Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Science And Scripture

Recently I saw some posts on Facebook where two people where vigorously debated the age of the Earth. One, evidently a (young-earth, Creation Science) Christian, contended that the Earth was 10,000 years old while the other, a science teacher, 4.3 million.  I decided to add my two cents worth.  "John," the science teacher said, "Did time begin when it was first invented and recorded by man? I would still say the cave paintings prove modern man is 50,000 years old, evolved over 250,000 years...Time being the same as is used today. And the planet is 4.3 billion years old in this theory that I would teach in a classroom, what you consider in a church is your faith."  This is where I jumped in with what follows, it because I wanted to address John's contention that science and faith are different and can't be reconciled.  Here is what I said...

John, you're on safe ground.  As Gallileo quoted, "The Bible is about how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."  The Bible was written before "science" existed.  God in his providence let Christians like Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Gallileo, Newton, etc, who believed that God created the universe, be at the forefront of modern western science.  They believed that through observing the visible universe, they could comprehend and understand what they observed.  They were under the conviction that a good God created it in an orderly way as evidenced by Genesis and therefore it is understandable and coherent.  It is this empirical method that has guided scientists ever since.  So the results we have today in modern science are not at various with how God's intends us to understand his creation.  Rather they are descriptive.  Of course, some of the findings of Science do need to be held tentatively, just like Marty's convictions and understanding of astro-physics. Unfortunately there are many well-meaning Christians who demand a literal reading of Genesis, and make it correspond directly to what it describes.  Instead of the literary account that it is, they make it a direct historical account. But a close reading of Genesis shows that it has subtle literary features that tip us off to its real nature. 

I contend that the very reason we can understand what we see around us, and that there is even the possibility of a “grand unified theory” is because "In the beginning, God created..."  That the processes are so uniform and enduring, speak of a God who brought order out of "chaos."  I suspect that if "chaos" were the primary “orderer” of the universe, there would only be chaos.  Even those who do "chaos theory" try to show that order comes from chaos. But they've not really figured out how, but just that is does. 

Faith is not in conflict reason or science.  We just need to bring together God's General Revelation (the created universe) and God's Special Revelation (God's Word, the Bible) and let each inform the other.  This is what Gallileo did and he got it right.  It was the medieval church of the time that got it wrong because they did not let what was being discovered about the universe, inform their reading of the Bible.  That is why they could not accept that the Sun and not the Earth was the center of the solar system.  Gallileo believed in two great books, the book of nature and the book of the Bible. That is why he got it right when he challenged the accepted wisdom of his day that the Earth was the center of the universe.  Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians do the same thing that the medieval church did in not letting science inform their reading of the Bible and vice versa. 

Science has a bright future in spite of the frustrations, and dead-ends, seeming inconsistencies, particles that can exist in two places at once, etc .  Christians have nothing to worry about from good honest scientists, because what they discover- ultimately, when all is said and done, will not be in contradiction to the God that made the universe. Scientists should never lose heart and give up, because a good God made the universe in a coherent way that we can ultimately understand!  

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At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Gary Utterback said...

This is a great blog post. Well done Paul. Many Christians have been struggling with trying to reconcile science and the Bible. This post really lays the issue out clearly. There is nothing to fear in valid science.

An excellent book which sheds some additional light on this issue is "The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood" by David R. Montgomery.


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