Beyond the Compatibility of Science and Christianity

Recently, a biologist friend of mine asked me to recommend books that go beyond the minimalist though important argument that Christian doctrine and Scientific discovery are not incompatible. As a biologist and a Christian, my friend is well beyond needing to read another book that debunks the Enlightenment myth that presents a perpetual and irresolvable conflict between science and religion. In the scholarly discourse, both historians and philosophers of science have demonstrated that this conflict model is neither historically nor intellectually tenable. Nevertheless, this Enlightenment myth of conflict remains firmly rooted in the popular psyche.

Having been engaged in so many discussions recently that are only at the level of realizing that this myth is false, I had to pause and think back to authors I have read and theologians I have encountered who are going beyond arguing for mere compatibility.

Now, when I hear someone asking for texts or arguments that show that science supports Christian teaching or vice versa, I want to immediately caution against concordism. I think it is unhelpful and misguided to wed theology to the science or the philosophy of the day. Why? Precisely because it is the science of the day. In other words, by the time a theologian has become conversant enough in scientific teaching or a scientist has become conversant enough in Christian doctrine, the science will likely be outdated, if not already than in the near future.

For Christians who wed their theology to Darwin’s model that presentation of theology is as outdated as Darwin’s work. While The Origin of Species remains a significant historical document, I can’t imagine it being assigned as a textbook in a biology class today. For Christians who wed their theology to Newton’s model, their theology is a quantum leap behind the times.

So, what exactly would I look for in a book that lends mutual credence to Christian theology and scientific discovery? Well, for me it is all perspective. I see the natural world as God’s creation and I can’t unsee it. So, I can read Planet of the Bugs by Scott Richard Shaw or What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr and say wow Father this helps me see your creation in a new way and I can’t help but reflect theologically on what I am learning through others discoveries. Neither of these books is in any sense a Christian apologetic. I even recall reading Dawkins’s description of the possible evolution of the bat and saying, “God that is awesome.” That was not Dawkins’s intended effect. Yet, that’s not what my friend is looking for?

So, the theologians that I recommended are the following:

Thomas F. Torrance

Alister McGrath 

John Polkinghorne

I’m not even sure where one ought to begin reading these authors so the links are simply to Amazon pages that list their books. Karl Giberson’s Seven Glorious Days might also fit into this category. This book reads as a brief history of the Universe with a definite eye toward the Creator of the Cosmos.

As I suggested, I am wary of concordism which tends to make the Bible say what the interpreter wants it to say or makes a futile attempt to keep scientific discovery at a stand still. Just as Greek philosophy and language helped the early church articulate certain Christian doctrines, so too I think scientific discovery may help us to articulate those same doctrines in fresh ways. Of course, there will be fumbling attempts in all of this in which theologians inadvertently or deliberately alter doctrines to fit the scientific data but fortunately for them we don’t tend to burn them at the stake any more.

Please feel free to recommend other books, authors, or videos as a comment below. Or if you have an opinion on the authors mentioned here, then please share it.

Related Posts and Pages: Christianity and Science, What Evolution Is, Harmonization and Concordism

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3 thoughts on “Beyond the Compatibility of Science and Christianity

  1. Paul Feyerabend says there is no *one* true method to science, because science is just a means to an end, not itself an end. We truncate our outlook if we try to make everything an expression of science. I’m probably bending his words too far here, but it seems like he says the goal of science is to learn how to make better tools. Put that in contrast to Rikk Watts’ assertion not to treat persons as objects, and working that out sounds like a conversation worth having.

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    1. Thanks for asking a question. I have not heard of Simon C Morris. What is his contribution to this topic? Can you tell us a little bit more about him? Or would you recommend a book or article that you think is going entry point into his thought?

      IP

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