Science in Christian Perspective
The Christian's Edge:
Research Guided by the Holy Spirit
Robert A. Hromas and Vernon F. Scholes
Department of Microbiology/Immunology
Oral Roberts University
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74171
From: JASA 32 (March1980): 54-55
Science as Frankenstein
Science is approaching a crisis in significance. It is expanding so fast that it is
impossible even to estimate the amount of scientific knowledge published internationally yearly, let alone what is important in that
knowledge.1 In the United States alone, some 14,000 books and 151,000journal articles on some
aspect of science are printed every year.2 This is equivalent to generating a
new Encyclopedia Britannica every two days! This sheer mass of knowledge has pressured, and pressured, and finally fragmented science into uncountable
subspecialities, each a new science in its own right. Science is no longer a unified field of knowledge. No one person, indeed, no computer system, could
possibly master it. The day of the scientist as one who generally knows science
"If you are doing science, you are constantly bombarded with a thousand tantalizing facts, nine hundred and
ninety-nine of which are useless. The problem is that you don't know, and might not ever know, which are trivial and
which are important," Dr. Carl Hindman, mathematician for TRW, Inc., has said. There are so many possible directions of inquiry, the vast majority of which are
inconsequential, that a serious scientist in his quieter moments despairs of ever doing anything significant. Science wallows about like Frankenstein,
created by man, but too large to be controlled by him.
Nor is an end in sight. The more science discovers, the more it realizes how much is yet to be
discovered. But this is nothing new. Solomon made the same observation several thousand years ago: "I saw every work of God, and I concluded that man can not
discover the work that has been done under the sun.3 Science may continue to go
through the motions, but its heart is gone; it faces a bankruptcy of meaning. Into the void steps Christ. Christianity offers a solution to the crisis of
significance. Although man can never know, much less synthesize, anything but the smallest fraction of creation, the Creator knows and understands it all, and
He has given us a way to share in that knowledge. He has given us His infinite Spirit to lead us around any impassable roadblocks our finite minds
encounter. The Apostle that Christ loved wrote: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes,
He will guide you into all truth."4
Relying on the Spirit of God, then, dehorns the dilemma of significance in science. For He, knowing all things, can surely
lead us into what is important, whatever our field. Research guided by the Holy Spirit is the Christian's edge. With the Holy Spirit one need not engage in
shotgun science, performing thousands of experiments, hoping one of them will yield the answer needed. The Christian guided by the Holy Spirit can go right to
the essence of the problem and solve it quickly. More importantly, the Holy Spirit will inspire one to ask the significant questions, the ones that have
meaning for all of science, that will open whole new vistas for exploration.
The Application of the Spirit
Having God on one's side is, of course. desirable. but is it one of those things that is easier said than done' Practically, how does one go about applying it? The best way is to observe how Spirit-led scientists go about it.
The first thing one notices about these Christians is that hev pray about everything, from experiments to
equipment Dr. Roger Burgus, a biochemist, said that the first time he realized
what prayer could do was when he was working with Roger Guillemim on the project that later won him
the 1977 Nobel prize. They were trying to work out the structure of a hypothalamic
hormone.5 Nothing was going right, and they were running out of the
sample which took a half million sheep brains to produce. "I just grabbed my colleagues and said let's pray. Not being believers, they thought it was a joke. But we prayed, and the next day some guy down the hall who didn't know anything about the problem yelled out the exact answer," Dr. Burgus said. "I have found that a few minutes of prayer can save hours in the library or days in the lab."
Prayer can be applied to everything in science. "Why wait until something goes wrong? Every time I get a new piece of equipment, I lay hands on it and dedicate it to the Lord," one Christian microbiologist said.
These Christian scientists do not pray that an experiment will come out a certain way, but that they will be able to understand the reason for the way it did turn out. To pray for a certain result would be presuming against God, according to Dr. Daiel Markel, of the Oral Roberts University School of Medicine. "That would be asking God to deny truth. He will not honor that kind of prayer." Dr. Markel went on to say that the Holy Spirit can make wonderful sense out of experiments that give confusing results. "Prayer can open your eyes to what is really going on in experiments you thought were flops."
Once an experiment has been prayed for, Dr. Eric Brown, of the Chicago Medical School, says to listen carefully for answers from unlikely sources. God can speak through wives, children, and friends who do not know anything about the project. It is important not to box God in, Dr. Brown says. "Several years ago, I had massive grants from NI to try to isolate viruses from human leukemia, but I just wasn't getting anywhere. Prayer didn't seem to help either. One Saturday, I took my boys fishing at a local river. We caught six carp, three of which had tumors from the water pollutants. I didn't think much about it at the time, but later the Lord clicked the two things together. The same thing could be happening in the human situation. As it turned out, the water pollutants were inducing expression of tumor viruses in the carp. Reducing the pollutants lowered the rate of human leukemia in the area, so now I had an exciting lead on how viruses might cause human cancer."
The Charismata Another frequently mentioned way that the Holy Spirit guides research is through the gifts of the Spirit or charismata. While this area is quite controversial, it cannot be ignored. A complete doctrinal discussion is outside the scope of this paper. Two things seem clear, however. One is that many of the Christians doing research led by the Holy Spirit are applying the gifts to their research. Second, God is bigger than any controversy. "God does not fit our neat little perceptions of Him. We say that science is unexpected, yet all too often we don't apply that to God," Dr. Markel said. "The charismata are one of the inputs leading from doubt to conviction," Dr. Robert Herrmann, of Oral Roberts University, said. "This conviction must be consistent with other confirmation, however. If the guidance to a particular problem came from the Holy Spirit, it will stand up to any test. One must be honest and be open not only to the leading of the Spirit in the first place, but also in allowing that leading to be checked by colleagues or actual experiments." This, it is hoped, will prevent any of the excesses that have occurred in the charismatic movement from being duplicated in the laboratory, Dr. Herrmann said.
Two passages in the Scriptures give examples of the gifts of the Spirit, Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12. Of these gifts. six appear applicable to research. These are the gifts of wisdom- knowledge, miracles, prophecy, and tongues followed by interpretation. Dr. Burgus tells of the time when he was sequencing an unknown protein and his vacuum system started leaking- -If air got at my unknown, it would have oxidized it. and weeks of work would be lost. I prayed pretty hard there. and immediately the vacuum was restored. How many times does a high vac system heal itself? I consider that a miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit."
For whatever reason, the two gifts most commonly reported used in science are the gifts of knowledge and wisdom. Dr. William Standish Reid in Tampa Florida, said that the Spirit can constantly reveal original answers to previously imponderable medical problems- He first realized this when, as a resident in pathology. he was faced with a child that had a severe diaphragmatic hernia. -They told me when I came on that he wasn't going to make it. After looking courageously around to see if anyone was watching, I stuck my hand through the oxygen tent to touch him and prayed for him. No miraculous healing took place, but right then several things that I could do sprang to mind where before it seemed that it was hopeless. Sure enough, these things worked, and I have used them ever since," Dr. Reed said.
Merging the Compartments
The underlying presupposition in research guided by the Holy Spirit is that Christianity and science are not contradictory. Currently, the church and science are locked in dispute over evolution, medical ethics, and recombinant DNA research without any end in sight. Shrill voices on both sides claim that one believes either science or Christianity, but not both. In effect, this is saying that what goes on in church has no bearing on what goes on in the laboratory, and vice versa. All too often, scientists who are Christians separate their science and their faith into compartments. When they enter church, they are in one compartment, and when they enter their laboratory, they are in another.
This, however, is clearly unscriptural. God not only created all things (Gen. 1) but sustains them moment by moment (Col. 1: 17). The Psalter reads, "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork"6 This makes all truth God's truth, 7 Thus, science and Christianity both really have the same purpose. They both seek to know God's handiwork, one in man, the other in nature. Looking at science this way, it becomes the study of God's characteristics evident in creation. Nothing in the end will contradict the fact of God. Realizing this would destroy any walls, no matter how sturdy their construction, between the Christian's science and his faith. Instead of defending God, the walls limit Him. Do away with the walls, and science will not flood over and inundate one's Christianity, but rather one's Christianity will overflow into one's science.
Scientists who are Christians readily accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their religious lives. They should do the same in their science, for both science and Christianity have the same end, and that is to know God. "We make everything so complex," Dr. Dominic Desiderio, of the University of Tennessee, said. "But it really is very simple: all we are to do is go to our Father every way we can, including through science."
1Garfield, E., ed. Science Citation Index. ISI Press, Philadelphia, PA. 1977.
2 King, D. W., ed. Statistical Indicators of Scientific and Technical Communication 1960-1980, Vol. IL A Research Report. King Research, Rockville, MD. 1976.
3Ecclesiastes 1:17, NASB.
4john 16:13. NASB.
5Burgus, R., Ling, N., Butcher, M., and Guillemin, R. 1973. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 70:684.
6Psalms 19:1, RSV.
7Jeeves. Malcolm, The Scientific Enterprise and Christian Faith. Inter-Varsitv Press, Downer's Grove, IL. 1971.