Towards a Theology of Science
Every semester I wrap things up with a talk I call “Towards a Theology of Science.” This is a way of pointing students back to my central thesis for the class, that we we must begin our theology with Scripture and not experience. This is impossible to do, however, as we all bring baggage with us to our understanding of the Bible. But we must allow Scripture to challenge our presuppositions and biases as we recognize it as our ultimate authority. Here’s an illustration I often draw on the board to make this point.
When it comes to science, many Christians feel as though they are in a position of weakness in interacting with secular peers. They need not be so. Science is merely a tool to make sense of the natural world, and Christianity is certainly not at odds with such a tool. When seen in that way, saying that Christianity is at odds with science is like saying Christianity is at odds with a hammer.
The Christian faith might be either in line or out of line with how a hammer is used, but it is not in any way in in conflict with the hammer itself. If someone decides to use the hammer to beat a person in the head for no reason, they will find their actions in stark contrast with the teachings of Jesus. But if they use the hammer to build someone a home, they will find their use of the hammer in keeping with the emphasis in the Bible to care for others.
Usually when someone says there is a conflict between the Bible and science, they really mean there is a perceived conflict between the Bible and some certain conclusion made by a scientist or a group of scientists. Often this is the result of underlying worldview differences, such as whether or not God exists or whether or not miracles are possible. But where there seems to be real conflict between the two, science and the Christian faith, I encourage my students to consider the following points:
1. God is the creator of the world (Genesis 1).
2. God has revealed himself in two books, Nature and Scripture, or “God’s World” and “God’s Word.”
3. Both books have to be interpreted.
4. The book of Nature (God’s World) is fallen and under the curse of sin (Genesis 3).
5. The book of Scripture is inspired by God and is perfect.
6. In the final analysis, when all the facts are fully known and properly understood, there will be no conflict between what God has revealed about himself in his two books.
7. We glorify God by loving and learning from both books understanding the proper authority given to the objective Word of God.
While I don’t think these points can solve every contemporary challenge, I do hope they help set the parameters for how my students consider these issues in the future. It is always possible our understanding of the Bible is wrong, or our understanding of the world is wrong, or our understanding of both is wrong. But Scripture should always be our authoritative guide. As Paul said, let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4). Here we stand. We can do no no other.