We are often told that Christianity is incompatible with scientific inquiry, or even that Christianity is anti-scientific. We are told this so much that we begin to believe it. Maybe they’re right, we think, maybe I should keep my religion safely tucked behind the church doors and leave the science to those who aren’t so biased by religious beliefs.
But here’s the thing. If our Christianity leads us to have a religious experience with the God who claims to have crafted this world—who claims to actually hold it in existence at every moment—then shouldn’t he know what he’s talking about when it comes to describing the way the world works? I should think so. Should we really be satisfied with a God who can explain the longings of our souls but who can’t write basic history and seems to be clueless about scientific principles? I should think not.
So the whole “Christianity is anti-scientific” thing should strike us as odd.
Despite what we’re told, Christianity is pro-science. In fact, science as we know it has Christian origins. In the midst of sixteenth-century Europe, a part of the world in which the Christian worldview was still dominant, scientific discoveries began to pile up at a shocking rate. Contrary to what leaders in the Enlightenment claimed, it was not “throwing off the shackles of the church” that allowed scientists to make these discoveries.
In this historical context, people believed that the universe had been created by a reasonable, personal God. And as such, the universe could be known and understood. More than that, the universe was worth examining because through knowing the universe people could learn about the God who made it.
If the universe was all an illusion to be rejected—as in Eastern pantheistic belief—then why would we examine the illusion? If God were fickle and changing, then we wouldn’t have any reason to believe that his world would operate consistently. But God is a loving and careful creator, so why shouldn’t we be able to know him and his world by studying it? What might we learn by paying close attention to the phenomena that take place around us all the time?
It’s not that every scientist at this point in history was a devout Christian. It’s simply that the Christian worldview, which believes in an orderly, reasonable, personal God, was dominant at this time. So even those who were more deistic (believing that God created the world and then backed away) or those who disbelieved in God’s existence were still shaped by this worldview that saw the world as ordered and understandable. And many of the scientific discoveries at this time were made by committed Christians. A good example of this is Blaise Pascal, who was pretty much brilliant in both the scientific and theological worlds.
I would recommend two books to those who want to look into this further. Francis Schaeffer explains this in How Should We Then Live? in a chapter entitled “The Rise of Modern Science.” His account is compelling and easy to read. The other book to look at is Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God. His chapter entitled “The Religious Origins of Science” explores this in much greater depth, and he cites a wide range of historical writing and source material.
In any case, the origins of modern science show that Christianity is not anti-science. We should be the first to promote science and to warmly welcome its investigation into the world God made. Of course, we should all be careful of biases that are inevitably involved in every area of human endeavor, but this does not make science bad. Christianity is not anti-science, nor is science anti-Christian. Let’s remember that the next time we’re told to mind our own business and get back to our religious games.