Science vs. Religion: Myth or Reality?
October 21, 2011 § 9 Comments
So often we hear of “Christian” scientists disagreeing with the majority of the scientific community, claiming that the earth is only thousands of years old, declaring evolution is a farce, or simply belittling anyone who disagrees with their beliefs.
As a Christian, this is exactly the reputation which I have to fight against. Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few of us Christians who like to imagine that religion and science can coexist, that we don’t have to choose one over the other. And most Christians will agree with this—after all, God has told us that He has revealed Himself to humanity through creation, so what we learn about creation, then, should teach us something the Creator. That is to say that science and religion should not come to different conclusions, that what we observe about creation and what God tells us about His creation should agree.
Of course if God says something, then it must be true. However, the Bible is full of all sorts of different literary forms, like the poetry found in the Psalms, the parables Jesus speaks, or the exposition given in I and II Chronicles. In order to see what a portion of the Bible means, we must be able to understand the literary context. One example of this is the creation story. I don’t think that Genesis 1 is exposition, nor do in fact most translators of the Bible. An obvious indication of this is the simple indentation of Genesis 1 whose format matches the Psalms rather than the exposition which follows in Genesis 2. At least, that’s how my NIV looks. The actual words also flow much more like poetry, and there’s such obvious use of imagery, notably the parallels between days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6. I can’t help but conclude that Genesis 1 is more of song than history, more wondrous praise for God and declaration that God made everything than a setting forth of how events unfolded in the beginning. As a result, I don’t think the passage really tells us anything about the age of creation, but only about Who made it, so when science suggests that the universe is billions of years old, I have no reservations in accepting that fact.
But how does this relate to aliens? Well, suppose aliens showed up at our door step. That would be an obvious indication from creation that they exist. What would this mean about them? Could they possibly have souls, or could they even be intelligent without souls? Are they caught in sin like us? What would this mean about us? Would we feel compelled to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to them? Would we feel betrayed that God might consider this other part of his creation as special as us?
I’m not sure how everything would be reconciled, but in short, I don’t think Christianity would change in any fundamental way. The one problem with comparing the conclusions of the Bible to our observations about the universe is that we are the ones doing it, and we are fallible. So it is more than possible that we believe false things, because to believe that we understand everything is to believe that we are perfect, and we are definitely not there yet.