October 9, 2013
Recently Certified Consulting Meteorologist Anthony J. Sadar, a Contributing Writer for the Cornwall Alliance, committed an unpardonable sin for scientists: he appealed to the Bible as support for his understanding about manmade global warming. Yes, he gave some evidence from temperature measurements, too, but his primary argument was this:
… rather than having faith that God will sustain His environment so that the liberating word of Christ can go forth, [gullible] Christians have put their trust in the U.N.’s ‘arm of the flesh.’
The IPCC has been preaching for decades that human souls are guilty of raising temperatures worldwide. Yet the IPCC’s prophecy has not materialized. Why not? Because the high priests of climate science have too little faith. They trust in carbon dioxide, which comprises only 0.04% of the atmosphere, to perform miracles.
(I am posting the article because I’m having problems with the link I’ve placed at the end.)
The reason why the global temperature trend has been nearly level for more than 15 years now as paltry carbon dioxide increased is quite likely explainable by water’s role in climate control. It seems likely that God wisely assigned the role of climate regulator to water in all its phases and characteristics—water in the invisible vapor form, liquid form (oceans, rainfall, clouds), and ice form (glaciers, snow, clouds); water transport and distribution across the globe; and, the energy of conversion associated with water’s phase changes. Because of water’s immense complexity, venerated climate models do a poor job properly simulating water’s role in long-range global climate reality. Yet so many of the faithful continue to trust in the power of man-made “carbon pollution” and continue to fret about “climate justice” nonsense.
Advice to Christians: Go tell it on the mountain. Preach the Word, both in season and out of season, for: “While the earth remains, / Seedtime and harvest, / And cold and heat, / And summer and winter, / And day and night / Shall not cease.” [Genesis 8:22, NASB] Now, there’s a long-term, global climate forecast you can really trust.
Sadar will no doubt come under attack for that, not only by atheist secularists but, sadly, also by some Christians who naively think religious sources should play no role in shaping our scientific understandings.
For example, not long ago two evangelical climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman, wrote, “For us, global warming is not a matter of belief—it is about applying our understanding of science to the climate of this planet. The author of Hebrews tells us, ‘faith is … the evidence of things not seen.’ We believe in God through faith. Science, on the other hand, is the evidence of our eyes.”
Two Cornwall Alliance Senior Fellows, David Legates and Roy Spencer, also climate scientists, rebutted their scientific claims, and I provided a Biblical/theological response.
What I didn’t do, though, was to point out the philosophical naiveté of Hayhoe and Ackerman’s contrasting “belief” with “science” and their faulty use of Hebrews 11:1 to support it. That, along with explaining the real relationship between religious sources and scientific understanding, is my topic here.
What Is Faith?
The words faith and belief actually mean the same thing. They differ only in their etymologies. The English word belief originated in the Twelfth Century. As the Online Etymological Dictionary puts it, belief (originally spelled bileave) replaced the “Old English geleafa ‘belief, faith,’ from West Germanic *ga-laubon’.” Notice that: geleafa meant “belief, faith”—i.e., the two words were interchangeable—and the modern English words belief and faith remain interchangeable now. The English faith originated in the Thirteenth Century and came “from Old French feid, foi ‘faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge,’ from Latin fides ‘trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,’ from root of fidere “to trust’.”
With that background in mind, it’s clear that to write, as Hayhoe and Ackerman do, “We believe in God through faith” is to be redundant. It means the same as “We believe in God through belief,” or “We have faith in God through faith.”
What is faith/belief? The late Christian philosopher Gordon H. Clark defined it carefully as “assent to a proposition.” One who assents to the proposition “2 + 2 = 4” believes, has faith, that 2 + 2 = 4. One who assents to the proposition, “A water molecule comprises two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen” believes, has faith. One who assents to the proposition “George Washington was America’s first President” believes, has faith. One who believes the proposition “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth” (the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s definition of God) believes, has faith. And one who assents to the proposition, “Jesus Christ died for my sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead” believes, has faith, that Christ did those things for him—that is, he believes the gospel.
Notice that believing a mathematical proposition, a chemical proposition, a historical proposition, or a religious/theological proposition differs not as different mental acts but solely in the sorts of propositions believed. Consequently, belief in God and belief in global warming are the same sort of act—assent to the propositions that God exists and that the earth is getting warmer.
For Hayhoe and Ackerman, then, to say, “For us, global warming is not a matter of belief” is for them to reveal that they don’t know what belief is. They seem to think it is something inherently and exclusively religious. But that is hardly what one has in mind when he’s asked, “What time is dinner?” and replies, “I believe it’s at 6 o’clock.”
Ah, but Hayhoe and Ackerman support their belief about the nature of faith/belief by quoting the Bible—Hebrews 11:1, to be precise: “faith … is the evidence of things not seen” (ellipsis original)—as if somehow this distinguished faith from whatever we might call the mental act of assenting to the truth of “Elephants are large mammals.”
Hebrews 11:1’s traditional English translation, going back to the King James Version, as “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” is neither clear nor an accurate representation of the original Greek. Does substance there mean the same thing as substance in the statement, “Wheat is the substance of this bread”?
The New American Standard Bible and English Standard Version offer a better translation: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Assurance denotes an intense belief, and evidence is a ground for believing something. According to Hebrews 11:1, then, the particular faith in mind in this context is strong belief in things hoped for, a ground for belief in things not seen. But even that, as Clark points out, “is no more a definition than ‘A triangle is something one studies in geometry courses.’” The following verses indicate that, rather than offering a definition of faith, Hebrews 11:1 tells us something about its function or usefulness:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:1–5)
Notice: “by [faith] the people of old received their commendation.” The clincher comes in verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
What is faith? Assent to a proposition. What is its function? How is it useful? Well, among other things, it pleases God and brings us near to Him. And that is how it is “evidence of things hoped for.” Since faith in God pleases God, someone’s faith in God becomes a ground for another belief: that he will receive or experience things he hopes for—like reconciliation with God and life after death with God in heaven.
On the one hand, faith is a mental act—the act of assenting to, believing, a proposition. That is its definition. On the other hand, that faith (faith in God) is also evidence that the one who has it will receive things he hopes for. That’s one of its functions.
“We believe in God through faith,” said Hayhoe and Ackerman, redundantly. “Science, on the other hand, is the evidence of our eyes.” Try applying that antithesis between faith and sight to this:
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3–8)
To refute the notion that Jesus didn’t—and couldn’t—rise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12–13), the Apostle Paul offered multiple eyewitness testimony. “Jesus Christ … was raised on the third day.” That’s a historical statement. It’s also a religious statement. And eyewitness testimony is part of the ground for believing it as both historical and religious, as illustrated in Caravaggio’s famous painting of “doubting Thomas” putting his finger into the spear hole in Christ’s side (after which he was no longer “doubting Thomas” but “believing Thomas”). But notice, too: Paul also says Christ died and rose “in accordance with the Scriptures”—the Scriptures that the disciples were so “slow of heart to believe” until they had seen the risen Christ (Luke 24:25); the Scriptures that were, because they were the Word of God, “more sure” than seeing with their own eyes (2 Peter 1:16–21). Paul wove together empirical observation and divine propositional revelation to make his case—which brings us to our next question.
Can Religious Sources Inform Scientific Judgment? Should They?
Okay, so there’s no difference in definition between faith that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbs heat and re-radiates it, thus sending some back toward the earth’s surface and so warming it, and faith that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Each is assent to a proposition. But can religious sources like the Bible assist a scientist in understanding how the world functions?
Those familiar with the philosophy and history of science know the answer to that question right off the bat: Yes. Absolutely.
The Biblical worldview and no other could and did give birth to science. Paleoanthropologist and philosopher Loren Eiseley (1907–1977), who though religious in the tradition of American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau was certainly no orthodox Christian theist, on reflecting on the kind of soil in which science could flourish, wrote in Darwin’s Century, “In one of those strange permutations of which history yields occasional rare examples, it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself. … The experimental method succeeded beyond men’s wildest dreams, but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. And science today [is still] sustained by that assumption.”
Why? Philosopher Nancy Pearcey and biochemist Charles Thaxton, in The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, specify ten ways in which Biblical thought—and Biblical thought alone—served as the soil in which science could grow:1.“To begin with, the Bible teaches that nature is real.” Pantheism and idealism, whether Platonic, Gnostic, or neo-Platonic, see the physical world as illusion and so dampen incentive to investigate it.
2.“Science rests not only on metaphysical convictions but also on convictions about value. A society must be persuaded that nature is of great value, and hence an object worthy of study. The ancient Greeks lacked this conviction. The ancient world often equated the material world with evil and disorder; hence, it denigrated anything to do with material things.”
3.“In Biblical teaching, nature is good, but it is not a god. It is merely a creature. The Bible stands firmly against any deification of the creation.” In contrast, “Pagan religions are typically animistic or pantheistic, treating the natural world either as the abode of the divine or as an emanation of God’s own essence. … The de-deification of nature was a crucial precondition for science. As long as nature commands religious worship, dissecting her is judged impious. As long as the world is charged with divine beings and powers, the only appropriate response is to supplicate them or ward them off.”
4.“To become an object of study the world must be regarded as a place where events occur in a reliable, predictable fashion. This, too, was a legacy of Christianity. Whereas paganism taught a multitude of immanent gods, Christianity taught a single transcendent Creator, whose handiwork is a unified, coherent universe.”
5.“Belief in an orderly universe came to be summed up in the concept of natural law. The phrase ‘laws of nature’ is so familiar to the modern mind that we are generally unaware of its uniqueness. People in pagan cultures who see nature as alive and moved by mysterious forces are not likely to develop the conviction that all natural occurrences are lawful and intelligible.”
6.“One of the most distinctive aspects of modern science is its use of mathematics—the conviction not only that nature is lawful but also that those laws can be stated in precise mathematical formulas. This conviction, too, historians have traced to the Biblical teaching on creation. The Biblical God created the universe ex nihilo and hence has absolute control over it. … In all other religions, the creation of the world begins with some kind of pre-existing substance with its own inherent nature. As a result, the creator is not absolute and does not have the freedom to mold the world exactly as he wills. … Thus the application of geometry and mathematics to the analysis of physical motion rests on the Christian doctrine of creation.”
7.Not only belief in a rational, comprehensible nature, but also belief in a rational, comprehending observer of it—man—was necessary to the rise of science. “… science cannot proceed without an epistemology, or theory of knowledge, guaranteeing that the human mind is equipped to gain genuine knowledge of the world. Historically, this guarantee came from the doctrine that humanity was created in the image of God.”
8.Christian belief in human rationality and in nature’s susceptibility to rational analysis does not, however, lead, as might first be expected, to the Aristotelian idea that once one knows some things about nature he can derive the rest by infallible deduction. Nature comes with surprises, not because it is inherently irrational but because it is the work of a free and personal God who does with it as He pleases. … Experimental science had to await a shift away from Aristotelianism”—a shift that “began when some Christians became troubled by the Aristotelian concept of Forms” that “appeared to limit God’s creative activity,” a notion that eventually the Christian Church repudiated, leading to the theology of voluntarism, “which admitted no limit on God’s power” and “regarded natural law not as Forms inherent within nature but as divine commands imposed from outside nature.” God’s freedom entailed a nature that required not only deductive inference but also specific observation to be known by man.
9.“As theologian Thomas Torrance writes, ’The contingency of the creation as it derives from God is inseparably bound up with its orderliness, for it is the product not merely of his almighty will but of his eternal reason.’ The world does not have its own inherent rationality, but it is intelligible because it reflects God’s rationality.”
10.“… the transition from science to technology itself required certain presuppositions about the world. It required a set of beliefs that sanctioned active intervention in natural processes to advance human purposes.”
Not only the historical fact of its philosophical foundation in the Biblical worldview but also the actual practice of scientists demonstrates that science is far from the naïve “scientific method” that gets summed up as “hypothesis, experiment, observation.” As philosopher of science J.P. Moreland points out in Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation:
… there is no formalized method, no step-by-step method by which scientists form their ideas. Sometimes scientists discover things by accident. On other occasions they generate their ideas in more bizarre ways. It is well known, for instance, that E.A. Kekule (1829–1896) came up with the hexagon formula for the benzene ring by having a trancelike vision of a snake attempting to chase its own tail ….
More frequently, scientists generate their ideas by a creative process of educated guesswork known as adduction. …
Frequently in the history of science, [scientists] have derived their conceptual ideas from the metaphysical aspects of philosophical or theological theories. …
James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) … proposed that light be pictured as a wave wherein electric and magnetic waves oscillate back and forth as the wave travels through space. Maxwell’s field picture was derived metaphysically from his theological convictions of the Trinity and incarnation. …
It’s not people like Anthony Sadar—or Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), who cited Genesis 8:22 during a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing March 27, 2009—who are naïve about the relationship between religion and science. It is, all too often, scientists who may be very good at their practice of science but have inadequately, if at all, considered what the philosophy and history of science tell us about how science actually works.
Assent to the proposition that raising atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration from 27 to 54 thousandths of a percent will warm the earth enough to cause grave harm to humanity and the rest of life on earth is belief, faith. Assent to the proposition that a wise, faithful, powerful God so designed the earth’s climate system that it is not so fragile is also belief, faith. Neither is scientifically privileged. Neither is philosophically privileged. Each must seek its support from a variety of sources, whether divine propositional revelation (the Bible) or divine natural revelation (the creation). And no historically or philosophically informed understanding of the methods of science can exclude Biblical propositions from the evidence to be considered.
Ironically, it is those who wish to exclude Biblical propositions from the evidence who are unscientific, not only because they thus fail to comprehend both the history and the philosophy of science but also because they unscientifically exclude, a priori, some potentially relevant data. Temperature readings, chemical analyses of air, readings from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, for which Cornwall Senior Fellow Roy Spencer is U.S. team lead scientist, are all data. And so are Biblical propositions. Epistemologically consistent Christians, by taking into account Biblical propositions as well as empirical observations, are dealing not with less data but with more. There is nothing unscientific about that.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He edited J.P. Moreland’s Christianity and the Nature of Science for publisher Baker Book House.
You can read the rest of the article HERE.
I have followed Mr. Beisner’s career since he worked with the great Walter Martin. He is a brilliant man and I think he makes some very good points in this article.
Wow, some meat with potatoes. Very good article with some basic astounding truths. A bit windy for a blog mentality, but well needed. thanks for the info. 🙂
You’re welcome, Manny.
This alliance questions the validity of global warming and the spiritual, social, political, and financial ramifications of that. I haven’t seen Mr. Beisner’s series that he has produced in DVD format specifically designed for churches, but I have heard that it is very good.
As you have commented, these are basic truths. I also think this information is much needed as “the other side” seems to get much of the press.
Always glad when you stop by my friend….