painting by Cristiano Banti (1857)
About Faith &
Christians believe that their
faith touches all of life – including the study of nature and the
stewardship and the use of the natural world for human welfare.
Discussions about God and nature have taken place with varying degrees
of intensity since the time of the early church. For the most part,
Christians have felt that faith and science should live in harmony when
each is properly understood. However, as science gained a deeper
understanding of the natural world, and became more important in daily
life, it opened many new possibilities for interaction and potential
conflict with Christian beliefs.
The rise of
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was accompanied by a
diminishing influence of the Church and the Bible, and the turn to a
secular society where government, education and medicine became, for the
most part, independent of church structures and beliefs. Scholars
continue to debate the fine points of how this has played out in Europe
and the Americas.
As time passed, Americans saw science-religion questions
become fodder for the media in such widely separated events as the Tennessee Scopes
trial (1925), the
more recent Dover
PA School Board legal
episode (2005), and the
hearing ( 2011).
The US 2008 and 2012 presidential elections saw science and religion
became part of the debates. The nomination of Francis Collins for
the post of Director of the NIH (2009) raised a storm of
protest from those opposed to his public Christian witness. Ironically, the US Senate unanimously confirmed him to the post.
Candidates in the US 2012 and 2014 elections have included various faith-science
issues in their rhetoric. Clearly, a combative mix of science, Christianity, and
politics does not offer the space for serious study.
As the second decade of the 21st Century began, there was an increasingly virulent sometimes science based opposition to Christianity in the print media and on the web by the "new atheists." Interest in faith-science questions has expanded from the apologetics of conservative Christianity to include liberal and conservative Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, and beyond.
some American Christians feel endangered by the results of scientific
study and the philosophical conclusions that some non-Christians have
drawn. They include negativism toward parts of science as part of a political
package in the culture
We will first offer some basic ideas important when considering particular issues. Since most questions have roots in the past, it is important to take into account these earlier responses before we jump into the present discussion.
While it is important to carefully evaluate these faith-science issues, we should also recognize that our redemption is not affected by our views in this arena. Also, the fact that Christians disagree should not destroy the fellowship that we have in Christ. Too often scientists, feel isolated in their church or academic community because of their beliefs.
Perhaps, it would be easier to function as though modern science and the
Bible had nothing to do with each other except in matters involving
morals and ethics, but that would ignore what historian Colin Russell
"...the battery of historical data which point to a massive mutual debt between science and Christianity."--Colin Russell, Cross-currents: Interactions Between Science & Faith (1985), p. 20.
...the fact that Christians disagree should not destroy the
material is offered to students of all
ages and backgrounds to help you to
become informed, perhaps make decisions, and strengthen your faith.
Whether you are new to the subject or an "old hand" finding this page
for the first time, it is important that you develop a grasp of the
nature and use of both Scripture and science before
plunging into the issues that capture our mind today.
Check out a surprising answer to the question: " Does
Science Lead to Atheism?"
Check out a surprising answer to the question: " Does Science Lead to Atheism?"
Creator or the Multiverse? Does the fine tuning of the universe point to God or an infinite collection of universes?Video, 8 Min. Faraday Institute
Why is Richard Dawkins so angry? Video, 5 Min. Faraday Institute
Where are we today?
Essay Review: " Evangelical and Catholic Interactions with Science," PSCF 60 (2008): 251. CATHOLICISM AND SCIENCE by Peter M. J. Hess and Paul L. Allen. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. EVANGELICALS AND SCIENCE by Michael Roberts. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. A broad comparative picture of a varied landscape
Is Over, If You Want It’: Beyond the Conflict between Faith and Science,” PSCF 60 (2008):
purpose of this article is to help emerging scholars, especially in the
sciences, to reframe the issue of the relationship between faith and
learning in a productive way. While critiques of the warfare model exist
in the specialized literature of the history of science, the presumption
of conflict continues to dominate in the media and in popular
conversations in both secular and religious contexts. As a result, young
scholars have often imbibed this model themselves as an accurate
portrait of the way things are, and they usually do not have a clear,
up-to-date reflection on the relationship of faith and learning to put
in its place."
Jesus Creed Collection of
Discussions of recent science-Christianity books and blogs This
frequently updated collection offers summaries and comments on works
related to current evangelical discussions by the (bashful) RJS and
occasionally by Scott McKnight. The strings of reader comments are
often equally valuable. Take a look at the list, prepare your coffee,
then plunge in.
Our understanding of scripture is key to building a Christian
world view that includes revelation
in nature. Yet we must recognize the struggle that this has been for
Christians since the time of the early church fathers and before. Shades
of difference in interpretive views and the cultural surroundings of
local churches may set the stage for confrontation that builds walls of
misunderstanding. We ask that you consider what may be new,
and perhaps, conflicting ideas,
before drawing your own conclusions.
B-I-B-L-E, from the Church nursery class or in your home.
The doctrine of Scripture is vitally important; for it is through the instrumentality of the Word (preached and read) that God saves us and causes us to grow in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Only through the Scriptures do we have the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. While we claim that scripture is the final authority on faith and practice, the problem remains in making that affirmation a living reality through sound interpretation and consistent application to life's situations – which include the challenge of science.
value the Bible and questions of biblical interpretation have continued
to cause divisions among the people of God who seek to relate scientific
advances and the Bible. On one hand, some thinkers feel that the Bible
has no relation
at all to the day-to-day work of the scientist. Others believe that
scripture has much to say about particular details of interest to
scientists but insist that the biblical picture holds priority when the
two sources of information appear to conflict. Others
feel that the picture is more complex and emphasize the need to
carefully examine the points of disagreement and withhold judgment until
better information is available.
We will start with the assumption
that the Bible and science have some overlapping interests. The Bible
speaks of beginnings, scientists are interested in how the universe and
it's contents came to be; the Bible speaks of right behavior, scientists
need principles to guide their practices, and so on.
one may find many different attitudes toward scripture. For some the
Bible is the actual Word
of God; others, claim the Bible contains the
word of God; while others see the Bible as a wide-ranging human
document that is one
among many similar ancient documents.
The "(strict) literalist" view maintains that the meaning of Scripture is obvious and needs no interpretation. On the other hand, the "critical" (sometimes called "historical") view maintains that a scientific study of languages, culture, history, archaeology, etc. is necessary to overcome the vast distance in time and culture between the present and the actual Bible events. While the latter approach may seem reasonable, evangelicals have often been wary or negative toward critical methods of reading the Bible because of the role they have played in fostering unbelief - the modernism of the early 20th Century.
It is noteworthy that the "literalists" of the
reformation period recognized the use of literary devices such as poetry, parables, similesand metaphors by
the biblical writers as well the need for literary
methods as tools for
understanding the deeper meanings of scripture.
Some have charged that biblical criticism originated with
anti-Christian writers who valued reason and logic over faith and
revelation, whose goal was to discredit and ridicule the Bible and
Christianity. Their analysis techniques were picked up by some liberal
theologians and used to explain away and discount biblical accounts of
prophecy, miracles, personal demons, etc. However, current evangelical
theologians effectively use literary
methods of analysis to
understand scripture in it's purpose, historical context, and content
related to the natural world.
Biblical Hermeneutics relates
to the subject of how one is to understand Holy Scripture. By
definition, this is a theological
act, i.e. part of the discussion of a faith-community
Our views arise out of different
faith traditions which
developed their own notions
of hermeneutics. It must also be stressed that theological differences
between these faith communities "preclude any 'definitive'
statement' on biblical hermeneutics - in spite of the erudition and
passion of particular advocates." ASA members and those who write
from the broad evangelical tradition - their work reflects the issues of
the day and their struggles to live and think as Christians in a complex
arena. Our purpose is to discuss a range of science related topics but
we often seem stuck on origins (evolution) related questions - as
is the case for evangelicals in general.
Evangelical theologians are actively engaged in studying the influence
of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) documents on the early Old Testament, as
well as the literary forms in which Genesis was written. Time will tell
whether these conclusions will join earlier interpretations that have
challenged Christians seeking to link scientific accounts of the past
with the biblical record.
Yet theSeptember 2010 Issue of PSCF illustrates anew the difficulty in achieving agreement on Genesis
is more highly debated in evangelical circles than the way
Ways of Relating Scripture and Science
Concordism is the
hermeneutical belief that scripture
and true science are in agreement.
It takes the Bible in a more or less literal - chronological fashion and
seeks to adapt science to fit that reading of the Bible which written in
a pre-scientific ancient near east culture. Many evangelicals hold a
concordist position. This approach is found today in scientific
various apologetic ministries. One
value seen in this strategy is that proving that modern science aligns
with the Bible provides powerful evidence for the inspiration of
scripture and support for Christian apologetics and evangelism. Science
is seen as providing a corrective for earlier "naïve" descriptions of
creation and providence and the role of humans in nature. Inevitably,
questions of biblical and scientific authority emerges. In some eyes
this amounts to tinkering with scientific data and/or the biblical text
to achieve agreement - always hoping for a new scientific discovery or
fresh biblical interpretation that would close the gap.
tradition views the Bible
and science as providing two kinds of information; the
Bible provides a picture of the Creator, His purpose and plan for
creation and redemption of a fallen humanity while science offers
details and concepts of the World that are refined and transformed as
more information is received. 2 This
approach seems to avoid conflict but fails to engage a biblical response
to the nature of humanity and
the role of humans in this world.
A third view is found in the reformation belief that "scripture alone interprets scripture" (sola scriptura). Here one begins with not with hermeneutics but with the more fundamental level of religious presuppositions - a biblical world view.3 Christians from congregations and organizations which encourage this "third view" have developed numerous ways to interpret the early chapters of Genesis - a confusing start for those new to this field.
The pages of PSCF reflect
the diversity of strategies for relating scripture and nature. We often hear the cry that the Word of God always gives
in to the word of
science. Yet we forget that there have often been good reasons for this.
Christians of an earlier time and some today have been all too willing
to espouse fanciful unfounded descriptions of nature in an attempt to
save favored models of
biblical interpretation. At this stage of our understanding
it may be appropriate to recognize that there are numerous ways
of approaching faith-science questions that appears faithful to the
Bible rather than insisting that a particular choice trumps all others.
Paul Marsten , Understanding
the Biblical Creation Passages, 2007
Lifesway 60pp., ebook, pdf .
This very readable e-book offers insight into the ways that current
scholars approach the interpretation of the Genesis passages.
may hold a concordist position
on historical narratives as found in Gen. 1-3 even though the chronology
of the story is figurative. It is the actual characters and the events
which are historical in a concordistic sense. See Kline
At this stage of our collective understanding of it may be
appropriate to recognize that there are numerous ways of approaching
faith-science questions that are faithful to the Bible rather
Two Biblical Hermeneutics Studies
1. The Baylor 2009 ASA Annual Meeting Papers : PSCF, 62 September 2010
2. Concordism and a Biblical Alternative: An Examination of Hugh Ross’s Perspective (2007)
Paul Seely, Concordism and a Biblical Alternative: An Examination of Hugh Ross’s Perspective PSCF 59 (March 2007): 37.
Hugh Ross, Additional Explanations on Concordism: A Response to Paul Seely’s Critique PSCF 59 (March 2007):46.
Paul Seely, Reading Modern Science into Scripture PSCF 59 (March 2007):51
Carol A. Hill, A Third Alternative to Concordism and Divine Accommodation: The Worldview Approach PSCF 59 (June 2007): 129.
The First Four Days of Genesis in Concordist Theory and in Biblical Context, __________________________________________________________________________
Humans, Adam, and Inspiration PSCF 59 (2007):
Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Dosen’t Say About Human Origins,” Brazos Press, paper (2012).
C. John Collins, "Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care," Crossway Books, paper (2011).
Gregory K. Beale, "The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority," Crossway Books. paper (2008).
C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary 318 pp., ISBN: 0875526195, (2005) P & R Publishing, Paperback.
W. Robert Godfrey, God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1. 144 pages. ISBN: 087552799X, 2003, P & R Publishing, Paperback.
Lee Irons & Meredith Kline, in "The Genesis Debate," ed. David Hagopian, 2001, Crux Press, Paperback.
James McKeown, Genesis
The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary pp., ISBN-10: 0802827055,
2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Peter Enns, Preliminary Observations on an Incarnational Model of Scripture, Calvin Theological Journal 42 (2007), pp. 219-236.
Meredith Kline, Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony PSCF 48: (March 1996): 2-15.
Clark H. Pinnock, "The Ongoing Struggle Over Biblical Inerrancy," JASA 31 (June 1979): 69-74.
Walter R. Thorson, "Hermeneutics for Reading the Book of Nature 55 PSCF (June 2003): 99-101.
fundamental planks in a Christian world view are the Doctrines of
from the ASA Commission on Creation (2000) offers a General
Statement onCreation which
it was felt to reflect the general thinking of the ASA community and several more statements representing narrower
views on the details of creation. One might think
that biblical and scientific scholars could have
otten together and forged a definitive statement
on origins rather than a grocery list but the issues
are too complex to achieve accord. at this time.
scientist friend to define science and you will be surprised by the
What seems easy to explain and obvious to anyone takes many twists and
turns when one is active in scientific research or engages
in "philosophical analysis" about how science works.
an intellectual activity carried on by humans that is designed to
discover information about the natural world in which humans live and to
discover the ways in which this information can be organized into
meaningful patterns. A primary aim of science is to collect facts
(data). An ultimate purpose of science is to discern the order that
exists between and amongst the various facts.
Religion is a culture
of faith; science is
a culture of doubt.
stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every
generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations,
Regardless of the diverse ways that scientists describe their task and the ways this plays out in their own experience, it is clear that science is both understanding and doing - making sense of nature and making "better things for better living" as the earlier du Pont slogan proclaimed. The interweaving of medical research to discover the mechanism of a disease and the search for a cure illustrate the complexity of the scientific enterprise.
Many of us
take our ideas about the nature of science from Francis
Bacon- who lived four centuries ago. For Bacon, science is the
objective pursuit of reliable knowledge. Although one might "know"
something through authority, faith, or intuition, scientific
method is distinct in
that it must be possible for other investigators to ascertain the truth
of scientific theories. It is founded on objective
observation, the formulation of hypotheses that fit the data and
predict other possibilities, repeatable experiments that can fail as
well as succeed, and analysis and review by the scientific community.
Baconian science rests ultimately on pure, objective dispassionately
collected observational data followed by the application of special
logical procedures to those data in order to produce scientific
theories. This set of stringent procedures constituted the 'scientific
method.' - something you learned by 8th grade.
This view of
science achieved dominance, becoming practically the official conception
by the early 20th century, and still underlies many popular ideas about
science. But however attractive its promises, Baconian inductivism is in
fact irreparably defective,
disintegrating at nearly every point when examined by philosophers.
Among its many problems are these: (a) There simply is no form of logic
by which theories, laws, and the like can be inferred from empirical
data; and (b) empirical procedures cannot confer certainty upon any
following summary of an article by Philosopher of Science, Del Ratzsch
sets forth the current situation:
Historically, it was almost universally believed that perception was neutral, in the sense that genuinely honest and careful observation was unaffected by beliefs, presupposition, philosophical preferences, or similar factors. This neutrality guaranteed the objectivity and utter trustworthiness of empirical data, which constituted the secure foundation of science. But that perceived neutrality came under attack in the mid-20th century. Thomas Khun, for example, argued that perception itself was an active--not a passive--process, deeply colored by the broader conceptual matrices, or paradigms, to which one had prior allegiances - context counts!
This view not only destroyed the allegedly rigid, logical structure of science, but also threatened the pure objectivity of its foundation. Furthermore, paradigms influenced not only perception, but also theory evaluation and acceptance, conceptual resources, normative judgments within science, and a host of other consequential matters. And, according to Kuhn, paradigms were partially defined by, among other things, metaphysical commitments and values. Thus, non-empirical, human-suffused perspectives had seeped into the no-longer-inviolable scientific method at all levels, from empirical bedrock to theoretical pinnacle. One consequence of under-determination was that no amount of (even pure) empirical data could point to just one theory among competitors.
Thus, if one adopted a realist stance toward theories, claiming that some specific scientific theory was actually true, rather than merely a useful model, the selection of that specific theory had to involve (at least implicitly) factors beyond just the empirical. Kuhn's own list of operative non-empirical principles was relatively tame--simplicity, fruitfulness, measurability, accuracy, and the like. But some postmodernists went much further, claimin
However: Rigor, objectivity, and warrant may be less than absolute, even less than many fervently hope, but science can still get at theoretical truth. A tempered realism still seems defensible. Realist claims are plausible only if we have grounds for confidence in the human perceptual and cognitive structures that, inescapably, function within science,
for instance, that the very heart of science contained political agendas, social biases, dominance hierarchies, gender prejudices, and so on. But what can no longer be denied is that a science with utter objectivity, absolute logical rigidity, and purely empirical foundations is not an attainable ideal. Most contemporary mainline commentators argue that despite the unavoidable dependence of science upon resources other than just empirical data and reason, scientific results can still claim significant rational justification and epistemic legitimacy.
Further, the principle of underdetermination of theory by data indicates that science requires a conceptual environment extended beyond the merely empirical. Historically, that indispensable confidence and conceptual richness was drawn from religious principals. Some current historians argue that without the broader Christian conceptual matrix, modern science might never have arisen. Ideally, a worldview should be a unified, integrated whole. But for much of the 20th century, many people thought that religion and science were simply irrelevant to each other. At worst, religion was seen as fighting a rearguard action against the seemingly inexorable advance of a science destined to conceptually engulf everything it touched.
Science is now recognized as (1) at least partially embedded in a wider conceptual context and (2) unavoidably drawing resources from that wider context. Science can thus be locked into place within a number of different worldviews, with advocates of each claiming that it confirms their particular view.
There are many who insist on some version of methodological naturalism--that whatever the ultimate metaphysical reality, genuine science as science must (either definitional or practical) be completely detached from everything other than the purely natural. But rigid cases for such prohibitions are increasingly difficult to construct, and even some secular thinkers now admit that there are no compelling reasons why Christian thought cannot contribute to a legitimate conceptual context for science.
Thus, it seems that empirical data and science is pretty much an imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of data and science within philosophical foundations. These can include Ontological Naturalism, Methodological Naturalism, and even Creationism (typically, Young Earth Creationism). Old Earth Creationism apparently finds its foundation in Methodological Naturalism.
There are many who insist on some version of methodological naturalism--that whatever the ultimate metaphysical reality, genuine science as science must (either definitional or practical) be completely detached from everything other than the purely natural.
Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, A view from the ASA Listserve, (2008) The thoughts of a practicing scientist.
A further pair of blog comments
Science Falsely So Called
by "Benjamin" August 25, 2010
of Natural Selection and Evolution are not science because they cannot
be tested. They fall into the philosophical realm of tautology. A
tautology is a formula whose negation is unsatisfiable. Karl Popper
(1902-1994) wrote extensively about this problem to the irritation of
evolutionists. Although they disagreed with him, they were never able to
negate his philosophically arguments. Karl Popper famously stated
"Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical
research program. One of his greatest critiques of evolutionists is that
they only looked for evidence to support their theory. True scientific
method searches for other evidence, forms other hypotheses and seeks to
disprove the favored hypothesis. None of this is allowed in the field of
evolutionary studies. Strangely, as critical as Popper was of
evolutionary science, he remained committed to
by" javadave61," August 25, 2010
Benjamin... The fact is, evolution is a theory to explain numerous facts, not a single fact to be tested in a laboratory. Christians often argue that "evolution is only a theory, not a fact," as if it's some nebulous philosophy. When we say those things, we completely embarrass ourselves. Evolution is indeed "only a theory," BUT a theory is higher than a fact, for a theory explains all the facts. We don't say that the theory of gravity is "only a theory." The theory of gravity will never grow up into a fact. All the creation scientists have to do is produce one fact that does not fit within the theory of evolution, and the theory will be changed or undone. In fact, science is a very competitive field, and you only make a name for yourself by proving that something someone said before you is wrong. Scientists would LOVE a verifiable test that can be repeated in a laboratory that would fit outside the theory of evolution so a newer, more comprehensive theory can take its place. In fact, I believe someday that will come. Just as the theory of gravity was subsumed into the far more encompassing theory of relativity, so the theory of evolution will continue to be expanded to give us a clearer picture of the workings of nature.
But to call it a mere philosophy that isn't falsifiable is misguided. All a creation scientist has to do is head into laboratory with a primitive form of bacteria and let these bacteria reproduce for a period of ten years. An entire generation of bacteria live and die within about a 24 hour period. Over a period of years, thousands of generations pass, giving us a chance to observe evolution in a fast forward mode. All creation scientists have to do is conduct this experiment and demonstrate that no evolution has occurred. But in fact, scientists have already done this with upwards of 30,000 generations of bacteria reproduction and have seen repeatable and predictable evolutionary changes in the bacteria. In fact, this happens with viruses, which is why we have to have a different flu shot each year. We kill the viruses, but the mutated generations live to evolve into a new strain. If you believe evolution is a false philosophy, don't get your flu shot!
But here's where God screams out his name. Each time these bacteria tests have been done, these bacteria evolve in nearly the same way each time. What this demonstrates is that evolution is not "random," but directed. That shows intelligence and purpose. Rewind the clock of time, refire the big bang, and eventually, you'd have upright intelligent creatures that are fully self-aware and capable of knowing and worshiping God. Evolution may appear random on a micro scale, but the broader picture reveals purpose and design. Unfortunately, we Christians have surrendered the territory known as science and have left Dawkins and company to interpret the data to a new generation of future atheists. We will answer for that someday.
One of the enjoyable aspects of relating science and Christianity is the ever-changing challenge of new discoveries. Environmental questions, medical advances, astronomy, neuroscience, and the social sciences offer new challenges for reflection. None of us can be an expert on everything, but we can cultivate ways of thinking and attitudes that allow us to be a productive part of the discussions .
If this discussion has caught your attention you may want to turn next to the >Bible-Science discussion.
We close this page with several useful articles and materials on science and a number of short autobiographies of ASA members.
for All Americans: Book about Science Literacy By
Project 2061 - American Association for the Advancement of Science. A
Short volume covering the basics of science.
Autobiographies A personal view of the spiritual and scientific odysseys of ASA members and friends. Please send us yours.