August 29, 2016 — Ecclesiastes 1:4–7
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
I don’t think that I am alone in saying that as an American Evangelical Christian, I have a … complicated relationship with current scientific theories. Growing up, I can clearly remember being taught that the theory of evolution was in direct contrast to Scripture. I was the weird kid that would rather watch programs on National Geographic then Nickelodeon, so for me, it was troubling that so much of scientific theory was actually actively ignoring evidence to promote a secular worldview.
While I don’t think it is impossible for fallen humans to be dishonest in their fields to promote a version of the world that more aligns with their views, I began to discover that there was room for people who wanted to follow the evidences given to us by God in creation to understand the world around us a bit better.
Up until recently I felt that I had to shut off a part of myself, or at the very least self-censor content that had to do with science. Unfortunately that meant avoiding topics such as cosmology and biology since those fields were so infected with secularism that they couldn’t be trusted to provide an accurate depiction of the physical truths around us.
Eventually I began to realize that many of the hang ups that Evangelical Christians have with science actually have to do with the syncretism of naturalism and faith. Ever since the enlightenment faith has slowly but surely moved out of the realm of supernaturalism to objectivism. This means that faith no longer meant believing in something unobtainable, but rather following true on what theologians knew to be true. Ultimately, Christianity would submit to rationalism, because God is a God of order and not disorder.
What this belief fails to take account of is the reliability of our senses. This has led to us requiring that theology be ultimately understandable if given enough time and energy to seek out the conceptualization of truth.
This is where things started to get messy between pastors and paleontologists.
Since the Bible was forced to speak on topics such as the physical forming of the earth in creation, rather than the ordering of chaos, a strict textbook formula for the origins of the earth were taught as the only acceptable interpretation of Genesis one. Since lists of generations from Adam to Jesus were available, the world had to be 6,000 years old. 10,000 if you took into account some gaps here and there.
Rather than grappling with evidences that pointed in a different direction from our interpretations of Scripture, many doubled down and questioned the methodology of dating fossils, or simply deducted that God created everything with age built in.
But the fact is, there is a freedom to be found in understanding what creation’s place is in teaching us about non-physical realities. I want to make it clear that I do not think it is wrong to be a young-earth creationist, or to think evolution is an incorrect system to understand how live got from the past to the present. I do however think we ought to consider our assumptions of rationalism, naturalism, and their relationship to what is truth.
Here in Ecclesiastes we are taught to look to the cycles of nature to understand the futility of our place in the world. The teacher is seeking to evoke the near eternality of nature to put our efforts into perspective. While it may seem like a puddle has ceased to exist because of its evaporation, the reality is that it has gone to fuel a new rain that will eventually fall.
Nature is not an enemy that we must fight against to prove the validity of Scripture, rather our Bibles are full of calls for humanity to practice humility by looking to the vastness of the systems that God has put into place. When we think about the amazing universe that God has created, we ought not make it smaller to fit our understanding of God, rather we should let it obliterate our too-small Creator and lead us to wonder.