Christianity’s Ties to the Scientific Method

Christianity was the fertile soil in which scientific method and modern science began to grow

History of science, Isaac Newton and physics. The science of light, optics. Light refraction and scientific research in physics.

I have heard a number of people assert that Christianity gave birth to the scientific method. Perhaps, the first time I heard that claim was from John Lennox, the famous Oxford University professor of mathematics. I was intrigued, but I didn’t take the time to research his claim at the time.

I have heard the claim repeated multiple times, most recently by Dr. Michael Guillen the astrophysicist, former Harvard professor and TV personality. In fact, he devoted a podcast to the subject, so I took my opportunity to learn more.

I did some of my own research as well. Wikipedia, for instance, has a page on scientific method. It begins with Aristotle and focuses on rationalism as the basis for scientific method.

Properly speaking, rationalism is not a method. It is a philosophy, a way to approach the world. Rationalism and Aristotelian though seem to have helped led the way to the development of the scientific method.

Aristotle’s inductive-deductive method that depended on axiomatic truths and the “self-evident concepts” developed by Epicurus would would be jettisoned for something more like the modern scientific method beginning around the 16th Century. Perhaps, this is why Guillen doesn’t mention them.

After those early pioneers, Wikipedia mentions some great Muslim thinkers who were influenced by Aristotle, but placed “greater emphasis on combining theory with practice” and “the use of experiment as a source of knowledge”. Guillen starts with these early “flashes” of scientific method in the Muslim world, including and Avicenna (Ibn Sina) Averroes (Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd)

These men of the Islamic Golden Age pioneered a form of scientific method, but the inertia did not continue. Likewise, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), the great Jewish theologian, physician, and astronomer displayed a flash of scientific light. He urged “that man should believe only what can be supported either by rational proof, by the evidence of the senses, or by trustworthy authority”, foreshadowing a future scientific posture, but is prescience did not yet take hold.

Dr. Guillen credits Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon with the formation of principles of scientific method that “caught fire” in Christian Europe beginning in the 1200’s. “Concluding from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again, from universal laws to prediction of particulars”, Grosseteste emphasized confirmation “through experimentation to verify the principles” in both directions.

Roger Bacon, Grosseteste’s pupil, “described a repeating cycle of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and the need for independent verification”, including the recording of the way experiments were conducted in precise detail so that outcomes could be replicated independently by others. This became the foundation for the importance of peer-review in science, says Guillen.

Wikipedia mentions Francis Bacon and Descartes, who Guillen skips to get to Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. Bacon and Descartes emphasized the importance of skepticism and rigid experimentation, eliminating the Aristotelean dependence on first (axiomatic) principles.

Galileo Galilei introduced mathematical proof into the process and continued to distance science from reliance on Aristotelean first principles. Galileo and Newton formulated the terms of scientific method that would inform modern scientists ever afterward.


That the two latter men were men of faith, along with Grosseteste (Catholic Bishop) and Roger Bacon, his student, is significant. So were Maimonides and the Islamic thinkers before him men of faith.

Guillen emphasizes the fact that these men who pioneered the way to modern science were devout religious believers at the same time. Guillen also observes that science did not really take off until the 17th Century. The trailblazers of the modern scientific method were religious men, and the scientific method caught fire in Christian Europe during that time, lead, chiefly, by men of faith.

Why did science catch fire in Christian Europe and not in other parts of the world? Why not in the Islamic or Jewish world? Or the world of the eastern religions? This is question Guillen poses, and he provides a possible answer.

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Why Did God Subject the World to Futility?

Photo by Ken Gortowski

I want to focus on the following statements Paul made in his letter to the Romans:

“[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject[i] itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so…. 

Romans 8:7

“[C]reation was subjected[ii] to futility[iii], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free ….”

Romans 8: 20-21

Life and death, the universe and all the “stuff” that is, ever was and ever will be are “in God’s hands”. That is another way of saying that God created everything. God is timeless and immaterial and has created all that is material out of nothing, including us.

But the material world, the world as we know it, is passing away (1 John 2:17), even from the moment it was created! That’s what science (the second law of thermodynamics) tells us also. The world has been has been “winding down” since the “Big Bang”.

Paul’s statement about the “futility” to which the world has been subjected suggests that futility is part of God’s ultimate plan, because it was done “in hope”.

If that doesn’t add up for you, I don’t think you are alone. I have been puzzling on it for awhile. What possibly could be the plan?

The trite response that “God’s ways are not our ways” falls short. We want to know, though perhaps it’s true that we may never completely understand. Still, I have some ideas that are informed by Scripture that I will try to lay out in this article.

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Enough Is Enough: Entering into God’s Rest

God’s work has been finished since creation, but that doesn’t mean His purposes are accomplished, yet

I am listening to the BEMA Podcast with Marty Solomon and Brent Billings as they work their way through Genesis applying a more Hebrew, eastern approach to understanding and interpreting scripture. I have talked about these things in previous articles, so I will not rehash.

One of the observations made in the story of creation is that God rested on day 7. The theme of God resting can be followed throughout scripture, especially in the law of the Sabbath rest.

The writer of Hebrews says that the nation of Israel would not enter His rest because they hardened their hearts “in the rebellion” in the wilderness when they “tested and tried” God; rather, they went astray in their hearts and did not know God’s way. (Heb. 3:7-11) From these statements, we understand that God withholds His rest to those who harden their hearts, test and try God, go their own ways and do not “know” God’s ways.

In Hebrew thinking, to know God’s ways is not just an intellectual thing. It’s an experiential thing. To know is to connect personally with and to experience. Knowing is not just intellectually grasping, but becoming personally intimate with something.

God promises us that we will enter into His rest if we do not harden our hearts, if we do not test and try Him and do not go astray, but know (experience, become intimate with) God’s ways. (Heb. 4:1-2) God desires for us to enter His rest.

One conclusion a person might draw from the story of creation is that God knew when to stop creating. He knew when to rest. He knew when enough was enough, and He invites us likewise to know when enough is enough: to rest.

God’s work has been finished since creation (Heb. 4:3), but that doesn’t mean His purposes are accomplished, yet. We know, for instance, that He subjected creation to futility (mataiotés – vanity, emptiness, unreality, purposelessness, ineffectiveness, instability, frailty….”) in hope. (Rom. 8:20)

If He subjected creation to futility in hope, He did it with the expectation and purpose that the hope would be fulfilled and accomplished. The hope is that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”. (Rom. 8:21)

This suggests that God may have been done with His works when he rested, but His purposes were not yet accomplished. Gods rest prior to the ultimate accomplishment of all that He purposed is part of the story. There is more to the story then simply the creation.

The creation was intended for a purpose that is yet to be accomplished, and our freedom and glory is needed to accomplish that purpose and to liberate creation from its bondage to decay! But what is that yet unfulfilled purpose?

Continue reading “Enough Is Enough: Entering into God’s Rest”

The Perfect Imperfection of the Universe

We need to know the purpose of a design before we can comment on how well it accomplishes that purpose.

Photo credit to Beth Drendel

This article is inspired by the following article in which the author takes issue with an author of another article taking issue with the idea of the eye as proof of an Intelligent Designer. Go ahead and read the article if you are curious. My point goes in a different direction, though. I will pick up when you are done. (Or you can skip it and jump to where I start again.)

Nathan Lentz finds fault with the human eye and, therefore, argues that the human eye is poor evidence that a Designer God is behind it. Lentz comes from an evolutionary materialist position. Cornelius Hunter uses the force of Lentz’s argument against him.

In essence, Hunter counters that the fault-prone human eye should have spelled the demise of the human species if evolutionary materialism is true. The fault-prone human eye would have prevented humans from climbing to the top of the food chain and would have weeded us out long ago (on the evolutionary paradigm).

I am not really convinced by the counterargument. But then, I am not really convinced by the initial argument. Both arguments boast of knowledge and wisdom we have no claim on.

If God exists, who are we to find fault in His design? Design requires a purpose. Design doesn’t drive purpose; rather, purpose drives design. We must know the purpose of something before we can really comment on the design.

A design may be well suited to certain purposes and not to others, in varying degrees. The human eye serves a purpose in providing us the ability to do many things, and we have survived (obviously) despite the faults to which the human eye is prone. Perhaps, we could do more and survive better if the human eye wasn’t so subject to problems.

Then again, maybe the point (the purpose) of the human eye isn’t primary or only to allow us to do things and to survive. Maybe the human eye is designed to accomplish a much a greater purpose than mere utility and survival.

One the other hand, the fact that humans have survived despite having eyes that are susceptible to near-sightedness, far-sightedness, glaucoma and a host of other issues may simply suggest that we have evolved with other strengths that overcame the weaknesses in the human eye. The faults in the human eye don’t really disprove evolution.

But I have no interest here in continuing to prove or disprove either argument. I believe sufficient evidence exists to establish that a creator God is the best explanation for the universe.

What interests me is the following passage in Romans that speaks to the Lentz article on the seemingly flawed design of the human eye:

“[T]he creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope …..”

Romans 8:19 (ESV)

The idea I come back to is that God subjected the creation to futility… in hope. That means God subjected the creation to futility for a purpose. If the human eye is “flawed” (from our perspective), it is “flawed” for a purpose.

Continue reading “The Perfect Imperfection of the Universe”

Is the Darwinian Paradigm Exploding?

The Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms.

Alright, I admit the title of this short article is a bit provocative, but I got your attention. I would actually say the Darwinian paradigm is going through something more like an evolution. The explosions are not in the paradigm, but in the facts that have been slowly uncovered in the fossil record since Darwin championed the evolutionary paradigm.

The short video at the end of this article produced by Science Uprising alludes to a number of “explosions” that elude a Darwinian explanation. Paleontologist Günter Bechly, summarizes,

“The phenomenon of sudden appearances in the fossil record is not just an exceptional case, but actually is a pattern that is found everywhere.”

The obvious example is the Cambrian explosion in which most of the phyla that exist today appeared in the blink of geological time, in a mere five to ten million year window. Charles Darwin, himself, acknowledged the problem the Cambrian Explosion posed for evolutionary theory, but he expressed confidence that future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps and provide evidence of the precursors to the Cambrian life forms.

Since Darwin’s day, the gaps have not been filled by subsequent discoveries. Rather, the gaps have widened, as Stephen Meyer recounts in his book, Darwin’s Doubt. To make matters worse for the Darwinian paradigm, the Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms. Other examples are numerous, including:

Technical scholarship is replete with the recognition of explosions (radiations or revolutions) of insects, fish, birds, dinosaurs, mammals, and the “big bang theory of human evolution” with no credible transitions in the fossil record. Many scientists, though continue to look for the precursors and clues to plug in the evolutionary gaps.

It seems that the evolutionary paradigm, which arose abruptly and transformed science overnight, is very slow in adapting to new information as it is uncovered. Not that we should be overly critical of the painstakingly slow progress. Science is slow and methodical with intention.

Explosions, though, such as the relatively sudden rise of Darwinian theory, may give way to equally sudden corrections, kind of like the mass extinction events that give way to new “radiations” or “revolutions'” in life forms. For more on the “time crunch” facing evolution, watch the short video that follows.