Rationality and Religion

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” —Albert Einstein

One of the greatest thinkers and scientists the world has ever known, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy on February 15, 1564. Because his discoveries contradicted church doctrine he often found himself at odds with the priests and other church officials. Because of his discoveries, Galileo came to be in very hot water with the Roman Catholic Church.

It is absolutely tragic that the people who profess to represent God to man most often have had little or no concept of the nature of His creation. It is regrettable that these lesser lights of ecclesiastical influence did not have the insight of Augustine who said God has given us two “books” that reveal who God is and what He is about – the Book of Nature, which is the natural world itself and the Book of Scripture, the Bible.

The apostle Paul agreed with the idea that God reveals Himself through creation when he wrote, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). The seraphim of Isaiah’s vision echoed the same refrain before the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” ( Isa 6:3 ), as did the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel” when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1-3 .

When reading from either of these sources of knowledge we are expected by the author to used the good sense He gave us. When reading from the Bible, God does not expect us to suspend reason to accept what He has revealed. Faith and rationality are not mutually exclusive, but complementary. When Paul came to Thessalonica ( Acts 17:2 ) he went into the synagogue of the Jews and “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” concerning the Messiah. He did the same among the intelligentsia of Athens ( 17:17 ), at Corinth ( 18:3 ), at Ephesus ( 18:19 ) and before Felix, Roman governor in Jerusalem (24:25).

What can we learn about God from studying the Book of Nature? Paul says we can learn about “His eternal power and Godhead” (lit. Divine nature.) For example, consider this quote: “Some scientific studies have calculated the amounts of energy released with thunderstorms. The measuring showed that one big thunderstorm could produce more energy than the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.1” Can you imagine that power? Or think about the power that created the universe – the sun, the earth, the moon and “hung the stars in the heavens.” The release of that kind of power must have created a really, really “big bang.”

There is so astoundingly much to this universe that captures and challenges the imagination one could spend a lifetime investigating it and only have begun when he reaches the end of his life. It is utterly impossible for one person to even keep up with all the discoveries that are being made in the realm of science today. And every bit of it is a very real testimony to the existence and nature of God!

Some people over the years have argued that science and the Bible are incompatible and that Christians cannot be true to the faith and be involved in scientific investigation. But there is no disagreement between the Bible and any proven fact of science. The conflicts exist when men propound their unproven and unprovable theories as fact. Or, on the other hand, dissonance exists when the church accepts some unproven and unscientific assertion, assuming that idea derives from the Bible. This is what happened to Galileo.

Actually, the “Book of Nature” is framed in such a way as to invite investigation. If nature is one means by which God communicates truth about Himself, then if we do not “read” from that book, we will be ignorant of that much truth. The astronomer, the botanist, the chemist, the physicist and all other investigators in whatever legitimate field of science is studying the work of God’s hand. Whenever one gains some insight into some previously unknown truth, he is in truth, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him!”

Over the centuries since the beginning of the scientific age there have been numerous outstanding scientists who have believed in God and that the Bible is a special revelation from Him. There still are numerous intelligent, responsible people prominently engaged in scientific investigation in various fields who believe in God. One recent survey suggests that as many as two-thirds of scientists believe in God. These people are not duped by superstition as those who oppose belief in God charge. They have seen for themselves that belief in God offers a broader understanding of the natural realm than does unbelief.

For far too long the tragic rift has existed between religion and science. Such should not be. God who is the creator of the natural realm wants to be known to His creation. He has given us two sources of knowledge from which we are expected to learn about Him. If we close one of those books we deny ourselves valuable information we could use to fulfill His purpose for us in this world. If we close the book of nature and read only from the book of special revelation we will have an unbalanced perspective on our own lives, our place and responsibility in the physical creation and very likely a bias against anything scientific. On the other hand, if we close the Bible and read only from the book of nature, we will deny the spiritual aspect of our nature, deny ourselves a relationship with God as a foundation for a moral, serving life and cut ourselves off from any real hope for eternity.

Studying either book, Nature or the Bible, will require much effort. Studying both will obviously require much more effort. But the work required to learn from them what is there to be learned will certainly be worth the effort!

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your revelation of Yourself to us in Your word and in Your world. Thank you for the beauty and harmony of both these sources of knowledge of You.

Give us the desire to know more of You, the willingness to apply ourselves to obtain a deeper understanding of Your nature and the discipline to study both sources that we may know You more fully and that we may know our rightful place in Your creation.

Amen!

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