science

Three Biblical Truths that Caused Modern Science to Flourish

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Christians sometimes think that the sciences are somehow at odds with the Christian faith. But modern science actually arose within a predominantly Christian civilizational context.

At the turn of the 20th century, the French physicist Pierre Duhem began researching the roots of modern science. He concluded that modern science began, in seminal form, in the Middle Ages, and that Christianized Europe was a conducive environment to scientific enquiry.

Modern science actually arose within a predominantly Christian civilizational context.

Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton, in The Soul of Science, argue that Duhem was an astute and perceptive observer of the history of science.[1] They note that modern science could have arisen from China or Arabia, as both civilizations had produced a higher level of learning and more advanced technology than European civilization at that time. Yet, they write:

It was Christianized Europe and not these more advanced cultures that gave birth to modern science as a systematic, self-correcting discipline. This historian is bound to ask why this should be so.[2]

Pearcey and Thaxton acknowledge that several factors (e.g., trade and commerce) contributed to Europe’s success in the sciences, but they argue that among those factors the Christian worldview was central.

Pearcey and Thaxton list several aspects of Christian teaching that enabled modern science to arise in a Christianized European context. Here are some highlights:

  1. Creation is real and good.
    One aspect is the biblical teaching that the physical and material world is both real (unlike the illusory world envisioned by many Hindus) and good (contrary to the negative perspective of Gnostics and neo-Platonists). Furthermore, Scripture teaches that the world is good but not divine, which allows humans to study it as an object rather than revering it as a god.
  1. Creation is orderly.
    Additionally, the Bible portrays an orderly world that can be studied (unlike the pagans, who viewed the world as a chaotic arena influenced by the conflicting whims of various deities). Its regularity is such that we have come to speak of “the laws of nature,” which can be stated in mathematical formulas.
  1. Humans are rational.
    Finally, Scripture portrays humans as beings who have the rational capacities to study this orderly world. In other words, God created the world in such a way that it can be studied, and he created humans in such a way that we can do the studying.
God created the world so it can be studied, and he created humans to do the studying.

Though some scientists argue that science and theology are incompatible, Christianity actually played a significant role in the rise of modern science and is hospitable to science and scientists.

[1] Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), 18-20.

[2] Pearcey and Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 21.

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Bruce Ashford

Bruce Riley Ashford is the author or co-author of six books, including 'The Gospel of Our King' (Baker, 2019), 'Letters to an American Christian' (B&H, 2018), 'One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics' (B&H, 2015), and 'Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians' (Lexham, 2015).

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