Tag Archives: Science & Christianity

Quick comment: Metaphor and religious language

Metaphor and Religious Language by Janet Martin Soskice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This work argues that metaphor is not a simple ‘pretty’ way of saying something that could be communicated with straightforward words, but it its own legitimate and necessary way of explanation. Metaphoric statements, at their best, say things that cannot be said in other ways. They also create opportunities for new learning, reflection, and avenues of enquiry.

Extending this, Soskice argues that both science and theology are – fittingly and necessarily – fields in which metaphor plays a major part. Her argument concludes that a realist position is entirely consistent with use of metaphor, in both science and theology. It’s fine, and actually productive, to speak of electrical ‘current’ or of the divine gift of ‘living water.’ This is not a naive realism, but critical realism (I don’t think Soskice used this actual term, but I believe its current use agrees with her argument). In this, the users of metaphor – and use is always of within a community – are able to ‘really refer’ to something, even without knowing all there is about that topic. Even transcendent realities can be, in part and approximately, apprehended (be they electrons, or God).

One matter not possible to be raised in this work, but I think related, is the possibility of historical knowledge. Looking at the science-theology parallels is wonderfully important. Soskice frequently mentions matters of religious experience as a part-parallel to scientific experiment. In this line of thought, metaphor and theory is always open to revision, at least in theory. That’s fair, to an extent, but opens up theology to too simple a comparison with science, and suggests to me that theological doctrines are as likely to change as scientific ones. Think, for example, of the disposal of the idea of phlogiston after Priestly’s discovery of oxygen: the old theory was dumped.

I think a difference between science and (Christian) theology is the historical givenness of events, especially the ministry of Jesus Christ. Knowledge of this history has everything to add to the knowledge claims of Christianity.

This is not to say Soskise should have covered this topic! She has done an amazing job in her survey of metaphor theory, as well as philosophies of metaphor use in science and theology. And all in fewer than 200 pages! What I do mean to say is that philosophies of historical knowledge will affect some of Soskice’s conclusions about the tentativeness and modifiability of religious statements. If Jesus is alive, then some religious models and metaphors are more solid and unchangeable than any scientific model.

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Review: A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture

A Reformed Approach to Science and ScriptureA Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture by Keith A. Mathison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good thing about buying a book that really is a book is that you get a sense of what kind of book it wants to be. A 600 page treatment is a different beast from an 80 page piece – neither is necessarily better, but the aims will differ.

With an ebook, this is harder. And, perhaps, easier to be disappointed. ‘I thought this was going to be in-depth, but it’s only a brief guide.’ Or, ‘I just wanted something simple, not the history of the universe.’

So let’s explain the intangibles of this book. A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture is a big title, huge. Science! Scripture! Reformed! Wow. Yet it’s not broad, deep, and exhaustive. It is a short work, so does not aim to cover all things.

Even more important, it’s not even really trying to be a reformed introduction to the philosophy of science. (Which I thought it might be – my mistake.) Instead, it is an expansion on some comments made by R.C. Sproul. At a conference, Sproul was answering the question, ‘How old is the universe?’

Sproul’s answer is wonderful. He did not merely indicate young or old, but in a few sentences touched on science, Christianity, and the relation between them.

The answer is quoted in full (tidied up a little for publication purposes). Sproul notes some of the issues:
* The Bible does not state how old the earth is, but some hints suggest it’s young
* Science has plenty to say that is relevant: expanding universe, astronomical dating, etc
* All truth is God’s truth, scripture and nature
* God’s revelation in scripture is infallible as also God’s revelation in nature is infallible
* We know times when natural revelation has corrected the church’s understanding of special revelation
* Nonetheless, that which is definitively taught in the Bible is never overthrown by science
* That is, scientists can be wrong, theologians can be wrong, and we privilege neither
* In conclusion: ‘I don’t know how old the earth is.’

This book by Mathison expands on these points. It has some theological points (eg, Augustine, Aquinas). It has some history (eg, Calvin and Luther on the geocentrism). It does not have much science or philosophy of science.

The crux of the book – and of Sproul’s answer – is the double infallibility of God’s double revelation, special and natural. This is, I think, both the strength and the weakness of the book’s argument.

It is strong, because it highlights the unity of all truth in God. Let God be true, though all men be liars (Romans 3:4). The saying catches it nicely: all truth is God’s truth.

Yet there are problems with the book’s argument. I think these are in the theological terminology used, as well as it’s application in the book. Imprecision is introduced: it does no real damage to this book’s argument, because it has a narrow focus. But such imprecision is problematic if it flows through the (huge) scope of science-theology understanding.

The problem: Mathison persists in speaking of natural revelation, when I think he would do better to speak of truth.

In speaking of natural revelation, Mathison has in mind the knowledge of God accessible to all humans through creation. As Romans 1:19-21 indicates, this knowledge is about God, and it makes us without excuse, because natural revelation cannot save. He helpfully quotes and alludes to Romans 1.

But the book then slides from this knowledge about God to science, without any reason put forward for the connection. Yet it is not evident that knowing more about the planets’ arrangement adds anything to natural revelation. We know more truth, certainly, but no more about God.

In other words, Mathison makes no convincing argument that the theological category of natural revelation also applies to science.

This imprecision has other effects. I note just one – the use of infallible.

Mathison return more than once to a group of seminarians asked two questions by Sproul.

“How many of you believe that God’s revelation in Scripture is infallible?” They all raised their hands. I then asked, “And how many of you believe that God’s revelation in nature is infallible?” No one raised his hand. It’s the same God giving the revelation.

Two helpful and provocative questions to put! Natural revelation is, indeed, infallible – it does not fail but achieves its purpose. The purposes of natural revelation succeed: people of faith praise the Lord (Psalm 19:1), and rebels against God find they have no excuse (Romans 1:20).

Infallibility is a term of theology, and relates to God’s purposes in his revelation. But Mathison, having assumed a tight link between natural revelation and science, has thereby partly imported infallibility into science, where it does not belong.

Now, that’s a long discussion about being precise in terminology. So let me emphasise this: I think this work well worth reading. Have a read, think well, and thank God that all truth is his.

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Science & the gospel, vi

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 sixth and final part of TWTL is:

The two ways to live

A. Our way:
Reject the ruler-God
Try to run life our own way
B. God’s new way:
Submit to Jesus as our ruler
Rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection
Condemned by God
Facing death and judgement
Forgiven by God
Given eternal life


Which of these represents the way you want to live? 

The gospel outline of Two Ways to Live finishes with a question. This is as it should be, for the gospel is a call and an invitation. The gospel declares God’s work. The declaration is serious, and rightly includes fearful aspects, but it is also loving. God desires to give life to sinners stuck on the path of death (Ezekiel 18:32).

To put this slightly differently, the gospel is the king’s authority proclaimed, but the king is not merely conservative. A conservative kingship faces rebellion by re-asserting power and retreating to a prior situation (‘the good old days’ when everything was rosy). Such a king does not aim for a new kingdom, but restoration of the old kingdom.

God, in contrast, does something new. God confronts sinners with their evil, demonstrates his justice, then invites sinners into his own family. God could simply wipe away all evil – punishment without forgiveness. Instead, through the cross and resurrection, God completes justice with forgiveness. The Bible does not end with a second Garden of Eden, but with a new heavens and earth and heavenly Jerusalem where righteousness dwells and countless multitudes rejoice eternally.

In short, the gospel calls for decision (trust Jesus) and the gospel effects change (you are forgiven & freed to serve).

Science cannot do this. Science describes, science does not prescribe. Science does not care about what to do next.

This gives a very important warning for the use of science. Scientific understanding of the world is never an ethical argument. Science has wonderful insight into what is. This does not, however, translate into what ought to be. Between is and ought there lies the changes we desire and the decisions we require.

In a simple example, consider research into infectious diseases. There are so many: some are well-known (AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, measles); some I can only name because I searched the internet (paragoniamiasis, anyone?). In light of limited research budgets, and a finite supply of skilled researchers, which diseases should have priority? Science cannot tell us – other criteria must come into play.

Science can tell us which infective agents are responsible for the diseases, or that the agent is unknown. Science can tell us which people groups are most affected by infection, and compare the population sizes of those affected directly and indirectly. Science can even estimate the financial burden of the disease (OK, I’m being generous in calling economics a science!). But science cannot tell us that ebola is more worthy than measles for grant funding.

For a more pointed example, think of research into sex. Science can note and seek to explain the reproductive benefits of monogamy in birds. It can also note the promiscuity of bonobos. But it’s not a scientific argument to follow up either set of observation with, ‘Therefore, humans should do the same.’ If you come across an argument like this – usually in favour of promiscuity or homosexuality, not monogamy – you know that the ethical decision was made well before any science came into view.

When people argue about environmental science, it is usually the case that the science is irrelevant. At the extreme ends of the spectrum of views, proponents cherry pick the most relevant factoids to support their case. The ‘science’ they use convinces no one, because the decisions made were not based on science.

‘What do we do next?’ is a good question. It looks for change and to make a good decision. The answer can be informed by good science, but should be understood as a decision made before the God who will one day call us to account.

It is no argument to say, ‘I was born this way – let me be.’ Or to say, ‘Environmental science insists on a target for atmospheric CO2.’ Or to say, ‘We should do the genetic manipulation because we can do the manipulation.’

It is an argument to say, ‘Created, fallen and redeemed from judgement, we are to practice repentance and faith in self identity/environmental care/experimental design. The gospel tells us so.’

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him
John 3:36

Science & the gospel, v

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 fifth part of TWTL is:


God raised Jesus to life again as ruler of the world.

Jesus has conquered death, now gives new life, and will return to judge.

Well, where does that leave us?


Jesus’ death was an astounding sacrifice. It is unique in all history. Yet the uniqueness of Jesus’ death is not in its death, for death afflicts all people. Historically, many others also have died unjustly, bravely, with love for friend and foe alike. The uniqueness of Jesus’ death is not historical, it is theological – that God was active through the cross. (God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sin against them, 2 Corinthians 5:19).

Jesus’ resurrection, on the other hand, is unique historically and theologically. No one else – yet – has been given new life by God after death, never to die again (that’s historically unique). And no one else can be the firstborn from the dead, appointed as judge and ruler (theological uniqueness).

This history touches a Christian view of science.

Christians know Jesus is alive, not dead. The tomb is empty because tombs are for corpses. Jesus is fully alive – if he’s not alive, Christians are wasting our time and pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:14-20). Amongst other things, the resurrection of Jesus was an event of the natural world. A corpse, duly readied for entombment and entering the phase of putrefaction, returned to life. The moment of resurrection was potentially observable. There were witnesses who saw Jesus in his post-resurrection life.

For science, this means there are natural events beyond the investigation of science.

Please don’t summarise that statement as ‘miracles are beyond science’, for that’s not my claim. There are wonders of the Bible given an explanation simultaneously natural/scientific and theological. Notably, God sending the strong east wind to clear a path though the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Presumably a team of meteorologists and hydrologists in the right place could have determined that the dry water-course was caused by hot easterly wind. It was a miracle in the natural world, and open to science. It’s no big deal that God can use nature – he made it! My point here is simply that some truly ‘natural’ events are impenetrable to science. Perhaps the resurrection is the only example, who knows?

In an earlier post I made the point that science cannot explain everything. There are matters outside of the realm of science (I mentioned justice, both human and divine). Now I am saying more, that there are matters inside the realm of science that science cannot explain. I reach this conclusion by the gospel, specifically the gospel-proclaimed resurrection of Jesus.

This leads to another gospel-driven reflection on science: history is bigger than science. This may sound  unconnected, but that’s not so. For just as science cannot tell us about Jesus’ resurrection, history can and does tell us. The empty tomb of Easter is a message with witnesses, not an experiment with technicians. It is possible to test the message of Jesus as we test any claim: we ask historical questions. (Who said this? Do we have a good record of their claims? What did they mean? What is their agenda? What corroborating evidence is there? etc.)

(Let me throw in a speculative, but related, idea: I think that science may be best seen as a subset of history. Experimental observations are what happened (‘the pressure was 745 mmHg’). Scientists interpret the data to make sense of what happened. Theoretical scientists, I think, work hard on teasing out the implications of the history of ideas. Historians and scientists both make predictions of the future, and do so on the basis of the past.)

Back to the main point … If history is bigger then science, and the gospel tells us this, I expect the biggest challenges to Christian faith to be from historians rather than scientists. When science attacks Christianity it gets more attention, I believe, but we should listen more closely to historians.

The theology of the resurrection also touches science.

In the resurrection, Jesus is declared to be in complete dominion and rule (Acts 17:30-31). At creation, dominion was granted to people. After years of sin’s rule, dominion was declared to reside in The Person – Jesus Christ is the true man who rules. Humanity is restored to its place in God’s order, in the person of Jesus. All authority is his, meaning that all rule in this world is a gift of Jesus. All who exercise any kind of rule are answerable to Jesus for their use of authority.

What is this to do with science? To state the obvious – as I love to do – the ruler is a person. Dominion is personal, not impersonal. Thus, science is not dominion.

We frequently use language that suggests otherwise. ‘Technology tames the wilderness.’ ‘Bio-medical science defeats disease.’ Effectively we hear the message, ‘Science rules the world.’ This is not true. On the largest scale, Jesus rules the world. In local situations, people exercise dominion. We must never be compliant with claims that science means we must … For science never claims anything, people do. The resurrection of Jesus allows us to step back from such claims and enquire who really is ruling.

I’ve written plenty already on the resurrection and science. And could say more. When I started the series, this was the one point where I wondered if I had anything to say! It appears I had nothing to fear about content. My remaining fear is that this longer post lacks clarity. Please help me in this – I love any feedback, comments or questions. Jump right in to the comments section below.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
1 Peter 1:3


Science & the gospel, iv

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.)

Science & the gospel, iii

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 third part of TWTL is:

God won’t let us rebel forever.

God’s punishment for rebellion is death and judgement.

God’s justice sounds hard, but ….



Did you know there are two types of death that science investigates? There’s necrosis (for example, when blood supply is cut off from part of the brain). And there’s apoptosis, also called ‘programmed cell death’ (the common example is the disappearance of a tadpole’s tail as the tadpole transforms into a frog).

This third point in our gospel outline concerns a type of death that science cannot investigate. This is death before God, death as punishment for sin, eternal death. Eternal death is not defined by biology – it has a cause more profound than the end of cellular process. This death is God’s just judgement.

it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement
Hebrews 9:27

The reality of God’s judgement is a sobering message, for science as much as for the rest of human culture. There are at least three consequences for science.

Firstly, we see that science has a limit. In the simple sense, this is because science is not the right tool for every investigation. Science is not the way to determine human justice systems, much less is science able to comprehend God’s justice.

More significant by far is the reality that, at the end of all things, science itself will be tested. Science and scientists will be judged by God. Science is not equivalent to ‘knowledge’, or ‘truth’. Science does forward some small part of total knowledge, but is itself subject to the One who truly knows. The One who truly knows is also the One who truly decides and judges and establishes eternal outcomes.

Good science, therefore, shows some humility as it recognises its limits.

Secondly, the certainty of judgement means that experiments are moral actions. Each experiment proceeds because the investigator thinks it an acceptable experiment. This is, to me, quite obvious. Yet it becomes important at times when scientists try to side-step ethical assessment, or speak as if moral questions have no place in the lab.

For example, some labs use human embryos for experiments. You might hear, ‘These cells were excess to requirement – other embryos had been successfully implanted into the mother – so they were going to waste.’ Such an attempt to sound outside the reach of ethical judgement only hides the ethical decisions already made. In this case, someone has already decided to form more embryos than will be implanted. This decision is ‘in case’ something goes wrong with the first implantation – but it actively hopes that a number of embryos will be excess. It hopes for some ’embryo wastage’.

Ethics does already feature in science, of course. While I was a lab worker, my boss made it very clear that I had a very important task: to ensure that every single animal cage had an ethics approval number attached at all times. If we were subject to a random check – as could happen at any time – having animals not covered by existing approvals would cause us serious trouble. What’s important is that science applies ethics everywhere.

Thirdly, there is no such beast as neutral science or a neutral scientist. All scientists have a personal stake in what they do, and one indication of this is the future judgement that God will deliver.

Interestingly, this is seen in the broader philosophy of science. In the last 50 years or so, those who ask the question ‘What is science?’ have demolished the idea of scientists as being disinterested. (Please note, disinterested is different from uninterested.) We understand that observation is ‘theory-laden’: the scientific team start with the idea, they do not discover the idea out of neutral data. Other point out that taking a reading changes the experimental conditions (feel free to read about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, or the observer’s paradox in linguistics). Theologically, this this lack of scientific neutrality extends beyond the experiment and into the realm of our life before God.

To conclude, God’s future judgement may, at first, appear  to be disconnected from science. This is not the case at all. Rather, people who diligently seek out knowledge would be well advised to understand where their knowledge fits within the largest knowledge of all – the knowledge that God holds of all reality, the knowledge that he will employ at the final judgement.


Science & the gospel, ii

The point of this series is to consider how faith in Christ transforms our view of science.

And 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 second part of TWTL is:

We all reject the ruler-God-by trying to run life our own way without him.

But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world.

What will God do about this rebellion?


After the beauty of creation comes the ugliness of human evil. This problem is universal: every person is evil, all creation is touched with the resultant confusion.

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside …
Romans 3:10-12

One consequence of sin is disorder in creation. When humans stepped out of their right role and correct relation with God, the whole of creation changed. It’s still creation, and the truth of order we noted in part (i) is still true. But now order is muddled up with disorder. Creation remains God’s wonderful work of art, now defaced with acid and sledgehammer.

As a result, some parts of science have only been possible since sin’s entry to the world. For example, cancer research, or psycho-pathology. In other words, theologically we can divide science into a science of order, and a science of disorder. Is there any difference in method between the two? I think not – the methods all arise from God’s gift at creation. Sin does not add anything to the world, all it can do is break what God made good.

A second consequence of sin has very serious implications for science, however. Bad science will be inhuman & un-relational. The sin of Genesis 3 led to discord between man and woman, and between God and people. Formerly the relationships were loving, trusting and open. Afterwards the relationships were bitter, full of accusation and hiding.

Therefore, I am never surprised at unloving science. Scientists are gossips and self-promoters, as in any work place. (I believe this is the kind of behaviour exhibited in climategate.) Scientists will cheat the data and lie about who should receive credit. And scientists will perform disgusting experiments (witness Dr Mengele).

A final scientific consequence of sin is that science can never again point us towards God (if it ever did before sin). As I said, science has two strands: order and disorder. These strands are indivisible. To give an extreme example, the results from Dr Mengele’s evil experimentation are still medically useful to us.

In other words, scientists bring their beliefs to the lab. No one discovers God (or atheism) in a test tube. A theistic believer will see evidence that conforms with his or her theism. Those with different beliefs will have those beliefs confirmed. One  will sing, All things bright & beautiful. The other, All things dull and ugly. Science will confirm what’s already known (though I think science will better confirm Christian theism – this will fit better because it is truth).

To recap, sin and the consequences of sin touch science with confusion. Science investigates a confused world. Science in practice is not noble, but characterised by confused and malicious relationships. And if we use the results of science to draw metaphysical conclusions, these conclusions will be confusing.


Science & the gospel, i

The point of this series is to consider how faith in Christ transforms our view of science.

And 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 first part of TWTL is this:

God is the loving ruler of the world.

He made the world.

He made us rulers of the world under him.


Creation is a good place to start!

God made things. He made everything good. He made all things with order, coherence and purpose. The purpose is essentially relational, as opposed to mechanical: God is loving ruler. People are part of creation and consequently not above creation. Yet people are also different from the rest of the made things – we have been given a task that is somewhat God-shaped: God is the ruler who has given some rule to us.

What does this mean for Christians and science?

This gospel truth establishes a fundamental condition for science to exist: order. If there is not order, then nothing is predictable or repeatable. Both repetition and prediction are assumed in science – and in life generally. I think they are so basic to modern life that we don’t even notice them. But why should it be so? Why should it not be that today is 24 hours but tomorrow 24 minutes? Why is the gravitational constant constant?

Science has the tools to investigate order. Science does not have the tools to explain order itself. The Bible does. Order is a gift from God, a demonstration of his kingly mastery over all that we can see.

True science, therefore, honours the mighty kingship of God the creator. Every discovery uncovers what God has desired, achieved and known from start of time. Science has a genuine, ‘Wow! That’s how it works!’ – be that at the subatomic scale, terrestrial scale, or universal scale.

A further point: the story of creation shows us that science is essentially human. God himself needs no test tubes, of course, so science is not divine. Neither does a horse or a dolphin perform the sort of investigations that we label ‘science.’ Animals do not make scientific discovery, because their given role does not include to ‘rule the world under him’.

I deliberately chose the word essentially. Science is one way that the essence of all humanity comes to expression. So what? The big deal is: you can do good science with no regard at all for God. All you need is to be human, even if you are a human out of relationship with the Creator. God does not revoke his gift of ‘humanness’, even if a scientist is extremely ‘angry-atheist’. It’s not a good thing to ignore God, of course! But ignoring God does not nullify scientific discoveries made by an unredeemed investigator.

There’s plenty more to say about science at this point, but I will make just one more point. Creation is full of relationship, so science also is relational. God’s rule is loving. We find out, over the course of the biblical narrative, that the true God is one and yet also in trinity. That is, love is an eternal and internal dynamic of the Creator. No wonder love is his stamp on the world!

Further, when people are created in the image of God, this is both male and female (Genesis 1:27). Humans are made in and for relationship: with each other, with God, with the rest of the created order. Science done well reflects this. Consider how problems are solved in teams. Or the comment of Newton crediting modern insight to the ability to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Even think of the scientific culture (sadly eroded by proprietary secrecy and patents) that all data are to be shared openly, being published for all to read.

Science needs creation. Or to flip this coin over: God created science. Science done well is one of the many human tasks that points, however feebly, to the worthiness of God the creator.

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power
for you created all things and by your will they existed and were created.
Revelation 4:11


Science & the gospel: intro

For a while now I’ve had an idea to use this blog ponder the relation between science and the gospel of Jesus.

I’m not one who thinks that ‘science and religion are totally separate spheres’ (Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA, or non-overlapping magisteria). Nor do I think one is completely swallowed up in the other (it’s not that theology alone sets every scientific question, nor that science encompasses and ‘explains’ belief).

Rather, science and theology have a complex interaction. There are some overlapping areas of concern, some unique fields in each discipline, and plenty of mutual influence. (To read much more about this, I recommend the work of John Hedley Brooke.)

In this little series, I want to ponder one specific interaction: how faith in Christ transforms our view of science.

This is the method I decided upon. I will take a Christian tract and explanation of the gospel that I am familiar with, and use each of its main points as the departure place for a few reflections. I am very familiar with Two Ways To Live (TWTL), and so will use this. I envision six blog posts (apart from this intro), one for each image/page of TWTL.

Update: here are the links to each post, added once they are complete and published.
Creation and science
Sin and science
Judgement and science
Jesus the saviour and science
The resurrection of Jesus and science
Repentance and faith and science