Faith & Science: A Dangerous Dichotomy
Caleb earned a B.A. in Religion from Luther Rice College as well as an M.Ed. in English and Literature at Carolina University. Currently, he is working toward a Ph.D. in Humanities at Faulkner University.
Stop asking Scripture and Nature to do jobs they were not designed to do. Some questions likely will remain – and that’s OK.
Faith should never trump science.
Why would I, a Christian, say that? It’s not because I don’t have faith. And I would say the same if the words were flipped — science should never trump faith.
The answer is easy: This dichotomy should not exist in the first place. When both books of God are correctly interpreted, a situation in which it’s one vs. the other should never arise.
God’s book of faith – Scripture – reveals truths about the human spiritual condition: our failures, God’s love for us, and our everlasting redemption through Jesus Christ. It also shows our purpose in life: to glorify God and love God and others.
God’s book of science – Nature – reveals truths about the world we live in: biological, cosmological, and geological. And these truths are revealed through time-tested scientific methods.
If you try to interpret your faith through a scientific lens, you will not get the full picture of God – who he is and his love for you. Likewise, suppose you try to interpret science through a Scriptural lens. In that case, you will miss critical facts and believe many things that can’t be supported by the scientific method – or reality when observed.
When evangelicals think science undermines their faith by conflicting with the Bible, they are quick to devise a new “science” that confirms their biblical beliefs. This is known as scientific concordism, and it is always rooted in pseudoscience and false equivalencies. Think Ken Ham, Henry Morris, et al. This leads to widespread rejection of scientific truths by the evangelical community, not only in the science of origins but also in everything involving scientists. And that is a dangerous mindset. One could blame the typical evangelical response to climate change and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic on this anti-science mindset.
Evangelical Christians need to develop a new relationship between their faith and modern science. It’s going to have to start with their Bible. Many evangelicals think that current science conflicts with the Bible. Still, in reality, proper biblical interpretive methods and comparisons with ancient near eastern literature and scientific understanding, especially as revealed in Scripture, show that it’s not the Bible, but their interpretations of the Bible. The Bible & Ancient Science: Principles of Interpretation is an excellent book on this topic.
Ken Ham once said, “Bottom line: if scientists reject the events of history such as the Flood as recorded in the Bible, they will have wrong interpretations about climate change.” I agree, Ken. Since you have a particular interpretation of Genesis and the flood, you ignore the consensus of scientists who proclaim the climate crisis. You miss the scientific consensus on origins, health care, and anything else.
But here’s the problem, Ken: You’re dealing with issues that go beyond your biblical interpretation. You are promoting a response that ignores secular scientists who have come to these conclusions through time-tested methods and millions of Christians who do not agree with you and accept the truths of God’s world as revealed through science either as laypeople or Christian scientists. Your interpretation doesn’t matter, and your interpretation is outdated, pessimistic, and, frankly, unbiblical. Literal interpretation does not equal proper interpretation.
This conflict between faith and science must end because it affects everything: how evangelical Christians respond to medical advances such as vaccines, how Christians react to scientific discoveries such as ancient fossils, how Christians respond to the climate crisis, and much more – including what levels of nonsense many evangelicals are willing to believe.
It’s like if two people were to argue about which ingredient, peanut butter or chocolate, gives Reese’s peanut butter cup its flavor; both elements work together to reveal the full taste of the peanut butter cup, but both ingredients have their own set of properties and purposes in the big picture. You wouldn’t eat peanut butter and expect a chocolate flavor — or vice versa. There is no reason for any disagreement.
I was a stonemason for many years, and I have personally witnessed the age of rocks – there is a deep time between us and the rocks I shaped with a hammer and chisel.
As a Christian, I have personally experienced the rock of ages – there is a deep spiritual connection between the God who shapes us with the word of Truth and us.
When I want to learn more about the age of rocks, I go to Nature. Through the scientific study of geology, nature reveals the ancient earth of billions of years old – much older than the 6,000-10,000 year range propagated by Ken Ham and his camp.
When I want to learn more about human origins, I go to Nature. Through the scientific study of biology and genetics, nature reveals the evolution of human life, over billions of years, through common descent.
When I want to learn more about human spirituality, I go to Scripture. Scripture reveals that humans are sinful, incapable of consistent righteousness (Ecclesiastes 7:20, and need a spiritual savior to have a restored relationship with God (John 14:6). Scripture cares little about how our physical properties came to be.
We need to stop asking Scripture and Nature to do jobs they were not designed to do. This doesn’t mean some questions will not remain – and that’s OK. Faith without questions is not faith; lacking the desire to ask questions is delusion.
Galileo once said, “The Bible shows the way to go Heaven, not the way the heavens go.” Likewise, Billy Graham, when asked if evolution is compatible with Christian faith, once said, “The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of redemption.”
We need to rediscover that mentality in evangelical Christianity, or we will be left behind in our delusions while the world speeds forward.