What bearing does Science have on Christian Faith? In a previous article I made the point that Faith applies to things you can’t prove. You don’t need faith to believe in gravity. You do need faith to believe God created gravity. This has important implications for how Christians should relate to Science.
Science is the study of physical reality.1 Faith is belief in something about Reality that cannot be proven at the moment of belief. Science is an attempt to understand something in physical reality through a process of observation and experimental verification. Faith is a belief about Reality that has not been verified yet.
Faith may disagree with Science but Faith should never disagree with physical reality. While Science sometimes gets its interpretation of physical reality wrong, the same is also true of our faith. Our faith is just as capable of misunderstanding and misinterpreting physical reality as Science is. It doesn’t deserve to be put on a pedestal and given special consideration over Science when it comes to that interpretation or understanding.
So what should a Christian do when he encounters Science that disagrees with his Faith? Does he reject that aspect of his Faith or does he reject the Science? I submit that perhaps this is the wrong question. The goal should instead be to discover Truth. Lets look at the core tenets of the Christian faith regarding Reality.
If our Faith is in these facts, then we should expect Scripture to illuminate our understanding of physical reality. We should also expect physical reality to illuminate our understanding of Scripture. Yet we often ignore or neglect that last one. We tend to think that any challenge to our beliefs must be resisted thoroughly. What if instead we looked to see if Science is revealing something about God that we had not previously known. If the goal is to know Truth then these challenges are not a contradiction but an opportunity to know God better. This is the same principle we should employ when we encounter Scripture that we don’t understand. It is an opportunity to know God better. A contradiction between what we believe and what Science says indicates a lack of understanding somewhere. That lack of understanding could just as easily be in what you believe as in the Science. Assuming that Science can not inform your faith is assuming that God can not speak through His Creation.
A hot button issue for many Christians is Evolution. They see it as an attack on the very foundations of their faith. In some sense they are right. Many Evolutionists see it as a way to explain their world without relying on the existence of a God. They interpret the facts that science verifies in that light. Our reaction, however, is often to attack the facts rather than the interpretation of those facts. When we attack the underlying science of Evolution we tend do so with the operating assumption that, because of the presumed motivations of the scientist, we must disbelieve their observations of Reality. This causes us to miss some rather illuminating information.
As an example, a core tenet of evolutionary science is that life is adaptable and changes to better survive its environment. This tenet is experimentally verifiable and provably true. Yet our knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss it since it is seen as an attack on our faith. But no amount of faith on our part will change the fact that life is in fact adaptable. God designed life that way so that when our environment changed life ,including humans, could survive and adapt to that environment. This was an excellent part of His design and recognizing this truth about the world tells us something about God. It illuminates the first chapter of Genesis. And nothing about this truth takes away from the Creation story. You can accept these facts and be a literal 7 day creationist if you want. The facts that the Science revealed are not an attack on our faith. If we treat them as such and therefore reject them, we arm the Atheist with a completely valid reason to reject our faith. Our witness will be harmed if we allow our faith to motivate us to promote a lie and believe an untruth about God. I don’t think we should celebrate such an outcome.
So what should our approach to Science be as a Christian?
Truth is not subject to our Faith. Our Faith is subject to the Truth.
1: Science: Definition - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/science
systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
2: Gen 1:1 - https://www.bible.com/bible/59/gen.1.1.esv
In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.
3: 2 Tim 3:16 - https://www.bible.com/bible/59/2ti.3.16.esv
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
4: Psalm 19:1 - https://www.bible.com/bible/59/psalm.19.1.esv
The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.