One final point that concerns me in this debate is the attitude displayed in these Christian curriculums toward those who believe in an old Earth. Some Christians believe that science, and scientists, are anti-God and anti-Christian, and that the world in general places a higher priority and belief in science than in God. That is true for some scientists, but not for many, and I don’t believe even for the majority. I read a complaint that scientists (all of them?) believe that science takes precedence over religion, and that religion and God should take a secondary position in the world - even that God is irrelevant in the modern, science-based world.
I say that, when pursuing science, it is not that science takes precedence over God, but that faith in the consistency and logic of God’s creation is affirmed. If a scientific theory appears to contradict the Bible, then certainly, hold off on a full-fledged commitment to that scientific theory, but don’t discount it entirely either. Wait for more evidence, and study your interpretation of that part of the Bible. Biblical interpretations are wrong more often than we like to admit. Remember Augustine’s admonition I quoted earlier!
I have never had problems combining my beliefs with scientific explanations. I have always seen science as a description of the mechanism by which God works, while my religious beliefs explain why and for what reason God works. In all the years I have learned about science, physics, astronomy, etc., I have never encountered a theory or fact or explanation which flatly contradicted my beliefs. On the contrary, I have always found that learning something new in science has always opened my eyes to a new facet of God or shown me how even more powerful and grand and awesome our God is.
I’m side-tracking from the young-earth debate, but I’ve heard quite a few Christians say that the Big Bang theory is also very anti-God, and doesn’t really answer any questions anyway. The Big Bang theory says that the universe came from an extremely dense, extremely high-energy singularity. It does not explain what happened before the bang, or where the energy came from - but it’s not attempting to do so. Scientists know the limits of their theories. Scientists, contrary to some believers’ accusations, are not trying to explain God, or get rid of Him, or explain Him away, or prove that He does not exist. They are not theologians. They are trying to explain what we see in our world and gain insight into how the world works. Nothing in the Big Bang theory claims that God didn’t exist before the Big Bang, or that God didn’t initiate the Big Bang Himself.
I read in a Christian science textbook sample that cosmologists theorize about how the universe began, and if they don’t say that God created everything, then they must put their faith in an untestable or unworkable theory. I find that statement extremely antagonistic and negative toward scientists. A person can believe that God created everything and still be interested in figuring out how He did it! (God is outside of time, remember, and outside of our universe. The origin of the universe is not the origin of God.) A scientist isn’t putting his faith in a theory - he’s just postulating a theory in an attempt to learn something. You have to start somewhere! Just because God created the world doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want to let us see anything about how He did it. God gave us minds and made the universe comprehensible, logical, and consistent, just so we can study it and learn about it - and learn about God in the process.
The same textbook continues to say, “It is actually blasphemy to say that the intricate handiwork of God we see all around us is nothing more than fallout from a cosmic explosion.” Perhaps this is true if you really say the “nothing more” part, but there is no blasphemy in saying that you think God used a cosmic explosion to create the universe. The textbook continues, “The theory diminishes the personal work of a Creator ‘who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span.’” Why does pondering how God created the world diminish His work? Does it not exalt Him even more that His creation of man is able to ponder His work? That a Creator who works with such enormous power and energy still created us to have such intricate bodies and perfectly-detailed workings, and still speaks to us as a personal Father to His child?
The last bit in this textbook about the Big Bang theory talks about evolutionary scientists who are trying to improve upon the Big Bang theory (though evolution and cosmology are quite different scientific fields) and figure out why parts of it don’t make sense. That’s fine - a theory is a theory - scientists know theories aren’t perfect, and their job is to try and fine-tune them or change them when they prove to be inconsistent or incorrect. But then the textbook goes on to say that these theory tweaks “are desperate attempts by unregenerate men to explain the universe without acknowledging the Creator.” Seriously? There are plenty of Big Bang theorists and even evolutionists (men and women alike) who acknowledge God as the Creator!
Science is a means for understanding God's works even better. Nothing science can prove can discredit God, since science is just our physical "paraphrase," so to speak, of God's laws and activity. Science can solidify a portion of our knowledge of God into something concrete - something small enough, or straightforward enough, that our minds can grasp it. Science is never meant to explain the "whys" of the world, and no scientist I know has ever assumed that. Out of all the years I studied in college and graduate school, the only time I ever heard a professor say something that sounded anti-God was in a humanities & literature class, talking about morality and good and evil.
Evolution is another related, but definitely distinct issue from the young-earth/old-earth controversy. Even someone who believes in an old earth does not necessarily believe humans evolved from apes, and I am certainly less certain of evolution than I am of an old earth, but still, even evolution could have been used by God. (I believe the Catholics allow for the possibility of evolution more so than Protestants tend to.) I had expected to find Creationism throughout the Christian texts (which is a good thing), and a fair amount of anti-evolution discussions, bringing up all the issues and problems with dating techniques and the lack of a fossil record and other hard evidence, but I really hadn’t thought that the “young earth” concept would be so prevalent, or that so much antagonism toward other scientific theories (and scientists, and science in general) would be voiced.
Since it is, however, most of the science courses offered by Christian curriculum providers, and some of the ancient history courses, are not ones I want to use to teach my children. It’s a shame, really, since I would love to have a science course that credits and praises God for His creation and creativity throughout the universe. (I am fully able to fill in my own thoughts and comments in this area - maybe I’ll have to write my own course material!) I would love to have a history course that fits in Biblical history with secular history, showing God’s hand at work (and may still use such a course, once we get past the more ancient time period). As it is, I will make my children aware of the controversies and the different theories, but I will use secular texts as the core for ancient history and biology and geology and astronomy, and add my own thoughts and other supplemental readings about the wonder and majesty of God’s work.
[Side note: Upon further research, Sonlight (www.sonlight.com) offers a wonderful history program that is one of the few Christian ones I am happy with, and the more I research it, the more I’m thinking I will use them for at least some years. They do use some secular material that discusses different viewpoints, including an old Earth, and including evolution - usually these sections are not scheduled in their daily plans, but I can always add it in myself, allowing me to teach my children the full story.]