Right, well thanks for joining me today Hugh, and thanks so much for all the resources that you provide over at Reasons to Believe.
HR: Hello, you’re very welcome.
BA: Now first off, would you please tell us just a bit about your education and your background, and also how you became a Christian.
HR: Well, I was born, raised, and educated in Canada. I didn’t get to know Christians till I was 27, but I did get to see two from about 30 feet away when I was 11 years of age. Those were 2 Gideons who came into our public school and made available Gideon Bibles to each one of us. I didn’t touch mine for another 6 years, and what caused me to pick it up was my studies in astronomy. I’d been passionate about astronomy since I was 7. I knew I’d be an astronomer from the age of 8 onwards, and each year I would take up a different sub-discipline of astronomy to study.
At age 16 I studied cosmology—the origin and structure of the universe—and became persuaded that the Big Bang theory was the best explanation for the origin and history of the universe, which implied that the universe had a beginning, which means there had to be a beginner. So from the age of 16 onwards I did not doubt the existence of God. But I was skeptical that the God that created the universe would be communicating to beings on this small speck we call planet earth. But for the sake of intellectual honesty and integrity, I went through the different holy books of the religions of the world and found that only the Bible had predictive power—the capacity to predict future scientific discoveries and future human historical events. I discovered that it was error-free, and I realized that this had to be inspired by the One who created the universe.
So at age 19 I signed my name in the back of my Gideon Bible, giving my life to Jesus Christ. And when I showed up at the CalTech campus to do post-doctoral research on quasars and galaxies, I got to know Christians for the first time, and they showed me how to find a church. I wound up getting fairly involved in that church—in fact, within a year they put me on their pastoral staff, and 11 years later they helped me launch Reasons to Believe, a science/faith think tank that integrates the two books that God has given us: the book of nature and the book of scripture—for the purpose of developing new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior, and our mission is to research and develop those new reasons, but also to communicate them and train others how to communicate them.
BA: Well, excellent. You mention there the two books of revelation—the book of scripture, the book of nature—can you elaborate and kind of unpack your approach to defending the Christian faith, and how that works with Reasons to Believe.
HR: Well, you get it from Psalm 19 as well as other passages of the Bible. It tells us the heavens declare the glory of God, and that God’s message is written upon the heavens for all of us to read. How that revelation is trustworthy and reliable. We find it in the Belgic Confession, article 2, back in 1561—I mean, it’s the heart of the Reformation—and it’s the primary reason why we have the scientific revolution forming out of Reformation Europe. This basis of belief, that God had given us two books, and also the challenge you see in the Bible that we are to put everything to the test: 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Paul says “Test everything; hold fast to that which is good”. And one factor that persuaded me to give my life to Christ was the discovery that the scientific method has its origins in the Bible. The Bible not only commands you to put things to the test, it shows you how to put things to the test.
And so, that’s what we’re all about, is going through God’s two books: the books that we see in the Bible, and all the different scientific disciplines. I guess you could describe us as ‘constructive integrationists’. Our mission is to integrate across the full spectrum of the 66 books of the Bible and all the different scientific disciplines in order to develop a systematic message of God to men, but also to develop new tools to bring people to faith in Christ—new ‘reasons to believe’.
BA: Well, you know, in our culture many would say that there’s this inherent conflict between faith and science. They’re almost thought of as opposites. So talk more about your view between the relationship between science and scripture: how do the two relate?
HR: Well, let me put it this way: it’s not enough to take the Bible literally, we have to take it literally and consistently. Likewise it’s not enough to take the scientific studies we’re coming up with in a particular scientific discipline literally, we have to consistently integrate it across all the other scientific disciplines. And it’s based on the belief, which again is based on experiment and observation and study, that what we see in the record of nature and the words of the Bible is an inerrant, trustworthy revelation. And therefore, there is no possibility that the facts of nature and the words of the Bible will contradict.
On the other hand, there is every opportunity for theology and science to contradict, because theology is the human attempt to interpret the words of the Bible, and science is the human attempt to interpret the facts of nature. So when you find incongruities, this is a tip-off that you’ve made a faulty interpretation, or you lack understanding, or maybe you need more knowledge—there’s an opportunity for more research. And so, we kinda welcome the anomalies we find, in our attempts to integrate, because that’s the pathway to learn more, and to develop a better and more complete creation model.
BA: Well, over at reasons.org you’ve got this ton of resources that help to evaluate various scientific discoveries that we’re finding on a constant basis, and how they integrate with the Christian worldview. Can you talk about RTB’s creation model? Can you kind of lay out the model and then show how you test it.
HR: Right. Well, first let me define what a model is. A model is an attempt to provide a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the origin and history of the universe, of the solar system, of earth, of life, of humanity… that’s what a model of science is all about. And you can do the same thing by going through the Bible: going through all the creation texts in the Bible, there are over 27 chapter-long passages on creation in the Bible. And likewise, go through them to try to develop a comprehensive and a detailed explanation of the origin and history of the universe, earth, and life and humanity. And then integrate what you see in the book of nature with the different books in scripture.
So that’s what the model’s all about—a testable physical creation model. And we’ve been developing such a model for 25 years now at RTB; it’s a dynamic model. We’re always looking for ways to make it more comprehensive and more detailed, and more consistent. And so, we’ve had the pleasure of watching it develop and improve over the years. But it’s really a way to reach out to the secular scientific community. I mean, when we speak on university campuses I frequently hear the complaint from professors of science that Christians are negative in their apologetics. They’re good at poking holes in the evolutionary models, but they don’t provide a positive explanation for their models. And the point is, is that scientists recognize that there are flaws in their Darwinian explanation, for example, the history of life on earth, but they’re not about to abandon that model until they see a superior model with greater explanatory power, and greater success in predicting future scientific discoveries. And we argue that it’s incumbent upon Christians to provide that better model.
So that’s what we’re committed to doing at RTB: use a positive approach in reaching out to secular society, rather than a negative, critical approach. What we typically do on campuses is present our physical creation model, and then we invite professors of science who are not Christians to critique our model. And this is a great way to engage them: we’re not attacking them, we’re not withdrawing from them or running away from them, but engaging them with a positive creation model.
BA: I imagine many people would have a lot of assumptions or pre-conceived ideas of what they’re gonna hear from you. How is the response in general and how do they come away from that sort of engagement?
HR: Well, you’re right. They do have a lot of misconceptions, and so typically we have to begin our presentation by explaining who we are not. Cos Christians have caused a lot of problems; there’s a lot of negativity. And so we’re trying to persuade our audience first of all: ‘look, we’re not like that…we have a different approach—it’s a positive approach, we invite critique, we want to engage, and we want to engage at the highest levels of academic scholarship’. And once that message gets across we’re finding that we get a very positive approach. It’s amazing to us how scientists that are there to critique us, wind up, often, endorsing us. We’ve gotten some wonderful endorsements from non-Christian research scientists who’ve checked out our model, and we’ve seen many come to faith in Christ.
BA: Well, that’s great to hear. Now I had asked Fazale Rana to kinda lay out the RTB origin of life model briefly, and he did that in my interview with him. And I was hoping that maybe if I could ask you to do the same with, maybe, the creation model that RTB has developed, and how it uses contemporary cosmology and the big bang. Would you kinda lay that out as far as the overall creation picture?
HR: Yes, well, the origin of life is just one component of the physical creation model we’ve developed. Another piece would be the origin of the universe, the origin of humanity, the origin of the higher animals (what the Bible calls the ‘soulish’ animals), the design of the universe for the benefit of life, the design of the solar system, milky way, galaxy, planetary surface, planetary interior. We’ve looked the the 3.8 billion years of life’s history, and see how all of that’s been carefully designed to enable the existence of human beings, and for humans to develop global high technology and civilization. So those are kind of the different pieces, and we’ve written books on each of those subjects, and I completed a book a few months ago called ‘More than a Theory’, which tries to summarize the full sweep of the model that we’ve developed in just one volume. But, like, each chapter is based on an entire book that we’ve published in the past.
So, for example, we typically begin with the simple sciences: mathematics, physics and astronomy, and step by step more towards the more complex sciences. So when Fazale and I are on the research campus, how we’ll typically speak first about the origin of the universe, the design of the universe, and we transition to the origin of life, the history of life, and then the origin of humanity, so that you’re moving from the simple sciences where things are really concrete and you’ve got a fairly complete database to the complex sciences where the databases are not quite so complete. But people—I mean, the whole idea is you want to interpret the complex sciences in the clear light of the simple sciences. And what’s interesting is, for example, the Intelligent Design debate has virtually been won in the case of the simple sciences.
Talk to any astronomer, and they will recognize, in the words of Paul Davies, that when we look at the universe we see overwhelming evidence that it’s been designed, and designed for the benefit of human beings. Freeman Dyson puts it this way: when you look at the universe, you can’t avoid the conclusion that in some way, the universe knew we were coming; it was designed in advance specifically for human beings. And so, I will typically talk about the space-time theorems, which prove that there must be a causal agent beyond space and time, that created the universe. This is something that all astronomers and physicists recognize as valid. Therefore, there must be some kind of a God beyond the universe, to explain the universe. But more importantly, I wanna drive home that this God is not just some entity that transcends the space-time dimensions, but is a personal being. And I do that by showing the audience how all the evidence, the overwhelming evidence, that the universe, our galaxy, our solar system, our earth, our moon, have all been designed for the support of human beings, and how the evidence for design gets approximately a million times stronger per month.
So I would say to the skeptics in the audience ‘if you’re not persuaded today, wait one month—the evidence will get much stronger’. And then kinda show them some tables of how exponentially stronger it’s gotten over the past 20 years. And that leaves a good foundation for Faz to come in and talk about the origin of life. Although the book we have, we co-authored it because what’s happened in origin of life research, is researchers have recognized that there’s neither time nor a ‘soup’ for the origin of life on planet earth. Earth never had pre-biotics, and the origin of life happened in an immeasurably short period of time—which has caused origin of life researchers who are not Christians to say it must have come from out of space. What you discover, when you go to outer space, is that the problems are far more intractable there than they ever were on planet Earth. And so that sets the stage for the history of life. It is possible that even if you’ve got a God that created life, that that life could evolve through some natural processes to more advanced life. There have been calculations done by leading evolutionary biologists that demonstrate that if you begin with bacteria, and presume the most optimistic Darwinian principles are fully in operation for the past 3 to 4 billion years, the probability that you wind up with human beings, or the functional equivalent, is much less than one chance in ten to the one-millionth power. Thats because these evolutionary mechanisms favor simplicity over complexity. But that shows that advanced life, and human beings in particular, cannot be a product of strictly natural processes over the past 3.8 billion years. Then moreover, when you look at human beings: we’re not purely physical. We’re spiritual. And how can the spiritual, how can the ‘soulish’, come from that which is purely physical. It must come from a causal agent that likewise is spiritual in nature.
BA: Now, Hugh, to what extent would you say that you would integrate, say, common philosophical arguments with the scientific evidence? I’m thinking maybe of cosmological arguments and things of that nature.
HR: Well, the cosmological argument in philosophy has come under attack in the latter part of the 20th and the 21st centuries, because people will say well who’s to say that time is linear? If time is not linear, the common cosmological argument falls apart. Which is the value of the space/time theorems, because the space/time theorems of physics prove that cosmic time indeed is linear. And given that it’s linear, then the cosmological argument stands. So we’ll always favor the philosophical cosmological arguments, but it must be buttressed by the latest discoveries in physics in order to have any potency with a modern audience.
BA: So I guess, primarily, you would see the scientific evidence as supporting the premises of these various philosophical arguments?
HR: Well, what I’m saying is it’s necessary to again to integrate. I mean, it’s a mistake to try to present an apologetic argument from a purely philosophical perspective, just as it is to present an apologetic argument from a purely scientific perspective. You must integrate your science with your philosophy with your theology. You know, give them an integrated argument. Otherwise you allow the non-theist to pick apart your argument piecemeal. You always want to keep the argument as an integrated whole, and use a ‘weight of evidence’ approach.
BA: You mentioned, you know, the philosophy, the science and the theology. Is there an order that you see them coming in as far as authority or priority or, you know, logical progression?
HR: Yeah, it is an integrated unit, but I would argue that theology based on the books of the Bible would be the only one of those three that you could say is authoritative. And that’s what sola scriptura is all about: that the Bible is the only authoritative revelation God has given to humanity. But the Reformers recognized that authority can only rest in a person, and only the words of the Bible are propositional, actually coming from a personal being in some direct way.
Now this does not mean that the philosophical arguments aren’t trustworthy and reliable. Likewise it doesn’t mean that the record of nature in some way is not trustworthy or reliable, it’s just that the scripture is unique in the fact that it’s propositional, and that it has the authority of coming from a person. But all three—I mean I can put it this way: when people argue that well, maybe the Bible is better than science or philosophy is better than science, it’s kinda like arguing that the book of Hebrews is superior to the book of Romans. They both have different purposes. But both are from the Holy Spirit who inspired them to be error-free and trustworthy and reliable. So in that sense I would argue it’s pointless to say that one aspect of the revelation God has given us is more reliable than another. No, they’re both perfectly reliable, all of them are perfectly reliable, but they do have different purposes and different regions where they’re revealing. For example, I don’t see anything in the Bible that gives us any revelation of microwave ovens. Likewise, I don’t see anything in the record of nature that gives any specificity to exactly how propitiation works.
BA: A little phrase comes to mind, ‘you should allow scripture to interpret scripture’ and just the idea comes to mind there of to what extent should we or can we allow, say, science to help us to interpret scripture?
HR: Yes, this is a project that was taken up by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy in the 1980s. And they published a two-volume set where they gave a very good assessment of exactly how to answer those questions. And we liked it so much that we post them on our reasons.org website. And basically, what they point out, is that the book of nature has greater perspicuity or clarity than the book of scripture in certain areas of revelation, and the reverse is also true—that the book of scripture has greater perspicuity or clarity in other parts of God’s revelation. And therefore we would anticipate that where the Bible is not clear, or where it’s incomplete, or where it’s silent, that the book of nature would provide clarity to help us correctly interpret the book of [scripture]. But the reverse is also true: where the book of nature is less clear, or incomplete, we would expect that the book of scripture would help us more correctly interpret the book of nature. But once again, it’s both ways.
You have to integrate and pick up the areas of strength and revelation that you see in the books that God has given us. Kinda like we do with the 66 books of the Bible; I mean, we realize that each of those books is written for a different purpose, and so each one helps us to understand and interpret the other 65.
BA: Well, without a doubt, one of the biggest issues amongst Christians is this ‘age of the earth’ debate. So my question for you first off would be how much does the age of the earth debate really matter, and to what extent? I mean, some people would say that if you don’t take a 24-hour interpretation of the Genesis account then you have no reason to believe the rest of the Bible. And, so, is it really that important? What’s your view on that?
HR: Well, I would say that it’s not that important for Christian life or for salvation. You know, it doesn’t matter what you believe the age of the universe is in terms of how you understand the offer that Jesus Christ made available to us on the cross. So, for salvation, it’s not a factor. It is a factor, however, for personal evangelism. I mean, if you’re talking to non-Christians about something that they know from their own experience can’t possibly be true, then they begin to doubt the rest of your message. So in terms of establishing credibility in your personal witness and evangelism, there it does take a very important role.
And, again it’s another opportunity for Christians to look at this problem and to say, well, lets go into a deeper study of the revelations that God has given us. Let’s not just look at Genesis, lets look at all the creation accounts in the Bible, and see which one allows us to read the entire Biblical text consistently. And this is an argument that Gleason Archer made many years ago, that if you try to go through the entire Bible from a young earth perspective, you’re faced with some rather dramatic contradictions. But if you take the point of view that the creation days in Genesis 1 are seven long periods of time, then the Bible can be read not only literally but consistently. I think, too, it helps believers to recognize that the word that’s translated ‘day’ in Genesis 1 has four different literal definitions. Part of the daylight hours, all of the daylight hours, a 24 hour period, or a long but finite period of time. It also helps English readers to recognize that in Biblical Hebrew the vocabulary size is quite small. If you don’t count the proper nouns, it’s only about 3,000 words. And therefore Biblical Hebrew nouns typically have multiple definitions, with very few synonyms. For example, in English we have a dozen different words for a long period of time; but in Biblical Hebrew the only word you’ve got is the word ‘yom’.
And so the challenge is this: which of the four literal definitions allows you to read all the Biblical creation texts consistently. And I wound up publishing a book on this subject called ‘A Matter of Days’, back in 2004, showing that only the long period of time perspective—six, seven consecutive long periods of time, allows you to read the entire Bible both literally and consistently. So I’m hoping this is a controversy that will get resolved, but one thing I notice is every church-splitting controversy that we’ve seen over the past 2,000 years, has got nothing to do with salvation, it’s really targeting an unpopular people group that certain believers don’t want to be fellowshipping with in the church, and so I’m convinced that this controversy will not disappear until scientists and engineers become active within every church in the country. But when that happens I believe God will replace that controversy with another church-splitting controversy that’s got nothing to do with salvation.
BA: Well, we’re kinda going down the Old Earth/Young Earth road a little ways, so lets keep going and, you know, we’ll never be able to unpack all of the different questions or issues, but there are a few that may come to mind here. One of them in particular would be sort of an accusation that those who would take an Old Earth view are not being faithful to scripture, or that they’re believing man’s fallible science rather than God’s unerring word. Do you think that there’s an inherent misunderstanding in that accusation? I mean, what would you say back to that?
HR; Yes I do, and as I speak on seminary campuses I’m discovering that the majority of conservative seminary professors take an Old Earth view, and actually look at the Young Earth interpretation as one that’s doing injustice to the text. So the shoe is really the other way around, and I’ve been finding in dialoguing with Young Earth creationist leaders—they seem to put very high priority on the Genesis text and ignore the other creation texts that we see in the Bible. I often hear them say, well, we can’t really look at the poetic creation texts, we can only look at the narrative creation texts, or the narrative creation texts are superior or supreme. But what I’ve been taught in hermeneutics classes is that we are to interpret the narrative in the light of the didactic—the teaching passages, which can either be prose or poetry. And therefore I think it’s more appropriate that we actually give all the creation texts in the Bible equal weight, and say, ok, they’re all from the Holy Spirit, they’re all inerrant and reliable, how do we interpret the whole set so that we get a consistent literal reading of the creation story God wants us to understand. So it really boils down to a difference in hermeneutics.
BA: Well, you sort of addressed this next question a bit when you talked about the word ‘yom’, but, you know, it seems to me a common objection’s going to be along the lines of why shouldn’t someone just take the most obvious meaning of the word ‘day’ in Genesis? If they read that it says day, and then there was evening, and then there was morning; first day, second day, third day. And then they see this pattern, where it comes up to the seventh day and God rested, and this is a ‘creation week’, and, you know, now God has the Sabbath on the seventh day. You know, many people would think that it’s bending over backwards to make the scripture fit into an older picture of the world based on what maybe we would commonly hear from scientists today. In other words we start with ‘millions of years’, and then we kind of shove that onto the narrative in Genesis. How do you walk through that? I mean, what’s your logical flow of thought when you’re looking at Genesis and kind of interpreting it through the other creation accounts that you see?
HR: Well, I became a Christian at age 19 after 2 years studying the Bible. It wasn’t until I was 29 that I met anyone who believed in a Young Earth interpretation. And when I picked up Genesis 1 and read it for the first time, it seemed immediately obvious and clear that these days had to be long periods of time. Because, as I went through Genesis 1 I noticed that there was an evening and a morning for the first 6 days, but there was no evening and morning on day 7. This just seems to imply that the 7th day’s not yet finished.
As I began to go through the rest of the Bible I recognized that, at the end of the 6th day, God stopped His creation work and during the 7th day He’s targeting the problem of evil. And when the 7th day ends, we have a new creation, Revelation 21. And so, during the 7th day, God is bringing about the end of evil; evil is still here, and so clearly the 7th day is ongoing. And, as a young scientist it answered the problem of the fossil record enigma, how when we look in the fossil record we see evidence for very extensive speciation events—an average of one new species appearing per year—but once humans show up on the scene, the evidence evaporates. But from the perspective of Genesis 1 for 6 days God creates, on the 7th day He ceases that work of creating. And so, we must be in this 7th day, because we don’t see any evidence for significant speciation going on. Then I also noticed that in Genesis 1 the text claims that the human male and the human female are both made on day 6. But when you look at Genesis 2, we have Adam created outside the Garden of Eden. He’s put in the garden, he observes the growth of the trees in the Garden of Eden, he tends the garden, then God has him name all the soulish animals, and in naming the soulish animals he recognizes that this is an aspect of creation that is soulish in nature that God designed to serve and please him. But after he’s assigned all these names for the different ways that they serve and please him, he says ‘I am lonely’. And that’s when God put him to sleep, took a biopsy from his side, he recovered from his surgery, Adam did, he was introduced to this new creature, and the word you see in the Hebrew original coming out of his mouth when he sees Eve is the word ‘ha pa’am’ used four other times in the Bible, translated ‘at long last’, and therefore there must be a considerable passage of time between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve, and yet both are made, according to Genesis 1, on day 6. So those are two of 21 different Biblical arguments that I give in ‘A Matter of Days’ for why those days cannot be 24 hour periods, but must be consecutive long periods of time.
BA: What do you think may be the most common misunderstanding of an Old Earth view among those who take a Young Earth view, that you would want to correct?
HR: Well, I mean, they claim it’s almost like a salvation issue, because they say from an Old Earth perspective you’ve got death before Adam. And in their theology if you’ve got death before Adam that somehow damages the doctrine of the atonement. And this is why I’ve been accused in print by some of them for being a heretic, because they claim I deny the doctrine of the atonement. I would argue however that the blood of animals has got nothing to do with the atonement Christ paid on the cross; in fact, the book of Hebrews tells us that the blood of goats and sheep and cattle has no effect for delivering us from our sins. It was simply something that God put into place to show us what God would provide Himself in the future.
And, the Bible doesn’t say that there was no death before Adam. It’s a misunderstanding of Romans 5:12-19. Young Earth creationists claim that text proves that nothing died before Adam, but if you actually read it, Romans 5:12 says death, through sin, was visited on all men as a direct result of Adam’s sin. But notice that Paul was making two very careful qualifications. He said this was death through sin—well, only the human species, of all life, is capable of sin. And he says death through sin was visited, not upon all life, but upon all men. And so Paul is being very careful to exclude the plants and the animals; this is something that applies to humanity only.
And, the other thing I notice, too, is that this Young Earth doctrine really didn’t become a problem for the church until people became urbanized. When you become urbanized, you lose contact with the animals and fail to appreciate that carnivorous activity is critical for maintaining health in the population of herbivores. And so carnivorous activity is actually a good thing, even in the context of the herbivores that are being preyed upon. Moreover, as I go through the Bible, the message that hits me in every book, is that the pathway to true life is always through death. If you’re not prepared to die, you can’t live. And so, therefore, I think what’s really going on in the Young Earth community is looking at death as something that’s horrible and can’t possibly be the hand of God. But we would argue, in the context of God’s goal to conquer and remove evil, that death is a critical component, and we should look upon it as a blessing, not as a curse.
BA: Well, that’s a good point. Now, you mentioned a couple of books there: ‘More Than a Theory’ and ‘A Matter of Days’. As far as resources you’d want to point people to that lay out the creation model that RTB has developed. Are there any other resources on the website you’d want to point them to as well?
HR: Well we’ve found that my book ‘Why the Universe is the Way It Is’ is an excellent starting place. It’s easy to read, and it gives people the big picture on our creation model, making the point that what’s unique about the Biblical creation model is that it’s a two creation model. God first creates the universe in the context of human beings, and then, He’ll remove the universe from existence when evil is conquered and replace it with a brand new creation—the New Creation that we see in Revelation 21 and 22. And so, realizing that this universe was created with the precise physics and space/time dimensions so that it can be used efficiently and effectively by God to permanently remove evil, gives us an appreciation for why the universe is the way it is, and moreover to recognize that the universe is temporary and that God’s got something much better in store for us. That gives you a framework for interpreting things like the origin and history of the universe, of life, the earth and humanity.
BA: Right, good. Well, I really hope that believers don’t divide over this issue but they really try to fully understand the various views and not become lopsided in their knowledge base.
HR: The key is dialogue, I mean we can dialogue with one another in a peaceful manner and to me the verse I keep emphasizing to our staff and volunteers: 1 Peter 3:15 “Always be ready to give an answer for the hope within you”—reasons to believe—”with gentleness, respect and a clear conscience”, which means always be ready to learn, we must do this with humility, nobody knows everything, and we must keep a charitable spirit with respect to one another.
BA: Well, I do appreciate that from RTB and it comes through in all of your resources as well. How would you encourage apologists to look at this issue, and what role should it play in our apologetics in the public square do you think?
HR: Well, I think we have to be honest when we’re talking to non-Christians; I think it’s a mistake when a non-Christian puts you on the spot and says ‘how old is the earth?’ that you say ‘I don’t know’. I think it’s important to state your perspective on it, indicate that this is a subject of debate. And what I see non-Christians waiting for us Christians to do, is to show a free-market competition of the models and ideas and theories that we’re developing, so they see us rigorously critiquing our own models, and improving our models, then I think that they’ll be prepared to trust us, and dialogue, and critique other models that they have developed. I mean, we’re called to engage people, not to criticize them, not to attack them, not to set up a fortress where we withdraw from them, but to engage them and fulfill the Great Commission.
BA: Good. Now, from your experience in doing apologetics, I want to ask you what some of the disciplines are that you think you would want to instill into the next generation of Christian apologists?
HR: Well, what I see the current generation of apologists doing, is moving heavily into philosophy—I think that’s a good thing. I mean, what I notice is that, philosophers are becoming more and more predominantly Christian as time goes on, but I’d like to encourage balance, that we’d also be encouraging young Christian scholars to go into theological apologetics and scientific apologetics, and the latter’s where I see the greatest need. Too many churches are discouraging their young people from pursuing scientific disciplines. They kinda look at science as the enemy of the Christian faith. And we’re here at RTB emphasizing the opposite: it’s the ally of the Christian faith, and we need to be sending an army of young people into the top scientific institutions, to get advanced degrees and to use those advanced degrees to develop new reasons to believe and to show people that we can integrate new science, philosophy and theology to find the truth that God wants us all to understand.
BA: Is there any advice in particular you would want to give to those who are currently pursuing careers in the sciences?
HR: Well, I would encourage them to do the best they can. I mean, you want to do your scientific research with integrity, it’s important to work hard, and to be careful, and to advance the discipline. I would encourage them to do post-doctoral research, because one thing I’ve learned about the scientific community is that they will trust you if they see you as one of their own. And so one of the things we do at RTB is make sure that the scientists we have on board have done post-doctoral research with secular peers. That buys you a whole lot of credibility, and that opens doors. And of course that applies to any discipline of academia.
BA: Well finally, Hugh, as we wrap here—your ministry provides a really good way for people to become better-equipped apologists through your RTB chapters. Now, could you tell me about those RTB chapters and what they are, where they are and how people can find out more?
HR: Well, I mean, we’re a staff of about 30, but we have about 3,000 volunteers. I look to our staff scholars, for example, to target the mission of researching and developing new reasons to believe, but we count on our scholar volunteers to be the primary avenue of communicating those new reasons. So, we have chapters in about 40 metropolitan cities in the US, and these are volunteers that live in those cities and are committed to reach out with the new reasons that we’re providing them to non-Christians in their area. We also provide training through Reasons Institute and Reasons Academy. We have a number of college-accredited courses that people can take to become better equipped in apologetics. If they take a certain number of courses then we give them a certificate where they become an official RTB apologist. That’s a way to give them some credibility when they go into different speaking venues.
BA: Well, excellent. Now, information on all these chapters will be linked at today’s blog-post at Apologetics 315, and all that information can also be found in the apologetics group directory. Hugh, thanks so much for your ministry and thanks for joining me for this interview.
HR: Oh, you’re very welcome. My pleasure.