Creation at the John Owen Centre
Origins are controversial, including among Bible-believing Christians. This September, the John Owen Centre (based at the London Theological Seminary) faced the subject head-on, in a two day conference on ‘Creation, the Bible and science’.
Despite evident differences of view among the 80 attending, a good spirit was maintained. There was much informal conversation during coffee and meal breaks, as well as lively debates in question times following the papers.
Dr Jason Rampelt’s paper on ‘Authority: the Bible and science’ reminded us that science is the Creator’s gift. However, sin has casts its shadow there, as everywhere, so that many unbelieving scientists ‘by their unrighteousness suppress the truth’ about origins. But where there is conflict between science and the Bible, the Bible must take precedence.
This is no trivial claim; nor is it novel. Dr Robert Letham on ‘Genesis 1 & 2 – the history of interpretation’ explained how Origen in the third century AD defended Genesis from the ridicule of Greek philosophers. His view of Scripture was so high that he was willing to accept mystical interpretations rather than surrender the truth.
However, theistic evolutionists also claim Genesis to be compatible with Darwinism. This difference cannot be resolved by appealing to tradition. Calvin, for example, taught the world was created in six of our days; yet Augustine’s view that the days of Genesis 1 were celestial held sway for much of church history.
Nor is there a silver bullet in Intelligent Design. Professor Paul Helm in ‘Design arguments – stepping stones or stumbling blocks?’ showed that natural theology cannot alone prove that the God of the Bible is our Creator. At best, it offers a means of falsifying Darwinism, and evidence that a Designer was at work.
Nonetheless, a significant body of evidence against theistic evolution was presented to the conference. Dr John Currid, in his paper ‘Interpreting Genesis 1 & 2’, argued against a key claim of theistic evolutionists. He emphasised that Genesis 1 is not Hebrew poetry, but exalted prose narrative.
There is far more than Genesis 1 at stake in all of this. Dr Stephen Lloyd demonstrated this point in his paper on ‘The New Testament and Creation’, as he laid out the implications of theistic evolution for death, resurrection and goodness.
Our salvation rests on the federal headships of Adam and Christ. The consequences for redemption are serious if Adam is not the biological father of every human being. Theistic evolution is now over a century old, but it has no satisfactory answer to such objections.
A fruitful by-product of the creation-evolution debate has been the closer attention given by Christians to the doctrine of creation. Professor Stuart Burgess on ‘Genesis 1 & 2 – a scientist’s perspective’ gave an engineer’s perspective on how creation proclaims the glory of God. But the widest-ranging paper was Rev. Philip Eveson’s outline of the theology of creation – a creation that shaped Christ’s (human) nature and work; and a theology that lies at the heart of the gospel.