Ready to Answer - Lesson 6

By Jim Baird

Does Science Conflict with Faith?

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. Students will be able to explain that science and Christianity are not natural enemies, as some people say.
  2. They will be able to demonstrate the historic importance ofChristian beliefs in the development of science as we know it.
  3. They will be able to explain the ways that Christian belief helps support belief in science.


  1. It is important not just to read these notes to the class. Teacher should be very familiar with the outline and choose how to present the material, making notes in the margins as needed. Practicing the lesson a few times will allow the teacher to look at the students’ eyes while making the presentation.
  2. Some find it helpful to underline the key words that will spark their memory of what to say and do next.
  3. A teacher who is new to this subject would be wise to get copies of the resources listed at the bottom of this outline and study them as well.
  4. Blackboard should be provided, clean with chalk and erasers.
  5. Students should have access to Bibles, or have overheads of all scriptures.
  6. It would be helpful to have the quotes in the introduction and in the learning activities on overhead transparencies.
  7. If you are going to use the handouts associated with this lesson, give them out after the introduction. The underlined material in these notes appears in the handouts.


Science and Christianity are not enemies as is so often supposed. In fact, many of the scientifically unprovable assumptions that science needs to work come from the Christian worldview.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 8 minutes)

  1. Some claim that Christianity and Science are natural enemies.
    1. Christianity tried to ignore Copernicus.
    2. Christianity condemned Galileo.
    3. Christians have persistently refused to accept Darwinism.
    4. “Isn’t it obvious,” they say, “that modern science has only made progress by throwing off Christianity and other outdated superstitions of the Dark Ages?”
    5. But such a view just doesn’t fit the facts.
    6. If Christianity is such a hindrance to science, how is it that science was born in the Christian West? Other cultures were older and more advanced in many branches of learning. Why didn’t science as we know it start in one of them?
      1. Egypt had surgery and advanced geometry when England and France were still in the Stone Age.
      2. China has had an advanced civilization for over 2,000 years, with knowledge of astronomy, meteorology, metallurgy, chemistry and so much more.
      3. If you were an alien, surveying the planet earth in 100 B.C., you would have picked Egypt or China or Mesopotamia or Greece as the place where science would arise.
      4. Doesn’t all this suggest the possibility that Christianity may have helped the rise of modern science?
    7. The fact is that the men who created modern science were mostly vocal and passionate Christian believers. [May want to put these quotes on overhead transparencies]
      1. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the man often judged the father of the scientific method, said, “Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over created things. Both these losses can even in this life be partially repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences.”
      2. Robert Boyle (1627-1691), British physicist and chemist, one of the founders of modern chemistry, said: “Thus the universe being once framed by God and the laws of motion settled and all upheld by his perpetual concourse and general providence; the same philosophy teaches, that the phenomena of the world are physically produced by the mechanical properties of the parts of matter, and that they operate upon one another according to mechanical laws.”[the preceding quotes are from Collin Russell, Cross Currents]
      3. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) the German astronomer who created the first equation to accurately calculate the orbits of planets, said his work of investigating the heavens was, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Elsewhere he claimed that astronomers were “the priests of God, called to interpret the Book of Nature.” In a letter he wrote: “For a long time I wanted to become a theologian … . Now, however, behold how through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy.”
      4. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is the single most influential scientist of all time, who invented calculus to be able to express his grand unification of physics, and created the model of physics which lasted over 200 years virtually unchallenged. He actually wrote more about interpreting the Bible than about physics. In a now famous letter, he gave permission to friend who wanted to use his book on physics to develop an argument for the existence of God. Newton wrote back, “Sir; when I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men, for the belief of a Deity; and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.” [the two preceding quotes are from Margaret Wertheim, Pythagoras’ Trousers :God, Physics, and the Gender Wars, New York : W.W.Norton, 1995.]
    8. In fact, in many ways, modern science could not function well without a basically Christian view of the world. Let’s look at some of the ways that science gets help from Christianity.

Learning Experiences: (about 35 minutes)

  1. Science Has to Believe that the Universe Is Orderly
    1. What would a chaotic universe do to science?
      1. Your test tubes might develop negative gravity at random, or occasionally swap places with other test tubes.
      2. Your bacterial cultures might start doing imitations of Jay Leno.
      3. You find that there are small pockets of space in which chemical reactions occur a million times faster, or a hundred times slower.
      4. Clearly, unless we can have confidence that the universe is orderly, we can not have confidence in science.
    2. Could science ever explain why the world is orderly?
      1. Science only has one way to explain things - finding an orderly principle or “law of nature” that covers the particular case that needs to be explained.
      2. For instance, we explain why the moon is where it is this month by reference to the laws of gravity and inertia which cover bodies of the size and speed of the moon.
      3. Since scientific explanation operates only by finding laws, it has to assume that there are laws (orderly principles) to be discovered.
      4. Therefore, science assumes order to explain everything else.
      5. But that means science cannot explain order. It would be circular to claim that science explains order, since science begins by assuming order.
  2. But Christians have good reason for thinking the universe is orderly.
    1. Johannes Kepler is a good example.
      1. He published The New Astronomy (Astronomia Nova) in 1609.
      2. Articulated for the first time the theory that the orbits of planets were elliptical rather than circular.
      3. In 1601 he reported that he had a well developed system, based on the earlier circular model of Copernicus. It represented 5 years of careful work, based on the meticulous data gathered by Tycho Brahe [Tee ko Bra hay].
      4. But Kepler’s theory was only accurate to within an 8 minute arc (A minute is 1/60th of a degree) of the observed position of Mars, and he knew that Brahe’s data was more precise than that.
      5. Kepler wrote in The New Astronomy (Book II, Ch.19, cited in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 4, New York, Macmillan and The Free Press, 1967 , p. 330): “If I had believed that we could ignore those eight minutes, I would have patched up my hypothesis accordingly. But since it was not permissible to ignore them, those eight minutes point the road to a complete reformation of astronomy.” (There are 360x60=21,600 minutes in a circle, which means that Kepler’s circular theory was accurate to within almost .0004%. That was not good enough for Kepler.)
      6. Kepler worked for 3 more years to account for those 8 minutes.
      7. What gave him the confidence that an answer could be found?
        1. Kepler was fervently convinced that all was created and ordered by God
        2. He wrote to his former teacher, Micheal Maestlin,“The Creator does nothing by chance.” (David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, God and Nature: historical essays on the encounter between Christianity and science, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1986p. 221)
        3. Kepler clearly rejected the idea that the forces governing nature were blind.
        4. He called Giordano Bruno’s philosophy “dreadful” at least partly because of its impersonal, undirected causes. (Lindberg & Numbers, p. 221)
      8. So, because of his faith in God, Kepler expected to be able to make sense of it all. And sure enough, he did.
    2. Christian believers like Kepler had good reason to think that God had made an orderly universe.
      1. Christianity proclaims that God is not a God of confusion.
      2. It is He who has fixed the order of things.
      3. For instance, Job 28:25 & 26 says: “He established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when He made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm ….”
    3. Those who reject God have yet to explain why they think that a universe generated by blind, chaotic processes will turn out to be orderly.
  3. Science Has to Believe that Human Reasoning Can Meet the Challenge of Figuring Out the World.
    1. Those who think humans are the products of blind chance or evolution have no reason to believe this.
      1. Marvin Minsky is considered by many to be the father of AI, [artificial intelligence] research.
      2. In an interview recorded in John Brockman’s, The Third Culture, Minsky says that AI is going to show that the brain is really:“a great jury-rigged combination of many gadgets to do different things, with additional gadgets to correct their deficiencies, and yet more accessories to intercept their various bugs and undesirable interactions-in short, a greatness of assorted mechanisms that barely manage to get the job done.”
      3. On this assumption, we have no particular reason to trust our human reasoning on anything more than the most basic level.
        1. It might just manage the day to day tasks of finding food and making fire - whatever it would have had to do to keep our primitive ancestors alive.
        2. But the farther we get from basic survival-type situations, the less likely it is that our brains are evolved to “get the job done”
        3. So when we get to the deep levels of theoretical science, we would clearly have no reason at all to think that our reasoning ability is reliable.
    2. On the other hand, those who believe they are created by God have good reason to think that human reasoning is well suited to make sense of the world.
      1. Genesis 1:27-28 says,
        1. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”
      2. If God gave humans the task of subduing the earth, it makes sense that He also made that possible. He made the world, and He made human reasoning ability so that it is possible for us to gradually fulfill His wishes by gaining control of the world. Science is one of the ways that we do this.


  1. So, instead of Christianity and Science being enemies, they are actually the closest of allies.
  2. Not only is it an historical fact that Christianity helped get science started, but Christianity provides a firm reason to believe in the orderliness that science needs to do its work.
  3. It is interesting to realize that all this means that Christians should make the best scientists. In fact, pursuing science is a way to fulfill God’s command in Genesis 1:28, to gain mastery over the earth.

Application: (about 5 minutes)

Even though science and religion are not enemies by nature, there are some areas, like evolution, where the current theories of science seem to go against our best understanding of scripture. How do you think Christian people should deal with situations like this? Sometimes, Christians worry that human science is beginning to pry into secrets God never expected us to discover. Do you think it is possible for God to be surprised by human science? How should Christians view science? [You are angling for the recognition that based on this lesson, all science is the gift of God. Anything we can discover, it is only because he makes it possible for us to discover it.]

Further Resources:

Colin Russell, Cross-Currents Interactions Between Science and Faith. Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.1985J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense ofChristianity. Baker, 1987. See especially chapter 7.

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