Science in Christian Perspective




John R. Howitt

From: JASA 3 (June 1951): 12-15.


This paper was prepared rather hurriedly by the writer in the hope of presenting something of a positive nature. The writer has recently been cut off by unavoidable circumstances from larger libraries and other contacts which would ordinarily be necessary In preparing such a paper. He is fully aware of its imperfections and the vulnerability of the thesis, and had intended to withdraw the paper for more careful preparation later. On the advice of the Committee on Papers it has been allowed to stand', however, In the hope that the paper may stimulate discussion. It Is believed that the subject is timely and profitable fcr study.

Editor's Note:

One section of the paper entitled Modern Reductions in the Time Element" has been deleted. This section was open to some legitimate question and since it was unessential to the basic theme and structure of this paper it has not been reproduced.

From the earliest times man has been seeking for a unifying principle in nature, The universe is
so Vast and the mystery of life so great that man has for ages sought to reduce the tremendous mass of detail to a simple formula and to bring some sort of order out of the apparent chaos.

The Search

Thus the Greeks came to the conclusion that the world was composed Of four elements earth, water, fire and wind. That was very simple of course., but it apparently satisfied the Philosophers of the day. Since then however the mass of knowledge has enormously increased. Many laws of physics and chemistry have been discovered and our knowledge of matter and energy and of time and space has been extended. Nevertheless the hunger for knowledge is never satisfied and during the past few centuries the search for a unifying principle has been intensified.

In all the tremendous mass of knowledge which has accumulated It is reason ably assumed that there must be some order and discipline, Yet no one has been able to discover or define its unifying principle. If that principle were discovered it might perhaps afford the key to the still greater problems of purpose and design.. and the relationship of structure to function.

Older Theories

In the past three centuries there have been a number of attempts to simplify the principles of nature. In 1785 James Hutton) a British geologist,, formulated the doctrine of continuity or uniformatartanism. According to this principle essential uniformity in the causes and effects has prevailed in all ages of the world's physical history and the activities of the past were similar in mode and intensity to those bf the present time, No one., of course, doubts the uniformity of the physical laws In the past as in the present but the doctrine of uniformity excludes the element of supernatural intervention; particularly in regard to creation and the miracles and also the doctrine of catastrophy and the eschatology of the Bible. On these grounds it has rightly been rejected by Christian scholars. The doctrine of uniformity was one of the first of the modern attempts to formulate a unifying principle. It was the idea of endless conformity to the laws of nature, a simple correlations as it were of time and space and matter.

In 1859 Charles Darwin published the "Origin of Species,," and there seems to be little doubt but that the startling acceptance of his theory was due largely to the natural desire of man to find a unifying principle in nature such as evolution appeared to be. Thus Dr. W.A. Thompsono F.R S, (1) Assistant Director of the Imperial Institute of Entomology in London, has stated, "the concept of organic evolution is very highly prized by biologists, for many of whom it is an object of genuinely religious devotion, because they regard it as a supreme integrative principle." The concept of evolution appeared to correlate the whole realm of biology, geology and cosmology.

The Search Continues

Now it is important to notice that the search for a unifying principle is being continued today with even greater intensity. Thus Albert Einstein (2) states that "this motivation for getting up new theories is., so to speak, trivial, imposed from without. There is another more subtle motive of no less importance. This is the striving towards unification and simplification of the premises of the theory as a whole." A few examples will suffice to Illustrate the present trend in the search for a supreme integrative principle., and no effort will be made to exhaust the field.

Attempts to Discover a Unifying Principle

Francis J. Mott (3) seeks to simplify the universe into a single principle of rhythmic interaction between a nucleus and a periphery. Biology, anthropology, physics and chemistry., astronomy, and even psychiatry may be explained on this simple principle vhich he describes as biosynthesis. Another example is that of Prof. N. Rashevsky (4) whose text book "Mathematical Biophysics" seeks to reduce biology to mathematical proportions,. Prof. Born's (5) recent book on the "Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance" appears to be still another effort to correlate into some general principle the amazing problems of cosmogany.

Albert Einstein (6) has recently announced his new unified field theory involving the unity of gravitation and electromagnetism, but no one can tell just what the outcome of these deductions may be or their effect upon the older theory of uniformity and evolution.' It is believed by many that advances in the field of nuclear physics may result in revolutionary changes in science and philosophy.. particularly in regard to the problems of creation and the age of the universe.

'We have seen how potent a unifying principle may be in the case of evolution and no less remarkable has been the result of the
unifying principle of the Hegelian dialectic when applied to political economy. Hegal's dialectic was Itself an attempt to simplify and unify psychology and philosophy into a simple formula of thesis antithesis and synthesis. Engels and Marx applied the Hegelian principle to history. Historical movements, they explained, would always be followed by the exact opposite and the final outcome would be the unity of the opposites. After feudalism came capitalism and out of the tvo Opposites would emerge the synthesis of socialism or communism. We are only too familiar today with the momentum vhich the concept of this unifying principle has given to those who for their own aggrandizement have exploited the struggling masses of mankind.

The Spirital Realm

When we come to the spiritual realm we find an inherent desire to simplify and arrange the great moo of revealed truth into a simple formula, The various creeds of the early Christian church were perhaps the best attempts to arrange in orderly fashion the basic truths of the Christian faith. Arminius and Calvin made statements of faith vhich bear their news and which have done much to clarify the major problems of theology. In each instance there were five points of doctrine which considered to be essential. Later the
39 Articles of the Church of England The Westminster Confession of Faith have played an important role in the history of the Church, The Baptists have retaliated against this attempt to tabulate Christian doctrine by taking the Now Testament Itself as their creed,, but this might be regarded as perhaps an over simplification of the problem, More recently still the Oxford Group Movement produced the four absolutes in an attempt to unify and simplify the Christian way of life. The World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement reflect the religious-political ideal of a man-made unifying principle in the spiritual realm today.

All these attempts are symptomatic of the same endless pursuit for a supreme integrative
principle in
the spiritual world which can be expressed in a simple formula.

The Unification of Ideals In the Political World

When we turn to the Political arena we find the same hopeless struggle for a unifying principle in government. The cry for one world, implies one state and one ruler and one lav, That cry will someday be answered by the emergence
of the Antichrist.

The Unifying Principle in Nature is Christ Himself

For the believer there is, of course no mystery about the unifying principle
of the universe. WO know that the supreme integrative principle is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for "by Him all things, consist" or exist. (col, 1:16-17). He alone keeps the universe intact and operating as it does. He embodies in Himself the lave of.nature and He to the all pervading Presence without Whom the atoms or electrons could not exist or hold together.

"All things were created by Him and for Him." That is the supreme Integrative principle of the universe and we Md, "Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." (Rev. 4:11). That is the sum total of teleology. Similarly when we come to the element of time we find that Jesus Christ is "the saw yesterday and today and for ever." (Neb. 13:8). Here is the supreme integrative principle of time, that is eternity without changes. "They shall perish), but Thou remainest," (Neb. 1:11). And into all this marvelous picture we., as members of His My and His Church are to have a part., "Christ in you the hope of glory, (Col . 1:27).

We find,, then.. that the great unifying principle of the universe is revealed to us in the Holy scriptures.. and that principle lies In Christ Himself "Who is the image of the invisible God." (Col. 1:15). For the believer this is sufficient,

The Slignificance of the Present Intensified Search

We have already noted that the search for a simple formula to explain the universe has been intensified In recent years and this unrest is believed to reflect a deep seated state of dissatisfaction with the older concepts of uniformity and evolution. The reason for the intensified investigations of the present day may be due to the fact that since the days of Hutton and Darwin the mass of knowledge has pyramided to such an enormous extent that uniformity and evolution fail to satisfy the mind any longer,. A wealth of detail has accumulated., some of which is inconsistent with the theories of continuity and evolution and man are casting about once more to discover if possible, a new solution to the problem. No one, of course can predict that the ultimate scientific formula will be. But in the meantime there is certainly no necessity whatever for the believer to compromise with the Truth or seek to reconcile the Word of God with human wisdom. God has said., "I will destroy the wisdom of the vise., and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent," (1 Cor. 1:19) Appeasement always ends in surrender and it is as futile in the spiritual and scientific field as in the political world.

As believers our efforts should be directed to reconciling human wisdom with the Word of God and seeking to discover just where the discoveries of science do agree with the Word of God. Where there is conflict we may well be patient. Some of the never theories of cosmogeny., for example, are so fantastic that C.S. Levis suggests that we may be nearing the end of the scientific age. This is quite possible, The way in which philosophers and scientists are setting forth rival views and contradicting each other only reveals the human necessity for a revelation which is verbally inspired and which is, therefore, dependable and authorative. "Thy word is truth." (John 17:17).

The Christian who is also a scientist will note with interest each development as it takes place in full assurance of faith that a final reconciliation of science and the Word of God must inevitably emerge as truth is gradually unfolded, Changes of thought are often very rapid and radical these days and in the meantime we may rest content upon the solid foundation of the Holy scriptures. Verbum domini manet.
1) Thompson: Science and Common Sense- Longmans., Green & Co... 1937. P. 229.
2) Einstein: Scientific American. April, 1950.9 p. 48
3) Mott: Biosynthesis. David Mc Kay Co. 1948
4) Raohevsky: University of Chicago Press., 1948.
5) Born; Natural Philosophy of Course'and Chance. Oxford University Press 1949
6) Einstein: The Meaning of Relativity. 3rd Edition. Princeton University
Press, 1950
7) Allen: Evolution. By a Medical Scientist. International Christian Crusadelp.62
8) Buehler & Walker: Scientific Monthly. September,
1949, p. 155,
(10) Scientific American: June
1950  p. 58.