September 7, 2020 Daniel Harrison

Is Science Ridding the Need For God?

This post is number two of a six-part blog series introducing the science and God debate.

1. The Lure of New Atheism on the Next Generation

2. Is Science Ridding the Need For God?

3. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (a)

4. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (b)

5. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (c)

6. Conclusion: Follow the Evidence Where it Leads

 


In last week’s post, I introduced statistics on young people leaving the Christian faith around the time they leave high school. It is common for parents to be baffled as to how this could happen when their children grew up in church community.

This speaks greatly of the local church’s responsibly to engage intellectually with parents and children on cultural moral issues. “Because the Bible says so,” isn’t sufficient anymore. Youth need to know why one way of living is better than another.

At 16-years-old, I had a coworker tell me, “you only believe what you do because your parents raised you that way.” I sat silently staring at the floor embarrassed and thinking to myself, “wow, he’s right.”

When a child is raised in any religion through hereditary succession, it is normal to question the validity of that religion. This especially happens at the age they start to reason about faith and the world. In fact, this is encouraged.

When professors, podcasters, celebrities, and YouTubers give answers to life’s toughest questions, while the church keeps its head in the sand regarding them, what do you expect?

In this post, I will talk about one of the biggest barriers that is hindering the effectiveness of churches and family discipleship within culture.

It’s a new ideology not outwardly taught, but silently and inherently conveyed.

What are you chasing?

What in your life are you longing for? Whether it’s a family, a marriage, a successful career, freedom, there is something. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s summed up in one word: meaning.

You want a meaningful life. Everyone does. We chase it from the moment we wake until the end of the day. We repeat our search for significance everyday through dreams and plans. But how often do we consider the end of our lives?

Jesus tells us what we desperately want. He makes clear the ultimate aim of our lives: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

“To know you,” he said. Our ultimate desire is to know God.

But this knowing isn’t merely head knowledge, it’s a heart knowledge. It is the reality of an eternal life available now in the soul of man through an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Nothing in culture can fill us with this knowledge. It’s a gift only found in God by those who seek him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Interestingly, universities established our country on this value.

Universities had a great start

The first Ivy League school, for example, was founded 18 years after we arrived on this continent.

In 1646, Harvard adopted the “Rules and Precepts“ which stated: “Everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”

Furthermore, they required students to read the Scriptures and pray twice daily. 1

How fascinating that it was academically required to consider the end of your life, that glorious transition of conscious into new dimensions of spiritual reality—eternal life, that is—and study toward that end.

I’m sure you’ve discovered by now much has changed since 1646.

Fast forward to the years 1986-1987. Derek Bok, President of Harvard, who served three Presidential administrations, released what he called, “President’s Report.” His purpose was to find solutions for the moral failures in certain financial arenas and political life within the nation.

His hope was to strengthen the moral character of their graduates. But it differed greatly from Harvard’s beginning.

Here was his appeal:

“Religious institutions no longer seem as able as they once were to impart basic values to the young. In these circumstances, universities, including Harvard, need to think hard about what they can do in the face of what many perceive as a widespread decline in ethical standards.”

He notes, that in previous days, “the instructors aim was… to foster a belief in commonly accepted moral values.” But now, “Today’s course in applied ethics does not seek to convey a set of moral truths but tries to encourage the student to link carefully about complex moral issues.”

He concludes the “principle aim,” now, isn’t to “impart ‘right answers’ but to make the students more perceptive in detecting ethical problems when they arise, better acquainted with the best moral thought that has accumulated through the ages, and more equipped to reason about the ethical issues they will face.” 2

This posed a new problem.

Without a framework of moral knowledge, how can we ‘detect problems’ when they arise and reason ‘right answers?’ How could a professor with no moral framework tell a student that their ethical views are misguided?

Without a framework of moral knowledge, how can we 'detect problems' when they arise and reason 'right answers?' Click To Tweet

Universities founded themselves with a unified set of moral principles. This prepared students with various disciplines to live and serve culture positively and virtuously.

But today, students live in moral crisis. What happened?

Introducing Scientism

Somewhere along the way, scientists began to rid their departments of the guiding principles of moral values in their work. Religious belief turned into superstition, where only hard evidences of scientific discovery had answers to life.

The humanities, were left to shoulder the conversation of moral ethics on their own. But they would soon follow.

Today, the reigning worldviews dominating universities are relativism and scientism. Relativism rejects absolute truth. “Look within yourself,” it says. “What’s true for you may be false for me. What’s false for me may be true for you.”

Scientism however, claims to be the only way to truth and nothing else matters. This is the ideology which has become a main factor for young Christians leaving the faith.

The Only Genuine Knowledge of Reality

J.P. Moreland is a distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot University. In his book, Scientism and Secularism, he defines scientism and its affects on culture. Most alarmingly, he shows how it undermines the church’s ability to mature disciples.

“Scientism is the view that the hard sciences like chemistry, biology, physics, and astronomy provide the only genuine knowledge of reality. At the very least, the scientific ideology is vastly superior from any other ideology. Religion and ethics are acceptable, but only if they are viewed as subjective to scientism.”

Throughout his career, he keeps bumping into this, “dark, hideous… and evil” ideology. It is everywhere, like, “the air we breathe”—a subtle message portrayed through academia and media.

Scientism claims that the hard sciences alone, “have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality.” Everything else, he says, “especially ethics, theology and philosophy, is at least according to scientism, based on private emotions, blind faith, or cultural upbringing.”

As a result, the values and disciplines that once gave the western world a source of knowledge and wisdom are now, “said to give us no truth about reality, at least no truth that can be supported by evidence and argumentation.” 3

According to scientism—history, theology, language arts, and philosophy offer no truth at all. Believing in God is now equivalent to believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and unicorns.

God-of-the-gaps

The infamous Stephen Hawking perpetuated the idea that only science matters toward the discovery of truth.

He referred to God as “god-of-the-gaps.” The idea is that throughout history, whenever humans had a gap in understanding of how something worked, they simply said, “God did it.” The God of Lightening for example, was the best explanation in pre-scientific eras.

But thanks to modern science, we now understand the physics of the atmosphere and God is not necessary as an explanation.

In his book The Grand Design, he asserts, “Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”

As science advances, the gap closes. Eventually, there will be no need for God at all. For science will be the authority of all cognitive understanding.

It is quite humorous that he says, “philosophy is dead,” when his entire book is his philosophical stance on science.

These are the types of ideologies that young people are facing regularly. Let’s be real though. These are the things we all are facing. I have no doubt some of you reading this post are questioning the worldview of Christianity.

And that’s why I started this blog—to help you reason with your worldview, and to strengthen you with tools and confidence to live joyfully and faithfully in an age of skepticism.

And that’s why I started this blog, to help you reason with your worldview, to live joyfully and stand faithfully in an age of skepticism. Click To Tweet

Apparent Contradictions

When you hear certain theories about evolution or the origins of the universe, and compare them to what you were taught as a child, you may find apparent contradictions.

For example, astrophysicists conclude that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. You may have heard an interpretation that Scripture teaches the universe is only 6,000 years old. This is, as we will uncover, not true. There’s much to discover about those first few verses of Genesis.

Nonetheless, we perceive contradictions, question the Scriptures, and consider maybe we were wrong all along. Then we ask an invalid question: Who is right? Science or Scripture? 

Or maybe you’ve read a book similar to Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, where he cherry-picks Bible verses to create an allusion of contradiction. Given that he doesn’t study theology, it is certainly interesting that he uses superficial knowledge of the Bible to build a case against it.

Cases that sound appealing to those who don’t know the Bible.

Scientism isn’t science

The idea that science and Christianity do not mix is maintained in our school systems. The inherent message is portrayed—you have to choose between belief in God and science.

Apologist John Lennox tells the story of arriving to a Christian university to debate atheist Richard Dawkins. As he pulled in, he saw a sign that read, “Science Versus God Debate.” He noted the category mistake the university students made, in pitting science against religion.

The Christian students who made the banner, didn’t even realize what they were doing. Certainly, it would’ve been more accurate if the sign conveyed, “Scientism Versus God Debate.” But this is the underlining message slowly infiltrating mainstream culture. Science and religion do not mix.

Are there contradictions between science and Christianity? Do we have to choose between empirical evidence of the natural sciences and what the Scriptures teach? Can you be a Christian and a scientist? The cultural question might be, can you be religious and still educated?

To be continued…

As bearers of the torch of God’s truth, we must address the false assumptions scientism has brought into culture. 4

In adequately doing so, we increase our ability to strengthen believers and equip them to influence others with the gospel.

We have two options for how we will respond.

One, we will learn to engage apologetically with our culture, to lovingly defend faith and adequately offend falsehood.

By becoming “prepared to give the reason for the hope we have,” we are able to answer the questioner’s top faith questions (1 Peter 3:15). More importantly, we model what the human looks like truly free.

The second option is to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the moral crisis of culture. To think we aren’t capable of making a difference and giving up altogether. This leaves our youth stranded on a desert island to fend for themselves.

But theologian Larry Hart brings us back to the solution,

“The greatest need in an increasingly pagan America is a rediscovery of the biblical revelation that informed her ideological foundations.” 5

Next week we will look more into the compatibility of science and Christianity.

Comment Below: Have you noticed the subtleties of scientism in your life and work? What challenges have you run into concerning the top questions people ask? 

 

Resources for further study.

If you’d like to learn more about apologetics start here:

77 FAQs About God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell

Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli

Is Your Church Ready? by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler

Origins by Deborah B Haarsma and Loren D Haarsma

So the Next Generation Will Know by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace

 

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Comments (8)

    • Thank you Linda! I really appreciate the reads and the comment. It is an interesting and difficult era we live in. But there is good news too! Christianity is spreading rapidly all around the world and is projected to be the dominate religion one hundred years from now. The US has struggled mostly, but there is also signs of renewal. It’s a wonderful time to follow Jesus in history.

  1. Nila Hagood

    Dear Daniel, well researched, thought out, and presented, thank you. Having been one who chose to walk away from organized religionin my late teens, and have at last returned anew (Thank you God), so I have a perspective to share which may or may not be germane.

    I was told I was baptized as a Methodist, though no proof has survived that I was ever baptized at all. I received my first bible as a Protestant, a reward for memorizing the names of the New Testament chapters. I was confirmed as an Episcopalian. (a lot more memorization involved with that, not to mention the ceremonies). I cannot explain why or how I retained my belief, I certainly didn’t practice it actively, but I remember that feeling of peace and have searched for it for decades.

    What I know now, is that all of this exposure to formulaic religion, with all its trappings and traditions, left me feeling like I was still missing something. The key for me was almost a lightning strike last December. I finally understood…I finally “got it”, I finally felt it again, and I will never let it go. Oddly enough this lightening bolt first struck while I was in the middle of narrating a horror novel (long story). It struck again when a girl I knew in childhood contacted me asking how she could get her book made into audio. I ended up saying I would do it for her, and the journey that sent me on became a passion. (The title is “Growing a Wise Heart”, and doing this book and communicating with her has saved my life and my soul. She is, by the way, now following your Blog).

    What Church 212 does, I hope, at least for your church children and for me, is to bring it to life, make it real, show the proof, guide the members toward ever greater understanding, not only of the bible, but of the relationship we can have with God.

    None of this excludes science or scientism, there is a rightful place for both science and God. The argument should not be which one, but more of know about both and find peace in the middle.

    • Nila, thank you so much for sharing this. I appreciate you taking the time to share your background and experience. The religious performance treadmill is a trap that many fall into. As you have said, it fails to yield the true freedom that only the gospel can bring. I think it’s amazing that you have found a passion with the narration. Heather showed me some of your work. It is great! Thank you for your kind words. Keep Christ at the center always. It’s always him working in us that yields life and vitality. And that’s super cool about your friend!

  2. Stephanie Harrison

    Daniel
    Great blog. Made me really think about my own youthful thinking and how I moved forward in my on theology and beliefs. Your writing caused me to consider how I got to where I am today.
    I to questioned my childhood belief systems around the age of seventeen yet I find today after living a life in Gods word and In the church arena; I still believe strongly in what I was taught as a youngster and honestly I haven’t strayed far from the systems that was put in place as a youngster.
    I’m curious after reading your statement, “At 16-years-old, I had a coworker tell me, “you only believe what you do because your parents raised you that way.” Do you find today your beliefs differ from the way you were taught?
    You’re blog stirred my heart for the third generation removed, Isaiah’s generation. Will he come back to his root system, or was our instruction in vane? Also having the opportunity to live long enough to see how this plays out in the forth generation which is Heshmon’s generation. Then possibly getting to see one more generation.
    Culture sure changes things. But Gods word holds true. It’s tough to watch today’s generation bang their head against the wall and struggle with youthful ways in finding God.
    I’ve got to watch three generations pan out from my past, now watching three generations in my present.
    Again, bringing us back to, “Do you believe in the basic ways you were taught?
    I appreciate that everyone comes to a place in life to find their way to God. With today’s culture changing and steeped in scientific beliefs, makes it tough to reach them. Lord, help us!
    Thank you for digging deep and helping us stay relevant in reaching generations to come with the art of scripture.
    Praying your heart continues to beat to the mission of which you were called. Mom

    • Thank you!! I really appreciate the response! Oh yes, I believe what I was taught! It’s so true what you’re saying. A new generation is seeking freedom, but what they really are looking for is direction. We just have to do what we are called to do, be faithful, build relationships and love. And of course remember God is sovereign and knows what he’s going! Thank you for your kind words!

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