Thursday, 27 February 2014

The relationship between science and Christian faith

Science is the study of the world around us and seeks to develop ways to describe how it works. Usually this is done by developing scientific laws which accurately describe what we see through the experiments that we perform. Science has had a great deal of success in this, and can provide detailed descriptions and explanations of much that we see around us.

As a Christian, I believe that God made the world. Christians have differences of opinion about how exactly God made this world. Whichever view they take, however, they would generally agree that God is the one who is responsible for this universe being here. He brought it into existence and was responsible for the sort of world that it is, and the scientific laws that operate to keep the world going. That God is the universe’s creator is, to me, part of the definition of who God is.
As such science is the study of God’s creation, and his ‘scientific’ laws. When someone makes something, they are by definition, not part of that thing they make. Hence God is outside of his creation, and is not governed by scientific laws. Science, in the most obvious sense, clearly cannot investigate God, or directly tell us anything about him.
Having said this, what someone creates does tell us, indirectly, many things about them. If we look at an artist’s painting, or an author’s book, we can offer see the influence of their circumstances or have a good idea of how they were feeling and what things are important to them etc. As such, studying the world around us does tell us things about God. Some Christians speak of God having written two books, the book of the word (The Bible) and the book of the world. Both teach us something about God.
I therefore see my Christian faith and science as complementary. My faith seeks to know more about God, and it is through faith that I can know him personally. Faith has more to say about ‘meaning’ questions. Why did God make the world? What are we here for? How should live appropriately in this world. Science is more practical, a study of something that God has brought about and cherishes. That’s not to say that all scientists are Christians, or all Christians are scientists – far from it, but the two go together well.

Indeed one of the reasons many Christian scientists have taken up science is because they are filled with wonder at God’s creation and have wanted to look more deeply into God’s works. Maxwell, the famous Physicist requested that Psalm 111:2 be carved into the original Cavendish laboratory, in Cambridge. His request was granted. The inscription was originally in Latin, in English it says:
Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. (NIV)

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