Book Review: Science & Faith, Friends or Foes: C. John Collins (Condensed Version)

Here’s a book, written by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, concerning issues of science and faith, evolution and creation. A friend of mine suggested I read it, and I eagerly read through it several times. But even before I started reading I had a few expectations. First, I was expecting a book supporting some kind of long age view of the earth, and possibly evolution. Second, I was expecting some persuasive arguments to make me rethink my beliefs. I was correct with my first expectation as Collins made an argument for an old earth and called this the “analogical days” interpretation. In this view he argues that the days in Genesis are not ordinary days… in fact the length of the days are irrelevant to the ‘real issue’ and purpose, which is God’s rest and work days. Even though I don’t agree, I’m glad Collins doesn’t support evolution. On the other hand, I didn’t find a persuasive argument to support his views or change my mind. I found his arguments poorly constructed, illogical, and easy to poke holes in. I also found that he violated some of his own rules and wasn’t very consistent. In some cases what he calls ‘facts’ are merely his opinion. He also chooses different Biblical versions based on which best supports his premise. Since my overall review is lengthy, I’ve decided to post two versions. This version will be condensed for a quick read. If you care for a more in-depth read, you can find that here.

Collins begins by describing the importance of philosophy and sound reasoning, defines his terms, and discusses misconceptions and biases in science. I find it interesting, however, that he admits he often believes second-hand data (someone reports it and I believe it).  I don’t find this to be a product of sound reasoning (don’t believe everything you hear or read), even though it’s typical of how people reason. He did provide a disclaimer by stating that we can tell if we should believe someone if they use principles of sound reasoning and a good argument, and he also makes it clear that this involves making a judgment call that others may disagree with.

Despite his careful definition, he uses the term ‘science’ synonymously with undisputed fact or truth, which is partly why he’s correct that the term is controversial. I find Collins theology to be sound and right on-the-mark, but when it comes to applying theology to science I have many disagreements.

Collins brings up those who try to harmonize the Bible, such as Augustine, and seems to be critical of it, but then he himself goes on to present a case for harmonizing the Bible with scientific research, as if the conclusions drawn from scientific research have the final authority and cannot be wrong. But I would argue that the Bible doesn’t need to be ‘harmonized’ with science because they’re naturally in harmony. What we really need is a proper understanding of scripture and science.

Another point of contention is with how much the Genesis account is supposed to be “confirmable” by secular scientific research. To me this is a loaded question which seems to suggest that Christians have to give up what we believe about the Bible and hand it over to secular scientists to figure out and tell us what ‘really’ happened. I have a profound respect and love for science, but I also know that scientists are often wrong, biased, have big egos, and many bring their secular and political beliefs into the ring. So we need to be very careful about the conclusions made by scientists when dealing with history- something that cannot be directly observed- and the supposed contradictions between the Bible and ‘science’. Collins comes across as if he’s saying that secular science must dictate what the Bible really means, and if it doesn’t confirm what the Bible says, then we need to come up with an alternative interpretation in order to salvage our faith. I have a serious issue with this line of reasoning because it’s contrary to what the Bible actually teaches.

The fact of the matter is that ‘science’ and the Bible are not in conflict. Any so called ‘conflict’ is based on an interpretation of the ‘facts’. The interpretations, in turn, are based on unprovable assumptions about the past, with no regard for scripture, the existence of God, or the possibility that the earth is young. That’s the conflict. It should be no surprise that secular science doesn’t appeal to or accept a literal six day creation- not for lack of evidence, but because they generally complete their research without any reference to God, scripture or miracles.

In fairness Collins claims that his aim is to find an interpretation for the days that account for all the details of the text without having to invent new grammar or to stretch word meanings. I just don’t think he accomplishes this.

I think Collins and I have the same overall objective. We both believe that those in the church should be equipped to answer the questions raised by the secular world (1 Peter 3:15). Not only that, but we need to provide answers to those who have questions and concerns about their faith, science, and evolution. I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God; it speaks to us about the real world, and we can use it for all the most important questions in life, including history and science, and that it is the final authority on all matters. I believe Collins, however, promotes accomodationism by conforming scripture to science, rather than the other way around. I think once people try to do this they weaken the foundation of scripture. Once that foundation is weakened, they may question the authority and truth of scripture, and ultimately may decide to reject or leave the faith. But if we recognize that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and can be trusted in all areas, then we have a firm foundation and will be better equipped to better understand science and the world God created for us.

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One thought on “Book Review: Science & Faith, Friends or Foes: C. John Collins (Condensed Version)

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Science & Faith, Friends or Foes: C. John Collins « sixdaysblog

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