Many people struggle with the concepts and beliefs of faith because they find their scientific knowledge to be in conflict with the conclusions about reality drawn from their faith. This internal conflict within individuals is often times exaggerated by our society’s emphasis on the incompatibility of faith and science. But is this understanding warranted?

Jerry A. Coyne atheist and professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago sums up science simply as “a method for understanding how the universe (matter, our bodies and behavior, the cosmos and so on) actually works.”[1] Dr. Coyne establishes a simple framework for understanding the concept of science. Science is a method and process for understanding the physical world around us. Science is the deliberate method of acquiring knowledge about nature.

Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11.1) This passage of Scripture from the New Testament book of Hebrews is often used by atheist and other detractors from the Christian faith to highlight how faith is in direct contention to science. From this Scripture they promote the idea that faith inherently involves concepts of “hope” and the “unseen”.

I would agree that this Scripture taken alone could lead someone to accuse the Christian faith of being a blind faith, a faith that requires belief with no evidence, and worse belief in the face of contrary evidence. Is this the type of faith Scripture is promoting? When examining the full message of Scripture concerning faith the answer is a resounding no. Instead we find messages of faith, not accompanied with action, being dead. (James 2.17) We also find signs, miracles and fulfilled prophecy given that men may know there is a God. (Exod 6.7) Furthermore we find carefully recorded history so that we might know the certainty of what we have been taught. (Luke 1.3-4)

If Scripture is not promoting a faith void of evidence, then how best can we define and understand the concept of faith? A hint can be found in the Greek term pistis used for faith in the New Testament. Pistis means trust. Greg Koukl, author and apologist, echoes this idea by describing faith as active trust. He says, “Faith is knowledge in action. It is active trust in the truth…I’ll invest myself in the things I believe to be true. That’s biblical faith.”[2]

Where exactly is the conflict then? It is in the underlying, philosophical assumptions of the scientist. Scientist who work from the philosophical assumption of materialism will always be conflicted where the meta-physical meets the physical. Consequently, the conflict is not between religion and science, it is between religion and materialism.[3]  Alvin Plantinga describes those that hold to naturalism (similar to materialism) as assuming religious belief to be false and it is from there they develop their scientific theories.[4] Here is where the conflict lies, in our philosophical understanding of physical and meta-physical realities.

Science holds to the following philosophical statements that cannot be proven scientifically. They must be assumed at the outset before scientific inquiry can begin. 1) It is assumed nature is knowable. 2) It is assumed nature is uniform, repeatable and regular. 3) It is assumed that observable patterns give insight to un-observable patterns.

Atheist views of naturalism and materialism have no reason to assume these philosophical foundations to be true, yet they claim to have a superior hold on scientific truths. However, for the believer the philosophy foundational to science is easily held with the understanding that God has created a world that is knowable with design, pattern and beauty

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[1] Coyne, Jerry A. Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. 28.

[2] Koukl, Greg. “Faith and Facts Explore More Content.” Stand to Reason. February 5, 2013. Accessed August 17, 2015. http://www.str.org/articles/faith-and-facts

[3] Barr, Stephen M. Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. 1.

[4] Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 169.

 

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