ICYMI: Matthew Harrison, “Concerning the Six-Day Creation”

As we continue to develop resources related to the creation debates within Evangelicalism and a “Lutheran option” to those debates, Matthew Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, has offered some good theological reflections on Genesis 1 and the six-day creation. I am especially grateful for the pastoral concern that President Harrison expresses regarding the faithful Christian scientists who wrestle with these issues about faith and science as he himself has done. As he puts it:

“And many Christian scientists have and will continue to make arguments based upon their best scientific inquiry to defend the historicity or the very reasonable possibility of the Bible’s accounts being true. That’s called apologetics. More power to them. As Lutherans, we are not anti-science.”

In my own personal interactions with many of these Christian scientists—brothers and sisters in the faith—they have deeply appreciated the support, conversation, and collegiality we can show them as pastors and theologians.

Like President Harrison, I find it helpful to frame these debates within the context of the relationship between “faith and reason.” When framed in this way we can see that there is a long history to this debate and that we can glean guidance from our tradition in navigating the relationship between faith and reason that includes living with the scandal of the cross and the mystery of a world that we did not create.

You can read President Harrison’s reflections in full at the LCMS blog. It also appears in the most recent issue of Lutheran Witness.





7 responses to “ICYMI: Matthew Harrison, “Concerning the Six-Day Creation””

  1. Justin Walker Avatar
    Justin Walker

    And what exactly is the “relationship” of faith and reason? Is it one of equals? Are they complementary? Is one subordinated to the other? I think all of us would appreciate the same clarity and plain speaking on this issue from Concordia Theology as President Harrison provides in his blog post.

    1. Charles Arand Avatar
      Charles Arand

      Hello, Justin. First, thank you for checking out the post and taking the time to comment. Second, I’m sorry to ask this, but was your comment intended to be sarcastic? If I have misread the tone of your comments, then I apologize. It’s not always to easy to discern tone in digital media.

      With regard to the post itself, my goal was simply to second what President Harrison said and thus refer people to his post. President Harrison puts it well with regard to faith and reason: “There will always be a struggle between faith and reason. In matters of clear teaching of the Bible, I must hold to the Scriptures”… And “Nevertheless, the truths of Holy Scripture — and that includes God’s creation of everything ex nihilo (“out of nothing) — are most often well beyond human reason.”

      In addition, I wanted to note that faith and reason is exactly the issue I want to explore with regard to my critique of the three different camps within Evangelicalism on faith and science issues (see my previous post). To that end, I take for my starting point Luther’s clear statements in the Small Catechism, that God “has given me reason and all my senses” and also, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord.” To tip my hand a bit, I believe that each camp runs the risk of adopting a magisterial (rather than a ministerial) use of reason that ultimately places our faith in human explanations rather than in the Word of God and his words in Scripture. By contrast, we Lutherans are content/satisfied with what Scripture gives us in the face of reason’s contradictions. Stay tuned!

      1. Justin Walker Avatar
        Justin Walker

        Hello Charles,

        I’m not interested in wasting our time with sarcasm. It was a sincere comment. I’m not sure how I would have worded it otherwise to avoid that confusion. I did read your prior post, and even there you apologized for not being clearer (nb not in a personal sense). But I agree that the more clarity here the better. I read your post above as being unclear in two ways that I see as important: (1) whether you agreed with the substance of President Harrison’s statement (as opposed to a small part of it) or disagreed in some way and more particularly (2) whether the relationship between faith and reason was one that would either put reason in an equal or magisterial position. Your comment here provides more clarity. I may not like the teaser to wait for more to come, but the added comments are appreciated. But as you’ve said in your prior post on this topic and given all of the ink that has been devoted to this topic in various places, I do think it is incumbent on Concordia Journal/Theology to be as transparent, clear, and plain as possible.

  2. Seth Davidson Avatar

    Dr. Arand,
    I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. As a previous student, and now pastor the articles and publications the Seminary are producing are very helpful to those of us in the field. Currently I have two Ph.D’s who are the chair of departments in very specific scientific fields at major universities and many Dr.’s and medical professionals in my congregation… The writings and publications the Seminary and her faculty publish are incredibly helpful in continuing the discussion of the faithful witness of the church in what we preach, teach, and confess in regards to creation, and working through this topic. Your work to both the Seminary and the church at large is an utter blessing to us ministering in the field. We appreciate all the work you and the and faculty do in continuing to be proactive, relevant, confessional, and Gospel centered in your teachings and writings. Please send our heart felt gratitude to the faculty at large for the endless grace in the academic growth of the church and her people. God’s richest blessings. – Rev. Seth Davidson, Pastor St. John Lutheran Church, Athens, TX.

  3. Rick Strickert Avatar
    Rick Strickert

    In his article, “Concerning the six-day creation,” President Harrison makes the following statements:

    “Just as science will forever have a problem with Jesus being God and man, with His virgin birth, or with His resurrection, so science will forever scoff at or, at best, view the creation account in Genesis as mythology.”

    “As Lutherans, we are not anti-science.”

    So, which is it?? If Lutherans excoriate science as an anti-Christian boogeyman, then Lutherans cannot claim they are not anti-science.

    The problem here is an equivocation of science and scientism.

    In his article, “The Scientist as a Theologian of the Cross” (Concordia Journal, Summer Issue, 2017), Prof. Charles Arand stated that “we should be careful to distinguish science from scientism, the former being the disciplines practiced by professional scientists and the latter being a worldview in which the limits of science are ignored by those who believe that science offers us a complete account of the world” (p. 18), and “so we need to distinguish between science as an explanatory framework and science as a philosophy or dogma (scientism)” (p. 29).

    In its 2015 document, “In Christ All Things Hold Together The Intersection of Science and Christian Theology,” the CTCR (of which Pres. Harrison is a member) stated: “This report will provide guidance and encouragement to a number of constituencies who seek to combat scientism and recover the sense of science as a vocation which glorifies God and provides beneficial services to the neighbor” (p. 12).

  4. William Burke Avatar
    William Burke

    How do Matthew Harris and his fellow literalists reconcile their literalism with the fact that all mammals will exhibit female external morphology unless the individual produces and responds to masculinizing androgen hormones?

    The asserted observation that “The basic embryonic plan of mammals is inherently feminine” – clearly presents problems for a literal interpretation of Genesis.

    The Role of H-Y Antigen in Primary Sex Determination
    Susumu Ohno, PhD, DSc, DVM
    Author Affiliations
    JAMA. 1978;239(3):217-220. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280300049020 ]

  5. William Burke Avatar
    William Burke

    “science will forever have a problem with Jesus being God and man, with His virgin birth, or with His resurrection”

    That assertion reflects Matthew Harris’ opinion it doesn’t reflect reality. For him, science must “have a problem” with the worldview that Harris uses to assume dominion over the faith of others.

    Science makes no claims regarding the inability of a non-temporal Creator to have a temporal presence.

    Science makes no exclusionary assertions regarding spontaneous reproduction of binary sexual organisms. In fact it documents instances of reproduction that deviate from the norms of sexual dimorphism.

    Science makes no assertions regarding the nature of the life and death of non temporal entities.

    Science isn’t making those assertions. Matthew Harris is making those assertions in the process of holding up his opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible modes of thinking – with which he endeavors to assume dominion over the faith of others

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