Tag Archives: Science

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.


A false syllogism

Here’s a false syllogism I keep seeing assumed behind various comments (usually, comments from those who concur with what is being called New Atheism).

  1. Science has discovered many truths about reality
  2. Science will discover many more truths about reality
  3. Therefore science alone is sufficient to explain all reality

1. and 2. are true. Still, 3. does not follow. The conclusion, statement 3, introduces ideas not at all part of the two initial statements – science alone, and all reality – and therefore not valid logical inferences.

This is not a new mistake: witness the logical positivists (brief & free definition here). This blog suggests it’s a mistake that will recur, and then be followed by the obvious rebuttals.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Even in anti-God rhetoric.



Science is …?

They Might Be Giants. Yay! (Which when translated means, ‘I’m a fan.’)

We recently received their new kids’ album, Here Comes Science. Recommended – though they should have included Mammal, a song from an earlier album that perfectly fits the theme of the new one.

But I wonder about one song, Science is Real. Especially these lyrics:

I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves
Now I like those stories
As much as anybody else
But when I’m seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
The facts are with science

What on earth? Shakespeare gives no knowledge? No knowledge from Aesop’s funny little stories? Nothing abstract to help us live if we reflect on Lord of the Rings? These guys need to read Aristotle on poetics – the power of fiction is when we read what’s made-up and are struck by reality (‘Aha!, that’s true love/hate/forgiveness/real life/whatever.’)

Perhaps John & John are acolytes of the empty Richard Dawkins view – science is the only knowledge, and anything not open to investigation by scientific method is ipso facto not knowledge.

This view is both vacuous and impossible to sustain – but that’s for another time. (Except I can’t resist this – TMBG are career musicians, who have devoted themselves to an art form that can’t be reduced to scientific formulae. Come on guys, wake up!)

But the thing that troubles me is putting such a loaded, argumentative piece in a collection of kids’ music. Oh well, the positive is a good chance to talk about this with our little ones.

PS I think my favourite track is The Elements. I know you were wondering.