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Christ and Science 1

By Gerry Straker, 09 Jun 2020

Christ and Science 1

Over a few posts articles, we’re going to take a look at Christ and science. They are based on our C3 Central, which you can find here and the handout for the evening is here.
It’s my hope that these posts will:

  • Help you think rightly about science and Christianity in the face of pressure and misinformation.
  • Get you excited about God, His creation, and exploring it with his gift of scientific endeavour.
  • And reassure you that you can help people with questions about science and Christianity. While we think the scientific endeavour is a good thing - it's good to learn about God's world - in fact you really don’t need to know a whole lot about the details of science to engage with the big questions people have. 

1. The battle

Much media and some militant atheists portray science and the Bible in  conflict with one another, and the history of faith and science is portrayed as a battle between the darkness of blind faith that held sway for so long, before the light of reason shone through.  
 
And the fight is not a fair one. On the one side is cool logic and the height of human reason; on the other side is ignorant wishful thinking. That has caused wars and kept the masses downtrodden. On the one hand objective and neutral thinking;  on the other subjective, biased ‘un-thinking’.
 
Here's how atheists describe the findings of science. Steven Pinker, (psychology professor at Harvard), says: ‘The findings of science imply that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures…are factually mistaken’.[1] Here’s Richard Dawkins: ‘[the universe] has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’[2]And in his famous book, The God Delusion, Dawkins declares: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”[3] 
 
The media hype all this up so it’s not surprising that the public perception is that there is this battle going on between science and the Bible, with science having all the trump cards, and it can seem that: ‘Good science destroys religious faith.’
 
But, actually, there isn’t a battle…

2. There isn’t a battle

Galileo taught that earth went round the sun and it’s often thought that he was physically persecuted by the Church. This is seen as a classic example of the battle between science and the Bible. But here’s what actually happened: Galileo was a Christian. He wasn’t overturning the Bible, but the teaching of Aristotle that had been taken on by the Catholic Church. [4] Indeed, Galileo was not the first Christian to question whether everything in the Bible is absolutely literal. For example, the language of our experience that the Bible uses (like the sun rising that we can see everyday) is not literal. (Also, by the way, Galileo was not tortured by the Church).  
 
Rather than a battle between science and the Bible, we could say: ‘Galileo's teaching was a victory for Christian scientists over centuries of darkness based on pagan philosophy!’ The battle is really not between science and the Bible.

For starters they are to an extent answering different questions. Think about a cake: a physicist could talk about its dimensions; a chemist could talk about the chemical properties of the various ingredients; and a biologist could tell us about the life that went into this cake - the eggs, the wheat, and the yeast.  Science can tell us loads about a cake.
 
But science cannot tell us some pretty important things about a particular cake such as: who made it? What is it for? And most importantly perhaps: who gets to eat it? We need the baker of the cake to reveal those answers to us. We need the cake-maker to tell us that she made it, we need her to tell us why she made it, and to tell us who gets to share it.
 
Likewise, science can tell us a lot about the world, but it cannot tell us who made it, why they made and who gets to share it. On the other hand, in the Bible, God himself speaks and he tells us that he made the world, he made it for His Son, and we get to share it!

And so, science has limits. Plenty of good scientists recognise this. The Professor of Genetics at University College London, Steve Jones, an atheist, has said this: ‘It is the essence of all scientific theories that they cannot resolve everything. Science cannot answer the questions that philosophers – or children – ask: why are we here, what is the point of being alive, how ought we to behave? Genetics has almost nothing to say about what makes us more than machines driven by biology, about what makes us human.’[5] Science can’t answer our biggest questions.

On the other hand, the Bible is not a scientific text book and it doesn’t claim to be! It is principally dealing with the who and why kind of questions. In Genesis, the primary focus is our Creator. Here's Genesis 1:1-3, 31: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good...’
 
We learn in Genesis that God is one, he is all-powerful: he speaks and it happens, Everything that exists comes from him – the whole heavens and the earth; he knows and plans everything; he is good;  and, he created a good world. This is in complete contrast to the pagan religions in the Ancient Near East. [6]
 
Genesis tells us about God, and also about man. We are made in the image of God.  Man is the climax of creation and we’re also told why we are here: to fill the earth (create); to subdue it (rule) and to have relationships (relate).
 
Genesis also tells us what when wrong in the world: the ruin that humanity caused, and human progress can’t sort it out, rather only the Creator can help us - and he promises he will.
 
And so, the Bible concentrates on who made the world and why. While science concentrates on the how and when questions. These two fields are complementary rather than contradictory.
 
But while they are two distinct disciplines, they are not unrelated. The Bible has plenty to say about science! As Rebecca McLaughlin says: ‘The God who made the universe must have scientific knowledge as far surpassing ours as a street lamp is surpassed by the sun.’[7]  The Bible and science are not independent of one another. Moreover, they are not equal in value.
 
Imagine that this evening, as I tuck my kids in bed I were to say to each one in turn: ‘You are a mammal. As an adult you will have 206 bones in your body, 32 teeth and 7 octillion atoms. Your genetic identity arises from a combination of my DNA and the DNA of your other progenitor.’ Important truths to learn to be sure, but not the most important at bedtime. The more important truths to say to my kids time and time again are these: ‘I am your father and I love you.’ Without these more important truths about our relationshipthe knowledge of the other truths about their physical make up, would leave my children flailing! There is an important place to start.[8] And that’s where God starts. What he says to us first in the Bible is essentially this: 'I am your Father and I love you!'
 
More next time...



[1]Quoted in Rebecca McClaughlin, Confronting Christianity, (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 109.
[2] McClaughlin, Confronting Christianity, 109.
[3] Quoted in Alister McGrath, and Joanna Collicutt McGrath. The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine, (London: SPCK, 2007), vii.
[4] The battle was not a battle between Christianity and science, but between ‘old science’ and ‘new science’.  As Doug Wilson puts it: ‘The mistake made by the medievals was not that of a wooden biblical literalism. The Church was geocentric, not because of the Scripture verses that describe the sun rising, but rather because the Church had securely accommodated herself to the best pagan science of the day. The driving force behind that famous showdown was Plato and Aristotle. That pagan system of belief was of course decorated with Bible verses, in much the same way that Darwinian evolution is decorated with really creative exegesis.’ htp://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5865%3ALate-to-the-Party-As-Usual&catid=117%3Athe-united-kingdom&Itemid=1
[5] Quoted in John Blanchard, Is God past his sell-by date? (Darlington, Co. Durham: Evangelical Press, 2004), 63-64.
[6] See Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15, (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1987), pages xlvi-liii.
[7] McClaughlin, Confronting Christianity, 120.
[8] HT McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity, 121.



Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.