“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (1 Timothy 6:20)
On a popular, spiritually conservative(?) Christian website that happens to support the findings/stances of much of modern secularist science, the following two-statement implied argument is made against Christians who reject secularist science as wholly trustworthy.
“If the God who created the universe also inspired the words of the Bible, there can be no contradictions between the two. Yet the popular Christian teaching that the earth is approximately 10,000 years old disagrees with modern scientific evidence.”
I must ask what the first statement has to do with the second? I shall argue that there is no binding tie between them. Further, which stances/conclusions of modern secularist science do we more-or-less accept, and which stances/conclusions of that same science do we hold suspect? Even the author of the above quote probably does not accept all of those stances/conclusions himself, and, if that is the case, on what ground does he determine that some traditional Christian beliefs contradict sound science? Is man’s science infallible? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the author of the above quote thinks so either.
I’m going to change that author’s argument into something that I think he should have said instead, and which shows the essential truth of the problem: When all basic information about the Creation is known, only then shall there be seen no contradiction.
Science, like religion, is a human endeavor and, as such, is subject to error, even error which its first proponents and loyalists have taken to be self-evident truth.
Now, let me explain what the problem is with secularist science.
For the secularist scientist in whatever age, physical natural science is his singular, ultimate venue for determining objective truth, and, since no one can stand to live in constant uncertainty about what is basic truth for the realm of inquiry one takes as ultimate, secularist science is a religion unto itself. This assertion is born by the fact that, no matter how severely this version of science has had to be overhauled in various aspects in light of compelling revolutionary evidence, the secularist scientist in whatever age has been determined that certain things simply cannot be true — and who is known to have been wrong by those who, in a later age, have gained some fundamentally higher level of physical knowledge.
The question, then, is, how do we know that we have “arrived”? The author of the above quote seems to think that, regarding determining the age of the earth, we have arrived.
The essential, ageless concept behind the term ‘modern’ is poor ground for preferring the current modern as inviolable on the fact of hindsight. The lesson of hindsight is not another worship of the modern, but humility. To the flat-earth physic of a fallen culture that is just beginning to find some new light, his physic is modern. If he were presented with the scientific model of a ball-earth-hanging-on-nothing, he could only think that a ball obviously cannot stay suspended in midair with nothing holding it up (up-and-down seeming to him to be an inherent property of reality.)
What God made is a complex puzzle. But, because of evil and corruption entering the world and distorting our understanding of the world God made, the parts of the puzzle can be put in wrong places and either make a person believe in a pure and/or partial falsehood, or make a person reject a truth because it is presented in such a way as to make it an alloy of falsehood. In the first instance the person fails to realize the falsehood because it happens to be alloyed with the truth, and in the second instance the person fails to realize the truth because it happens to be alloyed with falsehood. The clear fact that a ball cannot stay suspended in midair with nothing holding it up is not a fact that applies to the higher/deeper physical truth. But, if the flat-earth physic were told this, he would think it insane and fanciful, by mis-conceiving that this ‘counter-intuitive’ principle has to do with a larger scale — that really big objects like a thousands-miles wide ball can just stay in midair with nothing holding it up.
The unbeliever needs to find absolute truth in something. But, his unbelief leaves him with only one realm in which to hope to have that need fulfilled: the physical realm.
So, being his own god by his power of intelligent and techno-scientific dominion (Genesis 1:28), he determines that he has the ability to prove for himself in short order as to what is physically true and what is physically false. This endeavor is what Paul referred to as “science so-called” (1 Timothy 6:20). In man’s fallen and proud ignorance, his first attempt to determine absolute, objective, intuitive (physical) truth later becomes one of his most popularly known failures: that the earth is flat and stationary and that the heavenly bodies move across the sky, and then down, and then somehow come back up on the other side (maybe by floating around to the other side on some far reaches of the ocean too distant to see).
This scientist does make some accurate observations: an object cannot stay suspended in midair without something holding it up; a ball that has water poured onto it will shed the water; people cannot freely walk on the sides and underside of a ball, and they would simply fall off if they tried; up and down are inviolably perpendicular to the ‘plane’ of the earth. Unbeknownst to him, these are all only “local” laws of physics and do not apply on a deeper level.
From these simple and readily made observations, fallen, ignorant, unbelieving man, in his first attempts to establish absolute, objective truth of his realm as a whole, determines that the earth cannot be a ball hanging on nothing — and that any “mythical” story within a body of “ridiculous” religious scripture that mentions a “non-existent” land of Uz and presents the idea that the earth is suspended in the air on nothing shows that all this ridiculous scripture is all the more absurd and should be rejected at each point until each point is proven beyond popular reasonable doubt to be true. (Job 26:7)
It was not until very recently in human history that this unbelieving man finally was forced to admit, by new evidence of ordained pragmatic physical inquiry (Genesis 1:28), that the universe had a beginning even as the Bible says. Yet, this man still insisted that space and time were infinite. A little more evidence and he was then finally forced to admit that space and time are also finite (if the physical universe had a beginning, then logic suggests that it can also be finite in size, and, in Revelation, it says that time shall also end, suggesting that time had a beginning as well – Revelation 10:6).
The history of physical-science-as-a-religion has had one upset after another as its own ordained pursuits have revealed ever more fundamental physical truths (like the fact that up and down are related to mass and are not the universal directional constants to which the earth itself must be subject).
What can be misinterpreted as absolutely true of the physical realm from where you are standing is not necessarily so (you must look deeper and try to observe more carefully). But, by this layering (or hierarchy) of physical reality, this fallen and faithless man insists that, if there was a God, then God would be deceptive in making the Creation to appear so different from the way it “actually” (ultimately) is. Why did God make the physical world this way? Here, I believe, is part of the answer:
Genesis 1:31 says that God made the Creation very good. What was very good about it? Everything. Even in the sheer variety of practical dimensions: imagine what the world would be like for practical purposes (and for range of enjoyments) if the initial observations of the infant in his development of his senses represented the ultimate truths of the physical world. That would not be much of a world for practical interests, much less for enjoyment. And, isn’t the world of philosophy the same hierarchical kind of thing? Yes, Wittgenstein finally found that out, but did he think to blame God for deceiving him at the first? God is not at fault for our prideful errors of judgment (an infant is made naturally pragmatic about the physical world. Why did God make him so? Is he not made on the plan of the first man? — “from the mouths of babes”, Psalm 8:2).
Now, near the end of the age, the fundamental truths of the finite Creation are finally becoming known (maybe), yet that unbelieving man is still of the same foolish mind and has not learned from his most fundamental error. He has been “ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). In worshipping the Creature more than the Creator, this man makes himself his own god by implication because he has a dominion over the physical realm.