This Friday, March 4 at 2:00pm PT, we are delighted to host Dr. Abner Chou in a moderated Q&A session at The Master’s University (TMU) on the doctrine of creation and its role in reclaiming theology as “the queen of the sciences.” This event, which is part of our ongoing public lecture series, will be live-streamed on TMU’s YouTube channel, and we hope you’ll tune in!
As you may know, Dr. Chou is the president of The Master’s University and Seminary, head translator for both the Old and New Testament Legacy Standard Bible, a scholar of the highest caliber, and author of the first article in our newest issue of The Journal of The Math3ma Institute. His paper, which is now freely available online, is entitled “The Queen of the Sciences: Reclaiming the Rightful Place of Theology and Creation” and will be the topic for our upcoming Q&A this Friday. You can find the PDF here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Chou’s essay and encourage all to take a look and join our livestream later this week. But what’s the paper about, exactly? To whet your appetite, below is a quick sampling of some of the ideas.
Reclaiming the Rightful Place of Theology and Creation
Simply put, “The Queen of the Sciences” is a paper about the doctrine of creation — a fitting topic to launch our journal in STEM. “Historically, theology was viewed as the queen of the sciences,” Chou writes, “but in recent days this has fallen out of favor, especially due to the unpopularity of the doctrine of creation. Instead, science is viewed as its own autonomous foundation. This article surveys through the issues surrounding creation and argues that a realism of biblical authority and revelation establishes theology and creation as a necessary framework for science.” So in short, the article aims to reclaim the rightful place of theology as the queen of the sciences. To do so, it addresses four key points about the doctrine of creation: its scriptural presuppositions, its substance, the theological stakes, and its significance. Here’s a short sketch of each.
I. The Scriptural Presuppositions of Creation
A discussion about science inevitably connects to philosophical questions about what is true, what is not true, and whether we can know either objectively. There are also questions about what we can reason about, what we can observe with our senses, and whether we can come up with these answers on our own and to what extent God supplies the answers.
To talk about science, then, it is helpful to first understand the difference between reason (that is, human knowledge) and revelation. The latter includes what theologians call “special revelation,” which refers to what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture, and “general revelation,” which refers to what God has revealed about Himself in creation. Chou opens the article by clearly defining both of these categories and then discussing how they are fundamentally different from a third category, namely, knowledge. The latter, of course, can be fallible, incomplete, and unsure, to say the least. Chou then walks the reader through key passages in the book of Job, which is an especially rich resource for understanding the limitations of human knowledge.
As Job has observed, man on his own cannot come up with the answers, God must supply them, and thus the posture of man cannot be one of intellectual self-reliance but of the fear of God. With that, theology acts as the starting point for the sciences, not only relative to authority and sureness but even in philosophically accounting for the assumptions of the discipline.Abner Chou, “The Queen of the Sciences,” p. 11
II. The Substance of the Doctrine of Creation
With this understanding in place, the article then turns to creation itself. What exactly does the Bible say about creation? That is, what is its substance? Chou has written extensively on this topic in his 2014 article “Did God Really Say? Hermeneutics and History in Genesis 3” contained in the book What Happened in the Garden? and he summarizes the main points in the present article. There are, he observes, three different views one might have on the historicity of the Genesis account of creation:
- Maybe only parts of Genesis are claimed to be historical.
- This view leads to ideas such as gap theory, day age theory, and so on.
- Maybe none of Genesis is claimed to be historical.
- This view suggests the general tenor of Genesis is akin to ancient near eastern myth.
- Maybe all of Genesis claims to be historical.
- This view holds that all of Scripture asserts and affirms that Genesis is historical, both in part and in whole.
Through careful examination of the text, including the original Hebrew, Chou shows that “discerning this issue is a process of elimination. By disproving the first two options, we establish the third.” The discussion in this section is especially helpful for Christians who may feel Genesis is murky water or that it contains ambiguities. Through careful analysis, Chou shows the reader that the creation account in Genesis 1–3 is not at all hermeneutically nebulous, that it actually de-mythologizes ancient near-eastern myths, and that it unambiguously asserts itself as history.
And that clarity punctuates why the doctrine of creation matters. God wanted this truth understood. This is not a doctrine that is hidden (cf. Deut 29:29)…. Rather, this doctrine was originally presented in no uncertain terms, and the rest of Scripture maintains such clarity by reiterating the same ideas repeatedly without modification. Scripture then does not view its teachings on origins as a mystery or something to be nuanced or qualified. Instead, it views this doctrine as so clear that the rest of Scripture assumes the reader understands it.Chou, “The Queen of the Sciences,” p. 18
III. What is at stake with the doctrine of creation?
But perhaps you’re still wondering, “What’s the big deal? Does this even matter?” To some, the doctrine of creation may not seem as important as more weighty theological issues, so perhaps Christians can simply ignore it. Chou contends the opposite is true. Rather than being an inconsequential doctrine, creation is foundational to Christianity. To illustrate this, he outlines the ten major categories of systematic theology and shows that creation is essential for each one. This includes an in-depth look at theology proper, christology, pneumatology, anthropology, ecclesiology, hamartiology, soteriology, eschatology, angelology, and — of course — bibliology. The takeaway is that creation is not an ancillary idea with little importance. As Chou writes, “change something at the beginning, and the ripple effect is found throughout the rest.”
“Thus what is at stake with the doctrine of creation is nothing short of Christianity itself. And that demonstrates why the doctrine of creation matters. It is not an isolated doctrine that has little effect on the rest of Christian teaching. “Chou, “The Queen of the Sciences,” p. 23
IV. The Significance of Creation
Finally, the article turns to the more practical question of significance. Does the doctrine of creation — and a proper view of theology as the queen of the sciences — actually add any value to the sciences? That is, does it have any significance? The answer is a resounding “yes.” As Chou explains, creation is inseparable from God’s redemptive plan for the world, and therefore everything we observe and experience in the world is filtered through that truth. This is seen in the following major theme that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture:
In essence, one could sum up the forcefulness of the doctrine this way: creation teaches that this is our Father’s world, everything in it is for His glory, and so He will make all things right in the end.Chou, “The Queen of the Sciences,” p. 23
Chou goes on to say that this theology “is not only a dominant driving logic in redemptive history, but is also at the heart of the answer to the major questions people have about this world. It thereby proves the underpinning logic for the beauty and telos of the sciences.” The article then surveys the entirety of Scripture — Genesis through Revelation — to show that it seamlessly affirms that creation and God’s redemptive plan do indeed go hand-in-hand. The encouraging conclusion is that, “as the queen of the sciences, theology and creation do not merely provide an authoritative framework for science, they also provide it with wonder, beauty, and hopefulness,” and moreover that “in this doctrine, science is the constant observation that this is our Father’s world, everything in it is for His glory, and He will make all things right in the end.”
Starting Points Matter
Dr. Chou’s article is based on his 2020 Shepherd’s Conference talk (video here), which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m deeply grateful that he memorialized his talk in written format for our new journal. Foundations are important, and that’s especially true at The Math3ma Institute. As Dr. Chou aptly concludes his article, “it is fitting to discuss the issue of creation in the inaugural issue of a journal designed to explore the sciences from a Christian worldview. Starting points matter.”
Indeed, they do. And for that reason, I hope you’ll take some time to read the article and also tune in to our live stream Q&A session later this week. It is our prayer that The Math3ma Institute becomes a platform for STEM that honors the Lord and brings glory to Him. To do so, it is imperative that we start right. And that begins with a proper understanding of the doctrine of creation.
For this doctrine establishes why the sciences even exist and should have a crucial place in our study and society. The sciences engage in the discovery of all that is in our Father’s world. Their purpose is to illustrate how truly everything has been created for His glory…. This is true science, one that is done according to truth, filled with worship, and offering true hope.Chou, “The Queen of the Sciences,” p. 30