Theology Talk with Brett and David: On Science (Part 6)

Brett and David have given up completely on any sense of decorum and now sit on coolers in the garage chugging down beers and throwing darts.

Brett: I would like to bring this conversation to your field of expertise and explore how it affects you and your work. How do you deal with doubt in the context of a counseling theory? What if some theory you find to be good and rooted actually turns out to be ineffective or even harmful to some client? Are there examples of old counseling ideas that have now been discarded as untrue, or are there competing schools that argue over the effectiveness of different approaches? If these are questions you think about, how do you continue to do the essential work you do in the face of doubts?

David: I’m probably not the best person to answer this question since I don’t adhere strictly to therapy models, as some do. My personal view is that models are theories that have approaches that can be helpful. I see them as tools in a toolbox that can be used at will depending on the needs of the client. My guiding rule in counseling is “whatever works for the good of the client”, which is intentionally vague. However, much of my underlying approach to people is based on my understanding of the Bible and relationship with God. So “true” “untrue” and “right” and “wrong” are hard to apply to this situation. As a real scientist I’m sure you’re aware that therapy and counseling, perhaps even psychiatry are much softer sciences than what you do.

There is certainly competition between schools of thought, but in my experience, almost every theory works for somebody but no single theory works for everybody. So my answer is a big IT DEPENDS. Many of Freud’s theories were at one point foundational and even helpful, but have since been largely discredited and have fallen out of use. However, they were used as a jumping point for other good things since then.

On a personal and internal level, I really do incorporate my faith into my work. This means that my doubts about my treatment approach or the work that I do is filled in easily with the knowledge of God’s sovereignty.

Brett: So I see that something similar happens in your field as has happened with science, that knowledge is built progressively over time. Speaking of, what do you think about the idea of progressive revelation, that is that God is revealing himself more and more (or perhaps just differently) throughout history? Does this bear on the question of scientific knowledge and theology?

David: This is tricky. I do think that God progressively reveals himself. While I’m no humanist, I do believe that God has allowed us to progress, become collectively more intelligent, or even- dare I say it- EVOLVE, in a sense, over time. But God does not change, so the way you phrased the question is important, and accurate. God is not changing, but rather our scope of knowledge about him is expanding, as he wills it. That will of course have an impact on both our theology and our scientific knowledge. But no new knowledge will ever be able to change the bedrock truths of God, and I feel that’s what some scientists wrongly try to accomplish. “We found fossil evidence that contradicts the Bible, so obviously God doesn’t exist!” Well, not exactly. Perhaps we’re just finding evidence of HOW God created us, not proof that he wasn’t involved. God gave us our curiosity and so a progressive way of learning about him seems to make sense.

Brett: On that note, let’s discuss Biblical revelation in terms of objective studies. For example, what if the creation story in Genesis is not historical? Does this make it not true? Or could it be true in a different sense than historical?

David: Again, your question provides important wording for my response. Truth is key here. We must first and foremost not lose sight of the fact that TRUTH is TRUTH. None of this mamby pamby postmodern “truth is relative” or “it may be true for you but not for me” nonsense. If we’re those compromised definitions of truth, then we’ve completely diluted the very concept of truth. Is the Genesis creation account true? Absolutely. Is that a literal depiction of what actually happened? I honestly don’t know. But then, is that what the text is intending to portray? Is that the question it’s attempting to answer? There are many factors here for me, a few of which are as follows:

1) This is a holy revelation given to an unholy person with a limited understanding of science or….anything really. If God is really GOD then how could he possibly describe his great pre-Earth work of forming a planet to a single mortal mind? I think the Genesis account was the best way he could describe creation without blowing Moses’ mind, while still speaking the complete truth.

2) This has been said a lot, but here goes: the Bible is not a textbook. It’s not intended to convey scientific fact. That goes for both scientific detractors and the most ardent young-earth literalists (<–made-up word). Again, the creation account is absolutely true. But it is true in the way that music or poetry describes something that actually exists. Because of this we can get into the tangled web of semantics: “what does it mean by ‘day’? what is this ‘expanse’ that he’s referring to?” We can conjecture till the cows come home but it’s ultimately a narrative designed to tell people about God, not instruct a science class.

3) The point of this passage is not to answer our questions about our various sciences, but to point us to God. “In the beginning, GOD…” Did God literally create the Earth in 7 days? For me, the better question is, “Do you believe that God could have done it in 7 days?” Personally, he could have done it literally how it said and compressed millions of years worth of fossil records in our dirt for whatever reason, or he could have used our planet as a giant sandbox for millions of years before reforming it to what we know today and creating humanity. Either way it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is that God is the one who did it, and he could have done it any way he wanted. Our feeble scientific constructs, formed thousands of years after earth’s creation, have no bearing on the truth of the one who put us here to begin with. It is that far-reaching perspective of God that causes me such angst when some use science as a blunt object with which to flippantly club God out of existence.

Brett: Dramatically put, but I think you speak truthfully. I have many other thoughts and responses but I believe we will end on that note.

David: This is by no means the end of the matter, but I agree that this is a good place to stop for us. For our loyal readers, the conversation can continue in the comments! We look forward to much rigorous discussion in the future and I certainly hope to engage you in a conversation on another topic in the future Sir Brett.

Brett: I hope for that as well.

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