Alternative Paradigms of a Christian Response to Science:

Seven Patterns For Relating Science and The Christian Faith

 

(See the indispensable work of R. Bube, Putting It All Together: Seven Patterns for Relating Science and the Christian Faith (University Press, 1996), Stanley L. Jaki, Bible and Science (Christendom Press, 1996) and Roger Lundin, The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and The Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 1993) pb., a critique of all perspectival interpretation schemes.

 

Postmodern culture involves the triumph of "perspectivalism" over "objective truth".  Conflict between Science and Religion (Christianity) dates from classic times.  What relationship has and should exist between them: e.g.s., John Draper's History of The Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874). Andrew White, A History of the Warfare of  Science and Theology in Christendom (1896) (War metaphor presupposed an irreconcilable 'war') Reijer Hooykass, Religion and The Rise of Science (1972).  Stanley Jaki, The Road of Science and Ways of God (1978).  Colin Russell, Cross Currents; Interactions between Science and Faith (1985).

 

Some argue that modern science was born in a religious context and that theological considerations undergird the entire Scientific Enterprise. Post Modern Scientists seldom acknowledge the debt.

 

Is reconciliation between 'scientific method' and 'Christian faith' possible?  The conflict is made more complex because of the ambivalence/polyvalence of both terms "science" and "faith."  Science is a human endeavor to describe and understand the physical universe. This presupposes that there is a "universe" and that its structure can be decoded.  Scientific method entails at least two factors:  (1) explanatory power and (2) predictability power, i.e., generate new knowledge.  Theology is a human endeavor to describe and understand the broader relationships involved in human life before God.  A fundamental question is: can those of us who have made a fundamental commitment to Jesus Christ live a consistent life in the context of a secularistic scientifically oriented world?  The history of scientific development exposes at least Seven Patterns for relating Science and Theology.

 

1.    Authentic Science is a particular way of knowing based in human interpretation in natural categories of publicly observable and reproductive data obtained by sense interaction with the world. (Yes, Virginia, there is a universe.)  This procedure in attaining new knowledge entails explanatory and predictive power.  It is adherence to this definition of science that gives science integrity and value.

 

a.    To say that science is a way of knowing is to deny that science is the way of knowing—True Truth.  The view that science is The way of knowing is scientism or more technically, positivism.  The scientific method is truths only guide.  (1) Reality corresponds to "what is?"; and (2) Truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Science can tell us how the universe works, but it does not provide us knowledge of why the universe is ultimately the way it is, nor can it inform us about the purpose or meaning of its existence.

 

b.    Science enables us to understand the universe better.  Scientific models might tell us what the world is like.  They do not tell us what the world is—only some dimensions of reality.

 

c.    Science is a human activity, thus not free from the foibles of humanity (see my Kuhn's Concept of Paradigm).  The history of science must explain the light of changing Paradigms, changing view of scientific paradigms (eg. Aristotlean, Newtonian, Einsteinian, pantheistic monism, non-Linear Chaos Physics, etc.).

 

d.    Science is based within "Theory Laden" verification frames (cf. World Views, Paradigms, Validation schemas, etc.) e. Science is concerned with categories within the mechanistic perspective.  Science must be limited to well defined testable ranges. 1) Science cannot provide answers to questions of ultimate meaning, purpose and primary causes and (2) there are insights into reality that cannot be obtained by scientific by scientific investigation.

 

e.    Evidence acceptable as scientific must be accessible to public testing.  Private gnostic insights do not provide a scientific basis for description; note this issue in the Gnostic Resurgent Search for the Wrong Jesus, eg. Jesus Seminar, etc.  There is no public ways to adjudicate between contradictory viewpoints; mere appeal to the received scholarly view is no test!!

 

f.     Science proceeds by interpretation of sense data obtained from interaction with the world.  This model of Science entails some basic characteristics—presuppositions.  It is impossible to even begin the process without presuppositions:  (1) The world is understandable through rational processes of the human mind (see my Mathematics and the Origin of The Postmodern Mind; and Mind, Brain, Computer Analog; Can Computers Think?) (2) Science can only tell "what is—not what ought to be."  The ethical fallacy is to identify the two.  (There is pseudo science bad science that goes beyond the capabilities of science, e.g. derivation of ethics from science.  Note implications are visible in post analytic ethical theories - Situationalism, Life Boat Ethics, etc.)

 

2.    Authentic Christianity is a way of knowing based on the human interpretations of the Bible and human experience in relationship with God.

 

a.    Authentic Christianity as a way of knowing is to affirm that it is not the only way of knowing.

 

b.    Christian theology is a way of knowing.  Not merely a matter of faith, i.e., irrational.  Both rest upon presuppositions, both provide evidence, and both require a faith commitment before genuine involvement is possible.  Science answers "how" questions; theology answers "why" questions.

 

c.    Christian Theology is based on human interpretation that entails hermeneutical awareness.  There is human interaction in both the Bible and Science.

 

d.    Christian Theology and Science function within hermeneutical horizons.  Just as facts in science never provide their own interpretation, so Bible passages and experience do not provide their own unambiguous interpretations.  The claim to believe only what the "Bible says," is, in fact, an impossibility; we are unable to believe anything except an interpretation, our own or someone elseÕs of what the Bible says.  This hermeneutical bridge over any text to the auditor simply affirms the necessity of human communication. This problem does not entail a deconstructionist's relativism that declares that every interpreter and interpretation are equally valid.  Both science and theology have hermeneutical principles that must be followed to obtain "valid" insights from our study of the natural world in science (authentic science) or authentic theology, in both areas of concern there is a hermeneutical norm which evaluates what will be accepted as valid interpretation (e.g. my suggestion of Promise as Hermeneutical norm of Scripture, and Paradigm/World View theories as normative for evaluating received scientific explanation in light of anomalous situations).  The present view of the scientific enterprise must be able to explain the history of alternative/contradictory views of science.

 

e.    Christian Theology is based in human interpretation of the Bible. The scriptures contain God's purpose for His creation.  Science is the language of nature of how to make a machine.  The hermeneutical questions are reducible to three:  (1) What does the passage (pericope) say?  (2) What did the passage mean when it was written?  (3) What does the passage mean to us today?  Both deductive and inductive approaches are employed in both interpretation spheres.  There is no such thing as pure induction in science or scripture analysis.  All interpretation is "theory laden."  Only the Christian worldview can order both horizons of interpretation.

 

f.     Christian Theology is based on human interpretation of the Bible and human experience.  Theology is not a scholarly investigation of esoteric-gnostic problems in an evil world, but an effort to cross the horizons between a given text and an interpreter or interpreting community (cf. both science and theology have "received views" to interpret reality.  Science produces "facts"/"events", many of which it is incapable of interpreting in any relevant manner).

 

The history of scientific development exposes at least Seven Patterns for relating Science and Theology:

Pattern One:  Science Destroyed the Possibility of Rational Faith

 

This is the most widely held view of the relationship between Science and Theology.  This positivistic scientism is at the heart of postmodern secularism.  This pattern argues that Christian faith as expounded historically through Christian theology has become impossible in our postmodern scientific milieu.  Religion is a relic of the past, whether it is Freud claiming that God is only an anthropocentric projection or Marx claiming that Christianity is the opiate of the people (see my Demise of Transcendent Explanatory Modes In Our Postmodern Culture).  No informed modern person can possibly continue to accept the mythological claims of biblical Christianity.  After religion has run its evolutionary course, only atheism is left!  Into this cultural-conceptual maze came resurgent non-Christian religions, new age pantheism, drugs, sex revolution, generation gap. Generation X (see my Beyond Mere Diversity; Multicultural Pluralism). Many arguments are advanced to defend the thesis that belief in the historic

 

Christian faith is no longer intellectually respectable or psychologically acceptable.  These cultural forces derive from the marginalization/trivialization of God in post Christian Modern culture.  God is no longer a necessary ingredient for an explanatory model from Cosmology, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Geology, Biology, socio-politico-economic dimension or religion.  The "god of the gaps" has been reduced to the "god of guts." Only the private world of the self is a dwelling place for god!! When God has been marginalized it becomes apparent that the categories of miracles, providence, i.e., all perimeters of the supernatural are removed;

nature is all that remains (see my God, Man and Nature in Carl Sagan's Universe).  Another reason often advanced for postmodern science's supposed impeachment of Christianity's credibility is that science has shown that Christian faith is only one of the possible descriptions—a sociological experience, resurgent non-Christian religions, a sociological phenomenon. Christian/Christ's uniqueness is totally denied in our multicultural Global Village.  The fallacy is that science cannot proclaim that something is "only" science knows no "only."

 

Pattern Two:  Faith is to be Upheld In Spite of the Findings of Science

 

Science and Theology tell us the same kinds of things about the same things. When scientific and theological descriptions conflict one must be right and the other wrong.  In this encounter, the theological descriptions always have priority.

 

This viewpoint is anti-intellectual. A large Christian constituency has no interest in science whatever, either apologetically or extended interaction.  This view of faith is completely irrelevant to a world dominated by Science.  Christian witness demands that interaction between science and the Christian faith necessitates understanding—Scripture and the World.

 

Pattern Three:  Science and Faith are Totally Unrelated:

Neither One can Say Anything About the Other

 

This pattern has an extensive following. Science and theology are compartmentalized so that interaction between them is impossible.  This pattern enables Christians to think in secular, multicultural, relativistic way during six days a week and then, discontinuously, on the seventh day, to think in a religious and theologically related way for the purpose of a worship service.  Thus science and theology are examples of unrelated statements.  This theme is perpetrated by neo-orthodoxy and all species of anti-intellectualism within the institutional churches.  In practice, it is likely that indifference and apathy to the issues may well be the most common result.

 

Pattern Four:  Science Provides the Rational Basis that Demands Faith

 

Science and theology tell us the same kinds of things about the same things. Scientific descriptions of the world provide such overwhelming evidence of the truth of the Bible and Christian theology that we have no choice but to believe them.

 

The pattern accepts the conviction that science is the prime defender of the faith and seeks to build an apologetic for the faith based on science. It expresses a reaction against the non-rational and anti-intellectual emphasis of Pattern Two and partly Pattern Three.  It emphasizes a logical, systematic, intellectual defense of classical Christianity so compelling that non-Christians would be convinced on this basis of this evidence alone to become Christians (note esp. J.P. Moreland, Scaling The Secular City (Baker, 1991); J.M. Montgomery, ed. Evidence for Faith: Deciding The God Question, 1991) and Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict).  The marshalling of evidence that supports the reasonableness of the Christian faith and the trustworthiness of the scriptures is a worthy attempt.  This procedure is a powerful distinction of caricature of the Christian faith.

 

This pattern has at least two problem areas:  (1) It makes science the ultimate judge and arbiter of truth and reliability in an area where such a position for science is not justified.  There is no such thing as "objective evidence", either in science or theology.  (2) This pattern pays too little attention to scripture.  Since, in post-modern hermeneutics, there is no inherent meaning in any text (Fisk, Rorty, Derrida, DeMan, et.al.) "revelation" might be divulged in a newspaper or any text book.  There are no pre-scientific insights hidden in post mytho-poetic literature.  This is an argument derived from mysticism or magic rather than a faithful understanding of the nature of communication between God and man. This development has moved from denial of "self interpretation of facts" to argue the contrary. Both scientific investigation and scripture interpretation are "theory laden."  In both horizons of interpretations, "the data" controls the hermeneutical possibilities derived from the received data.  All "theory laden" interpretation must be checked against the "normative-received data."

 

Pattern Five:  Science Provides the Philosophical Structure

In Which Faith Needs to Be Redefined

 

Pattern Four sought to justify classical Christian hermeneutical interpretation by showing it was scientifically defensible.  This pattern argued for a new definition of theology to make it consistent with the results of the received science (esp. R.M. Burhoe, "The Human Prospect and The Lord of History," Zygon, 10 (1975): 299-375); R.J. Russell, "The Theological Implication of Physics and Cosmology," in The Church and Contemporary Cosmology (J.B. Miller and K.E. McCall, eds. (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990); and F. Capra and D. Steindl-Rast with T. Matus, Belonging to The Universe (Harper & Row, 1991).

 

This pattern seeks either to address: (a) the effort to reconstruct Christian theology in categories that are acceptable to modern/postmodern scientific worldview, or (b) to argue for major new insights and revelation of God coming to us through the models and descriptions of postmodern science.  There is only a fine technical line between Pattern Five and Six. Which calls for a radical revision of both science and theology in the future to form one common view, perhaps Capra's Monistic Pantheism.  Each of these patterns are "natural theology", i.e., attempts to derive theological concepts from scientific investigation of the nature world (Romans 1:20). So-called "scientific theology" usually supposes that biblical categories of thought are hopelessly unacceptable to the postmodern scientific mind. Religious concepts are human creations.  This represents another "Kuhnian" paradigmatic revolution.  In postmodern chaos non-linear physics nature "is god", but this is resurgent gnostic pantheism.  Science is the truth, evil is non viable, and salvation is the human quest for survival.  Since there is no sin (after Freud), there is no need for a savior from sin.  This widely held conclusion is both pseudo theology and pseudo science.

 

Pattern Six:  Both Science and Faith Need To Be Redefined

so that an appropriate synthesis can be achieved

 

This pattern exposes dissatisfaction with both Science and Theology and looks with utopian hope toward a further fusion of science and theology. Agnostic-mystical fusion of the horizons of science and theology in the future does not necessarily speak of the fulfillment of "authentic science" and "authentic theology."  This redefinition procedure entails a new paradigm.  Science has not (a) demonstrated the eternal order that underlies the universe,  (b) science is not showing us spiritual dimensions of reality previously unknowable.  (Certain paradigms of Science deny the very existence of these categories.) (c) Science has not and cannot contribute to our spiritual understanding,  (d) Science has not shown that God made us and cares about us.  (e) Science has not shown that the earth is a living organism with earth spirits (e. g.  Capra's New Age Pantheism, Non-Christian Pantheisms),  (f) Science has not shown that matter has a non-material center characterized by intelligence.  This pattern uncritically accepts Eastern Monism.  All New Age advocates reflect monastic pantheism (see my Capra and New Age Physics and Non-Linear Chaos Physics).  New Age thinking is very influential in postmodern physics.

 

Pattern Seven:  Faith and Science Provides Complimentary Insights

Into Reality That Needs To Be Integrated

 

Science and theology tell us different kinds of things about the same thing. Both perimeters of reality must be fused to obtain an adequate and coherent view of reality.  This last pattern contains appropriate limitations and openness that seem to demonstrate the most consistent relationship to the characteristics of authentic science and authentic Christian theology (egs. H. J. Van TilÕs  The Fourth Day (Eerdmans, 1986); J. Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality (Trinity Press, 1991); I. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (Prentice Hall, 1966); A. MacKay, The Clockwork Image (IVP, 1972!); D. MacKay, Human Science and Human Dignity (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977); D. MacKay, The Open Mind (IVP, 1988); R. J. Berry, ed. Real Science, Real Faith (Monarch Pub. LTD, 1991); R. H. Bube, "Reductionism, Preduotionism and Hierarchical Emergence," Journal of The Scientific Affiliation 37 (1985):177; R.H. Bube, "The Relationship Between Scientific and Theological Descriptions," Journal of The American Scientific Affiliation, 38 (1986):154).

 

Complimentary descriptions are not necessarily cop-outs; (1) The limitations imposed on us when we try to describe something that is unknown in the term of that which is known; and (2) the use of descriptions drawn from different areas of descriptions drawn from different areas of experience to describe the same event on phenomenon. In both science and theology, for example, we are involved with the expressions of what are alike, employing similes, metaphors, analogies, models, and pictures.  Such models (paradigms) change as we gain new information and formulate new pictures and ways of looking at things that agree more fully with our-new information (e.g. Kuhn's Paradigmatic Revolutions).  It makes no sense to speak bout God revealing to us a "true scientific model" in the Bible; the very nature of communication and revelation makes such communication impossible. Both science and theology use models or metaphors to reveal to us what God is like and what His relationship to the world is like.  God Himself is pictured as Father, King, Husband, Bridegroom; this procedure assumes that those images provide valid insights of the qualities of the character of God. The atonement is presented to us under various models; healing, wholeness, redemption, reconciliation, sacrifice, legal substitution, and victory.  No one of these models do full justice to the ultimate mystery of atonement.  Each metaphor provides different perspectives of the unknown.  Each metaphor of necessity conveys only partial and incomplete insights into the nature of God.

To speak of a person in terms of genes is to use scientific language; to speak of the same human being as a living soul is to use theological language.  If the description of 'genes' is abandoned in favor of a description of 'soul,' the human being becomes a dualistic "ghost in the machine."  Only naturalistic reductionism would deny patterned interactions of the biological parts in accordance with the creative activity of God.

 

The area of biological ethics is concerned with the beginning and ending of life. A fusion of biological, psychological and biblical perspectives is imperative for evaluating the value of human personhood.  Complimentary claims recognize that it is not equivalent to the compartmentalization of Pattern Three. (1) Complimentarity recognizes that valid insights from science and theology each deal with the same reality and must be integrated. It does not hold the two insights to be wholly unrelated without interaction or effect on one another.  (2) Complimentarity does not make the claim that no aspect of theology is or should be affected by science, or that no aspect of science is or should be affected by theology.  It does maintain that science is incapable of providing the foundation for ethics or knowledge about relationship between God and human beings and that theology is incapable of providing mechanistic explanation about the 'how' questions of the physical universe. Growth of scientific knowledge strongly encourages Christians in our 'belief in a creator God. All Truth is not derived from Kantian constitutive activity of an encultured mind. Complimentarity also recognizes that theological insights can affect one's chance of problems. In the physical sciences or even one's choice of an integrating, descriptive model in the more culturally related Sciences of psychology or sociology, in worldview can play as large a role as research results. (3) Complementarity is not a thoughtless acceptance of contradiction, paradox (e.g. Obler's Paradox, Two Theories of Space/Time) or dualism.  It is a recognition of circumstances in which two or more different but valid insights are available to describe and understand something beyond the abilities of known models (Paradigms) to encompass.  If it is possible by more complete understanding to remove the contradiction, resolve the paradox or eliminate the dualism, then this course of action must be taken.  But if this is not possible in a particular case, then the full benefit of integrating complementary insights is manifest.  How does the mind recognize anomalies within worldviews or paradigms?

 

There is no present instrument for fusion of conflicting patterns of relating science and Christian faith. We need to be able to evaluate the distinction between "authentic science" and pseudoscience and "authentic theology" and pseudo-theology. "Authentic" derives from the Greek word meaning originating, i.e., that which starts or is foundational.  What enables science to practice and both explain and have predictive power for attaining new knowledge?  We must always be ready to give a "reason for the hope that lies within us."  Our postmodern challenge is to integrate these two dimensions into our lives, thoughts, and actions.  Only then can we be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in all of life.  To "bring every thought captive" is our Christian responsibility

 

(see further, R.W.  Burhoe, "The Human Prospect and The Lord of History" Zygon 10 (1975):299-375; R.J.  Russell, "Christian Discipleship and The Challenge of Physics: Formation, Flux and Focus", Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 42/1990): 139-154; R.H.  Bube, "Reflections on Christian Discipleship and The Challenge of Physics" in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 43 (1991): 193; R.J. Russell, "Theology and Implications of Physics and Cosmology," in The Church and Contemporary Cosmology, J.B. Miller and K.E. McCall, eds. (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990), 247; J. Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality (Trinity Press, 1991); also his One World: The Interaction of  Science and Theology, and Science and Creation, and his The Quantum World (Penguin, 1986); all of Stanley Jaki's works, see my bibliography of his works as well. See John D. Weaver, In The Beginning God; Modern Science and The Christian Doctrine of Creation (Regent Park College: Oxford; Smyth and Helwys Pub. Inc. Maoon, GA 312007), on the thesis of scientific developments and the insignificance of the Planet Earth.  See also Douglas Adam, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy; L. Newbigen, Foolishness to the Greeks (Eermans, 1986); J. Barrow and F. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, 1988); Paul Davies, Superforce (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1984) and his The Mind of  God; R.E. Peacock, A Brief History of Eternity (English Press, 1989); A. Peacocke, God and The New Biology-Theology for a Scientific Age; Being and Becoming: Nature and Divine; and Creation and The World of Science (Oxford University Press, 1979).

 

James D. Strauss

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656-2111