Science in Christian Perspective




From: JASA 20 (March 1968): 2-5.


Perhaps the simplest observation that can be made about the relationship between the ASA and the scientific community is that it is virtually non-existent. The contents of this paper are based on the presupposition that a relationship should exist, and the attempt is made to suggest reasons for failure in the past and possibilities for the future. This may not be a unanimous view among the members of the ASA; there may be some who feel that no direct relationship is proper between the ASA and other scientific societies, efforts, and concerns which do not stem from Christian origins.

*Richard H. Bube is Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California and President of the American Scientific Affiliation. This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation at Stanford University, Stanford, California, August, 1967.

This conviction, whether conscious or subconscious, may be the reason for the lack of relationship to date.

The statement that a relationship between the ASA and the scientific community is virtually non-existent means at least two things. (1) The scientific community is almost completely unaware of the existence, purpose, and potential contributions of the ASA. (2) The majority of Christian men of science regard the ASA as rather an outdated organ of a narrow doctrinal viewpoint, in spite of the fact that a small minority of hyperconservative Christians consider the ASA to be constantly on the verge of apostasy.

Purpose of the ASA

It is worthwhile initially to consider the general purposes of the ASA, to see whether these are consistent with providing relationship to the scientific cornmunity, and to see if these purposes as stated are adequate for the future of the ASA. Each issue of the journal of the ASA contains two statements of purpose which we may consider in addition to the official statement of purpose. Printed on the inside front cover of the June 1967 issue, to be specific, are the words:

The American Scientific Affiliation studies relationships between Christianity and science in the conviction that the frameworks of scientific knowledge and evangelical Christian faith are compatible.

Inside the back cover, it is stated:

The American Scientific Affiliation was organized in 1941 to investigate the philosophy of findings of science as they are related to Christianity and the Bible and to disseminate the results of such studies.

Finally, on the front cover of the Official Program for this 22nd Annual Convention, it is written:

A group of Christian scientific men, devoting themselves to the task of reviewing, preparing, and distributing information on the authenticity, historicity, and scientific aspects of the Holy Scriptures in order that the faith of many in Jesus Christ may be firmly established.

Note the differences in these three statements of purpose. The first calls for a general study of relationships between Christianity and science, and states the general presupposition underlying such a study. The see_ ond is more specific and refers to an investigation of the philosophy of science and a dissemination of the results. The third, and the most recent, says that the purpose of the ASA is to concern itself with the authenticity, historicity, and scientific aspects of the Bible. Certainly these three statements are not mutually exclusive, but they differ widely in the extent of the purposes of the ASA. They reflect uncertainties within the ASA of just what the purposes are.

As the basis for our discussion here, let me propose the following statement of purpose for the ASA:

The American Scientific Affiliation is an association of men who have made a personal commitment of them_ selves and their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and who have made a personal commitment of themselves and their lives to the scientific understanding of the world. The purpose of the Affiliation is to explore any and every area relating Christian faith and science. The resulf-s4 such exploration are to be made known for comment and criticism by the Christian community and by the scientific community. Such results are also to be the basis for whatever activity may be deemed appropriate in view of the personal commitments of the members.

Admittedly this statement lacks the virtue of brevity found in the others, but it emphasizes three points that I consider essential: (1) the members of the ASA have a dual commitment to serve Christ and to understand the world, but are free within those commitments; (2) the results of the ASA should be available for comments, criticisms, and evaluations by members of both the Christian and the scientific community; and (3) the results are not to be considered necessarily as an end in themselves, but may often serve as a guide to activity and involvement by members of the ASA in the Christian and scientific communities. It may be objected that all of this is not the traditional historic purpose of the ASA. If this is true, I am proposing that this become the purpose of the ASA in the future.

The subsequent discussion may be carried out under four headings, which I have chosen to label (1) visibility, (2) fidelity, (3) communication, and (4) service.


The ASA is not visible in the world today. It is almost unknown even among evangelical Christian men of science, and it is completely unknown to the nonChristian scientific community. This is in spite of 26 years of existence, and a membership which covers every state in the union. It is in spite of the high level of education and the positions of responsibility held by its members. In preparation for the Annual Convention of the ASA at Stanford University this year (only the second time in 22 annual conventions that the meeting has been held at a non-church-related institution), I had occasion to speak with the Religion Editor of the Palo Alto Times. "How is it possible," be asked, "that the ASA could have existed for 26 years? I have served on religion pages of papers all over the country, and I have never heard of it!"

An association like ASA becomes visible if it (1) has something to say, (2) says it, and (3) does something about it. I assume that all members of ASA are agreed that it has something to say. But the record shows that the ASA has been largely silent and inactive, except in very narrowly defined areas. In 26 years of existence, the Affiliation has produced 2 books- with a time interval between them of 11 years! It has now been 7 years since a single book has been published under the sponsorship of the ASA. And this in a period when books on science and religion have enjoyed a new popularity.

The ASA is in urgent need of a comprehensive and unrestricted program of encouraging the publication of helpful studies of all types by its members. Sponsorship by the ASA should insure that the author is publicly committed to Christ, actively committed to science, in accord with the basic purposes of ASA, and able to prepare a manuscript with scientific and religious integrity. But the ASA should not attempt to serve as public defender of the faith, exercising editorial censorship on publications sponsored by the ASA to make sure that they follow a prescribed doctrinal pattern. Nor should the ASA stifle creative contributions by insisting that the "equal time" principle for conflicting viewpoints be made a pre-requisite for publication. If Christianity is true, open discussion can only assure its proper understanding. A point of view that must be coddled and protected is never one likely to be regarded with respect by the scientific community.

The ASA is also in need of much more comprehensive public relations activity. Of course, such public relations are difficult to foster when the actual activity and accomplishments of the ASA are hard to pinpoint. A vital publication program producing 5 meaty books a year would do more for public relations than all the contrived attempts to produce publicity for ASA imaginable. Nevertheless, a more vital program by each of the local Sections of the ASA, a greater participation of ASA members in areas relevant to the ASA in Christian and scientific communities, and a greater sensitivity toward legitimate channels of publicity when opportunities do arise, are all needed to make the ASA visible enough to the scientific community so that relations can begin.


The ASA has the responsibility of exhibiting a double fidelity: (1) to Jesus Christ, and (2) to scientific integrity. Only by being faithful in both ways can the ASA arrive at a position of mutual understanding with the scientific community.

For the ASA to be unfaithful to its commitment to scientific integrity is as disastrous with respect to relations with the scientific community, as would be its infidelity to Christ with respect to its basic purposes and goals, This means that the ASA must diligently avoid every semblance of complicity with pseudo-science. Any attempt to use shoddy science or to masquerade religious speculation as science, will immediately alienate the scientific community. On the positive side, the ASA has the opportunity of insisting that the scientific community remain faithful on its part to scientific integrity in its pronouncements in areas touching on Christian faith and its implications.

The necessity for fidelity to scientific integrity by the ASA is the reason for the phrase in my proposed statement of ASA purpose, "and who have made a personal commitment of themselves and their lives to the scientific understanding of the world." The statement of faith which all members are required to sign might well have added to it,

The scientific approach is capable of giving reliable information about the natural world.

For any meaningful relations with the scientific community, the ASA must be committed to the validity of science as a means of understanding the natural world. This means that science can never be regarded as a poor second-rank crutch to be fallen back on only in those areas where Biblical revelation is absent. Indeed, in those areas where it is appropriate, science must be accorded the role of valid aid in interpreting the Biblical revelation. Anyone who doubts the intrinsic ability of science to provide trustworthy answers in the realm of the natural world is in no position to have relations with the scientific community. Again on the positive side, the ASA has the opportunity of insisting that the scientific community keep a sharp line of distinction between the scientific findings themselves and the non-scientific interpretations and extensions of these findings.


Relationships cannot exist where there is no communication. Such communcation via printed materials: books, journals, articles etc., would be a helpful beginning, but the basic need is for interpersonal discussion and discourse.

Hopefully communication on the individual to individual level is in progress between ASA members and their colleagues in the scientific community. But I would guess from personal experience that it is probably largely sporadic, diffuse, and little differentiated from the normal witnessing of any Christian.

At the group to group level, or joint conference experience, the ASA has remained almost completely aloof from the scientific community. joint conferences of the ASA have been restricted to evangelical Christian groups such as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Theological Society (extremely useful meetings for relationships between the ASA and the Christian community), and it is only at the present time that association of the ASA with a national scientific group like the AAAS is about to become a reality.

If the ASA has something worthwhile to say to the scientific community, there is an urgent need for providing means for initiating discourse. This can be done partly by the wider participation of ASA members in the conferences of the scientific community in areas of mutual concern. A viable supplement is to extend invitations to members of the scientific community to participate in conferences of the ASA. Local and national conventions of the ASA could assume more the aspect of a forum for discussion on chosen topics between Christian and non-Christian members of the scientific community, not so much in the spirit of debate as in the spirit of mutual understanding and inquiry. One result might be that the image of the ASA as a group might become one of men with strong convictions and open inquiring minds, rather than one of men concerned primarily with protecting and safeguarding conclusions already ultimately defined.

Communication could also be facilitated by planning major joint conferences with appropriate societies in the general scientific community. It is true that the presuppositions of the ASA are not those of the nonChristian scientist, but if this really means that no meaningful communication can occur, then it also means that no relationships can be formed.

If relationship between the ASA and the scientific community is to be improved, a broader concept of ASA service is needed. There is a need to go beyond discussion of theological abstractions of concern to only a minority of Christians, to a treatment of those vital problems of existence in the world today that must by their very universal nature be of concern to non-Christians and Christians alike, and for which treatment the Christian has a unique contribution to make. Persistent and repeated focus of attention on details of abstract doctrine can only foster the appearance of irrelevance in a world that is in urgent need of the most elementary spiritual, psychological, and sociological enlightenment, There is a need to go beyond the "talk" situation, into actual participation in relevant activities of service.

Although it is the purpose of the ASA to evangelize scientists, instruct Christians about the nature of science, and give scientific support and guidance to methods of evangelism by the church, these are not the only purposes of the ASA. In the broadest sense, it must be the purpose of ASA to enter into every area of consideration involving a proper understanding of science and a Christian world view. Evangelism is intrinsically the task of the church; there is no need for the ASA to exist separately unless its purposes are different.

In a paper entitled, "Relating Modem Science and Technology to Humanitarian Purposes," (JASA 17, 109 (1965), R. H. Dyck appeals for increased emphasis within the ASA on a direct involvement in the needs of the people of the world. He cites such pressing problems as the population explosion in underdeveloped countries and the problem of unemployment and enforced leisure as a result of automation. He gives as an example the activities of groups like the Federation of American Scientists in the areas of disarmament, the test ban, and freedom for foreign travel among scientists. He points to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as another product of moral concern by men of science. He urges, in effect, that Christian men of science realize that they have a calling to service within the domains of their own fields and competence which is an opportunity for Christian love in action. Making "actions speak louder than words" is a direct way of implementing relationships with the concerned scientific community.


The principal points of this paper are the following.

1. The ASA should be in relationship with the scientific community, but in fact is not.

2. The purposes of the ASA must be intentionally broadened and more clearly stated.

3. ASA needs a vital program of publication without protective censorship.

4. Opportunities for public relations should be utilized.

5. ASA must avoid all pseudo-science.

6. ASA must affirm clearly the validity of scientific endeavor in understanding the natural world.

7. ASA must cultivate associations with other Christians and non-Christian groups with related concerns.

8. ASA needs to extend itself beyond the activities of a "talk" group on theological abstractions to consider the vital problems of today.

9. ASA needs to seek ways of useful involvement in the needs of the world as a manifestation of Christian love in action.