Science and faith
I will celebrate my 22nd year as pastor of Grace Reformed Church later this year. And all these years have been spent in an intense study of the Bible. This has only amplified my convictions regarding the sufficiency and authority of God’s Word.
Here are just a few of them. First, God’s Word is eternal and unchanging. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).
Readers will notice the ‘No one’. This is certainly not the emergent church’s postmodern world view of tolerance. But better to go with God’s view, because it really is an ‘either-or’ situation.
Second, salvation is by faith, not works. ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves’ (Ephesians 2:8). Where is the ‘diversity’ of salvation? No diversity here — it is salvation by grace alone. The ultimate ‘diversity’ will be those in heaven saved by grace alone and those in hell who thought their own good deeds and sacraments would justify them before God.
Third, remember that there is the doctrine of sin. Postmodern preaching, if it is preaching at all, does away with the reality of sin and guilt. You see, ‘sensitive seekers’ are too sensitive to discover they are sinners! And besides, it might cause harm to the church budget if someone leaves worship feeling bad about offending a holy God!
But denying sin is like denying you have cancer after the doctor has told you so. John asserts, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves’ (1 John 1:8).
And another particular conviction concerns the relationship between science and faith. Much of my academic work was in science; and I have never found science to be at odds with biblical Christianity.
What are at odds with the gospel are false interpretations made from wrong presuppositions. But natural revelation itself is not in conflict with special revelation.
Dr John Polkinghorne, one of Britain’s top scientists — winner of the Templeton Prize and one time president of Queen’s College, Cambridge — whose expertise lies in the field of mathematical physics, wrote: ‘Theology and science are based upon the same presuppositions about the world: for in both, faith and science, we seek to offer explanations of reality — things the way they really are…
‘We should recognise the harmony between natural and special revelation and reject any theory that tells us that we must ignore the facts’ (Faith of a physicist).
Unfortunately, today’s ‘high priests’ of human knowledge feel they can dictate to the general public as well as the church, not only in matters below, but in matters divine.
And so, they operate on the philosophical presupposition that the universe is the product of random chance. Yet their whole scientific enterprise and reasoning depends upon the very predictability that implies order and ‘design’. Well, you can’t have it both ways!
What modern science has created is naturalistic religion whereby natural law has become the master. Its problem is really irrationality; it involves the deceitful denial of the Creator.
Dr Robert Jastrow, founder and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, writes humorously in his volume God and the astronomers: ‘For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.
‘He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries!’
Indeed, there is a far more compelling explanation than the philosophical descantings of mere mortals — it is found in Scripture.
In Job 38, God challenges Job: ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, tell me if you have understanding’, and ‘Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?’ (vv. 4, 31).
David says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge’ (Psalm 19:1-2).
Freeman Dyson, a theoretical physicist well known for his award winning work in quantum field theory, has written: ‘The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe, in some sense, must have known we were coming’ (Science and Christian belief, p.76).
While I believe God created in a literal six-day creation on the basis of special revelation, reasonable men even without that revelation must perceive a designer in the heavenly bodies above and quantum world below.
For example, if we were a few thousand kilometres further from the sun we would be frozen, and if a few thousand kilometres closer we would be roasted. We are at the precise distance where life is possible. Astronomers call this ‘the Goldilocks zone’.
Someone made all this! To find out who the creator was, please read John 1:1-18. Science and Christianity can be friends — in fact, brothers!
Paul K. Christianson
The author is pastor of Grace Reformed Church, Clarkston, Washington, USA