Many who, like Pilate, ask, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), are nothing but cynical skeptics who really think that truth is indiscernible. Although there surely must have been a time in Pilate’s life when he believed that truth was knowable, the general skepticism of his day had taken its toll in the life of a man who could no longer recognize “the truth” even though it stood right in front of him (John 14:6). Although there were things that seemed to fascinate Pilate about Jesus, and although he had enough integrity to recognize that the charge made against Jesus was false, nevertheless, in order to protect his immediate position, he permitted “the truth” to be crucified at the hands of brutish men. Ironically, Pilate’s position demanded that he be a judge, and being a judge demanded he do justice, and, in turn, doing justice demanded he have a knowledge of the truth, the very concept he made light of. In the same way, many today whose position it is to determine “what is truth” are infected with the same ailment that afflicted Pilate and, as a result, are willing to crucify the truth for self-serving reasons.
This brings us to the first point: Science, in order to be constructive, needs men and women who are committed to the truths revealed in God’s Word. A Bible believer should be the most passionate scientist of all because he should be open to truth wherever it is found. Knowing that all truth is God’s truth, a Christian is not afraid a new discovery of truth will destroy the truthfulness of his foundation. To the contrary, the Christian believes that if his foundation for truth is really true, then all other truth can only support and enhance it. The cynical skepticism of our age cries for talented God-fearing scientists who see the scientific inquiry as a true vocation that ultimately glorifies God.
Such words may sound strange in light of the attacks many scientists have made upon the Bible. It cannot be denied that Darwinism and its current clones have wreaked havoc on the faith of many in the God who has revealed Himself both in nature and the Bible. But in doing so, the scientists who have formulated and defended these theories have done a disservice to themselves in particular and to the integrity of science in general.
Which brings me to my second point: Although I will be careful not to claim too much (e.g., that science would have never been launched apart from biblical presuppositions), it is generally held that modern science owes its development to the implications of the doctrine of creation as taught in the Bible. As John Dillenberger says in Protestant Thought and Natural Science, “the flowering of science did occur in the context of Christian history.” This was due, in large measure, to the acceptance of matter as real, contingent, and dependable—the very characteristics guaranteed by the fact of creation itself.
By real, I mean that matter, the stuff of the universe, was created by God (i.e., “the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen [the material universe] were not made with things which do appear,” Hebrews 11:3) and has an existence (i.e. a reality) different from the Creator. Contrary to Eastern and New Age thinking, which teach that all is mind and that matter is simply an illusion, the Bible teaches that matter is quite real. Matter was created to glorify God (Psalm 19:1) and to be the matrix of man’s (not God’s) existence. The difference between Creator and creature is not the difference between real and unreal. Both are real, God and His creation!
By contingent, I mean that although matter is real, it is not absolute or ultimate. In other words, matter is not divine or sacred. No immanent, pantheistic divinity animates the material universe. Because it is created, the universe is finite or limited, i.e., it is contingent. Something that is contingent is not necessary. If something existed necessarily, then it would be impossible for it not to exist. Only God exists in this manner. God’s existence, therefore, is contingent upon nothing. God, the uncreated, unoriginated source of all that is, is identified in the Bible as having life in Himself (John 5:26). Matter, therefore, owes its existence to God; and as such, it is completely dependent upon Him.
Furthermore, matter depends on God not only for its origin, but for its continuing existence as well (Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3). How this supernatural power (God’s Word) interacts with the universe in upholding it is not known nor can it ever be fully understood by finite creatures. Even so, such a mystery must be factored into any correct understanding of physics. I like the way the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper said it:
There is on earth no life, energy, law, atom, or element but the Almighty and Omnipresent God [who] quickens and supports that life from moment to moment, causes energy to work, and enforces that law.
By dependable, I mean that not only is matter dependent, it is also dependable in that one can depend upon it to act according to fixed patterns. The universe is not irrational, capricious, unpredictable or absurd, as if it were the plaything of some whimsical deity. Indeed, God does not play dice with the universe, as Einstein was so fond of saying. The creation has been “given a rationality and reliability in its orderliness which depend on and reflect God’s own eternal rationality and reliability.” Although quantum theory speculates about the possible absence of cause and effect relationships in the subatomic world, except for God, there can be no effect without a cause. And, if scientists do not want to commit professional suicide, then instead of concluding there are effects in the material world for which there are no causes, they must change their tune to that of their religious brothers who are content to sing: “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why: Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.”Such faith has not only been the touchstone of religion, it has also been the very foundation of modern science.
A dependable universe operates according to certain patterns known as natural laws. Pantheism, which endowed nature with an aura of divinity, made the study of nature too awesome a task for man. Platonism, which dominated Western thought for centuries, set forth the idea that nature is actually too insignificant to merit close study. According to Platonic dualism, concrete individualities are but mere reflections or shadows of the world of forms. To learn the true nature of physical objects one must concentrate not on them, but on the intelligible forms. One does this not through science (physics), but through philosophy (metaphysics). “Thus,” writes Landon Gilkey, author of Maker of Heaven and Earth, “science based on empirical description and analysis was impossible for Greek thought because the data of sensation were essentially irrelevant to the aim of the inquiry, which was to know the intelligible forms.”
In contrast to this idea, however, stands a cosmos endowed by its Creator with true reality and integrity in its own right and worthy of direct investigation. It is this that has made science a legitimate enterprise. Gilkey emphasized this point when he wrote:
Now the conception which effected this fundamental reinterpretation of the world’s order, and so provided those presuppositions of modern science, was the Christian idea of creation. It is no accident that modern science has developed in a culture formed and dominated by this conception, for when nature was thought of as possessing an order stemming from the Creator’s will rather than from its own inherent intelligible forms, then modern science became possible…
Theology vs. Science and Vice Versa
There are several ways in which the term theology can be legitimately used. I am using it here in its most precise meaning—namely, the study of God Himself. Theology, then, can never be complete. This is because it is limited by our understanding of general (natural) revelation and special (supernatural) revelation. And although only a fool would reject God’s revelation of Himself in nature (cf. Romans 1:18-25), one must never think that general revelation is in any way equal to special revelation. The revealed Word of God is always superior to natural revelation. Without special revelation, we could know that God exists and could even know something about His divine power, glory, and faithfulness, but we could not know Him personally. Without special revelation, we could not know of His holiness, His love, and His willingness to save us from our sins through His Son Jesus Christ. In other words, without special revelation, man would be a worshipper, for such is his nature, but his altars would be inscribed, like the one in Athens, “To an unknown god.”
Therefore, both science (finite knowledge of the natural world) and theology (finite knowledge about God) will always be inferior to the Word of God. Unfortunately, innumerable theologians and scientists have pleaded their ignorance of this fact by their various machinations aimed at exalting one profession at the expense of the other. In fact, every man ought to be both a theologian and a scientist; and at the beginning of modern science such was indeed the case. Sir Isaac Newton is an excellent example of one who had a healthy attitude toward a knowledge of nature (science) and a knowledge of God (theology). In identifying the harmony between science and theology exhibited in Newton, it has been said:
He did not live in fear of contradicting his faith through the study of the world. He said that the activity of the scientist is to think God’s thoughts after him. Newton’s was a humble, as well as a careful approach. He understood that all truth meets at the top.
What is needed today is Newton’s humble and careful approach both in science and theology. A judicious man will be careful to examine the knowledge that comes from nature as well as the knowledge that comes from God’s Word, lest in a misguided zeal he establishes false conflicts between the two. By necessity, a Bible believer must believe that there can be no real conflict between science and God’s Word. But, on the other hand, it is quite possible for science to correct one’s understanding of the Bible (i.e., theology). It must be remembered, though, that correcting the word of the theologian is not the same as correcting the Word of God.
Many, today, who have made science their god, never seem to tire of bringing up the infamous Galileo affair. To hear these people tell the story, the debate was between the Bible and Galileo; and the Bible lost. Such could not be further from the truth. The real debate was not between the Bible and Galileo et al. Neither was it between a corrupt, apostate church, which had improperly usurped the position rightly belonging to the state, and Galileo. In truth, the debate was between the Ptolemaic astronomers and the Copernican astronomers. To its eventual discredit, the Roman Catholic Church had erroneously placed its nihil obstat on Ptolemaic astronomy. In doing so, it had wrongly interpreted the Bible to teach that the earth is the center of the universe. Galileo’s telescope allowed him to verify the Copernican theory. In essence, Galileo said, “I can prove that the earth is not the center of the solar system by means of my telescope. What we have been unable to examine with our eyes, we can now see. Look through this telescope and see if I am not right.” To this, the princes of the Roman Catholic Church said, “We do not care what your telescope says. You must be wrong because the Bible says that the earth is the center.” Of course, the Bible had not unequivocally stated that the earth is the center of the cosmos. The Catholic princes had interpreted the Bible in light of the predominant scientific theory of their day. The advance of science has proven them wrong. Today, if we are not very careful, we can—and in some cases have been—guilty of the same thing.
Science, which started with the belief that faith and reason were complementary, eventually began to reflect the agnosticism that has become so prevalent in Western culture. Subsequently, having lost its faith, the scientific enterprise became truncated, limiting itself to only that which can be empirically verified. And what, pray tell, is empirical verification? Empirical verification (also known as induction) means something that has been verified by the senses, i.e. we must be able to see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, and smell it. If one were to add to this the process of rational deduction (i.e., the application of formal laws of logic and coherency), one would have what has come to be known as the modern scientific method. As such, scientific knowledge, according to the Logical Empiricists, is superior to all other kinds of knowledge because it is empirically verifiable. However, and quite frankly, such thinking is arrogance “gone to seed.”
The scientific process, as defined by the philosophers of science, can tell us nothing about subjects that are of great interest to the human race (e.g., emotions such as love, etc.). Neither can it tell us anything about the influence of God’s providence on the physical world. In view of the apparent perplexities of the subatomic world, such knowledge may be the only thing that will give the scientific enterprise continued validity.
In many ways modern science has boxed itself in. Its methodology has become too narrow. It has become too restrictive. It can neither verify nor falsify the existence of things which have become quite important to us. Eliminating from its process any consideration of the implications the doctrine of creation may have on the physical world has sounded the death knell for modern science. This does not mean that science cannot be resurrected. But if true science is to be truly resurrected and not just reincarnated, then scientists must return to that scientific construct that factored God in rather than out of the process. New Age thinking, with its nonsensical view of the physical world (viz., all that is is mind, therefore, the physical world is an illusion) will eventually transform Western science into nothing less than Eastern mysticism.
The mechanistic (Newtonian) model is still appropriate in certain spheres (our everyday visible world, for example), but not all (the invisible subatomic world, for example). If thought of as being absolute, it suffers from an obvious conceptual squint that is blind to the larger picture. In other words:
If we try to carry the language and imagery that have grown out of our everyday visible world to the subatomic world, we are in trouble. We peer down into the subatomic world and see little dots on photosensitive plates. Our use of language compels us to think of these electrons as tiny little billiard balls. But they are not. They do not act like billiard balls at all. If we apply the logic of billiard ball concepts, we can expect paradoxical results in the subatomic world. But reason itself is not under attack. What we need are new ideas and new images.
Far from throwing us into the eager arms of the “One is All” of the New Agers, the enigmas of modern science should fill us with awe and wonder as we tremble before the creative immensities of God. As finite creatures, we can understand and explore His creation, but we cannot completely comprehend it.
The truths taught in the Bible concerning creation are not offended by modern speculation on the unity and interconnection of creation. In fact, such unity and interconnection could be used to make a very strong argument for creation. And although we must view such scientific theories with caution, the Bible pictures a God who sustains and unifies creation without violating the integrity of distinct entities. (God created and sustains each according to its kind, Genesis 1:11-25.) According to Douglas Groothuis:
Rather than a monistic [All is One and One is All] cosmology, the biblical view of creation harmonizes the one (unity of creation) with the many (distinct creations). The biblical view, then, is holistic without being monistic. Pascal, the… philosopher and scientist, realized this long ago when he said that “all is held together by a natural though imperceptible chain which binds together things most distant and different; [therefore) I hold it equally impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole and to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail.”
It just may be that some of the new theories being touted by the New Age movement, once extracted from their pantheistic and monistic elements, may be serviceable for providing us with a model for how the processes of providence work. But unfortunately, New Age science, instead of worshipping the Creator of the universe, ends up bowing to the mysteries of that universe. Instead of viewing the creation’s interconnected web of existence as pointing to God, the New Ager sees that interconnected web of existence as a god. Instead of worshipping the personal Creator and Lord of all, the New Ager mistakenly genuflects to an impersonal force.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at the New Age cult of Self-Love.
117 John Dillenberger, Protestant Thought and Natural Science, 1960, page 16. It is Dillenberger who cautions us not to overstate the case for a necessary connection between Christian thought and science, pages 16-17.↩
118 For an excellent discussion of this point see Jack Cottrell, What the Bible Says About God the Creator, 1983, pages 143-150.↩
119 Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, 1900, reprinted 1975, page 44.↩
120 Thomas F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order, 1981, page viii.↩
121 The chorus to “Farther Along,” in Sacred Selections for the Church, 1960, page 473.↩
122 Langdon Gilkey, Maker of Heaven and Earth, 1965, pages 129-130.↩
124 R. C. Sproul, Lifeviews: Understanding the Ideas that Shape Society Today, 1986, page 167.↩
125 Emerson, op. cit., page 24.↩
126 Groothuis, op. cit., page 107. The quote from Pascal is cited as Pensees 2.72.↩