As you read articles written by creationists, atheists, and apologetics authors, you sometimes see words that need an explanation. We must understand the meaning of the terms and what the author intends to convey. There are three words that you should understand the meaning of: Scientism, Literalistic, Literal.
#1 SCIENTISM. Scientism is the idea that science is the only reliable way to determine truth. It is used to exclude any consideration of the supernatural or metaphysical. Because they can not be falsified, scientism rejects miracles or claims about the divinity of Christ. Those of us who argue that science and faith support each other are sometimes accused of preaching scientism. The fact is that the scientific method prevents any consideration of many questions that are important in life. The Winter 2020 issue of God and Nature published an article by Terry Defoe titled “A Pastor’s Journey in Search of Consensus.” He wrote that, “Science can be compared to a fisherman’s net that can’t catch small fish because the holes in the net are too large.” Science is NOT the only source of truth.
#2 LITERALISM. Literalism is the approach of reading ancient documents and merely reading the words on the page in their most basic sense, not considering the context. Long ago, Augustine warned against Christians presenting their literalistic interpretations of Scripture as if they were experts in areas where they are ignorant.
“The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.” Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) (Read more HERE.)
In literalism, there is no attempt to ask what the author intended his message to be, or to apply modern knowledge in understanding the documents.
#3 LITERAL. Literal means to understand a text as the original author intended. Here is an example of how a literal interpretation of a passage might differ from a literalistic interpretation. In Revelation 7:1, John writes, “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth …” If you just lift the passage off the page (literalistic), you would maintain that Earth has four corners, and therefore it is flat. Some groups actually support that view and use this passage to prove it. A literal translation would ask, “What is John attempting to say?” If you look at the context of the passage, the answer is obvious. We have a Lamb opening seals and displaying wrath in chapter 6 and 144,000 people sealed in chapter seven. Obviously, the passage is not written to give scientific data on the shape of the Earth.
We maintain that this ministry takes the Bible literally. Much of the Christian community takes selected passages such as Genesis 1 literalistically. The result is they present the Bible in a way that makes it look foolish and ignorant. Scientism is not our approach. We use all of the tools God has given us to understand His Word. That approach is essential when talking to young men and women growing up in the 21st century. One of the tools we use is science, and that is not Scientism.
Many articles that we have posted on the “Does God Exist?” websites have revolved around definitions. Let us attempt to clarify some definitions.
EVOLUTION means different things to different people. Evolution essentially means change over time. We can see evidence of that in dogs and cattle and roses. Some would call those changes within plant and animal types as microevolution. There is also evolution of one type of animal into something completely different. That is sometimes called macroevolution, and it is something we don’t see. When someone says “you can’t believe in evolution and believe in God,” there will be different understandings of what that statement means. There are leading evolutionists like Dr. Francis Collins who are also prominent Christian leaders. Theistic evolution is evolution designed or guided by God. Naturalistic evolution is totally different.
NATURALISM asserts that natural laws are the only rules that govern the structure and behavior of the universe and that the universe at every stage of change is a product of those laws. Naturalism leaves out God and offers a purely materialistic cause and understanding of the universe.
MATERIALISM is the belief that physical “stuff” is the only thing that is real. Anything that is not physical in nature is deemed to be of no value in determining answers to the choices of life. Anything that cannot be measured or tested by science does not exist.
SCIENTISM is the belief that science is the only reliable source of truth. Years ago science was defined simply as knowledge. The modern definition of science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Scientism goes beyond science to make science a god.
DEISM is belief in the existence of a supreme being–a creator who started the universe but does not intervene or show any interest in it. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.
THEISM is belief in the existence of a deity or deities, but not necessarily the God of the Bible.