I have no problems with scientists like Venema pursuing a theory as far as one can go with it. No problems with pushing the envelope to the limits of a theory to see if it still holds up. This is good and logical. What I do have a problem with is the globalizing of a theory to explain most everything when in fact it only explains some things. What I especially object to is the notion that ‘science deals with the facts as they are’ and ‘religious opinions’ do not. The notion that science somehow is more in touch with the reality of the material world than say theology is, is not helpful, or for that matter true. So for example when Venema (p. 40) suggests that the ‘very’ few biologists who do not accept evolutionary theory, do not accept it because of prior religious commitments, rather than for ‘scientific reasons’ one is setting up categories and dichotomies in such a way that the conclusion must be ‘religious commitments are apriori and not grounded in the facts’ but wait a minute— science also has apriori commitments.’
For example, science assumes there is an objective world outside the human mind that can be known with reasonably high degrees of certainty through the five human senses. This is a faith assumption, as anyone who has studied Pascal and Descartes knows. Frankly, there are many faith assumptions behind modern science. So let’s drop the pejorative language about ‘a priori faith commitments’ as if science had none of those, and find a better way to have a conversation that does not intimate that somehow theology, once called the queen of the sciences, provides merely religious opinions about the material world. All academic disciplines are based on certain presuppositions and faith assumptions about reality. All of them. And if you are a scientist of Christian faith, you are convinced that there is such a thing as non-material reality which no material analysis could ever explain— I’m referring to God who is spirit, as Jesus says in John 4. One could also talk about angels and demons as well.
Part of the problem goes all the way back to the Enlightenment where material reality and empirical facts were lumped into one category, and theological statements and faith were lumped into another category, which led to the latter being eventually seen as a mere matter of ‘religious opinion’, not grounded in factual reality. The problem with these sorts of pigeon holes is they do a disservice to both science and religion.
Both science and Christianity have faith assumptions and presuppositions and both deal with facts, in the case of Christianity we are talking about historical facts, rather than say chemical or genetic facts. And the historian has exactly the same problem as the geneticist does when it comes to such things, because there are no time machines so that one can travel back to the real origins of things. Just as the geneticist relies on fossil records, so too do historians on other sorts of archaeological data.
So enough with the ‘Christianity needs to conform itself to modern science, or vice versa’ sort of not so subtle forms of discourse. We need to listen hard, understand, and appreciate what truths and facts and faith assumptions have been discovered whether through studying the book of nature, or studying the book of God which he revealed to his people.