The Christian Roots of Science
-by Jeff Olson
For years now, there has been an ongoing debate between the realms of science and Christianity. Much of this has centered around the two subjects of evolution and creation. Unfortunately, and in far too many cases, the discussions and debates have presented a false choice. In other words, it is an either/or situation in which science and Christianity cannot co-exist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only are they compatible but they are integrally related and share a common heritage.
Christianity is a faith of enlightenment and intelligence. The fact that God created a universe with an orderly structure subject to scientific inquiry strongly validates His design of us with the capacity and inspiration to learn, share and apply knowledge for the common good. Many of the early scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Tycho, Newton, and Pascal had a Christian worldview and their faith inspired and informed their scientific endeavors and to them it was clear that God had not only created the universe, but also had maintained its order and harmony.
Science developed within a Christian civilization because of the biblical teaching of a rational God. Many civilizations developed great technical expertise – Egypt with its pyramids, Rome with its aqueducts – but only one produced the experimental method we call science. That civilization was Europe at the end of the Middle Ages which was a culture steeped in Christian faith.
Inherent in Christianity is the presence of natural laws that originate from God who set them in place as a function within His creation. This very idea of laws in nature is not found in any other culture. Science historian A.R. Hall says that the idea comes from the Hebraic and Christian belief in a deity who was both Creator and Lawgiver. Sociologist R.K. Merton says that modern science owes its existence to the Christian notion of moral obligation. A part of this obligation is encompassed in the biblical principle of stewardship which requires us to study the world and use it to the glory of God and for the benefit of mankind.
The historic alliance between faith and reason, which endured for more than three centuries, came under siege during the past century by those who set out to discredit Christianity. Like today, the attacks would often be more ideological than scientific in nature and quite ironic because at the very heart of science is the principle that empirical data and broad scientific consensus are essential elements in validating or dismissing proposed theories. Often, we’ve been expected to accept “scientific” claims based more on faith in science than support by science.
Unfortunately, this polarization of faith and science has infiltrated many of our nation’s educational institutions and misled countless young and unsuspecting minds. They are often taught that science disproves Christianity through subjects such as evolution and the age of the Earth, to name just a few.
Christians should never be intimidated by dogmatic pronouncements about science proving this or science disproving that because many of the accepted theories in science were shaped by a bias against religion.
As parents, teachers, and others responsible for educating our young, we continue to be faced with an uphill battle in a moral relativistic culture which rejects any notion or claim of universal truth that transcends human opinions, theories, ideologies, and yes – even questionable science.
In recent years the scientific and theological communities have to some degree been rebuilding old relationships, which is promising because each community has much to offer the other. The more historians of science study the historical record, the more clearer it becomes that it is God who created and sustains the natural laws that the scientific community appeal to in their theories, and the more obvious it becomes that science could never have developed were it not for Christianity. Think about it: for those scientists who try to delegitimize Christianity and the Bible, are they not cutting off the branch on which they are sitting?