Questions and Views
Age of the Universe
Methods of Creation
Two Books of God
Design of the Universe
Age of the Universe
Evaluation of Evolution
Design in Science
Public School Education
Christian Education (in
church, school, home)
The sections in this page are:
Introduction (about Searching, ASA, and Faith)
Is there inherent Conflict between Science and Religion?
What are the relationships between science and religion?
How should we use information from The Two Books?
Can historical science produce reliable results?
A Question of Competence and Character?
Natural Theology (and Apologetics)
An Introductory Overview:
Truth in the Two
Books of God
Because we want to find truth, an important question is, "to be most effective in our search for truth, what is the best way to use the two sources of information (in scripture and nature) that God has provided for us?"
Science and Theology in ASA
The American Scientific Affiliation is a fellowship of scientists who are Christians, and one of our main shared interests is the relationship between our views of nature (as studied in science) and our views of God, scripture, humans, and life (studied in theology).
Understanding and Faith
A study of theology-and-science can be useful in two closely related ways, when we ask:
1) "What are the relationships (historical, sociological, psychological, philosophical, theological) between science and Bible-based Christian religion?", and our goal is improved understanding.
2) "What are the mutual interactions between a person's faith and their views of science/religion relationships?", and our goal is improved faith and quality of living.
What is the connection between understanding, faith, and quality of living? Christians must live by faith, by trusting God's character and promises. If our Christian faith is affected by anything, including our views of science-and-Christianity, it will affect the way we live. If we think there is conflict between the claims of science and the Bible-based principles of Christianity, this perceived conflict — regarding creation questions, divine action in providence and miracles, or in other ways — can be a challenge to the quality of personal faith and Christian living. But if we increase our understanding and decrease our perception of conflict, we can improve our faith and the quality of our Christian living.
These two questions are examined in Religion-and-Science for Understanding & Faith.
Is there inherent conflict between science and religion?
Is scientific thinking consistent with a Bible-based Christian worldview? When we carefully study the two books of God, can we find harmony in what we learn? Or is harmony impossible because there is inherent conflict between the information in scripture and nature? If theology (based mainly on studies of scripture) and science (based mainly on studies of nature) are incompatible, then we cannot combine their knowledge in a harmonious way, so conflict between theology & science (and "warfare" between advocates of theology & science?) is inevitable.
In the late 1800s, books by John Draper and Andrew White painted a colorful historical picture of history as a conflict between the rationality of science (earnestly searching for truth) opposed by the ignorance of religion (stubbornly trying to block scientific progress), with science fighting valiantly and continually emerging victorious. Their interpretation of history is dramatic, with heroes and villains clearly defined, and it has exerted a powerful influence on popular views about interactions between science and religion. But their historical portrayal of "warfare" is distorted and oversimplistic. It does not accurately describe what really happened, and is rejected by modern historians.
• Science and Religion
in Conflict? by
Craig Rusbult, looks at two legends of the alleged "warfare" — a
flat earth and Galileo: an erroneous modern belief (that in the time
of Columbus, educated Christians believed in a flat earth) was invented
by a creative novelist,
conflict [involving Galileo] was located as much within the church (between
theologies of biblical interpretation) and within science (between alternative
as between science and the church. (historian David Lindberg)" And
instead of defining this conflict as religion versus science, Stillman
Drake thinks it's more accurate to view it in terms of the inherent mutual
between authority and independent
thought. (6 k,
plus a 4k appendix about science and natural process, miracles, and scientism)
• Christianity and Science in Conflict? by Loren Haarsma, examines conflict (actual plus imaginary) and outlines principles for using knowledge from scripture & nature in theology & science. (14 k)
• links to 8 pages about Galileo & the Church, and The Myth of Flat-Earth Beliefs.
• Margaret Wertheim, re: the myth of "warfare" between science and religion; a series about the history of science-religion relations; the Counterbalance Foundation shares an interview with Ronald Numbers (14 k) and you can read about Famous Conflicts Between Science and Religion.
• I.O.U. — We'll look for more pages, about the ideas of Lindberg, Numbers, Brooke, and others.
• comments — The ideas and their interactions are complex, and definitions are difficult (what is science? what is religion? and how does it differ from theology?), and how do other terms (worldviews, philosophy, metaphysics,...) fit into the discussion? Is there a "theology" for nontheistic worldviews like atheism or pantheism? A major challenge will be trying to "cover the area" without overwhelming you with "too much."
Mutually Interactive Relationships between Science and Religion
If the relationship isn't conflict, what is it? "The encounter between Christianity and science... is a complex and diverse interaction that defies reduction to simple ‘conflict’ or ‘harmony’ ... and the interaction varied with time, place, and person." (David Lindberg & Ronald Numbers, page 10 of God and Nature, 1986)
and Religion by Douglas Hayhoe, describes Ian Barbour's four models — conflict,
independence, dialogue, and integration — for relationships between science
and religion (10 k + 1k)
• The Biologos Foundation (Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Karl Giberson,...), with help from Denis Alexander, asks What is the proper relationship between science and religion?
• A book review by Allan Harvey (9 k) of Putting it All Together: Seven Patterns for Relating Science and the Christian Faith by Richard Bube
• I.O.U. — Later, we'll search for basic intro-pages that summarize models of science-religion relationships, based on the views of Ian Barbour, Richard Bube (by himself and by others),... Many good papers have been in PSCF and elsewhere; for example, Loren & Debbie Haarsma have good presentations (powerpoint summaries) about science and Christian worldviews, and other parts of the website have science-and-religion resources.
Wisely Using Information from the Two Books
God has given us two sources of information, in the Word of God (scripture) and the Works of God (nature). In our search for truth, how can we more effectively combine what we learn from our studies of scripture and nature? Of course, for the most important things in life — for learning about God and how He wants us to live and love — the Bible is more important. But we don't have to make an either-or choice, and for many questions — including important questions about creation (who, what, when, how, why) — our understanding of total reality (spiritual plus physical) will be more complete and accurate if we use both sources of information.
The two books were recognized by Francis Bacon, a prominent early advocate of observation-based scientific method: "God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation." And he thought both areas of knowledge are worthy of full development: "Let no man... maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or the book of God's works."
• Deborah Haarsma shares insightful ideas about wisely using all available
information in a brief overview of Christians in Science, available
in HTML and PPT.
(4 k of text, in 11 powerpoint-slides)
• The Biologos Foundation (Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Karl Giberson,...), with assistance from Denis Alexander, shares principles for reconciling scientific truth and scriptural truth.
• Galileo, in 1615, wrote a Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina: Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (excerpts)
• Ted Davis looks at "The Word and the Works" in the history of Concordism and American Evangelicals (abstract 2k)
• In 1991, Richard Bube (former editor of ASA's journal) explains how theology and science should (and should not) interact, and why we should aim for authentic science and authentic theology, without changing either from what it should be, in The Future of the ASA: Challenges and Pitfalls. (34 k, PSCF)
• In 2007, Randy Isaac (current executive director of ASA) looks at the "roots of harmony" between science and Christianity, and the role of ASA in faith-science dialogs to improve understanding and respect, in The Pursuit of Science in a Christian Context. (19 k)
• John Polkinghorne describes Cross-Traffic Between Science and Theology (29 k + 1k, PSCF)
• Craig Rusbult examines realities (scripture & nature) and their interpretations (in theology & science) and why we cannot compare the Bible with science, in Sections 2A-2C of a condensed FAQ (5 k) and in Wisely Using the Two Books of God. (34 k + 5k appendix).
In GENESIS 1 and other parts of the Bible, do we see modern science, ancient science, or neither? Different answers come from CONCORDISM (yes) and ACCOMMODATION (no) which propose a Bible-and-science concordism (either young earth or day-age) or accommodation (to ancient near-eastern cosmology).
Here are two perspectives on the two books: young-earthers challenge old-earth interpretations of nature, and old earthers challenge young-earth interpretations of scripture. Each group says "we
have overwhelming support for our interpretation (of either nature or scripture)
so we KNOW how old the earth is," but the other
group says "we don't think your confidence is justified."
Let's look at two young-earth claims: 1) because the Bible is inerrant, everything it may appear to say about the history of nature is correct; 2) a young-earth interpretation of the Bible is inerrantly correct, and if you doubt this you are doubting the Bible.
Is the first claim justifiable? When we're thinking about this question, we should distinguish between what the Bible mentions and what it teaches.
Is the second claim justifiable? If there are reasons to think a young-earth interpretation of the Bible may not be true, then we should question the wisdom of LINKING THE GOSPEL WITH A YOUNG EARTH in a "package deal" where either both are true or neither is true. This bold statement about a link, which is made by prominent young-earth leaders, is based mainly on claims that Genesis 1 teaches with certainty (because their interpretation of Genesis 1 is certainly correct) a young-earth history of nature, and that animal death before human sin (which would occur if the earth is billions of years old) would not be consistent with the Bible and with the character of God. Based mainly on these two claims, the young-earth conclusion is that conventional old-earth historical science is theologically unacceptable, therefore it must be wrong.
Historical Science — Can it produce reliable conclusions?
Even though we cannot directly observe ancient history, can we — by a logical analysis of historical evidence (in fields like astronomy, geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and archaeology) — reach reliable conclusions about what happened in the past, on the earth and in other parts of the universe?
What do young-earth creationists think about science information in the two books?
• Ken Ham explains why Biblical Authority (not a Young Earth) is the Issue (7 k) and we should not "start outside the Bible [and use what we learn from science] to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture." But does he sometimes use science as a guide for interpreting Scripture? Why does Ken Ham think the earth rotates and orbits? by Craig Rusbult (8 k for this section)
• Chris and Lucy are wondering whether they should believe what Manuel wrote in his note, or use scientific evidence and logic, in The Parable of the Candle by Garth Wiebe (3 k) which is about The Two Books and the possibility that (if God created with a FALSE APPEARANCE OF OLD AGE) we cannot believe what we see.
• John Morris explains — by asking "Does nature reveal truth as clearly as does the Bible?" — why he thinks the Bible is our best source of knowledge about the history of nature. (3 k)
Can historical science produce reliable conclusions? As illustrated in these claims by Ham, Wiebe, and Morris, most young-earth creationists say NO. They challenge the credibility of all historical sciences that claim to provide evidence for an old earth and universe. They ask "Were you there? Did you see it?", and imply that "NO" means "then you can't know much about it." But is their skepticism about science justified? HISTORICAL SCIENCE — IS IT RELIABLE?
Another important question is, "Why do most scientists conclude that the earth is old?"
Is it a question of Competence and
Most scientists think there is overwhelming scientific evidence, from a wide variety of fields, proving (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the earth and universe are very old. AGE OF THE EARTH - SCIENCE
A few scientists who maintain young-earth views (based on their interpretation of scripture) humbly acknowledge the weakness of current young-earth science, but hope it will improve in the future.
But most of the prominent advocates for a young earth are less humble. They claim that conventional science is reaching old-earth conclusions due to the anti-Biblical bias of scientists, not because of scientific evidence and logic. Unfortunately, they often imply (or declare) that Christians with old-earth views have surrendered to anti-Christian pressures. In doing this, they oversimplify the actual situation:
Most of the Christian scientists who carefully examine the science and theology of age-questions conclude that scientific evidence-and-logic strongly supports an old earth, and the Bible does not support a young earth: AGE OF THE EARTH - THEOLOGY. But some Christian scientists, after examining the Bible and the scientific evidence, conclude that the earth is young. In this case, two commonly used evaluation criteria — the competence and character of those claiming to be authorities — must be used very carefully when we're trying to distinguish between the opposing views (old earth and young earth) because proponents of both views include intelligent scholars with expertise (theological and/or scientific) who are devout Christians with high moral character, who sincerely want to find the truth.
natural theology is "theology deriving its knowledge of God from the study of nature independent of special revelation." (Webster's Dictionary)" In science, which is based primarily on our study of nature, the main goal is to understand physical realities. In theology, based primarily on studying scripture, the main goal is understanding spiritual realities. But the main goals aren't the only goals, and our theories about spiritual and physical realities are interactive: theology affects science and our views of physical reality, while science affects theology and our views of spiritual reality.
Our science can influence our theology, thus moving it in the direction of natural theology, when we ask "Does God exist? What does God do? What is God like?" and use our understanding of nature to construct our understanding of God. Therefore it's important to ask, "How should science influence our theology?"
These questions — about what the interactions between science and can be and should be, or what they actually are — won't be "answered" in this website. But later (what you now see here is just a beginning) we'll find web-resources that examine these questions. As a start, some useful ideas are in Reading God's Two Books by George Murphy, who explains why it's better to use scriptural theology (based on the Bible) instead of natural theology (based on what we see in nature) as a foundation for building our understanding of God:
"We should begin with the knowledge of God revealed in the history of Israel which culminates in Christ. Then we know that the creator, the author of the book of nature, is to be identified with the crucified and risen Christ, and we can read the book of God's works in that light. Metaphors of God as philosopher, ruler, moral teacher, or designer then have to be adapted to this revelation. ... [We should] see natural theology as dependent upon revelation for its validity. In other words, natural theology must be a part of distinctively Christian theology. ... We can learn about nature simply by reading the book of nature. But that book will tell us something about its author only if we have first read the Bible and understood its witness to Jesus Christ."
This is one aspect of a general principle that applies to both nature and scripture: When we're "reading" the two books and learning from them, we should not try to use either book to "teach us" what it isn't intended to teach, since this can lead to wrong ideas. A worthy goal is wisdom in using the two books.
natural theology (deriving
knowledge of God from a study of nature) and apologetics (defending
the rationality of Christianity) are examined in the context of a topic that
is currently controversial, when we look at INTELLIGENT
DESIGN IN SCIENCE.
• INFORMATION for readers is in a brief page about our Goal (a quick education for you), Quality (because we've made choices) and Variety (you'll see multiple positions, hence the disclaimer below), Exploring with Freedom (you can use sections and page-links in any order), Size (what does "20 k + 5k" mean?), and Links (that open in a new window).
This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page. Both keep everything inside this window,
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.
this page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA's website
for Whole-Person Education),
and was revised July 2, 2010
all links were checked-and-fixed on July 3, 2006