Friend of Science, Friend of Faith, Gregg Davidson. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019.
Summary: Shows how we can trust both the witness of scripture and the findings of science as we consider God’s works.
Gregg Davidson begins this account with a story I’ve sadly observed in too many college settings. A students has been raised with a particular interpretation of the Bible’s account of beginnings and all sorts of “answers” to the challenge of evolution. Then she discovers that the real evidence for evolution far more extensive, and that the supposed “objections” to evolution were groundless in light of the actual evidence. A well meaning youth minister brings by a book defending a literal, “plain sense” reading of Genesis, but the student finds it riddled with inconsistencies, misconceptions and false assertions. Forced to choose between science and the interpretation of scripture presented her as true and authoritative, she walked away from her faith, her Bible ending up in a landfill.
Davidson is saddened by this because he is convinced that most of the science versus faith conflicts are needless battles. He proposes three important questions where science and the Bible seem in conflict:
- Does the infallibility of Scripture rest on a literal interpretation of the verses in question?
- Does the science conflict with the intended message of scripture?
- Is the science credible? (p.23).
What Davidson does is illustrate, first with the historic case of heliocentrism, and then in much more depth in the accounts of origins how Genesis may give a true, but not literalistic account of origins that would have “rung true” for it original hearers and readers who would have been baffled by the concordist efforts to reconcile a literal reading with observed evidence. He then shows that in fact science does not clash with the intended meaning of scripture that affirms a universe that emerged ex nihilo, life that arose from the earth, and humans from the dust of the ground, and the evidence of a massive flood in the known world of the Bible.
Having contended for the trustworthiness of biblical accounts, and that read in terms of their intended message, they needn’t conflict with science, Davidson, a geologist by training, turns to the question of the credibility of the science of beginnings, summarizing in wonderful detail both cosmological origins, and the geology and origins of life on earth. He shows the problems the evidence poses for flood geology. He also addresses the objection raised by many of the lack of transitional forms, demonstrating that while this was true at one point, we now have great evidence for these forms in the fossil record showing transitions from dinosaurs to birds, reptiles to mammals, mammals to marine whales, and the origins of human life.
One of the most challenging portions of this book for those who advocate “creation science” is how Davidson exposes the rhetorical moves used to advance this cause: false dichotomies, the twisting of terms, the misapplication of scientific principles like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the misleading ways of telling half a story, the use of distractions, the cherry-picking of quotations, and outright wrong and often outdated information. Some do this from sincere conviction, and I appreciate Davidson’s graciousness with those who do not agree, and his commitment to Christian charity and fellowship with those who differ. But he also challenges others who uphold a particular mode of creation at the expense of truth. The cause of truth and righteousness is never advanced by falsehoods. Their efforts are also misdirected. They become creation evangelists, rather than what Davidson would hope for, people with particular beliefs of what is true who can acknowledge those who read Genesis differently and then say, “so what do you think about Jesus?”
He discusses the intelligent design movement, and the difficulty of arguing for the activity of God in the places evidencing design not yet explicable by science. He confirmed what I’ve long felt that the things we do understand argue as much for the Creator as what we do not, and that to put our emphasis on the inexplicables is to worship a shrinking God, rather than a God, the grandeur of whose work only grows as we understand more of it.
Gregg Davidson represents a growing number of Christians in science who are convinced both of the inspiration and authority of the Bible and the credibility of the results of scientific research. As his title suggests, he is an advocate for a better conversation, a better relationship between science and faith, a friendly rather than adversarial relationship. In this book he makes a strong case from both scripture and science that this is possible, and that adversarial approaches, whether by Christians, or by atheists like Richard Dawkins, are needless, wrong headed, and harmful.
There are people on both sides of the “battle” who have built personal followings and empires that are sustained by the perpetuation of this battle. I frankly hope that Davidson’s book contributes to the opening of the eyes of many to recognize that “the emperor(s) have no clothes,” that they should no longer be heeded, and that former enemies might become friends–friends both of science and faith.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.