Doesn't Science Contradict Faith?
Is it reasonable to still believe in God based on all that science now tells us?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are finishing our “Reason to Believe” series today where we are looking at if it’s actually reasonable to believe in God or not.
All series long, we’ve been covering common objections to the Christian faith.
Places where people have said, “You know what, now that I know this…I can’t believe in God anymore. It’s not reasonable”
And today…is another subject where many people have walked away from the faith.
And it’s the subject of “Doesn’t’ science contradict faith?”
There are countless stories of people taking a science class in high school or college and deciding…”You know what, I think science explains away God…I don’t need God”
This is going to be a REALLY different Sunday for us…as we transform into a science classroom.
So…not typical…but I think it’s important to do stuff like this once in a while
So I want to ask a couple of questions today:
Does science actually contradict God? Or more, specifically: Christianity…and the Bible?
And can a person be a good scientific thinker and still be a Christian?
Or do you have to throw away scientific reasoning to be a follower of Jesus?
This morning, we’re going to focus primarily on the scientific discussion around origins, the creation of the universe, and life on earth.
More so than the topic of miracles, etc.
WE NEED TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION
But what about this question of origins?
How did the universe begin?
How did get to be like this today?
How long did it take?
What kind of process did it take?
And how in the world do science and faith interact on this subject?
Before we go any further, let me state that I believe that, in this discussion, both atheists and Christians are primarily focusing on the wrong issue.
They’re asking the wrong question.
For most people almost all of the questions in this discussion are around issue of process.
Once it happened, what was the process it took from there? Was it evolution? Was it not? How long did it take?
But those are all actually secondary questions.
Think of it this way.
Let’s say I baked a cake.
Which is a bad illustration, because I clearly do not have the skills to bake a cake.
So, let’s say my wife bakes a cake. She is an EXCELLENT baker!
And let’s say after Lindsey bakes this cake, I stick the cake in an empty room, and I call all of the world’s top scientists come in and analyze it
The nutrition scientists tell me how many calories it has and why I should never eat it.
The biochemists tell me bout the structure of the proteins, fats, etc. in the cake.
The physicists look at it’s fundamental particles
And the mathematicians come up with some complex formulas about its shape
Even the world’s most studied chefs tell me what made it rise to its present state
Now notice that they’re coming to conclusions on a ton of important stuff about the cake.
But I would say, the scientists in the room never addressed the most important questions.
Like, where did the cake come from?
How did the cake actually get started?
Did some frosting and sugar just combine and magically make a cake?
Or was there a baker?
And WHO made the cake?
And WHY did he or she make it?
It’s not enough to just say, “Okay, the cake exists, so let’s examine it.”
We need to ask higher-level questions!
Like “HOW did it come into existence in the first place?”
And that’s really where we need to start.
And that’s really the best place to look if you want to determine if it’s still reasonable to believe in God or not given all of what we know from modern-day science.
CASE FOR A CREATOR
So let’s go to the beginning. The very beginning.
Basically 99% of scientists, even the Christian ones, believe in the Big Bang Theory
Now, of course the Christian scientists believe the Big Bang was God getting his creation started with a bang…
But the point where almost all scientists agree is that the universe has a definite beginning.
The Bible describes it this way:
(Genesis 1:1) – NIV
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Scientific theory describes it as the universe is now constantly expanding from its initial state of nothingness.
Sort of like a rising cake
Which isn’t necessarily any different from what the Bible describes in its account.
But after that, science itself is divided.
Between those who do not believe in God and scientists who do.
The Bible says that God is the CAUSE that created the universe.
Atheist scientists would simply say that the universe appeared out of nothing.
That not only is it a rising cake, but at one point, the cake just appeared out of nowhere and started expanding
But is that possible? Is that really what an atheist believes?
And from here forward, I’m going to call them the naturalist because that’s the proper term for this realm of discussion.
A naturalist is someone who believes the world started from nothing and is guided by random chance…and nowhere is God involved because God doesn’t exist.
But is that even rational?
Let’s look at this a different way.
I need a volunteer to come on stage.
I want you to lift your right arm up
Okay, this time just lift your right arm using your left hand
Okay, this time, I’m going to lift your right arm up.
Okay, you can sit down.
Now, let me ask you a question.
IS there any way for his arm to move without a cause?
No. Each time there was a cause!
Their hand did it. They did it themselves. I told them to. I moved it.
Everything that happens has a cause.
And both philosophy and science would attest to this.
“And therefore, for everything that comes into existence…there HAS to be a cause for its existence.
Yet, the atheist, the naturalist has no answer whatsoever for explaining the cause for the beginning of the universe.
All they can say is something came out of nothing.
The big bang just….happened.
Now, technically, they would say, that before the big bang, the universe was simply a gravitational singularity…but you then ask…what caused that to exist? What even caused it to get started??
And for the atheist…for the naturalist…there are ZERO answers. ZERO.
The basic tenets of naturalism are that we came from nothing, by nothing, for nothing.
And I what I want you to understand that in NO OTHER discussion would we EVER accept that something happened (especially something as big as the start of the universe) with out a cause.
Yet, that’s exactly what so many have done.
The cause of the universe must transcend matter, space, and time…that is who God is.
He’s the perfect answer for the creation of the universe.
You could say, “Yes, but what precedes God then?!”
But nothing has to precede God. Because God doesn’t have a definite beginning.
He is timeless.
(Psalm 90:2) – NIV
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
But the universe HAS a very definite beginning.
So therefore you have to have a cause.
Another place in science that has a very definite beginning is the creation of the earth.
Or, if we want to get more specific…the creation of life on earth.
How did LIFE begin on earth? What was the cause?
How did living things begin from non-living things?
And if your answer isn’t God…you have to stretch.
There are of course hypotheses out there about the chemical conditions being just right for acids to interact and start creating self-replicating molecules and eventually cells.
But the theories are so wide, so crazy, and so improvable…that even some of the leading scientists look completely elsewhere for answers.
Atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins…is a great example of the stretch in reasoning that has to take place from the naturalist position.
In fact, you can watch his exact defense at the end of the documentary “No Intelligence allowed”
His position is that even the single cell is so complex (more complicated than a computer) that the beginnings of life on earth might have therefore been seeded from a highly evolved civilization from another part of the universe.
But even then…Okay…but then who created the aliens that brought life to earth?
That takes a lot of FAITH.
And here’s what I REALLY want you to see: If we start by asking the RIGHT questions FIRST (NOT How did the process GO…but How did the process START?!)…this whole discussion is a lot simpler for the person who believes in God.
And when we concentrate on the issue of origins (how did it start in the 1st place), it’s not simply that the naturalist has NO reasonable answer whatsoever for WHAT started the universe…what caused the big bang…how did living cells begin on earth?
There’s actually even more.
Reason has shown us…especially in the last 25 years…that the universe we live in…not only philosophically would have to be caused by SOMEONE…but scientifically actually looks like it was DESIGNED by someone.
Take gravity for instance:
Even if you were to increase every gravitational force in the universe by just the tiniest fraction, it would be catastrophic to the universe.
You’d be crushed under the weight of it. Certain planets couldn’t even exist.
If you changed the expansion rate of the universe even by one part in a trillion…it couldn’t support life as we know it.
If you increased the mass of the neutron by about one part in seven hundred, nuclear fusion in stars would stop.
And there would be no energy source for life.
And we could go on and on about the universe.
Experts say that, there are now more than 30 separate physical or cosmological (Cosmology is the study of the origin and beginnings of the universe)…but more than 30 parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a life-sustaining universe.
And almost all of these have to be balanced on a razor’s edge of precision for life to exist in the universe.
The same is true for life on earth.
If the earth’s tilt wasn’t 23.5 degrees thanks to the moon, we’d all be dead…or frozen to death.
The amount of precision in how close we are to the moon, how close we are to the sun, how big the earth is, the percentage of oxygen we have, the amount of water on earth….all have to be spot on to support life.
Which is simply, to a thinking person, evidence that this isn’t anywhere near a random accident.
Even if you look at biology…and you start to look at the sheer amount of information that is stored in human DNA.
DNA is like incredible software…and if you have incredible software, by reason, that means you have a great software designer.
And you can see, it’s all of these things together that makes a reasonable person say…there has to be a designer.
One who sets all things and holds all things together
(Colossians 1:16-17) – NIV
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
In fact, we’ve had so many amazing discoveries in the past 25 years, that one of the most interesting trends in science is watching a few of the famous scientists now come to faith…
Or the fact that polling from the reputable Pew Forum tells us that significantly more of today’s younger, educated scientists believe in God compared to those who studied science years ago.
Which is the exact opposite trend of the general public. The younger you are, the less likely you are to believe in God.
And it’s happening in the scientific world because our scientific discoveries are actually leading people to faith.
Scientist Robin Collins puts it this way.
If you landed on Mars and saw a biosphere dome, and there was a control panel with lots of dials.
And you noticed the oxygen ratio was perfect for life, the temperature was 70, the humidity was 40%, there’s a system for replenishing air, systems for producing food, generating energy, disposing of waste…
And then you noticed that each dial has a HUGE range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible.
What conclusion would you draw from that?
That aliens are real!
You’d come to the conclusion that somebody with intelligence figured it out.
The whole thing didn’t accidently come together.
But let’s apply the same logic to earth then…and how all the dials have been set “just right” for life to be sustainable…
It’s not just one factor…it’s a ton of factors
Therefore, our only logical conclusion is that there is a designer
Every other conclusion is an ENORMOUS leap of faith.
But again, this is why our main discussion has to be “How did the cake get started?” NOT: “What was the process for the rising of the cake? Or the mixture of the ingredients?”
Because when we start at the beginning…the answer is obvious.
And after we’ve made the right fork in the road at the beginning, the rest…honestly… is just ironing out the details.
WORKING OUT THE DETAILS
SO let’s work some of them out.
But before we do so, let me reiterate that these are secondary questions.
If you get overly focused on these aspects (which Christians are NOTORIOUS for) as you engage in conversation with your non-believing friends…it’s NOT going to go well for you.
A) Because they probably don’t care about a lot of them…as many of them are just intramural debates between Christians
B) Your best bet is always starting from the beginning…not from a random point in the middle.
So if we agree that the universe did indeed come into being by God…and it would be silly to believe otherwise…how do we answer some of those secondary questions of “What did the process look like then?”
So, God made the cake, but “What was His process for putting the ingredients together and making it rise to its present state?”
“Did it take a long time? What happened?
And what about evolution?
How does a good-thinking Christian respond to the theory of evolution?
If you’re a good thinker, don’t you have to believe in evolution?
Well, kind of.
Now, before you throw something at me.
Hold on a moment. My guess is that you believe in evolution…at least to some degree.
Alvin Plantinga…maybe the greatest American philosopher alive…divides evolution (or classic scientific theory…about the process of the universe) up into 4 different aspects…
Chances are…you probably believe at least 1 of them…maybe even more than 1.
The first aspect of evolutionary theory is micro-evolution.
Micro-evolution is simply the evolving of a particular species…but not between species.
The classic example is…If there are only tall trees left, and only the long-necked giraffes can reach them to eat, the short-necked giraffes are going to die out…
And thus the long necked giraffes are going to have, long-necked kids…and over time, giraffes are going to get longer necks.
I’m not sure I know people who don’t believe in this concept of evolving. Of evolution.
But that’s MICRO-evolution…within ONE species.
It’s merely saying giraffes change over time, but not that giraffes are slowly becoming a different animal.
The second aspect of evolutionary, classic scientific theory is TIME.
Evolutionists don’t believe the world is 6,000-10,000 years old.
They believe it’s closer to 4 billion. That the universe is closer to 13 billion.
I don’t know…maybe you even believe that too…and if you do…maybe you believe even more of classic, secular scientific theory than you thought you did.
Or maybe this is where you jump of the train.
And that’s fine if you do.
The third aspect is Common Ancestry.
That you could pick any two creatures and trace them back to the same creature…
This is Darwin’s “Tree of Life.”
That we all go back to this single celled organism. That species evolved into different species over time. Macro-evolution.
I’m going to guess that a lot more people jump off the train here…although some probably don’t.
The fourth aspect of evolution is that the principle and driving force of world history is natural selection.
It’s that through the random mutation of species and through natural selection that the world…randomly is just slugging along.
That there is no God. That we just randomly came into being and are randomly evolving along thanks to natural selection and gene mutation.
And this is where it would be literally impossible to still be a Christian and hold to this view.
But can Christians hold to some of those other views?
Yes, there are.
Again, remembering that the main issue is: How did it all get started…but as we’re ironing out the details…what are the options?
Let’s talk through what they are.
If you only believe the first part of evolution…in micro-evolution only…
You would be what’s called a “Young earth Creationist”
That God created the earth in 6 days like the Bible reads in Genesis 1, and the earth is 6,000 – 10,000 years old.
You would also have serious doubts about any other aspect of evolution being true.
And some of those are well-founded doubts.
One of Darwin’s fears when he was alive was that the fossil record didn’t necessarily prove his theory.
And now 155 years later, the lack of fossils is even more condemning.
For instance, if animals are always evolving, why don’t we have a better fossil record of transitional animals?
Like, why don’t we see more bird-reptiles, or other transitional-species?
All we have for fossils are extinct animals and the animals we have today.
But not transitional ones.
Granted, we have a few humans that have been drawn to be prehistoric man, but most of those men (like the famous java man) are nothing more than a discovered skullcap, a femur, three teeth, and a lot of imagination.
So, one could say…I don’t see any strong evidence for evolution…I’m a young-earth creationist.
And that’s a really common position for Christians.
Many here would also add that God didn’t create Adam and Eve as a single cell…they were adults…so if he didn’t create them in their infancy, perhaps the earth was not created in its infancy.
This is called the Omphalos (om-fuh-luhs) Hypothesis
For the earth to be functioning, things would need to be decomposing already, etc.
So, just because it appears to be older, doesn’t mean it actually is older.
Here’s a second place you could be:
You could say…I believe in micro-evolution…and I also believe the earth is quite old because that is what much of our scientific data tells us.
At this point, you’d have to say that the creation story of Genesis chapter 1 is more of a telling of WHO the creator is
OR…its genre is more of a song (like the Psalms)…rather than a blow-by-blow history…say like the Gospels.
Others point out that the Hebrew word for day in the Bible can also mean a long period of time…or “age”
Sort of like we say, “In ‘his day’ or ‘back in the day’…or in the “age of the dinosaurs”
This second view is called progressive creationism
This would be belief in 2 of the 4 tenets of evolutionary theory…Mirco-evolution and Time.
It’s the view that God created the world…just like he says in the Bible…yet those “days” took place over long periods of time.
This theory actually answers one of the holes in evolutionary theory really well.
The thing that Darwin felt was the single greatest objection to his theory.
Ever heard of the Cambrian Explosion?
According to most scientists, around 540 million years ago, all of a sudden, complex animals popped up all over the place
Like most of the major animal groups we have today.
Which doesn’t make a lot of sense if animal life is evolving slowly over millions of years.
You don’t just jump from simple celled organisms to reptiles.
And the progressive creationist would just say…it’s not animals evolving (for there is no such thing), but that’s merely proof of God bringing another era of creation into being. Another “day” or “age” of creation.
The third option you could be is called “Theistic Evolution”
It’s to believe in the first 3 parts of evolution: Micro-evolution, to believe the earth is old, and to believe species evolved over time from a common ancestor, BUT to believe that GOD guided the whole process…not nothingness and random chance…like full-blown evolutionist would say.
There are Christians who believe this, and they would say they do so because it doesn’t violate any of the major creeds of Christianity…which is technically true.
It’s not a hill to die on per se
It’s not (Is the Bible true…did Jesus actually resurrect…is Jesus God…it’s not one of those)
However, you do see significantly less Christians hold to this position though, and the reasons would be:
It’s significantly harder to reconcile with Genesis 1-3…
Particularly the story of Adam and Eve
You have to answer questions like, “So when did man become human enough that God gave them a soul?”
When did humanity actually commit the “original sin?” and so forth
So maybe you’re thinking, “David, which one are you?”
I’d love to tell you…but I don’t know.
And that’s not a cowardice thing…I’m rarely accused of being a coward.
I’m just honestly not sure.
I think…by now…I have my leanings, but I’m honestly not completely sure.
But what I AM completely sure about is WHO Created it.
Who started it.
And I think that is 80% of this debate.
And it’s where the debate must begin.
We’ve got to realize that so few people outside of Christianity even care about these other views.
And that if we start our debates by engaging in a discussion about the intricacies of evolution, that’s a hard place to start.
But if you start the discussion at: “So where did it all come form in the first place?!?”
“WHO baked the cake in the first place?!?”
THEN…the question of how the cake rose to being…becomes a significantly more minor question…and often one of personal preference.
Listen, someone can design the best argument for full-blown evolution ever…but if they can’t explain how something came out of nothing, their theory is irrelevant.
It’s like coming up with a complex, detailed theory for how to operate an iPhone, but never being able to explain how to turn it on.
It’s actually the CHRISTIAN who can stand with popular science on the creation of the universe, while the atheist has to come up w/ odd conspiracy theories.
And I don’t want you to think I’m trying to completely minimize those different positions on the age of the earth, etc....
They are important. And you should study and think through them.
But they’re not the main question.
And if, we as Christians, want to actually start having effective discussions in this arena, we HAVE to shift the focus.
SCIENCE LEADS TO FAITH
So if science doesn’t have to contradict faith…how does it interact with faith?
How would we state that?
Author Lee Strobel, puts it this way:
“Faith in God is a reasonable step in the same direction that the scientific evidence is pointing” – Lee Strobel
And I love that!
Because remember…the main point of this series…is that EVERYONE has faith.
The naturalist has FAITH that…since they can’t explain the origins of life…that chemistry must have produced it…or it must have come from aliens
Or FAITH that the universe just appeared out of nothing.
But that’s FAITH, right?
I’d even say…A LOT of faith.
And I would say that Christianity is merely just the next reasonable step in the same direction that the scientific evidence is pointing.
That’s why we’re seeing a reversing of trends and more and more young scientists coming to faith.
Or Christian scientists like Francis Collins – Who President Obama appointed as the Director of the National Institute of Health
Or take Allan Sandage for instance.
Sandage is basically the most influential astronomer of the 20th century.
He played the key role in the scientific community’s understanding of not just the expansion of the universe, but the universe itself.
Sandage was an atheist (like Francis Collins too) for much of his professional life
But as his knowledge of science and universe increased, he eventually professed faith in Christ at the age of 50.
Saying that after learning more about the intricacies of both the human body and the entire universe that the only reasonable conclusion was to believe in God.
My prayer is that this entire series has led you to the same conclusion.
That the Christian faith…although many have their objections…is actually the most reasonable worldview one could land on.
That yes…Jesus did in fact rise from the dead…and it’s reasonable to believe so
That yes…Jesus…IS…the way the truth the life…
That even the hard realities of suffering and hell, don’t stop us from still having a very reasonable faith.
And that even science…leads to faith…rather than contradicting it.
And I pray that this series has strengthened your faith.
That your faith in Jesus and the Bible has been increased, and the roots in which you believe it…have been deepened.
And I pray that this series, as we keep the videos on our website, will be a great resource to you in the future…as questions come up.
And I pray that as your friends ask you questions about God, that you would be able to, as 1 Peter says,
(1 Peter 3:15) – NIV
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
May God use us…to spread his truth…and change the world.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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