Faith and Science –
Connecting the Pieces
by SACHA WALICHORD
One of the recurring, hotly discussed themes in defending the Christian faith is the perceived conflict between the Biblical Christian faith and science. From all sides, we are constantly tol that there is a contradiction between much of what is found in science and the plain content of Scripture. This apparent contradiction has become one of the biggest challenges of our day for believers who seek to defend their Christian faith.
We hear story after story of “good Christian kids” going to college and there being led astray by some winsome science professor, preferably through the topic of “biological evolution.” Sadly, this also happens at many Christian colleges. I have personally heard many testimonies of students who were told upon arrival at Christian colleges to forget what they had learned from parents or in Sunday school and to get ready for “real science.” Then these professors went on to deconstruct the students’ faith by constantly reminding them of the alleged superiority of science over faith. Interestingly, hardly anyone seems to critically analyze this perceived axiom. What if this alleged dilemma between faith and science does not exist? What if it is really a false dilemma? Let me prove to you that there is no enmity or even tension between the Christian faith and true science.
We have to begin by defining our terms, because here lies the root of the problem. We are being told that “science” is what professional, secular scientists do in their research. Faith, on the other hand, deals with spiritual things that don’t pertain to material reality. Faith, in this thought process, is asserted to be Christian and science secular. According to this mindset, faith may be right and justified only if “validated” by secular science. These seem to be the common assumptions both outside and sadly often also inside the church. Think about this. Subconsciously we have bought into this idea because this is what we have been told so often. That’s what seems to be assumed all around us, but it is a lie that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If we allow theological liberals or unbelievers to define our terms, we have already lost the argument. Keep in mind that those who (re-)define terms usually win the argument. Therefore, we must not allow the enemies of Biblical Christianity to do that.
The word “science” comes from the Latin word “scientia,” which simply means knowledge. Science, therefore, is any pursuit of knowledge and not bound to what is called “the scientific method.”
Let me get to the core of the problem: it is presuppositions. Presuppositions are a person’s most basic assumptions with which to interpret reality. Our thinking process requires starting points in order for us to interpret reality. The sum of our basic presuppositions forms our worldview, the glasses through which we view the world. Everyone has such presuppositions, but most people are unaware of them. They refer to three main areas: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Metaphysics refers to our understanding of reality, the world, and man’s place in it. Epistemology is the doctrine of knowledge, determining how we know and when we know something. Ethics refers to the question of good and bad behavior. These three make up a person’s worldview, and it is very important for us to understand that they are held by faith before any scientific inquiry has even started. In other words, these basic presuppositions are not determined by any scientific endeavor but are needed in order to engage in any scientific endeavor. One could call it our most basic belief system, and it is very powerful in a person’s thinking.
For example: the great Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til used to tell the story of a man who went to see a medical doctor, claiming that he was actually dead. The confused doctor first thought this to be a joke but then realized that the man was dead-serious (literally!). After much back-and-forth between the two, the doctor lost his patience, took a needle, and pricked the man’s finger. As one can imagine, blood dropped on the floor. Confident of victory, the doctor smiled, only to hear his patient exclaim, “It is true after all – dead people do bleed!”
This story teaches a serious lesson: it demonstrates how powerfully one’s presuppositions affect one’s reasoning. A secular scientist’s metaphysic presupposition, for example, is naturalistic, which means that he is absolutely and utterly opposed to everything supernatural. He will deny it in all of his scientific work. He makes this decision before doing any research. As Christians, we know that God can and does work through both natural and supernatural means. Whatever presuppositions one holds, he holds them by faith before looking at any facts. Both the believer and unbeliever hold their presuppositions by faith and then interpret reality through their presuppositions. To quote Van Til, “There are no brute facts.” Facts need interpretation and our interpretation comes from our worldview which we hold by faith. A scientist already has a worldview before he begins any research. The question then is which worldview does he have? There are really only two worldviews in God’s eyes: the Christian (Biblical) worldview on the one side and everything else on the other side. These two kinds of worldviews are exclusive to each other. They have nothing in common. This contrast is called the antithesis, and the Bible explains the antithesis in 2 Cor. 6:14-15 when it asks, “…what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (NKJV)
Look at the example of fossils. When a Christian scientist looks at fossils with consistently Biblical presuppositions, he concludes that these fossils were caused by the catastrophic flood described in Genesis 7-8 and he praises God for His power and wisdom. When a secular scientist with his anti-supernatural bias looks at the same fossils, he will exclude any supernatural explanation and will try to find a naturalistic explanation, no matter how incredulous it may be. The Bible describes this as “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
To summarize, the outcome of any scientific endeavor is determined by the worldview of the researcher. There is no contradiction between science and the Christian faith. All truth is God’s truth. Nevertheless, there is a stark contradiction between the Christian faith and the non-Christian, as the non-Christian is, by his fallen nature, “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” This difference shows itself especially when it comes to the supernatural.
Science, Christian or secular, are both based on faith – science needs faith for the interpretation of facts. There are, therefore, no neutral or “facts-only” scientists, but only ones with right presuppositions or wrong presuppositions which will lead to the right results or the wrong results. Christians need not be afraid of science – as long as it is true science and not a false belief system posing as “science.”
Dr. Walicord originates from Austria, where he received his education at the universities of Linz, Salzburg, and Klagenfurt. He is also a graduate of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, SC. He has taught both economic theory and law in the US and in Europe. Dr. Walicord is also senior pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Orange City, Iowa. He is a visiting professor of worldview and apologetics at the Akademie fuer Reformatorische Theologie (Reformed Theological Seminary) in Giessen, Germany. He has also been an airline pilot and a court prosecutor.
Christian Renewal August 23, 2019
VOLUME 37 #16 AUGUST 23, 2019