Science discovers and defines what has been observed. On the basis of such research, theories are devised to explain the facts, and ‘laws’ developed to identify commonly occurring activity. These ‘laws’ are accepted as true and factual until proved false, at which time new ‘laws’ are devised. Science works from observable facts to generate knowledge and understanding.
Religion, on the other hand, is belief in and worship of a God or gods. It demands ‘faith’ in the message and in the messenger. Religion does not exist in a vacuum; it is built upon the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of others. The Christian religion is built upon acceptance of literature that describes the life of its founder, Jesus Christ, his moral teaching and the social, historical context of his life and work. While external evidence can help to evidence the validity of religion, religion does not depend on external evidence to prove or disprove its critical statements.
For example; while archaeology may provide some information to support the accuracy of the Bible, there may be other archaeological information that would challenge such a claim. Similarly, the stars and the planetary systems do not prove the existence of God, although they may confirm to the believer his or her faith (as in Psalm 19 v1). Religious belief cannot be proved true or false by evidence because it is a matter of faith. One accepts the message of the Bible because one trusts that it contains valid teaching. To explain these ideas, the writers of the Bible used a wide range of literary styles; from poetry to narrative, drama to biography, reported oratory, dream exploration and many others, but never a scientific analysis. The teaching that the Bible contains is accepted in faith, and does not depend on science to confirm or deny its reliability.
We need to practice care when using knowledge gained by scientific research to explain our religious faith. Equally we need to be careful in using the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook. It is not. It was written in a pre-scientific era, it does not use scientific language, nor does it seek to use scientific concepts and laws. We now smile at the notion that the earth is flat or that the sun goes round the earth, but previous generations argued strongly for these ideas, using passages like Rev7:1, Job 38:13, Dan 4:11, Psa 104:5 & Eccl 1:5 to support their belief.
Science is an extremely helpful activity, providing many of the benefits of our modern world. We should respect the findings of such research and be grateful for it. If scientific understanding helps to enrich our sense of awe at the amazing universe or assists us in understanding the complexities of a microscopic world, then so be it. But let us not put scientific research in opposition to Bible teaching; the two are fundamentally different. Science may help us to understand the Bible but I doubt whether it works the other way round!
By: Colin E