Editor’s Note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll be examining science from the perspective of a Christian worldview in a series of articles, beginning with this excerpt from Understanding the Faith, which provides a helpful analogy for relating science and scripture.
The National Academy of Sciences defines science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanation and prediction of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process” and holds that “scientists gather information by observing the natural world and conducting experiments.” 1 Science assumes that nature operates in a predictable, stable manner and that the results we obtain in any given case will yield similar results under similar conditions. This assumption about the orderliness and predictability of nature—indeed a great many of science’s underlying assumptions—is based on principles that early scientists believed because they believed in the God of the Bible.
The Bible and Science
This is not to say that the Bible is a book of science. It’s bigger than that. The Bible, as we saw in earlier chapters, presents an overarching story — a metanarrative about the world and everyone in it from the perspective of a sovereign God and his plan for the world. Though the Bible is not a book of science, it is not against science either. The relationship of science to the Bible is similar to the relationship between photography and the study of history. Just as science helps clarify our observations of nature, photography enables accurate pictures to be made. Accuracy does help tell better stories, but photographs themselves are not the story, nor are they the only or best way of telling it. Just as it would be foolish to say that there was no history before there was photography, it is foolish to say that people’s prescientific thoughts were ignorant and now irrelevant.
Distortion of Truth is Timeless
“But this is an unfair analogy,” some might protest. “Science makes our observations more accurate, which enables us to make superior decisions to those made in more Christian times.” This is a serious point and one worth examining. It is true that there are many examples of how people in more Christian times made bad or bizarre decisions. But people have done bad and bizarre things in the name of science, too. Physics and engineering made possible weapons that are far deadlier than those used in previous centuries. And sometimes scientists even distort the truth for their own purposes, as happened with Soviet scientist T. D. Lysenko, who “outlawed” dissent from his theory of genetics because he believed that contrary thought would pose a threat to Marxism and upset the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. 2 As we will see, the relationship between Christianity and science is not what people imagine. It certainly does not fit the “We’re smarter than we used to be, so we need to reject Christianity” narrative. The truth is much more complex—and much more fascinating.