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Christians Care about Science and Theology

For some Christians, the science-and-theology dialogue is peripheral to their faith. The heat from disagreement, conflict, and unresolved questions repels them. By contrast, I think Christians should care deeply about science. And they should intentionally engage the theology-and-science dialogue.

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Sep

22

Christians Care about Science and Theology

For some Christians, the science-and-theology dialogue is peripheral to their faith. The heat from disagreement, conflict, and unresolved questions repels them. By contrast, I think Christians should care deeply about science. And they should intentionally engage the theology-and-science dialogue.

Here are ten reasons Christians should care deeply about issues emerging from the science-and-theology interface. These reasons, together, comprise my argument for why engagement in the dialogue is fundamental, not peripheral, for Christians interested in an intellectually responsible faith.

1. Knowing God: We cannot know God as well as we otherwise might if we fail to study creation’s witness to its Creator. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “Since the creation of the world, God invisible attributes – God’s eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made” (Rm. 1:20).

Christians throughout history have appealed to two “books” as providing knowledge of God: the book of scripture and the book of nature. Neglecting either is detrimental. Deeper knowledge of God requires engagement with both theology and science.

2. Biblical Interpretation: Christians cherish the Bible. It provides the primary – but not only – resource for knowing God, knowing how humans ought to live, and knowing some things about the universe. But Christians also know biblical texts can be interpreted in diverse ways.

Discussion about scientific theories – e.g., evolution – should prompt Christians to ask about the Bible’s basic purpose. Christians should reflect together on how best to interpret biblical passages in light of established scientific theories, including theories opposed to biblical texts when such texts are interpreted literally.

3. The Human Person: Science strongly influences how Christians think about human anatomy and human nature. And yet few ponder what scientific views of sexual reproduction, circumcision, epilepsy, menstruation, neurology, health care, etc., mean for thinking about the human person today.

Developments in contemporary psychology and sociology are also important for Christians to consider when accounting well for what it means to be human. Both ancient Christian wisdom and contemporary science must be brought to bear on what it means to be human.

4. Creation Care: In the first two chapters of Genesis, God gives humans a special task: care for creation. Taking care takes many forms, depending on the contexts. At their best, Christians draw from science when considering how to be care-full toward all God’s creatures.

For instance, Christians should respond appropriately to the overwhelming evidence for global warming when considering how best to fulfill the call God has given them. They must also heed ecological research on species conservation, even when conservation means changing the way they play, farm, hunt, or develop the land.

While Christians may not agree on how best to proceed in response to difficult issues such as these, science should play a central role for finding better ways to care for the world God creates.

5. Cultural Engagement: Christians do not live in isolation. They exist in communities, societies, and cultures. In fact, a huge part of Christian theology emphasizes the relationship Christians have with broader culture.

Science has a loud voice in the public square today. The Christian ignorant about science is easily sidelined or even cut off from cultural conversations about the common good. To be loving citizens who care about God’s work in the world includes conversing with and learning from scientific communities.

6. Christian Scientists: Too often, Christians think scientists are people outside the church. But many scientists are active church members, and many feel ostracized. Too often, for instance, preachers make comments such as, “scientists say,” and then proceed to characterize science negatively. Too often, scientists are looked at suspiciously when it becomes known they affirm evolution, the big bang, the latest in neuroscience, or evidence for human contribution to global warming.  Too often, young scientists in the Church feel forced to choose between the best in science and Christian faith.

Although the old saying is simplistic, we need to revive the notion that scientists can “think God’s thoughts after Him.”

7. What Can We Know? A perennial issue for humans is the question, “What can we truly know?” Both theology and science wrestle with it. Unfortunately, both Christian theologians and scientists can sound as if they have obtained absolute certainty. And yet, both theology and science live by faith.

The theology-and-science discussion can help all involved avoid one extreme that says we can know with absolute certainty. And the discussion can help avoid the other extreme that says we know nothing or truth is only private. The goal is greater plausibility for theories in both theology and science.

8. Conflict and Reconciliation:  Nearly one hundred years ago, the great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, “When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation as to the relations between them.”

In that same article, Whitehead talks about the conflicts – both apparent and real – nearly a century ago. Today, conflict remains. Dealing with this conflict in a responsible way can develop positively the character of those in the discussion. And it can provide insights for dealing with conflicts in other domains of human existence.

9. The Big Questions: Religion and philosophy are generally known for dealing with the biggest questions of life. Questions such as “Why is there anything rather than nothing?” and “What is the ultimate source of right and wrong?” have traditionally been given religious and/or philosophical answers.

But many today argue that science should also play a role in answering these questions. And this argument should carry weight for Christians, because they think the revelation God has given in Jesus Christ and all creation helps answer the biggest questions humans face. Science can help in understanding better the various ways God is revealed to us.

10. Creator and Co-creators: Christians insist that God is the creative source of all that exists: God is Creator. But the Bible also says creatures play a role in the creating process. Genesis says, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air” (Gen 2:19). But Genesis also says God calls upon the ground to “put forth vegetation” (Gen 1:11), calls upon the waters to “bring forth swarms of living creatures” (Gen. 1:20), calls upon the earth to “bring forth living creatures of every kind” (1:25). Creatures are created co-creators.

The idea that God is the ultimate source of creation and creatures joining the creative process is present in other places in the Bible. And God desires that we join in God’s work in our becoming what the Apostle Paul called “new creation.”

Am I missing something?

These are ten reasons why Christians should engage in the science-and-theology dialogue. I doubt it’s an exhaustive list, however.

I’m interested in hearing others. If you have a suggestion, please post it…

Posted in 2011 under Theology and Science

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Comments

Brian Fitch

09.22.2011
3:30pm

Tom,

Quite a few years back I spent some time studying creation science. I found that generally speaking Christians who believed in evolution gave in to the evolutionists because they didn’t know how to answer the tough questions. One quick example, honest scientists will admit that the dating techniques (potassium/argon, etc.) for things such as moon rocks are greatly flawed. There are also great problems with carbon dating. Many hard core evolutionists don’t want to give an inch to creationists because then they would have to admit there is a God, and they don’t want to do that. Creation science has much to teach the Church if people will do their homework.

 

Daniel Fruh

09.22.2011
4:52pm

Good stuff Dr. Oord, I really like the first reason you give.
Many Christians are afraid of science and therefore don’t realize how helpful some of it can be to our faith. I think God can reveal himself in some pretty amazing and creative ways via science. I have really come to realize this the past few years, having a roommate who is a Biology major.

 

Derek

09.22.2011
7:44pm

I hope I’m not being over-bearing, but here are my thoughts:

#2 Christians should not reflect together on how best to interpret biblical passages in light of established scientific theories, instead, if the Bible is our final authority on all matters of faith and practice (as it should be), Christians should relect together on how best to interpret established scientific theories in light of biblical passages.  If science does not agree with the Bible, then science needs to be refigured.  For example: evolution.

#3 Don’t get me wrong here, I believe there are chemical imbalances and other legitimate ailments…but, when psychology states, “it’s not your fault, it’s your environment,” and the Bible says, “take responsibility for your sin, repent, and follow Jesus,” we have to ask which religious view will we follow?

#6 Just a quick comment here, while the Bible is not a scientific book per se, it is scientifically accurate.

#9 If you are suggesting that we interpret scientific “conclusions” through a biblical perspective, then I agree with you.  I watch these programs that show how wonderful nature is and then they say it was an accident of evolution…I say, “Hogwash! God, you’re the coolest!  That is just amazing what you did!”

#10 God is still intimately involved in creation.  We participate, sure, but God still has the final say as the author and giver of all life.  People and animals don’t create life.  We just provide the basic units for life (given originally by God).  God gives that stuff called life…we don’t even know what life is.

 

Mark

09.23.2011
7:23am

As a scientist, I can appreciate the call to Christians to understand their faith through a different, more rational set of eyes. However, as a Christian, I am worried by some of the implications you have suggested here. As Christians, we must remember a divine purpose, a higher calling, even when the world tells us “how it should be” in the most logical and rational tone of voice. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” -1 Cor. 1:21.

#1 - While it is important to know God, and science can provide a fascinating insight into his character, I fully believe that it is not necessary or vital to know the mechanics of the natural world to know God. If this is true, I have much pity for Paul, or Peter, or Moses, who knew him personally!

#2,3 - These statements worry me, because they give license to sin if science approves. In example, homosexuality may be explained by science, but Christians are to admonish the behavior. Science approves the pornography industry, because it is a fulfillment of instinct, but Christians must be disgusted! We must understand we have a moral calling higher than the musings of scientists.

#4 - There is no overwhelming evidence of global warming, rather, there is overwhelming evidence that there is no global warming.

#6 - I appreciate Pascal’s quote, but I do not believe that many Christian scientists struggle with this issue. Rather, they more often take a more conservative approach to theology than many modern theologians.

#7 - This is a tired and useless question. While it is true that we may not know anything with absolute certainty, this is not a practical question. Rather, we proceed on sets of assumptions. As a physicist, I must assume there are these things called “mass”, “time”, and “space”, even though no good formal definition of any of these exists, because it makes the rest of my work more convenient. Likewise, our set of assumptions for Christians is that which is listed in the Apostle’s Creed after “I believe…”

#9 - Science cannot, and never has attempted to answer these questions. I am appalled that you even suggest the opposite. Worse, I am truly worried that you suggest that Christianity is unequipped to answer these important issues. If what you say is true, I have no purpose of being a Christian other than to “know God more fully”, whom you seem to liken more to Aristotle’s prime mover than a man upon a cross.

To answer your concluding question, yes you have missed something. Science is a beautiful thing; God may be known better through it. However, we cannot fall into the trap that implies that science IS God.

 

Thomas Jay Oord

09.23.2011
7:32am

Peter Colyer responds…

Thomas

Last month I was addressing a seminar of Baptist ministers on “The
apologetic advantages of science”. I emphasized that science was not a
specialist interest, and ministers should be knowledgable about
scientific thinking. In much briefer terms than yours, I gave three
reasons for this:

1. Belief in creation. Whatever a Christian belief in creation means in
detail, we believe that the world scientifically explained should be
consistent with our belief in God.

2. Science is used by some well-known atheists in their arguments
against belief. This is of course inconsistent with point 1, and
Christians should address this.

3. At least in the UK, point 2 is very well known and publicised - in
the press, TV programmes, etc. All church members and teenagers at
school are aware of the (mis)use of science in atheistic argument. So it
should be a real issue for preachers and pastors.

All best wishes. Keep up the good work!

Peter Colyer
Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK

 

Faith Stewart

09.23.2011
7:49am

What an interesting thought that engaging in science is also engaging in culture. It’s engaging in a culture that is also transnational and trans continental. We cannot simply ignore, as humans, the opportunity to engage in conversation with humanity even if just for the sake of engaging. Christianity and culture do not have to be separate from one another.

 

Dr. John Sanders

09.23.2011
11:18am

Harold Lindsell said, “ Dr. Ramm lets science stand over scripture and God. So the Bible is not normative.” (p. 123 of Dorrien, Remaking Evangelicalism). Lindsell believed the Bible must govern what science is allowed to say rather than allowing science to govern what the Bible is allowed to say. There is merit in wanting to view the world through the lens of biblical teaching but is the issue so monodirectional? If we follow Lindsell then would not have to conclude that the biblical writers were simply wrong when they promulgated a geocentric view of the earth? The Bible says, “the sun stood still” (Josh. 10:13) and that the sun rises and “goes down” (Josh. 23:14; 2 Sam. 2:24).

Should we take such texts to teach the truth? Christians at the time of Galileo certainly understood the texts this way which is why they said the “science” of Copernicus could not be right—they believed that whatever the Bible taught was scientifically correct. However, the majority of those who assert that the Bible is without error do not interpret these biblical texts to be in conflict with science. Rather, contemporary proponents of this approach claim that such texts are written “from a human perspective”. The Psalmist declares that “the earth is firmly established, it shall not be moved” (93:1). The biblical writer believed that the earth does not move, rather the sun moves. However, most evangelicals today believe the earth revolves around the sun. But on what grounds do they reject or reinterpret biblical teaching? Are they letting science dictate what the Bible is allowed to say is factually correct? On this point

I believe Nicholas Wolterstorff has put it well:
“It is clear that if the psalmist was speaking literally at this point, he was affirming geocentrism. But contemporary inerrantists are not geocentricists; they believe that geocentrism is false. Accordingly, they look for some non-literal interpretation of the psalmist’s words which won’t saddle him with a false geocentric cosmology. Yet they also go along with the standard historical view that most ancient persons were geocentricists….Nonetheless, the biblical writer, so the inerrantists say, was not speaking literally.

What makes them think not? Well, they don’t base their conclusion on extensive research into the thought-patterns of ancient Hebrews. They haven’t discovered a pocket of avant-garde solar-centricists among the ancient Hebrews, of which the psalmist was a member….Instead, their rejection of a literal interpretation is motivated by their conviction that if the author had been speaking literally, he would have said what is false.”
Why do those who claim that we must always allow the Bible to tell us what is scientifically correct not practice what they preach when it comes to geocentrism? Why do they not take these texts literally? I suggest it because of the scientific evidence that geocentrism is false. They accept the modern scientific account that the earth does move on its axis and revolves around the sun. Hence, they are using science to inform the scripture as to what is true and what is false, at least in these passages.

Charles Hodge, was professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the early 1900’s and one of the Calvinist leaders who shaped evangelicalism in America in the 20’th century (I read his theology in college as a textbook). He is absolutely revered by conservative evangelicals for his stance on biblical inerrancy and other doctrines. He said that the Bible never contradicts “facts” of the world even though our particular interpretations of the bible may conflict with the facts. “Science has in many things taught the Church how to understand the Scriptures. The Bible was for ages understood and explained according to the Ptolemaic system …it is now explained without doing the least violence to its language, according to the Copernican system. . . . If geologists finally prove that it has existed for myriads of ages it will be found that the first chapter of Genesis is in full accord with the facts. . . .It may cost the Church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another, as it did in the seventeenth century.” (Hodge, Systematic Theology vol. 1, 1901, pages 170-1.).

Having said this I also want to say that there is a danger of scientism—that science tells us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help our scientific method. Scientists are humans and are thus both finite and fallible. Christians have the right to question particular claims made by scientists. For example, the so-called neurotheology which tends to be reductionistic is questioned on a number of grounds even by non religious scientists. For me, the relationship between biblical interpretation and any other discipline is reciprocal.

 

John W. Dally

09.23.2011
11:23am

Tom,

Creation Science told me that I could not accept science if it conflicts with the Bible, especially Genesis. This created an internal conflict.  You mean I must deny any thing scientific if it conflicts with the Bible? As one who studies astronomy and geology as well as one who taught theology, I found that turning a blind eye to discoveries of science merely because they conflict with our theology intellectually and theologically dishonest. As time went on I found that I did not have to see science and faith in conflict.

When pressed, every Christian will see that their views of the cosmos have been shaped by science even to the point that they conflict with the scriptures. For example:

The Bible teaches that creation came out of the waters of chaos. First came light. Then a “firmament” was placed to separate the “waters from the waters” (1:6). A firmament is a shield. Out of the waters came land and vegetation was established.  All of this before the sun and moon were created! Photosynthesis, the process that creates the very oxygen we breathe cannot happen without the sun. Yet vegetation existed before the sun? And the moon is said to be its own light and we all know that it is reflected light from the sun. The church taught that the earth was the center of the universe. Does anyone believe today that the sun goes around the earth?  I could go on but the point is that if asked, all Christians have accepted science over scripture to some degree.

The church has always had to adapt to the observations of science and this is the main issue. Does it conflict with faith?  No. As I have said before, science tells the what, faith tells the why.

 

Winslovian

09.25.2011
3:59pm

Tom,

I very much appreciate this post.  I’d like to use a good deal of the 10 points in my Science, Technology and Society college course.  I don’t think I would add much to your list except to say that science cannot ever tell us what to do - science can only provide current data for analysis and predictions based on the choices we make.  In other words, science cannot replace our own ethical or moral decisions.  Science can help answer the question about what will happen if we continue to burn the Amazon rainforest but it cannot tell us what decision to choose.  Those decisions must be made on a creation ethic in light of socio-economic, ethical (and theological) concerns as well as the scientific analysis and ramifications.

This limited view of science might address some of the concerns reflected in the above comments.  We can learn lots through science about how the human brain functions and that knowledge will inform our decisions but never tell us the most ethical choice to make.  The choice is contingent on our own moral code and theological metric.  I have to object to the earlier comment (posted under Mark): “Science approves the pornography industry.”  That simply is not true.  Scientists may make statements about brain chemistry, etc. in that context but any pronouncement about the “rightness or wrongness” of pornography is not scientific.  Any scientist who “approves” pornography does so based on a personal ethic.

And thus back to title of your post: Science and Theology.  It takes both (and may I suggest other ways of knowing too) to live an informed life that honors God in the decisions that we make.

 

FrSymeon

10.21.2011
5:42pm

If you are interested in an Orthodox approach to knowledge (regarding esp. the first point), I recommend “Knowledge of God: Ancient Spirituality of the Christian East” by Dr. Harry Boosalis, a seminary professor. The distinction between the noetic knowledge of theology and the rational knowledge of science and philosophy is central to the Orthodox ethos.  In the West, a theologian is regarded as person with academic credentials who has studied philosophical concepts about God.  In the East, a theologian is one who knows God personally (with the heart) through prayer.

 

Sylvia Eguren

10.28.2011
1:07pm

I liked this article a great deal and it gives a great deal of thought to take to a church to encourage them to consider the part science plays in their life.  In No. 2 you made the statement that “Christians should reflect together. . ” and this is important, but the reflecting should be more that just a “yes” session where every agrees with everyone else and all is wonderful.  Someone must be willing to play “devil’s advocate” and ask the hard questions, or at least make sure they are on the table. My problem with the blog is the assumption that the Bible is the final authority and many people who are into science do not believe the Bible has that kind of credibility.  That is the arena where I find myself most uncomfortable, when the foundations do not match.  How can one discuss religion and science and not use the Bible?

 

Cody Stauffer

10.28.2011
4:39pm

Tom, I appreciate this list, because you do a great job making it accessible, which is nice to see in a theologian.  
I especially resonate with statement number 7, because I think the ultimate aim for both fields ought to be one of better understanding. What I appreciate about science in theory (not always in practice, of course!) is it has built in the idea that one ought to be willing to let go off anything that is untenable to hold. I would think this is something we could learn from science as presented in theory. In fact, I would think it would be a place of common ground; however, my experience (and lots of historical evidence) points to religion being more willing to hold on to positions, even if untenable to do so (some might call this “blind faith”). In fact, I dare say that we ought to be leaders in this regard, because we traditionally believe that God is the master of all existence, not us, and thus it should never come to us as a surprise that we could be wrong about something, even something like divine revelation, since it has to go through our human perspective.
One other thing that always surprises me is that it seems most people always want to bundle up the attitude of individual scientists into what it means to do science. Are there some who are antagonistic to religion? Of course. Should that color the entire field of science in such a way? No, no more than I would hope people would judge Christianity on the basis of a few bad apples. In fact, if we look at one of the aims of science—to observe nature and make good statements about it—Christianity ought to embrace and applaud that aim, since, as you point out in #1 and throughout, we believe creation matters. This is something that is not inherent in some other religious traditions, but we have it handed down from our best traditions that creation is important, that it matters, and that it testifies to God handiwork. Will we always make good observations? No. But science has a history of correcting itself, given enough time, as one of its purposes is to make new statements, hypotheses, and what have you. We can appreciate that, at least!

 

Austin Jardine

02.05.2012
12:18pm

Very well said, I think these are wonderful reasons for relating how science and theology coincide.

One thing that i found interesting is the “Creation Care” part, we are called to take care of God’s work, and I believe that in order to do so appropriately there will be science involved, He did not give us clear-cut ways to do so, therefore it is by whatever means we have we are called to use and know to keep our world safe/‘operational’.

I have a slight problem with why there is such a big issue between theology in science. Scientists study what they can see, and seek to find/understand what they don’t, whereas theologians expand on what they believe (typically), I suppose i might not have experienced their debates firsthand, regardless i find it rather funny.

 

Jon Hawkins

09.17.2012
1:06pm

I find it interesting that the church seems to be taking a back seat to science. It is like we are scared to take sides and voice our opinions about certain matters. This is a shame, because it leaves other believers from gaining knowledge and then their opinion about for example evolution. If someone came up to me wondering what my opinion regarding this topic, I would have no idea how to answer that. I think this falls on the church for not educating topics like this to equip members for when they are sent out to be ready in these situations.

 

Jarrod Anderson

09.20.2012
3:22pm

This was a good blog post on starting the conversation for Christians to view science. Well more in the sense of Christians should start introducing science into the conversation. If Christianity is to be influential in the world today, it cannot dismiss everything going on in the world. Science provides some strong evidence of different happenings in the world. If we cannot reconcile these findings in our faith, or with our faith there is a problem. Sure there will be points where science may clash with what we believe, but we do need to wrestle with these issues.
However, again this article is great and provides some great ideas n why christians should pay more attention to science.

 

Emma Roemhildt

09.20.2012
3:27pm

I’ve always thought it rather funny the amount of certainty some put on science. Of all the academic areas, science is quite possibly the one that changes the most and such changes have had the most dramatic impact on our lives. The world of science is hardly certain, if anything it opens up a larger realm of the unknown. As already noted in the post, science requires faith just as theology. As for the environmentalist trend, being environmentally responsible, aware and care-ful are great things to be. However, environmentalism is not our first priority. Loving God and loving your neighbor is. Caring for the earth is probably a legitimate way of doing so, yet I am weary of Christian sources that embed theological demands in order to promote an agenda of recycling and saving rainforests. No one wants our world to be destroyed – environmental responsibility is not a Christian-only conviction. If we are not careful, putting religious language into a non-religious issue may cause problems.

 

Evan Thomas

09.20.2012
3:55pm

Science. . . I have no problems with it. There have been plenty of great inventions due to science. But why as a Christian at a Christian University am I careful as to whom I acknowledge 6 day creation? All my professors have “informed” me that the Israelites were not attempting to tell how the Earth was made but merely explaining to the foreign polytheistic people how there is one true God. Is this mainly due to carbon dating? What about the scientific results that show how carbon dating is not accurate beyond 3500 years? “There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually the selected dates” (Dr. Robert Lee, 1981).

 

Becca Spivey

09.20.2012
5:35pm

I agree that Christians need to learn more about science and how the earth and all things in it works. I see science, in some ways, another “form” of theology. Where we the created are studying what God has made in order to learn more about Him. This is one reason why God is amazing, is because He wants us to study and learn more about Him through all of His creation. Scientists are a great contribution to the body, and we need them. While we may not agree on how specifically the earth was created we can agree that we are to love one another, and learn from one another. In general it seems as though Christians are afraid to ask questions, because they are afraid that the answer might not be what they have always believed. We need to foster a learning environment within the church where these questions are not afraid to be asked and can be answered to the best of our knowledge.

 

Lucas Reding

09.20.2012
10:59pm

I find it interesting when people get nervous when a scientific topic enters into a theological discussion. I have always considered the two to share equal weight in the quest to answer life’s greatest questions and solve its biggest mysteries but when I meet someone who thinks differently I am always taken aback. On both sides of the fence there are those who believe they are one hundred percent right and the other side is wrong. Both theologians and scientists have committed this fault. Learning about both sides of the debate can be beneficial to one’s understanding of God’s universe. When scientists dig deeper into their field, sometimes a belief of a creator is stirred in them from what they discover. Other times, when a hard-core theologian takes a gander at scientific discovery their views of God’s creation could be changed and strengthened. All in all, I believe it is a good idea to never completely close a door before it is fully opened and traveled through.

 

Andrew Sinift

09.21.2012
6:37am

It is a shame that so many Christians fear science as some evil. God reveals Himself in so many ways – including science. On the flip-side, I believe that it’s a shame that many (yes, this is a major generalization) in science fear faith as some evil as well. A lot of science that I read assumes the non-existence of God and takes the stance that what is real is only what can be seen, touched, or scientifically proven. It seems that many – again, these are generalizations – people believe that people should either be people of science or people of faith. Unfortunately, few realize that these are not opposed to each other. The best approach is to allow the two to mix. Yes, we should work hard to understand science and allow it to enter the conversation; however, we must humble ourselves and admit that we can never fully understand God or our world. We cannot explain faith away.

 

Joshua Mast

09.21.2012
7:32am

I wholeheartedly agree that Christians shall never be ignorant of the latest data that science can bring about, but I am not sure exactly how much weight science should truly hold in answering questions. I say this because there are some areas that are held with such high regard, but there are even scientists that would deem these areas hardly a science, but rather a pseudo-science, such as psychoanalysis, a branch of psychology (Karl Popper is who I believe coined this phrase pseudo-science). Furthermore, there are a handful of scientist that may affirm certain hot topic issues, but will wholeheartedly say that there really IS NOT as much evidence, or even reliable evidence that says we should hold this claim, but it is the only viable theory insofar.

I think what is interesting in hot topic debates too, is that there is a lot of times Christians will only try to defend their beliefs with the Bible or theology whereas the person opposing them (or even attacking sometimes) will try to throw science around. I have come to find that in a large handful of hot topic issues that science and logic are actually MORE on the side of the Christian, if they not be so ignorant of the data.

 

Robby Skinner

09.21.2012
10:09am

I feel that the fourth point is especially poignant. As Christians, many agree that we are to care for creation, but many disregard the fact that science has developed ways to care for creation. In my vastly uneducated view, I see many of the arguments made in opposition to conservation made out of a desire to continue in their ways, rather than changing their habits. I believe that we must make a conscious effort to change our habits and be more aware of our impact, with the help of scientific research.

 

Kaylee Bunn

09.21.2012
10:09am

I agree with so many of these points! I believe science and theology must exist in dialogue. It would be foolish of me to ignore an entire field of study, simply because I do not fully comprehend it. I bring the knowledge of history I have to any reading of literature I do. I bring the knowledge I have gained about education and teaching methods to any situation where I am speaking in public, in a typical classroom setting or otherwise. It is natural to incorporate all knowledge that has been gained in an attempt to live fully. It seems to me that this same idea should be applied to theology and science. Rather than set the two fields in opposition, they should be used to supplement each other. The two do not need to exist in contrast. Christians must learn to study both fields and allow them to be mutually beneficial.

 

James Hardy

09.21.2012
12:31pm

Tom,

I have always been interested in science.  When I was a child, I would come home from school, run to the TV, change the station to PBS and watch a variety of educational programs, mostly dealing with science.  Sadly, as I grew older, many of the people close to me who were Christians tried to steer me away from science, for fear that I would lose my faith.  As a result, I became hostile toward science during my teenage years, even though I was still deeply interested in the natural world.  It was not until recently that I regained my interest in science, but this time in connection with theology and Christianity. It has opened up a whole new world of thought and belief that I never want to flee. I am so encouraged by theologians like you who take science into account and I hope to be just as open as I continue to formulate my beliefs about God and the world in which we live.

 

Roman Lyon

09.21.2012
3:29pm

I think there needs to be a careful balance between creation and science. While I do think it is important that we do not ignore what science has to offer, I also think that much of the scientific “proof” that we hear about today is often on the extreme end of the spectrum. For example, we often hear that global warming is occurring at a dangerous rate and that we need to stop it quickly. But at the same time Antarctica has more ice now than it ever has before. So, while there is certain proof of it, it most likely is not happening at the rate that certain scientists and the media claim. Therefore, in situations like this, we need to be aware of what truly qualifies as hard evidence, and possibly take what we can prove with science as a grain of salt.

 

Betsy Hillman

09.21.2012
10:05pm

I really do not get how there are Christians about there who do not understand how it is our responsibility to take care of the earth. If you are a fundamentalist you would see that Adam took care of the creatures around him and how God gave him that responsibility! If God created everything, why aren’t we taking care of what is God’s? We are concerned with self image but not the image of our world. I do not believe that God is very happy with us on these matters.

 

Coby

02.28.2013
1:24pm

Yes, I do think you left out some things.

So many times in this type of discussion, we stop reading the Bible at the 10th chapter of Genesis. The prophets have a lot more to say on the subject of our responsibility for the rest of creation. Specifically, they tie together issues like social justice and climate change with God’s overall plan of salvation. How the first things are about the same things as the last things. It’s fascinating (and convicting) reading.

Many creationists emphasize that man is a special being, the “crown of creation.” We forget that we’re all made of the same subatomic dust. So the same “elementary principles” that apply to lab rats apply to the psychology of humans that’s laid out in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We often make our Western theology, and even our soteriology, too much about doctrine and not enough about common sense. The Bible, by and large, takes the latter road.

Finally, I don’t think you take enough account of the way our hubris has shaped our systems of thought. The idea that science, especially social science, should be values-neutral is a subtle way of saying, “Jesus is not really the way, the truth, and the life.” It’s a post-Christian ideology, one that says that we must be impartial, but in practice, comes up with things like Stephen Jay Gould’s Non-Overlapping Magisterial Order (NOMA). That sounds benign, but it is intrinsically hostile to the truth claims of Christianity at important points.

Well, I said finally, but I do have to mention that you guys are pretty soft on evolution. Don’t you take seriously any of the work on things like Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, or the lack of evidence for an old earth? (and the wealth of evidence for an old universe, as 2 Peter says)  Do you just go with the working assumption that the Flood story is just like the verses on geocentrism? “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”?

Maybe I’ve given you enough “forgots” for another article. My dad said that his Navajo friends always made sure that when they wove a blanket, there was at least one flaw in it. Otherwise their soul would be trapped in the work. So with that in mind, blessings on you, and keep up the good work.

 

C. Colmenares

09.01.2013
5:25pm

Greetings,
Regarding point #4 Creation Care… Is it purposeful that you wrote “God creates” rather than “God created” in the final sentence? I am so used to hearing “God created the heavens and the earth….” Is God still actively involved in the work of creation, or did God set the process in motion and “step back”? I don’t believe God manages every detail of creation, but I am not sure about God still being actively involved in some ways.

Regarding point #10 Creator and Co-creators… I wouldn’t refer to the ground, water, or earth as creatures. Granted, these entities possess creatures which create more creatures. Is this reality the reasoning behind referencing the ground, water, and earth?

Take care -

 

Phillip Anderson

09.01.2013
11:28pm

Dr. Oord
I don’t really have any disagreements in regards to the importance of a theological and scientific dialogue. I understand the benefit for “knowing” God deeper through the conversation and also how the discussion could/should lead to a better biblical interpretation about certain things as long as the Bible does not become the underdog to the science.

I do however, have a question in regards to #10 Creator & Co-creator’s:
This is a tough one. I am not sure I opposed this idea but, I’m not sure I agree totally either thus, the question.

Is creation really a co-creator? Did God create creation and then set it to “run” on the natural order of the initial creation? Or, does God continue to create through the natural order and the central Christian belief that God is in control? I’m not sure you are going as far as, God created and then “set” in motion creation’s ability to continue creating without the “control” of God but it sounds like it. If we take the role of God through and with humanity (throughout the Bible) as a testament to God being in control, i.e. God controlled life and death for many and brought about that control through miracles (often performed by humans), it would appear, at least biblically, that God still “controls” creation. Such as, He gave the ability give birth to the barren on occasion. So does that give creation control to create or does God still control creation?
Phil

 

Dean Jenkins

09.02.2013
9:28am

Our church was fortunate to have a researcher with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and a dentist who were both passionate about showing the how science reveals God and equipping Christians with information about both the power and limitations of science.  They held a series of interactive sessions and I was hooked on the topic and it is an area of passion for me now as well. 
  It has been my observation that most non-Christians share a version of Al Gore’s observation that:
“For some Christians, the prophetic vision of the apocalypse is used - in my view, unforgivably — as an excuse for abdicating their responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation”
This may be somewhat justified.  While most Christians that I know do not take an explicit position on environmental stewardship (or lack of it) based on an apocalyptic end, they are markedly ambivalent about the topic and this is in contrast and conflict with the culture we are in.  Not becoming educated about science as revelation of God, about Biblical stewardship is, in my opinion, both a sin of omission and a missed opportunity to be relevant in today’s world.

 

Buck Zeller

09.02.2013
9:42am

At the risk of sounding ultra controversial, I wonder how our views of Jesus’ perfection would change if we discovered he had a medical condition.  Do morals and Christian ethics trespass into the medical and clinical realms precluding advancements in medicine because of their fundamental views?  Consider the field of psychology and neuroscience and how researchers in these disciplines have discovered interesting and vital elements relating to human behavior and the brain.  Galileo was almost put to death because his discoveries.  I suppose throughout the years Christians have manipulated and reduced scientific discoveries in the field of medicine to avoid their own insecurities.  Can we have faith in God if we discover that some “sins” are a consequence of human physiology?  Suppose a time comes when science isolates a chemical in the brain or gene that predisposes humans to homosexuality, adultery, theft, or other social sins.  Will the church stand against or for these discoveries if the new Galileo develops a counter church perspective?  I suppose the debate will rage, but will our theology, especially free will theology, become a matter of discussion?

 

GaBe

09.02.2013
1:01pm

Prof Oord, I agree, Christians should think deeply about how science impacts on many aspects of theology.  I see two possible arenas where science may not be helpful to the issue of interpretation of biblical texts in light of scientific theories.

1. Science and scientific theories are based on assumptions and expectations that in order for it to be note worthy or good science should be repeatable. In other words all things being equal an experiment should produce the same conclusions. In the case of interpreting the virgin birth, science may not be able to assist positively simply because the virgin birth cannot be repeatable. The reason for this is that the incident was not to be the subject matter of science but to produce a once and for all Saviour (not a repeatable outcome-but a call to understand the purpose of the writing). Only faith may keep one believing in the Advent.

2. The other side of science within a theological framework may remove the accountability aspect from those who wilfully and knowingly break a moral code. In the case of a paedophile who commits a heinous act against a child may be excused based on scientific reasoning. Theology on the other hand places the act of the paedophile squarely as his choice for which he must give account.

 

Elena Simeonova

09.03.2013
5:04am

I do not think Christians should or even can fully reject science. It is a major influence on the contemporary person. On the negative side, it is shaping our thinking in ways which may be detrimental to a life of and by faith, even if we do not realize that. That is why we need to keep in mind that our Christian faith is superior to science and that scientific finds may be incorrect, limited or transitional.
On the other hand, I agree that good scientific work may enhance our own faith and witness. As the article says, science can help us know God better and can increase our sense of awe before Him. Knowing the human person better from the sciences (but this knowledge should be in agreement with the teaching and the revelation of the Bible) might also be helpful in how we serve others – both Christians and non-believers. I find particularly strong the argument about our care for nature conservation, although I do not think it should be taken to unreasonable extremes.
I can add that being acquainted with scientific work can lead us to make morally correct decisions for ethical issues not discussed in biblical times.

 

Patti J Niebojewski

09.03.2013
1:58pm

Wk2 D1 Assignment 2a Niebojewski “Christians Care about Science and Theology” on the Oord blogsite
I agree wholeheartedly to Dr. Oord’s blogspot in that Christians do need to care about science and theology together.  All of the points in his blog are worthy to be incorporated into our Christian lives.  There are ten points that Dr. Oord addresses and perhaps as he mentions there are more as well.  These ten points are: 1) Knowing God, 2) Biblical Interpretation, 3) The Human Person, 4) Creation Care, 5) Cultural Engagement, 6) Christian Scientists, 7) What Can We Know?, 8) Conflict Resolution, 9) The Big Questions, and 10) Creator and Co-Creators.  All ten points are extremely important for Christians to administer and incorporate into their Spiritual Formation and Christian action in the world to make it a better place.
Response:
Creation Care: on the point of Fracking developed since approximately 2011 by the gas companies as they search for natural gas from God’s created natural resource Earth.  I believe that our world is being destroyed nationally and internationally by the fracking process.  Our President and other leaders are promoting this search for natural gas because they believe that this is a way for our world to alleviate the dependency on foreign oil.  It is a good idea to be independent.  However, there are drastic tragic reports on how animals, water and land have been destroyed and people consequently have suffered from illnesses from the chemicals necessary to utilize during the procedures in fracking.  Is the bad outweighing the good in this procedure?  If continued and the land and water is destroyed, God might use this process to create the biggest earthquake we have ever experienced.

 

Nicholas Carpenter

09.18.2013
6:20pm

Another reason I think the Science and Religion issue needs to be talked about is simply both are a reality. Although point #7 is very accurate in understanding both science and religion do not have all the answers or the perfect answers, both are still very relevant to the world we live in and need to be discussed at length that we might hopefully understand each individually and in relation to each other better. If we choose to ignore science as Christians, than we ignore both a serious component of what we know about everything in creation but we also miss out on something beautiful God might be trying to communicate to us that can only be seen through the lens of science.

 

Steven Coles

09.19.2013
5:22pm

Creation is such a interesting topic to talk about. I, to this day, still struggle with the idea of creation. I think we, as Christians, like to assume a lot of things when we talk about creation that, when we get to theology, we find ourselves in difficult positions when we talk about the nature(s) of God.
I fully agree that we need to understand other view and theories that science poses. Not to change our minds or our theologies, but to aware of others thoughts and findings that might lead to new things, or showing us ways we might be wrong. Science is our friend, and God can use science to speak to us about God’s creation.

 

Jonathon Wren

09.19.2013
5:58pm

In H. Ray Dunning’s book Grace, Faith, & Holiness he brings up a great point when dealing with this issue.  His point is the creation account presented to us in Genesis is not a scientific or actual account.  This being said, we shouldn’t look at it this way!  Ancient writings often used poetry or myths to get a point accross.  I believe this account of creation we have today was merely a response to the many God’s of the day.  This being said, we should approach the theological-scientific relationship with this mindset.  The Bible can spread insight into this issue, but it is not dertemative of a scientific account of creation.

 

Greyson

09.19.2013
7:20pm

When discussing whether or not science has any place in shaping our understanding of God and the universe, we must first stop to decide how much weight our human ability to reason should have in this conversation. According to those that find themselves within the Wesleyan tradition, “reason” has an important place in shaping our understanding of God, and in the interpretation of scripture. according to what we call the “Wesleyan quadrilateral”, reason is among the top four most useful resources for the shaping of our faith.

In its most basic form, science is using our God given ability to reason, in attempt to find the most probable answers to our questions regarding the creation of the universe and the functions of the natural world. To say that “science” is not useful for those that follow the Christian faith is to say that Christians have no need for the use of reason in their lives.

 

Rachael Snyder

09.19.2013
10:00pm

In addition to these, one of the more compelling reasons for Christians to care about science is because the people around us care about science. With ever-advancing scientific knowledge and theory, we have to face the reality that, “The Bible said so,” just isn’t a good enough answer anymore. It’s not satisfying to a generation that thrives on proof, evidence, and authenticity. If the Church ever hopes to reach those who feel their scientific views exclude them from Christianity, then we have to begin building the bridge. We have to honestly and openly confront the difficulties between the Church and science, realizing that it is a conversation and we don’t have all the answers.

 

Robbie Schwenck

09.19.2013
10:51pm

I especially think that number 5, cultural engagement, is an important one. It is disappointing to me when I see Christians who are totally ignorant about science and unwilling to converse with the scientific community. We should recognize the need for us to be in dialogue with those in our culture who have a lot to tell us about scientific issues. The point is not that we become good scientists or understand every little detail. Our goal should be to better understand some of the ways of creation in order know God more fully. While doing that, we can also become more relevant and reasonable within our culture.

 

Dakota Vails

09.20.2013
7:52am

We must care about both for the world to take us seriously. We can no longer live within our Christian bubble. In order for people to take what we say seriously we need to embrace what is known to be factual. Now certain sciences are not as proven as others and therefore we do not need to necessarily believe in them. However we need to be open to the fact that maybe science reveals the way in which the God of the universe chose to order things. Let us unite those which have been long disjoined vital piety and knowledge.

 

Michelle Borbe

09.20.2013
6:28pm

I think that these are all very good comments and concerns that you have for Christians to start thinking and being in dialoged about since and theology. I think that one of the issues that we face now is that everyone has their own opinions on how they think Creation came to be. There are many views and it all can become confusing for someone who is not educated in the science of evolution and other creation theories. One thing that I think is needed is an education. Education from within a church about these theories for Christians to help become a part of the conversation and form their own thoughts on the matter and not just what the main stream evangelical Christian thought processes that their world of Christianity is telling them to have.

 

Kaelynn Huwe

09.20.2013
6:44pm

I agree that science and Christians should care about science, and that theology and science do not have to be in contrast to one another. As a Christian, I believe that God created the world and us. Because of this, I see science as a way to understand God more fully. If God is creator of all, doesn’t it make sense that science is a way to understand Gods creation?
By engaging in science Christians can come to know God more!

 

Topher Taylor

09.20.2013
8:42pm

While I completely agree that there must be an open dialogue between science and theology for Christians I am not sure I necessarily agree with all ten points that you have listed for why we should be in dialogue. We must not be ignorant to the world around us and there are elements of the Bible that simply doesn’t answer the questions we have today. Science is one way of gaining an understanding of the world, but even then it doesn’t hold all the answers, as you pointed out. I’m curious if the distinction is necessary between Cultural Engagement and Christian Scientists. Christians live among each other and others and in both of those groups we have scientists, and for each of them we need to be able to converse with and learn from so I’m not sure that it is fair to distinguish between the scientists that are inside or outside of the church when we are called to engage with the various cultures that we live in community with. I think the point of Creation Care should be an important one, Christians are to live a life that resembles Christ while we live and worship to God the Creator. We are called to love one another and to love God; how can we fulfill the promise to love God when we blatantly ignore and trash his good creation? The responsibility to care for creation doesn’t even have to stem from the debate on global warming and it may not even come from a scientific world-view it should, however, come from a natural desire to love what God has formed and created but also should be void of the selfishness that humans possess.

 

Aaron Moschitto

09.20.2013
10:27pm

I think our ignorance of science has caused us to defend more ground as Chrisrians than we really need to. To stake Christianity’s validity on something like 6 day creationism causes us to defend a lot of ground that is unnecessary. It forces Chrisrians to make the conversation about something other than that which is central to the faith. Science can only speak about empirical data… It can’t make the metaphysical claim that God does not exist, but it can help us understand the world in which we live. This being said, I think we above all should be for the continued growth of support for scientific research. We should be in the frontlines of trying to understand how evolution impacts our theology, how multiverses affect our understanding of God, and how we can help to explore the deep mysteries of life.

 

Joseph Norris

09.21.2013
8:17am

I think it’s too often that Christians who provide such a dichotomy between science and theology also tend to believe that Scripture and the Church is ultimately where truth can be found. This true, but is it the inly place truth can be found? The majority of Christians use or have used electronics, antibiotics, automobiles, etc. These things most people understand as created or discovered by science and yet other things science have provided use seem to be put on the back burner or just thrown out. This doesn’t make since to me given the Romans passage above, but I think Augustine puts it concisely when he says, “A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding those who ‘though they knew God did not glorify him as God…’” (Augustine, On Christian Teaching). If all truth is God’s truth, then is the truth found in a persons watch, car, toothpaste, computer, and the many other things which are due to science really different in origin from the truth found in Scripture, revelation, and the apostolic church? I contend that fundamentally, the truth resides in God where ever it may be found.

 

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Thomas Jay Oord is a professor, author, and theologian from the Northwest. Read more