Saturday, November 22, 2008

faith and science

Lately I am doing some interesting reading on faith and science (a book I'm in now). Nowadays in evangelical circles science has a bad name, and in some respects that is deservedly so, due to the deference paid to naturalism as part of its tenets. Of course naturalism is drawing metaphysical conclusions which are not to be confused with the science itself, though at times can impact it.

Science can answer the questions to what is, and observe, while hypothesizing and continuing to test and observe what is, and keep on doing so, in a sense a never ending process. This doesn't mean science can't find things that are demonstrably true. Gravity is an obvious easy one. But of course science can never answer the questions of why we're here, or how it all began.

There is general revelation and there is special revelation. General revelation is God's creation seen in nature, and observed in science, while special revelation is God's word given to us in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Both are important from God, so science can actually be a help and blessing to both believers and nonbelievers alike. Science itself must not be seen as the enemy of truth, but we do need to discern what is added to science apart from the science itself. God does not deceive us with the revelation he has given us. Both parts of revelation stand on their own in the ways they are intended to, as well as together.

A big battle over science has been ongoing and more is yet to come it seems, as far as evangelical Christians are concerned. This post is simply to say we should let science do its work and take it seriously as it stands. While at the same time we must critique the naturalism scientists mix in with their scientific work.

What might you like to add here?


Beth B said...

Great thoughts, Ted. I'm reading Peter Harrison's The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science. It does a great job of showing the roots of the division between faith and science. See the helpful review of this book from Touchstone at

Could it be the case that the very textual hermeneutic that Luther champions is what laid the foundation for naturalism?
Is Protestantism as rationalist and reductionist in its mentality as modern secular science and philosophy? Did the Reformation hermeneutic help overthrow the Aristotelian understanding of science not only in terms of efficient but final causes, and set the stage for the view that the universe is simply matter in motion by "rejecting essential symbolic relations between objects and by reducing signs to mental associations?"

Read the book and decide for yourself. Personally, I think Harrison is onto something.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks Beth,

Yes, I'd be interested in this book and will try to get my hands on it. Where we live pretty good chances I will (definitely so if you throw Calvin College into the mix).

I'm glad for the emphasis in much of evangelicalism today to get back to the entire heritage of the church (of course that emphasis has been going on for some time, and is bearing some good fruit I think). I would be weary of casting the entire hermeneutic of the Reformation aside, which perhaps Harrison is not actually suggesting. I agree with Scot McKnight (his excellent, new little book, "Blue Parakeet") that we need to read Scripture WITH tradition, and NOT THROUGH tradition. And we need to read it as it was meant to be read. But to deny that philosophy does not influence how we read and see life, is of course a mistake.

But yes, hopefully the way we read does not sap the Scriptures of the life and beauty and sense of "beyond us" that is there.

Thanks for your thoughts.