The Historic Alliance of Christianity and Science
by Kenneth Samples
Influential British mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell once remarked, “I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.”
In his popular and controversial work Why I Am Not A Christian, Russell leveled the charge that Christianity in particular has served as an opponent of all intellectual progress, especially scientific progress.1 Since Russell’s time, other outspoken advocates of naturalism have echoed his claim, asserting that Christianity is incompatible with—even hostile to—the findings of modern science. Many in our culture view Christianity as unscientific, at best; anti-scientific, at worst.
Conflicts between scientific theories and the Christian faith have arisen through the centuries, to be sure. However, the level of conflict has often been exaggerated, and Christianity’s positive influence on scientific progress is seldom acknowledged.2 I would like to turn the tables by arguing for Christianity’s compatibility with and furtherance of scientific endeavors and by arguing against the compatibility of naturalism and science.
Supporting the Scientific Endeavor
The intellectual climate that gave rise to modern science (roughly three centuries ago) was shaped decisively by Christianity.3 Not only were most of its founding fathers themselves devout Christians (including Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, and Pascal)4 but the biblical worldview provided a basis for modern science to both emerge and flourish. Christian theism affirmed that an infinite, eternal, and personal God created the world ex nihilo. The creation, reflecting the rational nature of the Creator, was therefore orderly and uniform. Furthermore, God created humankind in his image (Genesis 1:26–7), making us uniquely capable of reasoning and of discovering the created order’s intelligibility. In effect, the Christian worldview supported the underlying principles that made scientific inquiry possible and desirable.
Eminent historian and philosopher of science Stanley Jaki argues that science was “stillborn” in other great civilizations outside Europe because…