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Science and the Preeminence of Christ
While a student in the early 1980s, God kindled in me a love for this strange and wonderful human endeavor we call science. And now, I have the privilege of exploring the Lord’s amazing works that science illuminates with my younger brothers and sisters in Christ. Through this, it has become clear to me that students, like many others in God’s church, feel the pressure to take sides in bruising cultural conflicts over scientific matters. The worldly approach tends toward either weaponizing the idea that we should “follow the science” or disparaging and dismissing “the science” and demonizing those who “follow” it. I have found the application of the gospel helps clarify our calling in matters like these. The Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation framework provides a comprehensive approach for applying the good news of Christ’s preeminence in all things—including science.
In creation, God brought into existence a universe that displays His creativity, wisdom, and playfulness. The gifts bestowed on image-bearing humans are derived from God’s grace and purposes in Christ. He calls humans, as creaturely co-creators, to “unfold potentials latent in his created order.” Image-bearing and the callings that go with it encompass individual and collective human tasks that often require diverse yet cooperative work across many generations.
Human rebellion in the fall led to a severance of relationship with God, and thereby all relationships (to self, others, and creation) were damaged. We certainly see the disorder in these damaged relationships playing out in the sciences: the use of science to buttress idolatries (e.g. naturalism), the misuse of scientific knowledge, and the reflexive rejection of scientific work. In scientific endeavor, as in every human endeavor, we see arrogance, intentional bias, dishonesty, greed, and the like on display.
After the fall, at great cost to Himself, God promised not to leave the world to its just fate, but to deal evil a fatal blow, redeem a people for Himself, and enable human life to flourish. For those whose hearts have been transformed by God’s special grace, work in the world becomes a form of grateful worship, conscious stewardship, and gospel proclamation. We proclaim the great works of God and work in His name to unfold the created order and close the gap between the way things are in a sin-sick world and the way things ought to be. In common grace to all, He graciously preserves noble ideals, justice, good behaviors, and dedication to the work to which He had originally called His image-bearers. Thus, no human is as bad as he or she might be and no human institution is as useless for good as it might otherwise be.
At the end of all things, our Lord will vindicate His justice in judgment and bring His goodness and mercy to full visualization by gathering His people before His throne in the new heavens and the new earth. Though He promises that all work done in His name has lasting significance, the consummation reminds us that we finite creatures cannot fix all ills in this life. As excellent as the gifts granted to humans might be, and as much as their use brings glory to God, they will always fall short. Our sin absolutely requires the resurrected Jesus to bring the purposes of God to their completion.
We have good reasons to reject our culture’s pressure to pose questions about science as polarized choices between equally worldly extremes. Scientific endeavor in general resonates with Christian understandings of the world and our call to operate in it. In fact, confidence in the general reliability of conclusions drawn from scientific work is more solidly rooted in a Christian perspective than a naturalistic one. To be unreflective disparagers of science would be to dishonor our Lord by refusing some of His good gifts. We also have good reasons for being watchful about idolizing science and the powers it may seem to offer, and we are not too surprised when we see the usual range of bad behaviors in science that we see in the rest of human life. With gratitude to God, we “follow the science” when we drive over a bridge, get a knee replacement, board a plane, or contemplate the intricacies of a cell. Yet we properly lament the sin that deforms the help that the sciences might give in worship, understanding, and application.
In all this, we can do our broken world a considerable favor by modeling soft hearts that are quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. May it be so, Lord Jesus!
This is a condensed version of the article “Dissecting the Phrase ‘Follow the Science’” published in byFaith. Similar themes can be found in Dr. Morris’ co-authored book, God’s Reign in the Natural Sciences.