We have all read books or watched movies where good friends have had a falling out, traded embittered and hasty epithets, and been separated for many years. But then something happens… something in the progression of life that reminds one of the other or reveals some great misunderstanding that has kept these friends separate, and they are brought back together again. They might have to learn how to forgive, or be the first to step humbly forward and ask for forgiveness, or even find something new around which to rekindle the friendship. But in any case, the barriers that were once high and thick between them are exacting too great of a price on both of them. Their friendship is too precious to allow both to wither in separation.
I would propose that this is the story of science and the Christian faith. Many modern day scientists see Christianity as a roadblock to an exuberant pursuit of scientific discovery and technological advance. Many modern day Christians see science as the Great Atheist-Maker or a disease that is endemic to where on lives (like malaria) that must inoculated against in order to prevent infection. But it was not always so. Before The Age of Reason, Christian and Scientist were fast friends. They both saw their experiments and observations as windows into the hidden pattern of how an artistic and loving God ordered the world around them. But soon, as the printing press made books and education more widely available, Scientist began to wax arrogant in his growing knowledge and think more highly of himself than he ought. His self-worth began to be drawn from how well-read or learned he was rather than from being an obedient servant of the Lord of Creation.
The problem, however, was not with the printing press or books or education. The problem lay in the heart of man. Scientist saw his friend Christian as out-dated and unnecessary. After a time Christian also began to become suspicious of Scientist because Scientist spent his time with none of the books that Christian read. And so pride began to swell in the heart of Christian as well – pride in his knowledge of the Bible and theology and pride that he had remained faithful when Scientist had drifted. Christian peered over the wall of pride he had built and said to his former friend, “Scientist, you are trying to take all of the heavens and fit them into your head. Surely your head will burst.” And Scientist said back to him across the wall he had built, “Christian, you are trying take your head and put it up into the heavens. Surely your feet will never touch the ground.” And so it was for centuries, and the friends’ hearts began to grow more and more hardened toward each other.
During those centuries, Christian tried to use the power of the state to coerce people in the name of God, and Scientist grew more and more convinced that his former friend’s silly religion was the cause of much pain and suffering in the world. Then the 20th century came and went and Christian was able to see people groups who had been persecuted in the name of Science and Progress. It became more and more clear that Scientist was using his science like a religion… a religion that was founded on faith in certain unprovable principles. And Scientist was using state power to coerce people to support his Scientism. Christian and Scientist both had a distaste for the suffering of people and both resented coercion at the end of the state’s sword. And so Christian invited his friend Scientist to come around the walls that they had both built so that they could try and rekindle the friendship they once enjoyed. So when Scientist agreed and came over, Christian admitted the wrongs he had perpetrated, wrongs motivated by pride and not by piety. Then they each sat back in their seats, lit their pipes, and began to try and put the pieces of a friendship back together…
I would like to invite readers to come back and enter this discussion where I will be reviewing chapter-by-chapter the book Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach by Dr. Vern Poythress. Dr. Poythress is, I believe, uniquely qualified to write such a book because he has both a doctorate in mathematics and New Testament studies accompanied by decades of teaching experience in the academy. And it is my sincere hope that my college degree in Earth Science, my experience teaching Earth Science, and my seminary education will allow my review to be fair, accurate, and even critical at points. So please come back and check for future posts on Redeeming Science.