Jesus was a carpenter, but the gospels do not provide instructions for building a house. Jesus was a healer, but the gospels don't talk about surgery or medicine. Jesus spoke often about seeds and fields, but his intent was not to give advice about farming.
Most Christians understand the Bible to be authoritative in matters of doctrine and faith, but also acknowledge the value of other ways of learning. God gave us a world that operates according to rational principles, and he gave us rational brains to understand the workings of that world. God gave us a way to preserve the knowledge of previous generations, and he gave us ways to build on that knowledge.
Therefore, no one thinks it strange, for example, that Habitat for Humanity uses the same techniques for building a house that commercial builders use. Or that a surgeon who is a Christian and another surgeon who is not a Christian may have graduated from the same medical school. Humanity has built up a body of knowledge in each of these specialties, and that body of knowledge is available to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation.
The recognition of the value of secular knowledge in understanding the natural world is ingrained in western culture to the extent that most people simply accept it without thinking about it.
And yet, many Christians make an exception in one area of knowledge. Many who would never consider relying on scripture for nutritional advice are perfectly content to let the Bible be their source for biological theories. A narrow reading of Genesis leads them to reject evolution and favor creationism. And it's not just fundamentalists. Recent polls show that more Americans now believe in creationism than believe in evolution. This, despite the fact that evolution has been observed
countless times in the natural world.
Here in Kansas, the State Board of Education is planning to revise the state's science standards for high school students, to promote more criticism of evolution.
Evolution's critics claim that the theory is grounded in an atheistic worldview. They ask for equal time for other viewpoints.
The reality is that the theory of evolution, like all scientific theories, is grounded in a secular
worldview. Like all forms of secular knowledge, scientific knowledge is not dependent on a particular religious affiliation. The facts do not change whether one is a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, or an agnostic.
It's also a reality that many evolutionary biologists are committed Christians. Evolutionary theory would not be where it is today without the contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace, Asa Gray, Theodosius Dobzhansky, or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. None of these men saw a conflict between their faith and their science.
The key is confining science to its proper sphere of knowledge. Science can tell us about the workings of the natural world. Scientific knowledge is grounded in what we can observe with our five senses. It can help us develop new medicines or better farming techniques. It can tell us how to build energy-efficient houses. It can tell us about the origins of species.
Science cannot tell us about God. That's not the purpose of secular knowledge. To know God, we must move into the realm of sacred knowledge, which may build on what we know from our senses, or may be given to us through revelation. It is important to recognize that revelation is not like secular knowledge -- it does not derive from our senses. It is not scientific.
"Creation science" is a reaction to our society's ever increasing secularization, but it is the wrong answer. Instead of calling people away from a narrow secular worldview, creationism adopts the mindset and attempts to fit God into the equations. In the attempt to bring God into biology class, creationism gives us a secularized God who is in reality just another hypothesis.
God is so much greater than a hypothesis. God is so much greater than the bones uncovered by a paleontologist or the fruit flies used in speciation experiments. God is so much greater than anything we can see or touch. To think that the theory of evolution somehow diminishes God, one must already believe in a diminished God.
A researcher performing a scientific experiment must take care to control all variables to get an accurate result. That's why creationism will never be science. We cannot control God.
The answer to secularism is not to try to fit God into that box. The answer, it seems to me, is to acknowledge the value of secular learning while also acknowledging its limits. Creationism fails on both counts.