This is the sixth post in a 15-week study. More information and resources can be found here.
A quick note to those of y’all who are not participants:
– Please read along as we go through the study chapter by chapter, and contemplate the questions we’ll be tackling. It’s gonna be good!
– We will be utilizing the comment section as a forum for discussion for the participants only. I respectfully ask – if you are not participating – that you refrain from commenting on the Reason for God posts, simply to help keep things well… simple.
– We have an incredible group of women representing various ages, faith backgrounds and life experiences – I hope you’ll check out all they have to say.
It is my prayer that the participants, as well as those of y’all who will be reading along, will contemplate your own faith and understanding of God in a new, and more purposeful way. If you have any questions about the study, or about God in general, feel free to email me from the link in the right sidebar.
Keller starts out this chapter with the statement “… that science in general, and evolutionary science in particular, has made belief in God unnecessary and obsolete.” (p.87) He uses Richard Dawkins as an example; from Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, Keller says, “[Dawkins] argues that you cannot be an intelligent scientific thinker and still hold religious beliefs.” (p.87)
Aren’t Miracles Scientifically Impossible
A major scientific argument against most religions in general, and Christianity in particular, is a belief in miracles. The claim is “Science has proven that there is no such thing as miracles,” according to Keller. (p.88)
But upon closer inspection Keller reveals how this belief is, in and of itself, a leap of faith. “It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist.” (p.90)
Because science concentrates on the natural world, its adherents suppose there can therefore be no supernatural. Alvin Plantinga argues science is like a drunk man looking for his keys only under the street lamp because the light is better. And then stating that – because things would be difficult to find in the dark – the keys have to be under the street light.
The other premise proposed by the disbelief in miracles is that there is no God to generate such miracles. But if there is a Creator God, then miracles would be a natural, and expected, overflow of His creative genius. “After all,” says Keller, “if he created everyhing out of nothing, it would hardly be a problem for him to rearrange parts of it as and when he wishes.” (p.89)
Isn’t Science in Conflict with Christianity
Keller argues that much of the debate between science and Christianity is due to the media’s need to portray the news in terms of a good guy and a bad guy – we naturally respond more passionately to a battle between good and evil, regardless of the side you find yourself. And this black and white view gives undeserved weight to the claims that science and religion are divided by an impassable chasm.
There is an argument by Keller that evolution versus philosophical naturalism is the better debate than Christianity versus evolution. “Christians may believe in evolution as a process without believing in ‘philosophical naturalism.'” (p. 90) Keller provides the argument that “When evolution is turned into an All-encompassing Theory explaining absolutely everything we believe, feel, and do as the product of natural selection, then we are not in the arena of science, but of philosophy.” (p.91)
The next few paragraphs present Keller’s examples of scientists and philosophers, most notable Dawkins, Ian Barbour and Francis Collins, who agree and disagree about the interrelated dynamics of Christianity and science. The arguments range from Creationism in Genesis warring against the philosophical naturalism of Dawkins to the opposite end with faith being a so personal of a choice that it “does not speak to the empirical realm at all.” (p.92).
But Barbour, according to Keller, presents a different view and “prefers the spectrum of more moderate and complicated approaches in which science and religious faith recognize their respective spheres of authority.” (p. 92)
So, are Christianity and science really on opposite ends of a battle, like the Allies and the Axis of World War II? Christian Smith, per Keller, in his history of the secularization of American institutions answers it this way: “… the conflict model of the relationship of science to religion was a deliberate exaggeration used by both scientists and educational leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power.” (p.92) This manufactured ‘war’ was the purposeful product of a cultural strategy, and many have unknowingly accepted as truth.
So, how about all the highly “intelligent” scientists who are atheists? Doesn’t that prove that Christianity is incorrect? Keller tackles these arguments by debunking Dawkins analysis of a National Academy of Sciences members’ study which found only seven (7) percent believe in God. In actuality the real question was ‘Do you believe in a God that communicates with humanity?’ Not ‘Do you believe in a transcendent God?’ Keller comments that Dawkins not only misinterpreted the results but also made a casual relationship between atheism and science that does not exist.
“Alister McGrath, a theologian with an Oxford doctorate in biophysics, writes that most of the many unbelieving scientists he knows are atheists on other grounds than their science.” (p.93) One of the other reasons, a leading sociologist notes, is our relationship with fellow humans, Keller says. “Scientists, like non-scientists, are very affected by the beliefs and attitudes of the people from whom they want respect.” (p.95) Peer pressure rather than science is influencing beliefs.
Another prominent atheist, Stephen Jay Gould, argues against Dawkins’ statements on the disconnect between religion and the sciences by stating, “Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs — and equally compatible with atheism.” (p.94). Gould is “much more willing to concede that science might not be able to account for everything about human existence to every thinker’s satisfaction.” (p.94)
“There is no necessary disjunction between science and devout faith,” Keller concludes (p.95).
Doesn’t Evolution Disprove the Bible?
“Christians who accept the Bible’s authority agree that the primary goal of Biblical interpretation is to discover the Biblical author’s original meaning as he sought to be understood by his audience,” according to Keller. Of course, he adds, there will always be arguments over the interpretation of the passages, “but it is false logic to argue if one part of the Scripture can’t be taken literally then none of it can be.” (p.97)
Keller says the point isn’t a debate over evolution and the Bible. The correct viewpoint, for those considering Christianity, is to think of the main claims of Christ. “Only after drawing conclusions about the person of Christ, the resurrection, and the central tenets of the Christian message should one think through the various options with regard to creation and evolution.” (p.97)
Healing the World
Keller understands the difficulty some have with a God who intervenes in the natural order. “Miracles are hard to believe in, and they should be.” (p.98) The biblical account of the apostles meeting the resurrected Jesus on a mountainside even depicts some of them doubting; “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). This passage offers us, the reader, several things: it is a reminder that those who lived and walked alongside Jesus doubted, and so do we. It is also an encouragement to those of us who struggle with doubt. Many who initially doubted became leaders in the church.
But most important is what this text tells us about the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. “They lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’s miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce… Instead he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order,” Keller says. (p.99) “The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miarcles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’s miracles are not just a challenge to all our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.” (p.99)
Question: Has the seeming incompatibility between science and the Bible been a hindrance to you in your faith? And if so, has anything in this chapter changed that perspective?
My response: Yes. Evolution vs. Creationism has been a question I’ve carried – but ignored – for a while. Simply not understanding has weakened my faith and dampened my trust. And why have I not sought out the answers on my own? Laziness? Fear? I am so reminded that, to receive wisdom, all we need to do is ask. James 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. And then, we must look at our doubts, our questions in light of God’s truth. So often we lock them away, ashamed of our own thoughts and hoping they’ll just disappear or at least diminish. Instead the opposite results. So grateful on so many levels for all the learning opportunities presented in this book.
The biggest perspective changer for me was the last paragraph of the chapter (quoted above). Seriously, wow. I knew that Jesus’ miracles were all to serve, help and love on His people, never to impress or show off. But this perspective is a huge eye opener to me. We can postulate about evolution, natural selection and creationism all day, but the truth is that Jesus saves. He is God who became man to rescue us from ourselves and reconcile us to God. And, by the Holy Spirit, He continues to give us all we need to know Him, love Him and rest fully in the assurance that He will return again. When we soak ourselves in that truth, all of our questions, doubts, and fears melt away and we are liberated to live in the peace and joy that only Christ offers.
Here is the button for the participants who will be linking up to the study. Grab the code, paste it into your Reason for God post and link up below.