Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Usefulness of Independence

Another excerpt from Mere Science and Christian Faith (here in less than two months)...

We know that God is not ultimately demonstrable through natural science. God’s fingers, as it were, won’t poke through a laboratory experiment. In fact, since I advocate for dual causation (which I’ll explain in a another post), I believe we want to keep a measure of independence between faith and science. As nice as many pastors are, scientist don’t need them in the lab sprinkling holy water on their experiments or providing 24/7 spiritual encouragement.

Though I advocate for the integration of science and faith, independence has a place. If God is going to work in the natural world, he will often do so through natural means. (Though obviously a miracle like the resurrection is a direct act of God without natural causes.) One tried-and-true way to understand this is dual causation (see my footnote).

We can speak of an event through two means—God’s and the world’s. For example, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, 
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land” (Exodus 14:21). 
Did God or nature do it? Yes—both are necessary to describe the event. 

Similarly, consider 
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
When God knits us together in our mother’s womb, that divine work also occurs through natural processes. This is a useful and necessary perspective. We should not use science to prove God’s existence, and there is no uniquely Christian way to bring water to the boiling point or to map the human genome.

Footnote: For a philosophical approach to this question, see Ric Machuga, Three Theological Mistakes: How to Correct Enlightenment Assumptions About God, Miracles, and Free Will (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), esp. 93-99, and “The Hows of Science and the Whys of Philosophy: Why Final Causes Are Still Necessary,” in In Defense of the Soul: What It Means to Be Human (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2002), 57-63.

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