Welcome to Apologetics4all where I make the case (apologia) for the truthfulness of the Christian world view.
“Christianity is true” is a very bold claim in today’s world.
This is in stark contrast to the claim that “Christianity is dangerous” as posed by the anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens in his book God is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything.
This is also in stark contrast to the claim that “Christianity is useful” for societal cohesion, social responsibilities, and the civilizing of youth and adult converts as posed by the socially-conscious atheists like Philip Kitcher in his book Living with Darwin – Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith.
Indeed, I agree with Kitcher that Christianity is incredibly useful in more ways than he details. But I cannot agree that it is merely useful. It is much more. In fact, the Christian world view does not leave mere utility as an option to its adherents.
My friend and fellow Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace’s blog.
Why should you care?
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. – Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963)
Perhaps C.S. Lewis’s point resonates with you. You want to know if it is meaningless or infinitely important.
Why listen to me?
There are many people who you could explore this question with. Why me?
We all have unique backgrounds and experiences. I’m a Ph.D. Chemist, a university professor (for 20 years), a Christian (for 40 years), and someone who tries to see Christianity from the OUTSIDE in. (More about me.) This may be just the perspective YOU are looking for.
I understand that there are some extremely absurd claims in the Christian world view, and I am seeking those who are seeking me and my perspective as I wrestle with YOUR questions before you have even asked them.
I do this as an act of love. I love YOU enough to ask myself and God YOUR questions, wrestling with the answers, the hints, and the silences. At the very least, YOU can be comforted by the fact that you have a fellow traveler who can walk with you discussing the most important questions of life the universe and everything.
- Who am I?
- Where did I, you, the universe come from?
- Is there any meaning in life?
- What is my purpose?
- Why did this happen to me?
- Is ANYTHING actually RIGHT or WRONG?
- Why is life so unfair?
- Where is all this headed?
- Where am I headed?
- What happens when I die?
- Why do I care so deeply about life and death?
- Why do I long for hope, justice, health, wholeness, companionship, relationship, light, and life?
The answer to these questions is not 42.
Let’s explore these questions and more, together.
- Start with my synopsis of what I believe and why.
- Explore some of my favorite posts.
- Subscribe to this blog. I don’t post very often because I have a very busy job as a professor. But when I do post, you’ll receive an email, that there is something new to read. (One post/email per quarter on average.)
Pose your questions in the comments along the way. This is a dialog.
Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.
I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together.
I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and posting
comments. But so what, it was still worth it!
This is so much good information. I was wondering your point of view on teaching faith in science and vise versa in a university setting…
D. L. Williams said:
So glad you commented. Are you associated with a university?
I had graduated awhile back and am helping my brother in his search for faith based Christian Universities to transfer to. I was looking at Liberty University, Lipscomb University, Taylor University, Grove City College, and etc… The one common thing in most of these school are that they are faith-based and / or “Christian”.
One could “easily” introduce faith in seminary / liberal subjects but a more overarching question is that how does one perhaps teach faith and science concurrently?
e.g. chemistry… we learn that atoms have proton, neutron, and electron hence the “Holy Trinity”…. or that because God made the heavens and earth… hence chemicals and science is from God…. This is of course an over generalization example or explanation (not to type too much).
The obvious elephant in this is that one would expect going to chemistry class and labs to learn chemistry… but from a faith-based institution that would not do justice to both faith and science… How would you perhaps approach this?
D. L. Williams said:
Interesting discussion question. You asked, “how does one perhaps teach faith and science concurrently?” and then mentioned some chemistry analogies, etc. But I’d like to back up to the question you pose.
I’m not sure how you are using the word “faith”. It seems with your analogy of subatomic particles with the Trinity, you are expanding the usage of faith to mean theology, as in “how does one perhaps teach [theology] and science concurrently?” Now, I’m on shaky ground because I’ve changed your question and you may not mean what I am responding to. But let me respond to this as if this is what you are asking.
Defining terms: Science is very broadly defined as “the theory of a thing or a phenomenon.” When these things or phenomena are material and susceptible to measurement, then science can be very rigorous and mathematical.
But this very broad definition can also contain things and phenomena that are not material or susceptible to measurement. This is the old definition which allowed the old universities to call Theology the Queen of the Sciences. That makes no sense with the modern definitions of science that reduce it to numerical measurement of material phenomena. But in today’s world we have come down hard on the separation between science and theology or as many would call it physics and metaphysics.
Physics answers the question of “What is”.
Metaphysics (which includes Theology) answers the questions of “Why”.
Physics observes that an experiment in nature IS repeatable. But it cannot tell you WHY it is repeatable. Theology tells you WHY it is repeatable.
If an orderly God is the author of the Book of Nature, then nature should reflect the order of its author.
Likewise if God is the author of the Book of Scripture, then there should be no conflict between the two books. When we see conflict, those are the interesting places to explore whether we have misunderstood one or both books.
So in science classes we stick to physics and leave the discussions of metaphysics for lunch or hallway or Ratio Christi discussions (rcshsu.org).
But notice that the “What IS in nature” question makes no claims on theology. Professors who say “science disproves God” are showing their ignorance and their cognitive biases. Science cannot prove a metaphysical claim.
Thank you so much for your time and efforts in systematically explaining this 🙂
This is really good. No shaky ground to worry at least from my end 🙂
Yes, as you have accurately pinpoint in my rather greedy questioning (below) of trying to combine the “faith” (theology) and “science” (proving, mathematical, etc) is the very grounds of academia I am trying to shake and question (at least at faith-based institutions). E.g. Combining church and state…. as the saying goes
“how does one perhaps teach faith and science concurrently?”
You are absolutely correct in your reply in tackling this question. Where the very concept and approach to slicing and dicing and elaborating through logically questioning and answering is the very foundation of carrying out science experiments and dare I say apologetics as well. Both approaches in diffusing questions are rather similar 🙂 Which I am not saying is “wrong” or “deflecting” the question at hand.
My premise is given in a faith-based institution that proudly and loudly say that they are happy to include/incorporate the freedom of faith into every facet of their organization be it teaching, chapel, or research, brings about the dilemma for faculty in science to incorporate both faith and science together. Where say a class evaluation would even ask how well is faith being incorporated in the coursework or even help elaborate/explore ones understanding in science and faith…..
Take for example: biology and the topics of creation and evolution. As a strong faith Christian one would be well comfortable with creation in life and conversations of lunch break metaphysics Ratio Christi discussions.
However, when it come to teaching or learning the body of knowledge in biology one cannot feign ignorance to the theory of evolution (backed by scientific establishments). That would be a disservice to the students and yet a conundrum to teach and learn?
Of course I am not saying to abandon the scientific approach that have been well established or take flight with theology and metaphysics. Its is neither ONLY one or the other for me. I understand everything I am saying does not fly in a secular school and a sidetrack learning for theology/faith would be needed to compromise in academic settings.
I am just befounded by this idea of taking only one or the other route…. that at least from my side of the fence it would be nice to see both faith and science concurrently… maybe I am asking too much?
D. L. Williams said:
Gosh, time got away from me. Sorry for the long delay in replying to your excellent question. BTW, I love this question because it allows me to discuss something I am extremely PASSIONATE about, namely ANTI-INTELECTUALISM in modern Christian culture.
I often encounter Christian students who clearly feel guilty learning about evolution, geologic timescales, vast astronomic distances, radioactive dating techniques as if learning about these things somehow is bad. This is ridiculous for several reasons:
1. If one disagrees with long geological time scales, vast astronomical distances, radiological dating, or animal/plant death before the fall of man, one should absolutely study those theories to be informed and to be able to understand the strengths of those theories and to be able to point out any weaknesses. Not studying them with full fervor will lead to weak straw man arguments. This is the current situation with many in this camp. Their arguments are so poorly formed that they merely show their ignorance and intellectual laziness. They are not standing up for the Gospel. They are easily dismissed.
2. If one sees the book of nature and the book of scripture as being in concord in those areas where they speak to the same phenomena, then studying those theories is also something one should pursue. There are many parts of these theories that are in concord with scripture and parts that clearly conflict with scripture. You must study the theories well to know which way is up. Doing this honors God and his gift of your mind. Entering STEM with an open Bible is an exciting exercise!
3. If you want to have an evangelistic conversation with anyone with a Bachelor of Science degree in any STEM major, you need to be able to engage on the topics that a STEM person loves, namely math, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and biology. Your impact on that person for Jesus sake will depend greatly on how comfortable you are with the terms and theories in all those disciplines. Do you want to influence the influencers in society? They you need to study the influencers’ fields of study.
If at a Christian School or University, your teaching evaluation tool requires you to stick theological points into every scientific topic, then your evaluation tool is the problem. Weighing out 6 grams of iron and calculating how many grams of iron oxide will be formed when it rusts is a basic chemistry calculation. Theology is not needed and to insert it into this lesson is forced and artificial. Perhaps at the beginning or the end of that lesson, you could reiterate the Theological Principle that God has created an orderly universe and that we have observed that mass is conserved in these calculations (Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy). Most of the theological underpinnings of STEM is God’s rational nature and orderly creation.
In fact, He uses nature’s orderliness as a witness of his faithfulness.
“35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the LORD Almighty is his name: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.” 37 This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD.” [Jeremiah 31:35-37 NIV]
Thank you Sean for this great discussion. I hope my reply is not too sharp. It is not directed at you, but rather at the reluctance of Christians to deeply engage secular topics without accepting them as true.