Sadly, I can’t recount the number of people I’ve met who were certain that science and faith were at odds. To be a Christian, the thinking goes, you must be willing to reject science, or at least hold scientific findings at arm’s length. Why is this?
Well, the Church has had a role to play in this thinking. Many are aware that Galileo was persecuted by the Church in the early 1600s for his view that the earth encircled the sun, opposing the widely held view that the earth was the centre of the universe.
More recently, we see Christians fighting angrily for their view of the earth as 6,000 years old. Where does this understanding come from? Well, in the early 1600s, a Bishop Ussher counted the generations listed in the Bible, (assigning a length to each), determined the dates of historical events such as the death of Julius Caesar, and concluded that the earth was created at 6pm, on the evening of October 22, 4004 BC. Does the Bible clearly teach this? Not really. It simply says, “In the beginning, God created…”
So we have science claiming that some fossils are millions of years old, and some Christians disputing this whole area of science, because it doesn’t align with what are essentially Bishop Ussher’s calculations from the 1600s.
I don’t believe God and science are at odds, or faith and science either for that matter. All science is God’s science. How then do I reconcile apparent contradictions? Well, I think two things happen.
Sometimes, Christians are fighting against scientific discoveries in favour of a “biblical teaching” that it turns out, isn’t really taught in the Bible at all. The Bible is not, and never was, intended to be a scientific textbook. The age of the earth is an example of this.
Second, there are times the two conflict, and we discover that science simply hasn’t caught up to a truth that the Bible proclaimed 2000 years ago. This often happens in the realm of history and archeology. Scholars long disputed whether King David ever existed, having found no proof outside of the Bible. Not until 1993 did archeologists find in northern Israel a stone with the inscription “House of David”.
Will current scientific understandings, and our understanding of biblical teachings, always agree? No. Are the two therefore in opposition? Not at all!