Discovering God - Science and the Bible
WHAT ABOUT SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE?
Many people believe that faith in the Bible is incompatible with science. To the contrary, today one can be a consistent scientific thinker and a committed believer in Jesus and the Bible.
The historic church has resisted the advance of science at many points. For example, Galileo had to recant his [true] finding on the Sun-centered solar system to avoid being burned at the stake. Some forms of creationism continue that opposition to science today.
We should note first that the Bible’s worldview is in harmony with the first principles of science. Both the biblical and scientific worldviews assume the uniformity of cause and effect in a real material world. This is different than most religions where natural events are caused by spirits. It’s also different than the eastern mystical view that the material world is not real. You would have to abandon either of these religious views in order to be a scientist. Christians and scientists also agree on the efficacy reason and the first principles of logic (like the law of non-contradiction). This is unlike postmodern and critical theory views, which deny the possibility of being objective, and the existence of objective truth.
No religious worldview is as harmonious with science as Christianity. Most philosophers of science agree: It’s no accident that modern science arose in Christian-influenced Europe, or in Islamic cultures, that share a similar philosophical view. All the early scientists, like Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Bacon, and Newton were strong Christians. They believed they could use reason to understand nature because a rational God created nature. Only much later, during the enlightenment, did the view arise that science and spiritual matters were incompatible.
The biblical worldview holds for uniformity of cause and effect in an open system. In other words, while cause and effect are real and account for most events, divine intervention is also real. God intervenes at times, and these are miracles or answered prayers. So Christians can accept scientific explanations for natural events while also accepting biblical explanations for supernatural events.
At a deeper level, God caused the universe to exist, along with the physical forces we see at work (like gravity or electromagnetic attraction). So in that sense, he is the ultimate cause of everything. However, Jesus warned against spiritualizing natural events, unlike the Pharisees. They blamed all misfortune on God. Jesus taught that events like the collapse of the tower at Siloam, and the resulting deaths, were natural cause and effect, not divine judgment (Luke 13:1-5).
Another example is Matthew 4:24: “They brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them.” You can see from this passage that the biblical view differentiates between disease and spiritual causes, unlike the rest of the ancient world. Even epilepsy, which has often been falsely diagnosed as demon possession is clearly named as natural and contrasted to possession.
Biblical teaching doesn’t contradict science, but it does contradict “scientism.” Scientism is the philosophical view that scientific observation and explanations of the material world must never refer to anything non-material. Scientism holds that nothing exists but matter, energy, and physical forces (although they sometimes admit they don’t know what the physical forces are or why they are there).
In scientism, one may never invoke God to explain anything. Natural explanations are the only valid forms of knowledge. Everything else is unknowable opinion and interpretation. This denial of the non-material includes denial that people have minds or souls—they are purely material objects.
When you think about it, this is a faith position. How do naturalists know that God is never involved in natural history? How do they know that the soul or self is an illusion? They don’t. It’s just a claim based on faith. They feel that if we allow the possibility of God, people will just attribute whatever they can’t understand to him, and science skids to a stop.
In fairness, this false attribution to God has happened, and in fact, has been the dominant worldview for most of human history. Spiritualism—the idea that whatever happens can be attributed to the work of gods or spirits—has been the historic religious view. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The men who lead western thinking into science in the first place took the far more reasonable position that divine activity was one possibility alongside natural cause and effect. This is a more open-minded view.
Science, a common sense way to study the world, has accomplished a lot during its history. Scientism, a naked philosophical assumption, devoid of empirical backing, has never accomplished anything. It only limits and censors any and every view that refers to observations involving the non-material, whether it’s God or even our own minds.
It also holds that no real knowledge is possible apart from empirically verified scientific findings. Yet the position itself has no empirical basis. It’s a philosophical claim. Scientism is self-refuting, because it fails its own test, being a philosophical claim, not a scientific finding.
A major problem in the modern world is that those holding to scientism claim their pontifications are the findings of science. But in some cases, later evidence shows that they were expressing unproven claims, and those claims were wrong.
A perfect example of this was the recent declaration by secular scientists in the 90s that “junk DNA” (DNA that doesn’t code for proteins) was proof of universal common descent. They reasoned that since the same apparently random strings of junk DNA were found in widely separated animals. Therefore, they assumed, these must be failed mutations that happened back when these diverse animals had the same ancestor.
Later, it turned out that there is no such thing as junk DNA. Instead, these regions in the genome play critical roles in error checking, gene expression, and a host of other functions. They are not junk at all. Most of what was previously called junk DNA has now been deciphered.
So here we have a prime example where research was short-circuited by philosophical assumptions (in this case, naturalism). Just as they claim that acknowledging the possibility of God would remove the incentive to do good research, here we have naturalists jumping to conclusions resulting in failing to do the research, and in turn ignoring the facts.
Therefore, whenever you hear a claim that science has determined something, you must use discernment. Is the claim referring to actual research with demonstrable data behind the claim? Has the view been peer reviewed and explored thoroughly? Or are the speakers using science to promote scientism?
Pro science followers of Jesus are only committed to accept fully demonstrable scientific findings. If science involves a quest for truth, and if God exists, we have every reason to think science will find God. In fact, that is what is happening today.
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 The Bible’s insistence on the importance of objective truth, and sinfulness of lying both directly imply acceptance of the law of non-contradiction; that A is not Non-A.
 For a more complete understanding of scientism, see J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology, (Wheaton: Crossway 2018).
 For a complete recounting of this series of events see, Johathan Wells PhD, The Myth of Junk DNA (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2011).