September 14, 2020 Daniel Harrison

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

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

Catch up on the series here:

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 posts a through c, I share why the study of God’s world and the study of his Word go together.

We will look at writings of scientists present and past who show the compatibility of science and Scripture.

Living Within Two Dimensions

Today, my daily devotion was Psalm 23, which opens with the well-known, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The term want is another word for lack. It could be translated like this, “because I have submitted myself into God’s care, I don’t need to fear or worry. Jesus provides my basic needs. By relying on him, I am content.”

This message of God-care is missing in our self-focused world.

This entire passage uncovers the reality of living within two dimensions simultaneously. The spiritual and natural. I’ll give you examples from the passage.

The Psalmist follows in verse two, “He makes me lie down in green meadows. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (v. 1-3). The following verse shows us another dimension, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Why does he fear no evil? “For you are with me,” he says. “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v. 4)

The valley of the shadow of death represents a world without God. It is metaphorical for the problem of pain and suffering. Green meadows and still waters represent the sensed and enjoyed presence of God. They are metaphorical for “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

The Christian experience interlaces both dimensions.

The passage continues in verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” And in verse 6, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

David concludes that in a world without God we can, “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 1

There are two kingdoms of which we “live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). The spiritual kingdom of the Heavens, which Jesus tells us occupies the very space around us (Matt 3:2), and the natural kingdom experienced by our five senses—the world of which he gave us dominion (Gen 1:26).

Do not compartmentalize

I wrote in the margins of my Bible the conclusion of my reading. It is what I felt God was strongly speaking to me, “Do not compartmentalize your work from your spiritual life.”

In other words, don’t limit your spiritual “devotion time” to a particular sit down experience, but live within that reality all day long. Enjoy the presence of God in your day-to-day existence in devotion with the Holy Spirit.

Don't limit your spiritual 'devotion time' to a particular sit down experience, but live within that reality all day long. Click To Tweet

Even I, as a pastor, can practice my spiritual disciplines at one particular moment in my day, and then turn to my work and forget about the spiritual dimension in my life. But I should not separate them.

When Jesus said God’s Kingdom is “at hand,” he wasn’t speaking of some future reality. He literally meant that the air we breathe is interwoven with the divine reality and availability of his life in our hearts.

Since eternity is not time-bound, “eternal life” is something we enjoy now.

Premising the Christian Worldview

This is the worldview of every child of God and follower of Jesus.

We consider our day jobs as a part of our devotion to God and apprenticeship to Jesus. Our worldview doesn’t allow us to separate the natural from the supernatural.

As scientist Deborah Haarsma said, “We cannot separate our study of God’s word from our study of God’s world because both come from and point us toward the same God.” 2

In relation to this blog series, it’s important then to encourage the scientist.

Often young scientists are afraid to be open about their worldview because of the cultural pressure to lay aside private opinion and personal philosophy in order to be “objective.” If you are such a person, I want to encourage you that you do not have to be so.

Everything we do in the physical, we do while living in the spiritual. We are made from the dust of the ground and the breath of God. We are matter and consciousness. Material and immaterial. We are body and spirit (Gen 2:7).

We must allow this truth to come to bear on our life and work.

Drawing a Line in the Sand

A few blogs back I told the story of astrophysicist Neil Tyson who explained why it’s unlikely God exists. In that same interview, he expressed disappointment in scientists who combine their religious beliefs with their practice of science.

Here are his exact words,

“In the West, two-thirds of scientists pray to a personal God on the expectation it will intervene in their day’s affairs. But… productive scientists do not bring their Bible, their scripture, their holy books into the lab because they do not mix there. So they draw a line in the sand, and they do one in one place, then they worship on the weekend, Saturday or Sunday.”

“Productive scientists,” according to Tyson, do not let their personal beliefs of the world intermingle with their study of it. Are the majority of scientists unproductive then? Don’t miss his admittance that two-thirds of scientists believe a personal God is involved in their affairs.

I had to stop to think about what he actually said.

If roughly 67% of scientists “pray to a personal God on the expectation it will intervention in their day’s affairs,” then contrastingly, only about 33% share Tyson’s perspective of scientific productivity. More scientists believe their findings prove the existence of God than not.

However, I can’t help but wonder if Tyson lays his personal beliefs aside as he practices science.

Religion, after all, is not much different from worldview or personal philosophy—which all attempt to answer the big questions of life: Where did we come from? Why do we exist? How should we live? Where are we going?

The scientist goes to the lab because he wants answers to the big questions and because he wants to believe them. Do scientists really lay aside their personal philosophy or worldview as they do science?

I believe most do not. I will give you some examples.

Camps and Campaigns

Larry Taunton, award-winning author and freelance columnist, met with the Oxford evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins in his home, in Birmingham, Alabama for a private conversation regarding his book, The God Delusion.

In case you’re not familiar with Richard Dawkins or his book, let me give you a little insight.

Because of his science and worldview, Dawkins believes he has a message the world needs to hear. The God Delusion exists to share that message—”If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” 3

That book was published in 2006.

In 2008 and 2009, he ran what he called the “Atheist Bus Campaign” aimed to share “peaceful and upbeat” messages about atheism on transportation vehicles in Britain. He did this in response to evangelical Christian advertising.

The campaign ran 30 buses across London with the slogan, “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” 4

Dawkins didn’t stop there. He also created a camp for kids teaching them lessons on moral philosophy and evolutionary biology.

A Daily Mail reporter writes,  “And instead of finishing up the day with a toasted marshmallow and round of Kim-bi-ya budding atheists will belt out ‘Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.’ 5

Back to the Interview

Sitting in Dawkin’s living room, Larry asks, “What is the objective of your anti-religious campaign?”

Dawkins responded, “‘I think my ultimate goal would be to convert people away from particular religions toward a rationalist skepticism, tinged with … no, that’s too weak,’ he said, correcting himself, ‘… glorying in the universe and in life. Yes, I would like people to be converted away from religion to skepticism.'” 6

Dawkins gave his motivation for doing science, “to convert people away from particular religions toward a rationalist skepticism.”

Now Dawkins is a highly respected scientist and biologist. But here, he is not leaving his worldview on the other side of the line. He combines them. Science is his leverage toward widening the transforming circle of atheism. This is the purpose of scientism, which I talked about last week.

Is Richard Dawkins an unproductive scientist then? I imagine he is a very accomplished and productive scientist, or he wouldn’t be a professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

Biology’s Good News

Similarly, I read an article from Dr. Seth Shostak who is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, explaining panspermia—the theory that life on earth originated from microorganisms brought to earth from asteroids long ago.

To his credit, he provided evidence that disproved this theory, that microbes would never survive the journey. Nonetheless, he writes why he and many others still promote it.

“We want to see biology’s good news spread to as much of creation as possible… It’s more gratifying to think that we have more exotic origins. If we’re not descended from the gods, at least we might be descended from ancestors on a planet far, far away.” 7

Well known Physicist Paul Davies says something akin,

“There’s no need to invoke anything supernatural in the origins of the universe or of life. I have never liked the idea of divine tinkering: for me it is much more inspiring to believe that a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being.” 8

As mentioned in the first article of this series, consider Stephen Weinburg’s agenda for doing science, “Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.” 9 He might have well said, “How can we use science to disprove God’s existence?”

I hope you didn’t miss the presuppositions, hopes, and desires within these statements.

“We want to see,” “It’s more gratifying to think,” “I have never liked the idea,” “for me it’s much more inspiring to believe,” and “anything we scientists can do to weaken,” are all non-scientific, human presuppositions brought “into the lab.”

Even brilliant scientists cannot escape presuppositions, world views, hopes and desires. And they shouldn’t. These are what drive us to study. And it’s our studies that shape our world views.

Coming up next week

Today, I shared a few examples from a secularistic perspective.

Next week, I will introduce you to some of the writings of Christian scientists and theologians on the harmonious relationship between creation and Christianity. They also do not separate their worldview from their science.

But most importantly, we will look theologically into what the Bible has to say about this relationship.

I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the commonly held belief on this side of science. Dallas Willard, USC Dornsife’s School of Philosophy for 47 years, writes the following:

“The idea that knowledge and of course reality is limited to the world of the natural sciences is the single most disruptive idea on the stage of life today.” — Dallas Willard 10

Part b coming next Monday!

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Comments (5)

  1. Jeremy

    Really good stuff Daniel! I love the statement, “don’t limit your spiritual “devotion time” to a particular sit down experience, but live within that reality all day long. Enjoy the presence of God in your day-to-day existence in devotion with the Holy Spirit.

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