I have an engineering degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and have always been a firm admirer of true science. Contemporary thought often mistakenly believes that science and Christianity are incompatible. But, nothing is further from the truth. The historical list of noteworthy scientists who were also Christians is staggering. Here are just a very few of the dozens and dozens of Christian scientists who made significant discoveries and advances in the various fields of science.
Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Brahe "not only designed and built instruments, he also calibrated them and checked their accuracy periodically. He thus revolutionized astronomical instrumentation." His work is considered to have been essential for the discoveries of Johannes Kepler. Brahe was a Lutheran.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Is considered among the fathers of empiricism and is credited with establishing the inductive method of experimental science via what is called the scientific method toda.
Johannes Kepler (1571–1630)
His model of the cosmos based on nesting Platonic solids was explicitly driven by religious ideas; his later and most famous scientific contribution, the Kepler's laws of planetary motion, was based on empirical data that he obtained from Tycho Brahe's meticulous astronomical observations, after Tycho died in 1601. He had wanted to be a theologian at one time and his Harmonice Mundi discusses Christ at points.
Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
Scientist who had many problems with the Inquisition for defending heliocentrism in the convoluted period brought about by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
René Descartes (1596–1650)
He was a key thinker of the Scientific Revolution. He did important work on geometry and is honoured by having the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy partially concerns theology and he was devoted to reconciling his ideas with the dogmas of Catholic Faith to which he was loyal.
Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
Jansenist thinker; well known for Pascal's law (physics), Pascal's theorem (math), and Pascal's Wager (theology).
Robert Boyle (1627–1691)
Scientist and theologian who argued that the study of science could improve glorification of God.
Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727)
He is regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Newton's study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions. He wrote Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (Nontrinitarianism). He invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits.
Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1787)
Mathematician and major contributor to the development of Hydrodynamics. The Bernoulli Principle was named after him.
Lord Kelvin (1824–1907)
He gave a famous address to the Christian Evidence Society. In science he won the Copley Medal, the Royal Medal, and was important in Thermodynamics.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
George Washington Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.
Max Planck (1858–1947)
He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics. He had been raised an observant Lutheran and was an elder in his church from 1920 to his death. In 1937 he delivered the lecture, "Religion and Natural Science", stating that both religion and science require a belief in God.
One of the biggest obstacles today, in the minds of many, is the relationship between Darwinian evolution and Christianity. There are only 3 options:
- reject Darwinian evolution in favor of Biblical creation (intelligent design)
- reject Biblical creation is favor of Darwinian evolution
- incorporate Darwinian evolution into Biblical creation (theistic evolution)
After studying the issue for decades, I came to the conclusion that option 1 has the strongest objective evidence and is the only logical avenue of belief for a Christian. While I understand the support for option 3 in some quarters of the church - adapting it tends to be devastating to the Biblical worldview, inevitably disintegrating one's Biblical belief system until only tatters are left.
Darwin's Theory of Evolution - A Theory In Crisis
Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis in light of the tremendous advances we've made in molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics over the past fifty years. We now know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems on the cellular level. Specified complexity pervades the microscopic biological world. Molecular biologist Michael Denton wrote, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."
And we don't need a microscope to observe irreducible complexity. The eye, the ear and the heart are all examples of irreducible complexity, though they were not recognized as such in Darwin's day. Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
In 2009, I noted Wayne Grudem adapted the same position as the one I had gravitated towards and advocated that "it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution" Below are his comments on the subject in a forward he wrote for the book, "Should Christians Embrace Evolution".
Ultimately, you have to choose one or the other - evolution or creation. Without exception, virtually every Christian I've encountered who adapted a position of theistic evolution, eventually began compromising other key Biblical doctrines until ultimately their faith in God was shattered.
FOREWORD to: Should Christians Embrace Evolution
edited by Norman Nevin (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2009)
This is a highly significant book because it persuasively argues that Christians cannot accept modern evolutionary theory without also compromising essential teachings of the Bible. It may at first seem easy to say ‘God simply used evolution to bring about the results he desired,’ as some are proposing today. That view is called ‘theistic evolution.’ However, the contributors to this volume, both scientists and biblical scholars, show that adopting theistic evolution leads to many positions contrary to the teaching of the Bible, such as these: (1) Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but they were just two Neolithic farmers among about ten million other human beings on earth at that time, and God just chose to reveal himself to them in a personal way. (2) Those other human beings had already been seeking to worship and serve God or gods in their own ways. (3) Adam was not specially formed by God of ‘dust from the ground’ (Gen. 2:7) but had two human parents. (4) Eve was not directly made by God out f a ‘rib that the Lord God had taken from the man’ (Gen. 2:22), but she also had two human parents. (5) Many human beings both then and now are not descended from Adam and Eve. (6) Adam and Eve’s sin was not the first sin. (7) Human physical death had occurred for thousands of years before Adam and Eve’s sin – it was part of the way living things had always existed. (8) God did not impose any alteration in the natural world when he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin.
As for the scientific evidence, several chapters in this book show that deeper examination of the evidence actually adds more weight to the arguments for intelligent design than for Darwinian evolution.
What is at stake? A lot: The truthfulness of the three foundational chapters for the entire Bible (Genesis 1 – 3), belief in the unity of the human race, belief in the ontological uniqueness of human beings among all God’s creatures, belief in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God, belief in the parallel between condemnation through representation by Adam and salvation through representation by Christ, belief in the goodness of God’s original creation, belief that suffering and death today are the result of sin and not part of God’s original creation, and belief that natural disasters today are the result of the fall and not part of God’s original creation. Belief in evolution erodes the foundations.
Evolution is secular culture’s grand explanation, the overriding ‘meta-narrative’ that sinners accept with joy because it allows them to explain life without reference to God, with no accountability to any Creator, no moral standards to restrain their sin, ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18) – and now theistic evolutionists tell us that Christians can just surrender to this massive attack on the Christian faith and safely, inoffensively, tack on God, not as the omnipotent God who in his infinite wisdom directly created all living things, but as the invisible deity who makes absolutely no detectable difference in nature of living beings as they exist today. It will not take long for unbelievers to dismiss the idea of such a God who makes no difference at all. To put it in terms of an equation, when atheists assure us that
matter + evolution + 0 = all living things,
and then theistic evolutionists answer, no, that
matter + evolution + God = all living things,
it will not take long for unbelievers to conclude that, therefore,
God = 0
I was previously aware that theistic evolution had serious difficulties, but I am now more firmly convinced than ever that it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution. We have to choose one or the other.
Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies
Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona, USA