Does Concordism Get a Bad Rap? (RJS)

RTB-BioLogosThe opening chapter of Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? focuses on the boundaries that define BioLogos and Reasons to Believe. Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos and Hugh Ross and Kenneth Samples of RTB describe the aims and unifying themes of their organizations. Robert Stewart of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary moderated the chapter. There is much to discuss here – but I would like to focus on one specific response by Hugh Ross and Kenneth Samples to a question posed by Stewart.

“How do you distinguish between “hard concordism” and RTB’s concordism?”

Ross and Samples bring up some points worth considering (pp. 22-24).

Concordism has gotten a bad rap from both theologians and scientists because it is often conflated with a fusion or near fusion model for integrating science and Scripture.

A figure is included in the text that four possible relationships between science and Scripture. (1) Separate magisteria with science and scripture unrelated to each other, occupying separate spaces; (3) complementarity where the two touch, but don’t overlap much; (2) fusion with science and Scripture occupying the same space; and (4) constructive integration with considerable overlap – but not total.

The separate magisteria model views the Bible and the world of nature or science as separate, nonoverlapping domains. The complementarity model espoused by evolutionary creationists sees only a very slight overlap. For example, most evolutionary creationists accept that the Bible explicitly teaches that the universe had a beginning, but they deny that the Bible addresses Earth’s physical history or the history of life on Earth.

The fusion model, otherwise known as hard concordism, sees a near total overlap between the Bible and science. Virtually every Bible verse is seen as possessing scientific implications, and virtually every fact of nature is viewed as having biblical implications. For example, people holding this perspective often claim that the Bible gives scientific details on dinosaurs, several hominid species, extraterrestrial life, and particle physics.

Reasons to Believe holds to a constructive integration model, otherwise known as soft or moderate concordism. We see considerable but far from total overlap between the Bible and science. For example, we believe Genesis 1-11 offers a literal, chronologically ordered account of the origin and history of the universe, Earth, Earth’s life, and humanity. We believe Job 37-39, Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8, as well as several other Bible passages, add substantial scientific details to the Genesis 1-11 accounts of natural history. However, we acknowledge that most of the Bible’s teachings are scientifically neutral or irrelevant and that most scientific findings have no bearing on the Bible or the Christian faith.

In this view, the people in Reasons to Believe do think that the Bible makes some scientific predictions – or perhaps more accurately, contains some scientific information that we can appreciate today. “Genesis 1 … correctly describes ten miracles of natural creation and places them in the correct chronological sequence. Another example is the biblical description of fundamental features of Big Bang cosmology thousands of years before its discovery by astronomers. (p. 24)”

It is suggested that this integration of science with Scripture, highlighting agreements, is a powerful evangelistic tool. The “demonstration of the Bible’s unique predictive power” can be the turning point leading people to Christ. The Bible is demonstrated as trustworthy in this manner. Certainly I have heard several recorded lectures by Ross emphasizing this point, and there is no doubt that people have been led to Christ through this ministry.

There is a key difference here in the view of Reasons to Believe and the views of most evolutionary creationists, myself included. I don’t find it particularly productive to speculate about the Big Bang and Genesis.  The Bible is demonstrably trustworthy, not through its unique predictive power, but in total through the message of the mission of God in this world. We are better off emphasizing the over arching story of Scripture rather than scientific predictions.

Robert Stewart mentions a nagging concern (p. 26) that in emphasizing the predictive power of scripture we run the risk of relying too much on a potentially flawed interpretation. If a prediction based on a faulty interpretation of Scripture is later falsified, it may well lead people to reject the Christian faith.

To what extent should we emphasize the predictive power of Scripture?

How do science and Scripture relate to each other?

Where should we find concord (agreement) between science and Scripture?

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