First and ten for the New York Giants on the 55-yard line.
Wait. What?! Football fields don’t have 55-yard lines. That is, unless it’s a game in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Canadian games have broader rules, including 12 men playing on a field that is 12 yards wider and 10 yards of scrimmage longer than the NFL. What’s central to a Canadian field—the 55-yard line—doesn’t even exist in the American game.
When the Ottawa Rough Riders hosted the New York Giants in a 1950 exhibition game, they agreed to switch the rules halfway through. The Rough Riders played well in the first half on their home turf. At halftime, the officials narrowed the field to NFL standards by laying down a stripe six yards inside their standard CFL sideline. The Canadian halfback struggled to see it. The referee whistled dead two potential scoring plays when the player stepped over the artificial boundary.
The Ottawa newspaper reported, “There was something missing . . . in the second half.” Sure, there was—the bigger field and the extra player.
Shrinking the field
Modern science used to recognize God as the central player in the universe. Before the term “scientist” was coined in 1834, those who studied nature were called “natural philosophers,” or even “natural theologians.” Its stars—including Kepler, Boyle, and Faraday—worked within a worldview where Christ reigned supreme. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16,17).
Secular science has reduced the field. It excludes a Creator it cannot see. Granted, we get why science only studies the natural world. Its instruments, no matter how powerful, are nearsighted. They capture only what is measurable and quantifiable. And God cannot be squeezed into that box. His inscrutable ways cannot be grasped by science or any other source of knowledge. As Paul declared, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
The problem comes when people shrink their view of reality down to science’s limitations. Their worldview of naturalism assumes that anything or anyone outside their naturalistic boundaries is not real.
Holding the field
Science carries great authority today. Yet bad claims are sometimes made in science’s good name. The worst one is, “Science proves that God doesn’t exist.”
Nonsense. Science can’t conclude what it first assumed! That’s like concluding that a 55-yard line could never exist or that a 109-yard running play could never happen. American football excludes them from the start with its self-imposed assumption of a smaller field, yet they both exist in Canada.
Science is incapable of rejecting God’s existence. Its limiting rules and limited tools won’t allow it. Rejecting God takes something more powerful than science: the human will.
Dr. Thomas Nagel confessed as much in his book The Last Word: “I want atheism to be true. . . . It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God. . . . I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that” (emphasis added).
Harvard evolutionary biologist Dr. Richard Lewontin guards his smaller, naturalistic worldview. He seems to have appointed himself as referee to protect its artificial boundaries. In reviewing a fellow atheistic scientist’s book that flirted with expanding the bounds of reality beyond the purely natural and material world, Lewontin blew his whistle: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door” (emphasis in original).
That foot stepped in two thousand years ago. (Wow. That’s a late whistle.)
“ ‘Who is this?’ Jesus Christ it is, the almighty Lord. And there’s no other God; he holds the field forever” (Christian Worship 200:2).
For further thought
Why is the real conflict between Christianity and naturalism and not between faith and science?
Faith and science are often incorrectly matched against each other as opposing approaches to understanding reality. Yet both terms are not only misused in this way, but also misunderstood.
As stated in earlier articles, science is a marvelous tool to help us understand some elements of reality. But it is not the only window of reality. It is not a worldview. If someone claims that they have a scientific worldview, they probably mean they have a naturalistic worldview. That means they exclude as real anything that is not natural or anything that cannot be measured or observed. And when some insist that science is the only valid source of knowledge and will one day provide answers to everything, that is scientism, not science.
Second, when that false dichotomy of “faith vs. science” is used, “faith” is often assumed to be faith in a supernatural God. Even so—as the article stated—science has nothing to say against the supernatural since it only researches what is natural.
More than that, the real point (and one that some atheists try hard to avoid) is that faith is needed for science just like it is needed for theology—the study of God. Both science and theology have fundamental assumptions that cannot be empirically proven. Science is actually founded upon philosophical—not scientific—principles. Atheist and revered physicist Dr. Paul Davies penned a New York Times op-ed in 2010 entitled “Taking Science on Faith.” He wrote “Science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. . . . To be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. . . . The very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way.”
It’s good to realize that the real conflict is not between faith and science but instead between the two worldviews of naturalism and Christianity. Beware of those who claim that Christians are anti-science. Christians are pro-science, but anti-scientism. Christians are pro-science, but anti-naturalism.
This is the fifth article of a six-part series on faith and science.
Author: James Borgwardt
Volume 108, Number 05
Issue: May 2021
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 6: Evolution and the thoughtful Christian
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 5: Home field advantage
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 4: Does faith hinder scientific discovery?
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 3: The misperception of scientific certainty
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 2: The limits of science
- Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 1: Science as servant