(Schaeffer has been called “the last ” great modern theologian,” who “strongly argued for rationalism in apologetics.” – d.)
His response to scientific questions was summed up in one phrase: No final conflict. If Scripture is revelation from God, then it must be true. And therefore it will be consistent with the truths discovered by human reason and scientific investigation.
At various points in history, the two may be appear to be in conflict. But in that case, either our interpretation of Scripture is mistaken or our interpretation of the facts is mistaken. There can be no final conflict.
The reason this is important is that, as we noted above, many evangelicals are now following the path taken by theological liberals. The fact/value split helps us understand what’s at stake. Liberals agree with secular critics that Scripture is historically and scientifically false and full of errors. In others words, they are willing to give up the realm of facts. Then they hope to maintain Christianity as spiritually meaningful in the realm of values.
For example, in USA Today a rabbi writing about evolution writes, “Science explains how the world is. Religion explains why the world is.” Yet his own tradition of Judaism is full of claims about “how the world is,” both its creation and its history—especially the history of Israel.
Similarly, when Catholic priest Michael Heller received the 2008 Templeton Prize, he stated, “Science gives us Knowledge, and religion gives us Meaning.” But can those two things really be so neatly divided? When someone affirms that Christ rose from the dead, is that knowledge or meaning? Both, of course. If the resurrection was not an event that happened in history, then it can have no spiritual meaning.
Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning. Its core claim is that the living God has acted in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Other religions tell people what they must do to achieve salvation, or become holy, or reach Nirvana, or connect with the divine. The burden of obligation is on the individual to perform the right rituals or perfect the right ceremonies. The Christian gospel is unique because it is the narrative of what God has done in history to accomplish salvation.
But if God has not acted in history to accomplish salvation, then there is no “good news” to tell (the literal meaning of the word gospel).
As Paul told first-century audiences, if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, if the tomb was not empty, then the Christian faith is based on a lie and is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17). He even urged his listeners to confirm the claim by seeking out the five hundred eyewitnesses who had seen the risen Christ. Paul was treating the resurrection like any other event that could be tested for its veracity.
The central claim of Christianity is a stubborn historical fact, which was open to empirical investigation and knowable by ordinary means of historical verification. In the apostles’ minds, there was no fact/value divide. Historical truths and spiritual truths must cohere. Truth is a unity.
Over to comments.
Next: (Exchange #7: Why is modern Christian culture so shallow? Trendy phrases, fatuous goals, meagre results … )
(Exchange #1, “Why bother bother saving Leonardo?” is here.)
(Exchange #2, “What to do with materialism’s pile of culture?” is here.)
(Exchange #3, In your view, has deconstruction affected the sciences, and if so how?)
(Exchange # 4, You’ve long been sympathetic to the design theorists. How does this fact/value split affect the intelligent design controversy?
(Exchange #5: What’s with this current “You can have Jesus AND Darwin” bumf? Who wants Darwin anyway?)
Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.