Friday, May 16, 2008

Science and Faith at War?

Notes from a Sunday School that begins on May 25.

Comments, corrections, and routine editing: absolutely welcomed!

An index of all posts is on the right frame.

A blog with only the Sunday School Posts is here.

Location: Grace Baptist Chapel
805 Todd's Lane
Hampton, VA 23666
Time: 10:00-10:45 am

1. Introduction

Increasingly, it seems as if science and faith are at war. The bestseller lists include The God Delusion1 which celebrates atheistic rationalism and science, and denigrates religion as nothing less than child abuse.2 In the movie theaters, we find Ben Stein’s Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed3 arguing that atheist scientists control the academy and tolerate no dissent, and that the theory of evolution was a prerequisite for the Eugenics movement and the Holocaust.

Here is just an example of the degree of belligerence in the rhetoric. On the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Ben Stein said in an interview with Paul Crouch, Jr.4
Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
Of course, verbal assaults of this type (and worse) are found on both sides of the aisle.

As Christians we can approach this war, if there is a war, only one way. We must ask: is our participation in this conflict justified? Is science the enemy of our faith? And why stop there—is archeology an enemy? Is history? Are atheists our enemies? Do we have any external enemies at all? Do we not affirm that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world? Is this all really an example of the aphorism: we have met the enemy, and he is us?

These are difficult questions. When we narrow the focus to science, however, we reduce the question to this: does the detailed and systematic study of creation (science) glorify God? If so, then science is a godly activity, and Christians dare not call that which is good, evil.5

This study will attempt to demonstrate that such is indeed the case. The Bible has not only sanctioned science, but has mandated its practice. The world might declare that there is a war between science and faith6, but Christians should show up as peacemakers, not combatants.

We must also ask a deeper, more painful question. The issue is not limited to whether or not we are well-intentioned but misguided combatants. We must also ask: are we the agitators? Was the truce between scientists in the academy and Christianity broken by our side? Did an army of atheist scientists launch a Tet Offensive against Christianity and we are merely responding defensively? Or, under the guise of the culture wars, did we lob the first grenade?

When asking such introspective questions, we will be well advised to consider the words of Augustine:
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn...7
Augustine is not telling us that we should accept uncritically all that science teaches. He is stating, as I read it, a) a tacit approval of science and b) a forceful warning that if we (Christians) are to engage debate on scientific matters, we should do so from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance.

While this is not a traditional bible study Sunday School, we nevertheless will do our best to support our positions from scripture. The attitudes of Christians toward science and the politicization of science as a front in the larger culture wars should be measured against scripture. Speaking of which, this study will take the position that scripture, in the original autographs, is inspired and inerrant.

We will not, however, take the position that either any individual Christian or even a majority opinion of renowned Christian theologians is infallible.

That especially goes for the author of this study. It is your responsibility as a Christian reader to provide correction.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural references are from the ESV.8

Finally, during this study if it appears that we are tougher on ourselves (Christians) than on the world, that is purely by intent.

1 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, First Mariners Book Edition, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2008.
2 For example, Dawkins writes that labeling children by their parent’s believes, e.g., “a Catholic boy,” is a form of abuse: “Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?” The God Delusion, p. 354.
4 As reported by John Derbyshire, National Review Online, The Corner blog, April 30, 2008. A search on youtube for “Stein science killing” should lead you to a video clip.
5 See Is. 5:20. Also, the “Unpardonable Sin” is the ultimate “calling good, evil” violation, when Jesus’ miracles were attributed to Satan.
6 Although we will actually attempt to show that it is only a radical though vocal minority of atheist scientists who declare war. The overwhelming majority are unconcerned about the personal beliefs of their colleagues.
7 Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translation by J. H. Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, V41.
8 The English Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

EDIT 1: slight word mods, and a fixed typo.
EDIT 2: Inserted Stein's comment about science leads to killing.

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