Francis Schaeffer on Science and Scripture

In the past week, the conservative-Reformed blogosphere has been a frenzy of activity with the web release of an article in the Banner outlining the need to redraw Christian beliefs in light of the purported “established fact” of evolution. This has understandably sparked much discussion, both from conservatives within the CRCNA who feel that the denominational magazine is presenting an unbalanced approach to this issue, and from conservatives who are not in the CRCNA but feel a connection to it nonetheless.

Some of this later group is touting an unfortunate “I told you so” attitude which does little to support confessional members of the CRCNA. Others, like myself, are saddened by this, but are also waiting and watching. What will happen next? Will any concrete steps be taken to address this? Or will conservatives just resign themselves to disappointment as the progressive agenda mutes their confessional voice?

In using this article as an opportunity to think again about matters of science and the Bible, I came across the following quotes by Francis Schaeffer from his book No Final Conflict (in vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer). I thought they were a fine summary of some of the issues Christians must consider when seeking to properly interpret both general and special revelation.

The Bible is not a scientific textbook – in the sense that science is not its central theme, and we do not have a comprehensive statement about the cosmos. But the Bible tells us much about the cosmos in reference to the central theme. In Genesis 1 we have the statement of the creation of the cosmos, and thus as we come to Genesis 2 and the central focus is placed upon man, we can understand man’s setting.

“The Bible is not a scientific textbook” is true in the sense in which we have just spoken. But many people today use the statement in a different way – that is, to say that the Bible does not affirm anything about that in which science has an interest. When the statement is used to mean this, it must be totally rejected. The Bible does give affirmations about that in which science has an interest.

No Final Conflict in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 2, pg. 129.

When we face apparent problems between present scientific theories and the teaching of the Bible, the first rule is not to panic, as though scientific theory is always right. The history of science, including science in our own day, has often seen great dogmatism about theories which later have been discarded. Thus there is no inherent reason why a current scientific theory should immediately be accepted. And there is no inherent reason why a Christian should be put in a panic because the current scientific theory is opposite to what is taught in the Bible.

When we come to a problem, we should take time as educated people to reconsider both the special and general revelations; that is, we should take time to think through the question. There is a tendency among many today to consider that the scientific truth will always be more true. This we must reject. We must take ample time, and sometimes this will mean a long time, to consider whether the apparent clash between science and revelation means that the theory set for by science is wrong or whether we must reconsider what we thought the Bible says.

No Final Conflict in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 2, pg. 130

There indeed must be a place for the study of general revelation (the universe and its form, and man with his “mannishness”) – that is, a place for true science. But on the other side, it must be understood that there is no automatic need to accommodate the Bible to the statements of science. There is a tendency for some who are Christians and scientists to always place special revelation (the teaching of the Bible) under the control of general revelation and science, and never or rarely to place general revelation and what science teaches under the control of the Bible’s teaching. That is, though they think of that which the Bible teaches as true and that which science teaches as true, in reality they tend to end with the truth of science as more truth than the truth of the Bible.

No Final Conflict in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 2, pg. 140

Rev. Andrew Compton

Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)

Anaheim, CA