He helpfully describes natural law as, "the law of God or word of God, imperfectly and approximately described by human investigators."God is the creator and law giver—even scientific laws.Man can approximately understand, interpret, and integrate them into their worldview, but as he demonstrates later in the book, our understanding of scientific laws is growing, but never complete.He uses the example of Newtonian physics as a way that God makes science accessible, but Einstein proved that while Newton was close to the truth, he still had much to learn and understand.
Poythress shows how science has become a modern form of idolatry.He writes:
"Modern people may no longer make idols in the form of physical images, but their very idea of “scientific law” is an idolatrous twisting of their knowledge of God. They conceal from themselves the fact that this “law” is personal and that they are responsible to him. Or they substitute the word “Nature,” personifying her as they talk glowingly of the works of “Mother Nature.” But they evade what they know of the transcendence of God over nature."
Again and again, he shows that science is a moral and spiritual pursuit.Modern science has rejected the possibility of a personal God who sustains the world, and replaced it with mechanistic processes and laws.Even Christians have adopted this idolatrous belief.Christians speak of a division between "the natural" and "the spiritual."In fact, God is sovereign over all—including what we so boldly assert as "natural."
He follows Van Til in critiquing neutrality.He writes, "...secularism conceals its own religious commitments by claiming that it is independent of religious commitment. It reinforces this half-truth by tolerating in its midst a small minority of “kooks” and eccentrics, including animists. The small minority of animists are welcome to practice their animistic views in private. As individuals they are welcome also to exercise their civic freedom by refraining from practicing science. By creating space for the kooks, secularism displays its alleged tolerance and religious neutrality and thereby confirms its claims and its plausibility for the modern person."
This is great stuff, and Poythress' critique of secularism is devastating because he is faithful to the teachings of Van Til.Unfortunately it is two steps forward and one step back—he's an old earth creationist seeking to maintain "scientific credibility."
Poytrhress shows these cards early on, writing:
"In the case of apparent discrepancies between the Bible and science, we must therefore be ready to reexamine both our thinking about the Bible and our thinking about science. We must not assume too quickly that the error lies in one particular direction. In the modern world, we find people who are always ready to assume that science is right and the Bible is wrong. Or, contrariwise, others assume that the Bible is always right and modern science is always wrong. But the Bible is always right, and should be trusted on that account."
Poythress tries to have it both ways—he wants biblical innerrancy, but he also wants to retain scientific credibility.He wants to have things both ways.Unfortunately, to do so, he has to use all sorts of creative devices to fit reconcile the Bible to science.Poythress argues for the "analogical day theory."This view "says that Genesis 1 sets up an analogy between God’s work and human work. God works six days and then rests on the seventh day. Man is to imitate this pattern by his Sabbath observance (Ex.20:11). God’s works are real (historical) acts of God in time and space. But God’s work is analogous to man’s work, rather than being on the same level."This may not seem controversial at first, but consider that this opens the door to redefining "day."Poythress claims, "Genesis 1–2 does not specify a particular clock-time length for the totality of the acts of creation."So rather than affirming day to mean a twenty-four hour period, he opens it to undefinedperiods of time (old earth).
So much of the book is concerned with Genesis 1 and 2 and the various ways Christians interpret it.He defines and evaluates the different options.This is an interesting part of the book, of course, but it is unfortunate that Poythress seems to sell out so easily to evolutionists and "scientific credibility."
Early on, Poythress rejects the idea that death did not exist prior to the fall.He writes, "we do not have any firm basis for saying that animal death started only after the fall of man. Again, we must beware of presuming to dictate to God what kind of world he had to create. It had to be “very good” in his sight; but that is not the same as saying that it must match what some of us may think ideal."
Of course it is true that the Bible nowhere states clearly that there was death on the earth prior to the fall.But one must also affirm that the entire force of the Bible clearly advances the notion that death did not in fact exist prior to the fall.He does not really do much to advance his claim, rather, he seems to believe that the boldness of his claim, along with the lack of any proof text to the contrary, will win over his readers.
Naturally, he uses this same sort of logic to argue that Genesis does not necessarily indicate the the Noahic flood was global.He uses semantic arguments to argue that "Genesis 6–9 by itself does not clearly indicate exactly how extensive the flood was. It covered an extensive area—the ordinary “world” of the ordinary person in the ancient Near East. Possibly it covered the entire globe, but Genesis does not turn this possibility into a certainty. Consequently, we must go out and look at other parts of the world, alert to what further information may appear there."
Nowhere does Poythress interact with the distinction between a theological cosmology and a scientific cosmology.The Bible's theological cosmology has earth at the center of the universe—meaning that planet earth is the theological center of the Bible.Earth is the center, not because of man, but because of God's unique work on planet earth.Upon planet earth God made man in his own image.His only Son took on the flesh of man and atoned for the sins of mankind.God has promised a new heavens and new earth.Earth is the theological center of the universe.
The scientific cosmology does have the sun at the center of our solar system.In no way does this contradict the Bible.The two perspectives can live in harmony together, but man's tendency is to affirm the scientific cosmology.In fact, man's tendency in history, has been to worship the sun.
Nowhere does Poythress consider the sun, having been made on the fourth day, is an implicit rejection of sun-worship—particularly prominent in Egypt, where the Israelites left, under the leadership of Moses, who is the acknowledged writer of Genesis.The sun is not a necessary aspect of creation—the sun was created AFTER "vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit..."The sun replaced God.God was and is the true light.The consequences of this understanding are profound.
Where Poythress believes moderns anachronistically cast "clock time" back upon the Bible and 24 hour days, "clock time" is in fact an aspect of creation."Clock time" was created on day one.We've missed this because we, like the Egyptians, think too much of the sun, and not enough of the true light—God.We must have a theological cosmology, rather than scientific, at the core of our worldview.
The book, as another review wrote, is "Simultaneously great and atrocious."
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