The Limits of Science and the Transcendence of God

March 10, 2018 § Leave a comment

Since the Enlightenment, many have tried to position science and the Christian faith (or Theistic religion in general) as two mutually exclusive worldviews. Many thought, and still think today, that advancements in science have replaced our need for God or His miracles. How should Christians think about science? Are science and faith in God at odds?

Sometimes categories are just convenient ways of maligning one idea and exalting another. The truth is, science done scientifically is good and true just as teaching the Bible Biblically is good and true. Both can be distorted and misapplied. To understand both better, including their compatibility, we should first look at what both science and the Bible say about themselves.

GOD around nature

RESPECTING THE BOUNDARIES

How do we do science scientifically? Science is a systematic process by which we explore the natural universe through observation and experimentation. The Scientific Method pioneered by Sir Francis Bacon (a man of both science and Christian faith) in the 17th century, involves making observations, asking questions, forming a hypothesis, testing it through experimentation, and coming to a conclusion, or repeating and refining as necessary.

Stephen Jay Gould rightly recognized science and religion as separate areas of inquiry, but he strictly defines science as “fact” and religion as “values”, which is a limited perspective of both. Gould maintains that these separate “magisteria” do not overlap(1), but when it comes to science and Biblical Christianity, that’s only partly true.

Science cannot explain God because of its self-imposed limitation to inquiry about the natural and physical world. God falls in the category of supernatural, which means outside of nature. Science by definition is not qualified to examine God.

Science cannot explain science because the foundations of science are not scientific but philosophical. Science deals with how, not why. So when we ask why do science in the first place, we can’t offer scientific evidence or reasons to support it. Science has no adequate explanation for itself.

J. Warner Wallace, a Christian apologist and retired homicide detective, applies his investigative experience by following the evidence “outside the room”, as described in the premise of his book, ‘God’s Crime Scene’: “Can everything we see in the universe be explained solely from causes found within the natural realm, or is there evidence of an outside ‘intruder’? Is the universe a ‘scene’ that can be explained by natural ‘internal’ forces, or is an external ‘intruder’ a better explanation?”(2) Just as nature itself can’t explain nature, science, the limits of which is nature, points to something “outside the room.”

God CAN explain science. God’s word in fact lays the foundations for scientific endeavor and the natural universe we explore with it. Among other realities, the Bible accounts for the origins of nature, the laws of nature, and the exploration of nature.

The origins of nature are explained in the Genesis creation account. When we observe our world and consider its possible beginnings, the evidence points “outside the room.” As the Kalam Cosmological Argument for Classical Theism presents: Everything that began to exist has a cause, and since the universe began to exist, the universe has a cause. Logically, the first cause of the universe must be uncaused, and the eternal, personal, all-powerful Creator God of the Bible is a sufficient cause.

The laws of nature broadly encompass physical/scientific laws (like gravity and uniformity), natural law (morality and human rights), and the basic rules that govern logic (like the law of non-contradiction). These are called “laws” because they are consistent and reliable observed patterns in nature (including human nature and how we think) that are not conceived or established by us, but thought to be inherent or transcendent. In other words, they come to us from “outside the room.” The Bible accounts for these laws with accounts of God establishing order and uniformity in nature (Genesis 8:22)(3), writing moral law on our hearts (Romans 2:15)(4) and creating us in His image as beings who also think morally and employ logic (Isaiah 1:18)(5).

The exploration of nature is a fundamental part of human flourishing since the beginning, or at least since God scattered the nations at Babel (Genesis 11). Our scientific endeavor is fueled by a hunger to expand our territory and a thirst for knowledge about ourselves and our world. But why do science? Why do we spend billions launching exploratory spacecraft and searching for signals from aliens on the outside chance that we might not be alone in the universe?(6)

We can deduce from Scripture that we are made to ultimately encounter God through scientific exploration. Paul, in Acts 17:24-27, told the intellectuals of his day: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and… gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…”. And in Romans 1:20, Paul makes it clear that we are “without excuse” for atheism and ought to logically infer a Creator, as most do, by observing creation.(7)

TRANSCENDING THE BOUNDARIES

If we take science “outside the room” to assess the supernatural, we are giving it a scope and authority it is not meant to have. Granting science such ultimate authority is one of the tenets of a religion called Scientism.

While science can’t transcend the boundaries of nature and the physical universe, God is by nature transcendent. God is infinite and limitless in His presence, power, knowledge and love, so boundaries are nothing to Him.

Nature can’t logically create itself. God transcended nature, first, when He created it (Genesis 1:1). As Deism would suggest, God could have created the universe and then left us alone, but Colossians 1:17 puts Him “in all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (The so-dubbed “strong forces” that hold atomic particles together are interactions that physicists don’t fully understand). God could have left His creation to perish completely in their sin, but instead God loves us, cares for us, and is active in and author of our story.

This love led Him to absolutely transcend our world in the sending of His Son (John 3:16-17)(8). Jesus Christ was born in the flesh, living a perfectly sinless life as fully man, but died as an atonement for our sins, a payment He could only make if He was also fully God(9). After defeating sin and death on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended back to the Father, leaving us His Holy Spirit.

Our sin cemented a barrier between man and God. Through Christ, God, who is no respecter of barriers, broke it down. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes (or transcends) to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) If not for God’s transcendence into our world, especially through Christ, we could never realize transcendence into His—but that’s exactly what He offers through faith in Christ alone. Jesus is the only “Way” we can truly get “outside the room.”

SCIENCE AND FAITH

Some claim that “science says” this or that. But outside of the definition and parameters we’ve given it, does science itself actually say things? Or is it more accurate to say that science is a process by which scientists say things? Scientists are people with individual worldviews and the choice to either use science correctly or make it do things it’s not supposed to do when they say things.

Does “science say” that our universe created itself, or that life originated from non-living matter, was seeded on earth from another part of the universe, or diversified by natural and undirected processes over billions of years? Actually, people with Naturalistic or Materialistic worldviews come to such conclusions in the name of science (or Scientism)—without observation, without testing, and without the aid of actual science. They are starting with a certain assumption dictated by their worldview and working to prove it using science.

If we prop up science with worldview assumptions or take it outside its self-imposed limitations, we are anti-science. If we assume that God is only a conceptual crutch to explain natural phenomena until science replaces Him, we are anti-theology. People who consider themselves Christians should evaluate science on the basis of what science teaches about itself. Likewise, people who consider themselves scientifically minded should evaluate Christianity on the basis of what Christianity teaches about itself.

In another act of transcendence, God has given us His word, and the Bible understood Biblically does not contradict science understood scientifically, but instead supports and even explains science. When we see, do, and define both science and the Christian faith correctly and honestly, the two are in harmony.

1) Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), Wikipedia contributors (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria)
2) God’s Crime Scene: a Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, by J. Warner Wallace, David C Cook, 2015, p. 23.
3) “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (NIV)
4) “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (NIV)
5) 
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (ESV)
6) “The Cost of SETI: Infographic.”
Bad Astronomy, 1 May 2011 (blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/05/01/the-cost-of-seti-infographic)
7) “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (NIV)
8) “
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV)
9) My post:
“God and Man Collide: Why the Hypostatic Union of Jesus Matters” (https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/god-and-man-collide-why-the-hypostatic-union-of-jesus-matters/)

Digging for the secrets of the universe in South Dakota

August 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

Storm_Over_The_Badlands_in_South_Dakota,_USA

From USA TODAY Tech: “The universe as we know it shouldn’t exist. Unlocking the reasons why may depend on once again striking gold in a mine buried a mile underground in rural South Dakota. … Scientists believe equal parts of matter and antimatter should have been created during the formation of the universe. But that didn’t happen, and no one knows why. Instead, the visible universe is dominated by matter. Neutrinos may be the reason why… Over the next 10 years, workers will remove more than 870,000 tons of rock and install a four-story high, 70,000-ton neutrino detector… The project will cost more than $1 billion, but scientists hope the payoff from about 12 million neutrinos per second passing through the detector will be far larger, tantamount to striking gold on a universal scale.”(1)

The fact that there seems to be more matter than antimatter in the universe has baffled secular scientists, but only because of Materialistic or Naturalistic presuppositions, assuming that matter and nature is all there is, and that you are an accident.

From Physics.org: “One would expect the Big Bang to produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter, and, since the two annihilate one another on contact, this should have led to a universe with no particles, filled only with radiation. This problem can be solved if there exists some process that favours matter over antimatter, leading to the excess that we see today.”(2) 

Is there “some sort of process that favours matter over antimatter”? Christians believe there is a Creator who favours a certain kind of matter—us, and the universe He created to point us toward Him.

A physics community driven by the assumptions of Materialism will continue to dig for answers, this time going underground in a 10-year $1 billion search. We may discover great things in the process, but for the answer to why this universe exists, we can dig into God’s revealed Word and find it now for free:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) …God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see… He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)

An undirected, undesigned “Big Bang” should not have resulted in this universe. But this universe is exactly what we should expect if God created it.

“Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD,
and you will gain knowledge of God.”
(Proverbs 2:3-5)

1) Lackey, Katharine. “Secrets of the Universe May Lie in an Old Gold Mine in South Dakota.” USA Today. Gannett Company, 09 August 2017. Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/08/09/secrets-universe-may-lie-old-gold-mine-south-dakota/534457001/)
2) Physics in Society. “Why Is There More Matter than Antimatter?” Physics.org. IOP Publishers, Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=121)

You’re Much More Than Far-Flung Star Farts

July 27, 2017 § 1 Comment

An EarthSky report(1) tells us “Northwestern researchers found that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy may come from distant galaxies. As a result, each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. That is, atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and so on in our bodies may be created not just by stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, but by stars in far-flung galaxies.”

Messier_100_and_Supernova_SN_2006X

Put another way, we are the result of ejected gas (Ew!) from exploding stars in a galaxy far, far away. Carl Sagan famously said “we are made of star-stuff” in 1973, but the idea that we are made of the same basic elements as the rest of the cosmos has been talked about by astronomers since the 1920s.(2)

And that’s accurate, according to the Bible.

Genesis 2:7a tells us that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground…”, and indeed the 11 basic elements (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.) found in the human body are also found in the top layers of the earth. They are not just earth elements, but they can also be found in the stars.

Where God’s Word differs from Naturalistic Cosmology is not the what but the how. “God formed man” out the same stuff which He created to fill the universe. Why not? That we are beings formed by an all-knowing and personal Creator, who loves us and also wrote us into His grand story, means we have purpose and value. Beings accidentally formed by “far-flung” star farts can have no real purpose or value. Unless you’re on purpose, you can’t have purpose. A purposeful creation isn’t true because it’s a happy thought; it’s a happy thought because it’s true.

I think regardless of theistic or atheistic belief, we all know better. Most people, even after contemplating that we are merely chemical accidents still live as if human beings have intrinsic value and dignity and rights and purpose. After all, people high on Naturalism or Materialism aren’t particularly depressed or suicidal due to the logical conclusion that life has no real meaning. Carl Sagan even romanticized the brute fact that we are just materials from space: “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”(2)

Why do we hang onto this idea of lasting purpose?

There was more to God’s creation of man than forming his body from the elemental “dust”. The second half of the above verse (Genesis 2:7b) says, “…and (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Those common particles of physical substance landing on earth didn’t make us alive. There is no conclusive evidence that life can arise from non-life, especially from natural and undirected processes. Far-flung atoms sticking together cannot make a living thing, much less a rational, moral, self-aware living thing. Only God can do that, as He did when He breathed life into Adam.

At the same time, “man became a living soul.” We are alive and we are more than biology; We are body, soul, and spirit—image-bearers (Genesis 1:27) of a triune God gifted with clues of an eternal dimension (Ecclesiaste 3:11) and knowledge of a Creator, which we sometimes suppress (Romans 1:18), along with His moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). I think it’s the soul that yearns to know that we are more than just far-flung “stuff”, and that there is more to our existence than a temporal and purposeless life.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 4.49.19 PM

1. Byrd, Deborah. “We Are Galaxy Stuff” EarthSky. July 27, 2017 http://earthsky.org/space/origins-extragalactic-star-galaxy-stuff-galactic-winds
2. “We Are Made of Star-Stuff.” Quote Investigator. Garson O’Toole. June 22, 2013 http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/22/starstuff

Ken Ham Won the Creation Debate, and So Did Bill Nye.

February 6, 2014 § 14 Comments

On February 4, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Answers In Genesis president Ken Ham on this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Before the debate, a friend said he hoped that there wouldn’t be a lot of bias and asked me who I thought would win. I explained that I don’t know how I would assess a win or loss apart from my own bias. My friend was talking about the bias of the moderator—CNN’s Tom Foreman, who was as neutral as a moderator could be. But I think it’s true that deciding who “wins” the debate very much depends on who’s side you are on before the debate even begins. That’s because whether we are debating or watching, we take our presuppositions–basics we assume to be true without evidence–into it with us, and we are incredibly stubborn about giving them up. Only one of the debaters understood this.

The beginning remarks and individual presentations were well-prepared and complete, and the highlight in my opinion. Ken’s arguments for a young earth creation were strong and clear, firmly rooted in the Bible as man’s ultimate authority. Bill’s were also well-formed as he posed some really tough challenges to creationism, although he seemed to stray from the topic to a focus on the age of the earth and Noah’s flood, which don’t pose a direct challenge to creationism with respect to the the question being debated.

Their differing presuppositions come to light in each point of their presentations. For instance, Ken’s creationism is firmly rooted in the book of Genesis. He presupposes the truth and authority of the Bible as God’s word, and in God as the infinite Creator. Bill’s materialism is firmly rooted in man’s ideas, that life and the universe evolved, somehow, from an unknown but presumably mindless beginning. Both positions are held a priori on faith, because neither presupposition can be proven with any kind of scientific process.

Ken was appropriately adamant about defining terms, specifically “science” and “evolution”,  noting that secularists have hijacked them for their exclusive use. Bill affirms this by consciously classifying his own position as science, and Ken’s position as something else. Science, as Bill says, was practiced by mainstream scientists, outside the walls of “this facility” (Bill never did correctly name the hosting venue as the Creation Museum, stammeringly calling it “this facility” no less than three times). Ken is thorough in providing numerous  testimonies from creationists who have made significant contributions to various scientific fields (for example, Raymond Damadian, pioneer of the MRI machine). This exposes Bill Nye’s non-sequiter—it simply doesn’t follow that creationists cannot be scientists, which was made obvious to everyone who doesn’t simply assume this to be true. This was a presupposition Bill carried into the debate and it stuck to him like a soup stain throughout as he continually maintained that children taught creation will not have the innovation to keep America in the global game.

Ken makes a clear distinction between historical science (data derived from the past without direct observation) and observational science (study of what we can observe but not recreate through controlled experiments, i.e. the cosmos, fossils). This distinction is invisible to Bill and many naturalists since it presents a real problem for molecules-to-man evolution. The way we interpret data from the past is colored by our presuppositions, what we already believe (We were created vs. We evolved) about the past. Not wanting to be caught assuming the fundamentals of his belief, Bill doesn’t recognize the difference. Naturalists generally do not acknowledge that their most deeply held convictions are not determined by evidence, but by faith, which is also true for creationists. Ken is right in his assertion that creation is the only historical science model that confirms what we find in observational science. Unfortunately, he didn’t say enough in support of this.

Bill’s repeated diatribe about the Bible highlighted his ignorance of the Bible and the evidences supporting it, citing creationism as an “interpretation of a 3,000 year old book translated into American English” and using the classic “game of telephone” critique to assert how it has probably changed over the centuries. It would have been a fairly easy apologetic move for Ken to summarize textual criticism and the fact that early extant manuscripts agree with current Bible text. But he didn’t, and really didn’t have time to. By Bill’s own admission, he is not a theologian, but he clearly didn’t do his homework here.

In addition to the faulty arguments for creationism’s incompatibility with science, Bill repeatedly relied on an illusory attempt to reduce the size of his opponent while inflating his own position. He continually referred to creationism as “Ken Ham’s view” and “Mr. Ham’s flood”, as if these views were exclusively held by Ken and his followers at AIG. The earth’s age aside, Christians, Catholics, Jews and Muslims all believe in divine creation (46% of Americans). Knowing this, Bill made reference to “billions of people in the world who are deeply religious” who do not accept Ken’s model, meaning old earth creationists. Ken is a young earth creationist. But, while Ken maintains old earth creationists have problems reconciling an old earth with certain language and theology presented in Genesis, he certainly identifies with them in the common faith that God created. The question being debated is not about whether creation is billions of years old or thousands. Bill expressly denies theistic evolution or creationism in any form, young or old. Aside from being an appeal to authority (Ken correctly points out elsewhere in the debate that the majority is not always right), this seems like an attempt by Bill to bring the world’s old earth creationists on his side. But Bill is a naturalist, so this won’t do.

The points most devastating to naturalism were ones largely unanswered by Bill, and those are the preconditions of intelligibility that Ken laid out: We accept by faith certain natural laws, such as the laws of logic, morality, uniformity, that allow us to do things like scientific experiments and reasoned debate. The naturalist assumes these to be true but can’t account for them on his own worldview. These natural laws make sense if they come from a logical, moral, uniform God who made us in His image. They shouldn’t exist if naturalism is true. Bill’s best answer on this is “I don’t know.” Ken also pointed out that knowledge and complexity don’t come from a universe originally devoid of these things, and Bill answers were missing here too.

I didn’t think Ken fared as well in the rebuttal stage or in the Q and A session that followed. He didn’t seem as well prepared, and his introductions to the Gospel seemed forced and a little out of place, especially since Bill provided no inroad to the gospel in his script. I want to be careful with that though, because I believe that presenting the Gospel should be the ultimate goal in apologetic endeavor, and a discussion about creation is really only a step or two way from the opportunity (Creation was originally good, man fell into sin, sinful man needed a Savior). But it seemed, at the end of the debate with time dwindling, this opportunity would have been better spent addressing some of the questions Ken didn’t have time to answer earlier. The gospel was a star in Ken’s initial presentation.

In my opinion Ken also spent too much time on arguing for a young earth, even though I share this view. Attention brought to the ecclesiastical divide between old and young earth creationists wasn’t helpful in this debate. Since the question debated was whether or not creation in any form fits with today’s world, it seemed pretty irrelevant. Although Ken did do a good job of exposing the unreliability of dating methods, Ken’s focus on a young earth also brought attention to the fact that he didn’t get around to addressing many of Bill’s challenges that seem to support long ages, i.e. the number of snow ice layers, very old trees, and the settling of rock layers.

The last question asked of both men was, “What is the one thing, more than anything else, upon which you base your belief?” Ken’s basis was God and His word. Bill’s reply began with a quote from his previous mentor Carl Sagan: “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” Bill’s love, he goes on to explain, is “information and the process we call science”. Now what if, instead of summing up his love for science, Bill had tried to explain love itself? And would he admit that he probably would put love higher than science? This, like much of what he and every naturalist base their most important beliefs upon, would have to be presupposed, as they make no sense on a completely materialistic universe.

Earlier in the final round of Q and A one question put to both debaters asked if they could imagine any evidence that would cause them to give up their worldview convictions. Ken Ham was doubtful that anything could change his mind about a creator God. Bill thought that a significant piece of evidence would change his mind about evolution, and he gave as one example a polystrate fossil. Well, I’d have to say Bill wasn’t sincere, since he has available to him evidence of numerous polystrate fossils. I’m guessing his presuppositions move him to apply some naturalistic phenomena or creationist misinterpretation to tree trunks or trilobite tracks that have been discovered to span multiple geographic layers.

We generally stick to what we already believe in any debate, and that’s why determining “winner” or “loser” is so subjective. It depends on who you ask. Unless winning and losing is based on something other than what most debates are about, like who gave the most eloquent speech (perhaps also very subjective) and who avoided more logical fallacies (a little less subjective). Otherwise, we are likely to call the winner the one who shares the same worldview we do, because there is no such thing as neutral belief. My hope is that the Lord will use this debate to persuade some for the truth of the Christianity, because the Gospel was preached, and Naturalism’s main problem was exposed. But they are generally very few who are converted as the result of one debate. That’s the job of God’s Holy Spirit. Like the guys at the podium, we hold fast to what we presuppose, ultimate commitments we already believe on faith. There’s plenty of debate after the debate about who won it. The lasting verdict? The truth will win in the end, when “every knee will bow… every tongue will acknowledge God.” (Rom. 14:11). But those are my presuppositions talking.

Oort Cloud, the God in a Cometary Gap

November 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

We all believe in things we can’t see, which is necessary to understand the universe. Often though, faith in Naturalistic ideas can lead to pretty clouded conclusions.

Kuiper_oortThe Oort cloud is an immense spherical cloud surrounding the planetary system and extending approximately 3 light years, about 30 trillion kilometers from the Sun. This vast distance is considered the edge of the Sun’s orb of physical, gravitational, or dynamical influence. … Recognition of the Oort cloud gave explanation to the age old questions: “What are comets, and where do they come from?”

If you search the internet for “oort cloud”, the web page(1) that bears the above summary is among the top results. Some sources, such as Wikipedia,(2) are honest enough to admit that the Oort Cloud is “hypothesized”, while some, like NASA(3) and the site quoted above, state it as a fact.

The truth is, nothing like an Oort Cloud has ever been observed or directly detected. What we do know is that comets cannot be anywhere close to 4.6 billion years old, which is the age of our solar system according the estimates of Naturalistic Cosmology. This view states that since comets lose too much material when they pass near the sun, they should have burned out long before now, so they must have been generated at various times long after the origin of the solar system. They’re too new to be a byproduct of the formation of the solar system.

The Dutch astronomer Jan Oort first suggested in 1950 that comets come from a common region at the outer edge of the solar system, which was later named after him. This hypothesis, like the whole of secular science, was based solely on the prior commitment to a universe without a Creator—a completely naturalistic presupposition. From this view, there is no God, so we must assume that the universe was formed by chance over billions of years, and there must be another explanation for the creation of relatively young comets. The God of that gap is the Oort Cloud.

It’s interesting how faith commitments work, even in Christendom. We hypothesize based on convictions we already have, an a priori faith commitment to something that might support the new idea. The religion of Naturalistic Cosmology (the universe came about naturally) excludes divine creation. Of course, none of us were around to observe the solar system’s origin, so we start out with a certain assumption about how it began, gather evidence, test and interpret it based on the prior assumptions. In Christianity, we start by taking on faith the Bible’s description of God and creation and assuming its truth that God created comets (Genesis 1:14-19)(4). If we look at the same scientific evidence, interpreting it based on the Bible, comets still make sense.

Worldviews stand or fall from their foundations—where we start out in our thinking. When it was determined that comets do not make sense on Naturalism, secular scientists had to amend it by imagining an Oort Cloud, something for which we have absolutely no empirical evidence. It just needs to be there in order to keep Naturalistic Cosmology alive. But at its foundation, we still have to wonder how, on Naturalism, we end up with comets that move in predictable orbits when Naturalism itself can’t explain the origin of matter, motion, or any basic principal related to what we know about comets. That responsibility is ultimately passed along to other fields of study that also don’t hold up to inquiry about ultimate foundations either.

Only the eternal, omniscient Creator described in the Bible makes sense of comets, and everything else we can observe. Yes, since we cannot scientifically account for God, we ultimately accept Him by faith. But that faith makes sense of everything else—especially science. Those who put their faith in Naturalistic Cosmology often do what they accuse Creationists of doing, which is hypothesize an invisible origin for something like comets. That doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

1) http://www.solarviews.com/eng/oort.htm
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud
3) http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=KBOs
4) http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Genesis%201.14–19

God’s Two Books: Are General and Special Revelation Equal?

February 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

504px-Jan_van_Eyck_059In a previous post I shared what I thought about the perceived dichotomy of science and the Bible: While the Bible doesn’t set out to teach science, we can’t deny that it is relevant to science in various descriptions of God’s natural order. Nevertheless, it seems a popular stance to pit the Bible against the findings of science, even though the two naturally are not at odds.

In discussions with other Christians over controversies like the age of the earth or the flood of Noah’s day, some seem driven to separate science from the Bible to the point where the Bible can’t possibly shed any light on what we study in the scientific fields, as if it speaks to every other area of life but science. Recently, one believer asserted that the Bible can be fallible on matters of science and we should only regard what it teaches spiritually.

I think that we determine what the Bible teaches by what it says. From what it says, the thrust of Biblical doctrine is not dominated by what we address in modern science, but in the Bible we see that scientific processes and systems are mentioned and observed. The reasons they are mentioned and observed seem to be for the most part ultimately theological, to teach about nature’s Creator, for instance, as Paul does in Romans 1: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (vs. 20)

General Revelation is what God reveals through nature. Special Revelation is what God reveals through the supernatural, most importantly in the person of Jesus Christ, but contemporarily in the revelation of the Bible. Historically, God has revealed Himself supernaturally at different times in different ways to different people. Today, of all possible supernatural revelations, I consider the Bible the most important to the Church age (and so here I use the Bible fairly synomymously with Special Revelation).

Dual Revelation—the idea that the Bible and Nature stand as two equal authoritative books—seems to be what drives the emphasis of science as a way of determining theology, as well as the reverse. Dual Revelation, however, is our brainchild, not God’s. God apparently does intend to show himself through the wonders of science (Psalm 19:1). The natural world that we study with science does reveal much about our Creator, and inspires worship in those who understand, Biblically, that God created nature. Hugh Ross explains this view of an equal authority of these two books: “God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible.” (1)

761px-Phot-26-05Ideally, dual revelation would like the two books to agree and affirm each other, but inevitably, one is compromised to line up with the other. Science can confirm what we see in the Bible, but nevertheless we need to start with the Bible, not the “67th book” of nature. Why? Foundations.

• It’s a fundamental teaching of Christianity that Nature is cursed (Genesis 3, Romans 8:22). Using our observations of Nature to prove the Bible is Biblically backwards.

• It’s a fundamental truth in Scripture that our ability to reason is also affected by the curse on creation. Proverbs 3:5 says to “lean not on your own understanding.” We are not only limited in our scope of knowledge and reason but inclined toward self-deception. Man has “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things instead of the Creator…” (Rom. 1:25) Of course faulty reasoning can affect our interpretation of the Bible as well as our interpretation of the universe. But it’s the Bible that teaches that Christians have a Helper in the Holy Spirit (John 14:6, 26; 2 Pet. 1:20,21) to guide in “accurately handling the Word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15), not Nature.

• The foundations of Christian theology are historically tied to Sola Scriptura—that God’s Special Revelation in the Bible is our preeminent source of doctrine. It’s only in recent history, corresponding with scientific advancements following the Enlightenment, that General Revelation was elevated to something of an equal authority with the Bible.

• The fundamental truth of Christianity, that man is depraved and in need of a Savior, and how salvation is acquired, is contained completely in God’s Special Revelation to us in Scripture, and it is not found at all in the General Revelation of Nature. Even nature is meant to lead us to something, ultimately a relationship with the Creator, whom Scripture identifies in detail. General Revelation may show us facts, but Special Revelation shows us the meaning.

• The foundation for General Revelation is found in the Special Revelation of Scripture (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20), so without Scripture, we would have little reason to consider Nature a way of knowing God. Anything Nature says would mean nothing significant without God’s supernatural revelation.

450px-Old_booksIf Dual Revelation represents two books by the same author, they should agree. The Bible is set apart from Nature in authority and importance by what it clearly proclaims about itself. One claim is that we can “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (1 John 4:1). Another is that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction” (2 Tim. 3:16), so by IT we are to judge everything else. The 66th book of the Bible also warns that “if anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18) Tacking on a 67th book and granting it equal authority then is ill-advised. Any attempt to make these “two books” agree should be done by testing our observations and experience of the natural world against God’s Word, not the other way around.

General Revelation shows us certain facts about ourselves and the material world that should direct us toward our Creator. Special Revelation, specifically God’s written Word, grounds those facts in ultimate truth about our Creator, and bears a message of love and salvation. The former is not complete without the latter. That’s why science and philosophy and whatever other ways we use to think about the universal aspects of God through Nature have their place—a place of subservience to what has God revealed to us through the anchor of all revelation, the Bible.

1. (Hugh Ross, Creation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy, (NavPress, 1994) pp. 56-57.)

Why the Bible Is and Is Not a Science Book

February 5, 2013 § 7 Comments

I think the claim that “the Bible is not a science book” is generally true, but I think it depends on what we mean when we say science book.

SCiBible

Typically, a science book that is used to teach students science is dedicated cover to cover to teaching science. In this sense the Bible is not a science book because it’s not dedicated cover to cover to teaching science. The setting of the Bible spans from the creation of the universe to a future age, and in the main teaches the story of God’s redemption of mankind in the form of law, history, poetry, prophesy, wisdom, the message of the Gospels and letters of instruction for Christian living. This is not what we refer to as scientific instruction.

On the other hand, to say that the Bible at no point teaches on matters related to science is not true. The Bible does make mention of certain processes and conditions in nature, but when it does, it is in a context that isn’t specifically scientific. But the way in which we understand and study those same processes and conditions today is primarily in the realm of modern science.

For example, the hydrologic cycle (the continuous pathway water takes including rain, water flow, evaporation, condensation, then rain again) is something meteorologists are keenly aware of and most of us learn in science class. But, this process is also described in numerous passages in Scripture. Here are a few, from the NASB:

He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.
(Psalm 135:7)

Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
(Ecclesiastes 1:6,7)

He wraps up the waters in His clouds, and the cloud does not burst under them.
(Job 26:8)

Other passages are consistent with such modern scientific fields as astronomy (Job 26:7; 1 Cor. 15:41), anthropology (Job 30:5,6), paleontology (Job 40-41), geology (Is. 40:22), physics (2 Pet. 3:10), fluid dynamics (Job 28:25), biology (Gen. 1:25; Lev. 17:11), and mental health (Prov. 14:30; 16:24). The intent behind these are not necessarily a science lesson, but happens to corroborate what we find in science.

This isn’t to say that scientists began their inquiry from these passages. Discovery of these principals and subsequent development of theories can happen independently from the Bible. But the fact that these ancient and divinely inspired observations of God’s natural order predate the majority of man’s scientific knowledge speaks to God’s ultimate authorship and authority in Scripture.

It also helps to eliminate the false dichotomy of science and scripture. After all, without the God described in the Bible, we would not have science. The process of doing science rests on the laws of logic, and logic is rooted in the nature of God.

I agree that in one sense the Bible is not a science textbook in its prime intent, but that isn’t cause to disregard it when it mentions things we now study scientifically, or to say that the Bible has nothing to do with science. We are, after all, made to discover our Creator, and our ability to do science thousands of years ago is evident in the pages of His word.

[Related Post: God’s Two Books: Are General and Special Revelation Equal?]

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