It is often claimed that:
All five of these statements are untrue! They are based on misunderstandings, ignorance or deliberate attempts to eliminate one type of faith (religion) in favour of another type of faith (atheism or humanism).
It is often claimed, especially by non-scientists and atheists, that science proceeds from established facts alone and that everything in science is provable and, eventually, proven. This is not true. Science has made many of its biggest leaps forward on the basis of inspired guesses, not fully supported by the known facts. It is a curious feature of science, at least for atheists, that it is found that the correct theory often turns out to be the one which is, in some sense, the simplest and most beautiful.
At base, science is founded on mathematics. Most people think mathematics is all solid and provable. Yet at the very heart of mathematics there is a paradox: any self-consistent mathematical system must contain axioms, statements which are believed to be true, which cannot themselves be proved to be true within that mathematical system. So the very foundation of mathematics seems to require faith - believing something which cannot be proved! Note that this is not a case of believing something which has not yet been proved; these axioms can never be proved true yet must be believed in order for us to do mathematics.
By the way, before someone runs away with the idea that I am supporting some kind of 'science is merely a social construct' idea, let me say that as a physical scientist I regard that sort of suggestion (usually made by people from an arts or humanities background) as mere post-modern nonsense. I believe that science is about genuine truth. Our theories may be only approximations to the truth, and our approximations may be coloured by our cultural baggage, but I believe that scientists are finding real facts about the real physical universe.
Science is not inherently atheistic, yet atheists like to pretend that it is. Of course, we must assume that the results of experiments are generally repeatable and give a true picture of the universe - that God is not fiddling away behind the scenes in order to confuse us. One way to ensure this is to disbelieve in God - the atheist view. Another way to ensure this is to believe in a God of order, who has promised to maintain the universe in its current state (at least for the time being) - the monotheist view. Historically, it was the belief in a God of order which enabled the start of modern science; before that people believed that the universe was fickle and disordered and so studying it would be pointless. There is one area of science where God might fiddle behind the scenes: any attempt to test the value of prayer (e.g. for healing) is likely to produce a null result because God has specifically told us not to test him!
Faith is not, as has been claimed by ignorant people, believing something which we know is untrue. True faith is not believing something against all the evidence. Faith is believing something, which cannot be proved, on the basis of adequate evidence. The evidence may be different in nature from so-called scientific facts, but most of our lives we spend our time making decisions about the truth of statements on the basis of non-scientific evidence.
Was there once a Roman emporer called Julius? Most people would say yes. Yet the hard historical evidence for his existence and life is, I am told, less firm than the hard historical evidence for the existence, life and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. People who disbelieve the resurrection do so not because of a lack of evidence, but because they have decided beforehand that such things do not occur or they are afraid that believing it has implications which they do not wish to face.
My own Christian faith is based on three types of evidence:
This mix of objective and subjective evidence provides a sufficient basis for faith.
There is no fundamental clash between true science and true faith. Indeed, there cannot be as both are the consequences of our response to what God has done. There may be differences of opinion, where one or other of science and faith currently holds an incorrect view of reality. Perhaps the largest of these is the debate about origins, especially of life itself.
It may be that the supposed clash arises from the fact that opinion-formers (e.g. journalists and politicians) are mainly from an arts or humanities background. Being mainly atheists or religious liberals, they naturally assume that scientists will be even more so. The evidence says otherwise. Surveys show that the proportion of working scientists who believe in a personal God (i.e. one who hears and answers prayer) has remained fairly static at around 40% for many years. A university chaplain once told me that in his experience a much higher proportion of scientists have faith than arty people. Perhaps this is because scientists are much more aware of the wonder of the universe; they study God's handiwork (whether they realise it or not) whereas arty people only study Man's handiwork.
There are many needs which science can meet. It provides us with food, energy and healthcare. It provides a partial explanation of how the universe works. However, science cannot explain why we are here (or even why there is anything at all). Science cannot provide meaning, love, forgiveness, acceptance. On the contrary, secular science evades these issues by denying their reality and escaping into reductionism. Love becomes merely an aspect of brain chemistry, and the felt need for forgiveness is merely a sign of social conditioning and ignorance.
All around the world people practise religion of one sort or another. They may worship God, spirits or their ancestors, but in each case they derive their meaning and their morality from their faith. Here in Britain our understanding of right and wrong, and how to conduct our lives, is still broadly based on the Ten Commandments although in recent years this foundation has been eroded. I believe that there can be no morality without religion; there needs to be some external source of moral standard, some authority to whom we are held accountable.
Atheists and secularists of course deny this. They invent their own morality, or borrow some from faith communities, but they have no foundation. Their current favourites seem to be equality and human rights, which are severely distorted versions of the Christian principles of justice and human dignity. Why should humans, out of all the species on earth, have rights? Is it just because we are smarter than the rest? If so, this just sounds like the winner taking his spoils. The Christian view is that as we are made in God's image, humans have dignity and the responsibility to recognise that dignity and worth in others. Generally, secularists want to permit the things they want to do and ban the things which faith communities want to do. They use a salami slicing technique to gradually weaken both private and public morality (with effects which can be seen in any town), while at the same time introducing increasingly restrictive regulations on those with faith. In order to get away with this they have to argue that faith is an essentially private matter, based on culture rather than reality, and that it therefore has no place in the public sphere. They use the supposed atheism of science as an excuse to do away with God.
Many of the public services we take for granted in the UK were originally started by Christians e.g. free schools and hospitals. The State took them over and at first things were OK because the people running them still had faith-based morality and concern for people. Things have changed. High quality education for life has turned into, at best, training for a job or, at worst, post-modern nonsense. Proper nursing care and cleanliness have all but disappeared from some of our hospitals. Why is this? The answer is simple: secular ideas have taken over. Instead of meeting people's needs and treating them with dignity, our public services now are forced to follow 'one-size-fits-all' policies and procedures imposed from afar. Underlying many of the sillier decisions being taken today are fears of litigation based on equality or human rights legislation, or a desire for 'efficiency'. Re-introducing Christian principles into public life would sweep away much of this nonsense, then our children could be properly educated and our sick and old would receive proper care.
Back to bible home, Becoming a Chrstian
minor changes 24 May 2008