So what prompted me to return to this poster that lodged in my memory some months ago?
Is the supposed antagonism between science and faith based on truth or misunderstanding? Can they be reconciled?
We believe that each man must find the truthIs the absolutist truly an archaic relic of the past? Truth is independent of our beliefs, If our beliefs line up with truth- well and good. If they don't line up with reality- then we are simply deceived. Christians are fighting for the exclusive and timeless nature of truth, and rightly so.
that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
Clearly the above poster leans positively in the direction of scientific materialism while attempting to give a backhander to religion. And truly there is ample evidence of an upward trend in our successes in our search for knowledge. In broad strokes the world has progressed from Aristotelian elements of earth, wind, air and fire with the addition of the mysterious "quintessence" to Newtonian physics. And from there to Einsteinian relativity and now into the realm of quantum physics. Science has indeed rightly advanced into ever-increasing accuracy with regard to the physical world and the criticism is that religion has sat in the shadows of obscurantism, and became a fossilized dinosaur in its fixation with the absolute.
But is that completely true?
Well no it isn't, certainly not in the realm of Christian theology. If science is to be applauded on the basis of constant change in the direction of greater accuracy then we can also apply this criteria to theology. To this day we still have those same basic elements, Earth, Air, Wind and Fire but of course there have been an almost endless succession of improvements to how we understand these basic elements, and this is no less true of Christian Theology. Creedal statements are the legitimate attempts to express an ongoing commitment- like the progressive reputation of science- to a process of affirmation and an ever increasing distillation of timeless truths into more concise, unmistakeable formulations. One can trace perhaps one of the earliest, simple creedal statements to Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Corinthians 15In order to safeguard the core truths against those repeated attempts to subvert orthodoxy one can trace the various councils convened over the centuries to ward off or clarify challenges to the faith, both from within the ranks of the broader Church and from without. The council of Nicea, the synod of Dordt and many, many others testify to this persistent theological development.. So we see then that Christian history is replete with the continued efforts to understand, clarify and further the cause of truth. It continues to this day. What was true yesterday, is as true today and will be in the future, but what will and must continue to change are the expressions and formulations that must consistently thwart the challenges of contemporary atitudes, like for example the current war on truth by the philosophy of relativism. What the late great Albert Einstein said of science is equally applicable to theology-
…new frameworks are like climbing a mountain-the larger view encompasses, rather than rejects the earlier more restricted view.So there is maturity, development and innovation in the expressions of both disciplines, and yet also there is a constancy, a timelessness in the fundamentals. The incredible thing is that despite entering into the quantum age of physics- such is the accuracy of Newtonian physics that it is (if I'm not mistaken) still the model used in the incredible achievement of the landing of "Philae" on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko 6.4 billion kilometres away. Isaac Newton, by the way, was a Christian along with many who were the progenitors of the scientific method.
Scientists, like Christians are believers in absolutes, as opposed to the philosophical relativists. The continued refinement of our knowledge of the Universe is to get to the point of the best possible description of physical reality- so it is a search for truth.
Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Why not let scientists continue with their worldview in peace and Christians persist in their faith without interference?
Well an obvious objection would be where does that leave the Christian who is a scientist? Must there be a forever divided loyalty? But it also omits another obvious difficulty. A scientist who is a Christian, indeed any Christian in seeking to be more loyal to Christ must take seriously his or her own authority- The Bible. The scriptures proclaim:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." Psalm 19:1Clearly it is within the scriptural mandate to look to the heavens for evidence of God's glory and in order to appreciate Him who fashioned nature according to his own character and will. The unbiased study of nature then is indeed intended to help us know God just as surely as the books of scripture do. Even the most ardent atheist scientists are unwittingly complimenting God's handiwork in their devotion to its mysteries. Should Christians be ignorant of a continuing source of knowledge that furthers the glory of God? So there is a direct scriptural link that points to the reality that nature is another "book" that can teach us to honour God.
May we just ignore the argument between faith and reason, science and religion? Isn't there a danger that the study of nature, ie. science will lead us away from God?
The difference between an idol and an icon is that the idol becomes the ultimate focus- blinding us to the reality beyond. An icon is that which grasps our attention long enough to enable us to see the reality it points to beyond itself. So long as nature remains an icon it will continue to glorify God.
If the study of nature is to reveal the glory of God as surely as the books of the Bible do, as testified by the Word of God itself- it is as C.S. Lewis said- no more possible that the study of nature can do away with the idea of God than a stream can rise above its source. If God is as good as his Word- to which every loyal Christian would agree- then Scientists whose sole aim is to observe nature in all its various aspects are doing something drastically wrong if they can then turn around and argue belligerently that nature proves the non-existence of God. Which is what many atheists tend to believe, especially in terms of Darwinian Evolution. And so it is encumbent upon Christians everywhere to give voice to the truth that Christianity was the cradle in which a love of science was nurtured, in as far as it is in their capacity to do so. And so the whole enterprise of scientists whose worldview encompassess philosophical materialism has been geared to enlist science from Darwin's day forward to perpetuate the myth that science has buried God. And (as Richard Dawkins so elegantly wrote) that "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist".
In this current atmosphere, the continued refusal to engage with the science community by Christemdom actually has put Christianity on the backfoot, even ducking for cover, rendering anything we say as irrelevant. The reverse should be true- that science whether in the form of intelligent design, or big bang cosmology- will if engaged with systematically and rigorously will indeed make it possible once again to be an intellectually fulfilled theist as it once was- and not just in our own cloistered halls.
In the current state of affairs the relationship between science and theology is awkward if not downright hostile. The uncomfortable popular misconception is that science and theology are competing worldviews. And this tragic error is compounded by unthinking adherents of both sides. They are not. It is essential that one distinguishes between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism, because that is where the real worldview clash materializes. The latest offering by Analytical Philosopher and Christian, Alvin Plantinga addresses the very real need to comprehend just where the real battlelines are drawn between atheism and theism. His latest book Where the Conflict Really Lies is sure to bring illuminating thoughts to the debate. If anyone wishes to buy me a copy please leave a comment to that effect below! Here is a soundbite that gives the promise of a really good understanding as to the nature of the real conflict:
'there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.'Alvin PlantingaHere is what Thomas Nagel, a philosopher in his own right- and an atheist says of Plantinga in a review of Plantinga's latest book in the New York Review of Books:
'Plantinga’s religion is the real thing, not just an intellectual deism that gives God nothing to do in the world. He himself is an evangelical Protestant, but he conducts his argument with respect to a version of Christianity that is the “rough intersection of the great Christian creeds”—ranging from the Apostle’s Creed to the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles—according to which God is a person who not only created and maintains the universe and its laws, but also intervenes specially in the world, with the miracles related in the Bible and in other ways. It is of great interest to be presented with a lucid and sophisticated account of how someone who holds these beliefs understands them to harmonize with and indeed to provide crucial support for the methods and results of the natural sciences.'
' I say this as someone who cannot imagine believing what he [Plantinga] believes. But even those who cannot accept the theist alternative should admit that Plantinga’s criticisms of naturalism are directed at the deepest problem with that view—how it can account for the appearance, through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry, of conscious beings like ourselves, capable of discovering those laws and understanding the universe that they govern. Defenders of naturalism have not ignored this problem, but I believe that so far, even with the aid of evolutionary theory, they have not proposed a credible solution.' (Emphasis mine)Clearly that is a powerful push for Plantinga's faith and thought when duly considered who it is that is giving that statement.
To give a real time instance of this misunderstanding of where the conflict really lies take this interview between Dan Abrams (MSNBC) , Eugenie Scott (National Center for Science Education) and Stephen C. Meyer advocate for Intelligent Design. It is sometimes difficult to follow the arguments because of numerous interjections- but it is possible!
Do I really need to understand the difference between a scientist committed to methodological naturalism and someone committed to philosophical naturalism?
Science or God, or Science and God?
Science- Do we Deify it, or Demonize It?
How do we evaluate the claims of the skeptic and atheist and the absolutist claims of the religious?
Follow Tim Keller's vision for checks and balance in our worldview: