The battle over the age of the universe has been brewing and has reached a fevered pitch in some denominations and evangelical educational institutions. Keith Matthison’s short book, A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture is an attempt to speak into the debate with clear biblical insight and a measure of humility.
First, the foreword is written by R.C. Sproul who sets the stage for what follows: “All truth meets at the top. This is so because all truth is God’s truth. It is not only His truth because He possesses it and He yields sovereign control over it, but also because He is the source and fountainhead of all truth.” Sproul adds the necessary epistemological groundwork and Scriptural footing to enable readers to walk carefully along the precipice. He provides the guardrails for readers by adhering to the correspondence theory of truth, the notion that truth corresponds to reality. Such a notion is repudiated by many postmodern thinkers which leaves them handicapped before the race begins.
The introduction begins with the age-old question, “How old is the universe?” The author turns to R.C. Sproul who took time to answer the question at a recent Ligonier conference. Sproul’s answer is typically saturated in Scripture but is also bathed in humility as he answers the question with a big, “I don’t know.” Some readers will recoil at his response. I was pleased by it. For too many are dogmatically arguing their position without the necessary empirical evidence to support their unvarnished claim.
Enter Keith Matthison. He was so struck with Dr. Sproul’s answer that he set out to write a book to defend his mentor’s candid claims. He essentially argues that the notion, “all truth is God’s truth” is no stranger in Reformed circles: “A God-centered view of the truth demands that we affirm that all truth is God’s truth. That which is true is true because God said it, created it, or decreed it.” Indeed, the very notion is apart of the very warp and woof of Reformed theology.
Matthison includes a very helpful section on general and special revelation. The basic argument is this: Both special revelation and general revelation are infallible. While some may balk at the very notion, they must recall that it is “God who is doing the revealing, and God is always infallible.”
The author rightly argues that “since general and special revelation both proceed from God, they cannot ultimately conflict.” An appeal is made to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which maintains the complete truthfulness of God’s Word. The specific denial in the Chicago Statement is crucial: “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” Here is where many stumble by neglecting the Sola Scriptura principle and pitting science against faith. At the end of the day, Matthison argues, “Any scientific theory that claims natural phenomena arose from purely materialistic causes is necessarily wrong.”
The author reminds us that many theologians have erroneously interpreted Scripture, especially in the case of the geocentric worldview that was the dominant thinking in the 16th century. Copernicus changed all that with his heliocentric bombshell but was still met with strict suspicion by some of the brightest theological minds of the day.
There is so much more that Matthison covers in this little book that readers can discover for themselves. But he ends with a bold note of humility when it comes to making dogmatic statements that concern the age of the universe: “It is also wiser to say, ‘I don’t know,’ than to make ultimatums that may be based on misinterpretations of Scripture and/or God’s created works.” Keith Matthison is on the right track. Oh, that others would join in his parade!