science

Why Science and Theology Should Be Partners, Not Enemies

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What’s the relationship between science and theology?

Some people believe that science and theology are enemies. Yet in a recent post, we provided evidence to the contrary. In fact, we discovered that modern science flourished in part because of Christian theological principles.

The best way to view science and theology is as mutually beneficial dialogue partners.

The best way to view science and theology is as mutually beneficial dialogue partners.

We recognize that God is the author of both Scripture and nature. If so, then there should be a partnership between those whose primary object of study is Scripture and those whose primary object of study is nature. Theologians and scientists should dialogue with one another and partner together in seeking to understand reality.

As philosopher David Clark writes:

Reality is complex, human knowers access different dimensions of reality using different methods. This is precisely why dialogue among disciplines is important. Dialogue permits us to adopt multiple frames of reference on reality. Still, if truth is unified as we hold, we must seek connections between and integration of these multiple frames of reference.[1]

Clark goes on to explain some ways that theology speaks to science and science speaks to theology.

Theology speaks to science by:

  1. Explaining the origin and destiny of the universe.
  2. Explaining why it is orderly and can be interpreted.
  3. Explaining why science matters.
  4. Helping to guide future scientific research.
  5. Helping provide warrant for one scientific theory over another.[2]

Moreover, science speaks to theology by:

  1. Offering conceptual frameworks and analogies helpful for elucidating theological concepts.
  2. Helping provide warrant for one theological interpretation over another.
  3. Illustrating and providing further explanation of biblical teaching on aspects of created reality.
Theologians & scientists should dialogue with one another & partner together in seeking to understand reality.

The English physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne puts it well when he writes:

The scientific and theological accounts of the world must fit together in a mutually consistent way. In fact, because I also accept the dialogue description of this relationship, I believe that they can do so — not as a mere matter of compatibility, but with a degree of mutual enhancement and enlightenment.[3]

So science and theology aren’t enemies. They’re partners. And if we want to understand the world, we need both of them.

This post is adapted from Dr. Ashford’s new book, Every Square Inch. Details>>

[1] David Clark, To Know and Love God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 284.

[2] This list is a slight modification of the five points presented by Clark, To Know and Love God, 287-94.

[3] John Polkinghorne, Scientists as Theologians (London: SPCK, 1996), 6-7.

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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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