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Do faith in God and science contradict?

The word "science" has a pretty narrow meaning: an orderly process of observing and experimenting. A common argument is that religion is "unscientific." Or that faith in God is incompatible with a scientific mindset. Those are cute sound bites, but they don't have any actual support. To make those attacks stick, you have to re-define the word "science" to mean something other than what it actually means in the real world. Logic, evidence, and history all say that Christian faith and science are more than just compatible—they're intimately tied to each other!

Seeing isn't everything...neither is science.

Our most useful sense, by far, is sight. Vision is the most potent tool for perceiving the world around us. But is sight our only sense? Or our only "real" sense? Should anything invisible to the eye automatically be considered imaginary? Of course not. There are important, real things which we can hear or smell or feel but cannot see.

Concepts like good and evil, beauty, humor, love, and so forth are crucial to human life. Science can't measure or define those. It's as ridiculous to say "anything unscientific is imaginary" as it is to say "anything I cannot see with my eyes is imaginary." In a nutshell, that's why it makes NO sense to claim faith in God is incompatible with science.

Science is like sight in that way: a powerful tool to understand nature, able to explain and investigate many things. But, also like sight, there are limits to what science is capable of. By definition, science can only address topics inside a certain "circle," so to speak. Some things are outside of the circle—that doesn't make them fictional, it just means science isn't equipped to analyze them.

Science supports faith

When we say God is "outside" science, the way a smell or a sound is "outside" our vision, people often claim we're using a "God of the gaps" argument. That means saying, "If I don't know, then it must be God." Not only is that NOT the case, the reverse is true: what we see in nature—things science can measure—actively points toward the God of the Bible.

That evidence can—and has—filled countless books. Logic is part of science; there are countless logical arguments used to show that God exists. Evidence-based topics like intelligent design are all about the idea that what we can observe suggests a "designer" of the universe, the same way what we can observe suggests intelligent influence in other things. Those are worth further research.

One of the greatest examples of science supporting religious faith is the "Big Bang Theory" (the scientific model, not the sitcom). In short, atheists used to claim the universe had an infinite past. A "created" universe, one with a "beginning," was dismissed as religion, not reality. By the mid-20th century, scientific evidence for a "beginning" was so overwhelming that even atheists had to admit they were wrong. A core concept of the Bible's version of God, the One who "began" the universe, was eventually proven true by objective, secular science.

Faith created science

Christianity "starts" from the assumption that the universe was created by an intelligent, involved, moral, orderly God, who also created human beings with an ability to use reason. Because of that, Christians believe the universe has rules, structure, consistency, and a logical framework. Today, those ideas about the universe sound obvious—but before Christianity became a major worldview, those were not widely-held opinions.

Ancient Greek scholars, for instance, saw the universe as controlled by various imperfect, competing deities. Some Greek philosophers dismissed experiments; why think the gods would always provide the same results each time? All other ancient worldviews had a similar approach: they didn't see nature as orderly and rule-based. Rather, they imagined a chaotic battle between different spirits. Even powerful, rich empires, like the Romans, didn't develop what we now call "the scientific method," for that very reason.

When Christianity became the dominant view of a culture, the scientific method was born. The necessary assumptions you need for science come naturally from a biblical view of the universe! And they come naturally only to that worldview. Other beliefs, like atheism, might be able to add those on later, but that's not nearly the same as saying that their worldview actually supports them.

This is easily seen in the lives of those who literally invented what we now call science. Countless names associated with the greatest advancements in science belonged to committed, vocal, staunch Christians: Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Maxwell, Pascal, and so forth. Does that mean all "real" scientists are Christians? Not at all. But it proves how silly it is to claim that faith in the Bible contradicts science.

Science and Religion share a kind of "faith."

According to the Bible, "faith" is a kind of "trust." Biblical faith means taking what you DO know and moving forward, despite what you DON'T know. It's like sitting in a chair or flying in an airplane. You're trusting observations and your experiences, though you don't have perfect knowledge (Hebrews 11:1; 2 Peter 1:16; Luke 1:1¬-4). Scripture tells us not to have "blind faith," but to have informed, purposeful trust in what God has shown us (Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 19:1). The Bible instructs us to test (1 John 4:1), investigate (Matthew 7:7-8), critique (2 Corinthians 13:5), and follow truth (Proverbs 23:23).

Science requires both of those as well. Without some level of trust, there can be no science or learning or knowledge. We have to trust that our senses are reliable, that our tools are accurate, that our logic makes sense, that our theories are sound, etc. When evidence changes those conclusions, we need to alter our assumptions.

The bottom line...

To this point in history, nothing in science has proven any statement, claim, or event in the Bible to be wrong. Certain interpretations have been eliminated, such as the sun orbiting the earth. Or that the earth is flat. But in all such cases, the disproven idea was never actually stated in the Bible—it was just assumed by some interpreters.

Where we can check the Bible's claims, it matches observations. Where it touches on scientific concepts, it can be interpreted consistently with those ideas. There have been instances where it seemed the Bible could ONLY be interpreted in conflict with "established" science. And in every case, such as the Big Bang, Scripture was eventually proven true, and the "established" science changed.

The Bible is the most complete, accurate, and effective explanation of humanity which has ever been written. When science or culture seem to conflict with the Bible, we need to remember how fallible we are. Our interpretation of science may be wrong. Our interpretation of the Word may be wrong. Both might be messed up. The Bible never will be.

Faith in God and science don't contradict. They complement each other as similar ways of understanding different aspects of reality.

TL;DR

Faith and science don't contradict—they work together. Scientific evidence supports the Bible. Even the history of how we developed science is based on a biblical view of the universe. Just like sight is useful for a lot of things but can't tell us everything, science is good at explaining nature, but not concepts like morals, love, or beauty. Just because science can't explain something, that does not mean it's imaginary. Good thinking and a focus on truth are important to a biblical worldview, and there are plenty of science-minded believers to prove it.

By: Jeff Laird

Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.

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