It’s pretty common for people to see a divide between science and religion, or science and Christianity. This idea is based on an oversimplified battle between religion and science that is proposed by some scientists like Richard Dawkins who are hostile towards religion, and is picked up and driven by the media.
It assumes that the only way that science and religion can relate to each other is by combat. Those who take the science angle say that scientifically-educated people cannot believe in religion and those who take the religion side (eg, creation scientists) belittle the scientific community. But even surveys amongst scientists suggest that this combat approach is not the only way that science and religion can relate to each other:
- In 1916 the Leuba survey revealed that 40% of scientists believed in a God who communicates with humanity in prayer, 40% did not, and 20% were unsure;
- In 1997 the Larson/Witham survey repeated the survey with basically the same results
There are other ways in which science and religion can relate to each other apart from the combat approach, for example:
- The opposite to the combat approach is the private approach in which faith is private and subjective and does not interact with science at all
- Between the extremes of the combat approach and the private approach it is possible for science and religion to interact in sophisticated ways and integrated ways. We look at an example of this in the creation/evolution debate in the next question.
We haven’t gone into great detail here but hopefully we have said enough to establish that science and Christianity don’t have to be enemies. They can actually be good friends if we avoid either of the simplistic extremes of the combat or private approach. It is belief in an ordered world (as described in the Bible) that allows science to blossom as it repeatedly observes the order that God created. Although it is sometimes argued that the church has suppressed scientific thought, Christians have often been responsible for championing research and some heroes of the scientific community have been keen Bible-believing Christians.
One final thought on this topic. As Christians our start point should be the special revelation we have in the Bible, and integrating scientific thought into that understanding, rather than the other way around. Practically, this is because science is changing all the time. What we think is true today might turn out to be a faulty way of thinking when new discoveries are yielded tomorrow. In contrast, God’s words are eternal, timeless and true. Principally, we start with the Bible because the God who breathed the Bible into existence is the God who made and continues to sustain the world. He is not surprised by scientific discoveries because he created the world, nor does he contradict his work in creation by his work in revelation (the Bible).