Pope Embraces Big Bang

This may not be such big news, in that the Vatican gave its blessing to evolution as God’s means of creating life in the world under John Paul II. Pope Benedict has simply taken the next logical step in affirming that scientific theories pointing to the origin of the universe approximately 13.7 billion years ago are compatible with Roman Catholic teachings.

The pontiff’s declaration also included a reference to the non-scientific nature of the first three chapters of Genesis. On one hand, that could easily be greeted with a “well, duh.” It doesn’t read like anything we would normally expect from a science book. And the more one reflects on the nature of origins myths from the Middle East at the likely time of the writing of Genesis, the more one might conclude that it is written as a polemic against those myths. On the other hand, connecting a mythical interpretation of Genesis 1-3 to the real human beings who follow in the subsequent chapters is fraught with challenges of its own.

What I find ironic is that the report from the Vatican comes shortly after the release of those Top Ten stories of 2010 noted in recent posts on this blog. Among those stories was the case of Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke, who was “encouraged” to resign from his teaching position at Reformed Theological Seminary. His transgression was to advocate a reading of Genesis which would appear to be very much at home within Roman Catholicism, questioning the historicity of one named Adam.

What is also at issue here is authority, an issue I’ve been raising repeatedly. Here, it is not only the locus of authority, but the extent of that authority as well. What are the matters over which a recognized authority is competent to speak? Does orthodoxy extend over matters of doctrines of salvation only, or is it equally valid in matters such as the interpretation of science and the means through which God created the heavens and the earth? In answering this, we must also bear in mind that the traditional conservative reading of such passages as Genesis 1-3 is itself dependent upon a certain hermeneutic–a way of reading and interpreting the text. Does a recognized church authority have the right and/or the responsibility to dictate a hermeneutical approach to Scripture? If not, are there any boundaries, and who would determine them if there are?

So let’s get controversial for the new year. What do you think of either the papal position or of Waltke’s situation?

9 thoughts on “Pope Embraces Big Bang

  1. Just giving a quick response here. I don’t think i have ever had a problem with the Big Bang Theory as it may be related to Christianity. I believe the Big Bang is very likely, BUT I also believe that if that is how the universe came to be, it was by God’s hand and not just a random occurrence. I don’t understand why that is so hard to accept; why does it HAVE to be one or the other?

    I’ll have to think on this some more…

    • Many Christians have come to that conclusion. Hugh Ross and his Reasons to Believe organization have been in the forefront on this. But not many have given fully satisfying answers as to how the bang theory, evolution, and Adam relate to one another, though several attempts have been coming forth recently. And your point was just what Benedict XVI was trying to clarify: atheists who assume that the big bang disproves God’s existence are far off the mark.

  2. Three things and that is where I will try and stop, in an attempt to keep the last line from the blog post from coming true (controversial).

    1. If it is just a mythical story to teach of the beginning, and Adam is not the first man,who is? Cain, Abel, Seth? Are they real? How far do we go is Noah real or Abram?

    2. When we start conceding that what the what we believe and have taught the Bible to say, may not in fact be the case in order to satisfy the arguments of Atheists where does that stop?

    3.Where does “in Our own image” come to play in a big bang, and or evolutionary theory? These point to a Cosmic scientist rather than an all powerful, Almighty God.

    • (edited for readability) 2. When we start conceding that what we believe and have taught the Bible to say, may not in fact be the case in order to satisfy the arguments of Atheists where does that stop?

      To add to this thought(or clarify). When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are given the understanding we do not and cannot gain on our own. Why then would we question the hermenuetical discoveries of those who have the God given understanding to do so, and go back to the drawing board, when questioned by the world which is only trying to tear it all down?

      • I’m going to push you a little, just for further thinking. Does the Holy Spirit give us understanding of the natural world? Or is that sort of knowledge part of the original mandate given in Gen. 2? I don’t know of any scientific discoveries that were found by studying the Bible, though there are some historical testimonies of early modern scientists who were inspired while reading it. We should also be cautious about the motives for accepting the results of scientific study. It’s not to disprove the Bible and argue against God in every case. It’s from investigating and concluding, “this is what it looks like.” Sometimes the conclusions are wrong, sometimes they are partially right, sometimes right on the mark. And here’s another idea to chew on: why do we accept the reading of the Bible we’ve been given, when there are other possibilities? Are we acknowledging some sort of authority? Seems so to me. Who or what is it? Just to stretch your brain a little, not to say it’s all wrong.

      • I’m noy denying the possibility of other interpretations, or symbolic meanings behind the account we have. However the account we have is the earliest one(not nec., textually).

        If one belives the authority of the Bible, then there is no reason to doubt that the account given is not literal.

        It is natural for man to desire knowledge of how it all works and or happened. Science is the process in which that is done. True science is based on observation. It is impossible to observe the beginning. We do however have the biblical account which as Christians we know is authentic. Science is not true science without utlizing that. In order for these other theories to “overthrow” the original concept, the original must be proved invalid or implausible. This has not been done. It’s been suggested but not accomplished.

        J.F.K, the World Trade Center etc. have theories involving conspiracy, if you read or watch the information formed from the research behind those theories it seems plausible. What makes them merely an opposing view as opposed to correct is the entire base of information.

        Other scripture seems to back up the Genesis account. So we are left with holding the alternative theories up to the scrutiny of scripture. I mentioned one in point 3. “in Our own image”. The concept of everything evolving and coming from big bangs etc. does not in my views coincide with the intricate nature and plan of God we are told in the scriptures.

        While my personal beliefs lay in the literal six day translation, I do understand that the other theories do not nec. bring everything toppling down as far as the Christian faith is concerned. But most of them were brought about with the intention of disproving the Bible, or accusing it of error. The only alternative theory I myself hold as very plausible is that of a great spance of time between Adam and the creation of Eve. This theory does not compromise what the teaching of Scripture I mentioned earlier.

        To answer the first question you posed, I believe the ability to understand Gods the things of God, and therefore the scriptures as well. I think I explained why that is still necessary when being presented with Scientific theories involving things from the Bible(but I’ve been unclear before…a few times).

        As far as authority it is all God’s I believe if what we truly believe what we claim, then God is fully in control of what is translated and passed down, as well as those who do it. The authority to determine if the interpretations are true or not is still God’s. Like Thom mentioned in the prior topic, Bible knowledge is the key, everything must be held up to the entire teaching of scripture if it appears to counter what we know of God’s will and or attributes revealed in the Bible it is very likely wrong.

      • I seem to have an issue with second to last paragraphs. Here is the edited version again.

        To answer the first question you posed, I believe the ability to understand the things of God, and therefore the scriptures as well is th understanding we gain from the Holy Spririt. I think I explained why that is still necessary when being presented with Scientific theories involving things from the Bible(but I’ve been unclear before…a few times).

  3. I imagine when God spoke all matter into existance, when all things went to their “assigned places” in the universe,
    when all the laws of nature and physics were put into place; that there very well could have been a “big bang”.
    Although… if the universe was created in a matter of seconds and there was no one around to hear it, did it make a sound?

  4. In our attempt not to offend anyone, it becomes eminent to compromise with any ideology that is contrary to our own. The fear of being a controversial figure creates a traumatized handicap of the mind, and that prevent good arguments and real discussions of thoughts and ideas to be shared. Depending on how we approach the Big Bang theory, we can make the world and even God a fantasy of our own imagination instead of the reality they represent.
    The relation between the Big Bang theory, evolution and us to one another is still in the air. Until we realize that the future is brighter than the temporary present, we will do whatever it takes not to be victims like Stephen in the book of Acts. I am hoping that the pope’s attempt to embrace the Big Bang is not to water down a confrontation with the septic who deny the existence of God, but to open a constructive debate.

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