Embracing Ambiguity (Speech)

In the 3rd century BC, a man you’ve probably never heard of had a revolutionary idea. His name was Aristarcus. As an astronomer and a mathematician, he believed that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe. He gained little attention for his idea and the geocentric theories of contemporaries like Aristotle and Ptolemy were favored. Though he was right, it took nearly 2,000 years and the observations of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, to prove his heliocentric theory. Copernicus was ridiculed for this theory. In 1539, Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, reduced Copernicus’ ideas to the ramblings of a fool seeking to make a name for himself. According to Luther, “The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down [2]. It is easy to identify who was making foolish claims.

1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 104:5, and Psalm 93:1 are examples of passages that if a person read with a geocentric pretext, it would not be hard to see why many had a problem with Aristarcus’ idea. The Bible seems to be clear, given that interpretation. However, based on the evidence that we see in the universe, we now see that these verses explain something different about the earth. Perhaps they speak about its enduring nature or the power of God to place the earth where it is. In any case, we cannot logically conclude Geocentrism. Scientific evidence will not allow such fallacious claims. In such a case as this, we must embrace an ambiguous interpretation and reject an absolutist one.

In recent times, the issue of the placement of the earth has faded into obscurity and The Big Bang theory, Abiogenesis, and Evolution are among some of the scientific theories that many Christians seem to have the most issues with.

These theories are generally undisputed in the scientific community.

There is, therefore, a false dichotomy that exists in modern society between Science and Scripture. The unspoken understanding is that, if a person accepts the findings of modern science, they must reject the Bible and things that it teaches. On the other hand, if a person believes in the Bible, they must reject all scientific findings that contradict the prevailing understanding of scripture. This poses a problem because it creates two mutually exclusive options: 1.) God does not exist, the Bible is not a reliable source of truth; modern science is therefore the only source of truth. 2.) God does exist and the Bible is the only reliable source of truth; modern science is an inaccurate source. Both of these options are wrong.

In the book of Proverbs, the Bible states that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”[7]. Pride is defined as “a feeling that you are superior or better than other people”.[8]. If we take this concept of pride, and apply it to a worldview, the result is absolutism. An Absolutist claims to have all the answers. They claim to have an infallible understanding. This is dangerous, and leads to destruction. It is pride that leads to intolerance, intolerance to absolutism, absolutism to persecution.

It is here that I begin explaining the third option.

The scientific evidences we find in the study of nature are not in conflict with the Bible, but instead in conflict with our interpretation of it. If God created the universe and divinely inspired the Bible, then both must be consistent in their message.

On the subject of the origin of humans, these two sources seem to have contrasting ideas.

The theory of Evolution states that from the beginning of life and the first organism, an accumulation of traits passed on from one generation to another is the explanation of the diversity of life on planet earth. Given enough time, it is easy to see the divergence of species from a single organism over vast amounts of time. The abundance of evolutionary evidence in the fossil record and the study of current biology support this conclusion. It is from this evolutionary chain that we find our origin. According to this theory, humans evolved in the same way that every other organism does, through gradual change. There is a plethora of evidence to support such claims.

The Bible has a differing account in the creation of humans.

The literal interpretation, which is widely held by most Christians, interprets this event as happening very concretely. God created the universe and everything in it in 7 24-hour days. God literally made humans look like him physically, they bear the “image of God”. God literally molded Adam into a man from dust and breathed literal oxygen into his lungs and he became a living person.

The literal interpretation of these passages poses some problems. We will see that a non-literal interpretation makes much more sense in light of what we see in the natural world. The first problem is with the fact that humans bear the “Image of God”. If God is immaterial, then it may be wise to redefine what “Image of God” means. It is at this point that we see that the image of God probably refers to our capacity for personal relationship with God or a kind of immaterial spirituality. The “Image of God” could also be explained as the role we are given by God.

In Genesis, the Hebrew word “yom” is translated as “day”. For the literalist interpretation, seven “days” poses a few problems. If we measure a day by the amount of time it takes for the Earth to make a complete rotation on its axis, how then could a day exist before the earth did? The answer lies in the fact that the Hebrew language is much simpler than the English language and thus has a smaller vocabulary. The word “yom” can be translated into English as a twenty-four hour period, a year, or as a general finite period of time. It is therefore possible that God created the universe in seven “general finite periods of time”[17]. When understood in light of this meaning, it does not conflict with our scientific understanding of the universe. The Bible seems to echo this understanding when 2 Peter 3:8 urges its readers to “not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”[18].

It is at this junction that an absolutist understanding of the scriptures seems foolish. To say that we know exactly how God created the universe in all its complexity is an exaggeration of the details given in the text. The scriptures do not seem to provide an exhaustive answer for the material means in which humans, organisms, and the universe were created. It is at this point that Scripture becomes silent and Science makes a powerful argument.

It is with my understanding of the natural world and understanding of scripture that I present the third option explicitly.

The Universe exists. It exists with calculable laws and principles that are finely tuned. Gravity, Matter, and Energy exist. These things are clearly seen by myself and by people the world over. God exists. He exists from the logical deduction that everything which exists is caused by a preceding cause, and that at some point there exists a beginning of that chain of events, that is; an uncaused cause. He exists in the truth that is evident in His revelation through the Bible and the supernatural revelation I personally experienced at the moment of salvation. Both contain the truths about the universe, but I do not understand everything that they encompass. I can say with absolute certainty ,that I know nothing absolutely. It is at this crucial moment, that I should realize my inability to be absolutely correct, and choose the humble path of Embracing Ambiguity.