Are Science and Christianity Friends?
Many people think that the Christian faith and science are in conflict with one another. But for most of history the Christian Church has been a friend to scientific study and has encouraged it. It was the Christian worldview that provided the right environment for modern science to emerge. Belief in one God led people to look for the laws of nature to remain the same in time and space. If the universe was thought to be irregular and unpredictable it could not be systematically studied.
Few of our early scientific discoveries came out of countries with religious systems that espoused beliefs in many unpredictable gods, some good, some bad, some warring and some helping. And even some gods who demanded human sacrifices. The people who shared these religious beliefs did not live in an environment that encouraged them to get involved in scientific study.
But the Christian belief in a rational God who created the world in an orderly fashion led scientists to look for a world that was both ordered and rational. And when they looked for an ordered universe, they found it. The Christian faith was an encouragement to many scientists during the Renaissance period to investigate their natural world. Since the Christian faith teaches that God is a God of law, scientists were inspired to look for laws in nature. And they found them also.
Our faith and what we believe about God is all important. Scripture says: “The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) Christian faith teaches that we have a good and loving and just God who is all powerful and who is separate from nature. We order our lives differently when we believe in the Christian God of grace and sacrificial love. If we lived in a country with a religion that tells us that all forms of matter (animals, plants, trees, etc.) are really gods, then we would not want to perform scientific experiment with these, since we would be experimenting on a god and we might be cursed.
Some religions teach that matter in nature (birds, germs, insects, the weather) is evil. Members of these religions would be discouraged from performing scientific experiments with natural matter if they believed that it was evil. The Christian belief that everything that God created is good (Genesis 1-2) is a doctrine that encourage scientific experimentation.
The fact that Christian doctrine provides fertile soil for scientific experimentation is recognized by historians, philosophers and scientists. Science is the child of Christian thought. Many devout Christians have been inspired to get involved in scientific study because of their underlying faith.
One of these early Christians was Nicolaus Copernicus, who lived in the 15th century, and who laid the foundations of modern astronomy. He was Canon of Frauenburg Cathedral in Poland. Another early scientist, Johannes Kepler, who lived in the 16th century was known for his discovery of the three principles of planetary motion. As a devout Lutheran, he said that he was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Sir Isaac Newton who lived in the 17th century discovered the laws of gravity. He also was the first to find a correct analysis of white light. He believed that Scripture was God’s Word and he wrote theological books as well as scientific books.
Michael Faraday of the 19th century was the first to produce an electric current from a magnetic field and he invented the first electric motor and dynamo. He stated that his Christian faith had influenced him to get involved in scientific study. James Simpson, who discovered anesthetics and paved the way for painless surgery was once asked, “What is the most important discovery of your life?” And he answered, “The most important discovery I ever made was when I discovered Jesus Christ.” Thousands of Christians have devoted their lives to scientific study over hundreds of years. Louis Pasteur who discovered pasteurization, and Joseph Lister who pioneered antiseptic surgery are two who come to mind.
Some people believe that science proves the Christian faith to be wrong because our Scriptures (the Bible) teach about miracles. Scripture tells us that Jesus performed miracles, raised the dead and healed the sick. But some people say that science proves that miracles cannot happen. Actually science describes or tells us how God usually acts in nature but science does not prove that exceptions to the laws of nature (miracles) can never happen!
Scientific studies look for rules in nature (how nature usually acts). But people studying science do not always make room for the exceptions to the rules of nature (the supernatural). Some folks think that the laws of nature are set in stone and cannot be tweaked or changed! But God created the laws of nature and rules over them, not the other way around! And God can do whatever He wants!
Some folks believe that science has proved that the laws of nature are rigid and cannot ever be broken. They believe in a mechanical uniformity of nature. They can’t seem to believe that God can create exceptions to His rules! If the laws of nature are completely uniform and they can never be broken, then the supernatural would be ruled out.
Since it is not natural for a virgin to have a baby or for someone to rise from the dead, some people do not believe that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to the baby Jesus. Or that Jesus rose from the dead after He was crucified. That God could work these miracles seems too much for some to believe. They can’t seem to believe in anything that doesn’t usually happen, or anything that they have not seen with their own eyes!
If there is no God then miracles are a problem. But if there is a God and if He created matter, reason, time, space, and all the scientific laws, then He is at liberty to interfere or move His own rules around if He wants to. What seems impossible for us is always possible for God! He is all-powerful and all loving and He can do anything! Perhaps if we can’t believe in miracles, our picture of God is too small.
Scripture states that the angel told Mary that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and that her child would be the Son of God. We all know that it is not natural for a virgin to have a baby. We know that for a baby to be conceived and a woman to become pregnant, we need the union of the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm.
But Mary’s baby – the baby Jesus – is different. Different from every other baby that has ever been born! Jesus is God! His name “Emanuel” means “God with us” according to the Bible. (Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14) And Jesus the Son of God was born sinless so He was a special Person and He had a special birth.
Of course God could make an exception to the usual rule of nature this one time and intervene and impregnate Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit if He wanted to. God is powerful enough to manage that. If we can believe in a God that is big enough to manage these things then we can believe in miracles. It is as simple as that! Let’s believe in a bigger God. That is the key I think. Scripture says that the Virgin Mary conceived the baby Jesus when the Holy Spirit came over her. Is that so hard to believe?
When we believe that God is big enough then it isn’t hard to believe in the miracle of the virgin birth or in any other miracle for that matter. Our Christian faith rests on the fact that Jesus, our Savior, rose from the dead. Scripture says: “Because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19) The fact that men and women do not come back to life after they have been dead for three days and nights does not mean that Jesus Christ the Son of God did not rise from the dead after three days and nights. Jesus Christ is God and He has conquered death. He conquered it for us! We don’t worship a dead Savior but a living Savior. God is God and He is all powerful. Nothing is impossible with Him. Our God is a God of miracles!
Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Nicky Gumbels’ booklet, “Searching Issues”.