Friday, June 19, 2009

The Gospel vs. Science - Automatic Victory?

So I was listening to a talk on the radio the other day... it had the feel of a BYU devotional or CES fireside. I don't know who the speaker was, but they quoted (I hate when people do this, so I'm trying to track down the quote) Elder Maxwell on the subject of conflicts between science and religion. He said something about how the gospel embraces all truth, and that true science never conflicts with the gospel.
The speaker then went on to point out that our understanding of science is limited, but that the eternal gospel is unlimited. That, for him, when there is a conflict, it doesn't bother him for they will one day be reconciled.
All well and good. But here's my problem with the idea: While it's true that our knowledge of science (both individually, and collectively) is quite limited and imperfect. And it is true that the eternal gospel is limitless and complete and perfect. But, since when did we believe that our understanding of the gospel is complete and perfect? We don't! Continuing revelation is not just about establishing new quorums of Seventy and calling new Apostles. It's about revealing the Christ didn't, in person, actually go to the spirits in Prison, despite the fact that the Bible says he did. It's about eternal damnation not really meaning damnation of an eternal duration, but rather of an Eternal kind (being God's - where one of His chosen names is Eternal).
So revelation has, can, and will continue to change our understanding of the doctrines of the Eternal Gospel. So why, when a conflict arises, is there an automatic victory for the currently held belief in the church? Isn't it just as likely (ok, maybe the odds are not the same. They could be higher or lower) that the prophet will later reveal a change as it is that the scientific evidence will be overturned by newer research?

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