Dear aspiring scientist,
In a recent conversation with my colleagues, I heard a comment quoting a popular science commentator saying that if you are a scientist, you are more likely not to believe in God. It has become a general agreement for a few decades that science has disproved God.
How are you thinking about these questions lately? Is the biblical creation narrative a stumbling block for you? Since you want to pursue a science major, which is excellent, I want to write about questions you will eventually need to answer in college or career. These situations can sometimes be brutal for your career; therefore, I want you to be confident and thoroughly grounded in truth.
Has science disproved God?
Sadly, as we discussed earlier, even Christians believe that science is against God, especially in the light of Darwinistic evolution theory. Many students raised in Christian homes learn to reject evolution theories at school and, eventually, in college, reject science or their faith in God. This is very unfortunate.
But the truth that the Church nurtured “natural philosophy”, a division of theology which we now call science, for nearly a millennia, leading to the scientific revolution in the 16th century, is covered up. Even the present Church became ignorant about it.
The Church’s passion for science was founded on the truth that humans are called to take dominion over nature to steward it. They knew that “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (Proverbs 25:2). Likewise, Dominus illuminatio mea (Latin for ‘The Lord is my light’) is used by the University of Oxford as its motto.
Francis Bacon (1561–1626) once said, “God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.”
All civilisations developed natural knowledge, such as Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China, etc. In the 5th century, Aryabhata in India observed that the earth rotates about its axis daily, unlike the prevalent understanding of the stationary earth model. Similarly, Aristarchus of Samos (310 — c. 230 BCE) presented the first known heliocentric model that placed the Sun at the centre of the known universe.
Ancients had insights into nature, observed facts, and developed knowledge, yet they did not sustain it; they did not create a culture of science, unlike the Judaeo-Christian Europe, who made an effort to verify their explanation empirically.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Francis Bacon ( 1561–1626), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), Isaac Newton (1642–1724) and so on, pioneers of modern science are deeply Christan.
Though the Church nurtured scientific culture, it did not expect science to challenge the ancient Aristotelian geocentric cosmology, which the Church then believed to be the truth. At first, the Pope did not accept the Polish priest Nicolaus Copernicus’s heliocentric model. Later, when Galileo discovered evidence to support Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, the Vatican did not acknowledge it immediately. Nevertheless, the Church continued her patronage of science as it developed.
I hope you will research this history further and respond to modern critics who say science disproves God. They are partly true; science has disproved many gods of nature. But it is absurd to say science can disprove reality outside the material realm.
Is our reality purely material?
Erwin Schrodinger (1887–1961), the originator of the Schrodinger Equation, rightly said: “I’m very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information and puts all our experiences in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all the sundry that is really near to our hearts, that really matters to us.
Meanwhile, the Enlightenment movement took shape in Europe as the scientific movement challenged religion. Its thinkers cast off much of previous generations’ religious, philosophical, and political ideals and forged new ground, leading to the rise of rationalism, scepticism, materialism, etc.
C. S. Lewis said, “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists, this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it.”
What he meant was that you can only do science by assuming the rational intelligibility of the universe. Pioneers of modern science believed so because an intelligent God was behind it. But the sceptics reject God but believe that the universe is a product of a mindless, unguided process. How long will this faith last?
As Erwin Schrodinger admitted, it is naive to conclude that our reality is merely energy and material. John Lennox, a mathematician at the University of Oxford, says, “But science is increasingly doing a very good job of burying atheism (scientific materialism) because the atheistic reductionist assumptions don’t go well with faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe.”
How should we read the Bible?
In the sixteenth century, the Church rejected the heliocentric view of cosmology postulated by Galileo because it believed the Aristotelian geocentric view was consistent with the Bible. Similarly, today, with the rise of scientific materialism, the Church has surrendered to it, interpreting the Bible from a materialistic point of view.
Besides this, many Christians also hold on to the Gnostic view of reality, where matter is considered impure or evil and soul, which is non-material, is pure and good. That is why many Christians believe in a non-material heaven and hell as our final destiny.
Therefore, in their pursuit to defend the Bible from Darvinstic evolution, many Christians foolishly read it through the lens of the same worldview we want to oppose.
Instead of interpreting the scripture in its context by understanding its ancient cosmology, literature style, and symbolism, Christians have turned it into a modern science textbook to fit their materialistic worldview and answer its sceptics.
Neither scientific materialism nor the Gnostic dualism is the right place to interpret the Bible. God created the heavens and the earth. That is the invisible and the visible, the spiritual and the material, the meaning and the expression. The biblical creation narrative is fundamentally based on this heaven and earth symbolism. Biblical authors did not view God’s creation in merely materialistic terms.
What is the creation narrative actually teaching us?
Unlike modern science, traditional cosmology did not attempt to describe reality in terms of its practical and material implications, like “What it is made of and how does it work?” but in terms of its higher meaning, “What does it mean and what higher truth does it embody?” Therefore, as Matthieu Pageau writes, we need to view creation “as the physical expression of metaphysical truth.”
That does not mean God did not create the material world, but biblical symbolism teaches us to view the material world through the lens of metaphysical truth.
Hence, the words “heaven” and “earth,” do not refer to the planet Earth and its atmosphere or space from our scientific viewpoint. The heavens primarily refer to the spiritual reality of God’s creation, and the earth refers to the corporal reality.
“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
In the creation narrative, the concept of light is primarily framed by meaning rather than mechanism. Apostle John, who understands ancient cosmology, begins his gospel with creation language by saying, “In the beginning was the word (metaphysical truth).” In the passage, John does not interpret light from a physical perspective but from a metaphysical one.
It is naive to assume that ancient words had the same meaning as their modern counterparts. The biblical narrative is filled with symbolism that sees reality from its dual nature of heaven and earth.
Another example is “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground (earth/material) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (heaven/spiritual), and the man became a living creature.” Humanity is described as a microcosm of creation where heaven and earth come together.
When we interpret the creation narrative in purely material terms, we lose its meaning and distort our knowledge of the natural world. This naive thinking has created more sceptics than believers.
Seven days are not merely a record of the natural world; It is the making of God’s dwelling place in the union of the heavenly and the earthly. The seven-day creation is a pattern to understand the complete biblical narrative where Christ ultimately brings Shalom and rest on the seventh day. Apostle John beautifully narrated it in the last two chapters of the Bible.
I will leave it here for you to study further, and I hope these thoughts will help you. As God’s beautiful creation is both material and spiritual, you should explore all sciences, arts, logic and languages to comprehend both the books God gave us. Thomas Aquinas rightly portrayed theology as the queen of sciences.
May God bless your zeal to search out both the books of God, His word and his works and may your worship of Him abound daily.
For further study:
Book: Science and Christianity : conflict or coherence? — Henry F. Schaefer III
Book: The language of creation — Matthieu Pageau
Book: The lost world of Genesis One — John H Walton
Book: God’s Undertaker: Has science buried God? — John Lennox
Book: God and Stephen Hawking — John Lennox
Book: Return to God Hypothesis — Stephes C Meyer
Book: For the glory of God — Rodney Stark
Book: Beyond the bountries of science — Latha Christie
Book: The book that made your world — Vishal Mangalwadi
Video: Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox | Has Science Buried God? Debate
Video: Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox | The God Delusion Debate
Video: Stephen Meyer: The Return of the God Hypothesis Part 1
Video: Stephen Meyer: The Return of the God Hypothesis Part 2
Video: Bible Project: Heaven and earth
Video: Bible Project: How Genesis 1 Communicates What The Whole Bible is About
Video: Christianity - God and the scientists