Poythress takes a look at the scientific enterprise from a robustly Reformed, VanTillian perspective. He considers what it might look like to engage in science with Scripture as our ultimate authority, and why engaging in science on any other basis results in both irrationality and idolatry. At the same time, God’s revelation in both nature and Scripture are equally infallible and authoritative but human sin and error can misinterprets both. With that in mind, Poythress analyzes various fault-lines created by our interpretations of the biblical account of origins and current scientific theories, and then proposes how best to reconcile them in light God’s personal Word upholding both.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Science mixing with people
1. Why scientists must believe in God: divine attributes of scientific law
2. The role of the Bible
3. Knowledge from whose authority?
5. Issues with Genesis 1 and science
6. The teaching of Genesis 1
7. Evaluating Modern science on the age of the earth
8. Evaluating theories of the age of the earth
9. The 24-hour-day and mature creation views
10. The Analogical Day Theory and the Framework view
11. The role of mankind in science
12. The role of Christ as redeemer in science
13. The word of God in science
14. Truth in science and in life
15. Debates about what is real: the character of scientific knowledge
16. Ordinary experience of the world in relation to scientific theory
17. The relation of creation to re-creation
18. The mystery of life
19. Origin of new kinds of life: intelligent design
20. God and physical displays
21. A Christian approach to physics and chemistry
22. A Christian approach to Mathematics
23. Conclusion: Serving God
Appendix 1: The Framework View of Genesis 1
Appendix 2: More on triangular numbers
Bibliography on Theology of Science
Why scientists must believe in God: divine attributes of scientific law
Poythress opens his book with this startling statement: “all scientists—including agnostics and atheists—believe in God. They have to in order to do their work.” Poythress backs up this statement with a consideration of the place and meaning of natural or scientific law in the enterprise of science. The dependable regularities and constants we observe in nature are the basis for all scientific inquiry and progress. Whatever their philosophical theory of these regularities might be, all scientists in practice depend on these laws to be a reliable guide to the external world. For Poythress, these natural laws or regularities are simply the providential speech of God upholding the world.
Poythress proceeds to observe how our beliefs about natural law are eerily similar to classical divine attributes. We assign to natural laws such properties as omnipresence (operating in all places), eternity (at all times), immutability (constant effects), immateriality (seen only in its effects), omnipotence (incapable of being broken), transcendence (applies generally), immanence (applies particularly), incomprehensibility (mystery as to why such laws work), goodness (natural laws are reliable), rectitude (consequences for breaking scientific laws are always the same), and beauty or simplicity.
In the face of these parallels, Poythress addresses two objections. First, materialists might agree will all of the above but insist such laws are mere impersonal forces and not the product of a personal God. Poythress counters by pointing out that understanding, articulating, and using natural laws presuppose rationality and meaningful language—a property only found in persons. Second, Poythress’s account might sound like he is deifying nature. In response, it’s not the things of nature themselves that partake of divine attributes, but the laws that describe and regulate them. These laws, as the very speech of God, create a subtle and mysterious place for mediating the nature of God to the world; even as our own human words both do and do not convey ourselves to the world.
The Role of the Bible
What does the Bible bring to the modern world of science? Instead of starting with the world’s standard approach, Poythress begins with Scripture’s own account of what has traditionally been called special and general revelation. While these categories are helpful and biblical (as nicely delineated in Psalm 19), much depends on how we define “revelation” and how we conceive of their relationship. Poythress, for himself, prefers to speak of God general and special speech. The problems with “revelation” as a now understood are many: it’s too focused on God’s verbal communication to mankind, it takes on a “grace replacing nature” cast, it slips into an impersonal view of natural revelation, and it can become radically subjective (as evident in neo-orthodoxy). Instead, all God’s speech in nature and in the Bible is personal, miraculous, comprehensive, and equally authoritative.
This last attribute of “authority” is important in assessing…[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach