I was telling a friend recently about this blog and the forum and he asked me what I thought on the whole faith vs science issue. That’s a good foundational question and I realize that I have not really made clear here what I think on the whole “issue.” So I will discuss it in two parts. This week I will cover the simplest possible ways to see and resolve the conflict. Next week I will tackle the more complex approaches.
The simplest way to resolve any conflict is for one of the sides to win. If science says one thing and faith another then only one of them can be right. Faith in fact seems to have the upper hand. If God, who knows all things, produced the Bible that is true in all things, then anything that disagrees with the Bible must be false. Yet, we have seen in history some blunders where Christians thought the Bible was teaching something about reality, but was not in fact. The most classic is the issue of whether the sun revolves around the earth or the earth around the sun. Faith ended up on the wrong side of that debate, not because the Bible was false, but because religions leaders misunderstood what the Bible was telling them authoritatively and what is was being figurative about. The Bible is true in everything that God means to communicate through it. Figures of speech, poetry, and the like must be more carefully understood (don’t get me started on the end times). I am therefore hesitant to rush to side with faith in the conflict with science. Even though the Bible is true in every word, our grasp of some of the details and our tendency to mix human philosophy with faith can lead us to errors.
On the other hand I don’t rush to side with science either. Science, admittedly, is a process of continual change, sometimes quite dramatic. Every child learns how evidence shapes theory which in turn drives us to find more evidence to shape theroy even more. No theory is safe from being altered or overturned by new evidence. On the other hand, new evidence is never alone sufficient to overturn a long standing theory. This is part of what makes science interesting, but also undermines its ability to defeat faith. If our theories can be changed, how can they stand against divine revelation. Also, we should be slow take some new piece of evidence as undermining Christian faith. It may turn out to be a fluke. I am not saying that science cannot inform and challenge faith, but claiming that science has greater reliability and veracity than faith is foolish. As scientific evidence builds up and a theory becomes more stable it’s ability to inform and challenge faith grows. One study though is never sufficient to challenge faith. I therefore reject science always defeating faith in determining the truth.
So, I contend that it is not so easy as faith always wins or science always wins. Next week I will talk about the separate realms approach and the multiple viewpoints approach. Both approaches attempt to allow both sides to win, but each in their own way. This is exciting stuff and I welcome your comments.