This is the seventh post in a series I’ve been writing about science and Christianity. The others were:
To answer this question, we have to address the question of what science is, and what it isn’t. Science is a philosophy. We need to consider if that philosophy is, at its root, consistent with Christianity. What does “science” believe about truth and how to discover it? How does that fit in with a Christian worldview?
The philosophy of science claims that the way to know if something is true is to subject it to a set of consistent and repeatable tests. It seeks to determine truth independent of the bias of the experimenters. Instead of relying on the authority of other writers, or the interpretation of a religious text, or what seems to be obvious to everyone, science seeks to establish truth through experiment and logic. This philosophy is based on certain presuppositions, such as the reliability of logic and the consistent orderliness of the universe.
But does it work? Or does the scientific community simply reject all results that challenge their own predetermined, atheistic beliefs?
It is difficult to deny that the system works on some level. No previous culture of knowledge has built on itself so effectively, as the technology that surrounds us every day bears witness. Our homes are electrified and air-conditioned, we fly through the air in metal contraptions, we talk to people on the other side of the world, we cure disease, we visit the moon. All of these accomplishments were built on the foundation of the scientific philosophy. As new evidence comes in, old models are refined and revised, with resistance at first, but eventually with flexibility and acceptance. No other philosophy so readily accepts changes to its knowledge base, because no other philosophy has the continuous search for knowledge at the core of its tenets.
However, this assumption–that something is only true if it is testable and repeatable–is where Christianity and science so easily come into conflict, and why science is often so closely tied to atheism. Despite its accomplishments, science only goes so far. It’s concerned only with the material world. The mistake many people make is to reason that, since only the material world is subject to repeatable tests, that proves that the material world is all that exists. This is a circular argument: it defines reality as that which can be materially tested, and then concludes on that basis that only the material world is real. This is a rejection of God on philosophical grounds, not scientific ones. Atheists have not used science to prove the non-existence of God; they have assumed it in their first principles.
Ultimately, science is not an atheistic philosophy, but a Christian one. This may seem a surprising claim when so many well-meaning Christians undermine the scientific philosophy by trying to force the available evidence to fit a six-day or Young Earth model. This is unfortunate, and it occurs because many Christians think the Bible requires them to believe the Earth is young, and thus to interpret the evidence according to this presupposition.
However, if Christians can be freed from reading such assumptions into the Biblical text, as I argued in my last two posts, then we can see science, not just as an acceptable pursuit, but as fulfilling one of the chief purposes of mankind. In Genesis 1, we see God bringing order out of chaos. He separates time into day and night; he organizes the world into sea and land and sky. Finally, he creates man in his own likeness, as his agents, to continue his work of claiming order out of chaos. The job of creation is not done. Outside the garden of Eden, chaos still reigns, and man is given the job, as an agent of God, to multiply and subdue it and establish order. By “chaos,” in this context, I don’t mean the disorder introduced by sin, which perverts the creation and man’s role in it. This is simply a lack of order, the work that God left for man to accomplish to continue his work of creation.
The study of science is the worship of God. Not that we worship nature itself, or confuse the creation with the Creator. However, the study of the remarkable processes by which the world grows, changes, and forms is a testament to the creativity, orderliness, and predictability of God. God granted us the privilege of discovering and establishing order in his world, and to do so is to act as God’s agent, in his likeness, fulfilling the original purpose for which we were made.