Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Science Matters!

Frequently, certain friends seem troubled by my exploration of the sciences, and my willingness to accept evidence which at times runs contrary to earlier theological assumptions. A friend recently wrote to me expressing her concern over my interest in what she regards as “the religion of science.” Below is my response to this friend:

I do not share your view of science. You indicate that science is a religion unto itself, that is it merely "possible" for a scientist to believe the Bible, and that science (or what you call "worldly knowledge") is something that will eventually fade away.

I have a much higher view of science, and of its usefulness to faith, to understanding God, to understanding spiritual things, etc. Without question there are those who wrongly worship science, just as some worship sports, others worship cultural icons of Hollywood, and some (dare I say it?) worship the Bible. I know people who would define their entire relationship with God as a pouring over the Hebrew and Greek, searching out the minutia of the text for hidden clues about God, while they have little personal knowledge of or walk with the true "Word of God", Jesus. They have fallen into bibliolatry. But we have these two great sources (or channels, more accurately) of revelation: Special Revelation, and General Revelation. We learn about God in the pages of Scripture, the person of Jesus, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit; and we also learn about him by paying close attention to Creation, to the works of his hands. If indeed the heavens declare the glory of God, then we have a much fuller understanding of God's greatness, magnitude, and glory post-Hubble than before. The intricacies of the living cell are clueing us into the infinite wisdom and creative genius of God. Quantum mechanics is helping to dismantle the unhealthy notions of strict determinism ... that is, we now know the universe is not a static Newtonian predictable set of causes and effects; that helps to correct our theology! Paul tell us in Romans 1 that we can not only learn of God's existence in nature, but we can even learn about his attributes, perhaps even facets of his character. Knowing the Bible, and personally knowing Jesus, helps us to properly "read" the data from science. But it is equally true to say that science helps us to properly read the Bible. It did so in Galileo's day; it continues to do so today. Technically, of course, you are correct: all knowledge will fade away, including science, and including (in my view, at least) the Bible. But for now, science is an amazing tool for looking deeply into God, how he structured the cosmos, how he created the universe. These profound data give us clues to his purposes, and why he responds (or at times does not respond) as he does. The more I understand from science, the more I come back to the Scriptures and say "Aha ... now I understand that!"

I read in your tone almost disdain for science. That makes me sad. It is true that secularism has hijacked science to a large degree over the last 100 year or so. And, in my view, history reveals that we, the people of faith, are utterly responsible for that hijacking! Through the early centuries of the western scientific enterprise, the primary impetus of science, the motivation for scientific inquiry and study, was God! It was a bottom-line belief in a good and orderly God that gave rise to science, and that fueled its progress for hundreds of years. But when the early fundamentalists of 100 years ago (not all of them, to be sure), tied science (particularly evolution) to the attacks upon the Bible in the late 19th Century, believers abandoned science en masse. Secularists picked up the sciences and ran with them. And the Christian fundamentalist leaders began a century long campaign against science. "Don't trust it" they told us from their pulpits. "It is evil, filled with atheistic lies!" This fundamentalist mantra continues right down to the present day. When I read your comments about science, I fear you have bought into this polemic. I cannot agree with it at all. Not only do I learn about God, understand better his actions in my own life, through peering deeply into nature, but I want Christians everywhere to listen to what we are learning from science; yes, to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff; but to stop the travesty of a church turning its back upon the honest study of our Lord's ingenious and creative works, and deeding it over to atheists and secularist. Christians, of all people, should be the most interested in science. I find it a deplorable tragedy that so many are not, and that we continue to allow atheistic thinkers to set the agenda for science by simple default. Thank God for scientists who are outspoken believers! Thank God for Francis Collins! Thank God for Kenneth Miller! Thank God for Simon Conway-Morris! I thank God for dedicated followers of Jesus who are reassuming positions on the cutting edges of science, who are not denying obvious facts, but who are instead moving science in its proper (and only true) direction: toward God!


Steve Martin said...

Hey cliff,
Just a quick comment to say that, although I've curtailed my "science & faith reading" dramatically in the last year, I'm still reading your stuff ... always appreciate your perspective.

I like your point that:

I know people who would define their entire relationship with God as XX while they have little personal knowledge of or walk with the true "Word of God", Jesus.

Well, actually you filled in a specific example of XX, but the point is valid for a whole host of values for XX ... something all of us that follow Jesus need to remember.

I know you've recently encountered a lot of sad anniversaries - but we will soon be celebrating the best anniversary of all (Easter) - which doesn't make sad anniversaries less sad, but also makes them anniversaries of hope.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Cliff Martin said...


So good to hear from you! Yes, you have been flying under the radar lately, and I've come very close to emailing you a couple of times lately.

Thank you for you kind words! Yes, Resurrection Day will have new significance for me, for sure! And that not only as we look forward, but also as we look back. It was such a favorite celebration day for my wife. On her last Easter Sunday (2010), our home was filled with family for a big dinner. We didn't bill it as such, but most of our guests (extended family) understood that this would likely be their farewell visit with Ginger. She was declining, but had strength to be herself: the quintessential hostess! Eight days later she was gone.

Dan said...


I've been reading your blog for sometime. This latest post of yours particularly resonated with me, so I thought I'd make a comment.

I started a blog on science and faith issues some time ago, but have barely posted to it yet (I still haven't quite found my Muse). What you have done here is beautifully sum up the entire ethos of what I wanted to do with my blog in a single post. In particular, I think you are dead on when you point out that believers, by and large, have abdicated the throne of science to nonbelievers over the past century or so. At the very least, we need to show that we have just as much claim to it as them. But to do so, we have to earn our place back. I pray that God will continue to raise up thoughtful believing scientists in the years to come: surely there is a place in the Body of Christ for us! I can only hope that in some small way, as a scientist, that I can be part of this.

Mike said...

Very nicely said as always, Cliff! I wonder how basically any Christian living in the U.S. could even get on with their life without science.

Cliff Martin said...

Interesting thought, Mike. There are many Christians today who are suspicious of science, and who totally reject evolution, yet they happily accept the benefits of modern medical science, many of which are based solidly upon the evolutionary model. Their inconsistency is, of course, unconscious; for if they understood evolution, and understood how it undergirds and informs all the life sciences, they would likely be far more amenable to evolutionary theory.

Like a Child said...

Cliff.. I was just going to write something similar to you last comment about christian constantly belittling science while enjoying the luxuries of medical and scientific progress.

I feel like fundamentalist has squeezed all the hope in me. I entered the field b/c of my christian desire to love one another...and then spent most of my education struggling with faith.

My good parents, being immigrants and not college educated, were unaware about the church's anti-science rhetoric, so thankfully, they did not encourage against it.

Like a Child said...

Sorry for the typos. I am borrowing my husband's ipad and not proficient at typing with it.

CarlyCrosby said...

Oh my goodness! It is so nice to see someone with similar views as me when it comes to the cohabitation of science and religion. My religious friends scorn my love for logic and my atheist friends say I am not seeing how science points away from God.

I really like what you are doing with your blog, I'm interested to see what you'll come out with next!

Cliff Martin said...

Thank you for stopping by! I'm glad you found some encouragement here. There is a growing community of believers who have like you found science and faith not only compatible, but mutually beneficial!