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“What is man that thou art mindful of him?”

The Meeting of Science and Faith

 

Lecture to the 1662 Society by Dr. Matthew J. Hyde, Tuesday 1st March 2011

 

When I was asked to speak at this meeting by Dr Alan Argent, I viewed the suggested title with some trepidation. Partially this arose from it being a subject which, perhaps as a Christian and a Scientist, I had been unwilling to examine as I should have done, but it mainly sprang from a sense of my total inability to properly address the issues at stake. Like the minister who, having announced he was going to explain the Trinity in his Sunday evening sermon, came across a member of his congregation, on Sunday afternoon, kneeling by the local stream with a teaspoon. When enquiring what they were doing they replied that they were trying to empty the river with the spoon. The minister laughed, to which the reply came, “it will be easier for me to empty the river with a teaspoon than it will be for you to explain the Trinity in your sermon tonight.” So I too feel it would be easier to empty the Thames tonight than to really plumb the depths of the subject of this lecture.

 

Science and Religion are indeed like vast seas. Some would say that the two never meet, others would feel they are totally one, while another group may see them as part of a whole, but still quite distinct, in a similar manner to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans being quite distinct, but yet part of the one great ocean. Delving their depths; reconciling them; and explaining their relationships to one another is a daunting task for this evening’s lecture, but that is what I want to attempt.

Well, in order to examine the point we perhaps need to define what we mean by the terms “religion” and “science”.

 

Firstly then, what am I taking to be religion. For the purposes of tonight’s lecture I am only looking at the “Christian faith”. That said, many other religions take similar viewpoints on matters of science, whether that be creation (both Islam, and technically, although increasingly rarely, Judaism hold to creation of the world by God), or the moral dilemmas of modern medical science. I will also be upfront in stating that I would be described as a Fundamentalist and I am unashamed to be called so. I believe that God created the world in six days; deny macro-evolution; believe that all the laws of nature are subject to God and hold strongly to the sanctity of life when it comes to ethical/scientific boundaries. These views are becoming rarer, and it is increasingly suggested that anybody that holds them cannot be a scientist, or is a nut case. Indeed, Richard Dawkins has said:

 

“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)."1

 

I leave you to decide whether your speaker tonight is stupid, ignorant or wicked!

 

What then is Science? Science is an “in word”; a term banded about with often little or no context. My definition for you tonight is simply this: Science is the study of the universe around us and everything in it. Science in its latin root: Scientia means literally “knowledge”. Science is the seeking of and obtaining an understanding of how and why things work and the relationship between things. It is not solely limited to the three secondary school sciences: chemistry, physics and biology. Geography and its related subjects are also science, being the understanding of the earth and man’s relationship with his physical boundaries. Similarly the social sciences are the understanding of interrelationships between mankind and culture are also science. In its broadest sense science encompasses the study of the components of the atom, through the biology of minute life forms on the ocean bed, via the taxonomy of terrestrial life, with the study of seismic movements in the earths crust to the fathoming of the furthest known galaxies.

 

However, I would venture that the use of that knowledge is not necessarily science. The use of science to make something, e.g. the knowledge of chemistry in the synthesis of a new drug, is strictly speaking engineering and not science per se. Similarly, the application of science, the knowledge of disease and potential drugs, to care for somebody’s health is medicine.

 

Science can undoubtedly be good, but it has often been deemed as bad. However, using our definition of science, I would suggest that generally speaking, the seeking of a greater understanding of the universe we live in is rarely, if ever, bad. The pursuit of knowledge has generally been deemed as a profitable one. Rather, it is generally in the application of that knowledge (which I have already said is not really science), that the bad part enters in. Man applies the knowledge he has obtained in an unprofitable or an evil way. So the knowledge of the chemistry of gunpowder, which has many useful applications, is turned to a weapon of war with all its associations. That said, it is often easy to magnify the improper application of science, while forgetting the many benefits science has brought, from the supply of clean drinking water, through vaccination, to the modern computer age. A problem arises in that man’s judgement of good or bad science is generally very arbitrary, but I hope to show that for a Christian this need not be the case.

 

Science is normally carried out by three principles: questioning, observing and experimenting. William Harvey, better known for his discovery of the circulatory system of the blood, is less known today for his theories of how an embryo is formed in the womb. Man at that stage did not have the power to observe these things, being before van Leeuwenhoek’s microscope. But Harvey by questioning was showing scientific approach: he was not satisfied with not knowing, he wanted to know and understand how these things occurred for himself.

 

Having questioned, the scientist will try to find an answer by observing the process he wants to understand. By observation many scientific discoveries have been made. It was the famous observation of the fruit (apple or mulberry) falling to the ground that made Newton realise there was a force present in nature which draws objects towards the earth; he called this force gravity.

 

Finally there is experimentation. What happens when man observes the reason for something, but finds two possible causes? Which one is the real cause? The only way to find out is to experiment, to take each away in turn and see what happens. I will give one example of experimentation from modern medicine. That is the case of Barry Marshall who took the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2005. Marshall discovered a bacteria which could survive the acid conditions of the stomach. He suggested that this bacteria, helicobacter pylori, was the cause of stomach ulcers. Nobody believed him. So he experimented. He swallowed a dose of these bacteria. Within a few days he showed symptoms of a stomach ulcer. He self treated himself with antibiotics and the ulcer cleared up. That is a classic, although now regarded as unethical, case of scientific experimentation.

 

Finally, in defining science, I want to just consider some of the natural benefits that science has brought us.

 

By medicine it has given us a greater understanding of our mortality, yet at the same time the realisation that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Practically, it has allowed us to treat many diseases, to almost eradicate others (e.g. small pox) and to support a reasonable quality of life in those who cannot be treated. Environmental science, has allowed us an appreciation of the natural world, how we can best harness it for our needs, and yet at the same time reminds us that the world is a finite resource and we must take care of it. Chemistry has allowed us to understand the materials available to us and to mix and combine them to create new substances to suit a range of needs, from Kevlar for bullet proof vests, through Teflon non-stick frying pans, to common glass with all its various uses. Physics has allowed us to understand the laws of nature and how to overcome them. Not least amongst the fruits of such study is the ability to fly. We only just scratch the surface. In short I want to emphasise that we cannot underestimate scientific achievement.

 

Despite the fact that science itself has generally been regarded as a good thing, a surprising number of Christians seem shocked that I find it possible to be a scientist while having strong religious convictions. This idea seems to spring out of two things. Firstly the idea that pursuit of knowledge is in some ways worldly, and detracts from a personal religion, and secondly, because they judge science as being intrinsically opposed to the Bible, mainly due to the emphasis placed by modern society on aspects of science, such as evolution, which are contrary to the Bible. I believe that the latter view is based on a failure to understand what the Bible says about science.

 

So, in order to examine this question of whether a Christian can be a scientist, we must first ask: What does the Bible say about science? Using the King James Version, we find science mentioned in the Bible on two occasions. The first in Daniel 1: 4, where we read the description of those faithful children of God, Daniel (or Belteshazzar), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that they were: “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Yet far from being men who compromised their religion for the sake of their scientific pursuit, quite the opposite was true. They would, I am sure, have rather given up their science than their religion, yet they obviously found no reason to.

 

The second mention of science is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy (6: 20,21), in which Paul enjoinders Timothy to “keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” Are we to believe that Paul was telling Timothy he must not pursue knowledge as to the universe around him? No, rather Paul was charging Timothy not to accept anything which was contrary to the Word of God. And, as Matthew Henry the Bible commentator says: “That science that opposes the truth of the gospel is falsely so called; it is not true science, for if it were it would approve of the gospel and consent to it.” There is then a true science which is according to the Bible, science which approves the Gospel and we should seek after it, but there is also science, or “science falsely so called”, which we need to be aware of and seek to avoid.

 

Many of the Reformers, in particular Martin Luther and John Calvin, viewed science as being a Divine command, contained in the words of God to Adam, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Calvin and Luther both saw in the command to subdue the material world, a divine commission to scientific pursuit.

 

That was however, before the fall of man. Despite Eve and Adam taking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the fall did not increase our scientific ability, but irreparably damaged the faculties which man possessed in his state of innocence. Man lost his capability to see how everything was fitly made by God; he lost the knowledge of God’s creation which he once possessed. This fact is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Bible tells us that we can only understand that the worlds were framed by God, by the workings of faith: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11: 3) As we have no faith of ourselves, but it is entirely the gift of God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9), we can see that we lost real scientific ability by the fall.

 

Though we lost scientific ability by the fall, this did not stop God reiterating his Divine command, in conjunction with the protoevangel, the first gospel promise, that man should be intimately connected with the world that surrounded him in an attempt to subdue it (Genesis 3: 14-19). It was again restated to Noah when he came out of the Ark, setting forth man’s dominion over the world around him (Genesis 9: 2). Later, David, when feeling his own insignificance cried out in awe at the wonders of creation around him: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8: 4). He answered the question in the terms of the divine command: “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8: 5-8)

Indeed, the Schofield Reference Bible correctly states of this command “and subdue it”: “This is the divine magna charta for all true scientific and material progress. He (man) is commanded to "subdue" i.e. acquire a knowledge and mastery over his material environment and to bring its elements into the service of the race.” The pursuit of science does therefore have Divine commission.

 

In this light, science undoubtedly has its place in the field of Systematic Theology or Dogmatics, or the study of Christian doctrine, where, under the second loci, Anthropology, or as it is termed the study of man’s relationship with God, we place the study of Creation and the science of all that was created. To divorce science from religion to the extent that some Christian’s may like to, is actually to wipe out a very important part of Christian doctrine. For it is in the pursuit of true science that man sees the full glory of God’s creation and of his wisdom and omnipotence. It was scientific knowledge (although perhaps seemingly basic to us today) which made the Psalmist exclaim, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well!” (Psalm 139: 14)

 

It is in this light we see the Biblical end of science: the glory of God, the master of the universe. It is often in scientific pursuit that we come to know the incomprehensibility of God. I remember once looking at the shelves and shelves of books in the library at Wye, all on the subject of agricultural science, yet such a vast body of knowledge. But, despite all that knowledge we still cannot really predict the weather, nor have we really plumbed the depths of the germinating seed, nor the minutiae of the atomic particle. Man is so feeble in such a light! Joseph Hart, the 18th Century hymn-writer said:

 

“The little too that’s known,
Which, children-like, we boast,
Will fade, like glow-worms in the sun,
Or drops in ocean lost.”

 

Indeed, it was Socrates, the Greek philosopher, who said: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” It is only when we realise our inability to grasp material things in scientific pursuit that we truly begin to realise the glory of God in creation.

 

What then about science itself in the Bible? Well we have to firstly realise that the Bible is not a scientific text book. That said, it is sometimes surprising what science the Bible does contain. To ancient man, the hydrological cycle, the drawing of water up from the earth into the clouds, the moving of the clouds inland, and the return of the water to the earth via rain must have been a mystery, yet this is how Job describes it: “For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.” (Job 36: 27-28) And again in Ecclesiastes: “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” (1: 7).

 

Similarly, the composition of clouds. The only association ancient men can have had between clouds and water was that it was cloudy when it rained, yet those apparently light and airy clouds hold tons of water: water which when man pours it out falls straight to the ground. Clouds do not just float because they are lighter than air. There are many complex laws of physics which keep the clouds in the sky, yet again this is recorded in Job: “He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them” (26: 8), and “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” (37: 16).

 

Again we can take the currents of the wind, the gulf stream etc; the currents in the sea and water. Many today not educated to think better, nor with scientific reasoning to ask why, assume quite literally that ‘the wind bloweth where it listeth’ and that we ‘cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth’, but that is not the whole story. The wind does have clearly defined paths, believed to be controlled by the suns energy. Yet this is recorded in Ecclesiastes: “The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.” (1: 6) and of the currents in the sea Psalm 8 speaks of the “paths of the sea” which fish swim in, yet it was not till 1786 that Benjamin Franklin wrote the first real account of ocean currents.

 

Having seen some of the science which may be said to be in the Bible you could interject, what about the apparent contradictions of science and the Bible? I quoted earlier the words of Matthew Henry, and the words of Paul, to the effect that there is a science, falsely so called, which is not according the Bible. What do we say of such science and its departure from Scripture?

 

Indeed, perhaps not all of you share my view of creation. You may say, how do you reconcile the account of Genesis 1 with the theory of evolution and much suggested scientific proof for it? Are there apparent contradictions between the Bible and science and if so, how do we reconcile them?

 

Let us hear what Thomas H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”, and lecturer at what is now Imperial College, had to say:

 

“The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely factitious - fabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension”.2

 

Huxley found no contradiction between science and religion as long as both kept to their clearly defined zones. I cannot accept that view. Science is nothing if it is not encompassed entirely in God’s purposes; if it is not part and parcel of His creation. Therefore there cannot be any disagreement between science and religion. No disagreement, but not on the basis of keeping them both apart, but on the principle that science is part of God’s eternal wisdom and plan for His creation. Consequently any so called science which does not agree with the Bible, the revealed will of God, is myth and falsely called science.

 

The Bible’s place in science cannot be easily dismissed. It has the mark of Divine wisdom upon it. It is the same God who inspired men to record the Word of God, as it was who spoke the worlds into being. There can be no contradiction between the Word of God and the outworking of His creation. When we carry out scientific investigation we need to see what light the Bible shines upon it. If we appear to find contradictions between them, we need to consider again. This is the Scriptural way of carrying out science, for do we not read in Isaiah (8: 20): “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Anything which, when we compare it to the Word of God, contradicts it, cannot be truth.

 

Most place more emphasis on reconsidering the interpretation of the Bible than of the scientific research they have made. Christians in science should always do the opposite. The question should be: If what I have found does not agree with the Bible, is it a true finding? Can it be repeated? If it can and it appears true, then we should ask: Is there another explanation which will fit the Biblical record. In my own research I have found nothing which I can find contradictory to the Bible when considered carefully. To the Christian in science, the agreement seen between science and the Biblical record only serves to confirm God’s standing in creation and to magnify His glory.

 

Today, many so called scientific advances, for example, the ageing of the earth as billions of years old amongst others, are clearly in contrast with the Biblical account of history and the revelation of God’s will. On this basis they cannot be correct. But, if we return to science and question it, the suggested ages of the earth can be refuted on good scientific basis and estimates in line with Biblical teaching can be obtained quite easily using modern science.

 

You see, there are two fundamentally different views of the world science in existence. I don’t want to complicate things but it is important to realise this. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian of the early 20th century, describes these two views very clearly: The first he called Normalism, the proponents of which “refuse to reckon with anything other than natural data.” Consequently, they “reject the very idea of creation, and can only accept evolution... No species, not even the species Homo sapiens, originated as such, but within the circle of natural data developed out of lower and preceding forms of life. Especially no miracles, but instead of them the natural law, dominating in an inexorable manner. No sin, but evolution from a lower to a higher moral position. If they tolerate the Holy Scriptures at all, they do it on condition that all those parts which cannot be logically explained as a human production be exscinded. A Christ, if necessary, but such a one as is the product of the human development of Israel. And in the same manner a God, or rather a Supreme Being, but after the manner of the Agnostics, concealed behind the visible Universe, or pantheistically hiding in all existing things, and conceived of as the ideal reflection of the human mind.” (Lectures on Calvinism (1970) Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, USA. p.132).

 

The second view he called Abnormalism. Those holding this view “do justice to relative evolution, but adhere to primordial creation over against an evolution infinitum, oppose the position of the Normalists with all their might; they maintain inexorably the conception of man as an independent species, because in him alone is reflected the image of God; they conceive of sin as the destruction of our original nature, and consequently as rebellion against God; and for that reason they postulate and maintain the miraculous as the only means to restore the abnormal; the miracle of regeneration; the miracle of the Scriptures; the miracle in the Christ, descending as God with His own life into ours; and thus, owing to this regeneration of the abnormal, they continue to find the ideal norm not in the natural but in the Triune God.” (ibid p. 131/2)

 

Kuyper therefore concludes that it is: “Not faith and science therefore, but two scientific systems or if you choose, two scientific elaborations, are opposed to each other.” (ibid p. 132) That said, only Abnormalism can really be said to be consistent with the Bible and therefore with Christian faith.

 

The truth of the matter is that most modern scientists hold to “Normalist” views. They do not want to be found proving the Bible and want to do anything possible to disprove it, even if it means bending normal rules of scientific pursuit. But can we as Christians expect anything different? I suggest not. The Bible is clear that it is only “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11: 3) It is only by faith that a scientist will accept God and the Bible as the touchstone to which everything must be compared and contrasted to; for the believer there is no other standard we should seek after and everything else is “science falsely so called.” Where there is not faith, and how many millions are without faith today(!?), we cannot be surprised at the rapid increase in what Paul warned Timothy of: “Science falsely so called.”

 

We need to be clear, science may show forth to man the glory of creation. Man may even come by science to believe there is a Divine force in nature, but it cannot bring salvation; it cannot give saving faith to those who practise it. Many of my colleagues in medical science are looking for the elixir of life. They are looking for ways of delaying ageing, for reversing the effects of sin. But we know that: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6: 23), and that there is only one way of eternal life and it will not be obtained by science.

 

To quote another hymn by Joseph Hart:

 

How wondrous are the works of God,
Displayed through all the world abroad!
Immensely great! immensely small!
Yet one strange work exceeds them all!

 

He formed the sun, fair fount of light;
The moon and stars, to rule the night;
But night and stars, and moon and sun,
Are little works compared with one.

 

He rolled the seas and spread the skies,
Made valleys sink and mountains rise;
The meadows clothed with native green,
And bade the rivers glide between.

 

But what are seas, or skies, or hills,
Or verdant vales, or gliding rills,
To wonders man was born to prove –
The wonders of redeeming love?

 

For Christians it is not just to know the glories of God in science, but to know the redeeming love and work of the Lord Jesus in our own hearts. Science is for time. When time is no more we will no longer have any need of the Divine command to subdue nature by scientific pursuits. Why? Well we read in the Hebrews that reference to the words of David in Psalm 8: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.” The passage continues referring to the fact that science has not yet found the answers to all things, not all of creation is subdued by man: “But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2: 6-10) We will never reach the end of scientific pursuit on earth; we will never subdue all things here, but Jesus Christ has subdued all things in obtaining salvation for man, and in heaven that fact will deserve the eternal praise of the redeemed. It is only the faith which enables us to believe that, which will allow us to pursue true science for God’s glory and for the good of mankind.

 

Having looked briefly at the Bible and Science, we have to ask, in the light of what we have said: Can a Christian be a Scientist? Well, the answer has to be yes! Indeed some have gone as far as suggesting that Christians must be scientists, and others have gone as far as saying scientists should only be Christians. John Calvin wrote in his commentary on Isaiah 33: 6: “Where Christ is not known, men are destitute of true wisdom, even though they have received the highest education in every branch of learning; for all their knowledge is useless till they truly ‘know God’.” The reason for this was because Calvin’s view of science was as follows: “we must therefore [in scientific pursuit] not begin with the elements of this world, but with the Gospel which Christ alone places before us with His cross – and we must be guided thereby… it is truly vain to philosophise about the origin of the world unless those humbled by the preaching of the Gospel have learned to submit their whole intellectual insight to the foolishness of the cross.” (Argumentum in Genesis, Opera XXIII, col 9.) Calvin believed that “regeneration by God’s special grace is therefore absolutely necessary for the pursuit of true science.”3

 

Lest there can be any doubt, let us consider for a moment some Christians of the past who have been scientists and the testimony and effect that their Christianity has had on their science.

 

Firstly, to consider Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) who was an English statesman, scientist, philosopher and generally regarded as father of scientific method. Bacon proposed his method of scientific enquiry, now known as the Baconian method, in his book The Novum Organum published in 1620. Bacon set forth the procedure for isolating and investigating the cause of a phenomenon by looking at its agreement, its differences and related variation. Today the Baconian method is still the mainstay of scientific experimentation. Yet this is what Bacon had to say of Science and religion: “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”

 

Another example is one of the founders and key early members of the Royal Society, Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691), who gave his name to “Boyle’s Law” for gases. Yet, under the term of his will he endowed a series of Boyle lectures, or sermons, which still continue, “for proving the Christian religion against notorious infidels.” Indeed, during his life Boyle was an outspoken critic of atheism. He also paid for the translating of the New Testament into Irish and Turkish. In 1690 he wrote his famous manifesto, The Christian Virtuoso, on the role of the Christian in science, in which he showed that the study of nature was a religious duty. For Boyle, and we may not fully agree with him, nature was the temple and the scientist was the priest.

 

Then we could mention Michael Faraday (1791-1867), who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, working in the fields of electricity and magnetism. He not only dramatically impacted on the field of physics, but the fact that we are holding this lecture under electric light is a testimony to Faraday’s genius in his research into electricity. Faraday’s Biblical views significantly influenced him and strongly affected the way in which he approached and interpreted nature.

 

Another Christian in science, Samuel Morse (1791-1872) invented the telegraph. The first message he sent in 1844 was “What hath God wrought.” (Numbers 23:23) Towards the end of his life he wrote, “The nearer I approach to the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, the grandeur and sublimity of God's remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illumined with hope and joy.”

 

Going to the Roman Catholic Church, one could mention Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), the Austrian monk who laid the mathematical foundation of our understanding of genetics and the inheritance of traits. Every school child in this country is taught the basics of Mendelian inheritance, based on the principles of dominant and recessive genes. In my own field, the counselling parents of children with genetic disorders regarding future pregnancies generally relies on the principles of Mendlian inheritance. Interestingly, while he was conducting his research around 1860, Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, professor at UCL, and a leader in eugenic theory, was publishing tracts to the effect that the “priestly mind” was not conducive to scientific research. However, at that very time, an Austrian monk had greater understanding of genetics from his observations of peas than Galton did with all that was available to him at UCL!

 

Today, I can think of at several eminent professors in UK academia who are leading proponents of Creationism in the UK and also ministers of the Gospel in Baptist Churches. Interestingly both are in the field of Physics, an area which has most frequently produced Christians amongst the scientific fields. We could mention William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907), George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) were all men with a strong Christian faith. Similarly, Max Planck (1858-1947) the father of quantum theory, which revolutionized our understanding of the atomic and sub-atomic worlds is generally cited for his faith also.

 

Leaving aside Christians in science for a moment. What effect has science had on the faith of non-Christian scientists? One of the great problems today is the view propounded by Richard Dawkins that religion is some kind of a disease and that nobody can be a scientist and be religious. But it is simply not true. Dawkins rise to fame lies more in his ability as a writer than his scientific prowess, which may be described as mediocre. The truth of the matter is, perhaps not so much in biology, but you go to the highest echelons of academia in the fields of physics and chemistry and you will find many scientists are convinced of a divine being, even if that is not expressed in a strong religious conviction of some sort, Christianity, Islam or whatever it may be. Man gets to a stage where his mind runs out: everything is so orderly, so perfect, and so glorious. Consequently he comes to believe there is a Divine being out there who has made things as they are.

 

Take for an example Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Best known for E=mc2 – the theory of relativity. While Einstein never came to a belief in a personal God, he recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe. Encyclopedia Britannica says of him: “Firmly denying atheism, Einstein expressed a belief in ‘Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists.’” It was this that motivated Einstein to pursue science, as he once told a young researcher: “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” Einstein famously said regarding the ‘uncertainty principle’ that “God does not play dice.” He saw the hand of an orderly God in creation. Einstein once said that, to him, “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” For Christians who believe in a rational Creator, the comprehensibility of nature is a logical consequence.

 

I had the opportunity to attend the 10th Anniversary Lecture of the Imperial College School of Medicine. It was given by Professor Lord Robert Winston. Lord Winston is a Jew and holds strongly to his religious beliefs, although an evolutionist. Yet despite being on the same ground as Professor Dawkins regarding Creation, he entitled his lecture: “The Dawkin’s Delusion.” Lord Winston is a strong advocate, and I would agree with him, that religion and science are not, indeed, they cannot be, mutually exclusive. The problem is, today, those who do not want religion have attempted to put science in its place and at that point they do become mutually exclusive.

 

I would conclude this section with a mention of the Rev. Professor Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford University and a vocal critique of Professor Dawkins. Brought up an atheist, he went to Oxford University to study chemistry and he states his reasons for doing so as follows: “While my primary motivation for studying the sciences was the fascinating insights into the wonderful world of nature they allowed, I also found them to be a highly convenient ally in my critique of religion. Atheism and the natural sciences seemed to be coupled together by the most vigorous of intellectual bonds. And there things rested, until I arrived at Oxford in October 1971.” While studying natural sciences, he discovered that instead of confirming his views they did quite the opposite. McGrath began to realise that things were not quite as simple as he had first thought and that the link between atheism and natural science was not as strong as he would have liked and he also came into contact with a number of Christians, only to discover his understanding of Christianity was sadly lacking too. He goes on to say: “I began to realise that my assumption of the automatic and inexorable link between the natural sciences and atheism was rather naive and uninformed. One of the most important things I had to sort out, after my conversion to Christianity, was the systematic uncoupling of this bond; instead, I would see the natural sciences from a Christian perspective. And I would try to understand why others did not share this perspective.”

 

Now a personal note: I remember one day, as an undergraduate Wye College carrying out one of my hobbies of historical research, I was going through the College archives in the stack and removed a book to look through on the soil composition of the Weald of Kent. It had been written by Daniel Hall, the first Principal at Wye College, and his colleague, later Sir, Edward Russell. Written on the title page, in what could be (by comparison to his extant letters) Russell’s hand, was a quote from the Greek Old Testament. I don’t know any Greek and had to type it into Google to translate it and find out where it was from. It was the verse in Psalm 8 which I gave as a title for this lecture, that verse in which David seems to exclaim in response to the wonders of science in creation around him: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8: 4). I realised in the reading of that note, that I was not the first, neither would be the last, man to be awed by the glory of God in the science of His creation and the insignificance of man.

 

Well, I do not want to weary you all. I want to draw things to a close. I hope tonight I have been able to demonstrate that true science is a seeking after knowledge, as instructed by God, in the subduing of His creation. As such, science will give glory to God and it is a consistent and suitable pursuit for a Christian. That said, a Christian should always seek to examine his science in the light of what is revealed in the Holy Bible. If you believe that God created the world and that the chief end of the God’s creation is, to quote the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “to glorify God”, then I believe there is only one consistent view of the relationship between science and religion, namely, that science is entirely consistent with the Bible and Christianity and that any science that appears to contradict the Bible is truly not science, but “science falsely so called.”

 

If on the other hand you want to hold to the doctrines of modern science, to evolution, to an old earth or to Kuyper’s Normalist position, even where they plainly contradict the Biblical accounts, then I cannot begin to answer for you the question as to the relationship between science and the Bible, you must decide that for yourself. All I know is this: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6: 24) If you want to hold science above the Bible what master are you serving: God and His truth or man’s own wisdom?

 

I want to conclude with two quotes. The first from Martin Luther is a warning to us all, and echoes the words just quoted from Matthew 6: 24, but must be a particular warning to anybody working in science such as myself: “Those who are so fond of such science are in great danger of erring concerning the faith; those who are for advancing reason above faith are in danger of leaving faith.” Science must ever be kept in context and we must remember that compared to the works of science and creation:

 

How wondrous are the works of God,
Displayed through all the world abroad!
Immensely great! immensely small!
Yet one strange work exceeds them all!

 

May we ever all be seeking not just natural knowledge (which will pass away), but a knowledge of that “one strange work” that exceeds all the scientific knowledge we can ever accumulate, namely the work of redemption and a knowledge of the Lord Jesus as our personal Saviour (which will stand for ever, for “heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24: 35)).

 

Finally, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was originally printed, the following quote of Francis Bacon, from his book The Advancement of Learning (1605), appeared opposite the title page:

 

“To conclude, therefore, let no man … think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.”

 

May we heed that tonight and be found seeking to fulfil the Divine injunction: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

 

 

1 “Put Your Money on Evolution,” The New York Times Review of Books, April 9, 1989, pp. 34–35. Quoted in John Lennox, God’s Undertaker (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson, 2007), p. 93.

 

2 T.H.Huxley, "The Interpreters of Genesis and the Interpreters of Nature" in Science and Hebrew Tradition, (London: Macmillan, 1904), pp. 160-161. N.B. The word ‘factitious’ is not a misspelling, it is the word used in the original text, but it does actually render the meaning of our contemporary word ‘fictitious’.

 

3 Calvin on the Sciences, Nigel Lee (1969) p. 21