The Bible and Science

by Dan Andersen

Young Johnny (or Joanie) is a pupil in middle school. He (or she) comes home one day after school and exclaims, "Mom (or Dad), we learned in school today that God doesn't make it rain after all!" The middle school science class has just studied what we call "The Cycle of Water in Nature." The sequence of precipitation, evaporation, cooling, condensation, and subsequent precipitation has been explained and illustrated with appropriate diagrams. And so the youngster, now enlightened about the process that leads to rain, now enlightened as to cause and effect in regard to rain, makes the exciting exclamation to a parent upon returning home. God does not appear in the process. God is not listed in the cause and effect sequences. So the conclusion is formed that God is not involved, contrary to the verse learned in Sunday School: "...he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45).

This scenario has surely taken place countless numbers of times. It probably represents the simplest illustration of how a "scientific explanation" does not place God at some crucial step of what we call a "natural process." It can be multiplied manifold. It is typical of all scientific explanations of natural processes.

Notice the ease with which a great philosophical "leap" has been made. If there is a process, then God is not involved. Perhaps a fitting corollary would be that if God is involved, then there is no process. With such presuppositions, we can imagine what it would take to show that God does make it rain. There would be no traceable process. There would be no characteristic accompaniments such as clouds or critical humidity and temperature levels. Rain would simply come "out of thin air" with no detectable causal factors except, perhaps, the prayers of certain intercessors! We do not experience rain under such circumstances, or lack of circumstances, so we conclude that God is not involved in making it rain.

Let us note that a Biblical incident in which the account clearly indicates that "God did make it rain" goes contrary to such a conclusion. Elijah had claimed there would be no rain for a few years except at his word. Later, his word came: "there is the sound of a heavy rain." At first there were no indications. Then came "a cloud as small as a man's hand." Then came skies blackened with clouds, a rising wind, and heavy rain. See 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-45. James indicates that God was definitely involved. Elijah first "prayed earnestly that it would not rain." Later, "he prayed, and the heavens gave rain." See James 5:16-18. So God, in an act in direct response to human intercession, very obviously made use of "natural processes." Jeremiah twice (10:13; 51:16) echoes the Psalmist (135:7) in associating God's rain with other natural phenomena: "...he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures."

Clearly we must not develop the mind-set that God is somehow "above process" or that God is a smaller god if He makes use of process. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to reason that "it would be most natural for the Creator of natural processes to use natural processes!"

Let's consider further the idea that "if there is no process God doesn't do it" and the suggested corollary "if God does it there is no process." There seems to be a feeling among some devout persons that the latter is a statement of Christian conviction, while the former has atheistic implications. So Christians are to believe that "God's actions are beyond process" but "those (atheistic) scientists, unraveling intricate details of natural processes, conclude there is no God." This simplistic approach makes faith and science antagonistic and contrary to one another. It leads to the exhortation altogether too often presented to young people: "You must choose between the Bible and science; you cannot have both."

A bit of reflection will show that such ideas are clearly wrong and have no substantial base. The Bible contains many incidents and events where God clearly uses or works in and with both physical and mental processes. Examples can be found in the Biblical history of Israel (consider the Exodus and the wilderness sojourn), its patriarchs (especially Joseph), its kings, and its prophets. Notice how a bow drawn "at a venture" fulfilled the prophecy of Micaiah concerning the evil King Ahab (1 Kings 22:28,34). The great empires surrounding Israel were, at times, instruments of God's dealing with His people (note Isaiah 10:5). The greatest example of all is the process of the conception and birth of the Son of God to be the Kinsman-Redeemer of humanity.

God's actions in such Bible events and circumstances have led to the familiar expression: "God is the Author of circumstances." Many, in saying it, believe they are quoting a verse from the Bible! And many find "the hand of God" active in events and circumstances of life - death, birth, tragedy, blessing, answers to prayer. How often we hear a sincere conviction concerning a loss of life, perhaps in an accident, that "God took him," or some similar sentiment. If this is the case, the hand of God must have been active both in human mental processes as well as in physical matter to bring about the circumstances interpreted in this manner.

The claim of an antagonistic dichotomy between the Bible and science or between faith and science is false and misleading. The history of science gives impressive evidence that some of the greatest contributions to scientific knowledge in all fields of science are from people of faith. Many thousands of scientists today, in every field of science, are persons of deep religious conviction and devotion, representing a great diversity of religious thought. Throughout the entire era of modern science there have been ever so many scientists who are devoted and devout Christians and who see no conflict or contradiction between a study of the Bible as the Word of God and a study of the physical creation as the Work of God.

Finally, if we can conclude that God is not "above process," that God is not a smaller god if He utilizes process, then it would make good sense to think that God could make use of process, of sequential operations, in His acts of creation. The universe, the Solar System, the Earth, the forms of life upon Earth give evidence of process having taken place and still taking place. The God of the universe is the God of the "natural processes" that take place within it. It would be most fitting and "natural" to conclude that the God of such processes would make use of them in the work of creation, in the work of creating and developing the universe, in the work of creating and developing the Earth, in the work of creating and developing the many forms of life upon the Earth. If "the hand of God" can be recognized as active in events and circumstances recorded in the pages of the Bible, if "the hand of God" can be recognized in events and circumstances in the daily life of His creatures, then it surely would not be inconsistent to conclude that "the hand of God" can be recognized in events and processes of His creation activities.

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