Science and the Question of God, Part 5
Today's entry was written by Randy Isaac. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what BioLogos believes here.
Today’s blog is the final entry in a five-part series, which has been adapted from a new Scholarly Article found here. All references have been removed for the blog series but can be found in the full paper. Previously, Randy Isaac introduced evolutionism, creationism, and intelligent design. Today, Isaac introduces the “two-book model” as an alternative approach.
The two-book model
The three ideologies described previously have failed to provide a persuasive answer from science to the question of God. Other philosophical perspectives such as cosmological fine-tuning and the anthropic principle also claim many adherents but these arguments are not compelling for everyone. Many others have and will attempt such an answer. Perhaps some will succeed but we must also consider the possibility that science cannot answer the question of God. The fundamental reason may be understood from the two-book model itself. Consider the version of this model shown in Fig. 1. God has revealed himself to us through his Word and his works. If we distort that methodology, we encounter all sorts of difficulties.
Consider a theology that interprets the Word of God with no acknowledgment of nature. The incarnation then makes no sense. The very concept of God humbling himself to become part of his creation requires that the creation exists and that it has inherent value. Nature cannot be ignored or devalued.
Think of a theology that studies God through nature rather than through the Word of God. This is natural theology, which has waxed and waned through the ages but fails to bring us to a clear picture of God. Without the guidance of the Word of God, we have no basis for determining what aspect of nature reflects God’s character. Is it the beauty of the sunset or the terror of the tornado? Is it the serene color of a flower garden or the voracious feeding of a carnivore?
Studying nature through the Word of God rather than through science leads to a perspective that is sometimes called “Scriptural Geology.” This is essentially the creationism that was discussed earlier, determining geological and other scientific “facts” from Scripture rather than from observation. It is a result of seeing the Word of God as a revelation of nature in addition to being a revelation of God. Some people believe that in order to be a revelation of God, the Bible must be a revelation of all things, including nature. Many of the public conflicts between science and Christian faith seem to arise from a search for concordance between observations of nature and the interpretations of nature derived from Scripture. The two-book model does not lead to such conflicts since it views Scripture as the revelation of God, his incarnate Son, and the plan of redemption.
Studying the Word of God with scientific methodology leads to higher criticism. This approach can be a useful means of understanding the text and the intended message. Taken by itself, however, without acknowledgment of any divine inspiration, it can lead to a purely human interpretation and a denial of any revelation of God.
Each of these permutations leads to a difficulty in obtaining a rational understanding of God. In this blog series, we have been considering the possibility of finding God through science alone in essentially a one-book model rather than a two-book model. It appears that perhaps science by itself cannot answer the question of God. The two-book model provides a balanced approach, incorporating the complementary elements of nature and Scripture as revelations of God. In this way, we can see a clearer path to perceiving God. Only the dual approach of seeing God through his Son, as revealed in his Word, and through nature gives us a more coherent picture of God.
The sequence in which we read these two books can also make a significant difference. George Murphy points out that it is important to read the book of God’s Word first, giving us a Christ centric focus for our study of nature. We then understand the incarnate Christ as the creator of all things. In the light of God’s plan of redemption through Christ, we see the importance of the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is Christ’s death on the cross that enables the resurrection and the promise of new life for all. From that perspective, the principle of life from death in nature is understood as consistent with God’s plan for all of creation. God brings order out of chaos, good out of evil, and life out of death in every part of his creation.
The stereoscopic perspective of the two books of God’s revelation brings God into focus in a way that cannot be seen otherwise. Science may not be able to answer the question of God by itself, but God has answered the question of science, bringing meaning and purpose into a world where randomness and chance seem to abound when viewed only through its own lens.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of the American Scientific Affiliation.
Randy Isaac is a solid-state physics research scientist and executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), where he has been a member since 1976 and a fellow since 1996. Isaac received his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and his doctorate in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined IBM to work at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 1977 and most recently served as the vice-president of systems technology and science for the company.