Many atheists claim that science and faith are against each other. Christian faith cannot be scientifically proven so they are not friends. This is what Jerry A. Coyne wrote in his article for USA Today entitled “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends“:
The difference between science and faith, then, can be summed up simply: In religion faith is a virtue; in science it’s a vice.
According to Coyne faith is a “vice” within science. This seems logical but Coyne doesn’t engage the real battle. The battle is between worldviews. When it comes to doing science worldviews play a huge role. What Coyne is really saying is that science makes no room for a supernatural worldview. Science can only function within a naturalistic worldview. According to many atheists science = naturalism. But is this really the case? Alvin Plantiga doesn’t believe so. The New York Times published an article featuring Plantiga and this is what he had to say:
‘It seems to me that many naturalists, people who are super-atheists, try to co-opt science and say it supports naturalism,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a complete mistake and ought to be pointed out.’
According to Plantiga equating science with naturalism is a “mistake” and I agree. As I mentioned earlier, the battle isn’t between faith and science; it is between naturalism and supernaturalism and according to Plantiga, science is done better within a supernaturalistic worldview:
[Christian] Theism, with its vision of an orderly universe superintended by a God who created rational-minded creatures in his own image, ‘is vastly more hospitable to science than naturalism,’ with its random process of natural selection, he writes. ‘Indeed, it is theism, not naturalism, that deserves to be called the scientific worldview.’
the Christian worldview says that humans are made in the image of God and everything that exists is God’s creative work. This is not a hinderance to science or a “vice” like Coyne said, in fact, the Christian worldview aids in science because it can account for the presuppositions of science. One of those presuppositions is the uniformity of nature. Uniformity is accepted by scientists because science depends on the ability to repeat experiments. If uniformity wasn’t accepted then scientists would have no reason to trust their experiments because each experiment would differ even if everything was done in the same way.
For further discussion comparing the Christian worldview to the naturalistic worldview in the realm of science check out Dr. James White’s article “Evidence for Special Creation From Scientific Evidence“.
Another item that I want to address is the history of science and the men that forged the way for modern science. Will Little posted an article entitled “Faithful Science” on the Resurgence blog and in it he lists some Christian scientists:
* Copernicus turned the world upside-down with his theory of heliocentrism. He was a devout believer who worked for the church most of his life as a canon, or member of the clergy, and physician.
* Galileo, called the “Father of Science,” made extraordinary advances in multiple disciplines in addition to astronomy. He believed in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible and was famous for saying, “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”
* Kepler did foundational work on light and forces to better explain the motion of our heliocentric solar system. He was a devout Lutheran who was profoundly and openly motivated by his faith.
* Descartes invented the Cartesian coordinate system and is commonly called “the Father of Modern Philosophy.” He was also a faithful Christian who argued passionately for the existence of God in many of his works.
* Pascal invented the mechanical calculator and made monumental advances in mathematics. He was a philosopher who later in life focused almost entirely on defending the Christian faith.
* Newton was arguably the greatest scientist to have ever lived. He ushered in a new paradigm of mechanics, invented calculus, and developed the law of universal gravitation. Though not Trinitarian in his theology, Newton was a committed theist who wrote more about faith and religion than he did about science.
Even though Coyne says faith is a “vice” within science; science and Christian faith are not at odds with one another. In reality, the battle is between the Christian (supernatural) worldview and the naturalistic worldview. Not only can Christians do science but the Christian worldview can account for the presuppositions science demands. Not only that, but history attests to a long line of scientists that were Christians. With all of that I believe the conclusion is clear…Christian faith and science are not enemies and science is not off-limits to Christians.
Thanks for reading.
This debate features Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein. It’s entitled ”The Great Debate” and for good reason. It is one of the best debates I have ever heard. It lays the groundwork for Christianity and while Stein didn’t engage Bahnsen’s arguments much it is still great.
I hope that you listen to it and, even more, I pray you have ears to hear it.
I have just started reading R.C. Sproul’s book entitled The Holiness of God. It has rocked my world thus far. The holiness of God is something that every Christian should grapple with. Every Christian should be considering God’s holiness everyday. The aim of the book is to help Christians in their understanding of God’s holiness. One aspect of God’s holiness is his power. The first way God showed his power was through creating the world.
In Sproul’s discussion of creation he notes what some people say about how the world came to be when he writes:
“Some modern theorists believe that the world was created by nothing. Note the difference between saying that the world was created from nothing and saying that the universe was created by nothing. In this modern view the rabbit comes out of the hat without a rabbit, a hat, or even a magician. The modern view is far more miraculous than the biblical view. It suggests that nothing created something. More than that, it holds that nothing created everything-quite a feat indeed!” -R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Kindle Locations 111-114). Kindle Edition.
This is, in fact, how most atheists/naturalists believe the world came about. This position boils down to ludicrously. Of course, atheists or those with a naturalistic worldview will oppose this simple examination. They claim that it is a caricature of their position and Sproul agrees to some extent in the next paragraph when he writes:
“Now surely there aren’t serious people running around in this scientific age claiming that the universe was created by nothing, are there? Yes. Scores of them. To be sure, they usually don’t say it quite the way I have said it, and they’d probably be annoyed with me for stating their views in such a manner. They’d undoubtedly protest that I have given a distorted caricature of their sophisticated position. OK. True-they don’t say that the universe was created by nothing; they say that the universe was created by chance.” -(Kindle Locations 114-117).
Sproul is going backwards here. He starts with the boiled down statement of the naturalist/atheist and works his way to what they are saying. In other words, he is starting with what their statement means and works back to what they said. Sproul then goes on to justify his original statement about what atheists/naturalists believe by examining what chance means when he says:
“But chance is no thing. It has no weight, no measurements, no power. It is merely a word we use to describe mathematical possibilities. It can do nothing. It can do nothing because it is nothing. To say that the universe was created by chance is to say that it came from nothing.” -(Kindle Locations 117-119).
I really enjoy how Sproul exposes the naturalistic worldview. The atheist says something like, “We don’t say the world came to be through nothing. It came to be through chance.” And Sproul correctly rips through their logic by saying, “But chance is no thing. It has no weight, no measurements, no power.”
The power to create only resides within God. It can be found nowhere else. That is the problem with any naturalistic explanation for how the world came to be. It always boils down to something coming from nothing. I will end this post how Sproul ends his brief discussion:
“That is intellectual madness. What are the chances that the universe was created by chance?” -(Kindle Location 119)