Loving God Through Loving Science
Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is not a cookbook.
Granted, food is mentioned in it. The pages recount Harry’s experience with delicious brews of Butterbeer and the unexpected flavours of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
But Harry Potter is not a cookbook. If you read it hoping to find the recipes for these delicacies you will be disappointed.
It was not written to be a cookbook. It was written to tell a story.
It would be ridiculous to go to Harry Potter looking for recipes. And it is similarly ridiculous to go to The Bible expecting a modern scientific textbook .
Who vs How
The Bible is the Story of God at work in the World.
Unlike Harry Potter, the Bible is not fiction. It is real. God goes to great lengths to reveal this to us. The Bible is not a myth, it is not a collection of ancient fairy tales, it is God’s own account of all of history, starting at Creation, explaining the corruption that came from the Fall, and revealing God’s great plan to save and redeem His world that we have ruined.
The Bible is about God.
You go to the bible to find out primarily about Him; about what He is like and what He is up to.
You also go to the Bible to find out about ourselves: Who are we; what are we like; why is the world the way it is? Is there any reason for hope or optimism?
These are, broadly, questions of “Who” and questions of “What”? Who is God? What is His plan? Who are we? What is our purpose?
Science has no interest in these questions. Science seeks only to answer questions of “How”?
How do species adapt and evolve to succeed in their habitats? How do caterpillars become butterflies? How do trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen? How is it two brown-eyed people can have a blue-eyed child?
The Bible and Science answer different sorts of questions. They are friends. Not enemies. You don’t need to choose sides, because they are answering different questions of existence.
We get into trouble when people insist that the Bible answer all our modern questions of “How”. This is perverting Scripture to address questions it was never written to answer. So we shouldn't demand Scripture answer, "How old is the world" or "How did God create humans, was it through evolution from other species?" Genesis and the Bible have no interest in answering these sorts of questions, and when Christians dress up the Bible to look like a science textbook, disaster and confusion will often result.
Similarly, when science is forced to attempt to answer questions beyond its scope we similarly will get into trouble. People who try to turn science into a religion, arguing that all life’s questions can only be answered by scientific experiment, similarly will confuse and distort.
My first degree was in Environmental Science focusing on evolutionary biology.
My second was in theology (studying the Bible and what it says about God).
I had no crises of faith during my first degree. And I had no crises of science during my second.
Science answered a lot of my questions about Creation; but left more questions unanswered regarding our Creator.
Evolution and natural selection seemed to me (and still does) a perfectly reasonable theory to explain the mechanism by which there is such diversity on Earth. “The How”. I see nothing in the Bible that states that evolution is evil or anti-thetical to biblical faith.
Studying science left me marvelling at the brilliance of God creating creatures that can, over time, adapt gradually to their changing circumstances. Creation without evolution would not be sustainable, and God knows this, so he hard-wired the mechanism of natural selection into His plans for the universe.
Science however failed to answer the questions of “why”. Why am I here? Why is their such suffering on Earth? Why can humans do things so wonderful and so evil almost simultaneously? Why does a good God seem to just sit silently while his Creation suffers?
Similarly, the Bible is the Word of God written so that we may know God. We have the Bible so we know who God is, who we are, what is wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, and what ultimate end we are heading toward.
But the Bible has very little to say about the workings of creation. It in an ancient book written by ancient inspired human authors, so it has very little to say about modern questions of “how”. For questions of “how”, I look not to Scripture, but to Science.
ModernsScientific theory was developed by Christians, to help them understand the creation God has created. Modern Science initially was a Christian discipline. It was a way to study the works of God in order to more fully admire and worship and enjoy God.
This is why being in nature can be a spiritual experience. Not because creation is divine or supernatural in itself, but because it points us to its Creator. It shows us the brilliance and creativity and artistry and attention to detail of God.
So studying science can be a deeply spiritual experience, because zooming in on the wonders of Creation draws us to gasp in wonder at our Creator.
"The Heavens declare the Glory of the Lord, the skies proclaim the work of His hands." (Ps. 19:1)
You don’t need to choose to only read cookbooks or only read Harry Potter. Bake your cake and eat it too.
You don’t need to choose to be either a scientist or a christian. Far better to be both.