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.
Science vs. Christianity has definitely been a quiet struggle for me. Part of the problem has been that science has never been a draw for me. When I was a bit younger, it was easy to ignore science and just ‘believe.’ As I grew in my faith, I learned that God is a god who makes sense. He has reasons for what He does, even when I don’t understand. Now, as science and evolution start to have a place in my faith, I have such a new appreciation and perspective for my God. Stephanie, you’re so right. He is just waiting for us to put a little trust in Him and ask for knowledge and wisdom.
i am a science-ignorer, too! and yet, like you said, we can ask for wisdom and God will provide!
Honestly, I’ve never had a problem reconciling science with the Bible. I think the Biblical account of creation–which I believe wholeheartedly–allows for scientific thought. I look around me every day and I see nature pointing to an Intelligent Designer, aka God, Creator, King of the universe. And while I do not believe in evolution as in all life forms springing from a single-celled organism in the mud, I do believe that God created his creatures to adapt and change (aka evolve) as this world has changed over time, and as resources and habitats have shifted, disappeared, and/or appeared through the ages. I also believe that God created science for man’s pleasure and enjoyment. How amazing to calculate how many miles from earth the sun is! How amazing to watch those teeny, tiny red spiders survive–and thrive–through the ages! It is amazing to see God’s details in his creation, details that [should] give mankind pause to think, ponder, and meditate on God’s awesome creativity and power. So, no, the seeming incompatibility between science and the Bible has not been a hindrance to my faith. I believe science PROVES there is a God.
“How amazing to calculate how many miles from earth the sun is!”…and exactly the right distance from the sun so that we don’t freeze nor burn!
China Mom says
Science vs Christianity has never really been an issue for me. I am a scientist and have been interested in science since I was a very small child. I am one of those, like Amy, that believes science proves there is a God. With the formation of life or nature in general has to have been designed intellectually and divinely. The human body is an incredible design.
There are many things science cannot prove but the scientific world still believes in them. So why is it so hard for these same people to believe in God? To look at the vast universe and believe it all came together randomly? That seems a little more far-fetched than an intellectual design.
I have met many scientist, physicians, surgeons, and technicians that see miracles everyday and yes they believe in God. I know surgeons that have held the human heart in their hands and will say, there has to be a creator.
Yet, I do ponder the thought of evolution. Could evolution and creation be intertwined in some way? However, I do believe in Genesis 1 and do believe God created everything. I believe He did it in such a way to create beauty and pleasure for His children. From the very beginning He was thinking of us.
“I know surgeons that have held the human heart in their hands and will say, there has to be a creator.”…can’t imagine how amazing that would be
great summary of a difficult chapter, stefanie! i am so simple-minded that i have purposefully kept out of debates or discussions in this area thinking that i would get run over by intellectuals whose scientific knowledge so greatly surpasses mine. but this chapter reminded me that God’s wisdom far exceeds man’s…and He alone has truth. like you said, stefanie, i simply need to ask for His wisdom…He will provide. i, too, loved that last paragraph. we can have all sorts of thoughts on monkeys and men and dinosaurs and dna, but in the end the question is, “what will we do with Christ?”
I like that question, too. While I believe that God created science, I also believe that man can get so wrapped up in it that he ignores the true meaning of it–Christ, and our relationship to Him.
agree…we focus on everything but Him!
“i am so simple-minded that i have purposefully kept out of debates or discussions in this area thinking that i would get run over by intellectuals whose scientific knowledge so greatly surpasses mine.” Story of my life too. I definitely need to get better at asking for wisdom rather than running away from the conversation.
Amy G says
Right there with you girls! I get anxious and combative when the conversation turns “intellectual”.
Connie J says
Rachel, I’m so with you on this!
I never saw the incompatibility between science at the Bible as a hindrance to my faith. Then I read this chapter. I realized that I was refusing to consider it. Just because I refused to consider it doesn’t mean that I had total faith. To have faith, you must give the subject consideration and choose to believe.
Lisa Murphy says
Ditto what Amy said! I love that statement…”I believe science proves there is a God!” I, admittedly, am not much of a science person, so I’ve always seen things through faith-colored glasses. I have always been in complete awe of nature and life, in general, both human and otherwise, that it’s led me to ask myself how can there NOT be a God of miracles. I suppose, like Brandi stated, reading this chapter opened my eyes to different trains of thought though. So, after giving the subject consideration, I still choose to believe and have faith 🙂
Thanks, girls, for helping me navigate through this tough chapter! The last two were pretty deep!!
deep…right where we need to be!
Several years ago, at the height of my struggle about belief in God (of which, this question of science was one of the core issues), I happened to be walking around the Creation Museum (outside of Cincinnati, OH) a little fearful God might strike me down on the spot. Everyone was walking around nodding their heads and reading the information to their kids. People were wearing “God said it. That settles it” tshirts. Everyone seemed to be clearly “all in.”
And, I wasn’t. I had been raised to believe in a very specific brand of creationism. But, as I walked around the museum, I was pretty sure I didn’t quite believe that brand any longer. I didn’t know what I believed. At that point, I wasn’t even sure there was a God.
But, thankfully, God isn’t the striking down type when it comes to authentic discourse. And, thankfully, I discovered that I very, very much believed in God, and I very, very much believed that He was a Creator God. But, that is where it kind of ends for me.
Unlike Stephanie, I’m don’t think not understanding has weakened my faith. If anything, it has strengthened it. I have continued to wrestle with many of the Genesis issues, and I feel like I do have answers to some of those original questions, but there are lots for which I don’t even want answers. There is great comfort in knowing that I don’t have to know. I don’t have understand the mind of God. I think it takes faith to live in the unknown.
I used to think I had to have the answers, especially for my kids. I used to fear I was being intellectually lazy. But, for me, there’s no laziness in it. Could God have created the world in six literal 24 hour chunks a few thousand years ago? Sure. Could there be an alternative timeline? Sure. I like that Keller calls these debates “intramural” because the real show is the person and the work of Jesus Christ. That’s the “God said it. That settles it” tshirt I’ll be wearing.
Erin – your statement, “I used to think I had to have the answers, especially for my kids” is exactly where I used to be on this topic too. I wanted to have all the answers and to be able to explain it – for their sake. I too have found comfort in knowing that I don’t HAVE to know. What I enjoyed about this chapter, though, is how it has made me think deeper and review some of the things I already knew, in order to have an educated discussion about the topic.
“I like that Keller calls these debates “intramural” because the real show is the person and the work of Jesus Christ.” – yes!
So true! 🙂
I grew up in and out of Christian and public schools (8 schools total). My first introduction to evolution was actually at a Christian school where they talked about the parts of evolution that Christians (of that specific denomination) agreed with. When I ended up studying evolution in the pubic school later I had a better understanding of how evolution and Christianity could actually coincide. I definitely don’t know all the answers and avoid evolution debates like the plague, but this has been something I have trusted in God with.
That last paragraph with the miracles really stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes I haven’t known what to think about miracles and it definitely felt soothing to my soul to know that it’s okay to doubt them and ask God for help trusting Him about them. That was definitely a fear/doubt that was hidden deep in my soul and God is putting it on my heart and beginning to help me work through it.
ps. Sorry I missed last week and didn’t actually respond to any responses for my post the week before (I forgot to check). It was a crazy week, I’m not going to make excuses, somehow Bible study managed to slip my mind. I wanted to take the time to apologize since I am so thankful for this study and how much all of you are helping to increase and expand my faith. I’ll be on top of it this week. 🙂
Amy G says
This was a pretty important chapter for me since my favorite brother recently said to me, “I have trouble with God because I am more of a science guy.” It broke my heart because at the time I felt like I didn’t have the words or the wisdom to argue with him.
This has never been an area of struggle for me. I have homeschooled my kids for 12 years now and in using the Apologia science books I am completely dumbfounded that anyone could doubt that we have a creator! The uniqueness of all the creatures and their specific attributes that enable them to thrive in their environments. It is awe inspiring to say the least. But my acceptance has not made me question anything and I think that has made me weaker in my argument for Jesus. I have not asked for wisdom because it wasn’t a stumbling block in my own faith.
I have often told my husband that I am not a person who can argue apologetics. I can share my heart and all that God has done for me, whether it be blessings, trials, or truth about who I am and what my struggles are. While some may see that as a strength it can appear to others as a weakness, especially a “science guy” like my brother.
I will be traveling north to see him and the rest of my family next month and I am praying for the wisdom when our conversation turns back to Jesus and I am also praying he will read this book! (I’m ordering a few extra copies to take with me.)
I have been loathe to highlight in my book because I am a little quirky about such things but that last paragraph has been highlighted with enthusiasm. I think I heard the Hallelujah chorus too! What a beautiful picture, so simple yet so important? It was like salve to my soul.
The way science regarding the beginning of the universe is taught has always been something that has perplexed me. I’ve grown up in a family that is both strongly Christian and strongly scientific. Both parents are scientists of different types, and my father has a side passion for archaeology, and both my brother and I plan to study the sciences, as well. To me, there is no issue between the two, and as Keller points out, most people don’t see the side of the moderates because the media only focuses on the conflict side. It might help your brother to tell him that some people don’t necessarily believe that the evolution of creatures and humans conflicts with God being the creator; many Christians see it as the science behind how God created the universe (such as the in utero development of a baby is how God creates each of us). I know many Christians argue for a strict interpretation of the Bible, and you may, too, but it may help your brother to understand that many different perspectives exist and that it is okay to think different things. I go into a bit more depth in my comment about the different ways I think both science and creation can coexist if you’re interested in reading more about that. 🙂
Amy G says
Thank you so much for sharing that! You are absolutely right about different perspectives. I try very hard not to quibble over the “fine print” of different denominations and just focus on the truth of salvation in Christ.
I am off to read your post!
yep– apologia did it for me too!!!! i truly did not understand the science in the Bible before doing that science curriculum– also listen to jonathan park CDs– WOW_- they do an AMAZING job using hard science to prove creationism
Ruby Hughes says
This was a hard chapter to get through! I’m not a science person so I think it was just easier for me to say God did it!
Like Rachel, I too stayed away from conversations so not to get “run over” by scientific intellectuals. I always ask God for knowledge so I guess i’m right…..God did it! 🙂
“This was a hard chapter to get through! I’m not a science person so I think it was just easier for me to say God did it!”
Me Too! To some degree even after reading the chapter, that’s still my go to answer.
I feel like I’ll still want to run away a little. However, there are a few points that stuck out, so hopefully I can say those before I run away. Little steps in the right direction. 🙂
I have never considered this to be a hindrance in my faith. As others have said, I have tended to stay away from this debate because I didn’t feel equipped to handle it. I have just trusted that God did indeed create all life (maybe not in 6 24-hour days, but maybe so!) and that He knows how it all fits together, so I didn’t need to worry about it! I really enjoyed the different perspectives discussed in this chapter, and I remain confident that science and Christianity can coexist.
I have always believed that science/evolution and Christianity can easily coexist. I grew up in a very scientific family: my mother a biologist who writes about nature, science, and the environment and my father a chemist. I don’t believe in a literal interpretation of the 6 days being 24 hours each and only that, because I believe that puts God in a box. I think the “evolution” of creatures and humans is the science behind how God did it, just like how a baby grows in his/her mother’s belly is how God creates each of us. It could have all happened in 6 days as we know it, just crazy fast – because God could easily do that. The 6 days could just be six periods of time in the world’s history, and not necessarily all equal. The 6 days could just be expressive as a way for the people back in the time Genesis was written to understand creation because they simply could not understand anything greater (after all, no one even knew what other stars and planets and the sun were for a few thousand years after). I don’t think any human can ever claim to know exactly what Genesis 1 & 2 mean; I feel that would be arrogant. I could be entirely wrong and the simple view of Creationism could be the truth. But it is impossible to know, and ultimately I don’t think it matters so much. As Keller says at the end of the chapter, this debate isn’t what matters; accepting and trying to understand Christ, as well as a relationship with God, are what truly matter. God will love us even if we think some things that aren’t totally true. And so we should still love others if they do the same.
I love your explanation. I pray to be half so eloquent the next time the topic comes up in conversation.
since doing apologia science with my kiddos for school- i have seen so much how science backs up the Bible and creationism– also- jonathan park CDs do a great job of using science to defend creationism– but i agree with his point– that we shouldn’t let ourselves get stuck on Genesis 1– it is not the crux of the Bible– our salvation thru Jesus IS.
The incompatibility of science and the Bible has never been something I’ve really focused on. I’ve always thought, we are here, why does it matter how? Reading this chapter though made me think that my faith may be a little blinding. This is the main reason why I wanted to participate in this study! As a leader of a young women’s small group, I want to be able to answer the questions they have about all aspects of faith. I loved the insight that Keller gave on Genesis and how it can be interpreted. This chapter helped me see that though I have faith that creation and evolution can both coexist, others might struggle with this.
When I was younger I did have trouble reconciling science and religious faith. I believe in evolution, but when did that take place while genesis was taking place?
It was during my Ph.D. studies (in the godless science of economics) that I developed the understanding that there is MUCH more about the world- science and religion, human interactions, cultures etc., that a person is not going to understand than an individual is going to understand. Nor is it required that I understand everything for “it “to still work and that it is OK to not understand everything.
Science does not always explain everything—sometimes life happens that is counter to science. My family was in an accident decades ago that left my mom a quadriplegic. Where her neck was broke in her neck, she should not have had any mobility in her arms, but she did—which provided her more quality of life than she would have otherwise had. The doctors were dumbfounded. Was this some type of miracle? Some may say yes and some may say no—regardless, science could not ever provide an answer.
My understanding is that a big part of faith is trusting without complete understanding.
“Nor is it required that I understand everything for “it “to still work and that it is OK to not understand everything for ‘it’ to still work and that it is OK to not understand everything” Love it! and so true! I think that was one of the biggest lessons God taught me in grad school (mine was in stat). That reminds me of a stat quote, I have no clue who said it: “In God we trust, all others bring data” 🙂
“In God we trust, all others bring data”
I am adding this quote to my list of FAVES!!!!
Yikes! I’m just responding to this chapter now. I can honestly say that this is something I have not struggled with in my Christian faith. I was a biology major – I love the natural world and the amazing systems God set up to make it run. I just keep thinking back to the fact that the Bible is God’s word and what is known in the world now is not necessarily the “truth” – our perception of how things are can change (ie the world is flat).
Connie J says
My response to this chapter comes with a huge admission. I have remained ignorantly silent on this topic of science v. Christianity. My basic response is, “I just believe.” Call it blind faith; call it lack of intellect; call it whatever you want, but I’ve concluded that I don’t have to fully understand how or why God created everything to believe that He is the Ultimate Authority and no thing or no one is greater.
I believe that God has gifted each of us differently, and many people have great intellect to design magnificent things, from buildings to lifesaving equipment to medications and so on. But without God we are all nothing. We don’t create anything. Our imagination and creativity is a result of His creation.
From my back patio I can see the sun rise each morning, and from my front porch I can see the sun set each evening. Every time I stop to truly enjoy this sight, I am in awe of God. Not only that He created everything from nothing, but that He desires an intimate relationship with every person. I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced His miracles many times in my life. Events that only an all-knowing God could orchestrate.
I don’t have the intelligence to argue this point, and I will never sit on a panel where I’m required to do so. The insight from this chapter has been helpful, but I love the last statement ~
“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 miracles 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.”
My first thought after reading the question was to say that no, the seeming incompatibility between science and the Bible has not been a hindrance. However after more thinking I see that it actually has. I just believe that God created the world and everything in it and never really worry about the exact how, but just like many of you I tend to keep quiet about any debate. I don’t feel that I can help anyone to understand creation because I lack the wisdom to explain anything about it. So I guess it has been a hindrance because it holds me back from really sharing about God because I worry about some of the questions that might be asked.
My perspective hasn’t really changed except to ask for wisdom so I won’t back off or avoid certain conversations. Miracles do happen and Jesus showed his love for all through them, which I never really thought of in that way before. Looking around the world each day shows God and his love for all of us and I have trouble understanding how some people don’t see this.
This chapter was yet another tough one for me. I am so glad I am involved in this study with all of you. Your thoughts and perspectives are opening my eyes and helping me so much.