On one occasion, St. Augustine made this remarkable declaration, “The book of nature and the book of Scripture were both written by the same author, and will not be in conflict when properly read and understood.”1 More recently, in 1987, Pope John Paul II said that “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Both these statements challenge the prevailing worldview that there is a conflict between science and religion. Yes, I know, I have written about this before, but this is an ongoing dialogue and there is a lot at stake.
St. Augustine and Pope John Paul II both seem to suggest that science and religion have the potential to complement each other and that they are necessary tools for expanding human knowledge about the natural and the spiritual realms. As physical beings, humans need to study and grasp the laws that govern their natural environment. As spiritual beings, they need a good and coherent understanding of the spiritual realm. Few people seem to have found the balance of being both stellar scientists and deeply religious people. Commenting on the wonders of the solar system, Sir Isaac Newton confidently asserted that “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord overall; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God “Pantokrator” or Universal Ruler.”2 This is the conclusion of one of the world’s intellectually eminent astronomers and physicists renowned for his scientific discoveries. Other scientists believe that there is a conflict between science and religion.
Stephen Hawking, another eminent scientist, has concluded that the universe created itself. Hawking argues that the laws of nature such as the law of gravity have the potential to create a universe from nothing. But he does not explain how these laws of nature already in existence could create a universe from nothing. Besides, if the laws were to create a universe, it would not be from nothing. It would be from the laws of nature! The question would be: Where did these laws come from if they were not part of the universe they created? The laws of nature do not of themselves have the potential to create anything. As John Lennox, professor of mathematics (emeritus) at the University of Oxford argues, Newton’s law of motion has never been able to move anything from point A to point B.3 It has never moved a soccer ball from one goal post to another. As such, the laws of nature are there to describe the conditions and occurrence of events in the universe. They do not explain why.
People who mistakenly believe that religion and science are in conflict cite the case of Galileo and the Catholic Church. But, in fact, the real issue with the Galileo case was the “dogmatic embrace of Aristotle’s” teachings by the Catholic Church at that time about geocentricism.4 Galileo’s study convinced him that all planets, including planet earth, revolved around the sun (heliocentrism). Aristotle’s views were vehemently embraced by some Catholic bishops who thought Galileo’s theory of heliocentrism was wrong. This was the real source of conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church. It was, in essence, Aristotle versus Galileo with some powerful Catholic bishops rooting for Aristotle in his corner. It was not based on the teachings of the Bible.
The world is indebted to scientists and their discoveries that have alleviated indescribable suffering and have tremendously improved the quality of life. But to insinuate, let alone declare, that science is the source of ultimate truth and knowledge or that the more scientific discoveries we make, the less relevant God becomes is to slide down the dangerous slope of trying to transform science into a Golden Calf. Whatever science has discovered does not render the existence of God null and void. Rather, it points the teachable mind to the creative genius of the Agent who brought such an astonishingly, intricate universe governed by the regularities of natural laws into being. He alone sustains the laws of nature since He established them, and He is the only One who can interrupt these laws anytime to cause what we call a miracle. That is why Jesus who is the express image of God could interrupt and reverse the natural law of decomposition of a human body after death, and bring Lazarus back to life four days after death! No one else has ever done that since the universe came to be. But since He created these laws, He can also set them aside for His purpose. They obey Him.
Although science describes to us how our universe operates, it still cannot explain certain realities such as energy, consciousness, gravity… Another area in which science is limited is semiotics, which is the study of the complexity of language using signs and symbols as elements of meaningful communication among people.5 Just how are those squiggly lines and symbols we draw on boards and pieces of paper able to convey specific meaning from one person to another and propel them into responding appropriately? Who can explain, using physics, why we are able to see the letters l-i-f-e- and derive meaning from them? Talking about life, we now know that life is contained in a nucleic acid known as DNA. For human life, this DNA is a humongous database that contains a word not less than 3.5 billion letters long, and carries within it the genetic information and instructions for development of life. Science cannot explain why these letters carry the meaning they do. It can only describe the process they use to develop life. Where there is intelligible information such as the one contained in the DNA molecule, there is a mind behind it to put it together. Scripture says that is how God created the universe; using words and information to call into existence both animate and inanimate things. “He spoke…and it stood fast,” (Psalm 33:9). A great and awesome mind is behind the creation of our universe and all that is in it. Denying it does not make this truth go away.
1.Sheahen, T.P. (2016). Idolatry in Science. American Thinker. Accessed from http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/12/idolatry_in_science.html
2.Newton, I. General Scholium. Translated by Motte, A. 1825. Newton’s Principia: The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. New York. Daniel Adee, 501.
3.Lennox, J. (2010). Stephen Hawking and God. RZIM. Just Thinking Magazine. Accessed from http://rzim.org/just-thinking/stephen-hawking-and-god/
4.Schirrmacher, T. (2000). The Galileo affair: history or heroic hagiography? Creation Ministries. Accessed from http://creation.com/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiographyandhttp://creation.com/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiography
5.Lennox, J. (2007). God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Wilkinson House. Accessed from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Nave-html/Faithpathh/Undertaker.html
Question: Has anyone provided a proof for God’s inexistence?
Answer: Not even close.
Question: Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Answer: Not even close.
Question: Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Answer: Not even close.
Question: Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Answer: Close enough.
Question: Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Answer: Not close enough.
Question: Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Answer: Not even close to being close.
Question: Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Answer: Close enough.
Question: Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Answer: Not even ballpark.
Question: Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Answer: Dead on.1
“The claim that the existence of God should be treated as a scientific question stands on a destructive dilemma: If by science one means the great theories of mathematical physics, then the demand is unreasonable. We cannot treat any claim in this way. There is no other intellectual activity in which theory and evidence have reached this stage of development.”2 The author does not vilify or dismiss the landmark achievements of science or their benefits to mankind. What he is saying is that science is not the default intellectual framework for interpreting and understanding life and the universe. There are some things scientists cannot explain.
1.Berlinski, D. (2008). Excerpt. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. Crown Forum, New York. (Flaps of Book).
2.Ibid. pp. 60
The loins are a procreative, generative and productive area of the human body. It is the part of the body that is between the lower ribs and the hip area. The apostle Peter drew a parallel from the natural and customary practice of the people of his day and gave us an object lesson – First the natural and then the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). Girding is a process of encircling a certain part of the human body with a belt to hold it together. In Bible times, in the Near East, people wore long loose robes (some still do) for everyday labors and activities, but when they faced an imminent intense activity, they girded their loins in preparation for it. They tucked their robes into a wide belt around their waist to free themselves from any encumbrances and to concentrate on the task. Strenuous activities required a sustained effort of engagement.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to prepare their minds for the inevitable intense challenges and tests of their faith. He is urging believers to think and reason intellectually and purposefully, not randomly or haphazardly. In order to do this, the mind should be surrendered to its Creator, the Source of all reason and wisdom, and be renewed. This is contrary to the popular belief that the Christian faith precludes intellectual activity and reasoning. Most critics of the concept of faith insist that faith is believing where there is no evidence. Sadly, they miss the point that every human being exercises a measure of faith in one thing or another. We believe our spouses love us not because we can quantify that love and test it in a laboratory, but because they tell us so and we see them demonstrate that love in their behavior toward us. The claim that science is the only way to access truth is itself unquantifiable. It cannot not be dissected or tested in a lab. Therefore, it is self-refuting. Not everything we believe can be quantified. Scientists believe in the intelligibility of the universe and in the fact that they can explore it? They are exercising a measure of faith here. The Oxford English Dictionary states that “faith and belief are cognitive concepts intimately related to the question of substantiating evidence.”1 This means that “evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives.”2 As such, faith is inevitably interwoven with our everyday living. Therefore, Christians need not be ashamed of their faith.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to apologetics, which is a defense of their faith; what they believe in and why they believe in it. But he urges them to do it with gentleness not strife. Intellectual indolence is not a characteristic of the Christian faith. A believer divinely endowed with a… sound mind cannot have a languorous or torpid mind. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin and to lead unbelievers to Christ, but can they do this without applying their reasoning power? By grasping the reasonableness of Jesus’ finished work on their behalf and what He says about them, unbelievers can open their heart to Him and become converted through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. No one can make such a radical decision about their life without reasoning and sifting through the evidence presented to them. Reasoning is one of God’s gifts to mankind. Why, He even challenges us to reason with Him (Isa. 1:18). The assumption that to become a good academic you need to be an atheist is a fallacy that has no evidence for its claims whatsoever. Believers who have girded the loins of their minds can see through the façade.
Unfortunately, there are some believers who have been fanning the belief that Christianity is opposed to intellectual engagement by insisting that the Word of God is not for the mind but for the spirit. This is nothing other than intellectual lethargy and languor. But where did this mindset come from? The early scientists were Bible-believing intellectuals such as Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, James Joule and many others. They found no dichotomy between their faith and intellectual acuity. In fact, these individuals believed that a Christian’s mind must be an intellectually sharp mind. A mind that is yoked to the mind of Christ is a keen and exceptionally intelligent mind because it draws from His unsurpassed wisdom and reasoning. Jesus was both an intellectual and spiritual authority. J.P. Moreland asserts that the anti-intellectual position among some of the believers is a consequence of the rise of “rhetorically powerful, and emotionally directed preaching of” some preachers of the Great Awakening revivals of the 1800s, which were not balanced with “intellectually careful and doctrinally precise” teaching to equip the saints to defend their faith with reason. This approach ill-prepared the church for harsh attacks from people such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin etc…with their philosophical challenges and arguments against Christianity.3 Since then, the attack against Christianity has grown more shrill and intense. Instead of responding to these challenges with counter intellectual vigor, the Church has mostly withdrawn from intellectual public debates and has lost the zeal to authenticate and validate its tenets. Its enemies have mistaken this to be a capitulation and admission of lack of rationality for the doctrines of the Christian faith. Perhaps the time has come for believers to study, soak and saturate themselves with the Word of God, and earnestly seek wisdom from above. The Church should ever match forward armed with reasoned-out truth. This is the wrong time for the Church to be marginalized and voiceless in the public debate. There is too much at stake.
1.Lennox, J. (2011). Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Point. Lion Hudson Plc. Pp. 55
3.Moreland, J.P. (1997). Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. NAVPRESS. pp. 23
Reductionism defines life in a bottom-up manner. That is, it explains life in terms of physics and chemistry. Reductionism claims that an organism can only be explained if it is dissected into parts-or broken down into the properties that constitute it (molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organs, etc.) Ontological reductionism claims that nothing in the universe exists outside of physical objects. Everything can be can be explained in terms of physicochemical objects. As such each physical thing can therefore, be explained in terms of these properties.[i] Bottom-up reductionism is predicated upon the proposition that life started in the form of simpler processes which advanced in a process known as complexification. Carl Sagan, a famous scientist of the 20th century, perceived himself and other people in this manner: “I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label.”[ii] This is what he promulgated as an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist.
Sagan’s mindset does nothing other than demean the intrinsic value of human life. His beliefs claim, implicitly, that the martyrdom, achievements, plight, and suffering experienced in this life all end at death. There is no life, no judgment, no reward beyond the grave – Nothing!!! Some reductionists argue that God is a mere concept that can be explained as a “mental state of active neurons desiring a father figure.” Needless to say this statement is not a scientific one. It is mere speculation that has never been empirically proven to be true. Personally, I require more faith to believe Sagan’s theory than to believe what the Bible says about the stature and dignity of human beings. On what do reductionists base the belief that life ends at death forever? None of them has come back from the dead to authenticate their claims. But we have One who was dead and is alive forevermore. His resurrection has been attested by His followers as well as secular historians. He alone can speak with authority regarding what lies beyond the grave. The Bible tells us that human beings will continue to exist in another dimension in God’s realm for eternity. Reductionism is not equipped to explain many experiences of human life at all. For example, how does it break down the experience of guilt or repentance or the expression of love between two human beings or even ethical behavior? Some of these concepts and experiences can only be understood from the vantage point of metaphysics where science and reductionism’s authority is vacuous.
After Carl Sagan’s death, his wife said “Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we know we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl.”[iii] But why would this be a tragedy for her if belief in life beyond the grave is just an illusion and her husband was nothing but a collection of calcium, atoms, molecules as they espoused? Wouldn’t his death be a mere disintegration of an animated piece of dust with organized DNA known as Carl Sagan returning to its creator, the universe? Wasn’t that the expected outcome unless, of course, deep down Mrs. Sagan felt a haunting whisper reminding her that her husband was more than matter? A tragedy is what happens when something of intrinsic value is lost not when a bunch of atoms and molecules disappear into nothingness. Human life is sacred. God composed a Moral Code that stipulates, in a language we all can understand, the sacredness of human life and all that defines it. “Thou shalt not kill” does not only forbid the taking of human life, it also affirms its greatness, dignity and goodness. The loss of a human life is a sobering and traumatic experience that changes us forever. Time and again when tragedy strikes, individuals, families and entire communities are gripped with bewilderment and sorrow. They reach out to each other and hold vigils and grieve together in an effort to find healing. Interfaith services are held in memory of the deceased. Not once has any of the speakers at these services ever turned to the crowd to tell them that what was lost were nothing but matter and chemical properties. This is time to turn to Jesus, the Author of life. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending of all creation, not science, not reductionism. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3, KJV).
[ii] Sagan, C. 1980, Cosmos (New York: Random House), pp. 127.
[iii] Druyan, A. (2003). Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe . . . and Carl Sagan. Skeptical Inquirer Volume 27.6. Available from http://www.csicop.org/si/show/ann_druyan_talks_about_science_religion
Most secular teaching claims that the universe came to be with a Big Bang; that there was a small infinitely hot and dense point billions of years ago which is called a singularity point. From this singularity, the teaching says, came all the matter and energy that evolved into all that exists today in our universe. Naturalists believe that the universe is infinite; that it has always existed. Different types of theories have continued to arise in an attempt to explain the origin of the universe including the steady-state theory espoused by Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle, and many others that claim that the universe is infinite and that, in spite of entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, new energy and matter continue to, somehow, be generated, replacing that which is used up with the passage of time. These are all attempts to repudiate what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. But the Bible unequivocally insists that the universe had a miraculous beginning at a point when there was no time, no space or matter; a time when there were no laws of physics as we know them since these laws could not exist without the universe: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Then God said, “Let there be light…”” (Genesis 1:1,3).
In 1963-1965 when Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, two engineers employed by Bell Laboratories, looked through a giant telescope of a Satellite Transmission System known as Echo, they saw a film of radiation enveloping the whole universe; the entire universe seemed to be bathed in a soft glow of light. This light became known as the Cosmic Microwave Radiation Background (CMRB).
Prior to this discovery, skeptics had contended that if the universe indeed had a beginning at a certain point in time with the explosion of light, then the vestiges of that light should still be present, somehow. Well, what do you know? Penzias and Wilson discovered the remainder of that light-a telltale sign of creation, as the Bible boldly proclaims… “Let there be light…”
Listen to Penzias’ comment following this discovery: “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms and the Bible as a whole.”1
Although the CMRB is invisible to the naked eye, it continues to shine in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum all around the universe.
1 D. D’Souza (2007). “What’s So Special about Christianity?” A. Penzias quoted in M. Browne, “Clues to the Universe’s Origin Expected,” New York Times, March 12, 1978, pp. 124.
According to Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer who is also a pastor, astronomy is a scientific field of study that allows astronomers to experience the past. For example, he says, when we look at the sun we are not seeing it as it currently is, but we see it as it was 8 minutes ago because data takes some time to reach the telescope due to the velocity of light. Ross also insists that with regards to the origin of the universe, Scripture corroborates science. The Bible unequivocally states that the universe can be traced way back to a singularity beginning. This means that the universe had an ultimate beginning and so did matter, energy, space and time. Science teaches that the universe has been constantly expanding from its singularity beginning according to the laws of physics. This is nothing new to believers because the Bible also speaks about the expansion of the universe in Job 9:8; Isaiah 40: 22; Psalm 104:2; Jeremiah 51:15 and Zechariah 12:1. The universe is not only expanding, it is also under the pervasive law of decay. The book of Hebrews also speaks about decay in the universe as well (Hebrews 8). Science contends that any universe that expands certainly has a beginning, which means that a Causal Agent existing outside space, time, matter and energy, is responsible for the beginning of the universe. This Causal Agent is known as God by Christians, the One who initiated a spectacular miracle of the creation of the universe and all that is in it, ex nihilo. Scientists can no longer dismiss the role of the supernatural in the creation of the universe. Atheist, Lawrence Krauss in his book, A Universe From Nothing, concurs that one “cannot rule out such a deistic view of nature.” Genesis 1 states that the universe had a beginning and that God is responsible for all entire reality in our universe. In verse 2 of Genesis 1, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters and that the water covered the surface of the earth. At this time our world was formless and void and was not fit for life as we know it. Then God began to work and things began to unfold in a spectacular and astonishing manner for the next 6 days. In the Genesis narrative, the evening and the morning bracket the six days of creation. But after that, there is no evening and morning mentioned. For six days, God creates. But on the seventh day, He stops. In the fossil record, there is amazing evidence of aggressive speciation preceding the appearance of human beings without evolutionary history. As soon as mankind appears, speciation ceases. The Bible says God rested on the seventh day following the creation of mankind. Since then, He has been sustaining the natural process He set in motion at creation.
On day one, according to Genesis 1, God created the light which obviously changed the atmosphere of the earth, somewhat. The foundation for the appearance of organic life was being laid. On day 2 God separated the waters and put a firmament in the midst of the waters. In chapters 37, 38, 39 and 40 the book of Job, the Bible describes the amazing creative genius of our God. Job even describes the water cycle as we experience it here on earth. He talks about liquid precipitation in the form of rain, dew and mist. Then he talks about the frozen precipitation such as snow, frost and hail. Only planet earth experiences water in these six forms, necessary for life forms on earth. On day 3, God gathered the water and transformed the world into continents and oceans. Myriad forms of vegetation flourished for the first time on these land masses. On day 4, God created the heavenly lights-the sun, moon and stars. These lights were created to mark seasons, days, and years for the sustenance of life on earth. Because the atmosphere became saturated with light, the animals could migrate, and reproduce, and feed, and hibernate during the right seasons. God prepared the ecological environment to support life on our planet. On day 5, sea populations appeared spontaneously, again without evolutionary history. Then the birds were created and so were mammals and reptilian species. On day 6, land mammals and creeping things made their appearance. Then God created the crowning work of His entire creation when He created human beings. These special creatures brought something unique and extraordinary. They are were created in the image of God, and endowed with a unique capacity to serve and glorify God. A careful study of Job 37 to 39, Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8, brings us to the conclusion that Bible narrative scores with the book of nature. It describes creation in chronological order. God prepared the terrestrial environment for life on earth. He carefully arranged the ecological system, which He continues to sustain today. Psalm 147 says God knows the name of every single star, which means that He also remembers the names of one of the 50 billion trillion balls of gases, we call stars. This means He knows you and I as well since, although the heavens declare the glory of God, they were not made in the image of God. Only you and I bear that Imago Dei.
Find out just what it means to bear the Image of God from the book at this site: http://www.wmturls.com/pp
The claim that science and faith are antithetical to each other or that they are mutually incompatible is being questioned by some eminent scholars who insist that it requires faith to do science. Professor John Lennox, Oxford mathematician, claims that “All scientists presuppose and therefore have faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe.” This means that any scientist working with a theory or hypothesis must have a measure of faith that his or her project will ultimately succeed. Assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cullen Buie, points to the quest for the Higgs Boson by Peter Higgs and his associates that spanned 50 years as evidence of faith in the discipline of science. For half a century these individuals hunted for the Higgs boson of the standard model and in March 2013 it was officially confirmed that it exists. Their faith in something hoped for kept them going until it became a reality at a staggering cost of $10 billion.
Professor Lennox insists that he is very much comfortable in his faith in God because it is not opposed to science. In fact, he says that one of the reasons he believes in God is precisely because we can do science. “The mathematical intelligibility of the universe is evidence for a rational spirit behind the universe,” he says.
The age-old argument by renowned atheists such as Professor Richard Dawkins and others of his ilk, which claims that human beings are merely animated matter or products of mindless, unguided processes has cast a dark shadow of doubt over the reliability of human cognitive faculties, and indeed on the rationality of their assertions including their claim that faith and science cannot co-exist. All methodologies applied by researchers in their efforts to try and understand our universe more start with some hidden assumptions that they believe in but need to be proved. As such, they require faith to sustain them in their endeavors. Some of the most luminous minds such as Max Planck, founder of quantum theory, and Francis Collins who led the human Genome project and many others have relied on “faith to advance the frontiers of science.”
In conclusion, apparently every person in the world engages a measure of faith. Probably the question we should be asking is “in what or whom is this faith anchored?”