Since the time that Darwinian evolution was first predicted to triumph over Biblical creation a cloud of uncertainty has hung over the world of faith and science. For those feeling pressure to make a thoughtful choice between one or the other, the effect was stiffling. Some chose religious or scientific agnosticism for fear of the implications of a choice. Others discovered an emergence of hostilities because of the logical implications of the opposed views. In this intellectual atmosphere many were, so to speak, "holding their breath" until an authoritative word be given. It was Pope John Paul II who presumed the authority to speak. In his Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences he declared: "New knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis" (1). Many heralded these words as a signal that the world could finally breath. This was the same Pope who belatedly acknowledged the error of the Catholic Church in the Galileo affair. At that time the secular media publicized the contradiction of such admissions with a Roman Catholic claim to papal infallibility. Now the media announced the papal recognition as though it were an authoritative resignation to the force of evolutionism. For them the way the Pope reasoned from the "facts" finally did appear infallible. Calling on the authority of a predecessor the Pope argued in tautologous terms: "We know, in fact, that truth cannot contradict truth" (2). But with all of the publicity for the sensational aspects of the papal message a question was raised that went unnoticed. In reference to origins research, when the Pope considered the relationship between scientific theories and Biblical revelation he asked; "If, at first sight, there are apparent contradictions, in what direction do we look for their solution?" This question, as it relates to the nature of Biblical revelation, will be the central focus of this essay.
The Nature of Revelation
A central premise of the Bible is that "God reveals all true knowledge" (Daniel 2:20-22,28). Conventionally, such knowledge has been divided into two categories--general revelation and special revelation. The realm of general revelation encompasses all knowledge that may be acquired by human effort. It is appropriated by the following means: scientific knowledge through observation of the natural world (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20); intrinsic (personal) knowledge through the conscience (Romans 2:14,15) and reason (Genesis 1:26,27; Isaiah 1:18; Acts 17:16-34); and historical knowledge through origins research (Psalm 46:8-10; Jeremiah 18:7,8). On the other hand, the realm of special revelation encompasses knowledge that may be received only when God provides. It is perceived in the following forms: supernatural miracles (John 10:38; 20:30,31), the personal incarnation of God in Christ (Hebrews 1:1,2; John 1:1-2,12,18), and God's historical revelation in the Word of God (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21). According to the scriptures, it is through general revelation that we may know the detailed facts of our world, and it is through special revelation that we may know the meaning of those facts. God's general revelation of the facts about life is intended to be a limited intimation--by analogy--of the truths that only God's special revelation can unify into the meaning of life.
Now, arguments for the priority of revelation over the other realms of knowledge have long been debated by philosophers. But for the person who has faith in Jesus as the personal Word of God (Revelation 19:13), the foundational role of the written Word of God (1 Peter 1:23) is forever settled. The person who does not accept such revelation also rejects the possibility of an objective source to unify knowledge. Yet for the Christian there is hope for the unification of knowledge since God is the reliable source and initiator of revelation and thus any concerns about the limitations of human acquisition are not even relevant. In point of fact, all of the confusion about the priority of the different forms of knowledge can be resolved by simply placing each in its proper category defined by the method of reception. In the following, these categories are ranked relative to the nature of its source, its capacity to unify prior knowledge, and the degree to which it gives meaning to the human condition. The categories and their priorities are given as follows:
Of course knowledge exists which God has not revealed, however the Bible describes this as "false knowledge." Many Biblical examples could be given, but the archetype defines the principle. The beginning of man's quest for autonomous knowledge occurred at the Fall when Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation to take from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Their sin of disobedience ended in separation from the one source of unifying knowledge--God. Here, man's chief problem with knowledge was his lust to acquire it when he so desired rather than receive it when God desired. The nature of this new knowledge was experiential and resulted from man's loss of direct special revelation from God. From this point on man's technical knowledge could increase, but his understanding of purpose and meaning would decrease. This degenerative process separated man from the purposeful knowledge he so desperately needed. Even so, God did not leave man without knowledge of his supernatural power and wisdom.
According to the scriptures, the natural world reveals the power, wisdom, and glory of the Creator. Yet many would object that such observations are merely subjective beliefs used to explain the beauty of a universe which has now been explained by science. However, even though it may seem simple to brush aside the "beauty principle" which has so often pointed men to God, compelling scientific evidence exists that demands a supernatural origin for the universe. It can even be argued that the first and second laws of thermodynamics, the two most highly confirmed laws of science, were strictly motivated by a Biblical world view (3). The First Law states that "nothing is now being created or destroyed." This is in perfect accord with the Biblical idea that only God's "eternal power" can originate or destroy the creation (Genesis 1:1; Rev 21:1). The Second Law states that "on average, all things decay from ordered to disordered states, from higher energy to lower energy states." This is a confirmation of God's "divine wisdom" in the initial order of the universe. Further, there is a beautiful correlation between the redemption of man and the redemption of the universe as illustrated in the following scripture:
The fact that the universe cannot be some kind of perpetual motion machine which is both organized and energized for eternity is demanded by these two most fundamental laws of science and the Bible.
The Scientific Method
As stated before, scientific knowledge is acquired through observation of the natural world and is uniquely guided by the scientific method. The scientific method is given as follows:
Now, since the scientific method deals only with naturally recurring and observable processes in the present, historical events are by definition outside of the scientific method. Therefore such views on origins as Evolutionism and Creationism are inherently outside of the scientific method since they both require the study of ancient historical events in an effort to find evidence for or against their central claims. Similarly, the scientific method has no application in the realms of reason or the conscience since they are defined by different methods of acquisition. In the end, we simply must recognize that while the scientific method is a powerful method for acquiring knowledge of the natural world, it is severely limited in scope for the central interests of man.
Dual Revelation Theology
The current revival of what has been called "dual revelation" theology (DRT) is motivated by the same impulse as when it first arose in medieval Europe. During the initial influx of the Greek philosophical works into the West some felt compelled to reconcile the new knowledge with the Bible. According to this view, all knowledge was classified as "truth" and as such it was weighted equally when judging its value to the interests of man. Therefore, there was rational truth, historical truth, and revealed truth. An example of this school of thought was the heterodox philosopher Siger of Brabant (1270 A.D.) who advocated a philosophy of double truth, i.e., that there is one truth in human reason--Aristotle--and another in religion--the Christian revelation (4). For some in the Scholastic tradition this approach was intended to reconcile what they feared was a threat to the Christian world view. Siger's philosophy can be traced even farther back to the Muslim commentator Averroes (1198 A.D.). Today, a quote from Averroes appears remarkably current:
In this context a "demonstration" was a logical
proof in which a particular conclusion was shown to follow from
particular premises. During this period in the history of Western
philosophy, Aristotelian philosophy occupied the place now held by
science. It was not until the later work of Francis Bacon that the
accepted "demonstrative method" was displaced by the new "scientific
The central components of this view are that "all truth" is equally weighted and when there is a contradiction between "new truth" and what was previously accepted as revelation, the new truth must take precedence and guide interpretation.
Contradictions of Dual Revelation Theology
We can now simply state that, by definition, all
knowledge is not truth--"information that is perfectly free of
contradiction and error." All knowledge acquired by human effort is in
some way incomplete, inaccurate, and therefore false. The only reason
for hope in the possibility of truth is if the source itself is
"perfectly free of contradiction and error." Thus it is that truth may
only issue from God. And not only is man inherently limited in
knowledge, but he is also inclined to self deception. According to the
Bible man has often "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and
worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" (Romans
1:25). Further, though we can make an analogy between general
revelation and special revelation we must never confound the two
because of the fundamental difference in the nature of the source.
Finally DRT advocates go on to compound their error by violating the
Recognition of Revelation
Now in the case of
special revelation, the Apostle Peter said that it is vital that the
Christian understand who is the source of the Scriptures:
scriptures affirm the full reliability of the source of the Word of
God--that is the Spirit of God--without concern for human limitations.
Further, the scriptures declare that the providential care of God has
protected his Word through history: "Your laws endure to this day, for
all things serve you" (Psalm 119:91). Those who hold to the reliability
of the Bible are consistent with what the scriptures themselves teach.
On the other hand, man's scientific theories are, by definition,
transitory tools and therefore can neither define nor discover eternal
truth. What all Christians must recognize is that just as God once gave
"the breath of life" to man (Genesis 2:7), so it is that he gives the
Bible, for "all Scripture is God-breathed " (2 Timothy 3:16). For the
Christian, the revealed Word of God is the one direction to look for
eternal solutions--that is, to receive the breath of Truth.
Tim Nordgren 6/13/99