Considering the immense interest surrounding the Creation/Evolution debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (a Young Earth guy), I figured this would be a good time to publish something I wrote about science and Christianity…
**Is there harmony between Christianity & science?**
(Read the “Prequel” to Christianity + Science = BFF here.)
(If this your first time on this blog, please read about the purpose of this blog.)
(For a video of the Nye/Ham debate click here.)
Here are some misconceptions people mistakenly believe:
Science and religion can’t coexist.
If someone embraces science they can’t also embrace God.
If someone is Christian, they’re against science.
Religion and science are mutually exclusive ways of viewing the world.
If you “believe” in science, there’s no need for God.
Science disproves God.
Belief in God inhibits scientific progress.
As hard as many try to convince us that science and Christianity can’t coexist, this type of thinking is logically disjointed and a shortsighted misunderstanding of Christianity.
First, it’s massively over-simplifying to try to sum up the complexity of life into two mutually exclusive categories: either “science” or “religion.” Science and religion are huge categories about a wide array of things. Further, neither science nor religion address every aspect of life.
To be fair, when most speak about science, they’re speaking of empirical science. Empirical science is used to study present, repeatable events. These events can be replicated in studies and witnessed through our senses. Many things fall outside of the realm of empirical science. Can you prove with empirical science what you are thinking at this very moment? Can historic events be proved by empirical science? Can empirical science prove right and wrong or why you deserve rights as a human being? In fact, can empirical science prove that empirical science (as some claim) is the only way to know truth?
Concerning Christianity, the Bible deals with what theologians call redemptive history, which covers our relationship to God, how sin has separated us from God, and what God has done to repair that relationship. Dinosaurs, for example, don’t fall into the scope of the Bible because redemptive history doesn’t concern them. I think we can all agree that the Bible was never meant to encompass comprehensive information about everything, whether it be history, science, or even, say, mathematics or psychology or art.
Furthermore, neither science nor religion is by nature essentially “good” or “bad.” Not all science is equal nor is all religion. There is good science, and there is bad science. There is good religion and there is bad religion (and I don’t mean the punk band). There are atheist scientists, and there are Christian scientists (and I don’t mean the cult). And, finally, science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Since I choose to be a Christian, I obviously believe not all religions are equal (since I chose one over others), and I believe “good” Christianity is perfectly compatible with “good” science.
Christian scientists (not the cult) don’t see their studying of our world as separate from their faith. If God created everything, studying creation is a way to learn about God and even to worship him. In fact, before this large gap between “religious life” and “secular life” existed, this is how early scientists saw their endeavors.
If God created everything, and we study the things God created, it doesn’t logically follow that the discovery of things like cells or gravity or photosynthesis disprove God. Likewise, believing that God has performed miracles doesn’t mean science is null and void. When I walk around the Natural History Museum in New York City – perhaps my favorite museum to visit – I don’t think, “Wow, look at all this stuff that disproves God!” I think, “Wow, our planet is amazing!” and I grow in amazement of God and in appreciation of science, which helps us to understand this world God created.
Admittedly, yes, there is “bad” Christianity that leads to “bad” science. Yes, a few hundred years ago some in the church mistakenly thought the earth was the center of the universe (though this is not in the Bible), but I think it’s about time to let that one go. Or is it still too soon? When an occasional numbskull politician makes absurd comments about how raped women can’t become pregnant, it’s plain to see that this is neither good science nor good Christianity.
True, evolution is currently the big battle going on between some science-advocates and some Christians, and since this is such a big issue, I’m not going to attempt to do it justice here. Let me just say this: people on both sides of the Creationism vs. Evolution debate have considerable challenges concerning their beliefs that they must both address. Also, Youth Earth Creationism (as Ken Ham believes) and atheistic, materialist evolution (as Bill Nye believes) aren’t the only 2 options. Many evangelical Christians are Old Earth Creationists. Even in evangelical circles, there are discussions that there may be more than 1 way to interpret Genesis 1. But as I said, this is a BIG subject I’m not going to cover here. (Further, as Albert Mohler writes in his essay about the Ham/Nye debate, how one interprets the evidence is dependent on the presuppositions of his worldview.)
This idea that someone who believes in God is totally ignorant of science is pure goofiness. Can you imagine any Christian in the following conversation?
Professor: How can we design a flying car?
Atheist: Use science – engineering, technology!
Christian: That’s it.
Because my wife and I believe in God, it doesn’t mean we don’t water my wife’s garden and simply leave it all up to God whether anything grows or not. Because I believe in God, it doesn’t mean I believe my car moves because it’s possessed by demons.
Christians believe humans are God’s unique creation of body, mind, and spirit. Humans are the only things in God’s creation that are both physical and spiritual. Though there is a group that doesn’t believe in medicine called Christian Science that believes sickness is an illusion, this is a cult and their beliefs have no support from the Bible. (Ironically, their beliefs are neither “science” nor “Christian” and are closer to the beliefs of types of Hinduism.)
Christians take medicine because good science is, well, good. Because we are mind, body, and spirit, if a Christian is struggling with depression, we recognize it may be a physical condition (and take medication), a mental condition (and seek therapy), or a spiritual condition (and seek the guidance of God). Though a Christian should implement prayer into all he or she does, this doesn’t mean Christians simply pray, hope for the best, and do nothing else.
This inaccurate view of Christianity often has to do with a misunderstanding of the purpose of Christian prayer. Yes, Christians do believe God listens to our prayers and, at times, answers them. But someone with a good understanding of Christian theology knows that God is not our heavenly genie-in-a-bottle, and someone even with bad theology knows God doesn’t answer all our prayers. (Can you imagine the chaos if God answered every prayer every person ever prayed?) The main purpose for prayer is to build our relationship with God and to align ourselves with God’s will.
Likewise, along with prayer, some atheists point towards the belief in miracles as a reason why Christians are illogical, superstitious, and anti-science. First, there are Christians who believe that miracles were unique to the times recorded about in the Bible and used to mark God’s unique, special revelation within history, but those times have passed. Though there is truth behind this belief, most Christians still believe in miracles today (yet often throw around the word “miracle” too easily). Secondly, if God created the world, then it’s not illogical to understand that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with his creation, as any creator can over his or her creation.
Think of a car engine. I can create an engine, get it started, and as long as it has gas and oil, it can run on its own as a closed system. But if I decide to step in and pull a hose off the engine, I’m able to do so. I’m superior to the engine; I have power over it.
God created the world, but he can “step in” however and whenever he wants. It’s similar to the relationship you would have to a computer program or a painting you created. Say you painted a beautiful picture of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, but then you decided to add to the painting Homer Simpson shooting up out of the geyser. Sure, that’s unusual, but it’s by no means impossible, and it’s within your power and your rights to do so.
The creation story in Genesis shows us that God is a God who created in a process with order, not disorder. Because of this, modern science developed within a Christian culture. Christian scientists (not the cult), past and present, have recognized that there is an order in nature that can be studied and understood because they believe in a God of order. Within a culture influenced by this Christian view of the world, modern western science developed. If you believe nature acts according to the unpredictable whim of how good or bad of a day Zeus is having, then what patterns are there to study, categorize, or observe?
(If you don’t think science and the Christian faith are compatible, take 17 minutes of your day to watch this video by Acts 17 Apologetics.)