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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Austin Lamos

09.01.2014
6:39am

This blog does provide a good starting list for why Christians should care about science. Christians should care about the natural world because, as stated in reason 1, it is God’s creation, and as such it reflects certain characteristics about God. Christians are given a charge to take care of the earth (Genesis 1). And in doing so they will discover aspects of God they could get from no other source (Psalm 19:1-4).
One issue I might take with this blog post is that it seems to say that only those who hold the big bang, evolution, etc. to be true are the only real scientists. What about those real Christian scientists (I’m not referring to the Christian science church) who believe the scientific evidence points to a literal 6 day creation and to a literal global flood? (and I’m not referring to Ken Ham on this point either).

 

Veronica Roesly

09.01.2014
10:37am

I found this article to be interesting.  Here we have ten reasons Christians SHOULD care deeply about issues emerging from the science-and-theology interface.  There exist strong arguments on both sides.  I think the key word here is ‘should’, which implies that they do not.  I like to say that I cannot speak on behalf of all Christians, as this would be too bold of a statement.  What I am speaking of is our foundation as Christians in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.  Everything built begins on a foundation.  A strong and sturdy foundation provides protection against the elements that try to destroy.  Christianities foundation is that of Jesus Christ.  So therefore, we start with Jesus and work our way out.  If science supports our foundation, then it is accepted.  However, if science does not support our foundation, we place it on the shelf until it matures and supports our foundation.  I believe this is what we run into regarding science.  At one time, the belief was the world was flat.  God told us that it was not so in His word (Isaiah 40:22).  Finally, science matured and proved that the world was round.

 

Greg

09.01.2014
12:33pm

I recognize that for many the relation of science and faith can be a controversial issue.  However, I would also contend that Christians should care about science.  I think in general some good points are made, although it is easy enough to see how someone can take certain aspects of any one of them and run with it to the extreme to take issue.  In touching just one aspect, science does have a loud voice in the cultural battlefield.  Perhaps that is the reason Christians have felt pressured into trying to adapt certain scientific theories into harmony with scriptural accounts.  Unfortunately my feeling is that much of what is proposed comes from certain agendas.  So with the underwhelming supporting evidence of some things that are styled “science” I am just not inclined to change my position on issues like Creation.  I have always said, if there is a perceived conflict between science and scripture, then we just don’t have enough information at this present time!

 

Linsey M.

09.01.2014
2:06pm

Hi Tom-
I appreciate your willingness to open the door to this conversation. The only other reason I would personally add to this list is that I am not sure science and religion have to be in competition. (This is of course similar to our discussion of philosophy and theology last week) The Bible tells us WHO our creator is, but (unless we interpret very literally, and there is some serious danger in that) science wants to answer HOW it was accomplished. I think in the end these two perspectives are really answering different questions and therefore do not have to be at odds.

I will be honest and say I am not as willing to open up this conversation. Or perhaps I should say, I am very careful with whom I open this conversation up.  I think it is important, but I find it is also a topic people become hostile about rather quickly. I hope that this will not always be the case.

 

Jared Trygg

09.01.2014
5:09pm

Tom,

You wrote, “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.”

Something that tends to be a limiter for people joining conversations is not necessarily a lack of knowledge, but an unwillingness to ask questions with an anticipation for dialogue. For some Christians, people are turned off from hearing their input as a result of an attitude bent towards proving something rather than having an actual conversation. This is not unique to Christians, it is hard to have a conversation about any topic with anyone who has an agenda that does not include an open mind; however, God doesn’t need someone to defend him as much as he wants his creation to exhibit community.

 

Melinda Helena

09.01.2014
7:40pm

I grew up thinking that all scientists were non-Christians trying to push their radical anti-Christian ideas on me and I was to avoid them like the plague.  Luckily I grew up and realized that science is nothing to fear as a Christian.  God created this wonderful world we live in and what is wrong with learning as much from it as possible?  Every reason that is listed in this blog is exactly why we need to embrace the sciences.  The more we can learn from Gods creation the closer we become to God.  Science is most defiantly important to every Christian

 

Jerimy W

09.01.2014
7:42pm

I appreciate this piece in the way it lays “the science-and-theology” conversation out on the table.  No doubt, this is an important conversation in which the church needs to be engaged.  Those outside the church certainly are, so we would be remiss if we failed to understand the perspectives of the cultures and societies within which we minister.  For me, the debate has not been science versus theology.  In fact, I am fascinated by the endless discoveries made within the field of science.  I do often question, however, the interpretation of those discoveries.  In a field in which objectivity is essential, it seems that each scientist’s personal perceptions and presuppositions determine how the information from each discovery is used.  Many times, it seems, this information is used to try and disprove the existence of God (at least that is what the media presents) which, in my opinion, is only helping to drive the wedge between science and theology even deeper. 
For me, these discoveries only go to show the complexity of God, and the magnificence with which God created the earth and its inhabitants.  The nature of God is certainly evident in all that God has created, and science plays a valuable role in helping to reveal some of that beautiful, yet complex nature.

 

Paul Darminio

09.01.2014
8:25pm

Paul Darminio
Week 2 Day 1 Response to “Why Christians Care about Science and Theology.”

  While I agree with the reasons listed in this essay outlining why Christians should care about science and theology, I am also left with a question.  To what degree?  I do not think that this is an either/or kind of question, but one of degree.  I think that we will be asking this question during most of the reading this week, but I am asking myself how to balance these influences, especially when interpreting Scripture.  For instance, if I follow the scientific claim that evolution explains life on Earth, I can reconcile that with Scripture by conceding that Genesis had a specific purpose, and that purpose was not to convey scientific knowledge.  However, if we allow that rule to stand, we come into conflict with other passages, such as the Flood narrative.  Science can not explain miracles, and if we allow that assertion to lead our interpretation of those stories toward allegory, we will run into some problems, especially once we get to the Gospels.

Word Count: 166

 

Mary Forester

09.01.2014
8:51pm

I think your points are well-written and researched. About half way through your blog, I began thinking about what the pastor at my church says frequently about the “new creation” and how we are called to care for the earth in preparation for the new creation. We don’t ignore the earth; we maintain it. We can’t ignore science, either. To admit that scientist have understood how natural processes work, doesn’t take God out of creation. God intricately designed the world and all that is within it. I love how you said that there are co-creators. It opens up a deeper understanding of science in a relational way. I also thought that probably your best point is that both theology and science live by faith. Science thinks that they have it all figured out and then there is a new discovery. You never hear that they were “wrong” but that they are learning. The same is true with theology. We can’t have everything figured out. We can only understand as much as God has revealed to us as in the same way as scientific discovery.

 

David Hater

09.01.2014
9:00pm

This blog was an interesting read for me and something that provoked thought in some areas.  One thing that stuck out from this blog was the idea of creation care.  Being a geographer, understanding the earth, and caring for it is something that I became familiar with in my undergraduate degree.  Yet, being able to care for it in the proper way is not so black and white, which is something that I also learned.  One of the hottest topics is global warming, yet not all believe in it, and if you don’t believe me, just go to any geography department on a campus and ask the question and likely you will see World War 3.  Jumping the gun on one side or the other before figuring out the best way is as foolish as not doing anything.  Thinking about scientists and being mistreated, I think some of that can be blamed on the church, but some can also be blamed on the arrogance of scientists as well.  I can say this as someone who spent time in natural sciences, so we must be open to discussion, but also we cannot be pushed around either.

 

Mark R Mounts

09.01.2014
9:06pm

I am intrigued, always, about people who get to the point where they are set in their ways and thoughts because when they approach new thoughts and knowledge they try to find holes in it.  When having a Christian conversation it often can immediately jump to, “who is right,” but the goal should be to become more in-depth in our conversations.  Jumping into scripture is great and dialogues are great, but those who are set in their ways about what they already know sometimes can lead to an argument.  Your blog article does a great job of encouraging healthy conversations to deepen our understanding of Creation, scripture, science, nature, and so on.

I do know so many Christians who are anti-science, but my best friend and co-teacher is a Christian middle school science teacher and we have so many great discussions about how awesome God is and how nature shows it. Ultimately, we just try to get more interpretive and inquisitive about God’s purpose and God’s will in our lives through every thing God made and all that God has expressed to us through the Bible and through His Creation.

 

Dustin

09.01.2014
10:11pm

Tom,

This post presents ten good reasons as to why Christians should care about the relationship between science and theology. I think one of the foundations you kept alive during these ten points is the idea of keep the relationship open and focused on scripture. It did not seem as though you were pointing to science being the final word but rather a support system used to help answer and dialogue with theology. As you mentioned from the references to Genesis we have a certain duty to this world we inhabit.

I think another key point you made is there are those who are within this field who spend their efforts studying and researching science from a Christian perspective. There are those who can aid in the understandings of those who might not be as open to the conversation. These Christian scientists can help bridge the gap between those who hold fast to scripture only and those who want science to be involved.

 

Susanne Blake

09.02.2014
11:37am

I was very interested in each of these ten reasons.  They were very helpful.  I took each of these ten and drew some conclusions from a few of them.  The first reason “knowing God” I quote “Deeper knowledge of God requires engagement with both theology and science.”  I agree with this statement. The idea of engagement means a meaningful discussion without making judgements as to who is right.  Science and theology can be companions not enemies.

Then Biblical interpretation colors all of what we think about the Bible and how it relates to this world.  As we learn more of God’s Word we see that creation was in fact the first step God took in bringing salvation to mankind. God created man and had a plan all along to redeem man from the effects of sin.

The next reason cultural engagement was also interesting to me.  Oord writes” The Christian ignorant about science is easily sidelined or even cut off from cultural conversations about the common good.”  So what is the common good.  Christians as well as non-Christians live in God’s created world.  God gives man a free-will to choose.  In this choosing the Christian can explore and learn or observe and speculate. It is easier to not know that to defend what you do know. This world in all its splendor God planned for the common goo of man.

So what are the bigger questions?  Questions like “Why is there anything rather than nothing? or “What is the ultimate source of right and wrong? Can these things be discussed? Disagreement can happen but healthy discussion is good.

The last statement Dr. Oord says “The idea that God is the ultimate source of creation and creatures jointing the creative process is present in other places in the Bible.”  I observe we need to see scripture as the fulfilling revelation of God of his plan, purpose and his provision in all areas of theology and science.  Lets join hands not fists and agree to be open to listen and learn from each other.

 

Kelli Simmons

09.02.2014
5:36pm

Tom,
I thought the list was very well compiled.  I would agree that many times the scientific community is portrayed as villains from the pulpit, and that is truly unfortunate.  Something that comes to mind is a paper I wrote as an undergraduate about Darwin’s theory of evolution and the negative reaction of the Church of England at the time.  Eventually (and to their credit I believe) the church wrote a formal apology to Darwin, although it was well over 100 years after the naturalist had died. In my opinion, God was intentional in tying the created world and all it contains to his Word.  We know that humanity was created in his image, and it is God’s desire that we be restored to that image. I think that you are correct on every point of your argument.  I am just not sure of the best way to approach the congregation in establishing this important dialogue.  Perhaps a good start would be in a small group setting or Sunday school class.

 

Amina Chinnell-Mateen

09.23.2014
5:42pm

First off I couldn’t agree more with how you talk about how scientists who are Christians sometimes feel left out, and ostracized. It is a hard thing to hold two identities and feel like both of them are apart of you. I know how it feels to feel like you can’t choose just one to be apart of. One of the things we need to remember is that our Christian community consists of all different kinds of people. Secondly, I think our ignorance of science related content has caused us to defend our more Christian side. While this important in some regard, I think both sides are important to fairly explore in my opinion.  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. God is capable of being present in multiple things and multiple situations. That means in science and outside of it. And I think data could easy go hand in hand with this whole idea of God made the earth in 7 or 6 literal days. Honestly for minor things such as this, what is the huge big deal when we disagree about the content anyways? Were called to love not hold grudges against everyone’s scientific claim.

 

Oscar D.

09.25.2014
9:07am

I don’t have an eleventh point, but I would take a deeper look at your fifth point. Cultural engagement, I think to often its easier said than done. Christianity has received a huge blow in previous conversations that death with science because we were presumed to be irrationally people because of stories like Noah (that the measurements of his ark seem to be difficult, if not impossible for a man and his family to build) that Christians, at least most, affirm. I think the Christian should engage with the culture on this topic because its a hot topic today.

 

Angela Monroe

09.25.2014
8:06pm

I have always found this debate extremely interesting. Too often, Christians reject science as somehow evil, or not of God. If this theory holds, then one must reject all science as evil, and thus should have some alternate answer to how things work. In my opinion, it is naive to think of science in this way. Science does not seek to contradict God, but rather to understand Him more. I agree with these 10 reasons, and I believe that this debate is why many people think of Christians as unintelligent. If we cannot accept heat has been proven to be true, why would anyone want to follow us? More importantly, why would they want to follow Jesus? I firmly believe that as a Christian community we must be willing to accept and join the scientific community. It is an excellent tool that God has given us to be able to know Him more.

 

Valerie Wigg

09.25.2014
8:26pm

Good things here, Dr. Oord. One of the things that you brought up that I have not necessarily thought a lot about until recently is the demeaning attitude and unwillingness to accept individuals who are scientists in the church. Many people from my generation are bewildered at the fact that someone would be ostracized for their passion for science and/or, heaven forbid, an occupation as a scientist. Like on many issues, I believe that this is one in which we can and should allow tradition to loosen its reins. One statement that I am not sure whether to disagree with or not is that “both theology and science live by faith.” I want to say that we do not need to justify science as having to do with faith just so that it will “fit” in our idea of Christianity. Science is science and we need to be okay with that. Just like we believe in medicine and the practice of doctors, we should believe in what science has to offer, as well (not to mention that medicine requires science…) God gifted humans as co-creators and that can manifest itself in countless ways, one of those being through science.

 

James Shepherd

09.25.2014
8:30pm

This Science-and-Theology dialogue is something that Christians should care about, but often times I do not think many do. They often leave it to the professionals such as Ken Ham, as well as many others. I think this only works if we plan on being Christians by ourselves. This is why I find number 5, Cultural Engagement, so compelling. We are to live and engage in the communities we are apart of. This does not only mean our church or religious communities, but also the ones we live in. When we live into these communities we are able to open up to discussion, which is an important part of community. This mean we will be able to talk about the hard issues, such as Science-and-Theology. Most of the world is compelled by science, and this means we are going to have to learn science in order to be in community with them. We will then be able to understand their side of the issue, which will allow us to open up dialogue between the two sides. These are just my thoughts on the issue though.

 

Daniel Parker

09.25.2014
9:26pm

I am a deeply scientifically minded person who grew up in a Christian family that didn’t look kindly at scientists mainly because of evolution and how many people espoused it as truth. As I have grown older I have thought deeply about science and how it affects my theology. I think that to be a compelling Christian witness to those outside the church, particularly to those who are scientists or scientifically minded, that you need to understand the science and have a logical theology about it that is also compelling.

 

Lisah Malika

09.25.2014
10:05pm

Honestly, I am uncertain of my thoughts on science and Christianity in partnership (at least in its fullest capacity). Growing up in the church there seemed to be tension between science and its possible role in the Christian faith. The subject which caused such controversy was the issue of evolution. In my limited knowledge of the term evolution, I came to the conclusion that to believe in evolution is to reject Christianity, primarily for the reason of creation and the beginning of life.

In a recent class discussion I discovered that most Christian often confuse the term evolution with evolutionism. According to Dr. Thompson, or at least my understanding of what he said, evolution is not trying to explain how life began. Evolution is trying to account for the process that took place after life(creation) began. To believe in evolution does not mean an individual has resign their belief. 

I believe that science and Christianity does not have to be in conflict. There are certain aspects about science that I still am uncertain about but I do know this, science can be revelatory just as nature is. To argue that God cannot reveal himself in all spheres (particularly science) is to limit God.

 

Lisah Malika

09.25.2014
10:22pm

(NOT SURE IF MY FIRST SUBMISSION WENT THROUGH) :D

Honestly, I am uncertain of my thoughts on science and Christianity in partnership (at least in its fullest capacity). Growing up in the church there seemed to be tension between science and its possible role in the Christian faith. The subject which caused such controversy was the issue of evolution. In my limited knowledge of the term evolution, I came to the conclusion that to believe in evolution is to reject Christianity, primarily for the reason of creation and the beginning of life.

In a recent class discussion I discovered that most Christian often confuse the term evolution with evolutionism. According to Dr. Thompson, or at least my understanding of what he said, evolution is not trying to explain how life began. Evolution is trying to account for the process that took place after life(creation) began. To believe in evolution does not mean an individual has resign their belief. 

I believe that science and Christianity does not have to be in conflict. There are certain aspects about science that I still am uncertain about but I do know this, science can be revelatory just as nature is. To argue that God cannot reveal himself in all spheres (particularly science) is to limit God.

 

Kaitlyn Haley

09.25.2014
10:31pm

Assuming number three is implying that the science here discussed includes soft sciences such as psychology or social sciences, many Christians are inconsistent in this matter. I have spoken with many Christians who would say sciences such as psychology are highly relevant to ministry and Christian living. However these same Christians would say things such as evolution or environmental sciences are not as helpful to our lives as Christians. I find this to be a bit self centered in that humans become the only focus in the Christian life. But being a little Christ includes many different disciplines. Little Christs ought to infiltrate every discipline in which truth is sought. If we affirm that God is a God of truth, as followers of this God we ought to value anything that may help us better discern this truth even if it is contrary to what we may have previously believed.

 

Kristina Wineman

09.25.2014
10:31pm

I agree that the number one reason as to why someone would put such focus in theology and science is so that they will get to know God. God made us to be in relationship with him and others. He created us with a mind that thinks and is creative. Why not put that to use? God wants us to be in relationship with him, so why not go as far as we can to get to know him? There are many ways to do that and science and theology is certainly one of them (but not the only).

 

Ryan O'Neill

09.25.2014
11:44pm

I took particular interest in number six of the list, when you are mentioning how Christian scientists are more or less ostracized in the church. It is an interesting thought to analyze, thinking about how Christians who have varying curiosity in the church, and how they must feel when the pastor makes these sort of “stabs” at them. I haven’t thought of this much before, but also the whole idea of science and Christianity is always shifting around for me. Is there any sort of middle ground between these two things? I personally think that there is room for both science and religious belief in churches without much of a clash, but there has to be a way for these two to coincide without a lot of conflict. The joining of these two ways of thinking can cross paths peacefully, but I feel like we just need to find the most effective way.

 

Connor White

09.25.2014
11:48pm

I think the list you have given Dr. Oord is a great list and this post is both challenging and encouraging for all believers. This blog post and the interfaith dialogue I went to tonight with Mormons and Nazarenes (which you presented in) has brought a bigger issue to the table for me. It’s the issue of who is right and who is wrong, but the issue of how those who seem to be opposing each other (whether they really are is up for discussion) are engaging each other is the pressing issue for me. Whether one thinks a Mormon is a Christian or whether science and Christian theology are compatible, we are free because of Christ to respond and engage in a Christ like manner, and for me this is much more important than the actual content of the dialogues themselves.

 

Rachel Ball

09.26.2014
6:11am

My own thoughts when it comes to creation and science agree with your statements. As I look at science and the complexity of everything, especially the human body, I can’t help but think, “how can you see this incredible creation and not believe in God?” Our bodies and countless other things in nature are so complex and so detailed (we don’t even know yet so much of that detail) that there had to have been someone who intentionally put everything together perfectly. I have heard some of the science professors at NNU say that the further they go and the deeper they are in a subject matter, the more obvious it is that we were created by God.

 

Thomas Tilford

09.26.2014
7:31am

I think this is pretty good over all Tom,
I think one argument that you could have that would help those who struggle with the idea is the benefits and aid Science can give. I think that science in many practical ways can help us in bringing God’s kingdom here. For instance, imagine if we figured out news way to get clean water to places previously unable. I think God would be all for that. Or what if we could figure out new ways to help the sick? Does God let us heal someone or can’t He just give us the knowledge to make medicine and do the same?

 

Rebekah L.

09.26.2014
7:43am

I think some of those reasons you laid out are legitimate and apply to society today. Growing up, I was taught that if a person was too into science, then they weren’t a Christian. In the past few years I have realized that this is not true at all and I have learned that science actually has a lot to offer. The point I thought was the most interesting was #5 about culture engagement. You are right, Christians do not live in isolation. We live among others in a community. If we want to have meaningful conversations with others, we should at least know something about science so that we can engage with others.

 

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