Science & Christianity - Kelli Ching Liberal Studies Senior Portfolio

Kelli Ching
Book Review #1
October 18, 2009
Science and Christianity, Four Views explores four very significant positions held
by many Christians in the world today. Creationism, Independence, Qualified Agreement,
and Partnership are all theories and forms of support that make up the stance held by a
substantial number of Christian believers.
Wayne Friar and Gary D. Patterson hold the creationist point of view that uses
presuppositions regarding the nature, procedure, and practice of science. They also note
the Bible to be an authoritative and important source for Christian faith, which they
believe can contribute “valuable insights” (19) to scientific practice.
Creationists see science as a “human activity” (20) that is sparked by the ambition
and “personal prestige” (21) of humans. Science starts with a curious person with a
question, which leads to hypotheses, observations, and the rest of the scientific method.
The self-correcting nature of science leaves infinite room for modification and
improvement, or more correctness to the conclusion. Because science is corrigible, it can
grow as more people strive to find proof and explanation for the natural world,
sometimes under pressuring conditions in which case it becomes personal prestige and
pride to arrive at new conclusions. Scientists are constantly trying to explore and increase
their understanding of the natural world, as well as physical reality, also known as the
speculative theory.
Similar to science, theology is also seen by creationists as “human activity” (23).
But more specifically, theology is “the study of God and his relationship to his created
world” (23). Three important concepts of the creationist viewpoint are that God is Spirit,
no one has ever seen Him, and you must have faith to please God.
A similarity of science and theology is that while scientists are constantly making
new discoveries, theology is constantly making new interpretations to the Bible. Yet,
both science and the Bible are finite. Both are open to a certain amount of observation
and interpretation, but ultimately God knows all for both. He created both science and
theology, and therefore both the universe and the Bible, which means He has the answers
to all questions, and we glorify Him by finding the answers for ourselves and using them
to praise Him and His creation.
This constant, ongoing search for truth and understanding in science and theology
is appropriate because we are constantly struggling to be better Christians and understand
our purpose in the world. New interpretations of science and the Bible are constantly
being made, each time bringing forth new knowledge and revelation to help better our
lives and please God. The overall purpose of science is to better our understanding of the
natural, observable world, but this understanding is useless if it is not used to better our
lives in the eyes of God. We need to utilize the knowledge we obtain from science to
worship and glorify the Lord and His creation, otherwise science is pointless.
The Bible is the main source for the knowledge of theology, but personal
experience and natural theology are also helpful in providing spiritual insight. The Bible
is a collection of personal experiences and was inspired by the Holy Spirit, which is the
“ultimate conceptual framework” (28). Because it has withstood the test of time, it has
shown to be a primary source for spiritual knowledge. People are constantly refuting the
Bible with their own personal experiences and relationships with God, which prove the
truthfulness and validity of the Bible.
Looking through the human viewpoint, creationists offer the stance that “Every
aspect of human existence must be understood in relationship to God, and the Bible
reveals those relationships” (30). God has created everything that humans depend on
including light, land, seas, seasons, time, animals, and world order. All of these creations
are essential for human life, and all created by God. This once again shows how we can
use the observations of science to glorify the Father. Modern biology studies the similar
genetic material that animals as well as we humans are made up of. We use these
observations in theology to say that we are “related by dominion to all life as God’s
personal representative” (31). So for every discovery and scientific advancement, there is
a reason God created it. He wants us to use science to better our understanding of Him.
God created all things “visible and invisible” (Col 1:16), which is all that is
available for science to explore. God is the creator of this available science, which shows
that He still has dominion over it. Science can only go as far as God allows it to, which is
why science is finite and corrigible.
A significant quote to the creationist viewpoint is “God created time as a gift to
humankind and the Sabbath as a special reminder of who created time” (38). The
beginning of time is always a source of debate and disagreement, depending on personal
faith and collectible scientific evidence. We regulate time, days, weeks, months, and
years according to the rise and fall of the sun, phases of the moon, and seasons of nature.
But who controls all of these things? God does. God used six days to create the world and
everything in it, and one day to appreciate its value and completeness. This seven-day
cycle has never changed, despite efforts to modify it, showing that God has influenced
our lives since the day we were created, and he will continue to do so until the Last Day.
The creationists use chemistry, biology, and history in comparison to the Bible in
order to make some key points that God must have initiated creation, and that the world
cannot function on its own. Modern scientists are having immense difficulty trying to
reproduce the molecules of life. This shows that the conjecture of every single molecule
of life to form spontaneously without God’s intervention is pretty farfetched. If it were
that easy, scientists would be able to duplicate the natural process without any obstacles,
which is not the case. The intricacy of cell structure also implies that there must be a
greater power that contributed to the creation and evolution of the world and its
organisms. Cell structure including DNA and interior organelles is much to complex to
be merely the result of random natural processes. Intelligent design done by the greatest
power existing, God, is necessary to form the magnificent creation of the world and its
The independence view by Jean Pond is the viewpoint that science and Christian
theology are independent of each other. According to Pond, science and Christian
theology are “two very different and very human pursuits” (71). Stephen Jay Gould says
the two subjects are “ ‘distinctly different domains,’ ” known as the NOMA principle of
“non-overlapping magisteria” (71). He makes the distinction that science covers the
universe including facts and theories of the physical world, while theology covers
questions regarding moral meanings and values, as well as knowledge of God’s actions
and purpose for our lives.
In addition to referencing Gould, Pond also mentions Protestant theologian, Karl
Barth, as well as existentialists as support to her claim that science and theology are
independent of each other. Barth’s point of view is that science and theology have
completely different subject matters. He says that science is strictly focused on the
natural world, while theology is exclusively concentrated on the revelation of God in
Christ. He also says that the inspiration for science comes from “human initiative and
reason” as opposed to theology, which is entirely dependent on “God’s initiative in
reaching out to us” (72). The focus of the existentialist movement is that science stresses
“detached objectivity” while theology uses “subjective personal inquiry” (72).
While this is an argument that can be made, there are many weaknesses to it. Yes,
science does focus on more factual, observational topics, while theology is more moralbased. However, God created both science and theology in the respect that he wants us to
learn more about both. They cannot be classified as independent topics because what we
learn and interpret from theology yearns for physical, observable proof (which science
gives us). And vice versa, the observations and conclusions from science challenge us to
question the process and beginning of the natural world and consider Biblical references.
Barth’s point that science comes from “human initiative and reason” is true for theology
also. Humans are curious about God and their relationship with Him, as well as after-life,
and our purpose on earth, which is all human initiative. Yes, within theology, God does
reach out to us, but we also reach out to him, yearning to know Him. He created the
world, and we live in it, trying to make use of it according to His will and desire. It is not
only God taking the initiative. He has made the world, and he wants us to take the
initiative to reach out to Him, and glorify Him for His creation and plan for us.
Pond also makes the point that “Science and theology are different ways of
acquiring different kinds of truths about the world” (81). However, she is classifying the
world as two different complexes, when it is only one. The world and all its inhabitants
and purposes for those inhabitants are one truth. There may be different methods in
acquiring the truth about the world, but there is only one solid truth about the world, not
multiple truths that are “true” according to different studies or interpretations.
One point Pond makes that I do agree with, and feel is of significant
appropriateness is that “science may challenge our interpretation of Scripture, [but] it
cannot invalidate our faith” (103). It is true that science proposes questions that might not
be exactly compatible with the Bible’s teachings, but this should not alter our faith in
God. We do each interpret the Bible differently, which has unique effects on our
individual relationships with God, however science is God’s creation too, which once
again proves God’s almightiness. Scientific discoveries can and will challenge our
theological teachings, but discovering the answers to these scientific questions only
strengthens and develops our personal relationships with the One who created it all.
The “qualified agreement” essay by Stephen Meyer is the viewpoint that science
and Christianity support each other. The relationship between the two is of “mutual
epistemic support” (130), which says that when scientific evidence and biblical teaching
are interpreted correctly, they come to agreement, not conflict, with each other. This
point of view says that “some scientific theories do have larger metaphysical
implications” (130), which shows that the qualified agreement says that some, not all
scientific research and theory addresses metaphysical and religious subjects.
This is the viewpoint that I personally agree with most, and found the evidence to
be most accurate and logical. Qualified agreement sees theology and science as “issued
from the same transcendent and rational source, namely, God” (130). As a Christian, and
firm believer in the Bible and its scriptural teaching, I believe the words of Genesis,
where God creates the universe and all its inhabitants in six days. Then as a student of
science, I see the physical and natural proof and observation of God’s creation every day
as I live in this world. In this sense, He created science, as well as theology when He
created humans, and maintains active relationships with them.
The qualified agreement viewpoint uses scientific subjects such as cosmology,
biology, and physics to show how they support and correlate with theology and scriptural
teaching. A point I really approved of is that of the design argument. The design
argument says that through the complexity and intelligent design of natural organisms
(observed by science) there is an indisputable need for a higher, all=powerful force to
have created this structure. Isaac Newton reported that the “stability of the planetary
system depended not only on […] universal gravitation but also on the very precise initial
positioning of the plants […] in relation to the sun” (133). This shows that although the
regular action of the universe and gravity has the capability to repeat and sustain itself,
the reason this process works is that it was created and designed initially in a formation
that allowed it to repeat on its own. Immanuel Kant, also an influential scientist of the
18th century agreed that the design argument could “establish the reality of a powerful
and intelligent author the world” (135). Regarding biology, William Paley maid the claim
that “the astonishing complexity and superb adaptation” of nature strongly suggests “the
work of a superintending intelligence” (135). All of these scientists verify over and over
again that the intricate, complex designs of organisms, as well as the universe and body
parts such as the architecture of the eye, all conclude that an all=powerful source must
have been the hand and creator behind these designs.
Howard Van Till illustrates the last viewpoint as science and Christianity in
partnership with each other. Partnership is basically “the fruitful outcome of Christian
theology and the natural sciences functioning as partners in theorizing” (234). He says
that they are not completely separate, but rather they work together to form theories and
explanations of natural and theological processes. He uses the creation-evolution debate
as an example to show the failure of its “either-or format” which allows room for infinite
questions (221). He also mentions a biologist friend of his who is an amazing biologist,
but as a Christian, looks through Christian glasses subconsciously.
Scientists can be Christian, and Christians can be scientists, and either way there
is a certain biased they bring to their observations and experiments. It is difficult for a
scientist to put all Christian influence aside when conducting an experiment, and at the
same time it is challenging for a Christian to put aside all scientific or physical reasoning
aside when exploring biblical text. This supports the view of partnership in the sense that
the two work together, though they do have some individual and shared aspects.
The four viewpoints of this book: creationism, independence, qualified
agreement, and partnership represent four significant views of the relationship between
science and Christianity. Each addresses the importance and validity of scientific
observation as well as biblical teaching to support their points. However, in conclusion,
each viewpoint makes valid arguments, but the qualified agreement theory seems most
accurate in my opinion. God is the creator of all things, and therefore everything He has
created has connection to Him. There is no doubt that the world and all its inhabitants
were created somehow, and though science and theology both give accurate arguments as
to how the universe came about, the most correct explanation uses both scientific
evidence as well as biblical text in agreement. They mutually build upon and support
each other, giving us the most correct answer. When they are interpreted correctly, and
support each other, the evidence is unfalsifiable.