Science and Christian apologetics

It is important. I realize that too much focus on the “apologetics”, the issues that are based more in terms of history, science, social sciences, archaeology should never overshadow faith. They should never be the reason that we are Christians, that we know Christ as our Lord and Savior. Because I am giving this issue a lot of attention is not my way of saying Christianity is real, look at the documented facts. People may find the arguments compelling, they may even be convinced, but you are going to be saved by what the Holy Spirit is doing in your soul. Hey, who knows He may be using these arguments, but the cut to the chase is that coming to know Christ as your Lord will be because of Him, not because of what you do.

Now that I’m over the Gospel disclaimer, I move along to a book that I’ve been reading by Philip Yancey. I’ve written about those writers who, if they published their grocery list, I would read it. Yancey is one of those writers and much thanks to my brother in the Lord Rev Dr Mike Ramey for this gift.

The book, “Vanishing Grace”, seems to be sort of in the series of books, “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, for example, by Yancey. He discusses the fact that Christians and the church don’t seem to really practice grace and that there certainly isn’t any grace in contemporary society.

As part of the discussion he includes a section on the relation of science and Christianity. Most would say say that they are mutually exclusive, but when God is the One who has created all that science studies, clearly they aren’t. Yancey quotes Sir William Bragg, “…a pioneer in the field of X-ray crystallography, who was asked whether science and theology are opposed to one another: ‘They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers on my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.’ For much of history the great scientists – Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz – believed their discoveries in ‘the ‘the book of nature’ comprised a form of revelation, teaching us clues about a creator God.” (p 177)

“I suggested to the panel that although science had contributed much to modern life, there are at least three important questions for which it has no answers since they lie beyond its bound. (1) Why is there something rather than nothing? (2) Why is that something so beautiful and orderly? (3) How ought we to conduct ourselves in such a world?…” (p 177)

Theology used to be considered the “Queen of the sciences”, that it was where all the sciences end up. There are those whose “faith” is in science, the evolutionists believes in Darwin’s writings even though it is not even a good hypothesis, no less ‘theory’. Their faith, compared to the reality of Jesus and His incarnational ministry, is most definitely “blind faith”. The historocity of Jesus is really beyond dispute, He is the most studied individual in history and despite fallacious attempts to discredit the original texts and writings down through the centuries the certainty of His life is more than any figure in antiquity.

Another discussion that’s been impressed on me is the impossibility of life here on earth. “Scientism” (my own creation for the ‘religion of science’) ‘science’ insists that there has to be life elsewhere. Hey maybe there is, God’s going to do His will regardless of the ‘impossibility’ involved, we’re here aren’t we? But to say that life can be blindly reproduced in other parts of the universe, despite the impossible odds of life on earth, is just not dealing with reality. “…In their heyday the Soviets swept the sky with huge antennas listening for messages. Some scientists estimated the universe the universe would reveal a hundred thousand, perhaps a million advanced civilizations. Enthusiasm cooled as, one by one the projects failed to turn up any evidence of intelligent life.” (p 178)

I would quickly note that the “SETI” program in the United States has been mostly discontinued except for sparse private funding.

Yancey elaborates on the discussion about the impossibility of blind creation of the universe. “Scientists themselves who calculate the odds of the universe coming into existence by accident suggest such boggling figures as one in 10 to the 60th power. [That’s one chance in 10 with 60 zeros]. Physicist Paul Davies explains, ‘To give some meaning to those numbers, suppose you wanted to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away. Your aim would have to be accurate to that same part in 10 to the 60th power.’ Stephen Hawking admits that if the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had varied by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed. That’s only the beginning: if the nuclear force in certain atoms varied by only a few percentage points then the sun and other stars would not exist. Life on earth depends on similarly delicate fine-tuning: a tiny change in gravity, a slight tilting of earth’s axis, or a small thickening in its crust would make conditions for life impossible.” (p 178)

Yancey goes on to describe the responses of the high-priests of evolution (my snide remark) and undirected creation which are to the effect, ‘hey don’t try to confuse me with the facts: “Confronted with the staggering odds against random existence, Richard Dawkins simply shrugs and says, ‘Well, we’re here, aren’t we?’ He, along with many others, sees no need to assume a Designer behind such apparent evidence of cosmic design (although in a conversation with Francis Collins, Dawkins admitted that the fine-tuning of the universe is the most troubling argument for nonbelievers to counter). Scientists in the U.S. are equally divided, with 51 percent believing in some form of deity.” (p 179)

“…it occurred to me, that if the odds were reversed we likely would not have had a discussion. If someone calculated the odds of God’s existence at one in 10 to the 60th power, I seriously doubt any scientists would waste their time discussing faith issues with people who believed in such an improbable God. Yet they happily accept those odds of a universe randomly coming into existence on its own.” (p 179)

Yancey goes on to write about the narrow mindedness, the denial of facts that’s often attributed to religious fundamentalists that scientists demonstrate. They are not just in denial, but they are pejorative in their attitudes towards people of faith. There is certainly antagonism by Christians towards the secular, but the antagonism of those of the faith of “scientism” is much more narrow minded and dismissive. “When I talked with the Nobel laureates later, I asked about their own belief or disbelief in God. All three spoke of a strict Jewish upbringing against which they later reacted. Martin Perl, discoverer of the Tau lepton particle, said candidly, ‘Ten percent of Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens, half are creationists, and half read horoscopes each day. Why should it surprise us if a majority believe in God? I oppose all such superstition, and in my experience religion is mostly harmful. I limit my beliefs to observation, not revelation.'” Wow, that’s pretty narrow and bigoted. I know Yancey would not appreciate my lack of graciousness, but come on, really I’m just pointing out the obvious.

This obvious narrow-minded bigotry is not, mercifully, universal among scientists. But you have to wonder, people who claim to be driven by “observation”, can sure pick and choose and live in such denial. “…Albert Einstein, was more receptive to faith: ‘The scientist must see all the fine and wise connections of the universe and appreciate that they are not of man’s invention. He must feel toward that which science has not yet realized like a child trying to understand the works and wisdom of a grown-up. As a consequence, every really deep scientist must necessarily have religious feeling.”‘

“Einstein marveled that our minds are able to assemble patterns of meaning. As he told a friend, ‘A priori, one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way.’ The fact that this isn’t the case, that the cosmos is comprehensible and follows laws gives evidence of a ‘God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.’ Yet Einstein could not bring himself to believe in a personal God such as the Bible portrays…” (p 180)

“Other scientists share Einsteins’ childlike wonder. Alexander Tsiaras, a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine, entranced a sophisticated crown at a TED conference with a video of the fetal stages from conception to birth. he had written the soft ware to utilize an MRI technique that had earned its inventor a Nobel Prize. The video compresses nine months of growth and development into a nine-minute film…”

“The human body largely consists of collagen – hair, skin, nails, bones, tendon, gut, cartilage, blood vessels – Tsiaris explains in his introduction. A rope-like protein, collagen changes its structure in only one place, the cornea of the eye, where it spontaneously forms a transparent grid pattern. As the video of speeded-up fetal development plays, this mathematician drops his objectivity, awed by a system ‘so perfectly organized it’s hard not to attribute divinity to it… the magic of the mechanism inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go.'”

“…the programmer Tsiaras remarks, ‘The complexity of the mathematical models of how these things are done is beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with marvel: How do these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us? It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.'” (p 181)

Carl Sagan was, of course, the  high priest of “scientism” and was usually very antagonistic to Christianity. Despite his profound knowledge of the facts, he seemed to be much more motivated by self-promotion and enhancing the faith system he promoted. But Yancey writes:”…In an exchange of letters with Robert Seiple, then president of World Vision USA, Carl Sagan clarified that even he remained open to belief in God. He viewed with wonder the beauty and simplicity in the laws governing the cosmos. Summing up, he wrote, ‘As a scientist, I hold that belief should follow evidence and to my mind the evidence of the universe being created is far from compelling. I neither believe nor disbelieve. My mind is, I think, open, awaiting better data.'” (p 182)

I really hate it when someone plays me, and Sagan was playing. “Creationism” isn’t “proved” so I’m going to be a proponent of something that is statistically impossible, unless and until such time as there is proof of God. Huh? This is a person that is in denial. People like this love to talk about their objectivity, but they have none. Sorry, but these are narrow minded fanatics that insist that you agree with them in every detail or you’re the one with a problem. I’ve been watching a television show on people and their families who are out on the street abusing drugs. Frankly the attitude seems to be the same in “scientism”, don’t judge me, don’t try to confuse me with the facts, just enable me and leave me alone in my addiction, my denial, my own little abusive world. There are many scientists that are objective and have no problem trying to reconcile the reality of the created universe and the One who created it and His Son Jesus Christ who came to reveal the will of the One through whom all was created. I have always had an interest in various aspects of science long before I was a Christian. The astronauts of the 60s and 70s were my heros, I loved reading books dealing with astronomy and space travel. One of the earliest books I remembered reading was on Clyde Tombaugh, you know who he is? I have always been fascinated by astronomy, but seriously don’t get in my face trying to convince me that this massive, elaborate, amazing universe all spun into existence by accident. It didn’t and anyone who can understand probability understands that.

2 thoughts on “Science and Christian apologetics

  1. Allan Pettit

    Jim, thanks. The problem with those of us who think, “I believe. Help my disbelief.” is the constant wrestling match between our souls and our brains, between a literal reading of a Bible, despite its conflicts with science, and a looser, more “dangerous”, a la cart reading…i.e., believing what seems meaningful and possible from a loving God and discarding what doesn’t work personally … then feeling as if I’ve lit my own eternal flame. It’s no easy path, this road to enlightenment…

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    1. Pastor Jim Driskell, Lutheran Church Post author

      Hi Allan great to hear from you and thanks for your comments. I do understand what you’re saying, that is why I do hedge a little bit on the apologetics because it’s not about some kind of objective “proof”, because there isn’t going to be any. The fact that we are the way we are and as pointed out in the article that though it would seem more logical to see the universe as more chaotic then it is, it simply isn’t, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why not. As the writer pointed out, just slight variances in the world and in the universe and we wouldn’t be here. It had to take an all powerful mind to work it out the way He has. I would therefore have to see that it is God who is in all creation and the Bible straightforwardly asserts that God has left His mark in nature. Psalm 19:1-2 “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Romans 1:20 “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived.” So nature certainly does show that there is an all-powerful God and while there are times when He may not seem “loving”, too often it’s what man does in his sin that creates the “unloving” situations and God is mourning the fact that man can be so evil, so sinful and create such evil situations. People refuse to take responsibility and try to blame evil on everyone else instead of dealing with their own sin. So God is very loving, but man’s inhumanity to man, and that’s all of us, that is what throws us off of where God is leading us and why we often refuse to perceive Him. It is a wrestling match, especially for those who genuinely try, but I think we also make it harder than it has to be. God gives us the faith we need to trust in Him, too often we just ignore it and let our doubts guide us instead of the faith God gave us. Thanks Allan, appreciate you taking the time. We are trying to pull together a group here that would have more of a focus on apologetics if you would be interested. God bless, hope you can make Christmas Eve worship 7 and 11 pm 140 W King St,

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