Science in Christian Perspective



How the Study of Science. Has Increased My Faith*
Goshen College

From JASA 9 (December 1957): 7-11.

I wish to express my appreciation to the faculty and administration of Eastern Baptist College and also to the local members of the American Scientific Affiliation for planning this Scientific Symposium on the subject, "Science and the Christian Faith."

Today as never-before we are daily affected by the discoveries and development in the field of science. The whole world is now aware of recent scientific developments as is evidenced by the great amount of attention given in the press to the Sputnik. This present age can rightly be called the Age of Science.

However for the Christian the present intense interest in science is in many oases discouraging, for as man goes forward in science, he so often does not retain a faith in a personal God and Savior nor in the written record which God has given in His Word. Several hundred years ago this condition was not true. At that time practically every scientist was a firm believer in the Bible as the infallible word of God. Now, however, it is the exception rather than the rule, to find a scientist who is a believer in the inspiration of the Bible. Thank God, there are a few hundred Christian men and -women of scientific training and ability who have banded themselves together for the purpose of integrating and organizing the efforts of ,many individuals who desire to correlate the facts of science and the Holy Scriptures. Each of these individuals has signed the following statement: "I believe the whole Bible as originally given to be the inspired Word of God, the only unerring guide of faith and conduct, Since God is the Author of this Book, as well as the Creator and Sustainer of the physical world about us, I believe there can be no discrepancies when both are properly interpreted. Accordingly, trusting in

*Paper presented as a part of a Symposium on Science and Christian Faith, Eastern Baptist 0ollege, Oct. 26, 1957.

the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Savior for strength, I pledgemyself as a member of this organization to the furtherance of its task."'

Now it has been my happy privilege to have been a member of this Christian group known as the American Scientific Affiliation for the past thirteen years. It is my personal testimony that in no other Christian group do I find such sweet Christian fellowship. My Christian faith has been strengthened and deepened during the years as I have met and worked with these men of science. However, I now wish to go back a few years and relate a number of experiences which show how the study of science has increased my faith.

First of all I want to pay tribute to my Christian parents who early taught me how to live a Christian life. I well recall how father, a minister of the Gospel, would tell Bible stories to his children. These wonderful stories of Old Testament characters will continue to live in my memory as long as the Lord grants me grace to live in this world. I was always taken to Sunday School and Sunday Morning Worship service. After a number of years I was also taken to the evening service of the church. I can also recall the concern which my Mother had with reference to the type of college which I should attend. Through her influence I had the privilege of attending a Christian College. Having always been very much interested in Mathematics, I searched for those subjects which contained the most mathematics. This led me to the study of Physics with the result that I did most of my graduate work in that subject.

Here I would like to relate an experience with a fellow student of my undergraduate days. This young man was in the habit of studying his General Physics lessons with me. By this means we became very well acquainted. One evening he told me of his spiritual condition. He had been brought up in a Christian home, was in the habit of attending church services and had been a Sunday School teacher before coming to college. After studying science for several years he began to lose his f aith in God and in the Bible as God's revelation to man. Thus by the time he was a Sophomore in college he felt that he had very little faith left. However, when he went home, he would always go to church and would teach his Sunday School class since he did not want his f riends to know of his loss of faith and of his true spiritual condition. So he was a most miserable man. Yet he felt that he could do nothing about it.

This young man's story made a profound impression upon me. I had resolved when I started to college that by God's help I would retain my faith in God and his word. I was especially anxious about this matter since I had been warned by a minister that I would probably lose my faith if I would go to college. So the story of another who had lost his faith continued in my memory for a number of years. Recently I visited this former schoolmate in his home. On that occasion I inquired of his present spiritual condition. He told me that he had regained his Christian faith, is again a member of the church and in fact, is now a lay preacher. I then inquired how it was that he had regained his faith. He gave the credit to the good life, and word of a local pastor.

I relate the experience of this young man as an illustration of that which has happened to so many students in our schools. They start out with a fine Christian experience, then under the influence of teachers and others through the study of science they begin to lose their faith and in many cases they become hopelessly lost. This experience of losing one's faith need not take place provided we have the proper conditions. These include the following: A good home and church environment, a strong personal faith, and awareness of the problem, Christian teachers of science who take a personal interest in their students, good literature which is relevant to the problem, and association with other Christians who are strong in the faith.

In my own case, as before stated, I did have the advantage of a good home and church environment. As concerns the matter of a strong personal faith I would say that my faith, while firm and steadfast, was not very strong at the time of my entrance to college. When it comes to the matter of being aware of the fact that one's faith may be lost or weakened, I am quite certain that I was fully conscious of this point. The church group from which I came had experienced this over and over as their young people left home and went to college. In so many cases those persons left their church either during or following their college days. In a number of instances they completely lost their Christian faith.

I can still recall the saying of my Mother that no one f rom our denomination who had studied to be a medical doctor remained true to his denomination. There were a. few exceptions, but this was the general rule. Therefore, I realized that I might expect some conflict between my Christian experience and those experiences which I might have while in college. So I had the advantage of an awareness of the problem.

I did have a number of fine Christian teachers both in High School and in College. However, I had very few who really took a personal interest in my problems. Right here I would like to put in a plea for many more Christian teachers in our schools and colleges who are personally interested in the welfare of their students. We as teachers should never be so busy that we do not have time to sit down and talk personally with individual students. There is a large field here for personal witnessing for our Lord Jesus Christ.

A rather large number of books have been appearing in recent years which may be of help to students who have difficulties in the area of science and Christian faith. However, in my own experience, I did not have access to much written material to help me. It may have been my own fault, but the fact remains that very little help came my way in book form.

It seems to me that probably the best method to aid a student of science to become stronger in the Christian faith is association with other- Christians. 1 have had that experience through the years and especially during the last ten or more years. I would like to pay tribute here to my room mate in college. He was never very outspoken but in his quiet -way he influenced me greatly. We were both members of the college track team, he running the two-mile and I the mile. I will never forget the wonderful lesson in endurance which I learned f rom my room mate as he ran the two-mile and never failed to make points for the team.

The study of Mathematics may appear to be rather dry and a bit irksome to many. However, to me it is a joy and a delight. Here is the discipline in which man can demonstrate to the full that he is quite different from others of God's creation. This is the area in which reason, imagination, and creative activity may be exercised to the utmost. The Bible says that, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him." Genesis 1:27. It seems to me that one of the best demonstrations showing that man is created in God's image and therefore possessing, in some measure, His attributes is in the development of new mathematical systems.

In order to go very far in the field of mathematics one must be able to do some abstract reasoning. That is, one forgets all notions of the physical universe and delves into the area of pure thought. Starting with a few fundamental concepts, definitions and axioms, one then develops a large number of theorems. The theorems are valid statements derived by rigorous reasoning from the original concepts. Then one finds that many of the theorems derived in, this manner apply to the physical universe. To me this is, in a sense thinking God's thoughts after Him, He planned this universe, thought of man's place in it and even provided for our redemption before a single creative act was performed. Then He spoke the word and the universe with its wonderful order and all of its intricacies was created.

As Mathematicians we are able to continue to create new mathematical models, many of which become applicable to the universe. Thus as I have continued in my study of mathematics I f ind that I am drawn closer to God and my faith in Him grows continually.

I have previously stated that I did most of my graduate work in the subject of Physics. Here we study matter and energy in their interaction with each other and their various changes. As is now well known, matter may be converted into energy and this energy in turn may he converted into other forms or into matter again. When one studies these entities in great detail and tries to think upon the problem of their origin and destiny, it becomes necessary to either assume a creator and a sustainer of the universe or allow these problems to remain unsolved. In my own case, I have never had a very big problem there. It seems to me that the Biblical concept of God the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is intellectually satisfactory. No theory of science which has been used to remove the need for a creator seems very satisfactory, so the longer I study Physics, the greater does my faith grow in a personal God who is concerned about the whole universe. And He is concerned about me. This is another Biblical concept which is very satisfactory.

But you may ask the question, "Does the study of science lead one to believe that God, the Creator of the whole universe, cares about one individual on this small planet revolving about a rather small star, this star, which we call our sun, being a member of the Milky Way containing about one-hundred billion stars and the Milky Way being but one of one-hundred million known galaxies?" Yes, that is what the study of science has done for. me. In particular the study of Physics and Astronomy causes me to believe that God cares for His own. Did you ever think of the fact that God has provided the sun for the purpose of supplying us with the proper amount of light and heat? Through the study of Astronomy we learn that the sun, instead of being a rather small object not too far away, is in fact a huge mass of gigantic proportions. It is so large that its volume is more than one million times the volume of the earth. Its mass is about one-third of a million times that of the earth. Its surface temperature is so high that it exceeds that of the hottest blast furnace. The energy given off by the sun is so great, that if all of it fell on a cylindrical column of ice two miles in diameter and extending from the earth to the sun this entire column of ice would be melted in a second. The earth receives but one part in two billion of its energy and yet that is sufficient to keep this old earth going merrily on its way.

Then, too, the earth is located the proper distance from the sun with the result that in the main we are not too hot or too cold. As further proof that God is interested in His children we might mention the fact that the earth keeps rotating on its axis with the result that all sides of the earth are equally heated. Also this axis of rotation is inclined to the plane of the orbit of the earth about the sun with the result that we have our seasonal changes.

Like a great ocean about the earth we have an atmosphere which 'besides being essential for living plants and animals, also serves to make airplane travel possible, prevents thousands of meteors from falling to the earth and also prevents a large part of the injurious ultra violet portion of the spectrum from striking us. Then, again, God has provided the right amount of water on the surface of the earth so that we may have proper rainfall which is necessary for plant growth. In addition He has provided us with these plants and animals which we may use for our daily food. He has not forgotten anything to make our stay here on earth an enjoyable experience. Even the right kind of bacteria are present to cause decay of plants and dead animals so that the elements from their dead bodies can be assimilated by living things. Let us now take a look at the very small unit in God's creation. First as one takes a - good look through a microscope at the marvelous order exhibited in both the animate and the inanimate world, we are made to marvel and exclaim that surely there is a Creator responsible for it all. Now the electron microscope enables us to delve more deeply into some of the wonderful handiwork of God. Beyond this the scientist has probed by indirect means into units of such small size that they seem almost to reach beyond our imagination.

We have often smiled when informed that the ancient theologians and philosophers were accustomed to discuss such things as how many angels could stand on the end of a pin. Yet no scientist smiles when informed that atoms of a simple substance like hydrogen are so small that if placed side by side, about five million such atoms would be necessary to cover the distance across the head of a pin. Such a statement is a scientific fact supported by a number of different lines of evidence. But, again, does not this line of evidence support the idea that there is a God who is the Creator of all atoms ?

For a long time the atom, as its very name indicates, was considered to be indivisible. Now in the twentieth century we feel quite confident that the atom can be divided into component parts. Usually we designate these parts as the nucleus and the extra-nuclear electrons surrounding the nucleus. Even though no scientist has ever seen an atom, a nucleus or an electron, yet the evidence seems to compel us to believe in their existence. Here we have a close analogy with the spiritual world. No man has ever seen God and yet we believe in His existence because of the evidence. Neither have we seen God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, nor yet have we seen the Holy Spirit, our guide in this life. Yet we do believe that they are just as real as anything because of the effect which they have had in our lives.

Now the scientists are attempting to see what is happening inside the nucleus of the atom. We might question whether this is at all possible since it is of such small size. It is well for us to consider the nucleus of an atom as to its size and possible structure. Not too much is known about the latter, though a number of theories have been proposed. We do know by indirect evidence again that its diameter is about one ten-thousandth of that of an atom. I think that it is safe to say that such small size mystifies us all. How can we very well think in terms of such dimensions when it would take more than two billion of them placed side by side to reach across the diameter of a human hair? Such small sizes evade us. However, we can marvel when we think of the God of the universe who made all of these small things.

We certainly can be grateful that this same God is one who is concerned about each one of us. More than that he is concerned about such small details as that of the very number of hairs of our head. I am led to praise Him more and more as I continue to study His word and the universe which He has created.

I would now like to briefly consider with you another area of science, the study of which has greatly increased my Christian faith. In almost no other area of science can the work of a Creator be better Seen than in that of Astronomy. This is a vast field which truly shows us something of the omnipotence and omniscience of God. Let us begin by thinking together about the earth. You must remember that the Astronomer considers the study of the earth as falling within his province. As compared to man the earth is very, very large. We have been able to measure the earth quite accurately as to size, average density and mass. The size of the earth can be directly measured by essentially the sam e tools as one uses to m easure the num ber of acres in a given plot of land. The method of measuring its mass and hence its average density must of necessity be indirect. By making use of Newton's law of gravitation we come out with an answer which is so huge that we cannot well comprehend its magnitude. In terms of tons the mass of the earth is six thousand million million million tons. This number is so large that it would require the entire population of the earth, counting at the rate of one every second, nearly one hundred thousand years to count the number of tons equal to the mass of the earth. So that, as seen from man's point of view, (and from what other point of view can we proceed), the earth is quite large, but on the other hand it is small as compared with a number of the other planets which are revolving around the sun. For instance the diameter of the earth is but one-tenth of that of the planet Jupiter. When compared to the size of the average star the size of the earth seems to be quite insignificant. As we have previously mentioned the volume of the earth is less than one-millionth of that of the sun. Since the sun is but an average star and stars do vary greatly in size it is at once apparent that the whole earth is quite tiny when compared to a large star. Thus the Creator and Lord of the universe is seen to be One who has exhibited to us in some small way a part of His omnipotence. just take a look up into the star lit sky some clear night and think again of the wonder of it all and of the Creator, who is even now concerned about your welfare..

Before leaving the subject of the earth I would like to think with you of some of its motions in space. To us who live on the surface of the earth it appears quite motionless. This is just one good illustration of the fact that appearances are often deceiving. The scientist must ever be on the alert to be quite certain that he is not being led astray by the report of his senses. And yet the scientist must in the final analysis depend upon the reliability of his senses.

We know that the earth rotates on its axis making one complete turn every twenty-four hours. The earth also revolves around the sun once every year. Then the earth and moon taken together as a gravitational unit rotate about their common center once each month. The axis of rotation of the earth which appears to have a fixed direction is in reality slowly changing its direction which adds another motion to the earth. The whole solar system, sun and all of the planets, is moving rapidly with reference to the stars toward the Constellation of Hercules. Finally the entire galaxy of stars known as the Milky Way and of which the sun is a member, is rotating on its axis. Thus this so-called stable earth is continually moving in at least six different ways in space. You may well ask the question, "Who guides all of this complicated motion." The answer of Paul in writing to the Colossians appears to me to be the most satisfactory. "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: All things are created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist." Col. 1:16-17.

May we never cease to thank God, our Father, Jesus Christ, his Son, and the Holy Spirit, our guide for the wonderful universe which has been prepared for us. By studying this universe in all of its various manifestations we are able to gain a more complete comprehension of our great God who has created everything for our enjoyment. Certainly the faith of all of us should continue to grow stronger as we learn more in the area of science.