Monday, 31 August 2015

Scientific resources for the Christadelphian. Part 1 - The American Scientific Affiliation

Part of the reason behind this website and its companion Facebook page is the pressing need to provide a resource for those who are well aware that our community's anti-evolution stance is made in defiance both of the scientific evidence, and contemporary Biblical scholarship which demonstrates that a literal reading of the creation narratives is untenable. Based on feedback I have received, it has been of great help in assisting a number of people, and this alone more than justifies enduring the occasional criticism, both moderate and splenetic.

However, while I appreciate that an in-house distillation of such information will always be of use to some Christadelphians who are reluctant to trust non-Christadelphian sources, [1] providing a list of reputable organisations [2] will help many people find quality information on evolution and creation which cannot be found in our community's mainstream print journals.

The first resource is the website of the American Scientific Affiliation. Founded in 1941, it is a network of scientists who are Christians, and want to know both the how and the why of creation. Its approach is unapologetically in the 'two books approach', recognising that God is the author both of 
the Bible, and the natural world, and an informed, sensitive reading of both will help answer both questions:
We in the American Scientific Affiliation believe that God is both the creator of our vast universe and is the source of our ability to pursue knowledge — also, that honest and open studies of both scripture and nature are mutually beneficial in developing a full understanding of human identity and our environment.
Such an approach automatically places them miles ahead of the YEC extremist organisations such as AiG and CMI who privilege a human interpretation of the Bible above the witness of creation. [3] The two-book approach used to be a part of our community's approach to understanding reality [4] but tragically, it has been abandoned and replaced by the fideistic approach championed by YECs, a sad legacy of the fundamentalist regression of our community over the last fifty years. 

For those looking for resources, the ASA has both a well-regarded journal, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, and a number of online articles in areas such as astronomy and cosmology, the physical sciences, the Bible / science interface, and evolution / creation. Articles of particular value include:
As with all resources, critical engagement is needed, but given the paucity of scholarly acumen in our community in areas such as ANE studies, OT and NT studies, archaeology, textual criticism, and of course scientific disciplines directly relevant to evolution and creation such as genomics, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, population genetics, and palaeontology, resources such as the ASA are critical for our community if we are to make genuine progress in understanding the creation narratives in the light of science.


1. This is regrettable consequence of the tendency to conflate confessional scholarship with biblical scholarship, and bizarrely damn the latter because of 'doctrinal unsoundness', a policy which if carried out to its inevitable conclusion would result in Christadelphians rejecting all concordances, lexicons, Biblical background handbooks, and other related books because of the theological views of the writers and publishers. 

Ironically, while anti-evolutionists in our community rail against the scientific arguments made by respected scientists at places such as BioLogos because of the Nicene Christian views of those responsible for establishing and maintaining the site (how belief in the Trinity skews one's reading of the fossil record is never made explicit by evolution denialists in our community), they are more than happy to uncritically regurgitate whatever organisations such as Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, and the Institute for Creation Research say both about how to read the creation narratives, and how to ignore the scientific evidence for evolution, despite the fact that all three organisations are avowedly fundamentalist Protestant Christian in their theology. The inconsistency is puzzling.

2. This automatically excludes AiG, ICR, CMI, and the Discovery Institute whose intellectual dishonesty is a matter of public record.

3. When one locks and closes one book of divine revelation, and shackles the other in a literalist framework that ignores context and genre, nothing of value will come from such a hermeneutic strategy.

4. "The inconsistency spoken of between nature and scripture, arises not from antagonism, but from the misinterpretations of both. It is man’s interpretation of the one set against man’s interpretations of the other. It is not nature versus scripture, but false science against true theology, or false theology against scientific fact." Jardine W.D. "The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality", The Ambassador of the Coming Age, (1864) 1:93