Science and Faith are not Dichotomous

Science can play a two fold-role in the lives of the faithful. Firstly, we can see it as an “independent third-party” that can help to give us a more holistic perspective about God’s creation. Secondly, when further developed, that perspective can help us develop a far richer worship experience.   

Let’s explore these two points a bit further, and begin by looking at “science so-called” (as some like to refer to it). 

If one does a Google search on “what is science”, one of the first links returned describes science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

I’d like to discuss this definition in two parts: the first part being that science is a “systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world.”

The focus of science is the natural world – God’s creation. Science won’t tell us WHY God created the way he did, but it does tells HOW God created, because we can see the structure and behaviour of the various aspects of creation.  So science won’t tell us WHY God chose to take millions of years to create life as it is today, but we can see from the structure and behaviour of various chemical and physical properties – that he did. That’s nothing to be perturbed by, it simply is what it is. 

The second part of that definition is that the study is done “through observation and experiment”. Here’s why this is important. We know that God’s creation is wonderfully complex. I use the term “wonderfully complex” because of the intricacies and interdependencies that we see. Archaeology, palaeontology, palaeoanthropology, biology, microbiology, molecular biology, chemistry, geophysics, physics, nuclear physics….   All complex fields, but related in various ways. The nature of “observation and experiment” requires learning and understanding of the various fields. The very act of doing science is applying that knowledge to explore those fields further to discover and more.

So where am I going with this? Well, the scriptures have sobering warning for us. In 1 Tim 6:20, Paul warns Timothy to “avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (to use the KJV translation – all modern versions use the term ‘knowledge’).

Many in our community have gone on record in public forums commenting on scientific matters, not because they are qualified to do so, but because they feel that what science has taught us about God’s creation challenges their theological views. They feel they are defending their faith. The hallmark of science, is that any hypothesis should be able to stand up to scrutiny, and any good scientist, if refuting a hypothesis will be able to demonstrate the alternative answers. Those in our community who challenge science have never been very good at providing alternative hypotheses that can be subject to further observation and experiment. 

Because they are not qualified to speak on these subjects, the results have been (to use Paul’s term) “profane and vain” because they have misrepresented the structure and behaviour of God’s creation by their “science so-called”. (For example, see here and here). 

This brings us to the part about worship. God wants us to worship him in “spirit and truth”. On this basis, we have nothing to fear from what science offers to us. It’s that independent third-party that gives a completely unbiased reference point. When we do take the time to understand the behaviour and structure of God’s creation, we see what a truly magnificent effort it is, and it teaches us much about the patience and character of our creator. (I’ve discussed this earlier, here).   

Too often we allow ourselves to get caught up in the either/or debate about science vs faith, when it really needn’t be anything like that. It’s not a dichotomy. God is not going to be threatened by anything we learn, and anything we learn (that stands the test of truth) helps us paint a clearer picture of the God we worship.