Ramm’s Interpretative Principle for Geology & Biology

“Almighty God is Creator, World Ground, and Omnipotent Sustainer. In his mind the entire plan of creation was formed with man as the climax. Over the millions of years of geologic history the earth is prepared for man’s dwelling, or as it has been put by others, the cosmos was pregnant with man…. From time to time the great creative acts, de novo, took place. The complexity of animal forms increased. Finally,… he whom all creation anticipated is made, MAN, in whom alone is the breath of God.”  — B. Ramm

Young Bernard Ramm

Young Bernard Ramm

While looking through some old files, I came across the following, which I thought might be of interest to those of you interested in science-faith issues and the creation/evolution/ID debates. They are the concluding remarks from a paper by noted Christian theologian Dr. Bernard Ramm, presented in absentia to the American Scientific Affiliation over 65 years ago, then published in the Journal of the ASA (June 1949). The title was “The Scientifico-Logical Structure of the Theory of Evolution”.

If you are familiar with some of Ramm’s later writings (e.g., Protestant Biblical Interpretation (1950), Protestant Christian Evidences (1953), The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954)) you know that he was an apologist who spent a lot of time studying and writing about these issues, along with biblical hermeneutics and apologetics in general. Both Ramm’s theology and his approach to apologetics evolved (hah!) over the years. But, when this paper was written, Ramm was theologically a conservative evangelical and a proponent of evidentialist apologetics.

“[W]hat is the interpretative principle that the Christian brings to the myriad of facts, biological, geological, and the like?

The general interpretative principle that this writer adopts is that Genesis 1 records in broad outline the successive creative acts of God in bringing the universe and world to the state when it could be inhabited by man. Being a very general and broad sketch, Genesis 1 leaves considerable room for the empirical determination of various and diverse facts. Hence a multitude of facts now generally accepted by scientists would remain unchanged according to this view we are advocating.

Secondly, there is no advance upward apart from the creative activity of God. There may be horizontal radiation of life but no vertical. This is precisely the point where this view differs from theistic evolution. Evolution, theistic and naturalistic, believes in the radiation of life from lower to higher forms, from the simple to the complex. According to our view radiation can only be horizontal. That is, the “root-specie” of, shall we say the “dogs” may radiate outward into wolves, coyotes, and dogs and all the varieties of each. But there is only unraveling of gene potentialities — no upward evolution. And this seems to be in keeping with the fact that we do have in geology no demonstrable vertical radiation but plenty of horizontal radiation.

Thirdly, Genesis gives us the general movement of the origin of geological strata and life forms. The six work-days are geologico-biological work days. We expect then the basic rocks to be azoic. We expect the simpler forms on the bottom layers. We expect the higher forms on the higher levels, and man the highest form on the highest level.

This presentation is, of course, limited by space, and thus somewhat sketchy but if fully worked out we believe that it would constitute a general interpretive concept that would replace the evolutionary one because it can account for all that evolution tries to account for, and then can go on and account for the things that evolution cannot. The reason for this is, we believe, that the basis of it, namely Genesis 1, is a divine revelation.

fossil-recordIn closing we wish to point out that to indicate weaknesses and inconsistencies in evolution theory is all right but it does not go far enough. For example, in modern psychology there are serious objections to all the major schools of psychology yet the adherents to these various schools do not give up their convictions. Convictions are surrendered when a more unifying and integrating hypothesis is suggested and demonstrated. So, we as Christians must not think we have done our job by indicating the difficulties with evolutionary theory. We must go on and present clearly and factually the Christian interpretative principle in geology and biology. If we can show that this view has the maximum of internal consistency, and has a high degree of accuracy in material prediction, then we have really done something to the evolutionary theory. Until then we fight pretty much of a guerilla warfare that may sting but does not force a retreat.”

This generally concordist approach was and is taken by many Christians, both professionals and laymen (like me), while often differing on how best to work out the scriptural and natural details. I think Dr. Hugh Ross and the scholar team at Reasons to Believe (reasons.org) have done a wonderful job of building on such a foundation and developing “a more unifying and integrating hypothesis”, known as the RTB Creation Model. Plus, as Ramm recommended, they not only point out “weaknesses and inconsistencies in evolution theory” but also present positive arguments for divine Creation by the God of the Bible. I think Ramm — or, at least, Ramm c.1950 — would be pleased.

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