Heidelcast 68: Science! (pt 2)

It’s widely thought that science, the modern study of nature, is the product of the rejection of Christianity, as if science and Christianity are naturally at odds. As part of this narrative it is said that Christianity was anti-intellectual and disinterested in nature, as if it was backward. In this narrative it was the Renaissance that gave us the beginnings of science. Heiko Oberman (1930–2001), argued that it was a particular school of late medieval, Christian theologians who were a great part

…in the advance of both the natural sciences and theology. Subordinating speculation to experience freed physics from the confining grip of metaphysical systems that transcend experience. Once experience became experiments, modern science was born, and it was nominalism—not humanism—that had paved the way.

It was Christians who published Copernicus’ work in the early 16th century. Johannes Kepler was a Protestant as was Tyco Brahe. Galileo and Descartes, Pascal, and Newton believed their theorizing was a way of defending the Christian faith. There have been a number of believing scientists in the 20th and 21st centuries. One of my favorites is Michael Polanyi, who died in 1976. Dr Todd Pedlar is a Christian and a scientist. He’s Associate Professor of Physics in Luther College, in Decorah. He holds a PhD in Physics from Northwestern University and has done post-doctoral research at Cornell University. He’s the recipient of a number of grants and is widely published in refereed, academic journals. In other words, unlike Bill Nye and Ken Ham, he’s a real scientist.

Here’s episode 68:

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8 comments

    • Would that not then make Old Earth views unconfessional, since the geological record that is called on to show that the earth’s great antiquity clearly shows disease, disaster, predation, and death long before the appearance of man? I am not trying to start an argument. I really want to understand how Old Earthers understand these issues.

    • One more thing: I looked over Belgic 14 and I could not see anything stated regarding death in non-humans. So maybe that’s the answer. But your answer above seems to indicate you think it refers to death more generally.

    • Correction. I should have mentioned art. 15 also. If we read BC 14-15 in light of contemporaneous authors I’m confident that they understood all death (animal and human) to be the result of the fall. That was the traditional Christian position. It was Pelagius who taught that there was human death before the fall. He taught that Adam would have died even had he not sinned. Pelagius had to downplay the consequences of the fall and make the pre- and post-lapsarian states as similar as possible.

      Nevertheless, I agree that there is a difference between animal death and human death and that the Belgic is specifically addressing human death.

      The historical question is not whether the Reformed entertained human death before the fall but whether they imagined animal death before the fall.

  1. While I would definitely agree that it was Christians and the Christian world-view that birthed modern science (and continues to give it the only good impeti), I don’t think I would agree that Newton was a Christian. Many scholars today think of him as an Arian, in particular, and not a Trinitarian. He was a theist, and I think he even accepted most, if not all, of the Bible. But he had different views of what the Bible says concerning the nature of God. I also do not think he was a Deist.

  2. Bob McDowell: “Was there death on Earth before sin?”

    R. Scott Clark: “According to Belgic Art. 14, no.”

    GW: Maybe I’m missing something, but seems to me that Belgic Art. 14 (on the creation and fall of man in particular) as well as the Word of God upon which its’ teachings are based (for example, Rom. 5:12ff.) speak of human death as the wages of sin. For human beings, God’s image bearers, death is the wages of sin. I do not believe it can be proved from Scripture that animal death is the wages of human sin. Seems to me that there are good biblical and scientific reasons to believe that natural death for lower life forms (animals) was part of God’s good world as originally created.

  3. Its really interesting,…. Neil deGrasse Tyson has been painting some of the above mentioned, “faith defenders” in his show, “The Cosmos” as non believers. Either Tyson (actually Sagan’s writings) is wrong with his historical lesson and enters false presuppositions on these characters, or they were mere theist like Adrian noted above.

    On another note, I forget who originated the quote but I always come back to in when discussing science my “scientism” friends:

    “The universe was created by a perfect mathematician.”

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