Why Science and Faith Can (and Do) Coexist

Picture by Halfblue

Picture by Halfblue

“It’s unreasonable to think that God exists! Where’s the evidence?”

“If you believe that there is a God out there who made you and everything else, you’ve been duped by religious wishful thinking.”

As a Christian, I’ve heard these statements before, and I’ve had to wrestle with the validity of my faith in light of them. Maybe you have too.

Statements like these seem to indicate that God’s existence and scientific discovery are at odds in an all-out slugfest for our acceptance. But is that what’s really going on here? I want to unpack the core issues at work in this debate and briefly show how our faith in God can indeed be strengthened by the fields of science.

Maybe Science Isn’t the Problem

Let’s clarify some terms. When I use the word “science,” I’m referring to the empirical process of observing and analyzing the world and its systems. This includes methods like experimentation, measurement, mathematization, and many more.

The scientific process has given us numerous incredible discoveries about our world within the limits of its observational ability. It is within these boundaries that Oxford math professor John Lennox states,”The more that science reveals, the more I find myself worshiping the genius of the God who did it that way.”1

So the “science” that seems to be in conflict with faith is not this process of observation and analysis of our world. Instead, what we’re really dealing with is naturalism, also known as materialism or scientism.

These terms refer to a worldview (not a scientific process) that claims that there is nothing in existence except physical matter, meaning that “everything in the world must therefore be the result of the strict mathematical laws of physics and blind chance.”2 This removes the possibility for the existence of anything immaterial or spiritual and makes science the final arbiter to truth.

A Brief Word on Naturalism

This naturalistic worldview gained ground during the 18th Century Enlightenment period in Europe and remains today as a popular avenue for attempting to disprove God’s existence. I’ll share two major flaws of the naturalistic argument, and be sure to check out the resources below for more thorough explanations.

First, naturalism removes any sense of meaning or consequence from human existence. If all that exists in this world is the physical, as naturalism professes, then there are no eternal repercussions for one’s actions. If this worldview was indeed true, you might expect to see people living in complete nihilism or chaos, without any regard for morality or consequence.

But when I observe the world around me, that isn’t what I see. The question has to be raised: What can account for the nature of human morality, if naturalism cannot? I believe that theism, and particularly Christianity, gives us the most satisfactory explanation as beings created in the image of God.

Second, naturalism itself stands as a contradiction to its own claims. As Lennox puts it, “[Naturalism] does not need to be refuted by external argument: it self-destructs…The statement that only science can lead to truth is not itself deduced from science. It is not a scientific statement by rather a statement about science, that is, it is a metascientific statement. Therefore, if [naturalism’s] basic principle is true, the statement expressing [naturalism] must be false. [Naturalism] refutes itself.”3

Handling Some Key Questions

Can you believe in God and also accept the claims of science?

Absolutely! Some of the greatest contributors to scientific discovery, including Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kelvin, were theists, and many were specifically Christian. Many of these scientists hoped their findings would influence others to trust more in God’s existence.

Scientists today like Dr. Francis Collins, who directs the National Institutes of Health and served as head of the Human Genome Project, both profess a deep faith in God and continue to make contributions to our world through scientific research.

Naturalism puts up a false dichotomy of science OR God. The true conflict is between naturalism and itself.

What about ___________ (evolution, miracles, the Big Bang, climate change, etc.)?

My best advice is to begin to research these things for yourself from trustworthy sources. There are a few resources below to get you started, but they only begin to scratch the surface. The good news is that there are many incredibly smart Christians in scientific fields that have helped guide the conversations on these kinds of topics.

I have found that when I drop my preconceptions and look at what others have concluded, I find myself, like Lennox, worshiping God even more for the complex and intentional ways in which he has made and continues to sustain his creation. We serve a big, amazing God!

Resources to Check Out

1Is God Relevant? Oxford Professor John Lennox Discusses Science and Faith at Tulane, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uFyubUd464.

2Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 1.

3John Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2007), 42.