases like that I flee back to the Resurrection of Christ and recognize that Christ is risen from the dead. St. Paul points us to that event in 1 Corinthians 15 as the lynch pin for the faith. If that event is definitively disproven then as he says, our faith is in vain. My faith is founded on the clear testimony of Scripture concerning these events. This miracle is verifiable as His tomb is empty and over 500 people saw Him alive. So even if I can’t explain or verify the some of the other miraculous events of Scripture using reason, we can for this event. Though again faith is essential as we can see that even though this event happened not every one believes. This is why the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is so instructive. Recall the ending:

    29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:29-31)

    I plan on writing an article in the future about what science can know about miracles, in which I hope to dive into this further. Also the CTCR report is fantastic on these distinctions so I would advise reading that for more.

  3. Dr. Edmon,

    Thank you for offering your expertise as a scientist to give some Lutheran perspective on the intersection of science and faith. I have a great affinity for science (especially cosmology) and am happy to see someone writing about it here, as the popularized versions of science in the media tend to be greatly biased towards secular worldviews.

    The apparent contradictions between the creation stories of the Bible and science used to be something that I greatly stressed over, and was even the biggest stumbling block for my entrance into the LCMS a couple of years ago. The more I have studied philosophy (especially Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics), I have come to some important conclusions:

    1. All truth must agree with all truth. All seemingly apparent contradictions are just that, apparent.
    2. The only being that can have complete knowledge (sufficient knowledge to remove all contradictions), is God.
    3. Science is not in contradiction with theology, then. We as finite beings, just do not have sufficient knowledge to have a complete scientific knowledge, and thus the possibility of apparent contradictions.

    There would be many long arguments that are necessary to make the case for these points, but for the sake of time, I offer the simple argument from authority that this is typically the historical “classical theology” position as well.

    As you have already alluded to, there are many theories currently out there that offer ways to harmonize the apparent old age of the universe with the seemingly young age of creation from Genesis (time dilatation, variable speed of light, radiometric dating problems, etc.). One theme that runs beneath all scientific theories is the idea that science, as an inductive methodology, can only arrive at probable conclusions and is always subject to change given new information. As such, it is never complete. This is why we have seen and will continue to see, major paradigm shifts in the scientific consensus.

    I think there are many sound philosophical arguments for the necessary existence of God (e.g. Aquinas’s five ways). Even though we don’t know exactly how the scientific account of nature fits exactly with God’s account given to us in the Bible, I believe that it is logically necessary that it does.

    I now find myself not worrying as much about the tensions between science and the Bible. First off, I think God’s Word is magisterial to our understanding. But secondly, I have come to see how much metaphysics is neglected nowadays, and how it should guide our pursuits in science because everyone carries metaphysical assumptions with them whether they recognize them or not.

    That being said, as a scientist, do you think that contradictions are truly ontologically possible, or given sufficient information (i.e. God’s eye view), do you think they would resolve?

    In Christ,

  4. I think those are all great points. As I’ve been fond to say, most scientists don’t know the philosophical under pinnings of their craft and we are never required to take a class on it (at least I never had to). Thus most people just don’t know the very astute observations you made above. It would behoove us all to be more conversant in philosophy, something I am trying to improve on myself.

    I agree with you that science is provisional, though I do have problems with the theories you list, but those are on scientific grounds and I will lay them aside for another time. I do like the idea of trying to come up with explanations for things but we have to be careful not to make them primary and not to stray into a proverbial area where there is a sign of “here be dragons” (i.e. trying to divine the mind of God). Too often this happens, especially by the person whose theory it is.

    To your actual question. If we could know the extent of all miracles and how they shape nature, then yes I would say there would be no contradiction at all. That would be God’s eye view. We have to recall that even logic and reason are the result of God’s creative work. He is not bound by them and thus can supercede them. This is a hard one, and frankly one that even the greatest philosophers fell victim to. Even philosophy has limitations. That said, God gave us a mind and reason so that we could understand Him and frankly our reason is in line with His as we are in His image. That said our reason is fallible and not complete. After all it is not as if Adam in the Garden knew all things or had a reason comparable to God’s. He was still human and even a perfect human has limitations. A perfect human though would know those limitations. Socrates was right when he said “I know that I know nothing”. We also know from Proverbs that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10). So a healthy dose of humility combined with a trust in God’s Word is truly the path of wisdom both from a divine view and a purely human view.

    So in the end from our perspective we will see paradoxes and contradictions in this life. Certainly there are things where we expect no paradox or contradiction (such as things governed normal natural order). However for a true view of the order of the universe we have to look to God to provide it for only He can provide a view that is perfect, uninterrupted, and complete.

  5. Dr. Edmon,

    Thank you for this article. you laid out some thinking is extremely helpful.

    In your opinion, to what extent can we see scientific theories and explanations as correlating to “reality?” I read some articles by physicist turned philosopher Bernard d’Espagnat. He argues that because the theories of quantum mechanics and relativity are both experimentally verifiable but mutually contradictory, that at our universes’ most elemental level reality is unknowable with science. He calls it a “Veiled Reality.” To me, this hole in science seems to leave room for God.

  6. Andrew-

    I think it is always dangerous to see some unexplained phenomena and say, therefore God did it. This is the classic God of the gaps argument that atheists love to call theists out for.

    There are many good reasons to look at nature and reason to God, though. I would point people to Edward Feser’s books to see how the Thomistic tradition has been doing just this from a Christian perspective for centuries. In particular, his new book “5 Proofs of the Existence of God” goes through 5 popular classical arguments for God, all of which are derived from studying nature, but not leading to conclusions in a God of the gaps fashion.

    As I have already stated – and I believe Dr. Edmon was stating as well – we shouldn’t place our faith in scientific explanations over God’s revelation because, by the very nature of science, it is always subject to change. God’s revelation, on the other hand, is the only thing that we can truly trust for God by his nature does not lie and knows everything. I think this is exemplified in the saying from Jesus about building your “house” (trust/faith/knowledge) on the rock of Jesus rather than the shifting sands of man’s knowledge.

    Matthew 7:24-27

    Build Your House on the Rock
    24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

    Quantum mechanics is one of the areas that shows how little we really know about reality. In fact, I was just listening to a podcast today with the Cosmologist Sean Carroll, a staunch atheist, who often speaks in such a confident manner about how science shows that nature does not require God, despite the fact his theories on quantum mechanics (the many worlds theory) is pure speculation. Like many of the outspoken atheist science popularizers, he actually seems to practice an almost atheism of the gaps, by just positing an infinite realm of parallel universes to try and explain away the need for a creator. In reality, there are many competing theories for what quantum mechanics really is (ontologically speaking), and no one really knows the answer (not to say that we won’t someday, though).

    If only people like Sean Carroll put half as much effort into learning more about Christian thought, they would likely be surprised at how philosophically rigorous Christian philosophy is. Furthermore, even if they still rejected the gospel, they would at least be able to speak in a much more philosophically consistent manner. The rejection of the classical Christian education system has lead to so much of our generation’s philosophical illiteracy, but that is another topic for another day.

    God’s blessings!

  7. Thank you for the reply Dr. Edmon.

    I am glad to hear that you too think that logical contradictions are not likely to exist. I am very much looking forward to hearing more on what you plan to write about a scientific view of miracles.

    This comment below is actually something that I am working on in my studies.

    “We have to recall that even logic and reason are the result of God’s creative work. He is not bound by them and thus can supercede them.”

    I believe it is a part of the via antiqua vs. via moderna debate of the scholastic area in which people argued over does God’s will precede His intellect or vice versa?

    I do think there is great danger in placing too much confidence in our ability to know the mind of God based solely on our ability to use reason. That being said, much of what I have read about on this topic has so far lead me to believe that logic is something that is simply a part of God’s nature, so that it doesn’t really make sense to say that he could will something illogical. If he could, then theism would fall prey to all the silly arguments about can God create a rock so heavy that even He couldn’t lift it. In the Thomistic tradition, a question like this is simply absurd, as God has logic as a part of His nature, it is not something that He creates.

    Ultimately though, as you say, our reason is fallible and not complete. Plus, as Luther pointed out many times, we have a fallen nature and this is why our reason should always be ministerial to God’s revelation. It is always best to put our trust in the one who does know all the answers, for He died and rose again from the dead in order to give us new life, us who are all otherwise dead in our sins.

  8. Well this is the classic is science prescriptive or descriptive debate. Naturally as Christians we would come down on the side of descriptive. After all its not as if there is some massive computer or gear work behind creation that has all the equations programmed in. Nature behaves as it does and we can observe that. We then come up with equations to describe what has is going on. As has been commented before, by Einstein most notably, there is no good reason why the application of mathematics in science should explain so much. Now certainly with God behind it all He certainly can design creation to work in a such a way that philosophy and mathematics actually can describe what is happening and may in fact describe what is actually happening to 100% accuracy. It may even be that God has these rules hard coded into creation in way that we could work to rederive them.

    We can also get to the question of determinism here which we also reject as Christians. After all we do have free will (with respect to non-spiritual things see Formula of Concord II). This is where the field of quantum mechanics has been some what a saving grace from strict determinism. Heisenberg Uncertainty makes it such that we cannot know everything on a fundamental level. The Copenhagan interpretation of Quantum Mechanics has been exceedingly successful and works with probability. Yet, we also know that classical mechanics still works along with relativity. Will there ever be a bridge? It’s one of the great questions in physics to try to find one that works well. Thus far no real luck.

    Does that mean that we won’t ever find a solution? Not necessarily, but I doubt we will ever fully plumb the depths of what nature has to offer. That particular claim has been made once (end of the 19th Century), but then Einstein and others working with him blew that all up. When science gets complacent is when it is ripe for brand new theory which supercede the old ones. Even if we do find something like the Theory of Everything, it will be so abstract as to not be useful in day to day. Science will still go on even though the theoretical physicists will claim to have solved everything.

    Anyways the idea of Veiled Reality is interesting. Certainly that would leave room for God, but even if there wasn’t we wouldn’t need Veiled Reality to make room for Him. He makes room for Himself. God is perfectly able to work even with in a reality where we know all the rules as He writes them and can rewrite them at will. Even better He tells us what He is doing. We don’t really have to wonder. It’s one of the oft overlooked proofs for God. We have His Word. He tells us He’s doing these things. The very existence of Christ and Scripture is evidence enough for God as even if we didn’t see any other signs in nature it just proves how masterful a craftsman He is. For an example of this if you ever come to Boston you should go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and see the glass flowers. When you see them you would swear they are natural, that no human made them. Yet, we know for a fact that men did because they told us they did and it is recorded in history. If it can be that way with even man made pieces of art, certainly our Creator is able to do even better.

    That said there are signatures of God in creation. Our innate knowledge of the divine for one, another being all the examples of fine tuning we see, another being the very rationality of the universe, another being the very existence of the universe itself rather than nothing, etc. So we do have very good ground to stand on. However the best ground to stand on is Scripture. Even if all else fails, Scripture cannot. How can it? It is the work of the Holy Spirit telling us with God the Father has done for us in His Son.

    Also as Chris rightly says, we should try to avoid God of the gaps as much as possible. It’s too easily dismissed, even if the gap is even correct. The success of science has made it so arrogant that it thinks that is can know all things, thus gaps are always dismissed as something that will eventually be solved. Until we find a gap that science fundamentally cannot solve we should stay away from it as we risk doing what Augustine warns us against above. Namely using a proof that works today but then tomorrow is disproven. I have caught myself in this as well when I present on these topics, as I will fall back on the easy win, knowing in the back of my head that it could be disproven or subverted by future research. When that happens it hurts your credibility. I would rather have people reject us for what Scripture actually says than flaws in our scientific/philosophical edifice.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t investigate that idea, just means we need to tread carefully and know our audience.

  9. @Chris #8

    Yup, we know from God’s self revelation that He is a God of order. Thus we can expect there to be logic and order in the universe. We just have to be sure to recognize that God’s logic supercedes our own. I just want to make sure that we don’t get into a situation where we make God subservient to logic. At that point God is not God anymore, but rather logic is. So that’s why I stress God’s power as much as I do. I definitely don’t want to go down the route though of God being arbitrary. That is certainly not the confession of Scripture.

  10. Thanks for the clarification.

    “I just want to make sure that we don’t get into a situation where we make God subservient to logic. At that point God is not God anymore, but rather logic is. ”

    I completely agree with this statement. By placing logic outside of God, we also run into the same problems of Platonism where logic becomes something necessary and eternal. Just as you said, then God is not God anymore, as only He exists necessarily and eternally.

    One of my favorite verses (Colossians 1:17) in the Bible makes this same point:

    The Supremacy of Christ

    …16For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

  11. @Dr. Paul Edmon #2

    “Observations peg the universe at 14 Gyr (billion years), where as Scripture indicates about 6000-10,000 (give or take a bit for if you consider the genealogies to be complete or not).”

    Observations cannot “peg” the age of the universe at all, unless they are interpreted in accordance with certain unverifiable (and often unrecognized) presuppositions–most notably, that the “laws of nature” as we observe them in operation today have remained essentially unchanged since the “Big Bang” or shortly thereafter. Although such an assumption is reasonable within a strictly scientific worldview, Christians who affirm the Scriptural accounts of the Fall and the Flood have good reason to reject it.

  12. @11

    Jon, the speed at which light travels is a constant that has not changed (they can observe a “red shift” or “blue shift” to light when it slows down or speeds up). Which is one of the ways they “peg” the age of the universe – from observed light.

    More importantly, God has already weighed in on this debate. For in the past it was a genealogy, rather than light travel, (for they did not know what light was made from) to try to give a much older age to the world.

    1 Timothy 1:4 NKJV
    [4] nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.

    We do not need to please nor argue with the atheists. The “work” is already done! Sola Scriptura — Speak and teach scripture, leave faith to God.

  13. Paul,
    Are there any other viable hypotheses other than the “Omphalos hypothesis” (never heard it called this, but this a succinct reference to the relevant paragraph)? It seems to me the Bible clearly teaches that God created a mature universe. How old did Adam appear on Day 8? Pick your favorite apparent age, but the Bible is clear that the answer isn’t that he appeared to be 2 days old. Could Adam see stars? It sure seems like you would have to answer, granted inferentially, “yes”, so God therefore created both the star and its photon field throughout the universe, and that some stars would be red giants, dwarfs, etc.

    Once you get past this point, then all inferential science is, as Jon Schmidt noted, fully going to be enslaved to the initial assumption set. If there is no God, then there had to have been something like the big bang, evolution, etc. If the Biblical God exists, then the assumption set described above would hold.

    Every time I have trouble in the science area, the Omphalos hypothesis fixes things. For example, as a nuclear engineer, the Oklo site in Africa always bothered me, but once I knock my head against a wall and realize, “Oh yeah, mature creation,” all concerns go away.

    Where I might want the discussion to proceed is that there are other forms of “science” beyond physical science that can help inform the discussion, and I’m mostly thinking of historical science (a la Paul Maier, et al.). If Christ be not raised, we are still dead in our sins, and by analogy, if Christ be not raised, the Bible is a complete lie and we are nothing more than animals with higher brain functions. If Christ is raised, then the Bible is true, and we can then trust where He (re Noah, Mt 24, Lk 17) and His apostles (Paul’s references to Adam), speak historically. Thus, the real debate seems to me to be with those who debate the accuracy of Scripture relative to Christ’s redemptive act.

  14. A couple comments before I respond to Drew.

    First to Jon’s statement about the age of the universe and Copernicanism. As it stands Copernicanism, the assumption that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe at every time and that we don’t live at a unique time and place, has never been disproven. The laws to every metric we can test are constant and unchanging (though the proponents of the Big Bang do have a few exceptions to this but they happen very early in the universe and for a very brief amount of time). I could quote several studies that have tested this and verified it. Frankly scientists are looking for cases that violate these rules as they could become famous if they can find them. None have been found thus far. Thus the assumption of the rules being constant is valid to every scientific metric. It doesn’t mean that God can’t violate the rules in ways we can’t detect, but rather to every measurement we are able to make the universe has been obeying the same rules for about 14 Gyr. That age is verified by a number of different avenues, namely the distance from one end of the universe to the other (which light must travel from for us to see it at all), the age of the oldest stars, the age of the oldest globular clusters, and time scales needed for nulceosynthesis to produce the amounts of heavy elements we see (to name a few examples). The age of the universe from an astronomical view is very robust at this point.

    As to Big Boy’s comment about the speed of light and red/blue shift, light’s speed is constant. Red shift and blue shift aren’t the slowing of light but rather the loss of energy. Light when it loses energy does not change speed, rather it changes frequency. The redshift that we see that helps set the age of the universe is that due to Hubble Expansion which is the observed fact that galaxies further from us are moving away from us faster. If you rewind the tape on that you get that the universe coalesces to a singularity at about 14 Gyr ago.

    Now with regard to Drew. I actually didn’t know the term Omphalos Hypothesis until about 10 years ago when I ran across it in Wikipedia. It basically stated everything I had already believed but now I found that it had an actual title. From my perspective the Omphalos Hypothesis is the best theory for how to match up Scriptural revelation and observational evidence. Theistic evolution may match observations but it creates far too many theological problems. The other Creation Science approaches have their own failures and issues. I’m open to other theories but the only one that has been reliably credible to me, and frankly atheists I’ve talked with on the topic is the Omphalos and the Theistic evolution. We in the LCMS reject theistic evolution, so that leaves either Omphalos or one of the Creation Science approaches, none of which I am a fan of as the science they purport to produce tends to be a bit sketchy. I think they do do valuable work in terms of pointing out problems with the current Big Bang and Evolution theories, but their solutions are far more fringe and tend to fall into the camp that Augustine criticizes above.

    For more of my thoughts on this I have two renditions of the same talk I’ve given on Creation vs. Evolution below:

    The second actually has my slide deck I put together for this.

  15. Thank you! You pointed to a phrase that kind of fits what I have tried to say about the world. “Omphalos Hypothesis” is nifty. Of course, I was coming at it from a totally different direction. I was saying that the characters in a recently published book or movie may actually be less than three years old, but they are fully formed adult characters with pasts.

  16. I am interested in the dilemma of a scientist faced with what appear to be supernatural events in religion. When you say that you, as a Lutheran, “reject theistic creation (theology?)”……..are you feeling the existence of a god but not the theistic kind of god who controls all facets of existence? And how does this impact the seemingly theist ideas of salvation and afterlife?

    As a social scientist and psychologist I can appreciate the massive forces that make theist theology very attractive to people who have not had a science education and I can see that some kind of non-theistic “god/force” would allow such folks to reconcile the modern world with a traditional theology.

    There is also the feeling that the cutting edge of Cosmology, once you get into String Theory and Sum Over Universes is coming close to a more mystical experience, at least for non cutting edge physicists?


  17. I realize that I’m joining the conversation a year late, but I really appreciate your commentary on this subject. Currently our church is putting together a Sunday School series on reconciling science and faith (lead by several scientists and physicians in our congregation), and this came up while I was researching my portion of the discussion.

  18. thank you dear God for St. Augustine did left his life of unspeakable sin and became the outspoken Christian priest/bishop who gave us so many edifying teachings!!!

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