An acquaintance asked me an interesting question the other day:
“How should we respond when someone says they are skeptical of Christianity because of its low view of science?”
It isn’t surprising to me that such accusations are still being made towards Christianity. Historical myth and misconceptions that support such an idea run rampant in our society. For instance, there are high school teachers and college-level instructors that still use the historically inaccurate film, Inherit the Wind, or highly embellished accounts of Galileo’s censure to teach students about the so-called “war” between science and the Christian faith. Textbooks are slowly improving in this regard, but misinformation still abounds, unfortunately.
Members of the general public rarely question what they’re fed through pop culture and the public education system, and as a result, there is this common perception (among Christian believers and non-believers alike) that in order to be an orthodox Christian, you must take a low view of science. This is categorically false. I’m a Christian with an education and career background in biology and genetics–I love science! Few human pursuits are as awe-inspiring as discovering the complexity, elegance, and harmony of God’s magnificent creation.
Consider Romans 1:20-
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (NLT)
Observing qualities of God through our study of the natural world sounds like a very high view of science, don’t you think?
My view is that when science and theology are each properly employed, they will be in agreement. This is sometimes referred to as “Two Books Theology,” in which Scripture is our Special Revelation and the Creation is our Natural Revelation–both from God, existing in perfect harmony. Working together, they can give us a holistic understanding of the cosmos that neither could give us on its own.
Both science and theology are subject to human fallibility, of course, so there should be a mutual humility among practitioners. We can fail in our science and we can fail in our interpretation of Scripture. As Christians, we should not idolize our pet theological views to the point that we turn a blind eye to what natural revelation is showing us. In the same vein, scientists should not artificially exclude any hypothesis simply because they dislike its metaphysical implications, nor should they cling dogmatically to a hypothesis because they favor its metaphysical implications.
For further reading, I would like to recommend two books (pun intended). The first is by a Christian philosopher and the second is by a non-Christian historian:
1. Christianity and the Nature of Science by J.P. Moreland
2. Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion by Ronald L. Numbers