Thursday, August 27, 2009

Science is Slowly Catching Up to Theology

Dr. Robert Jastrow, the former head of Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, a prolific author, and a self-described agnostic, wrote a book entitled God and the Astronomers near the end of his life. Dr. Jastrow lived during the generation when most scientists moved from an atheistic view of the world to a firm belief in a Supreme Being who created the universe. What changed the scientific community's views on God? The simple answer: their own research. Dr. Jastrow writes:

Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.

The "astronomical evidence" to which Jastrow refers is the scientifically proven fact that the universe is expanding. Beginning with Albert Einstein in 1915 and his Theory of General Relativity, scientist began to discover that the universe has not always been here (the static universe theory), but was created in a moment in time and is exploding outward in all directions (the Big Bang). Dr. Jastrow goes on to write:

Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth ... That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact"

Jastrow believes "supernatural forces" (i.e. "God") is now a "scientific fact" because science follows its own scientific method and knows: (1). Whatever begins to exist has a cause; (2). The universe began to exist; (3). Therefore the universe has a cause (i.e. "God," "The Intelligent Designer," "supernatual forces."). Now, for the money quote. The price of the book is worth what Dr. Jastrow writes next. I laughed out loud when I read it.

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about the conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."


Wade Burleson


DL said...

"As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

... arguing over gender roles, whether tongues have ceased, whether alcohol is good for anything but cough medicine, how much cooperation is selling out, and whether God is actually in charge of his creation, with an occasional prayer thrown in for good measure. Among other things. :)

Steven Stark said...

“Dr. Jastrow lived during the generation when most scientists moved from an atheistic view of the world to a firm belief in a Supreme Being who created the universe.”

I have no problem with a scientist believing in God, I think it’s great, but this simply doesn’t seem to be true. Any google search of polls on scientists’ religious beliefs show that many, a majority in fact, are atheist or agnostic. I would like to know your source in this, so I can read it too.

“(1). Whatever begins to exist has a cause; (2). The universe began to exist; (3). Therefore the universe has a cause (i.e. "God," "The Intelligent Designer," "supernatural forces.").”

Number one - Causality is a product of our universe. Are we suggesting that causality existed before time and space?

Number two - it seems so, yes

Number three - This is a highly problematic idea when one of the elements beginning to exist, at the beginning of the universe, is time. It implies a non time-based causality and does not seem to recognize the nature of a true beginning of time. It plants the idea in our head of something causing the universe existing BEFORE the universe, and therefore BEFORE TIME - which is non-sequitur reasoning.

Also, cosmic inflation theory, which has some basis in observation, gives us the possibility of the multiverse - Genesis happening over and over again in a sea of Eternal Nirvana. Fascinating thought. To be fair, we run in to all these issues whether we are considering God or a non-theistic multiverse. When considering the beginning of the universe, we are treading into territory that is quite possibly beyond our ability to see or understand, so it would seem wise to be conservative with our speculations.



Chris Ryan said...

I like the quote.

What is unfortunate is that the argument by design cannot confirm a theistic God. The "god" of a diest would be just as probable given the paramaters of the argument. But I'm always happy when people at least get half way there. The second half is so much easier.

Rex Ray said...

Scientist used to believe that matter could not be created or destroyed.

When they learned how to split the atom, they learned energy was released and matter was destroyed.

There’s a fancy equation for matter being destroyed releasing energy.

The truth of this equation also applies to the reverse of the equation that energy creates matter.

It’s been said if all the matter could be destroyed from a few gallons of water; it would produce the same power of all the electro generators in America for a year.

Please don’t quote me on this because my memory is not what it used to be.

The bottom line: God spoke the world into existence by his energy, and He needed to rest on the seventh day.

I like Jastrow’s humor.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

FYI: The argument in question is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This is, in my opinion, one of the strongest arguments for God's existence (for those of us who are ok with such things). If anyone is interested, Dr. William Lane Craig is almost solely responsible for this argument's revival in the 80's, and has published a book by the same title.

However, in fairness to the argument's critics, the argument does not work unless you presuppose an A-theory of time. In other words, if future events are actualized, real things, the Kalam doesn't work. Fortunately, the A-theory of time is certainly the most plausible simply because events in the future have not actualized - there is no good reason to believe such.

If you would like to see some wonderful debates where this argument is employed to destroy naturalistic scholars in a public, university debate setting, simply google William Lane Craig and watch some of these debates. It's amazing how reasonable belief in God actually is.

Jason Epps

Bill said...

I've long felt that what we call the Big Bang is one of the greatest evidences for God that we have. Everything from nothing, in an instant. That said, I am not a young earther.

greg.w.h said...

Hawking in his "A Brief History of Time" argues that our perception of time follows the direction of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and then points out that there is a brief moment during the Big Bang where the Second Law of Thermodynamics is effectively reversed as information and organization "spontaneously" occur.

While that occurrence doesn't prove that a mind was the source of the information and the organization, the fact that the universe other than at that time rather faithfully follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics certainly should cause a scientist to think about the claim that Hawking makes that the arrow of time was reversed then. Perhaps an equally plausible explanation is that "God stepped in."

That said, Christians should be very patient about the practice of science. It is naturally limited by what can be measured and things like the work of astronomers are built upon very solid math and lots of speculation. It almost is more of philosophy than science as they pick one explanation out of many and then go about trying to prove that explanation.

I think scientific training makes for a better Christian, in fact, because science (mostly) rejects superstition and so should Christians. The fact that your shoelace comes untied and you trip over it and fall is better explained by natural forces than it is by blaming the supernatural (either Satan OR God) for instance. The former perspective--and the search that goes with it to describe those forces with math--is science. The latter perspective is superstition.

We could take an anti-Deistic perspective and essentially baptize pantheism by saying God is in every single tiny action that occurs in our lives, or we can accept that Deism realistically describes God's involvement a LOT of the time, while he involves himself supernaturally--changing events through direct force--only SOME of the time. Even when he's directly involved, I get the feeling from Scripture it's primarily spiritually: guiding our thoughts and choices.

I think there is room for a lengthy discussion of this spiritual involvement that rejects the dryness and arrogance of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Century philosophers and also reserves a place where science cannot easily go for thought and decision that is based on faith and not solely on causality and...shall we say...chemical interactions. It is there that Deism fails in my opinion and leaves us with cottonmouths at how mechanistic the universe appears to be. God is a Spirit and they at worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

Greg Harvey

Tom Kelley said...

Greg H.,
Interesting points. But isn't it also true that God is actively involved in both sustaining and guiding the routine natural processes of the universe? I believe that was what the theologians of old called Providence.

Tom Kelley said...

God and Science

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

Christiane said...


I once wrote the following comment on a post about the inerrancy of Holy Scripture:

The Bible teaches us that we are cared for and loved. It does not 'reveal' all the millions of steps occuring in perfect harmony for this to take place. Not all knowledge is revealed by God in the Scriptures.

But the Lord gave us our intelligence. And our curiosity, And our desire to know the answers to 'how?' and 'why?' and 'in what sequence? And so we are able, thanks to Him, to seek our answers about the Gifts of the Lord Who also rules the Natural World.

God revealed to the ancients that which they were ready to receive.
In the example given, He assures them that they are in His loving care.

What could more important?

The details in science about HOW He cares for us are simply that: details we can discover that increase our awe and wonder at the magnificence of the Master of the Universe. And so WE write of these details in science text books.

Is there a conflict?
No way.

We must RESPECT the way God reveals to us.

The Bible reveals the most important messages, but not all is revealed within its pages of God's
workings in the natural world.
Goodness, if it were, the Bible would be so big it would fill the whole Universe, wouldn't it?

No wonder the Lord chose only the most important things to include within the Sacred Writings. :)

Think about respecting the ways we learn of Him and His Creation.
Don't manufacture problems where there are none.
Science should increase our faith.
We revere the God of the Natural World also.

What is that old hymn no one sings these days? I think it begins: 'This is my Father's world.' and there is this part:

Don't be afraid of the lessons of the natural world discovered through modern science. They are revelations of His Glory also.
Learn, and believe, and feel blessed.
Love, L's

kehrsam said...

Rex Ray wrote: "The bottom line: God spoke the world into existence by his energy, and He needed to rest on the seventh day."

This is incorrect: The Sabbath was created for Man, because we would need the rest. God himself does not get tired.

What Dr. Jastrow was saying was nothing new: There is no contradiction between science and revelation. This is true, but often obscured by human vanity. Science has brought us past much superstition, but what we know is still pretty insignificant compared to what we don't. We live in a sea of nescience, and should be humbled beyond measure.

By the way, Intelligent Design is bunk as far as science goes. It may be defended as a philosophic idea, as has been pointed out. But it is no reason to deny the scientific method.

greg.w.h said...

Tom Kelly writes:

Interesting points. But isn't it also true that God is actively involved in both sustaining and guiding the routine natural processes of the universe? I believe that was what the theologians of old called Providence.

I guess the point of distinction between God creating a world that works environmentally and God directly involving himself is approximately at the point where the scientist says, "now how can I measure and prove God's involvement?"

For example, the Bible says that all things are held together in Jesus Christ. Yet the scientist perceives through experimentation a series of interactions at the subatomic level that consistently occur in mathematically describable ways. For instance, Richard Feynman's diagrams predict the energy of various particle interactions fairly accurately by probabilistically combining known possible interaction paths. Each in itself could be perceived as random, but taken together statistically, the result is repeatably predictable. Is God acting in that?

If you say yes, then God is mechanistic because his interaction repeatedly results in a predictable measurement. If you say no, then you leave him free to act in a different way.

Does God cause the rain to fall on the good and the bad? Then when there is drought, who does that? Does God not understand that drought causes human suffering? Or does the fact that the world functions as an environment provide the best explanation for the weather? See where I'm going with this?

Why fall back on unprovable claims about God's interaction when we can experience his spiritual presence in our lives and provide a faithful testimony to that? In that framework, the answer to "does God answer prayers for rain with rain" is "sometimes, but not always." That's a more complex, more honest answer. Yes, generally calling that "Providence" is true. But you can't defeat skepticism with hand waving. They're smarter than that.

Greg Harvey

Tom Kelley said...

Thanks, Greg. I think you are speaking in terms of what is demonstrable or measurable (and what an unbeliever/skeptic can ascertain via those means), whereas I was approaching it from a theological perspective (and what a Christian can affirm based on trust in God's self-revelation via Scripture). My view is that just because we cannot observe God's personal and active involvement by naturalistic means does not mean that He isn't directly involved in all that occurs. To me it is not either/or, but it is both/and. His word does teach that He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and I see no reason to discount that truth because of naturalistic evidence, nor because of what a skeptic might infer from it.

Bob Cleveland said...

As an aside, although scientific evidence which agrees with the Bible in some way, is nice, I resolved some time ago not to pay attention or heed to that. The reason is I will definitely not heed any scientific evidence which refutes the Bible, and to be consistent, I choose to ignore it all.

Something about not seeking to walk by sight, too, I think.

Rex Ray said...

Can you quote some Scripture that says God has never been tired?

Maybe I went too far in saying “He NEEDED to rest on the seventh day”, but I just looked at four translations and they all say that God rested on the seventh day from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)

Why would anyone, including God, rest if they were not tired?

I’m surprised no one has disagreed or agreed about God using his energy to create the universe.

Maybe that didn’t make him tired, but maybe the last thing he did was what did him in…making woman. :)

BTW, if one second after Eve was made she looked old enough that Adam said, “At last!” which could mean WOW! God could make a rock look a billion years old.

Anonymous said...

Rex, you said:

"Why would anyone, including God, rest if they were not tired?"

The issue here is the use of the word "rest." If we "lay someone to "rest" is does not mean that they were tired of living, it simply means they stopped living. The word rest can mean "stopped" or "ceased." God took a sabbatical from creating, not because creating exhausted Him, but because he was finished. He "rested" or stopped working to give us an example to "rest" or stop working at least one day a week. Why? Maybe to enjoy creation? Certainly to enjoy Him. To worship Him. "Rest" for us means a time to recharge from the one who never needs recharging. The Sabbath was made for us because we NEED to worship God, we NEED to rest in the beauty of creation, and we NEED to rest our bodies from the rigors of life. God does not NEED our worship, but He blesses and invigorates those who are obedient to Him--those who bask in His glory. He has commanded a day for this because He created us with the need for this type of rest.

I recommend a book titled: "Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?" by Dr. C. Jack Collins--A professor of mine and ironically on Sabbatical this semester. :)

Just a few humble thoughts,


Word Ver: gollyzhy

Alan Paul said...

Why do we need science to agree with the Bible or our beliefs? Are we really that weak in our faith?

Anonymous said...


You are exactly right in my opinion, yet we who believe in the God of the Bible know that there are consequences to holding to beliefs which to not account for that very God in whom we have been redeemed. So we seek to preach the truth that has been revealed to us by His Word. That Word alone being the very thing which must logically (through reason) line up with good science (And it does I might add; the point I think of Wade's post). It should not surprise us that those without Christ, those who are in a state of deadness will place logic on its side. So we must love them in their deadness (as Christ loved us). We must love them unconditionally (as Christ loved us). We must love them by name, specifically and particularly and as effectively as was His atonement for us. We must love them irresistibly, despite our desire to castigate them and burn them at the stake. And finally we must love them with a love which is persevering to the end, regardless of their heart, regardless of their position with Christ. Christ tells us in Luke 6 to love [the] enemies [of the Gospel]. The origin of man and creation is chapter one in the great story of redemption. May we use it to draw all men unto Christ, not drive them away.

The Bible does align perfectly with science. For they are both governed by the laws of the Great Author and Scientist.

Let us learn to love and help those without Christ see Him. Anything less is chainsawing the cross. God be merciful to those who have cut it down.


Christiane said...


that was wonderful.

Love, L's

Rex Ray said...

Have you notice a person commenting something ‘wrong’ gets more replies that a person saying something ‘right’?

I enjoyed you straightening me out on God not being tired and Sunday being a ‘rest’ day for us.

Do you think Sunday is also a time for us the receive the benefits of the request of Jesus to “feed my sheep”?

I’d be interested in your take on if God used energy to create matter.

Christiane said...

I've always wondered this:

Consider in the Genesis account, all that was done in a certain period of time (days or aeons, you can debate this);

then consider in the account, a time coming when the work ceases.

A time of rest.

Is there a lesson here to use the time we are given to be productive and know at the appointed time, we, too, shall rest?

Maybe the teaching in Genesis is more than just about having a 'day off'.

Maybe it is also about using the time we are given well, to do work that changes our world in a way that leaves it somehow better, in the Eyes of our Creator, before we must move on to that 'place of peace and light'.

There is something about a peaceful Sabbath Day that previews a time of rest eternal, spent in the Presence of the Creator.

Anonymous said...

"Have you notice[d] a person commenting something ‘wrong’ gets more replies that a person saying something ‘right’?"

Makes one not want to post in error doesn't it? :)

"Do you think Sunday is also a time for us [to] receive the benefits of the request of Jesus to “feed my sheep”?"

No more than any other day.

"I’d be interested in your take on if God used energy to create matter."

My answer is no, for two reasons:

1. I hold to a creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing.

2. Secondly, it is inconceivable to believe that God expends energy to do anything.

Obviously these are my opinions and I would not consider you nor anyone else less of a Christian than I for holding to a different view.

Kevin (always happy to be straightened out)

linda said...

Wonderful post, Pastor Wade!

I am an oldie for sure, because in grade school I was never taught at school that science disagreed with the Bible, nor at church that the Bible disagreed with science.

Never felt I had to make a choice.

The Bible told me, as one preacher put it "what got done and who done it."

Science attempts as best we can see and understand to tell me how.

Rex Ray said...

Nice reply. I like the ‘new’ Kevin.

You said, “It is inconceivable to believe that God expends energy to do anything.”

Was not Jesus God, in the flesh of man?

“At once Jesus realized in Himself that power had gone out from Him.” (Mark 5:30 Holman)

“Somebody did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” (Luke 8:46 Holman)

Kevin, could we assume that power and energy of God is the same?

Anonymous said...

"Kevin, could we assume that power and energy of God is the same?"


We are beginning a conversation for which no one really knows the answer. I will say only this: one might say that God has an endless well of energy which He consumes to "be God." I trust you see, as I do, the problem with this--that is to say that God must "regenerate" Himself. This is not a biblical concept. God does not consume energy to be God.

As for the incarnate Christ, the flesh did indeed consume energy, felt pain, and suffered. In fact, since we know that the finite cannot contain the infinite(finitum non capax infiniti, then we must assume that the flesh of the Son of Man "struggled" for ~33 years to contain this very God. The Spirit of the Son of Man however (I believe) contained all of the very being of God. This is not to say that the Body of Christ was not divine, of course it was, in all its essence and being, but that God is much greater than the sum of the part of the body of flesh. Yet Christ did it. This is the supernatural power of God, but that does not mean that that set of circumstances did not provide for the body of Christ a set of unique challenges all its own--in the form of temptations we at least know for sure...


Anonymous said...


One other thing I know you know but might help to chew on in light of this. The power of God is supernatural--transcendent from the laws of nature. From there it is simply speculation...

Great convo!

John Fariss said...

I was raised as a practioner of Southern American "civil religion," meaning that we "believed in" God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. We practiced a form of morality--we didn't drink, we didn't cuss (much, and then only in those situations where it was acceptable), we didn't run around or look at things that were sexually suggestive, and we didn't shop, or do much of anything else on Sundays--in short, we were considered "good people." But we never darkened the doorway of a church, much less had a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

In college, I majored in physics, planning to teach afterwards. I learned that my civil religion idea of creation would not hold water. Actually, I remember where I got my ideas about creation. It was in either the second or third grade, when we all had to take a turn in public school giving the "daily devotional." Mamma took me to the "dime store" to get a Bible for the occasion (I didn't have one, and the 100+ year old family Bible was too big to haul around); it was either from Elmore's or Woolworth's, we had both "on the Courthouse square" right next to each other. And this Bible had "color reproductions of the great masterpieces," one of which was some Renaissance painter's interpretation of "God creating the universe." It showed the typical 14th or 15th century Italian portrayal of God as an old, white-bearded man, shrouded in clouds, and holding a compass in his hands. My idea of creation was an old man, making "stuff" out of mud, then throwing it up into the air for it to become birds, or planets or stars, whatever!

Fortunantly, somewhere along the way, I picked up on one truth: however we got here, however the stars and planets, and everything else got here--it got here because God wanted it here. Faith taught us the "why's" of that, and science searched for the "how's." Two different questions accordingly with diffrent answers.

Those who try to make faith answer the "how's" are eventually going to be in the same boat with those who try to get science answer the "why's": they will find contradictions and eventually reject one or both, leaving themselves either lonely and frustrated or sadly out of touch with physical or spiritual rerality--or with both.

It seems to me the whole complexion of the debales about young/old earth, evolution, carbon dating, etc., would change dramatically if all of us on the faith side would simply agree that however we got here, and however long it took--it happened according to a plan of God's. Wasn't it Einstein who said that the rest is "just details"?


Rex Ray said...

John Fariss and Kevin,
I appreciate what both of you are saying; which is pretty much in agreement:

Kevin: “From there it is simply speculation…”

John: “However we got here and however long it took…it happened according to a plan of God’s.”

However, if we could learn/speculate the difference between Jesus/power healing and Peter/? healing, we could see where we are today.

From the visual observation not much can be seen in the difference of Jesus being ‘touched’ and the shadow of Peter healing people.

Neither saw who was being healed, but I believe the ‘likeness’ stopped there as Jesus felt power leave him and I don’t believe Peter felt anything leave him because the ‘power’ came from God.

So why doesn’t our shadow heal anyone? Like John said, that’s not God’s plan, and Kevin’s “speculation”.

God used the miracles of Jesus to convince people that Jesus was not just a lot of hot air.

I believe he did the same with the apostles; as far as their faith would take them.

Where are we today? That may take too much speculating, so I’ll go with John’s thoughts.

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