Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 20 (September 1968):
Christ dealt with the skeptic
his day who questioned his authority by sending them to the Scripture in which they were supposed to be expert.
The Apostle Paul sent the skeptics he dealt with
to the creation as a revelation
God. Today the
science must also send the modern skeptic to creation as a revelation
he is to present God adequately to the modern man
science. Thus we must be ready at all times "to
give a reason
the hope within us."
*Mr. J. Philip McLaren is Instructor of Natural Science at Bethel College, Mishawaka, Indiana.
They were learned men. After years of study they were sure they had all the answers. The Scripture was clear, Israel would have a king, but not this young upstart with no degrees and a questionable background. And thus it was that in the heat of discussion that morning, that the doctors of the Law demanded of Jesus, "Show us some sign that would lend authority to your statements."
Jesus responded to these men, "Look to the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life." Christ was telling these men that in the very subjects in which they were expert they had the signs they sought. Yet these men were blinded and unable to see the truth about the Son of God.
The situation has not greatly changed. Today the doctors of physical and biological law come to us asking, "Show us some sign that God is."
Since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. His eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernable through things which He has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie, paying homage and giving service to the creature instead of the Creator who alone is worthy to be worshiped forever and ever, amen. (Romans 1:20 and 25 Phillips)
It is interesting that Paul who so frequently dealt with the intellectuals of his day did not in this passage send these men to Scripture. Since they did not accept Scripture it is apparent that Paul could not use as proof that which was not accepted as valid by both parties. The people Paul was dealing with did not accept Scripture as truth; thus it was useless for Paul to attempt to lead them to God by Scripture alone. it became necessary, therefore, for Paul to use revelation other than Scripture with which these people were familiar. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul. explains to us that God has revealed Himself to man in at least three ways: (1) by the prophets in Holy Scripture, vs. 2; (2) by His Son Jesus Christ, declared to be the Son of God with power, vs. 4; and (3) by the creation of the universe, vs. 18-25.
The Greeks of Paul's day did not accept Scripture as fact. They knew very little about Jesus except perhaps that He was a rebel Jewish leader. But these men were extremely conscious of the universe around them. Three hundred years before Christ, Eratosthenes had measured the circumference of the earth to within one percent of its present value. Aristotle had correctly explained the phases of the moon, and many measurements of the celestial bodies had been made. The length of the year had been established to within a few seconds of its present value. Without a doubt the Greeks had made great strides in describing the universe. Mathematics and reason were highly exalted in Greek philosophy. These advances suggest that even at this early period of history the intellectuals were more interested in those things which could be seen, touched, smelled, heard, measured, and absorbed by the senses of man. In fact Aristotle claimed that all knowledge that man could receive had to be received through the senses. This left little room for revelation.
Paul, himself, might have been caught up in this idea that all which may be known must be absorbed through the senses, had he not met the Son of God personally on the road to Damascus. It was here by direct revelation that Paul was introduced to the Creator as a person . . . Jesus Christ. From that point in Paul's life he was able to place Scripture, Christ, and Creation in proper perspective.
The universe was not the only interest of the men of Greece. Paul referred to the men of Athens as "extremely religious," in that they had made altars to innumerable gods. (Acts 17:22 Phillips) In speaking to these men Paul mentioned that he brought the message of the UNKNOWN GOD which they worshiped in ignorance. Even though the Greeks exalted reason highly, they recognized a higher power who ruled the universe, and they longed to know Him. Philo, a Greek philosopher, writing several hundred years before Christ pleaded, "Oh, for a word from God that we might know Him!" It seems in answer to this plea that the Apostle John opens his book stating, "In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was God and the WORD was God." (John 1: 1 A.V.)
John hastens on to explain, "All creation took place through Him and none took place without Him." (John 1:3 Phillips) Speaking of Christ then, John claims that Jesus took an active role in creation. This claim is born out by the fact that Scripture quotes God as using the collective pronoun us in relation to the work of creating man; "Let us make man in our own image." (Gen. 1:26 A.V.) Furthermore, Genesis explains that it was the Spirit of God which brooded over the formless primeval world. (Gen. 1:2) Since all three persons of the Godhead were involved in creation, it may be safely concluded that creation was then the net result of God's handiwork, meaning all three persons working together.
In teaching school, teachers soon discover that students reveal a great deal about themselves through the pictures they create. In fact, creativity provides an excellent help in the analysis of a student's personality. The Bible tells us that the same is true of God. Going back to Paul's condemnation of the athiests in Romans chapter one, Paul informs us that God's very attributes of infinity, divinity, and power can be seen in creation. Since Scripture is true, we must conclude that creation is a direct revelation of God. Not that creation is God, but rather, that in the greatness of what He has created, man can learn of God.
The subject area dealing most with the things and the laws that God has created is science. Essentially science deals with matter, energy, and life, and the laws which govern them. In this definition of science we find that it is really a branch of Theology in that it studies one of God's revelations in a detailed manner. Unfortunately it is frequently studied as an end in itself rather than as a means to reaching and knowing more about God. Our schools and seminaries spend much more of their time studying theology and Biblical Literature, for it is true that these are direct revelations of God, but what about God's first revelation? I am afraid that we evangelicals are failing the world because we are attempting to use a part of God's revelation which the world will not accept as valid authority, namely, the Bible alone. We have at our disposal all of God's creation to draw upon in leading men to Christ. We thus fail mankind because we do not use God's first revelation in showing who God is and His relationship to man.
Many Christians are afraid of scientists because they feel that scientists are out to do away with God. This is not the case. First there are many born again men of science. Those men of science who choose to reject God do so for various reasons. Some reject God because in their materialistic scheme of things there is no reason for God. Others reject Him simply because they do not understand His attributes. Many reject Him because Christians have not taken the trouble to accurately study and explain scientific data in the light of Scripture. This latter task demands men who are competent both in Scripture and science.
Scientists are not closed to the Gospel. In fact very few people may truly be said to be closed to the Gospel. It is often the method we use that turns people away from the Gospel. The Gospel is a modem message able to meet modern needs. It is as applicable today as it was on the first day of creation. It is we who have allowed ourselves to become outdated in
our presentation of that Gospel. God's love has not changed anymore than has man, but the task of making others see His love has changed greatly since the time of Christ.
There are several things which might be done to help bring our message of hope up to date. First Christians must keep themselves up to date on world affairs. We must be alert to happenings in politics, world affairs, economics and certainly science, and the fine arts. We must be ready to meet any man on his own level. Paul said that be was all things to all men that by all means he might win some. Paul could talk with ease to any man in the middle eastern world of his day. I believe that it is equally important for the Christian of today to likewise be able to talk at ease on a large number of topics.
Second, that we as Christians be ready at all times to give a well thought out reason for the hope that lies within us. This is difficult for a person to do unless he has a living personal relationship with Christ. But for those of us who know Him, the task should not be that hard.
Third, that we young people who must minister to tomorrow's world prepare ourselves by fervently studying all three of God's revelations. That we tackle the problem of science as a revelation of God as earnestly as we have tackled Scripture and the life of Christ. Indeed that we give ourselves the background necessary to allow ourselves to use all three revelations. God has not intended to confine us in our presentation of the Gospel. He has meant for us to use every possible presentation which might win even one man. In our efforts we have often directed our work towards the down-and-outer, but we have had little concern for the up-and-outer, the person with high intellect and good education. We must remember that Christ died for him too.
The skeptic of today believes in a materialistic "law" which governs the universe. This is not too far from the unknown god of the Athenians. The real test for the church is the message we bring to the world about this natural "law". We can reveal that this controlling factor is God, Himself, or through our lack of preparation we can allow man to reject God for want of a clear explanation. We can show that it is God who guides and rules this universe. It is He who made and fills the infinite space beyond our own island universe. It is God who laid plans for the structure of the atom, and who holds the eternal destiny of man. Likewise, it is God who loved man and came to earth for the express purpose of giving man a new life, a life that would never end. Only an eternally powerful God could do that. (Col. 1:15-20)
In closing, I cannot overlook one of the most important facets of our ministry . . . the changed life. Paul tells us that when a man takes Christ to be the ruler of his life, he becomes a new creation. The very presence of this new life within the believer is proof enough for the existence of God. Dr. Ralph Wyckoff of the Department of Physics of the University of Arizona made the following statement at a convention of scientists in 1967 at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana:
There have, however, always been men of high and disciplined spirituality who have insisted on their direct experience of something greater than themselves. Their conviction of the reality of a spiritual life apart from and transcending the life of the body may not lend itself to scientific proof or disproof; nevertheless the remarkable transformation in personality seen in those who rightfully lay claim to such experience is as objective as tomorrow's sunrise. Millions of lesser men draw strength from the contacts they can make through prayer and meditation with this aspect of the inner life.
The world is seeking a Word from God. We have that word revealed to us in Scripture, in Christ, and in creation. Can we continue to deprive the world of knowing God through the things He has made?