Christian Apologetics and the Natural Sciences

For me, as a Christian believer, the beauty of the scientific laws reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine Creator. The more I understand science the more I believe in God, because of my wonder at the breadth, sophistication, and integrity of his creation.

Dr. John C. Lennox, University of Oxford

Question an atheist about ultimate reality, and you will likely hear variations on the same theme: there is no God; all things are the result of blind matter in motion; over eons of psychological evolution, mankind has fabricated wishful superstitions in a misguided effort to make sense of unexplained phenomena and to ease existential angst. Ask the non-believer to explain what they base this view upon, and the response will almost certainly be: science. In fact, many non-theists espouse a full-blown philosophy of scientism, the assertion that the only true knowledge we can have is obtained through scientific investigation (it is appropriate to wonder, then, what scientific data supports that conclusion).

Some go even further to claim that science is capable of providing a comprehensive explanation for all of reality. According to Oxford professor of chemistry, Peter Atkins, “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence. Only the religious—among whom I include not only the prejudiced but the underinformed—hope there is a dark corner of the physical universe, or of the universe of experience, that science can never hope to illuminate.” Science, then, will eventually close the knowledge gaps upon which religious faith depends for validation—or so the rhetoric goes.

But is this true? Is religious faith–Christianity in particular–dependent upon lack of scientific information? Is the world devoid of any compelling indicators of intentional design?  Are the universe and the life it contains merely the inevitable outcome of the laws of physics and chemistry–which  are (allegedly) happily conducive to abiogenesis (life spontaneously arising from non-life) and a subsequent process of unguided, purposeless neo-Darwinian evolution? Could science eventually elucidate every facet of existence, including morality? This collective dogma—a naturalistic account of the origin of everything–is a main pillar, perhaps even the stoutest pillar, of the atheist belief system.

Some proponents of this explanation—the better-known ones, actually—argue that science and faith are completely incompatible; one must choose to be either rational or religious. After all, they say, if science will eventually explain why there is something rather than nothing and how we came to have all the somethings we observe, there is no need of the God hypothesis. Quite a large [philosophical] promissory note, isn’t it?

Christians are faced with the questions: Are the blind laws and processes of nature sufficient for explaining all aspects of the cosmos? Is there no evidence of design in the natural world? What do naturalistic theories of origins actually tell us, and how much of what we hear is based upon metaphysical presuppositions? Are science and faith indeed at hopeless odds?

If the project of Christian apologetics is to offer a holistic response to atheism, it cannot neglect interaction with the natural sciences and the philosophies at play in science and faith issues. After all, questions of physical origins are fundamental to either worldview. When we, as Christians, engage in learning about and discussing these disciplines, we demonstrate the intellectual rigor of Christianity and we become equipped to demonstrate the gorgeous harmony of Scripture–God’s special revelation–and scientific truth–His natural revelation.

“Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”[1]

—Pope John Paul II


[1] Letter to Rev. George V. Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory (June 1, 1988).

3 responses

  1. It comes down to faith but I do believe that atheists (for the most part) have a real hatred of religion. That visceral hatred does not make sense. If I started The Church of Porky Pig, who would believe it? Who would waste their time with such ideas? The end game here is evident and that is a state controlled religion or lack of any at all. They are so hostile and irrational that you get the feeling that they do not believe their own ideas.

    Many use talking points and do not have the faintest idea of what they are talking. After all most voted for Obama, believe in Global Warming and abortion and not because of the Earth but to disagree with conservatives.

    Meteorologist Larry Olson

  2. Pingback: Christian Apologetics and the Natural Sciences | A disciple's study

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