Arguments Against Christianity – Episode 10 – Science and Religion are Irreconcilable

There are two sides to this debate: Science and Religion. They are completely irreconcilable and have been at odds throughout history.

Many are led to believe that science and Christianity are polar opposites. The stereotype pictures the situation with the intellectual scientist on the one side, and the simple Christian on the other. But is it true that science and Christianity are irreconcilable?.

To start, we should note that, historically, science and Christianity have not been at odds. Sir Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus, Nicolaus Steno, and James Clerk Maxwell are but a few scientists who were also Christians.[1] The conflict between science and religion is, as it is called, the “great myth.” Timothy Larsen explains:

The so-called “war” between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes.[2]

Justin Taylor rightly says, “The myth continues today, but it can be overturned as we study the history behind how the legend developed.”[3] As shown, many men of science, both past and present, have been Christians. One simply need to be a student of history to see this.

As we illustrated in a previous post, science is essentially the study of God’s general revelation and secondary causality. God reveals Himself in nature and governs the natural order of events. Given this, the claim that science and Christianity are “irreconcilable” is nonsense. This claim often comes from those who equate science with ontological naturalism (the belief that only the natural realm exists). It must, therefore, be made clear in dialogue that “science” is not to be used in such a synecdochic way.

Ontological naturalism is not required for science. As Christians, we know that God is the Creator of all – including the physical laws of the universe. Thus, we have reason to expect regularity and order in the universe. Nothing impedes someone with a Christian worldview in doing science. Rather, the Christian has the pleasure of discovering how God governs.

In fact, I would argue that unless you’re a Christian, your scientific undertaking will be lamed and not functioning as effectively as it could. I do not deny naturalists can do science – as they are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and dwell in a place where God bestows His common grace upon all (1 Sam. 25:34; Ps. 145:9; Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:7) – but only that they will be lamed. The same would be the case for the solipsist (one who thinks everything outside of him is a projection of his mind), or some of the Eastern thinking where matter is seen as illusory. Science can be done within such worldviews, but because these worldviews are so divorced from reality, their scientific endeavor will be lacking at points. The naturalist has the same problem: they study God’s general revelation and secondary causality, but postulate an illusory reality where nature is all that exists. As Scott Oliphint says:

True self-knowledge depends on God-knowledge (and vice versa). So it is also that in the act of knowing, to the extent that we know something truly, we know it as created, that is, as having its origin and it’s sustaining existence in God. To claim to know something while thinking it independent of God (or to deny that there is a God) is to fail to know it for what it really is. Whatever it is, it is created and sustained by God at every moment… There are aspects of the truth of the knowledge of God that surface in those who are in Adam. So, for example, even though an unbeliever will recognize that two plus two equals four, the very fact that he would hold that truth to be independent of God’s creating and sustaining activity means that he does not know that truth as it really is. This may not affect the equation itself, but neither will God say to him on judgement day, ‘Good for you; you got that part right.’[4]

The Christian, on the other hand, sees the world as it is: as a creation of God and under God’s continual providential guidance, moving toward consummation. Oliphint continues:

When we claim to be Christians, we are doing more than just listing a biographical detail. We are claiming that the truth set forth in God’s Revelation describes the way things really and truly are in the world. That is, we are saying that what God says about the world is the way the world really is.[5]

As Christians, therefore, we should be people who are all about science. We should be a people not only about science, but a people who seek the wisdom and guidance of the true scientist: Jesus Christ. As Vern Poythress says:

Since I do not accept the secularist dichotomy between public science and private spirituality, it goes without saying that I believe that the Bible must reform the life of science along with every other area of life. We must not allow any area of life to become a stronghold for sin, which we secretly and invisibly fence off God’s scrutiny and purification… The Christian view of the world affirms the legitimacy and value of science in an emphatic way, and shows that, far from being inimical to science, the Bible encourages the godly person through love of God to come to love God’s wisdom and to love to reflect about the wonders of God’s world… The scientist pursues both wisdom and dominion in relation to the natural world. Christ, through his position of rule and wisdom, has achieved both fully. To say it boldly, Christ is the final and archetypal scientist![6]

Also in this series:

Episode 1 – No Ultimate Truth

Episode 2 – Not Enough Evidence

Episode 3 – Shouldn’t You Follow All of the Bible?

Episode 4 – Too Much Suffering in the World

Episode 5 – The Bible is a Work of Fiction

Episode 6 – Christianity is a Form of “God of the Gaps”

Episode 7 – Faith is Confused with Fact

Episode 8 – Belief is Determined by One’s Context

Episode 9 – Christians Persecuted Men of Science

Episode 10 – Science and Religion are Irreconcilable

© copyright J. Brandon Burks

[1]Jason Lisle, “Can Christians be ‘Real’ Scientists?” Answers in Genesis, 2010, https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/can-creationists-be-real-scientists/

[2]As quoted in: Justin Taylor, “The Two Guys To Blame For The Myth Of Constant Warfare Between Religion And Science” The Gospel Coalition, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2015/02/27/the-two-guys-to-blame-for-the-myth-of-constant-warfare-between-religion-and-science/.

[3]Ibid.

[4]K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 43, 52.

[5]Ibid., 51.

[6] Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 57-58, 158-159, 173.

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