Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 16 (December
Comparisons between the performance of a physical experiment by someone seeking scientific realities and the Performance of a spiritual experiment by someone seeking religious realities are made. Both are established an assumptions (beliefs) made by faith, both soon find themselves facing principles of impo tence and unfathomable mystery; both are ultimately seeking truth; both are judged successful on the basis of new relationships revealed and fruitful benefits to the experimenter and his world.
In performing a scientific experiment the first necessary requirement is the establishment and acceptance of the basic assumptions upon which the "scientific question" will rest ' ' These assumptions are often unexpressed but critical and are a , matter of scientific faith. For example, one such assumption which is Common to all experiments is the faith that this physical universe is one of law and order. If this were not true, science as we know it could not exist.
I like to feel that my relationship to the spiritual universe can be derived from a spiritual experiment. So, as a matter of spiritual faith I accept and. establish two basic assumptions: first, God is, and, second, that somehow this God is directly and entirely responsible for the physical universe of which I am a part.
The second necessary requirement in performing a scientific experiment as a part of what we call scientific research is to consider all the sources of data which have some bearing on the problem at hand. Life is too short for any scientist to duplicate again all the work that has already been done previously, For example, one source of data would be the scien tific journals, such as the "Journal of the American Chemical Society".
Just so, in my spiritual experiment I must consider the
sources of data at my disposal. In my investigation
I find three:
a) God's revelation in nature.
b) God's revelation to men in the writings of men.
c) God's revelation in the Person, Jesus Christ.
From the first source which provides the material of man's science, man has created comfort, leisure, a greater abundance of his necessities, the beauty of music and art, the power to build and the power to control his environment. Also in this source I see more beauty than ugliness, more power than weakness,
* Dr. Rawlings is Associate Professor of Chemistry, Westmont College; Santa Barbara, California.
more complexity than simplicity, more intelligence than stupidity and more order than chaos. But in addition I soon discover unfathomable mystery: things such as matter and energy (mattergy), force, gravity, space and time (space-time), etc. which can only be described in terms of something else or by what they can do; things such as the immensity of 1.5 million light years (6 billion billion miles) to the galaxy in the constellation Andromeda or the minuteness of a 100 million atoms to an inch, which I can not comprehend. This gives me a picture of God with infinite intelligence and infinite power as compared to finite man, but a God Who has given man the ability to understand His creation, His laws and His order as a reward for intensely hard work.
In searching the second source I find the greatest beauty, the truest picture of myself and the greatest number of helpful and profound truths in the. book called the Holy Bible. This revelation of God tells me in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit and in Genesis 1:1 that in the beginning God created the physical universe including this earth. So, having no mechanical or anthropological picture of God, I soon discover unfathomable mystery: things such as grace, divine love, sanctification, atonement, etc. which can only be described in terms of something else or by what they can do; things such as God as Spirit and God the Creator as the source of all matter and energy, space and time, etc., which I cannot comprehend. Therefore, as I look at this picture of God and of a changing universe which more and more seems to have a definite beginning, to be expanding, perhaps, and to move forward by cause and effect, I find these revelations too large or too minute, too vague and too impersonal.
So when I think of God I find myself irresistably drawn to the third source of data, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ Who had to perfection the characteristics of goodness, purity, holiness and righteousness. In Christ I see a God Who is redemptive, bringing a Way of Life, bringing the Way of salvation through His death on a cross and sending a Comforter, the Holy Spirit. My final picture of God is seen here in the Resurrection of Christ and His promised return, for here is the God of infinite divine love and perfect justice-the Heavenly Father Whose goal for man is to give us gloriously abundant living here and now, followed by an eternity with Him in the spiritual universe.
After the acceptance of the assumptions and the search of the literature comes the experiment itself, the collection of scientific data as facts in a laboratory under controlled conditions. From these data the scientist attempts to discover new truth about the physical universe, to discover new laws or to create new theories. As a result he can correlate scattered data from numerous other experiments into a unified pattern for the whole universe, control the environment to his advantage and predict future events without further laboratory experiment. If the experiment is a good one, he ultimately accomplishes one or more of these goals to the benefit of himself and society.
In like manner after the acceptance of my spiritual assumptions and the search of the sources of data comes the spiritual experiment itself, in the laboratory of life, to see if it works. Realizing I am nothing without God but have everything good "in Christ", I surrender my life, my ambitions, my desires and my future to Him and take Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and the Savior of my soul. From these data I discover new truth about the spiritual universe, discover spiritual laws and thrill to the new relationships between myself and God, between myself and other human beings and between myself and society. As a result I can correlate scattered data from all phases of life, from prophecy and from contemporary history into a unified picture of God's plan and purpose for the human race; I can control through the power of the Holy Spirit my body, my thoughts and my actions as I grow towards perfection to God's glory, not mine; I can predict a future of heavenly joy and peace beginning now and continuing after death at the feet of Christ in a spiritual universe which exists. The experiment is a good one for I have accomplished all of these goals, and more, to the benefit of myself and society.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation . . . . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God . . . . . so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." II Corinthians 5:17,20,21.