This series is to consider how faith in Christ transforms our view of science.
I’m using Two Ways To Live (TWTL) to shape the series: six TWTL points – six posts on science. Each point has an image in addition to short summary statements.
The fourth part of TWTL is:
Because of his love, God sent his Son into the world: the man Jesus Christ.
Jesus always lived under God’s rule.
Yet by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness.
But that’s not all ….
The picture above is almost the same as the picture of point one, concerning creation. The difference being that Jesus alone stands where all humanity was created to stand, in perfect relationship with God. Jesus the Son of God was also the perfectly obedient man. That’s relevant to science – and to all aspects of culture – for it validates the continuing application of creation patterns. We know creation’s order is still important to God, because Jesus’ incarnation adopted and redeemed creation’s order.
And yet …
Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God
1 Peter 3:18
Jesus’ death equally demonstrates that the creation is in tremendous need, and only the cross meets that need. God did answer Jesus’ thrice-repeated prayer to not go the cross (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). The answer was no. The fact that Jesus indeed was crucified tells that there was no other possible way to save the world.
Therefore science cannot redeem the world. The cross alone redeems the world, there was no other way. No moral improvement programme. No universal education initiative. No religious practice. And no science either. Only the sacrificial death of Jesus makes any difference to the reign of sin, to the human heart of evil, to freedom from judgement.
So, while it’s perfectly acceptable to dream about the exciting advances of science and technology, we must be wary. No science will ever change the human condition. There may be a multitude of devices beginning with ‘i’. There could be cures for cancer. We hope for new and clean sources of energy. Perhaps one day science will explain the importance of that dangly bit at the back of the mouth. But humans will still be the same. There’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Taking this point one step further, we see that scientists and science need redeeming. We should not exalt science as the epitome of everything good. We have seen the caricatured positive view of science in advertising. A man in white lab coat testifies ‘lab tests prove this sheep dip will change your life.’ Such a naive view of science is long past, even in circles not interested in Jesus. We’ve realised (too late) that ‘good science’ is used to make a better bomb, an more polluting factory, and a toxic drug whose side effects are worse than the original disease.
Christians should talk to scientists, and to the fan-boys for science, with brutal honesty about the evil done in the name of science. Maybe someone could write a book. (Perhaps Science is not great: how science poisons everything or The science delusion.) We should explain the straightforward offer of forgiveness for sin, for all who trust Jesus. In the worlds of high-tech and of abstract thought and of experimentation, it’s the cross that works.
Finally, for this posting, a positive suggestion for science. Science should be gracious and compassionate. God’s saving intervention into this needy world shows his great love and compassion. Science is not effective like the cross, yet still can learn from the cross. Science can help ameliorate some of sin’s effects in this world.
Of course there are many scientific fields, as there should be, and not all are directly compassionate. In this age of results and monetisation of discovery, we still need to have room for pure research (asking questions that appear to have no practical use, asking for the sake of enquiry itself). Yet, I believe, there should always be a number of fields that help this needy world: disease prevention, improving agricultural yield, developing communication technologies for the isolated, etc. A cross-inspired science will care for diseases of the poor, not only diseases of the rich[*].
To wrap up: science is part of the world that needs saving, and only Jesus’ death is able to save. Though science can not claim the power to forgive and truly change people, scientists are like all people – able to share the benefits of Jesus’ death. Also, like all people, science can learn compassion from the God whose love is perfectly known in Jesus’ death for us while we were still sinners.
*(Confession: ‘diseases of the rich’ is a term plagiarised from a song introduction of Tom Lehrer.)