What is Disciple Science?
Disciple Science exists to show how science can inspire a strengthened Christian faith.
Many Christians fear that pursuing science may weaken their faith or lead them away from God, but we assert that science and the Christianity can coexist, and even thrive, together. We see a world in which scientific study inspires a deepened faith in Jesus. Through animated videos, a podcast and a blog we explore the history, science, philosophy, and theology behind the debates. Disciple Science hopes to lead people to a deeper understanding of the Creator and the world in which we live.
What are your goals for Disciple Science?
Why should I care about science?
For Christians, the natural world is considered God's good creation and one of the ways God’s glory is revealed. Time spent examining God's creation should reveal the truth of how God designed creation and it should draw us into relationship with Jesus.
The Bible reveals that God created and sustains the world (Colossians 1:16-17, Job 34:14-15, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Psalm 104), indicating that God is active in the day to day operations of nature. So while spectacular and wondrous miracles have occurred, nature itself is an ongoing and monumental miracle and a reflection of the eternal power and divine nature of God (Romans 1:20).
We ought to think of science as a study of how God acts, as opposed to what happens in God’s absence. This mindset has the potential to transform how we view nature and it can give deeper meaning to the awe and wonder that we experience when we spend time in creation.
The study of science has also yielded incalculable benefits for people. You’re likely reading this on an electronic device, and you may take for granted that many of us can flick our wrists to access clean water from a tap, jump in a vehicle and head to a store piled high with food, or find a doctor who will have access to medicines and procedures that can treat many of our maladies. Each of these are impressive achievements individually, and together have resulted in a reduction in suffering and death so monumental that it is not crazy to imagine angels rejoicing every time a girl doesn’t die of a water-borne illness, every time a boy doesn’t succumb to starvation, and every time a pill prevents an illness from a deadly bacteria.
When disasters happen, scientist work with the church and organizations to rush in and help heal and rebuild. When outbreaks occur, scientists collaborate with many church-based community groups to contain it. When famine looms, scientists develop solutions to support the church as we seek to feed a starving world. Not only can Christians study nature to learn more about God, but God invites us to into the important work of serving people using science.
Does the growth of scientific understanding threaten my faith?
God (or gods) were given credit and blame for much of what happened to those living in the pre-modern world. The scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries significantly influenced the enlightenment and the western mindset that emerged from it, and it provide plausible and verifiable explanations for what is happening in the natural world. When God and God’s agents appeared to lose their jobs in nature, a new mindset arose that left no action for God and influenced the growing portion of society that believes that there is no God at all.
We strongly disagree with that perspective. Instead we suggest that science should inspire a deepened faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer agrees and says:
"How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know."
Psalm 19:1 reinforces Bonhoeffer when it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Of course, nature does not articulate theology, but it does contain signs and indicators of the greater truths that lie beyond what science can study and measure.
Theology explores these truths in ways science cannot, which is why a full understanding of creation requires both scientific observation and an exploration of the awe and wonder that creation can evoke. The medical revolution has transformed human societies by explaining how diseases are transmitted and our immune systems work. Theology can reveal God’s heart for the sick, or how suffering with illness can produce intimacy with God and equip us to empathize with others. Humans have been fascinated by the sun, moon, stars through all recorded history. Psalm 19:1 reveals that those same heavens declare the glory of God without speech or words and their voice goes out to all the earth.
Rather than threatening faith, we believe that increasing scientific knowledge ought to lead to a deeper, richer understanding of the triune God.
What's the conflict?
While we at Disciple Science firmly believe that faith and science can (and must!) coexist, the tension sometimes found between science and faith stems from competing worldviews.
Science is a process used to study the natural world through observation and experiment. Science is action, not just a collection of facts. Science produces a better understanding of God's world and thus, a better understanding of God! The tension comes from some underlying assumptions about how science should be performed. A widely held scientific philosophy (approach) called "methodological naturalism" limits scientific explanations to only natural causes. Because God and miracles are not understandable, testable, or applicable to other circumstances in the world, methodological naturalism does not accept them as all or part of the explanation for how the world works. While this guideline is mostly harmless when applied in the day to day practice of science, it sometimes gets inappropriately applied to all questions, not just scientific ones. When this happens, methodological naturalism can morph into a naturalistic worldview which has no room for God.
Christians often articulate their worldview with statements asserting that humans are bearers of the image of God; we are here to participate in God’s kingdom and glorify God, to love God and each other, to steward God's creation; and we are headed into an afterlife that is determined by our faith in God. These beliefs and others like them are matters of faith. In other words, they are assertions that cannot be proven from study of what is tangible and detectable. Christians whose worldview rests entirely on un-testable conclusions might be tempted to reject scientific conclusions if they believe that the Bible provides clearer answers. This concerns scientists who fear that a willing rejection of scientific conclusions on select topics like the age of the earth and evolution can yield an ethos where Christians are comfortable rejecting any scientific discovery, leading to a naïve and potentially dangerous understanding of science and how the world operates.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to tend to this tension—faith and scripture, on the one hand, and scientific discoveries about God’s material creation on the other. We at Disciple Science are committed to dealing with these questions responsibly.
Can I believe in both scientific laws and theories AND miracles described in the Bible?
The Bible is filled with accounts of God acting through spectacular and memorable miracles. We believe and affirm that God has acted in miraculous ways and can defy the laws of science. Clearly, our understanding of creation has progressed since the books of the Bible were penned, but it is also important to understand the limitations of even our vast current scientific knowledge. We might describe some of the miracles from the Bible in different terms today, but we also believe in a God who can heal the afflicted and create the cosmos from nothing at the beginning of time and sustains it to this day. We encourage Christians to understand God’s work sustaining creation as an important avenue for understanding and serving Him, while also respecting and studying the Bible as the inspired word of God.
We believe that science and faith work best when they both make unique contributions to a full understanding of creation. Science can explain how the world works and theology can chime in on why it is here and where it is going. Both require interpretation and therefore conclusions about both are prone to change.
Somewhere along the way we got hung up on the wrong questions. Some wonder, "How can I use science to confirm what I believe to be true message of the Bible?” Others ponder, "How can the Bible be understood to fit the conclusions of science?" We mistakenly approach these topics with an exclusive, either-or, mindset rather than holding the possibility of a both-and. If we can hold the possibility of a both-and, we might ask, "What does the Bible and God's material creation reveal about 1) who God is, 2) who I am, 3) how I should relate to God, and, 4) how I should relate to his creation and to our fellow humans?” If we approach the Bible and science with soft pliable hearts seeking truth rather than validation of our opinion, we will unearth the whole story of man and nature: beautiful and wondrous and broken and in need of a savior, Jesus Christ.
When science appears to contradict the Bible, how should I seek resolution?
One common misunderstanding is that science changes and principle Christian beliefs do not. Scientific conclusions may change, but so do our understandings of the original scriptures. Consider how many different modern interpretations exist on how to understand the return of Jesus, or Paul’s understanding of the role of women, or slavery, or human sexuality. We do well to revisit the scriptures with fresh eyes to determine if the passages we find contradictions within were written to answer contemporary questions about the natural world. Most theologians acknowledge that the Bible is best understood by interpreting it through the cultural context in which it was written. This reading often leads us to conclude that the Bible should not be thought of as a source of scientific insights. It says less about how nature works, or how each species came to be, or other scientific questions than it does about God and humanity’s relationships with creation. Billy Graham affirmed this view when he said, "I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book."