Science vs. God

Science vs. God

Sam explores the idea that science and God oppose one another.

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Comment by Sam |

"We can't measure the Holy Spirit with a thermometer; we can't write an equation to define God's love" I love this quote. This is a really eye opening article.

Comment by Nick |

Great. I really enjoyed reading this. It is something I have discussed with people for a while. They always say that science has/will disprove God. But this has opened my eyes to how it does work. Really good! Thankyou!

Comment by Jacob |

"Could God not have used a Big Bang as He created our universe?" I would strongly say no! The problem with trying to reconcile these scientific theories to the Bible is they don't fit. God says quite plainly in Genesis 1 how He created the world. If God is all powerful then why would He do it any other way than what He said? I've read many theories and found that there is no way to coherently reconcile them to the biblical account without changing the Bible. The real problem with questioning this therefore is not a salvation issue, but it is to question the Bible, God’s word, as Satan did in Genesis 3 (‘Did God really say?’) This questions God’s authoritative word, and puts our fallible, changing ideas in place of God’s infallible, unchanging Word. It is essentially playing Jenga with the Bible, ‘I don’t like that bit, so I’ll take it out’. It becomes a lot harder to reach people if they see you do not believe the whole Bible, they think ‘Why should I believe any of it?’

The creation shows us God cares, & why he cares about His creation. It shows us why we are accountable to Him, & why He can be our Judge. It also shows us why Jesus came to die for sinners. I would urge you not to take the view point 'God could have used evolution/big bang e.t.c' because not only does it call God a liar but it makes it so much harder to reach people with that life saving gospel we are commanded to share with them.

Comment by Sam Follett |

Thanks for all your comments, guys. Responding to Jacob specifically, I think you're totally right that we need to be incredibly careful in the way that we handle scripture. We definitely can't choose to ignore the bits we don't like. However, we also need to be really careful about the way we read different texts. The Bible is made up of writings of different types: there's poetry, history books, prophecy, letters... We need to read them according to what they really are: if you received a letter from the taxman and a love letter from your sweetheart, you'd read them differently because they are different types of writing.
In the same way, we read a Psalm (a song) differently to the way we read a one of Paul's letters. They serve different purposes and are written to communicate something particular.
Coming to Genesis 1-3, we again read it differently to, say, Isaiah, because they are different writings written for a different purpose. I think that if God truly gave us a scientific account of how he created the world it would blow our minds - we could not comprehend the creation of this world because we cannot comprehend that which was before. These chapters take the form of stories which will have been passed down orally over generations before ever being written down. They are stories which are not intended to give us a scientific explanation of creation, but instead a beautiful picture of what it means to be created and it shows us tonnes about God Himself. If we were taking it completely literally, we'd struggle to reconcile chapters 1 and 2 together anyway!
Have a re-read of the chapters and try and think of them as stories which express something of our God's character and something of what it means to be human. See what you can glean! And also take a look at Robert White's blog on Genesis and Creation.
Let me know what you think!
Sam

Comment by Jacob |

Thanks for responding Sam, I agree that different parts of the Bible we should read differently. However how do we know what is set out to be read as poetry and what is set to be read as literal? Just reading our Bibles doesn't always seem to show us that simply. The best way is to go back to the original language it was written in. In Genesis 1 we would see this is Hebrew. The Hebrew word for 'day' is 'yom'. Now when we see this in other places in scripture it always means a 24 hour period. For this to be the only place where God uses 'day' as not a 24 hour period is a far fetched idea which would make little sense. The only place in the Bible where day is used differently to this is in Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3 where a day is compared to a thousand years. But both of these are used to state how God is not constrained by time like we are. The context shows this quite simply while the context in Genesis even has, 'then there was morning and there was evening'. If the meaning of the word "day" with a number always means a 24-hour period of time outside of Genesis 1, then it should also mean a 24-hour period of time inside Genesis 1. Even in Exodus 20:11 God goes back to the Genesis account and says "[in] six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day." This gives us undeniable proof that the Bible isn't saying Genesis 1 is poetical but rather that it is literal.

I think to say God basically lied to us in the Genesis account because otherwise it would 'blow our minds' is an unreasonable statement. Say God had used the Big Bang and guided evolution then He could have just started Genesis with, "In the Beginning there was nothing but God. God said, 'Let it be' and it was so." God wouldn't need to give us anymore than that. These chapters in Genesis were orally passed down but that wasn't what Moses wrote from, no Moses was directly told by God what to write, not the stories (which could be exaggerated or partly forgotten or added to in places) that were passed down but direct revelation from God. The Genesis account is to intended as a scientific account, and stands up to every evidence. Nothing has disproved it though evolutionists will say differently. It takes more faith to believe that than it does to believe what God said, even though it is said in the utmost confidence.

I do not see how we would struggle to reconcile chapter 1 and 2 of Genesis when taking it literally. Genesis 1 shows an overall picture of creation, what happened each day. Genesis 2 shows a more detailed view of how God created humans, how we are different. There is nothing contradictory there. I think it is dangerous to put down Genesis as poetical when there is no evidence to say this is so just because that would fit in with the science theory of the day. Why would we replace our fallible and changing ideas with God's infallible, unchanging word? In Genesis 3 Satan says to Eve, 'Did God really say?' When we question the Bible we are saying to people, 'Did God really say?'

To take out creation is to take out a foundation stone, as Psalm 11 says, ‘If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?’ The creation shows us God cares and why he cares about His creation. It shows us why we are accountable to Him and why He can be our Judge. It also shows us why Jesus came to die for sinners. Genesis is extremely important and so my plea to you is to defend the truth by taking up the complete, unaltered ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6).

Comment by Sam Follett |

Hey Jacob

Again, thanks for your comments.

You're right about the Hebrew, you've done your research! I too think God is referring to a literal day here, however my point is that this whole account is a story.

Consider Jesus' parables. When he told them, the audience most likely did not believe them to be true - but it didn't matter whether they were or weren't because their purpose is to explain something about the nature of God or the Kingdom. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) tells us loads about God's character and loads about how we relate to Him as mankind. It shows us God's grace and the redemptive story. But that story may never have actually happened as Jesus described it. Does that make Jesus a liar? No, because He never claimed it as truth. Did he explicitly say it was untrue, either? No, He just began "There was a man who had two sons."

I think (and let me be clear that this is a very widely accepted view) that the beginning of Genesis can be taken in much the same way. The narrative tells us masses about God and us. We know from the passages that He is our creator, that He saw His creation as good, that we were designed for relationship with Him... It also speaks of what it means to be man and woman, it speaks into our doctrine of marriage, of sabbath...

Reading the passage in this way does not mean that God is a liar, it merely means that this passage was never meant to be taken as a literal, scientific account.

Addressing your points, when it comes to Exodus 20, it certainly does refer to the creation narrative, but if you read it again it is in no way relying on this being 'literal', but it sees Genesis as the root of the sabbath concept. The creation story tells us about God's approach to work vs. rest and thus we respond by keeping the sabbath. Do you see?

You also appear say that when we question the Bible we are behaving like Satan. I think you need to be careful what you mean by questioning the Bible. Scripture is full of references to meditating on scripture, receiving teaching on scripture, the Holy Spirit helping us understand it. In Acts 17:11 the Jews in Beroea were commended for examining scripture. Grappling with texts and trying to figure out what God is saying through them is not wrong - in fact it is completely the right thing to do. And this is exactly what we are doing here. We must never be led to believe that to question things is wrong, lest we be led astray by false teaching.

My final point would be to respond to your last paragraph about 'taking out the foundation stone of creation'. Firstly, Christ is the foundation stone of our faith, not creation. A particular view on the way creation happened is not a primary issue. Second, I am not suggesting we 'take out' creation. I firmly believe that God created this universe and everything in it - it is a very important truth. We are merely discussing whether the account in Genesis is intended to be a scientifically accurate description or a more poetic narrative.

So we don't clog up the page any further, I suggest we take this discussion to email - I'd love to keep chatting with you. Drop me a line at sam@thebridge-uk.com

God bless,
Sam

P.S. If anyone else wants to share their thoughts, please do so below.

Sam Follett

Sam Follett

Sam co-founded The Bridge with Charlie back in 2013 with a vision to see young people equipped with good teaching. Sam is a curate at HTB in London. But before that he's been around a bit, he worked for two years with Church Army around the globe andd studied Physics at the University of Nottingham. Sam also enjoys freshly ground coffee and more freshly ground coffee.

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Science vs. God

For some reason, it's not easy to consider science and faith as anything but polar opposites

Last July I graduated from Nottingham University with a degree in Physics. At the end of this month, I start training for ordination in the Church of England. Several years down the line, I'll be a vicar. When I tell people about this transition, I often get confused looks. People ask why I wanted to make such a radical change, from science to God.

For some reason, it's not easy to consider science and faith as anything but polar opposites: belief in science implies that you only believe in things which can be proved through scientific method, ruling out belief in a god. Or, if you believe in God, surely you must disagree with science, because science has disproved God, right?

Wrong.

Any scientist who tells you that science has disproven God is a fool, a tool and... is generally bad at science. Anyone who says that a faith in God is incompatible with science, I believe, needs to look again at both faith and science.

I overheard a guy trying to convince his friend that science and God could peacefully coexist by saying 'science is the 'how', faith is the 'why''. He actually made a very good effort (if you're reading, well done!), though I'm not totally convinced by the idea - let me unpack it a little.

acknowledge that there are some things that science cannot comment on

Firstly, I like that this explanation very clearly puts science and faith on two different levels. It removes them from being two opposite sides of a coin and says that they each deal with something distinctly different. This is brilliant! With this separation, we acknowledge that there are some things that science cannot comment on. There are things that fall outside of the remit of science. This is completely true. We can't measure the Holy Spirit with a thermometer; we can't write an equation to define God's love; we can't put Jesus under a microscope. We just cannot prove nor disprove the existence of God through scientific method. God is beyond science.

However, this explanation also does the same for faith. It inadvertently suggests that there are things that faith has no concern with; that there are things outside of God's remit. If God was only concerned with the 'why', our faith would be very different. God is intimately interested with the 'how' too. Scientific discovery has serious implications for our morality. For example, we are now at a point where we are able to genetically modify embryos. If our moral code was dictated purely by science (survival of the fittest, perhaps) we would take a very different stance on this matter than considering it from the perspective of faith. God gives us an understanding of what it is to be human that science just does not. Faith is very much concerned with the 'how': how we understand ourselves, how we live our lives, how we treat others.

God gives us an understanding of what it is to be human that science just does not

This is not to say that we should comment on every bit of scientific discovery from a faith perspective. Whether I am made up of atoms or not is irrelevant next to the understanding that I was designed by a creator God... but it could still be true. Plus, scientists undertaking stem cell research have been in conversation with faith leaders over the moral implications of their work, but they don't seek scientific advice - the Bible doesn't explain the structure and behaviour of cells, even though our Father knows exactly how it all works. He designed it.

Studying physics, I was looking at the way we, as human beings, can best explain the phenomena that we see in our universe. Physicists come up with mathematical formulas and theoretical ideas to explain behaviour that we observe. Science is coming up with the best ways to explain what we see of God's creation. Scripture doesn't have anything to say for atoms and quarks, for gravity and surface tension... I think that's probably because a faith perspective is interested in the bigger picture. Writers of Biblical texts are quick to say how glorious God's creation is, but quicker to say how amazing God's character is and quicker to say how we should respond as Christians.

There is nothing to suggest that science and faith are incompatible. There has been no scientific discovery that directly contradicts a faith in Jesus Christ. Could God not have used a Big Bang as He created our universe?

Science is gaining understanding of God's world, and we can use that for His glory

But I would go one step further: I think that science and faith are not just compatible, but complementary. God gave us brains to think and a world to explore. He gave us the ability to work to learn more about His world and use that knowledge for His glory. Humankind is regularly pushing the frontiers of possibility in our efforts to find cures for disease, make crops that can be grown where people are starving, bring clean water to those in need... Science is gaining understanding of God's world, and we can use that for His glory.

 

I hope that the blogs we've put up this week will help you unpack this further. Some are pretty meaty, but give it a go. You should definitely read this great blog about Genesis and creation by Prof. Robert White.

If you're having discussions with friends who don't believe, but think science has all the answers, maybe reflect on this: Why is there order in the world? Science shows an amazing ordering of atoms, of cells, of... everything! We see order and we believe that God is the orderer.

If the stuff we've put up just isn't enough, there's loads of great (but, again, very meaty) resources on the Christians in Science website.

Does your church teach on science and God?

Go back

Add a comment

Comment by Sam |

"We can't measure the Holy Spirit with a thermometer; we can't write an equation to define God's love" I love this quote. This is a really eye opening article.

Comment by Nick |

Great. I really enjoyed reading this. It is something I have discussed with people for a while. They always say that science has/will disprove God. But this has opened my eyes to how it does work. Really good! Thankyou!

Comment by Jacob |

"Could God not have used a Big Bang as He created our universe?" I would strongly say no! The problem with trying to reconcile these scientific theories to the Bible is they don't fit. God says quite plainly in Genesis 1 how He created the world. If God is all powerful then why would He do it any other way than what He said? I've read many theories and found that there is no way to coherently reconcile them to the biblical account without changing the Bible. The real problem with questioning this therefore is not a salvation issue, but it is to question the Bible, God’s word, as Satan did in Genesis 3 (‘Did God really say?’) This questions God’s authoritative word, and puts our fallible, changing ideas in place of God’s infallible, unchanging Word. It is essentially playing Jenga with the Bible, ‘I don’t like that bit, so I’ll take it out’. It becomes a lot harder to reach people if they see you do not believe the whole Bible, they think ‘Why should I believe any of it?’

The creation shows us God cares, & why he cares about His creation. It shows us why we are accountable to Him, & why He can be our Judge. It also shows us why Jesus came to die for sinners. I would urge you not to take the view point 'God could have used evolution/big bang e.t.c' because not only does it call God a liar but it makes it so much harder to reach people with that life saving gospel we are commanded to share with them.

Comment by Sam Follett |

Thanks for all your comments, guys. Responding to Jacob specifically, I think you're totally right that we need to be incredibly careful in the way that we handle scripture. We definitely can't choose to ignore the bits we don't like. However, we also need to be really careful about the way we read different texts. The Bible is made up of writings of different types: there's poetry, history books, prophecy, letters... We need to read them according to what they really are: if you received a letter from the taxman and a love letter from your sweetheart, you'd read them differently because they are different types of writing.
In the same way, we read a Psalm (a song) differently to the way we read a one of Paul's letters. They serve different purposes and are written to communicate something particular.
Coming to Genesis 1-3, we again read it differently to, say, Isaiah, because they are different writings written for a different purpose. I think that if God truly gave us a scientific account of how he created the world it would blow our minds - we could not comprehend the creation of this world because we cannot comprehend that which was before. These chapters take the form of stories which will have been passed down orally over generations before ever being written down. They are stories which are not intended to give us a scientific explanation of creation, but instead a beautiful picture of what it means to be created and it shows us tonnes about God Himself. If we were taking it completely literally, we'd struggle to reconcile chapters 1 and 2 together anyway!
Have a re-read of the chapters and try and think of them as stories which express something of our God's character and something of what it means to be human. See what you can glean! And also take a look at Robert White's blog on Genesis and Creation.
Let me know what you think!
Sam

Comment by Jacob |

Thanks for responding Sam, I agree that different parts of the Bible we should read differently. However how do we know what is set out to be read as poetry and what is set to be read as literal? Just reading our Bibles doesn't always seem to show us that simply. The best way is to go back to the original language it was written in. In Genesis 1 we would see this is Hebrew. The Hebrew word for 'day' is 'yom'. Now when we see this in other places in scripture it always means a 24 hour period. For this to be the only place where God uses 'day' as not a 24 hour period is a far fetched idea which would make little sense. The only place in the Bible where day is used differently to this is in Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3 where a day is compared to a thousand years. But both of these are used to state how God is not constrained by time like we are. The context shows this quite simply while the context in Genesis even has, 'then there was morning and there was evening'. If the meaning of the word "day" with a number always means a 24-hour period of time outside of Genesis 1, then it should also mean a 24-hour period of time inside Genesis 1. Even in Exodus 20:11 God goes back to the Genesis account and says "[in] six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day." This gives us undeniable proof that the Bible isn't saying Genesis 1 is poetical but rather that it is literal.

I think to say God basically lied to us in the Genesis account because otherwise it would 'blow our minds' is an unreasonable statement. Say God had used the Big Bang and guided evolution then He could have just started Genesis with, "In the Beginning there was nothing but God. God said, 'Let it be' and it was so." God wouldn't need to give us anymore than that. These chapters in Genesis were orally passed down but that wasn't what Moses wrote from, no Moses was directly told by God what to write, not the stories (which could be exaggerated or partly forgotten or added to in places) that were passed down but direct revelation from God. The Genesis account is to intended as a scientific account, and stands up to every evidence. Nothing has disproved it though evolutionists will say differently. It takes more faith to believe that than it does to believe what God said, even though it is said in the utmost confidence.

I do not see how we would struggle to reconcile chapter 1 and 2 of Genesis when taking it literally. Genesis 1 shows an overall picture of creation, what happened each day. Genesis 2 shows a more detailed view of how God created humans, how we are different. There is nothing contradictory there. I think it is dangerous to put down Genesis as poetical when there is no evidence to say this is so just because that would fit in with the science theory of the day. Why would we replace our fallible and changing ideas with God's infallible, unchanging word? In Genesis 3 Satan says to Eve, 'Did God really say?' When we question the Bible we are saying to people, 'Did God really say?'

To take out creation is to take out a foundation stone, as Psalm 11 says, ‘If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?’ The creation shows us God cares and why he cares about His creation. It shows us why we are accountable to Him and why He can be our Judge. It also shows us why Jesus came to die for sinners. Genesis is extremely important and so my plea to you is to defend the truth by taking up the complete, unaltered ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6).

Comment by Sam Follett |

Hey Jacob

Again, thanks for your comments.

You're right about the Hebrew, you've done your research! I too think God is referring to a literal day here, however my point is that this whole account is a story.

Consider Jesus' parables. When he told them, the audience most likely did not believe them to be true - but it didn't matter whether they were or weren't because their purpose is to explain something about the nature of God or the Kingdom. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) tells us loads about God's character and loads about how we relate to Him as mankind. It shows us God's grace and the redemptive story. But that story may never have actually happened as Jesus described it. Does that make Jesus a liar? No, because He never claimed it as truth. Did he explicitly say it was untrue, either? No, He just began "There was a man who had two sons."

I think (and let me be clear that this is a very widely accepted view) that the beginning of Genesis can be taken in much the same way. The narrative tells us masses about God and us. We know from the passages that He is our creator, that He saw His creation as good, that we were designed for relationship with Him... It also speaks of what it means to be man and woman, it speaks into our doctrine of marriage, of sabbath...

Reading the passage in this way does not mean that God is a liar, it merely means that this passage was never meant to be taken as a literal, scientific account.

Addressing your points, when it comes to Exodus 20, it certainly does refer to the creation narrative, but if you read it again it is in no way relying on this being 'literal', but it sees Genesis as the root of the sabbath concept. The creation story tells us about God's approach to work vs. rest and thus we respond by keeping the sabbath. Do you see?

You also appear say that when we question the Bible we are behaving like Satan. I think you need to be careful what you mean by questioning the Bible. Scripture is full of references to meditating on scripture, receiving teaching on scripture, the Holy Spirit helping us understand it. In Acts 17:11 the Jews in Beroea were commended for examining scripture. Grappling with texts and trying to figure out what God is saying through them is not wrong - in fact it is completely the right thing to do. And this is exactly what we are doing here. We must never be led to believe that to question things is wrong, lest we be led astray by false teaching.

My final point would be to respond to your last paragraph about 'taking out the foundation stone of creation'. Firstly, Christ is the foundation stone of our faith, not creation. A particular view on the way creation happened is not a primary issue. Second, I am not suggesting we 'take out' creation. I firmly believe that God created this universe and everything in it - it is a very important truth. We are merely discussing whether the account in Genesis is intended to be a scientifically accurate description or a more poetic narrative.

So we don't clog up the page any further, I suggest we take this discussion to email - I'd love to keep chatting with you. Drop me a line at sam@thebridge-uk.com

God bless,
Sam

P.S. If anyone else wants to share their thoughts, please do so below.

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