Being more precise: In praise of Science, not Naturalism

Is there a conflict between faith and science?

I had an enlightening conversation this morning in which I was reminded that certain words have “expanded” meaning within various subcultures. One word that isn’t used very carefully, especially in Christian subcultures, is the word Science. Sometimes we say Science to mean Science (the study of nature) and Naturalism (the philosophical presupposition that no supernatural force interacts within the natural world.) When we do this we, as Christians, tend to view Science with a negative light. If Science is Naturalism or necessarily includes Naturalism, then Science becomes antithetical to belief in an active God and therefore appears offensive to our worldview. I don’t believe this is the correct way to view Science.

Science, as a method, is an amoral way to learn about the created world. You can approach it either from a Theistic or a Naturalistic perspective (see Kuyper’s wise words on Normalists and Abnormalists).

We are, perhaps, accustomed to seeing it approached from the Naturalistic perspective but it need not work that way and, in fact, historically this has not been the case. Much of what was gained through the Enlightenment came from Theistic Christians who were interested in learning about God’s creation. In other words, the pursuit of scientific knowledge sprang from a religious impulse.

The actual methods of Science do not change much based on the philosophical position you bring to the table. A theistic scientist will still consider the scientific method to be sound because he believes God is a God of order and not disorder and has established laws by which the universe functions.

One important difference is that the Christian will not view science as his only means of knowledge. He will also look to the Biblical text. Ultimately, these are not competing sources of knowledge, though for a time they may appear so. This appearance of conflict only arises because of our own human frailty not because of any differences in ultimate reality. The conflict is superficial, not substantial.

The other difference is that the Christian believes that, although the world usually functions based on the God-ordained laws of nature, God does intervene in what we might call Miracles. Acknowledging that possibility, we are not surprised by things like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that for this to happen God intervened in the world and broke the rules which, as the rule-maker, He is free to do.

So, Christian, do not look down or with suspicion on Science. We have gained much because of it. It is Naturalism (the philosophical position) not Science, with which we struggle.


2 thoughts on “Being more precise: In praise of Science, not Naturalism

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