Imagine a little Texas girl who grew up sometime in the last 50 years. She goes to a Bible-preaching church twice a week with her family, and a fine public school system five times a week with her friends. Both the school and the church intend to influence her for good. They both aim to teach her what is true, there’s no doubt about that. They both carry a strong sense of responsibility about what they must do for this little girl. But from the girl’s perspective, something is wrong. For some reason, these two institutions that influence her the most (underneath her immediate family) can’t seem to agree on the things that matter most. They teach contradictory “truths.” The nearly constant disagreement is implicit everywhere, but shows up nowhere so explicitly as science class. The church tells her that God is everything, but the school tells her that God is just one thing, a thing that has nothing to do with serious academic inquiry. They don’t have to say it very loudly, their actions say it well enough.
What does the little girl conclude? The same thing that the school has long since concluded – that matters of faith and matters of fact dwell in two different arenas. She decides that learning about the Word of God and learning about the world are two different things entirely, as separate as night and day. At some point she adds a strange new word to her vocabulary…secular. The very acknowledgement of such a term gives away her new assumption that there are some things in life which are not sacred. She would never put it in these terms, but the fact is that her concept of truth has been bifurcated. Science and faith are viewed as incompatible. She wouldn’t say it out loud, but truthfully she fears science, with all its confidences and boasts. She adopts the assumption of the school – that on the one hand there are matters of fact that the public school teaches, and on the other there are matters of faith and value that church teaches. The former (whatever it may claim) cares less for value or morals, the latter (whatever it may claim) cares less for objective fact. The American way of separating church and state has put God on an island in her mind, isolating him from everything else there is to know or interact with. She’s infected by a false dichotomy that informs everything she sees, and her worldview dwells nearer than a contact lens.
This is the story for so many of us, both little boys and little girls. The very admission of a so-called “secular” world gives away our assumption that there are some things that have nothing to do with God. Unfortunately, the Bible knows nothing of such a separation, because it doesn’t exist. The Word of God is not a science book, fair enough. That is because the world is the world of God, and he has equipped us to write our own books of discovery about it. But rest assured that there is one body of truth, defined simply as “things as God knows them to be.” Those truths discovered through science, while they may be less relevant to salvation, are just as true as those found in Scripture. (Alarmed? Read on.) The things we discover in mathematics may have less nourishment for the soul than, say, the book of Philippians. But 2+2=4 is just as true as the fact that Jesus Christ took the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). Obviously, the two statements have varying degrees of relevance to the human plight. I hold the truth about Jesus more nearly and dearly than the truth about math (a lot more). But they have the same degree of truthfulness – 100%. All truth is God’s truth. And all the truth we will ever apprehend will be apprehended because of God’s grace in revealing it to us. Christians have nothing to fear of science, because the God who reveals things through the study of creation is the same God who reveals things through the study of the Bible, and he will never contradict himself. Should scientific findings disagree with properly interpreted Scripture, science has simply made a human error. Surely charging the creature with making an error is less audacious than charging the Creator with writing one.
To give an example of the integration that will resolve our false conflict, think of biochemicals in a lab. They will behave the same way for Christians and non-Christians, that’s for sure. But while the non-Christian will be content to answer the question “What is there?”, the Christian will strive just as strongly to answer this question and then also to inquire, “Why is it there?” Science cannot answer the question of “why,” and honest scientists will admit as much. That is the task of philosophy, or for the believer in God, theology. Therefore theology is tied to everything, even biochemistry. All those minute chemical details come into better focus when we remember that Jesus “holds all things together.” Integration works like this: Jesus has declared that e shall equal mc^2.
The Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists is relevant to all things, and they are relevant to him. Christian learning, whether from the Word or the world, seeks to locate that relevance. Christian inquiry is not a side-show to “real” science and learning. It is a rising above and going beyond it. It is looking for the real purpose, already knowing that that purpose is gloriously Personal. Christian learning is realizing that the truths of the Christian church and the truths of the school (insofar as they are actually true and not simply erroneous theories purported to be true, as is often the case) emanate from the same God. A Christian learner is one who goes beyond studying the mere state of things and begins to discern what their true relationship and significance in the universe is. Science cannot lift our eyes to the royalty of God in creation, but theology can. That is why theology is called queen of the sciences.
Imagine the freedom, now, to explore the inerrant Word of God and the fascinating world of God with the goal of integration rather than division. English class is now a Bible reading training class. Biology now reveals the details of the creation account. Anatomy shows the beauty and terror of the cross of Jesus.
And here will our worldview be reassembled, when the idea of “secular” is properly labeled “illusion.” There is nothing in the universe that has nothing to do with God. Positively stated, everything has to do with God. And that gives license to fearlessly study everything.
When the pursuit of truth, in whatever field, becomes the pursuit of God, we are free to explore and arrive at real Truth. And that, as a wise man once said, will set you free.
48 hours late, my my. Nevertheless, onward we plunge.
This final post will be a simple one. In the previous two, I gave a brief, watered-down history of how we ended up with this whole ‘faith vs. science’ debate in the first place and then gave a little reprimand to each ‘side’. Now, I (unreservedly for the encouragement of the Christian body) give a short but pointed reconciliation.
ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH.
To date, there are no discovered findings in the universe that have disproved evangelical Christian faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. And even better, there are no facts waiting to be discovered that can disprove the Christian faith, either. Better still, there are no facts previously discovered or waiting to be discovered that will contradict the Bible. Ever. This is because of one simple truth – God’s Word does not contain anything contrary to fact. True, biblical, evangelical Christian faith does not offer any assertions that are untrue to any degree. The Bible is the standard. If a scientific discovery claims a fact with is in direct contradiction to the Bible, then that claim is not a fact at all, and science has missed (this has happened repeatedly throughout history).
ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH.
So we’ve got ourselves a real case of the bifurcated truth going on here (see previous post). Therefore, it’s common knowledge (more like common myth) that faith and science are opposed to each other! Two irreconcilable factions warring against each other forever. Right? Well, not completely.
In the next post, I’ll land the series by claiming that true faith and true science are actually not opposed to each other. But for now I’ll pick on both sides a little bit. (And, for the record, I’m aware that there are Christian scientists in the world. I am not writing about two different types of people; I am writing about two different schools of thought, to which any given person might subscribe).
First, for faith (by this I mean a very specific way of thinking within evangelicalism that doesn’t give a rip about any scientific discovery of any kind and couldn’t care less if the periodic table melted into ooze): Do not discredit the contributions to knowledge that sciences of many kinds have made and will continue to make. God blesses us through science. Medical advances alone are cause enough to thank God for allowing us to learn about his world, let alone seeing the universe he has made. “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), and the science of astronomy has given us a front row seat to hear it! How sweet it is to live during an age with so much information about God’s creation at our fingertips. So I urge you: enjoy the knowledge God has given our undeserving generation. Receive the gifts God has given; they come in many forms.
But, O, dear science (and by this I mean secular, scientific, realist, atheistic “gotta prove it to believe it” thinking), at you I have a much heavier charge to level.
You see, if you’re a Christian, you’ve either witnessed the following conversation or been involved in it yourself:
Scientific atheist: “God does not exist.”
Evangelical Christian: “God does exist. I know this to be true.”
Scientific atheist: “Prove to me by the scientific method that God exists.”
Evangelical Christian: “…um…”
So Christians lose, right? Science trumps faith, haha! Good grief, no.
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So if you live in the modern Western world (and chances are good that if you are reading this you are a Westerner and you are alive), you’ve encountered this “faith vs. science” dichotomy many a time. It’s in the media and it’s in our schools; it’s everywhere and it’s not always polite. And the main tension, of course, is over what is true (epistemology, if you please). “What is true? In order for something to be true, do we have to be able to prove it? If faith (that is, evangelical Christian faith) is true, can scientific observation even contribute? Should it be acknowledged that Christian faith is, to some extent, illogical? If I’m a Christian, should I be afraid of science?” Oh, we’ve got some fun times ahead. This tension – this faith vs. science fiasco – is the philosophic Great Divide of our time.
But be aware – this was not always the case. This first post of the series will bring us up to speed.
Previously, we had a unified system of truth which was rooted in the only possible common denominator – God. It was believed that all truth is God’s truth. In many ways, studying the Bible was not considered one bit different from contemplating the way grass grew or observing the way animals interacted. It was all a reflection of God, either in his Word or in his world. Our concept of truth looked like this: