The meme above caught my attention because it calls to light the apparent conflict between faith and science. Most people live comfortably with tension. However, there are some models of Creation and origins that pit an unnecessary battle between the two. Instead of trying to figure out if both genres can live in unison with each other, people of faith and of science believe it has to be one or the other. In reality, it doesn’t need to be that way.
Dr. Hugh Ross is a founder of the organization Reasons to Believe and is an astronomer with a Ph.D. in Physics and a scientist. As Dr. Ross explained in his video on Duel Revelations, the conflict model leads to isolation of both the faith and the science camps. With this model, one side is successful in conquering the other. The goal is equally proving and defending one’s own position while at the same time dismantling the other side’s theories and propositions. Overall this model is very unhelpful in my opinion, because it does not allow for understanding. The model degrades the conversation from an honest inquiry into a team sport.
The constructive integration model makes far more sense. As Dr. Ross stated, there are areas in which the Bible speaks volumes, but science is quiet and vice versa. The atheist who thinks that science will be able to discern the source of origins is putting metaphysical faith in a system that is designed (no pun intended) to measure the physical world. Similarly, the Biblical scholar who looks at the Bible as the source of scientific knowledge will have his questions left unanswered.
By combining the two books – using the book of nature and the book of Scripture – we gain a more profound and more comprehensive view of creation. Consider this short video from Dr. John Lennox. Dr. Lennox is a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, has written and spoken extensively on the balance of science and faith, and is a devote Christian. In this video, he recalls a story when a colleague of his struggled with this tension:
The atheistic scientist realized that, no matter how much faith he had in science, there was just no way that it would be able to explain the source of origin. Dr. Ross, in his book Creation as Science, details 26 passages of scripture that address creation. The Bible wants to tell us not only about God but also about His creation. Similarly, nature is a never-ending field of exploration and wonder. But nature also points to the Creator.
Another reason that both the book of scripture and the book of nature should be integrated is that they can point out where one oversteps their boundaries into the other. For example, (with all due apologies to my evolutionary creationist brothers and sisters) when a scientific proposition comes to explain the origins of humans form a common monocellular ancestor, it is essential that the Scripture go in and talk about how humanity is created specially by God. Similarly (with all apologies to my young-Earth creationist brothers and sisters) when one says that creation is just a few thousand years old because the “Bible says so,” ignore the overwhelming natural evidence to the contrary. Dr. Ross put it eloquently – “theology is the interpretation of God’s words, and science is the interpretation of the facts of nature. Both can and do make mistakes.”
If the overwhelming evidence of one contradicts the other, then there must be a reevaluation of the model. Does this way of looking at the two books diminish the word of the Creator (scripture)? By no means. It does reduce our interpretation of scripture. God’s word is still God’s word. The exercise in hermeneutics and exegesis is an art as well as, well, a science. On the other hand, science, when it contradicts the clear teaching of scripture as accepted by mainstream theological understanding, has to be reevaluated. Not only can both be wrong, but both can ultimately point the way to the truth that drives curiosity and investigation forward.