Science and faith walk hand in hand, says author of new book
Pastors challenged to tackle the issue for the sake of the church
Christianity is losing the battle to counter the “myth” that science and faith are in conflict, says Chris Mulherin, executive director of ISCAST (Christians in Science and Technology).
Mulherin’s new book, Science and Christianity: Understanding the Conflict Myth, is hitting back at the message that you can’t have it both ways – you can’t trust science and be a Christian. He says this message has increased its grip on secular culture over the past decade, as a result of the New Atheist movement. This literary movement emerged in the mid 2000s with prominent atheist authors publishing a series of books attacking religion and its place in society.
This has made many people – pastors included – shun the whole topic of science and faith “because it’s too difficult or because they fear that if they look hard enough they’ll realise that their faith is not tenable in the light of science.”
Mulherin tells Eternity that, even though the New Atheism movement is on the wane – with hardliners such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris losing influence to atheists with a more conciliatory tone such as Alain de Botton or Chris Stedman – the effect of the movement lives on.
“The effects of New Atheism are probably still felt among young people who don’t even know who Richard Dawkins is,” he says. “The effects of philosophical waves like that can be felt years and decades later.”
“We shouldn’t leave this as the scientific elephant in the room that we don’t discuss because it’s too hard.”
And yet science, says Mulherin, has Christian origins – a fact that is not widely known.
“Science as we know it today was nurtured, and it thrived, in a Western and mostly Christian context,” writes Mulherin in his book. “Until recently, science in the West has walked hand-in-hand with Christianity.”
Science and Christianity: Understanding the conflict myth has been written in a simple way, with discussion questions and break-out articles that explain specific scientific concepts in simple terms.
Mulherin hopes that pastors, in particular, might read his book.
“I think pastors, for the most part, are pretty reluctant to talk about science and faith because they feel they need a degree of expertise that they don’t have to do so and it’s just easier not to even go there. But for the sake of our congregations and the church of the future, we really need to get into this issue. We shouldn’t leave this as the scientific elephant in the room that we don’t discuss because it’s too hard.”
Answering questions of science and faith can give people a confidence that propels them further in their faith after the initial enthusiasm of becoming a Christian has passed, says Mulherin.
“Being able to show that your faith does hold together even when you’re asked hard questions and it does hold together in an increasingly secular and scientific culture. We need not fear that our faith is going against that scientific culture. There are plenty of other areas where faith is counter-cultural. But it is not counter-cultural to scientific investigation.”
“Scientists exploring the natural world are giving glory to the Creator.”
Many of today’s top scientists around the world are able to integrate science in a way that opens up the “wonders of creation”, says Mulherin. (One of the world’s top theoretical physicists – Professor Ard Louis from Oxford University – spoke to Dr John Dickson for an Eternity podcast recently about the perils of trying to prove God exists and being a Christian in the field of science.)
“God has two books – he has the book of his word, written in Scripture, and the book of his works written in creation. Scientists exploring the natural world are giving glory to the Creator. The connection between worship, praise and wonder and the natural world are very strong.”
In his book, Mulherin writes about Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a contemporary of Galileo and an astronomer, mathematician and theologian, who was best known for his three laws of planetary motion which overturned the idea the planets must travel in circular orbits.
“You can learn more about science and it will draw you closer to Christ.”
“[Kepler] turned to science for deeply theological reasons,” writes Mulherin. “He is reputed to have described his scientific investigations as revealing the glory of the Creator in this way:
‘I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.'”
Mulherin notes that of course you can do science without theological belief. But the myth that you can’t be a Christian and trust in science is just plain wrong.
“I hope this book encourages Christians that they can go out into the secular world and have conversations with people about science. And to think again about their faith and how it works in the modern world. That you can learn more about science and it will draw you closer to Christ.”