By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist theologian says astronomers study the universe not only through telescopes, but also a worldview lens that causes them to interpret their observations in ways contrary to biblical truth.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in a Feb. 12 podcast that new reports about the discovery of gravitational waves generated by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago aren’t intended to deceive Bible-believing Christians. Rather, he said, it’s the effect of sin on both the universe and cognitive ability.
Mohler, who has a Ph.D. in systematic and historical theology from Southern Seminary, said running through a Feb. 11 Science Magazine report celebrating the first time detection of gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years is a “naturalistic, materialistic worldview that tells us that the universe has to be relied upon to tell its own story of its own origin, of its own creation, of its own design or lack of design, and its own purpose.”
Mohler said Christians believe the universe is telling a different story: as the psalmist puts it, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Mohler said part of being created in God’s image is an innate desire to understand and know the cosmos around us. At the same time, he warned, much of what is presented as scientific proof is at odds with the Bible, including the historical account of creation recorded in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.
“Now to be candid, I don’t believe that the world is 1.3 billion years old, certainly not billions of years old,” Mohler said. “I don’t even believe that is actually millions of years old. But one of the interesting things we need to note here is that the scientists who believe that believe it because they are looking at certain patterns that, to their observation, tell them that. And what we need to note is this, if we ourselves were operating from a simply materialistic and naturalistic worldview, we would probably come to the very same conclusions.”
The Baptist Faith and Message, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official doctrinal statement, affirms that God created the universe and watches over it, but it does not specify how or when.
The SBC Peace Committee Report in 1987, however, found that most Southern Baptists “believe in direct creation of mankind and therefore they believe Adam and Eve were real persons.” The report when on to say that people in the pew expect convention entities “to build their professional staffs and faculties from those who clearly reflect such dominant convictions and beliefs held by Southern Baptists at large.”
In the past Mohler has rejected the theory of evolution, not only because of its naturalistic assumptions but also because the notion of dinosaurs dying out millions of years before humans evolved doesn’t square with the biblical understanding that sin and death entered the human race because of Adam’s sin.
This weekend moderate and liberal churches across the country will participate in Evolution Weekend, an annual event promoting a different view: properly understood, religion and science need not be adversarial.
Michael Zimmerman, founder of The Clergy Letter Project, said Feb. 11 in Huffington Post that Evolution Weekend serves as an example of reasoned civil discourse that is sorely lacking in today’s polarized political sphere.
“For 11 years now, members of The Clergy Letter Project have engaged in the difficult but immensely satisfying work of educating one another about the compatibility of religion and science,” Zimmerman wrote. “Over this time period, well over three-quarters of a million people have participated in these discussions personally.”
“Some have been brought to tears learning that, despite what they had been told, they don’t have to abandon their faith if they accept the findings of modern science,” he continued. “Some have found their faith deepened by the complexity present in the natural world. All have been enriched in a host of ways by the discourse.”
Mohler said Bible-believing Christians can share a sense of wonder at Thursday’s announcement even if they disagree with the secular interpretation of the discovery.
“We step back and look at the situation and understand that something marvelous is being observed here,” he said. “Something was heard. Those instruments detected something.”
“Christians don’t believe that what was heard is fitting a pattern that these scientists believe explains the universe, because we don’t believe the universe explains itself,” Mohler continued.
“When we look at what was announced yesterday, we come to it with the full affirmation of all that is revealed in Scripture and of everything Scripture tells us about creation. And we come to understand that a world that is corrupted and affected by sin will actually give us — even through the scientific method — false data that can lead people to false conclusions.
“And we also understand that we are fallen, fragile, fallible thinkers and so as we look at this, if we’re operating from a basically secular worldview, if we believe the universe is going to have to tell us the story all on its own, then there’s no way we’re going to come up with the right story.”