Science-and-Religion for Understanding and Faith
This page describes two related educational goals,
to help students learn about:
1) relationships (theological, philosophical, historical, sociological, psychological,...) between science and religion, where the goal (as in all education) is improved understanding that is wider, deeper, and more accurate;
2) mutual interactions between a person's faith and their views of science/religion relationships, where the goal (which is important in Christian education) is improved faith and quality of Christian living.
The American Scientific Affiliation is a fellowship of scientists — and scholars in a variety of fields who find science interesting and sometimes think about it — who are Christians. Because all of us are scientists (or scholars who study science) and Christians, one of our main shared interests is the complex system of relationships between science and theology, between our views of nature (studied in science) and our views of God, humans, and life (studied in theology).
How can science affect
This question can be important for a Christian's own personal faith, and also for serving others with friendship, peer support, mentoring, counseling, or pastoral care.
For the most important aspects of a worldview, there is evidence but not proof, so each person — no matter what their beliefs are — must live by faith in the personal worldview they have constructed and accepted. The life-goal of Christians is to live by faith in Christ, to make decisions, continually throughout each day, on the basis of trust in God's character and promises.
If our faith is affected by anything, including our views of science-and-Christianity, it will affect the way we live. If a Christian thinks there is conflict between the claims of science and the Bible-based principles of Christianity, this perceived conflict can be a challenge to personal faith and the quality of Christian living. We'll look at three challenges that can occur — in Appropriate Humility about Creation, Science and Divine Action, Christian Counseling — but we'll begin with the first question, about how to improve our understanding.
1. Accurate Understanding
Although you'll find ideas about science-and-religion relationships throughout this website, because our goal is Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith, a good starting place is Searching for Truth in the Two Books of God: interpreting Scripture & Nature in our Theology & Science which explains why the unfortunately common portrayal of "science and religion in conflict" is distorted and oversimplistic (so it is rejected by modern historians), and examines Mutually Interactive Relationships between Science & Religion and How to Wisely Use Information from The Two Books, and asks "Can historical science produce reliable conclusions?" and "Are disagreements between Christians due to differences in competence and character?"
You can look at Stories of Science in current events and during history (as in questions about Columbus and a flat earth, Galileo and a moving earth, geologists and an old earth, Darwin and evolution, and more) and Debates about Science (what it is and what it means, how we should do it and view it) involving historians, sociologists, psychologists, theologians, philosophers, and scientists.
The area for Worldviews includes Apologetics, Proof, and Postmodernism & Worldview Education and Christian Living & Stewardship of Life in a Christian Worldview.
Science and Faith is written by Jack Haas (another web-editor for ASA), and his other Topics Pages also include science-and-faith as a central theme.
These ideas may be useful for you, as a teacher (who can pass on what you're learning) and also for your students — so they can gain more understanding and, building on this foundation, increase their own faith and their ability to help others (as a friend, counselor,...) in ways that are spiritually edifying.
2. Three Potential Challenges to Faith
These are potential challenges to faith (due to perceptions of science) but — if there is a solid understanding of theology and science, and an attitude of humility — they should not be actual challenges.
Appropriate Humility about the details
Consider a potential IF-IF-THEN dilemma: IF a person believes that "if the Bible is true, the earth is young" (or "if the Bible is true, evolution did not occur") and IF they look at scientific evidence-and-logic and conclude, either consciously or unconsciously, that probably the earth is old (or some evolution did occur), THEN — because the first IF is logically equivalent to believing that "if the earth is not young (or if some evolution did occur *), the Bible is not true" — the logical conclusion is that "probably the Bible is not true," and faith can be weakened or abandoned.
* a claim that "evolution did occur" is often confusing due to the wide range of potential definitions for evolution, which can mean anything from drug-resistant bacteria through old-earth fossil progressions and common descent to 100%-natural evolution of all biocomplexity, or it could mean a natural development of something (such as the first life, or specific physical structures like stars, solar systems, or geological formations) or a complete evolution of everything in the universe during the entire history of nature, or even a non-scientific implication that "it all happened naturally, so God is not necessary and does not exist," so we should always be careful to distinguish between these different meanings.
This IF-IF-THEN dilemma — which can occur when a Christian has rigid expectations about the when-and-how details of creation, by insisting that creation MUST have happened in a particular way — is not necessary, but is unfortunately common. A rigidity regarding "what the Bible says about the when-and-how of creation" is encouraged by enthusiastic advocates on both sides (by those who want to help the gospel, and to hinder it) when they oversimplify complex issues, thus producing a perception of conflict between religion and science.
This website examines one potential if-if-then conflict in Age of the Earth — Theology by asking, "Is it wise to link The Gospel of Jesus with A Young Earth? Is it wise to view these two claims as a ‘package deal’ where either both are true or both are false?" Another aspect of this theology-and-science question is in Age of the Earth — Science.
Methods of Creation is also a potential source of if-if-then tension, and I (the editor) try to cope with the challenge of appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) by asking "What can a Christian believe about evolution?" in Sections 5A-5G of my FAQ about Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.
Science and Divine Action (natural-appearing
What does science say about the possibility of divine action? Nothing.
Science does not claim that "natural" means "without God," and science does not contradict the Judeo-Christian belief that God initially designed nature, then created nature and now constantly sustains nature, and can guide nature (in a natural-appearing way that blends smoothly with the normal operation of nature) so one natural result occurs instead of another natural result.
Science does not claim that miracles are impossible. And miracles are compatible with the logical methods of science; for effective science we need a world that is usually natural, but it doesn't have to be always natural. If, despite occasional miracles, the universe usually operates according to normal natural patterns, science will be possible and useful. A scientist can believe that, during the salvation history of humans, miracles were done by God (as recorded in the Bible) and are being done now, and were used by God during the formative history of nature.
Science says nothing about the possibility of divine action (either natural-appearing or miraculous-appearing) but if a Christian thinks that believing in divine action is "unscientific" this can diminish the quality of their spiritual life, as explained below.
Bible-Based Psychology and Christian Counseling
In counseling (and in friendships, spiritual teaching, or mentoring) an especially relevant science/religion question is the relationship between psychology and Christian faith: Does conventional psychology encourage a non-Biblical view of human thoughts and emotions, decisions and actions?
In the Bible we see claims (in John 15:4-5, Galatians 5:22-23a, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-14, John 14-17, and elsewhere) that God can provide spiritual support for believers, to give us what we need — faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self control, mercy, courage, strength, wisdom,... — for daily living.
This aspect of human life is excluded from conventional psychology, but it should be included in a Christian psychology based on a Christian worldview: we believe that God is caring for us, that He can change our situations, guide our thoughts and actions, and He responds to prayer. Usually all of this happens in a way that appears normal and natural, yet God is actively involved. We should pray for these natural-appearing divine actions, and praise God for them.
Resources about Counseling and Counseling Education: Currently there are none, but eventually (although maybe not until early 2009) we'll be looking for ways to develop useful resources for Bible-based counseling. As explained below, some of you are experts in this area, so developing it will happen sooner (and better) if you're willing to help us.
A SITEMAP will help you explore the website for Whole-Person Education (with resources for Effective Education and Science-Theology Interactions, using a Multiple-Views Approach) and other parts of the ASA Website, plus TIPS FOR TEACHERS.
You're an expert in your areas, so...
if you want to help us improve our website — for example, if you have suggestions to make it better, or you've discovered a great web-resource and you tell us about it so we can share it with others — your assistance will be greatly appreciated. How can you help?
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are tips-pages (to supplement
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This page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor
of education website), is