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Faith and Science

Ian Barbour in his book “Religion and Science,” gives several models for how the two spheres, Science and Religion, or

Science and Faith, could interact.

Science and Faith in Conflict. This first model is one that we have seen a lot over the last 100 years. Scriptural literalism and modern day science are said to conflict over a number of issues. A good Christian gave me a book one time that is called, “The Long War Against God.” This author, a prominent Young Earth Creationist, conceives of the issue of science and religion (or Scripture) as being that of continual conflict. The conflict is sometimes said to be the good of faith (God) against the evil of Satan (science). That of course is the most extreme position, but there are lesser conflict models as well. I personally think Scripture and nature are the product of God. They should not ultimately be in conflict.

Science and Faith as Independent – This second model thinks that there are two spheres of authority. One, the sphere of salvation and morals (religion), and the other the sphere of science. They are understood as non-overlapping authorities. They should stay off of the other’s turf. In seminary I had to read Stephen J. Gould’s essay on this view. My first take was one of real esteem and excitement. After more thinking, I now think this approach is too easy. Life, both science and religion are not like a neatly organized silverware drawer.

Science and Faith in Dialogue - This view admits that not all areas of science and faith are unified and not all are separate. There is room for dialogue and mutual contributions across each field. I certainly think this area has a lot right. In a sense this view can speak about the limits of either discipline, and create fruitful discussions about each, where they overlap and where they do not.

Science and Faith as Integrated – Under this view the relationship between theological doctrine and scientific theory is very integrated. There are ways of integrating the two into some ultimate understanding of reality. As a Pastor, I think the classic Christian distinction between primary causes (God’s direct agency) and secondary causes (is agency through other means, even allowing the physical world to keep developing) helps to bring the two spheres together very well.

In Conclusion:

I think that as Christians we have a concern for Truth wherever it is found. We should find truth in religion as well as truth in science. God is the author of both of them.

Ask yourself…

1. Which of the four positions do you hold, or have you usually held?

2. Do you have any Scriptural reasons why you hold such a view? Are there more Scriptures that weigh in on the topic that might persuade you to take another view?

3. Do you think that Christians should be friendly with science? Why or why not?

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