Thoughts and resources regarding Christianity and Science

The question of origins is one of those elephants in the Christian room – it causes fights. I’ve started treating it as a taboo topic – it only ever causes division. But it’s a question that is increasingly an important one to have thought through when it comes to apologetics and evangelism.

Sometimes Christians can be a bit like the guy in this XKCD cartoon when it comes to widely held and established scientific belief.

Scientific questions can be hard – but ultimately our faith is not predicated on rejecting the scientific method and human knowledge of the world – but on accepting the resurrection of Jesus and God’s revelation of his grand plan to tackle the problem of sin and death in a new creation.

The issue of science can be polarising. I shared this article in Google Reader the other day (also – please note – I don’t always endorse the content of articles I share, I simply share articles when I find them interesting) and prompted an interesting discussion with some Christian siblings on google buzz.

Here are some interesting articles I have been reading and pondering on the issue in recent times. Including a few from BioLogos – an organisation set up by Francis Collins to highlight the compatibility of Christian faith and faith in scientific discoveries (I’ll post the blurb about the organisation after the links).

You may have noticed that most of these resources support a non “young earth” position – I am sympathetic to those who want to put a high value on scripture, and I think we should recognise the science is a fallible human construct. If you’re going to read any of those articles read Keller’s it is by far the most useful.

But I think we also need to consider that the author of Genesis did not intend his work (and depending on your view of scripture – neither did God) to be read as science but as theology. The question then is what does this teach us about God and his redemptive plan first and foremost.

And I want to stress that I don’t think your personal views on Genesis are salvific – and it is possible to lose your faith in a young earth without losing your faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross – if we make this issue the yardstick of orthodoxy or fellowship we run the risk of being gravely wrong when we get to heaven and find out the truth.

About BioLogos
On one end of the spectrum, “new atheists” argue that science removes the need for God. On the other end, religious fundamentalists argue that the Bible requires us to reject many of the conclusions of modern science. Many people — including scientists and believers in God — do not find these extreme options attractive.

BioLogos represents the harmony of science and faith. It addresses the central themes of science and religion and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life.

17 Comments Thoughts and resources regarding Christianity and Science

  1. Nathan

    Also – while I don't want to suggest that Calvin didn't hold to a literal week of creation – I'm not sure that he would still hold that position today. Here's what he said about science in his commentary on Genesis.

    "..Moses described in popular style what all ordinary men without training and education perceive with their ordinary senses. Astronomers, on the other hand, investigate with great labor whatever the keenness of man's intellect is able to discover. Such study is certainly not to be disapproved, nor science condemned with the insolence of some fanatics who habitually reject whatever is unknown to them…

    "Moses did not wish to keep us from such study when he omitted the scientific details. But since he had been appointed a guide of unlearned men rather than of the learned, he could not fulfill his duty except by coming down to their level. If he had spoken of matters unknown to the crowd, the unlearned could say that his teaching was over their heads. In fact, when the spirit of God opens a common school for all, it is not strange that he chooses to teach especially what can be understood by all.

    "When the astronomer seeks the true size of stars and finds the moon smaller than Saturn, he gives us specialized knowledge. But the eye sees things differently, and Moses adapts himself to the ordinary view.

    "God has stretched out his hand to us to give us the splendor of the sun and moon to enjoy. Great would be our ingratitude if we shut our eyes to this experience of beauty! There is no reason why clever men should jeer at Moses' ignorance. He is not explaining the heavens to us but is describing what is before our eyes. Let the astronomers possess their own deeper knowledge. Meanwhile, those who see the nightly splendor of the moon are possessed by perverse ingratitude if they do not recognize the goodness of God."

  2. Tim

    Wonderful work. The Keller article is very good. I can always appreciate someone who is willing to acknowledge both sides with true understanding and respect.
    I particularly liked reading Francis Collin’s book – The Language Of God.
    Thanks for the effort.

  3. David_W_J

    "our faith is not predicated on rejecting the scientific method and human knowledge of the world – but on accepting the resurrection of Jesus and . . ."

    I'm going to disagree with that, in a roundabout way. Accepting the resurrection of Jesus typically means accepting what was written by people who believed in God during the first or second century, when scientific knowledge of the world wasn't quite where it is today. If a person living before the birth of Jesus had today's knowledge of the natural world, and had not been indoctrinated into Judaism as a child, I suspect he would be difficult to convert. When Calvin says Moses wrote in simple terms for his audience so as not to go over their heads, I instead think it's more plausible that Moses wrote based on his own observations and filled in the rest to create a good story, never once dreaming that science would be able to debunk most of it some day.

    If you don't think people who believe in God can make up stuff and get a large following, then please explain Islam and Mormonism.

    1. Andrew

      I think C1st Jews knew as well as we do that dead people stay dead. N.T. Wright makes a strong case that the resurrection as preached by the early Christians was completely foreign to not only the C1st Greek worldview, but also the C1st Jewish one. You might say that they were as open to the idea as the modern sceptic. One of the biggest questions regarding the resurrection that needs answering is how the idea came into existence at all, and how anyone even came to accept it, let alone how it grew so quickly!

      1. David_W_J

        Considering there were at least three resurrections of mere mortals in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4, and 2 Kings 13), I have to think the possibility of resurrection wasn't all that foreign to those who believed the Hebrew Bible before Jesus' time. Given that, it's no great leap of faith for them to believe the son of God was resurrected.

        Regarding the question of how the idea of Jesus' resurrection came into existence and became accepted, I have the same questions about the Qur'an and Joseph Smith's golden plates. (Their respective growth rates may be different, but I don't consider that a relevant point since they occurred centuries apart.)

        1. Nathan

          I don't think we need to go to Wright to understand that the resurrection was a foreign concept – how about Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and in Acts 23… there are plenty of people around who don't believe that resurrection is possible – even amongst the religious. It certainly can not be assumed.

        2. Nathan

          And clearly the Sadducees (in Acts 23) were believers in the OT – they were, after all, authorities of sorts on the Jewish Scripture.

          On 26 February 2010 09:48, Nathan Campbell <nm.campbell@gmail.com> wrote:
          I don't think we need to go to Wright to understand that the resurrection was a foreign concept – how about Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and in Acts 23… there are plenty of people around who don't believe that resurrection is possible – even amongst the religious. It certainly can not be assumed.

          1. AndrewFinden

            Well yes – Paul is talking about the Sadducee strain of thought.. but the issue that Wright deals with is an historical one – as an historian, how does one account for this unlikely belief?

          2. Nathan

            I'm not discounting Wrights views – I'm just suggesting that we can go to a primary source rather than a commentator when looking at what people actually believed. We don't need Wright to show that the resurrection was a foreign concept if Paul has already demonstrated it.

          3. AndrewFinden

            Well Paul does show one prevelant viewpoint – the saducees, but that's not the entire picture, and where I think Wright is helpful is that he draws all the sources together to give a bigger picture of the 2nd Temple Judaism and Greek worldviews of the time. I don't see that we have to play them off against eachother like that.

          4. Nathan

            I'm not trying to play them off against each other. I'm just saying David here has suggested that readers of the Old Testament (on the basis of reading the Bible) will be without doubt comfortable with the resurrection – when the Bible demonstrates that they were not (based both on the basis of the Sadducees and whatever anti-resurrection heresy Paul feels compelled to address in 1 Corinthians 15.

            People clearly did not take the resurrection for granted. Both we, and Wright, agree on that – and Paul is pretty clear on it to. If I'm going to go with an argument from scholarship I'd rather go with Paul. But Wright's stuff is helpful.

  4. David_W_J

    "The same questions regarding Islam and LSD are no doubt interesting, but not particularly relevant to C1st Palestine."

    I agree, especially for those who do not want to entertain the notion that Christianity might be another religion started by one or more people who made up stories about a supreme being, and then convinced some followers that the stories were true.

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