Tough Questions Answered

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What Do God and Science Have to Do with Each Other?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Ever since I became an evangelical believer in Christ, about 12 years ago, I have noticed that there is uneasiness among my evangelical brothers and sisters with certain fields of science.  This uneasiness, I quickly learned, has much to do with the age of the universe and the origins of mankind.  There are other areas, as well, but those are the two primary areas of dispute.

Because of the perceived hostility of science toward basic beliefs of Christianity, some evangelicals have forsaken science altogether.  So what I want to address today is what science and God have to do with each other.

Christians have long recognized that there are two ways that God communicates with mankind: special revelation and general revelation.

Special revelation is what is communicated about God through the incarnation of Christ and the Bible.

General revelation is what is communicated about God through the natural world, including physical nature, human nature, and human history.

Science offers a method for observing and then explaining facts about the natural world, so science is the study of God’s general revelation.  Christians that forsake science are, in effect, dismissing God’s general revelation.

Why?  Because they feel that the findings of science contradict the teachings of Scripture (special revelation).

But the answer is not to throw out one of God’s revelations.  In cases where general and special revelation overlap, we must examine our fallible interpretation of Scripture and compare it to our fallible interpretation of scientific findings.

You see, the Bible is infallible, but our interpretation of it is not.  Likewise, God’s revelation about himself in nature is infallible and will never contradict his revelation in Scripture.  But our interpretation of general revelation is not infallible.

What do we do when our fallible interpretation of science conflicts with our fallible interpretation of the Bible?  We seek the interpretation that seems more certain and we go with that.  If the special revelation interpretation seems more certain than the general revelation interpretation, then we go with special revelation.  If the general revelation interpretation seems more certain than the special revelation interpretation, then we go with general revelation.  We can’t just assume one is always right and the other always wrong.  That will lead to error.

Notice that this method of seeking the right interpretation requires the Christian to study diligently the Scriptures and the findings of science.  We cannot just study the Bible, but we must also dig into science if we want any hope of finding the answers to these tough questions where science and the Bible seem to conflict.

Fortunately, these perceived areas of conflict are few, and usually do not have to do with essential doctrines of Christianity.  However, they are still important and we owe it to God to honestly and earnestly seek the answers.


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Comments

  • Boz

    When there is a disagreement between the bible and reality, how do you determine which position is more certain?

    Couldn’t a christian argue that and when the bible and human understanding of nature disagree, the bible is absolutely certain to be the word of god, while scientific conclusions always include a level of uncertainty, therefore the bible is always more certain and is to be always chosen when there is disagreement?

  • http://www.FreeCourses.org Dr. Johnson C. Philip

    Good, but fallible, guideline. Must be applied with some caution.

    Dr. Johnson C. Philip
    http://www.TrinityTheology.org

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer

    You see, the Bible is infallible, but our interpretation of it is not. Likewise, God’s revelation about himself in nature is infallible and will never contradict his revelation in Scripture. But our interpretation of general revelation is not infallible.

    That’s the money quote from this post. It is so easy to confuse “the Truth” as being the same as “my understanding of the truth”

    God revealed Himself, and the coming Messiah through the Law and the Prophets. As the risen Lord demonstrated to His followers on the road to Emmaus, He was clearly foretold. Many, who swore allegiance to the Law and the Prophets did not expect Him to come as He did, they expected the Christ in another role. I suspect that, while they would have said that they believed the Scriptures, what they actually believed was *their understanding* of the scriptures. Thus, when the truth was before them, they believed it not.

    So for us. If my understanding of the Bible is that Man is the center of God’s creation, Copernicus appears a heretic. The Bible is not wrong, but that is not where I would be placing my trust; rather in *my understanding* of the Bible.

    My own approach to the sciences is that one should pursue truth earnestly, with all the tools available. Science provides many very, very good tools – the most important of which are not technical, but mental. Wherever I find a disconnect with the Bible, either my understanding of the science, or my understanding of the Bible, is incomplete. Almost certainly, both are incomplete. I trust God, and ask Him to clarify my understanding. I rather suspect that, on that day, I will often say “So THAT is what it meant!”

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Boz,
    Christians believe that there is never a true disagreement between the Bible and reality. When this appears to be the case, we must acknowledge that our understanding of the Bible or of reality is mistaken and try to determine which is in error.

  • http://www.hard-corechristianity.com Melissa

    Great article, Bill. I’ve studied the science/religion dynamic for more than a decade, and my observations about how believers handle this subject are very similar to yours. I think a lot of it is intellectual laziness; many don’t want to do the hard work required to understand the scientific claims and related philosophies, or to investigate various interpretations of relevant Scripture. They’d rather avoid the subject or let others do the work for them. For instance, many simply latch onto some organization that promotes a narrow point of view and take that view as gospel truth. Bad idea.

    The Bible, when properly understood, will never conflict with science, properly understood.

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