I’m doing some reading in the field of apologetics right now. So, I’m reading some of the new atheists and some of the new apologists. Here’s one of my conclusions: I have a love/hate relationship with science.
First, the love. Science allows us to innovate, to create, to take giant steps forward. It helps us understand nutrition, God’s creatures, how to heal diseases, and why certain things happen. Our understanding of disease, gravity, outer space, the earth’s makeup–all are benefits of science.
Now, the hate (more like skepticism). Science proves and disproves itself all the time. The earth is flat. No, it’s round. Everything revolves around the earth. Wait, no, it’s the sun. Eggs are good for you. No, their bad for you. Alcohol in moderation is good for you. No, it’s actually worse than heroin and crack cocaine (according to a new study out today) for people and society at large. If we can’t figure out if eggs are good or bad for us–whether “global warming” is human-caused (or whether there is global warming), how can science make claims of certainty about God’s existence, how creation occurred, and a host of other things?
Many choose to see Christianity and science as inherently opposed to one another. I disagree completely. Science and religion need not be in conflict–inherently. However, when the “proofs” of science preach against the teachings of Christianity, I choose faith. First, because scientific proofs are not really “proofs.” They are our best understanding right now. Second, because God is Lord of Creation. If there is a God, He isn’t necessarily bound by the scientific “laws” of the universe he created. Third, while science may offer explanations for how particular events occurred, etc., science can rarely prove with certainty that certain things did or didn’t happen. While science can hypothesize, it certainly cannot prove or disprove with certainty God’s existence.
Most of history’s greatest scientists believed there was a God–or at least in the impossibility of a non-created universe (Einstein, etc.). Many were Christians (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, etc.). Science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, we must remember that Jesus also said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
The limitations of our senses and understanding are something all scientists would recognize. After all, isn’t the reason we seek new scientific understanding because we believe there are things we can know that we don’t currently? It seems then that science would make it’s claims with more humility, understanding that what we have is our best understanding…and that’s about it. Some of those understandings will be proven out over time better than others…but others won’t.
I don’t want to be too hard on science. It can be and perhaps even should be faith’s companion. Unfortunately, in the hands of today’s new atheists (Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.), it’s becoming the arch-enemy of faith. That’s why I’m so thankful for today’s new apologists. John Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath, William Lane Craig, and other world-class Christian apologists of today help us understand the relationship between science and religion with training in both fields.
To be fair to the new atheists, they raise some important questions–particularly at the existential/philosophical levels. However, they do it with an obviously visceral disdain for Christianity that obviously impacts their scientific objectivity. They are crusaders for their own religion, and despite their disdain for it, Christianity has answers to those questions. Nevertheless, all ministers need to read the new atheists along with new apologists to understand today’s science and religion debate.
Next year’s Christian Scholars Conference at Pepperdine University is entitled The Path of Discovery: Science, Theology and the Academy. Polkinghorne and others will be there. Click here for more information.
Today’s discussion starters: How many books/articles do you read in the field of apologetics each year? Do you agree that science and religion can coexist?