Saturday, November 22, 2014

CCS SLEW -- "How Should We See The Relationship Between Science And Theology?"

The generally accepted view among those scientists who reject belief in God is that science and faith are "at war." Science gives us empirical (measurable by the five senses) data about the world, while theology is simply a collection of the musings of deluded believers about their "imaginary friend." These two realms of study cannot, and should not, ever overlap.

This is an interesting position ... considering the fact that the scientific method itself was developed by Christian scientists who thought the world was logical, consistent, and understandable precisely because it had been created by an intelligent, logical, orderly God. These scientists believed that studying cause and effect relationships in the world would help us understand how it operated and make predictions about how it would operate in the future. It also meant that we could learn things about God's character and creation by studying both the natural world and theology. This sentiment was reflected in Article 2 of the church's Belgic Confession of 1561:
We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse. 
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory and for our salvation.
This view is also reflected in Psalm 19 ["The heavens declare the glory of God ..."] and in several other places in Scripture. The point is that it is not some new invention meant to entice Christians to capitulate to the dictates of modern science. It is a view solidly founded in Scripture itself.

Considering the diagram above, this notion of "Dual Revelation" means that we have two books -- the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. Both are "inspired" by God and both reveal truth about His character and creation. Nature is a General Revelation about the workings of the creation. Scripture is Special Revelation about the details of who God is and what his moral nature entails. The ultimate example of Special Revelation is Jesus Christ himself.

The key to the diagram above is the horizontal, yellow, dotted line. Above that line we have truth revealed from God himself. Because it comes directly from God, it is not corrupted or in error. It is true truth. Everything above the yellow dotted line is devoid of error.

However, below the dotted line is man's attempt to interpret the received revelation. Science is man's attempt to interpret nature. Theology is man's attempt to interpret Scripture. This means that everything below the line always has the possibility of being in error.


If we uncover what appear to be disagreements between science and theology, or apparent contradictions between them, the source of the discrepancy is always a problem with our interpretation. We could be interpreting nature incorrectly or we could be interpreting Scripture incorrectly. In either case, the error is ours and we have to be willing to understand that we may have to rethink either interpretation.

Obviously (or maybe not?) this view only applies to areas where the two revelations overlap. You will never find the "plan of salvation" in nature. Likewise, you will never find a correct expression of the speed of light in Scripture. But, in the areas like: the origin of the universe, the design of the universe, the origin of life, the variety of life, our understanding of human nature, the reality of the soul, or the destiny of humanity as it relates to the creation; it does seem that we can compare notes from both sources of revelation in our attempt to understand them.

This view of Dual Revelation gives us freedom to trust that the practice of science (as long as it avoids improper presuppositions) can help lead us to truths about God. We should never be "afraid" that science will somehow undermine our pursuit of Him or view of Him. Science was developed by Christians and will always reflect how and why God created the world we live in. It is just another way He has given us to see Him.

Other Resources

Ken Samples, Historic Christianity's "Two Books" of Revelation (essay)

Hugh Ross, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is (book)

Dual Revelation (trailer) from Windjammer Entertainment on Vimeo.

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