Christians should never be intimidated by atheists who claim that science disproves the Bible and who mock those who believe in God. But neither should they be intimidated by those who claim that theories such as the Big Bang are ‘against the word of God,’ and that embracing modern science will undermine one’s faith. The father of the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaitre, was both a physicist and a priest. He features prominently in my novel, Hearts Set Free.
All Christians can agree that what are commonly called the laws of nature were created by God (who of course can suspend them when He works miracles). To those who put sufficient effort into studying math and science, these laws are as much an awe-inspiring reflection of His glory as are the first rays of morning light illuminating a snow-capped mountain peak. For example, Newton’s law of universal gravitation shows us the elegant way God chose to order the motions of celestial bodies, and E=MC2 reveals the breathtaking simplicity and power with which God designed the relationship between energy and matter.
Think for a moment about how the science built around Einstein’s famous equation has been used both to benefit mankind and to create horrific weapons, and you can see how dangerous it is for Christians to cede the field of science to atheists! I suggest that the parable of the talents extends even to the gift of reason that God has bestowed upon us.
All very well, someone might say, but don’t scientific theories such as the Big Bang directly contradict the Bible?
To answer that question, it’s useful to consider how a wise parent deals with a young child who asks where babies come from. All answers are variations on one of three possible responses. One way to go is to make up a lie: “The stork brings them.” At the other extreme, one might launch into a detailed explanation of the biology of human reproduction, though we can all agree that this would be absurd, ineffective, and might even cause harm. The third option is to answer in a loving, truthful way that is simple enough for the child to understand: “When two people love each other, like your mommy and daddy, they get married, and God gives them the gift of a baby.” The answer is quite literally truthful. It’s just been lovingly simplified.
So now let’s consider what the wisest father of all decided when he gave Moses the words to set forth in the Book of Genesis. He could have decided to reveal all the details of how He created the heavens and the earth and brought forth man from the dust of the earth. Of course, that would have required commanding Moses to obtain perhaps one or two million sheets of papyrus so that He could dictate the necessary volumes of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology that would be required for the ancient Hebrews to comprehend in full the majestic brilliance of God’s creative work.
In no way do the conflicts between the “science” implied by the Bible and modern understandings of the physical universe and how it came to be contradict Biblical authority or inerrancy. John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, professors of Old and New Testament studies, respectively, at Wheaton College, are conservative evangelicals and co-authors of several highly regarded books. In The Lost World of Scripture, they argue that the authority and inerrancy of any given passage of Scripture attach only to the core message God intended to convey, not to facts which are incidental to that message—which would include many of the facts of science. For example: “[I]t is no surprise that ancient Israel believed in a solid sky,” Walton and Sandy point out, “and God accommodated [His manner of expression] to that model in His communication to them. But since [His primary purpose] is not to assert the true shape of cosmic geography, we can safely set those details aside as incidental without jeopardizing authority or inerrancy.”
I propose that the full complexity of Creation was left out of the account of Genesis for two reasons: first, it would have been both bewildering and a distraction from the deeper message of Scripture; and second, because it would have deprived man of the opportunity to learn for himself. Wise parents do not always make things easy for their children; indeed, they know that setting challenges for them to overcome can be the very best thing. The disciples were hoping for a messiah that would provide a quick and glorious victory over the Romans; the Devil tried to tempt Jesus with a shortcut to dominion. But God often requires us to take the longer, harder road. So too with the advancement of human knowledge.
Four hundred years ago the Church taught that the stars and planets revolved around a motionless earth, and cited Biblical references implying the centrality of the earth. When Galileo invited priests to look through his telescope and gaze upon the newly discovered wonders of astronomy, they refused and persecuted him instead. What a tragic waste!
I urge all Christians to go ahead, look through the telescope of science. You will only be gazing upon the greater glory of God.