Friday, February 05, 2010

Science and Religion

The first Friday of every month, I'll be sharing something here about the very broad topic of “science and religion”. It seems only fair that today, the first of these science and religion posts, I tell you a bit about who I am, what my basic ideas about science and religion are, and what I hope to accomplish by doing this.

In my first career, I was a veterinarian. I spent 20 years in small animal and emergency veterinary practice. My undergraduate degree was in biology. I think biology is an utterly fascinating subject. Then I went to seminary(Saint Paul School of Theology) and received an M Div. I think theology is an utterly fascinating subject also. Now I am the ministry coordinator for a campus ministry in Grand Rapids MI.

I don't think there is any fundamental “conflict” between science and religion. Very simply put “science” isn't going to discover anything that God doesn't already know about. Now there certainly may be gaps in our knowledge and errors in our thinking that result in apparent conflicts. But I don't think these are irresolvable problems. And they can be the impetus for great and challenging discussion that leads us to clearing thinking and better understanding.

There are a lot of ideas about what the proper or correct relationship between science and religion should be. Some folks think they are incompatible. Some think they are non overlapping, distinct areas.
Some prioritize one over the other. Religion trumps science or vice verse.

Lately I've been wondering if Calvin's metaphor about spectacles- with a little adjustment- might be helpful in thinking about science and religion. I wonder if we can think about the relationship between religion and science like a pair of bifocals. (Bifocal users- feel free to help me out with this metaphor.) When bifocals work the way they are supposed to, one sees the entire world, both near and far, clearly and accurately. If you lack either part of the bifocal, your vision is flawed, incomplete, and error prone. You only see fully with both parts of the lens. Now I don't want to push this metaphor too far. No need to assign particular parts of the lens to either science or religion. Simply I want to suggest that both, science and religion, are needed and each is in some respects incomplete without the other.

What I hope to do each month, is have something informative for you. I'm assuming most of the readers here are not scientists. ( If I'm wrong, please let me know.) I'll try to offer you helpful resources. I'll occasionally point out really cool science stuff. And I'll try to encourage thoughtful discussion about various aspects of science and religion.

If there is a topic you would like to see covered, let me know and I'll see what I can do.


John Edward Harris said...

Like you, I think there is no fundamental “conflict” between religion and science. For the second year in a row, the particular church I serve, North Church Queens, Flushing, NY, will be observing "Evolution Weekend" February 12-14. On saturday afternoon we will be showing the National Geographic Documentary "The Human Family Tree: Tracing the Human Journey Through Time" It is an excellent and informative video about the Human Genographic Project.


Hi friend, peace...

Your blog very interesting.
But I have some questions for you:

First, why were you believe that Jesus is your God?

Second, what do you response? If you know that Jesus is created by Constantine (the Roman Emperor at 325 AC) and the leaders of Christians in Nicea Convention on 325 AC (After Christ).

Third, how about this information? (1) Deuteronomy 6:4 , “Hear O Israel Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh.” (2) Paul wrote that “God is only one,” in Galatians 3:20 . (3) "I am Yahweh your God . . . You shall have no gods except me,” Exodus 20: 2,3.

Fourth, how about this information? (1) Nowhere in the Bible is the day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday. This change was not made by the Almighty, but by the Roman Church; (2) The name “Jesus” is derived from the Greek name “Ieasus,” which actually means “son of Zeus.” Sadly, when people call upon the name of Jesus they are actually speaking of Greek mythology.

Fifth, how about this information? It was Roman Emperor Constantine who mandated Christianity to be the universal religion. Before he did this though, he made huge changes in the faith. Constantine gave several edicts that would separate the church from Biblical Judaism. These decrees mandated ancient pagan practices, like Christmas, Communion, Easter, and Sun day worship, as “Christian.”

Sixth, how about this information? Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.

Seventh, how about this information? There are many similarities between the pagan god of Christ and the Christian version of Jesus. For example, Greek mythology tells of Christ bring born to the virgin Isis on December 25.

Eighth, how about this information? The word “trinity” cannot be found in the Bible. It wasn’t formally a part of church doctrine until the 4th century, when the Church first began teaching god as being in three separate persons.

Thanks for you answer.
I hope we can be friend, although we have different perspective.
If you willing visit my blog, and read my article at
And... if you love books, read The Holy Qur'an please...

Michael Kruse said...

You may want to check out the Science and Theology Roundtable at Princeton on Monday the 8th. You can attend on line:

Darwin Made Me Do It: Evolution and the Doctrine of Sin

Nancy Janisch said...

Michael, I'm already signed up. Thanks for letting everyone know about it.

Stushie said...

Aristiono, your assumptions are unfortunately based upon Gnostic interpretations that were rejected unanimously by the Christian Church centuries ago.

But thanks for commenting.

Doug Hagler said...

I am also excited about this new series on this blog...and kind of perplexed by Aristiono's "information". I believe, and from looking at his blogs it seems the best explanation, that he is leveling the classic (and oldest) Islamic critique of Christianity - that it is not in fact monotheistic. Strictly speaking, he's basically right - trinitarianism is not purely monotheism in the sense that the word is usually used. I'm not really bothered by this, since I think the trinity is awesome, but that's me.

Viola Larson said...

How can Christianity not be monotheistic when it believes in only one God?

Richard Bauckham has a beautiful little book, God Crucified: Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament which deals with how the Incarnation fits into the monotheism of the Jewish understanding of God.

He links Jesus with the first century Jewish understanding of God's identity as well as the Hebrew Bible's and shows how this does not at all take away from Judaism’s monotheism.

In one case he looks to Jewish 'monolatry' "the exclusive worship of the one God," to explain his position. It is a very interesting but fast read.

Sarahlynn said...

Nancy, I really like your bifocals analogy.

ty said...

As a Christian who has made a living in the sciences doing chemical research for companies, this blog sounds like a breath of fresh air. There are an incredable # of scientists and engineers sitting in the pews on any given Sunday.

Doug Hagler said...

I think that from the outside, Viola, the trinity does not look like what one would usually identify as a monotheism - it certainly does not to Muslims, and as I understand it Islam as a religion was founded in part as a radical monotheistic criticism of Christianity. At least, I can certainly see how someone would see Judaism and Islam as monotheistic religions very easily, and yet have trouble identifying Christianity as one in the same sense.

John Shuck said...

Looking forward to this. Like John Harris my congregation is celebrating Evolution Sunday as well. At some point I would like to read your thoughts on David Sloan Wilson's book Evolution for Everyone and his Evolutionary Studies program at SUNY Binghamton.

I am curious about Evolutionary Religion!

Nancy Janisch said...

John, thanks for the book and web recommendation. I'll take a look at it.

Ty, I too suspect there are lots of scientists of a variety of kinds in church each week. I hope we can talk about the ways scientists serve God's kingdom with their work.

Thanks to the rest of you for your comments. This looks like its going to be alot of fun!

DSM35803 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DSM35803 said...

One other important aspect of bifocals. If you look at the wrong thing through the wrong part you fall flat on your face.
As an engineer, I came to terms with the Trinity a long time ago. The Trinity is our earthly model of something that is beyond our full comprehension. The same thing that scientists and engineers do every day. How else can we explain The God that we experience every day in different ways?