18th November 2013

Science and Theology: Different Perspectives 

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)
 

“Why is the kettle boiling?” There are two different answers even to such a simple question. One is a scientific answer, it is boiling because heat from the kettle’s element is transferred to the water by convection and conduction; the other is beyond the scope of science and is about purpose, it is boiling because I want to make a cup of coffee. Both answers are true and when combined provide a more comprehensive answer. The true relationship between science and theology is that they are complementary rather than competitive disciplines. 

Hard science (natural or physical sciences) draws its insights of the nature of the physical world from mathematical theory coupled with experimentation. It sets out to answer the question ‘what are the processes by which things happen’ and focuses on gaining knowledge of what the physical world is made of, how it works, and what its history has been. 

Theology is the study of God, who God is and how he relates to humanity, and how humanity relates to him. It is in this context that the Bible discusses creation. It reveals the ‘Who’, and gives insights into the ‘why’, of creation; it leaves the ‘how’ for humanity to discover through science. Theology is concerned with value, meaning and purpose, something which is beyond science. Some scientists have recognised the limitations of science. For example, Richard Feynman, a theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner, in a talk on The Relation of Science and Religion, stated, “I believe that moral questions are outside of the scientific realm.” In the same talk he also stated, “I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible.” Another limitation was acknowledged by Steven Weinberg, a prominent atheist and also a Nobel Prize winner in physics when he stated, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” 

Although the scientific view of creation is complex, Christians can take an overall balanced perspective of the physical world. Such phenomena as the deep intelligibility of the universe, the fine tuning of the laws of nature that make possible the existence of carbon based life, the fact that the physical world is deeply relational (at both the macro level of space, time and matter, and the subatomic level), make a cumulative case for belief in a relational God who created the universe. Of course there are those that do not accept this case and purport to solve by purely scientific means the mystery of the universe’s existence. 

Whatever our views on science, Christians can agree with Richard Feynman who, in reply to a mother whose son was trying to teach her physics, wrote, “—–Physics isn’t the most important thing. Love is.” 

Science can give us the latest word on creation, but the last word lies with God. From a theological perspective, God who is love, has not created the universe to be pointless and end in futility (as current scientific theories predict) but will uphold it through to his desired end, which is the complete restoration and renewal of all creation, including a new heaven and earth. (Revelation 21:1) 

Prayer
Father, we thank you that in Christ there is a destiny for  all creation including the whole of humanity, and we pray that all humanity will freely accept that eternal destiny.
Amen
 

Study by Eddie Marsh

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eddiemarshAbout the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion, Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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