Christianity & Science

After sev­er­al years of own­ing the book, I’ve start­ed to read The Joy of Pi by David Blat­ner. It’s a delight­ful book — beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed, wit­ty, filled with fun(!) quotes about the mys­te­ri­ous lit­tle π — which I think I’d rec­om­mend to oth­ers once I fin­ish it; at the very least, I bet Dad would enjoy it.

How­ev­er, what stands out most in my mind from The Joy of Pi is this para­graph, found on page twenty-nine:

The first mil­len­ni­um C.E. saw the Dark Ages in Europe, which were filled with war and strife fol­low­ing the break­down of the Roman Empire and the rise in pow­er of ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty. Any bud­ding sci­en­tif­ic inter­est in Europe dur­ing these years was effec­tive­ly quelled by reli­gious intol­er­ance or destroyed by war­ring fac­tions. But knowl­edge has a way of trav­el­ing to where it will flour­ish, and pi (along with many oth­er facets of West­ern thought) man­aged to pop up in the more nur­tur­ing aca­d­e­m­ic cli­mate of the Mus­lim world.

Mmm, pi.

The math­e­mat­ics of π may seem of lit­tle con­se­quence to you, but the fact of the mat­ter is that π shows up in far too many places for it to be ignored. Whether in engi­neer­ing, physics, math­e­mat­ics, or astron­o­my (or any num­ber of oth­er fields), hav­ing a sol­id under­stand­ing of π is ben­e­fi­cial. As Augus­tus De Mor­gan wrote, “This mys­te­ri­ous 3.14159 … which comes in at every door and win­dow, and down every chim­ney” (A Bud­get of Para­dox­es, as cit­ed in The Joy of Pi).

Yet the “aca­d­e­m­ic cli­mate” in Europe over 1,000 years ago pre­vent­ed much progress from being made. The earth was flat, locat­ed at the cen­ter of the uni­verse, and the sun revolved around it… and the Church was con­tent with that.

3.141592653
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26433832795

At that point in his­to­ry, sci­en­tif­ic advance­ment posed no real threat to Chris­tian­i­ty; after all, the earth can be a tiny speck in a galaxy which itself is a tiny speck in a vast, expand­ing uni­verse with­out it los­ing its posi­tion in the sight of God. Does hold­ing God’s atten­tion require that the earth stand out as the mid­point of every­thing? When talk­ing about a God who is glo­ri­fied by turn­ing sin­ners’ hearts to Him, I find it amaz­ing that Earth is but a speck in the cos­mic dance, yet still at the cen­ter of His plan. That is how He seems to oper­ate — what is cen­tral, mag­nif­i­cent, or glo­ri­ous from a nat­u­ral­is­tic stand­point is over­looked by the Almighty, for He is look­ing for the bro­ken, the poor, the insignif­i­cant… A wretch like me, for instance.

Even­tu­al­ly, sci­ence was “allowed” to progress in Europe. And it has con­tin­ued to grow.

And today, two major sci­en­tif­ic par­a­digms “threat­en” the Chris­ten­dom yet again: the big bang the­o­ry and the the­o­ry of evolution.

You’d think that … men of faith would final­ly start to real­ize that sci­ence pos­es no threat to Christianity.

You’d think that after mil­len­nia of unnec­es­sary bick­er­ing between men of faith and men of sci­ence, the men of faith would final­ly start to real­ize that sci­ence pos­es no threat to Chris­tian­i­ty. Rather, what­ev­er sci­en­tif­ic advances are made seem to repeat­ed­ly show God to be all the greater — rather than being the Cre­ator & Sus­tain­er of air, earth, fire, water, and quin­tes­sence, He is Cre­ator & Sus­tain­er of hydro­gen, heli­um, lithi­um, beryl­li­um, boron, et al.

To quote my father:

Sci­ence is a study of the phys­i­cal world around us. As it stands today, evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry is the par­a­digm under which sci­ence func­tions. There are lit­er­al­ly moun­tains of data from many dif­fer­ent fields that sup­port this paradigm.

He did­n’t include it, but the same could be said for the big bang the­o­ry; it & evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry are the par­a­digms with­in which mod­ern day chem­istry, biol­o­gy, astron­o­my, cos­mol­o­gy, physics, and so on are operating.

Is sci­ence more threat­en­ing than Hell? I hard­ly think so.

And what’s wrong with that? To my Chris­t­ian brethren I ask, do you believe what Jesus said? If the gates of Hell are unable to ever to pre­vail against us, why do we act as though sci­ence is out to end all that we hold dear? Is sci­ence more threat­en­ing than Hell? I hard­ly think so. It must be that sci­ence is sim­ply more ter­ri­fy­ing than Hell; after all, isn’t it eas­i­er — espe­cial­ly for those who may be weak in the faith or may not even be true believ­ers at all — to fear that which can be seen?

Sci­ence can­not prove or dis­prove God. I’m sor­ry if you think it can, but you’re wrong, whol­ly & thor­ough­ly. Even if it could, what would be the point? Unbe­liev­ers will still be unbe­liev­ers even if they saw the dead raised to life; and believ­ers should be believ­ers, and hap­py are those who believe & have not seen! Only the Lord can con­vert the heart of man, so why waste so much of your time on attempt­ing to prove the Lord’s exis­tence to the unbe­liev­ing athe­ists, human­ists, and so on of the world? You’ll get nowhere even if your argu­ments are compelling.

A Real Life Primate

You were not com­mis­sioned by God to go out and prove His case. You were com­mis­sioned to go out and to preach the gospel. That is the means the Lord has cho­sen to change the hearts of His elect. No amount of sci­en­tif­ic pre­sen­ta­tion can improve upon that. “Repent and believe…” What? That God cre­at­ed the Earth and that evo­lu­tion is bogus? No. “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

And with­in no bib­li­cal descrip­tion of the Gospel and with­in no his­toric Chris­t­ian con­fes­sions of the Gospel that I’m aware of will you find believ­ers quib­bling with unbe­liev­ers over the ori­gins of man and of the cosmos.

And just so there’s no con­fu­sion, I have post­ed a bit about the Gospel recent­ly, so check them out.

But Rick, the Bible teach­es us that God cre­at­ed man? You’ll get no argu­ment from me on that. I whole­heart­ed­ly believe Gen­e­sis 1 & 2. The same goes for Gen­e­sis 3 through Rev­e­la­tion 22.

Wait, did­n’t you say evo­lu­tion is okay and isn’t a threat? Does­n’t it teach us that man evolved from mon­keys?? What I said is that evo­lu­tion may very well be a valid par­a­digm with­in which sci­ence can oper­ate, and no, it is not a threat.

What evo­lu­tion does is explain how life oper­ates today and pre­sum­ably for every­day pri­or. If it bugs you that humans & ani­mals appear so close­ly relat­ed, I encour­age you to go back to Gen­e­sis 1 & 2 and notice that not only were we all cre­at­ed by the same God, but we were also all cre­at­ed from the same mate­r­i­al — earth. How much dif­fer­ence are you real­ly hop­ing to find? After all, the key dif­fer­ence, bib­li­cal­ly, is that man was designed in the image of God. How, pray tell, can sci­ence test such a thing? It can’t.

How, pray tell, can sci­ence test such a thing? It can’t.

And if it can­not be test­ed, it can­not be dis­proven, and so I say again: Sci­ence — even the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion — is not a threat.

After all, what con­clu­sion would you expect sci­ence to draw? God has giv­en us life upon the earth which is genet­i­cal­ly very sim­i­lar. Like­wise, He has cre­at­ed repro­duc­tive mech­a­nisms which allow for muta­tions with­in the genet­ic code. And the envi­ron­ment with­in which all of this is tak­ing place results in the sur­vival of those crea­tures best suit­ed for it (a pen­guin does­n’t stand a camel’s chance in the desert, after all).

Giv­en the sim­i­lar­i­ties, fact of muta­tions, and so on — the evi­den­tial frame­work with­in which sci­ence works — the par­a­digm of evo­lu­tion is derived. It explains — in a sec­u­lar man­ner, mind you — the ori­gins of life. Sci­en­tists do not come to that con­clu­sion to be hos­tile to Chris­tian­i­ty. Indeed, it is the only con­clu­sion which may be drawn with­out direct inter­ven­tion by the Holy Spir­it in their souls, enabling them to believe in the bib­li­cal testimony.

Sci­en­tists do not come to the con­clu­sion of evo­lu­tion to be hos­tile to Christianity.

Yet even still, the bib­li­cal tes­ti­mo­ny does not negate the avail­able evi­dence. To the con­trary, the Scrip­tures reas­sure us that the Heav­ens declare the glo­ry of God, that the earth is the Lord’s, and that all of Cre­ation declares His exis­tence. There is rest & solace in those truths, and I do not think they were ever meant to be apolo­getic bat­tle cries for cre­ation ministries.

Are you say­ing then, Rick, that min­istries like Answers in Gen­e­sis are a waste of time? Not nec­es­sar­i­ly. If I haven’t made it clear yet, attempt­ing to make bib­li­cal cre­ation a viable sci­en­tif­ic alter­na­tive to cur­rent accept­ed par­a­digms is a waste of time. Bib­li­cal cre­ation, while I believe it to be true, is admit­ted­ly unten­able with­in sci­ence, and that should be whol­ly unsur­pris­ing to any­one who under­stands sci­ence. Mir­a­cles (includ­ing Cre­ation, the Res­ur­rec­tion, and the new birth of believ­ers), by def­i­n­i­tion, are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble, which is fine. We can rest in the truth that with God noth­ing is impossible.

To my Chris­t­ian brethren read­ing this, I encour­age you to step out of the way of sci­en­tif­ic progress. Two-thou­sand years from now — except­ing the pos­si­ble return of Christ — the Church will still be going strong and sci­ence will still be seek­ing the bet­ter­ment of mankind.

I can’t help but think of what advance­ments would have already been made if Chris­ten­dom & sci­ence could have been work­ing togeth­er from the begin­ning. And frankly, I’d like to see where sci­ence is tak­ing the world today, with­out caus­ing sci­en­tists to waste time respond­ing to & debat­ing Cre­ation­ists con­cern­ing things which are out­side the realm of science.

At the end of the day, God’s Word stands true…

Let the evo­lu­tion­ist believe in evo­lu­tion. Let the big bang the­o­rist believe in the big bang. And let them con­tin­ue to see where sci­ence is tak­ing us. Maybe some­day new advance­ments will over­rule evo­lu­tion & the big bang (effec­tive­ly mak­ing all the Cre­ation vs. Evo­lu­tion debates that much big­ger a waste of time), but we as Chris­tians should let the experts work those issues out. At the end of the day, God’s Word stands true and the Church sud­den­ly has more time to focus on evan­ge­lism rather than fruit­less debate.

Accord­ing to The Joy of Pi, π has been cal­cu­lat­ed out to over 51 bil­lion dig­its (the mil­lionth is “1”). And won­der of won­ders, the Church still sur­vives — nay, thrives. Sci­ence has brought us fan­tas­tic tech­nolo­gies — such as radio and the inter­net — which has allowed the Gospel to be spread to count­less souls who would have oth­er­wise like­ly nev­er heard the news.

Sci­ence is not a threat. It isn’t even scary. It should be embraced by the Church, uti­lized to ful­fill the Great Com­mis­sion, rather than striv­en against to ful­fill a com­mis­sion not found with­in the pages of Scrip­ture. Preach the Gospel, allow God to give the increase, and trust in Him to trans­form the minds of the regen­er­ate through His Word.

10 thoughts on “Christianity & Science”

  1. “Rather, what­ev­er sci­en­tif­ic advances are made seem to repeat­ed­ly show God to be all the greater — rather than being the Cre­ator & Sus­tain­er of air, earth, fire, water, and quin­tes­sence, He is Cre­ator & Sus­tain­er of hydro­gen, heli­um, lithi­um, beryl­li­um, boron, et al.”

    What­ev­er sci­en­tif­ic advances are made seem to repeat­ed­ly show God to be com­plete­ly unnecessary.

    There is no need for a sus­tain­er. The uni­verse works just fine on its own. Also there was no need for a cre­ator or inven­tor. Noth­ing need­ed to be invent­ed. For exam­ple, nat­ur­al selec­tion is just how the world works. Nobody had to invent nat­ur­al selection.

    There could­n’t pos­si­bly be any evi­dence for an invis­i­ble magi­cian who lives in the clouds, so why waste time believ­ing in it? Nev­er has a god belief solved any prob­lem or answered any ques­tion. This belief only cre­ates an unnec­es­sary prob­lem — how was the god cre­at­ed. It’s a bor­ing and worth­less belief that could nev­er have any real evi­dence. It’s bet­ter to accept only what does have evi­dence. For what is unknown it’s bet­ter to say that prob­lem has not been solved yet, instead of invent­ing a god to explain anything.

  2. Thanks, BobC. I won­der what in that you expect­ed to be “new” to me? Or how any of that can­cels out what I said above?

    The point is that even if the uni­verse is sus­tained by God, there’s no way for sci­ence to know know it. It isn’t nec­es­sary that it can be shown. If you keep expect­ing God to be a con­cept testable by sci­ence, then you keep show­ing your­self to mis­un­der­stand both, as I used to.

    It would be bet­ter for you to keep doing what you do with all of your heart — whether that’s feed­ing the hun­gry, cloth­ing the poor, devel­op­ing med­i­cines, or sim­ply being kind & lov­ing to every per­son you meet with­in what­ev­er course of life you have cho­sen — rather than try­ing to twist the world­views of oth­ers into fit­ting with­in the nar­row con­fines of your own.

    Oth­er­wise, I’m curi­ous what makes the thought of an “invis­i­ble magi­cian” so threat­en­ing to you?

    You can claim it’s unnec­es­sary all you like, but sci­ence can­not show it to be thus. The bot­tom line is, the two are per­fect­ly com­pat­i­ble if one is not bend­ing & break­ing either par­a­digms to make them fit.

  3. BobC

    Nev­er has a god belief solved any prob­lem or answered any question.

    I bid to differ.

    There is a lady in my church who was diag­nosed with can­cer last year. Mul­ti­ple tests were done and numer­ous x‑rays were tak­en. Of course my church has been pray­ing for her ever since they found out. Well, from what the doc­tors had dis­cov­ered so far, the can­cer was inop­er­a­ble because it had entan­gled itself too close to vital arter­ies. But they had­n’t giv­en her any treat­ment or med­ica­tion, and they want­ed to per­form one last x‑ray before they made a deci­sion on what to do. She wait­ed for them to come back with the results and when they did, she was stunned by the news. Accord­ing to the x‑ray, the can­cer was com­plete­ly gone. What was once about the size of a base­ball had dis­ap­peared alto­geth­er. And to this day, near­ly a year lat­er, there have been no signs of can­cer in her.

    There sim­ply is no expla­na­tion for it, med­ical­ly speaking.

  4. Rick:

    Great post — this seems to sig­ni­fy a change of heart in light of some of your pre­vi­ous post which (if true) is great. It reminds me of an arti­cle I read once in http://www.reasons.org title The Unrav­el­ing of Starlight and Time the authors (Devout Chris­tians) were dis­cussing attempts by young earth cre­ation­ists to explain why we can see objects that are mil­lions of light years away when they claim the earth is only 6000 years old…

    The one moral crit­i­cism which we would make of Dr. Humphreys’ advo­ca­cy of his mod­el, is his fail­ure to heed the coun­sel of skilled Chris­t­ian physi­cists in this mat­ter. This is not a small crit­i­cism, for Humphreys’ over­con­fi­dence in this mat­ter has led to the wide­spread dis­sem­i­na­tion of a false the­o­ry. The inevitable col­lapse of this the­o­ry may dam­age the faith of many Chris­tians who have leaned on it to rein­force their faith. The respon­si­bil­i­ty for such dam­age will rest with Dr. Humphreys and those of his asso­ciates who have pro­mot­ed his the­o­ry, dis­re­gard­ing the expert coun­sel which God has made avail­able to them. It is also pos­si­ble that the wide­spread dis­tri­b­u­tion and accep­tance of his the­o­ry will have neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Chris­t­ian tes­ti­mo­ny to unbe­liev­ers. Again, respon­si­bil­i­ty for this will lie with Dr. Humphreys and his associates.

    sim­i­lar­ly when­ev­er Chris­tians advo­cate any the­o­ry that flies in the face of com­mon sense or over whelm­ing sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence it HAS to evoke a ques­tion in the mind of the observ­er ie “if Chris­tian­i­ty can be so wrong on this aspect how can we trust it on any other?”

    I have recent­ly read arti­cles (again by young earth cre­ation­ists) which try to explain how 1000 feet chalk lay­ers (ie the cliffs of Dover) could be cre­at­ed in a 365 day peri­od under flood con­di­tions. The argu­ments they use could be con­sid­ered naïve at best and just plain dis­hon­est at worst. So again any­one read­ing this must sure­ly ask them­selves “if they can be so wrong / dis­hon­est on this issue how can i trust them on reli­gious / moral grounds”

    I am sure that for Chris­tians it is far more impor­tant to get your key core mes­sage out than wor­ry about periph­er­al ideas ie science.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, I notice that even the Vat­i­can has tak­en a change of heart around sci­ence and the need to embrace it rather than fight it. After all, like you say, what have Chris­t­ian got to lose. You can always attribute what­ev­er won­ders sci­ence dis­cov­ers (and I am sure we will have some major sur­pris­es to come in our life times as old ideas are over turned to find even more fan­tas­tic and amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ies) as evi­dence of how clever your god is.

    @Justin — I keep hear­ing sto­ries like this but before you start shout­ing “Mir­a­cle!” at every alleged cure you need to ask a ques­tion : ” Why won’t God heal amputees?” 

    [Edit­ed by Rick — Fixed BLOCKQUOTE syn­tax and added para­graph spac­ing rather than sin­gle line breaks. Also fixed quote attri­bu­tion to read “@Justin” rather than “@Jason.” I hope you don’t mind, Andy!!]

  5. “Why won’t God heal amputees”?

    That’s easy; He does­n’t need to, nor is He required to. In the tran­si­tion­al days of the Church when the Apos­tles were still around, I believe mir­a­cles were evi­dent, pri­mar­i­ly to the Jews, to rein­force to them the advance­ment in God’s plan. But we’re called to live by faith; those things we see aren’t con­ducive to faith and are often very distressing.

    I rec­og­nize that seems like a cop-out to out­siders look­ing in, but I believe it to be con­sis­tent with the bib­li­cal message.

    Beyond that, wel­come back to the site, Andy. Glad to see I’ve some­how kept your inter­est even though we dis­agree on so many things!

  6. Andy,

    You know, I’m glad those peo­ple over at WWGHA are read­ing the Bible, but they seem to have for­got­ten a verse for consideration.

    1 John 5:14, “This is the con­fi­dence which we have before Him, that, if we ask any­thing accord­ing to His will, He hears us.”

    Why would it be God’s will to answer the prayers of count­less oth­ers and per­form mir­a­cles for every­one else, but not amputees? I won’t claim to know the answer. But as Rick men­tioned, God is not oblig­at­ed to do so, and as Chris­tians we are called to live by faith.

    Fur­ther­more, the test they put forth would nev­er work because it is just that–a test. They are try­ing to test God. In the case of the girl with rabies, those peo­ple weren’t try­ing to test God.

    Final­ly, just because God hasn’t/won’t heal an amputee does­n’t deny that mir­a­cles haven’t hap­pened. Again, there is no med­ical expla­na­tion for my church’s lady to have her can­cer sim­ply cease to exist with­out any treat­ment what­so­ev­er. There is no med­ical rea­son that the one girl sur­vived rabies. There is no med­ical rea­son that Jesus should rise from the dead.

  7. As I read your arti­cle some thoughts crossed my mind.
    Your view that sec­u­lar sci­ence and cre­ation sci­ence are at war with each oth­er is built around the premise that God and His Son are liars.
    Cre­ation sci­ence views the world from God’s rev­e­la­tions, where­as sec­u­lar sci­ence views the world from man’s speculations.
    When I read arti­cles like this I am remind­ed of God’s chal­lenges to Job in chap­ter 38.

    Then the Lord answered Job.….
    Who is this that ques­tions my wis­dom with such igno­rant words?
    Brace your­self like a man, because I have some ques­tions for you, and you must answer them.
    Where were you when I laid the foun­da­tions of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who deter­mined its dimen­sions and stretched out the sur­vey­ing line?
    What sup­ports its foun­da­tions, and who laid its cornerstone.….….…..and He goes on.
    Its a great read and an eye-open­er to who God is and what He does.

    Or how are we to con­sid­er Jesus words in Matthew 19:4.….….the Scrip­tures record that from the begin­ning God made them male and female.….

    I could go on but suf­fice it to say we all have a choice to choose who we will believe about all things great or small, God or man.

    1. If you read the lat­est posts here, you’ll see that I’ve decid­ed to believe that not only is cre­ation­ism is far, far from actu­al “sci­ence,” but that God (what­ev­er his name is) prob­a­bly does­n’t even exist.

      I no longer believe that “sec­u­lar sci­ence and cre­ation sci­ence are at war with each oth­er”; rather, “cre­ation sci­ence” is sim­ply a pseu­do­science alter­na­tive to ratio­nal think­ing & rea­son­ing which pro­vides reas­sur­ance to those who choose to believe it. Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly speak­ing, it’s as fringe and unten­able as para­psy­chol­o­gy, alien abduc­tions, Atlantis, and alien corpses being recov­ered at Roswell.

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Rick Beckman