iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Approaches to origins

Let’s distinguish three approaches to the study of universal origins:

Philosophical naturalism with natural science

Biblical creationism with creation science or Philosophical creationism with universal history

Autonomous Humanism: naturalism with natural history and science

Definitive methods are based on the primacy of nature, hence philosophical naturalism, because it is systematic empiricism and the introduction of the supernatural throws in a wild card which undermines this. Its weakness is that it excludes non-naturalistic possibilities and overplays the “uniformity of nature” card.

Methodological naturalism is equivalent to philosophical naturalism if only naturalistic methods are considered definitive.  A method (or class of methods) is definitive if applications of the method may only be critiqued or superseded by other applications of the method, that is, all methods other than the privileged method (or class of methods) are rejected.  A definitive method (or class of methods) is not only methodological; it is also philosophical because a philosophical commitment is entailed by the rejection of other methods.  If approach #1 were replaced by methodological naturalism but other methods were not rejected, then how would the application of different methods be judged?  It is virtually certain that one method (or class of methods) would predominate.

Biblical Supernaturalism: creationism with creation history and science

Definitive methods are based on the primacy of the Bible, hence biblical creationism, which is the Bible as Scripture understood in its historical sense, because it is the Word of God, the very source and ground of all truth, including truths about the created world.

The weakness of this approach is that it is not persuasive to unbelievers (by definition) and makes knowledge of the universe subject to theological controversies.

Should one believe that the 12 census numbers given for the tribes of Israel in the first chapter of the Book of Numbers sum to 603,550 because Num. 1.46 says so or because of arithmetic addition?  It is certainly the latter because if Num. 1.46 were omitted we would still know the total number.  The point is that bringing in Scripture is overkill in this case.  Similarly for an outline of creation history one does not need to play the trump card of Scripture.

Universal Humanism: ‘medialism’ with universal history and science

Definitive methods are based on the primacy of humanity, both divine and created, hence philosophical creationism and humanism, because all knowledge possessed by humans is humanly mediated knowledge.  Humanity is the universal mean, “the measure of all things,” the key to understanding the universe.

This leads to the primacy of human history for the study of creation history.  Human history provides an outline for creation history; such history of humanity and creation is called “universal history.”

Definitive methods are based on philosophical creationism, that is, the original and continuing existence of the universe in general and humanity in particular is a result of divine action, because that is the biblical truth and universal mean.

The weakness of this approach is that it discounts the possibility of non-human-centered knowledge.  While it may be appealing to Christians who believe that divine truth is manifested in the person of Christ, it may be unappealing to non-Christians who allow truth to arise from an Absolute Other.  Its retort is that it is a form of humanism which should be accessible to all.

For universal origins one needs the right genre of knowledge, the right extent of history, and the right place of humanity.

The right genre of knowledge is historical knowledge so the right methods are historical methods, that is, methods which preserve the uniqueness of actors, actions, events, and things.  The right extent of history is the extent of humanity, which traces its history to the beginning of the universe.  The right place of humanity is as the crown of creation, the key to understanding the entire universe.


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