Faith and Science: Friend or Foe

How should faith and science interact? Here are four basis positions to consider with recommendations.

By Amos Yong at The Enrichment Journal

Many Pentecostals have assumed or heard that the Bible conflicts with modern science. This is especially true when discussing scientific theories about the age of the earth and the origins and development of life. Often pastors broadcast this assumption from their pulpits in ways that move our college-and university-educated members to reconsider whether they can, with good conscience, remain in our churches. It is not necessarily that these members think they know better. But they do know there are a variety of views about scientific theories. A pastor’s insistence that there is only one way to see things says to these members: “Leave your mind at the door before you come into church.” This may not be the intended message, but it is implicit in the way pastors sometimes talk about the 7 days of creation when our audience has come to understand the ancient Hebrews did not interpret these as literally as we do.

We should be aware, however, that over the last two generations more and more Pentecostals have gone on for higher education, with an increasing number in the sciences. And as they have studied the theological and scientific disciplines, they also have come to entertain a spectrum of positions. While too many have, as a result, left our churches, a good number have remained faithful to the Pentecostal message. For those who have stayed, what binds them together is the conviction that their faith and their scientific knowledge are not necessarily antagonistic

Four Positions Concerning Theology and Science

Conflict

The first position is the historic position of conflict. Some Pentecostals remain convinced that whenever science appears to contradict the plain sense of the Bible, science must be wrong. Therefore, if the Bible says that God created the world in 7 days, then any theories that the earth is older than that must be false. This view assumes that the Book of Genesis provides an ancient scientific account that is in concordance with later scientific developments. However, the basis for such an assumption is not obvious. Genesis 1–3 could well reflect God’s accommodation to the understanding of the ancient world instead. If so, then it tells us about God the Creator as opposed not to modern science, but to the creation myths of the ancient world.

The conflict position remains important if contemporary science oversteps its boundaries. Some scientists go beyond what science says to make metaphysical and theological claims. These claims also come with a set of presuppositions, such as matter or nature is all there is. This is not genuine science but scientism. Pentecostals need to resist such assertions.

Independent

The second position views theology and science as independent. In broad terms, those who hold this view say that science concerns nature and the material world, while theology concerns morality, the spiritual world, and the afterlife. Different norms and methods guide these two views, and they should not conflict with each other.

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