Science in Christian Perspective




From: JASA 15 (March 1963): 23-27.

This section of the JASA is an innovation introduced at the request of the editor and approved by the editorial staff. It replaces the "columns" on specific fields which have appeared in past volumes, but it is intended to be more than a new name for an old feature. It is my hope that this will provide all that the columns have provided, with the possible exception of some news items that are more appropriate for the News Letter of the ASA, and that it will, in addition, provide much more besides.

To assist in supplying material for this section as well as for other portions of the JASA each columnist has been promoted to the position of contributing editor. Since his task is to encourage others to write for the JASA as well as to send in his own contributions, readers are encouraged to enter into personal conversations and correspondence with the respective contributing editors. They will be glad to receive suggestions about subject areas and topics that ought to be explored by members of the ASA.

. While this section is its own best operational definition, a brief list of materials appropriate for inclusion in it may be appropriate:

-brief statements on current scientific issues, developments, or problems to which Christians ought to give attention. -information on new developments within the respective scientific disciplines which ought to be called to the attention of all JASA readers.

-comments on articles published elsewhere which are directly or indirectly related to the objectives of the ASA. (See the inside back cover for information about these objectives.)

-evaluations of trends in Christianity which are relevant to ASA objectives.

-announcements of significant meetings relating to Christianity- science encounters. (Details of such meetings normally belong only in the ASA News Letter, but nonmembers who read JASA should be informed about certain of these.)

-significant quotations (always with complete documentation and, whenever advisable, with permission from the source).

-reflections on ASA conventions, projects, and publications.

It is our hope that this section will be so attractive that all of our readers will read, or at least skim, all of its contents. The column format which was its historical antecedent may have encouraged the physicist to skip the section entitled "Philosophy" and the anthropologist to omit the reading of "Chemistry." Subheadings describing the specific content of each contribution therefore will be used instead of discipline titles.

Not the least among the purposes of this section is to promote discussion pertinent to the ASA's primary
objectives. Comments are therefore invited from readers pertinent to the items included in this issue. In some
instances I have given suggestions of the lines along which comments may be made. In others, the lack of a direct invitation does not imply that readers are not invited to write either a letter to the editor or to submit items publishable in this section.-D. 0. M.


April 20, 1963-Tenth regional meeting of the North Central Section of the American Scientific Affiliation at the University of Minnesota. "Biological, Theological, and Legal Aspects of Race" is the topic of the program. For further details write to Dr. Robert Bohon, 1352 Margaret, St. Paul 6, Minnesota.

June 19-21, 1963-Fifth biennial joint meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation and the Evangelical Theological Society at Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky. For details write to Dr. William J. Tinkle, Eaton, Indiana.

August 19-23, 1963-Eighteenth annual convention of the American Scientific Affiliation at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California. The convention will consist of a dialogue among Christians in scientific disciplines. Planned by the Social Science Commission of the ASA, the theme of the program is "Expanding Horizons in a Shrinking World." Problems of race, international relations, and relationships between Christianity and other world religions will be the focus of major sessions. Specialized meetings representing philosophy and the biological, physical, and social sciences will be included in the program. For program publicity write to the national office of the ASA, 414 South Broad St., Mankato, Minnesota. For local arrangements write to Prof. Harold Miller, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California.


In the September loarnal, the editor made a statement which is worthy of further note here. "For the Christian, sharing pertinent ideas with others is one aspect of Christian stewardship." Surely, if we believe in the individual's inability to acquire perfect truth, there should be sharing of that which we have worked to obtain. The word stewardship is most appropriate here.

Perhaps those in secular science would prefer to call it interdisciplinarianism. Though a more formidable word, it addresses itself to the same principle; specialization of endeavor is most useful when communication allows for the possible convergence of ideas.

There are probably few organizations which are more eclectic than ASA. Eclecticism, however, is no longer in vogue in the academic world. This has even been seen in the philosophy of ASA over the past few years. The new policy of the JASA seems to be strengthening eclecticism by emphasizing the "sounding board" function of the publication.

In the social sciences, as in all disciplines, there is a definite tendency for ideas to converge. It is particularly important for the Christian to seek out such convergence and attempt to comprehend the truth of such trends, which are at the root of "ecumenical" viewpoints.

It is hoped, therefore, that in the future, there will be greater sharing of ideas pertinent to sociology and the social sciences in this section. Relevant contributions to the editor or contributing editors in any form are capable of being molded for use- "Truth" may be tithed in many and diverse ways.--Russell Heddcndorf.


When a man of "pure" science looks over the membership list of the American Scientific Affiliation, he
probably winces a little to see the sociolistist listed with the biochemist. "The meaning of science he might be
saying, "has been extended beyond limits to include this kind of scholar." To balance the ledger the sociologist may feel a little uneasy to be listed, for he
knows very well that the methods of science inexactly apply to the phenomena he studies. Yet although he has no microscope, no Bunsen burner, and no white coat, the sociologist does have a questionnaire, census data, and a calculator. And amid remarks that he is "elaborating the obvious" or "just using common sense," the sociologist is engaged in an intensely serious quest for information by way of the methods of science, Occasionally use of these methods may give him a "hardheaded" appearance, but the intent behind this is rational, intellectual, humanitarian, and perhaps Christian.

Absolve this writer of envy, please, toward the "pure" scientist who can control intervening variables in experimentation so as to study a bivariate relationship. Social phenomena are rarely controllable to such an extent that analysis can be in terms of one independent variable and one dependent variable. The number of intervening variables in social analysis is so large that one seriously questions the direction and strength of the final relationship. The sociologist, loyal to the methods of science, will religiously (yes, "religiously") note these uncontrollable variables in footnotes or appendices -those qualifying parts to social research which are seldom given the attention they deserve. If by "pure" science one means a "pure' bivariate comparison, then few sociologists earn the title of "scientist." If, however, science encompasses a method of multi-variate analysis for the phenomena studied, then the title is legitimate even for men without nitric acid stains on their hands.

Applying a rigorous method of science to social phenomena produces a tension where specific values are integrally a part of the social structure. This tension is increased when these values are religiously legitimized, hence social analysis has not always been kindly toward religious values. In fact, the sociologist has been labelled as a "debunker," a "subversive," and "surely not a Christian." Some of us believe that die relationship between things sociological and things Christian does not have to be manufactured, but merely clarified; the dialogue then possible can be beneficial.

Concerning this relationship, Peter Berger has written:

The natural inclinations of man lead him to take society for granted, to identify himself fully with the social roles assigned to him, and to develop ideologies which will organize and dispose of any doubts that might possibly arise. There is an instructive affinity between Christian faith and the analytic enterprise of the social sciences in that both serve to disturb this happy state of affairs . . . The debunking effect of social-scientific analysis is far from contradictory to this prophetic mission. Indeed, it might be called its profane auxiliary. The smashing of idols, with whatever hammers, is the underside of proph ecy.-Tbe Precarious Vision (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961, p. 204.)

Even when one grants Berger some journalistic license, the reader cannot miss certain Christian motivations possible for social scientific analysis.

To individuals whose Christian faith is rooted alone in the social surroundings, scientific analysis is disturbing, if not shattering. To individuals whose faith is in die adequacy of Jesus Christ, scientific analysis of this kind can deepen appreciation for Christ Who is completely sufficient, not only apart from, but also within humanly-created social structures.-Ivan J. Fahs, Asst. Prof. of Sociology, Bethel College, St. Paul, Afinn.


It is frequently believed that pure science has no use although it has been pointed out repeatedly that all knowledge is potentially useful, much of it being used in practical studies later and all of it satisfying the researcher's curiosity, a use in itself. It is also commonly stated that pure research is basic to applied and that the flow of knowledge goes from left to right. It is not always realized that applied research and technology give back to pure science a rich reward in the forms of new techniques and new instruments. It is also necessary to point out that even the best minds do not always know what use can be made of a discovery. A lady once asked Faraday what use he could foresee for electricity. He is reputed to have replied, "Of what use is a new born baby?" Lord Rutherford, who first understood nuclear transmutations and first induced them experimentally, held the view that no practical use would be found on earth for nuclear energy.-Irving W. Knobloch


Eighty-three German neurologists and psychiatrists are reported in Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Wocbenschrift No. 49 (as translated in Practical Christianity published by the Officers' Christian Union) to have signed a document of protest which includes the following statement: "In the present lamentable struggle of political parties over schools, attempts are being made, in a folly truly irresponsible, to shake the foundations of Christianity. We, the undersigned neurologists and psychiatrists, who have daily opportunity to look into the deep abysses of psychic need and suffering, earnestly warn against allowing the belief in Christ, even in the least degree, to lapse in the hearts of our youth, since this is the real anchor in the storms of our times."-The Christian Graduate (Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship), Sep. 1962, p. 132. (Sabmitted by Dr. John R. Howitt, Toronto, Ontario.


Those who have (religious) faith may be on more solid ground in their understanding of reality than those who cannot find a way to believe. What they feel in their thinking may refer to a larger reality-mystical and supernatural or not-which speaks of truths beyond the present power of scientific thought. That this may be so should do no more than make the scientist truly humble and deeply respectful of other kinds of knowing; it should in no way influence him to abandon or reduce his efforts to know and understand-W. Lloyd Warner, The Living and the Dead (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 490.

We are a bad lot, we sons of Adam.

One convincing proof of our inherent badness is the way we manage to turn good into evil and make our very blessings a curse to us . . . Sin is at bottom the abuse of things in themselves innocent, an illegitimate use of legitimate gifts.

We Christians are cut from the same bolt as the rest of mankind, and while we have been made partakers of a new nature we have not yet been entirely divested of the old. For this reason we are under constant temptation to lapse into the flesh and manifest the old nature rather than the new . . .

Among the purest gifts we have received from God is truth. Another gift almost as precious and without which the first would be meaningless is our ability to grasp truth and appreciate it. For these priceless treasures we should be profoundly grateful . . . And because these and all other blessings flow to us by grace without merit or worth on our part we should be very humble and watch with case lest such undeserved favors, if unappreciated, be taken from us . . . The very truth that makes men free may be and often is fashioned into chains to keep them in bondage. And never forget it, there is no pride so insidious and yet so powerful as the pride of orthodoxy.

Snobbery is die child of pride. Pride at first may be eager and ambitious as it tries to make a place for itself of to prove that it has already attained that place; later it loses its eager quality and becomes defensive; finally it ceases to struggle or defend and accepts its own image of itself as something too well established for discussion and too beautiful to improve. When it reaches that stage it has produced a snob; and no snob is ever aware that he is one.. .

A new school of evangelical Christianity has come up of late which appears to me to be in grave danger of producing a prime crop of intellectual snobs. The disciples of this school are orthodox in creed, if by that we mean that they hold the fundamental tenets of the historic faith; but . . . their spirit is quite other than the spirit of the Early Church.

This new breed of Christian may be identified by certain field marks . . . Rarely does one of them manage to give forth an original note, but each one waits to hear what Bardi or Brunner or Bultmann or Tillicli has to say and then imitates it as nearly as possible, only transposing it into the orthodox key. Their mating call is a shrill "Me too! Me too!" which may be heard any time between September and June ringing through the halls of various institutions of evangelical higher learning.

What is overlooked by this new school is that truth is not mental only but moral. The Apostles' Creed quoted in pride, though true, is not true for the one who thus quotes it; one indispensable quality is missing-humility. A theological fact becomes a spiritual truth only when it is received by a humble mind. The proud mind, however orthodox, can never know spiritual truth. Light means nothing to a blind man.

In the Christian life we know most when we know that we do not know, and we understand best when we know that we understand little and that there is much that we will never understand. In the Scriptures knowledge is a kind of experience and wisdom has a moral content. Knowledge without humility is vanity. The religious snob is devoid of truth. Snobbery and truth are irreconcilable. A. W. Tozer, The Alliance Witness, vol. 97, no. 24, p. 2, Nov. 28, 1962. (Reprinted by permission.)


 "One wonders if Pauline theologians realize that the doctrine of original sin involves the inheritance of an acquired characteristic, for only genes can be inherited and, by nature of the case, neither Adam or Eve when they first appeared on the scene possessed the character they are alleged to have transmitted to all their descendants."-Sir Gavin de Beer in his review of Mankind Evolving by Theodosius Dobzhansky, Scientific American, Sep. 1962, p. 268. (Submitted by Dr. John R. Howitt, Toronto, Ontario.)

Attention to matters of crime causation in America began . . . with the first colonizations . . . Much of it is contained in the theological concepts of man's original depravity and sin, and while conceivably it could be dealt with in terms of hereditary endowment, it might also be included as social history. However a starting point both logical and practical was the beginning of that period when scientific concepts were displacing the metaphysical and theological in the description of the world of natural phenomena . . -

. . . the theological doctrine of man's original sin constitutes a separate body of thought that is beyond the province of this work. Were the premise of man's original sin granted, there would be no need for this or any other treatise on criminal behavior; there would be no need for calling in the aid of the sciences of anthropology and biology; no need to study man's criminal behavior in relation to his functioning organism and his anatomical structure; no need to study him in relation to other men . . .

There were other considerations which account for our borrowings from Europe and our failure to originate theories of crime causation here. A common base united Europe and America . . . Implicit and explicit in their common culture was a conviction that man was a free-will agent, that he knew the difference between right and wron& that he was morally responsible for his actions. Furthermore, according to a common Calvinistic theology, man was born in sin; no theory of crime causation could be simpler thin that.... The implications, once the work of Mendel was revived and confirmed by later biologists, of such a doctrine (of biological inheritance) were revolutionary in a world that heretofore had naively accepted the Garden of Eden and man's original sin, and had based a philosophy of behavior upon it.

When, for example, the facts supporting the theory of the continuity of the germ plasm were established the doctrine of man's original sin was scientifically invalidated. A biology and a psychology ( sociology) which accepted the differential nature, germ plasm and the somatoplasm questioned any claims for the inheritance of separate moral faculties, evil dispositions, or criminal characters.-Arthur E. Fink, Causes of Crime: Biological Theories in the United States, 1800-1915 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1938), pp. vii-viii, 151, 246, 249.

As soon as our young people have been convinced through their textbooks dealing with the history of civilization that there never was such a thing as original sin, they must conclude that the human race does not need a Saviour and that the sacraments of baptism and communion are superfluous, for there is no such thing as present sin. If true, the Mass then loses its value for the Roman Catholic Church. The whole hierarchy of that communion would, in time, find itself without clientele. And Protestants would have to abolish the Sunday school.-Albert Hyma, "Darwinism or Christianity?~' Christianity Today, 6:1156, Sep. 14, 1962.

Editorial comment: To my knowledge the above challenge to Christianity, which is implicit in much contemporary as well as past scientific literature, has not been refuted adequately by evangelical Christians. Do the biological and behavioral sciences indeed disprove the theological concept of original sin? If so, what are the implications of this for Christian faith and doctrine? If not, why not? Does it matter at all?

It is likely that Fink, together with others who take up the same cry, misinterprets the theological concept of original sin, Yet if human behavior is a product of heredity and environment, as the sciences usually imply, the inevitable question that confronts us is this: Can man be a morally responsible, free-will agent?

Does Protestant theology clash with science on these issues? Must we reinterpret one position or the other in order to reconcile them while maintaining our intellectaal equilibrium? Do we live in and move between two discrete social systems, one as scientists and the other as Christians, keeping the two compartments neatly separated? Is the apparent conflict about this subject an instance of true contradiction or of mere shadow boxing?

Contributions pertinent to these problems are invited.
-D. 0. M.


In August 1962 a UPI news release reported on the disagreement of medical and biblical scholars about references to leprosy in the Old Testament. Dr, G. R. Driver, professor of Semitic philosophy at Oxford University, said that "leprosy" is being replaced by "disease of the skin" in a new translation of such passages as the account of the leprosy (King James Version!) of Miriam's hand (Numbers 12).

Dr. Fred Levit of Northwestern University Medical School, an associate of the American Academy of Dermatology, said that writers of the Bible "were trying to detect leprosy in its earliest stages. It's perfectly understandable they might have confused early cases of leprosy because of insufficient knowledge of the disease. But if you substitute the word 'psoriasis' for 'leprosy' in the Scriptures, you're not much better off." Dr. Levit also indicated that leprosy and psoriasis are two distinct diseases which cannot be accurately diagnosed from reading Biblical accounts, but both of which can be treated and arrested with modern drugs. (Wesley G. Pipert, "Was It Leprosy or Psoriasis? Bible Scholars, Skin Specialists Can't Agree," St. Paul Dispatch, Aug. 22, 1962, p. 35). In response to this news release, dermatologist ASA-member Spinka has the following to say:

"The recent Leprosy-Psoriasis controversy in the newspapers between my friend and colleague, Dr. Fred Levit, and British biblical scholars recalls that this was oxtensively reviewed by me with accompanying clinical Kodachromes at the August 1958 meeting of the ASA in Ames, Iowa, and is published in the March 1959 issue of the JASA ("Leprosy in Ancient Hebraic Times' " vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 17-20).

"It was my opinion at that time, and at the present time, that Biblical leprosy really means 'diseases of the skin'; including today's terms of psoriasis vulgaris, leprosy, syphilis, pemphigus, dermatitis herpetiformis, small pox, and fungus infections as well as the bacterial diseases of the skin.

"Therefore, both men are correct: Dr. Levit objecting to the replacement of leprosy by psoriasis, and Dr. Driver holding that Miriam's hand had a disease of the skin."-Dr. Harold M. Spinka, Chicago, Illinois.


The boast that the Bible is the world's best seller sounds a little hollow when the character and purpose of the Bible are understood . . . In recent years the Bible has been recommended for many other purposes than the one for whicli it was written . . .

A few years ago it was fairly popular practice for Bible teachers to claim to find in the Scriptures confirmation of almost every new discovery made by science. Apparently no one noticed that the scientist had to find it before the Bible teacher could, and it never seemed to occur to anyone to wonder why, if it was there in the Bible in such plain sight, it took several thousand years and the help of science before anyone saw it.

Now, I believe that everything in the Bible is true, but to attempt to make it a textbook for science is to misunderstand it completely and tragically. The purpose of the Bible is to bring men to Christ, to make them holy and prepare them for heaven, In this it is unique among books, and it always fulfills its purpose when it is read in faith and obedience.-A. W. Tozer, The Alliance Witness, vol. 97, no. 14, p. 2, July 11, 1962. (Reprinted by permission.)


"If a man approaches the Word of God, the Bible, with the open mind of a true scientist, seeking to prove or disprove as if this were a scientific thesis, he will, almost without exception, find a personal positive faith in Jesus Christ. It therefore appears to me that in order to reach men for Christ we should realize the extreme importance and validity of science as a method . . ."The more intellectual of our confreres are not against believing, they are not atheistic, they merely claim forcibly not to know how or what to believe. To them God invites, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good.' (Psalm 34:8) What could be more scientific than this! . . . Throughout the length and breadth of Holy Writ God asks us to approach with the attitude: Take a good hard look, try this in your own experimental laboratory of life itself, and if it doesn't work, cast the theory aside . . . God has clearly given man the free will and power of choice to test His Truth in the laboratory of human experience . . .

"There are certain irrefutable evidences that men of science, whether Christian or not, are opening a door of invitation to those of us who hold faidi in Jesus Christ to invade their domain and come to grips with them on the problems of this world . . . We who have been born again in Jesus Christ know the worth of the Christian life. We need enthusiastic effective communication of this life to others. I believe that we should present a scientifically oriented Gospel for scientific minded men and women . . .

"Does the regenerated life in Christ solve all man's problems? An all-inclusive panacea has not been promised. But what is promised has been fulfilled in the greatest laboratory man has ever known-the human life. In Jesus Christ the believer has new life, new direction, new purpose, new peace, new power to combat problems, and a new destination."-from C. James Krafft, M.D., "Let's Encourage the Scientific Approach to Christ," Christian Medical Society Journal, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 2-5, 25-26, Autumn 1962. (Used by permission.)