Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Notes from Last Night's Show

Last night (well, technically, this morning), I was a guest on the Radio show on KKLA 99.5 here in Los Angeles. The topic of the show was "Science." I had prepared notes for several theological presuppositions which Christianity provided before "science" could be practiced. During the show, I didn't have time to go over them. So, I am posting my notes here, for anyone who is interested. These notes are based 98% on Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton's excellent book The Soul of Science [TSOS], most notably chapter one.

Christian Doctrines that Laid the Foundation for Science
  1. Reality of Creation (TSOS, 22)
    1. The Bible teaches that nature is real
    2. This is opposed to various forms of pantheism and idealism teach that finite particular things are merely appearances of the One, the Absolute, the Infinite. Individuality and separateness are illusions. Hinduism is one such example.
    3. Creation teaches that finite objects are not mere appearances of the Infinite, but that God made them; they have a real existence. The doctrine of creation implies the world is not illusory.
  2. God’s Creation is Good (TSOS, 22-23)
    1. The ancient world often equated the material world with evil and disorder; hence, denigrating anything to do with material things.
      1. Manual Labor was left to slaves
      2. Many historians believe this is one reason the Greeks did not develop an empirical science, which requires practical, hands-in observation and experimentation.
    2. Christianity teaches that the world has great value as God’s creation.
      1. Throughout the Creation account in Gen. 1 we find that phrase “And God saw that it was good.”
      2. Creation is to be studied because it is a good thing which God has given to us.
      3. Calvin wrote: “There is need of art and more exacting toil in order to investigate the motion of the stars, to determine their assigned stations, to measure their intervals, to note their properties.”
  3. Creation/Creator Distinction (TSOS, 23-24)
    1. Nature is good, but it is not a god. It is a creature.
    2. Pagan religions are typically animistic or pantheistic. Spirits or gods reside in nature.
      1. Pagan man lives in “an enchanted forest”
    3. Christianity teaches that God does not inhabit the world in the way these pagan deities do.
      1. He is not the personalization of natural forces.
      2. He is not the world’s “soul”
      3. He is its CREATOR
      4. In this way, Gen. 1 stands in stark contrast with other ANE religions by rejecting any religious status to things such as the Sun, the Moon, and the stars
    4. This “de-deification” of nature was a necessary precursor to science.
      1. As long as nature commands religious worship, dissecting her is judged impious.
      2. If the world is charged with divine beings and powers, the only appropriate response is to supplicate them or ward them off!
    5. When the world was no longer an object of worship, then--and only then--could it become an object of study.
  4. Rational God
    1. Paganism taught a multitude of gods; Christianity One.
    2. This meant that the Creator’s handiwork was unified and coherent.
    3. The God of the Bible is trustworthy and dependable
      1. Therefore the creation of such a God must likewise be dependable
    4. Nature exhibits regularity, dependability, and orderliness.
      1. Historical example: Copernicus
        1. He knew the universe was “wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”
  5. Laws of Nature
    1. Pagan culture saw nature as alive, and moved by mysterious forces
    2. Christianity led to the belief, based on the trustworthiness of God, that all natural occurrences are lawful and intelligible.
    3. God is a Law-Giver, therefore we can look for Laws in Nature, just as we find His Laws in Scripture.
    4. Note the order: God first then laws, NOT laws therefore God.
      1. Biblical presuppositions!
  6. Creation Ex Nihilo (TSOS, 27)
    1. Pagan religions posited creation from some pre-existing substance.
      1. Plato’s demiurge merely injects reason (Ideas) into reason-lass matter
      2. Even this the demiurge did imperfectly
      3. In short, this Greek creator’s hands were tied
      4. Greeks, therefore, expected a level of imprecision in nature
    2. Christianity teaches there is no pre-existing material that God simply forms into all things
      1. God creates out of nothing the world exactly as He wills.
      2. Historical example: Kepler and elliptical orbits
  7. The Image of God (TSOS, 29)
    1. Science depends on the sheer act of faith that the universe possessed order and could be interpreted by rational minds.
      1. If only God is rational, but none of His creators are, what good does it do us?
    2. In Christianity, man is made in the Image of God, and is therefore a rational creator, just as God is a rational Creator.
    3. Humans can “think God’s thoughts after Him” as Kepler put it.
    4. The Natural world is comprehensible because the same Logos that is responsible for its ordering is also reflected in human reason. (Kaiser, TSOS, 29)
  8. The Freedom of God (TSOS, 30-32)
    1. God had created a rational knowable creation out of nothing, and He was free to create it in any manner He saw fit.
    2. God was not constrained by Aristotelian Forms
      1. Rational intuition of the Forms is contrary to experimentation
    3. 1277, Bishop of Paris (Etienne Tempier) condemned this form of Aristotelianism
      1. God could not allow any other planetary motion than a circular one
      2. God could not create a vacuum
      3. “Voluntarism” taught that there was no limitation on God’s Power
      4. Natural Law was not Forms inherent in nature but as divine commands imposed from outside nature
      5. Matter was driven not by internal rational Forms, but by the sovereign commands of God.
    4. Historical Example: Robert Boyle
      1. God as “the free establisher of the laws of motion”
      2. These laws “depend perfectly on His will.”
    5. Not surprisingly, this lead to experimental methodology
      1. If God created freely rather than by logical necessity, we cannot gain knowledge of creation by logical deduction. Instead, we have to go out and look, to observe and experiment.
      2. Ian Barbour: “The world is orderly and dependable because God is trustworthy and not capricious; but the details of the world must be found by observation rather than rational deduction because God is free and did not have to create any particular kind of universe.


  1. Hey Seth - This is GREAT stuff! Sorry you didn't have a chance to go over it on the air with us the other night. Hopefully we'll have another chance to chat soon. BTW, check out my new website at ...
    God bless you, brother!
    ~Leslie Wickman

  2. Leslie: It was a pleasure to meet you and get to chat about science with you on and off the air. I can now tell people (and have been telling them) that I know an astronaut! I will be sure to check out your web site, and I also look forward to chatting again, soon. God bless you, too!

  3. Hey Seth- Do you know if the podcast is available yet?