Many years ago, I was involved in a passionate debate on the “letters to the editor” pages of a local newspaper. My debate opponent, let’s call him Mr. A., was a proud atheist. He repeatedly wrote that Christianity hindered scientific advancement. In one of his many letters he lamented that if we only lived in a “purely secular, religion-free world,” by now mankind already would have “cured cancer, colonized the moon, and made life fuller and richer for everyone.”
In another letter, he offered the view that modern science came into existence only after certain enlightened people stopped believing Christian fairy tales. He stated: “If it were not for secularism there would be little, if any, science, technology or engineering.”
In one of my many reply letters, I wrote the following:
Mr. A., please read “The Soul of Science,” by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. You will learn that most of the fathers of modern science—Copernicus, Kepler, Boyle, Newton, and a host of others—were devout believers in God. More importantly, it was their Judeo-Christian worldview which spurred their scientific inquiry and achievement.
Let me explain. Before the rise of modern science, there were two ways of viewing the natural world. The first view held that nature was completely random and arbitrary. There was no rhyme or reason to it and, therefore, there was no reason to study it, as no uniform laws or principles could be found.
The second view was pantheistic, believing that nature itself was Divine. It was thought that studying or experimenting with nature was sacrilegious—a desecration of the gods.
The Judeo-Christian worldview changed everything. Now it was understood that an intelligent, rational God had created nature. There were uniform laws and principles to be discovered, and since nature was God’s creation, rather than a god itself, it was not sacrilegious to study nature.
Copernicus knew the universe was “wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.” All of his remarkable discoveries were fueled by this understanding of God.
Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Newton even used his scientific discoveries for evangelism, persuading his contemporaries of the existence of God.
All of the scientific and medical marvels we enjoy today came about because of a solid Christian foundation. The realization that God is orderly, and that His creation is good, produced the scientific revolution.
Apparently, Mr. A., you’ve been force-fed the current propaganda which white-washes the Christian roots of modern science. Prof. Phillip Johnson recently wrote, “The alliance between atheism and science is a temporary aberration and that, far from being inimical to science, Christian theism has played and will continue to play an important role in the growth of scientific understanding.”
It’s been almost two decades since that “letters to the editor” debate took place. I have no idea what happened to Mr. A., although I do know the fate of that particular newspaper: it went out of business. But the idea that Christianity is the foe of modern science has not gone out of business; many secular teachers repeat this false claim to impressionable students every year. The facts of history, however, are the exact opposite. Modern science owes its very existence to the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Faith and science are not in conflict. They, in fact, complement each other. St. Pope John Paul II discussed this in his brilliant encyclical, “Fides et Ratio” (Faith and Reason).
It’s high time Christians stopped sitting silently on the sidelines whenever secularists claim that faith is opposed to science. Faith is the foundation of science. That’s the truth, and the truth shall set you free.