3 Reasons Why Science Will Never Disprove God

by Mike Duran · 53 comments

“One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” — Stephen Hawking

Several months ago, LiveScience.com published an article titled “Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God?” Apparently, I should be worried.  The article claims that science is close to finally proving that God does not exist. Palpitations!

Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science.

Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.

Carroll argues that God’s sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. “As we learn more about the universe, there’s less and less need to look outside it for help,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He thinks the sphere of supernatural influence will eventually shrink to nil.

Being that homo sapiens have been around only 200-plus thousand years of the universe’s 13.75 billion years (that’s, like, 0.00001454545% of the time, bro), it’s rather amazing to encounter such cock-surety from, what amounts to, an historical dust mote. Not to mention, a species that is more closely related to a mollusk than a Star Child. Amazing what a PhD and a telescope can do to some people.

Or a particle accelerator.

But that’s exactly what happened. No sooner had CERN’s Large Hadron Collider fired up, than the questions began flying. Claremont School of Theology provost Philip Clayton asks, Does the Higgs Boson Discovery Resolve the Religion-Science Debate? Compiling some of the yea-sayers:

“The Higgs boson is another nail in the coffin of religion,” expounds Oxford’s Peter Atkins on BBC. “Will the Higgs boson give rise to a new religion, a new god?” asks the Hindustan Times.

I’m thinking that creating “a new religion, a new god” may be the exact reason for such apparent glee. That “new god” being, of course, Science.

If the possibility that little men in lab coats are about to prove you’ve been bamboozled by a Guy in sandals troubles you, I’m here to quell your fears with…

Three reasons why science will NEVER disprove God:

Reason #1.) Unless every possible dimension of the universe (or parallel universes!) can be explored entire, we cannot conclusively declare there is no God. The cosmonauts who looked down from their space capsule and declared mockingly there musn’t be a god because they couldn’t see him are little different than the tech who smashes some atoms and declares “See? God is dead!” Until scientists can confidently declare that every particle, every dimension, every possible nook of Existence has been plumbed, scrubbed, and sorted, proving the non-existence of God is impossible.

Reason #2.) Science has limits. There is no scientific method to prove that only scientific methods can uncover all Truth. So the statement, “Trust only in what can be scientifically proven,” is self-contradictory. Because the assertion itself cannot be scientifically proven. Peter Kreeft, in his excellent Handbook of Christian Apologetics writes, “A scientist who believes that God caused the universe to exist has not abandoned scientific method, but merely acknowledges its limits.” Unless one is prepared to declare science can explain Everything, acknowledging its “limits” is pretty darned smart.

Reason #3.) Even a Theory of Everything requires faith. Back to our evolved mollusk. Mr. Carroll wrote, “Most scientists … suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase ‘and that’s just how it is.'” So when Christians wonder at the unanswerable questions of the universe and say, “That’s just how it is,” scientists scoff. But when scientists look at those same questions, devise a Theory, and say, “That’s just how it is,” it’s great science. Go figger.

Perhaps the most important part of the question, “Will science ever disprove God?” is the inference, “Why does science need to?” And, indeed, the urge to once and for all evict a Supreme Being from the cosmological equation, to make God “unnecessary” as Stephen Hawking says, seems to be a driving force behind much science research. But why? That, too, is a relatively simple question to answer: Stripping the Universe of a deity is necessary for Science to become its own.

Jay DiNitto November 30, 2012 at 9:05 AM

“Reason #3.) Even a Theory of Everything requires faith.”

Yes, but sort of. It’s a different kind of faith than religious faith, which comes as a result of divine revelation and received a-rationally (i.e., not on the basis of other presumptions seen in natural philosophy/science, such as facts about the observable universe).

This is a philosophical world apart from science labeling things as “not verified” or even “not verifiable” but cautiously assuming them.

Regardless, science only disproves God, in a sense, on an individual epistemic basis. That is to say that a non-belief in god is assumed by he individual actor BEFORE science comes into it, and the actor, if he isn’t careful, will assign scientific evidence/non-evidence to the pile against god’s existence. But what’s to stop the theist from doing likewise for his presumed belief system?

Mike Duran November 30, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Jay, I don’t believe biblical faith is a-rational. I became a Christian, in part, from researching the authenticity of the biblical documents, the claims of Jesus Christ, and evidences for his resurrection from the dead. This isn’t to say that biblical faith is arri ved at soley through reason, but that it’s not devoid of convincing historical, rational, scientific evidences.

Jay DiNitto November 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM

“it’s not devoid of convincing historical, rational, scientific evidences.”

Correct. But what happened with your research was that it removed the barriers to belief, because either you held wrong information that was falsified, or you had “empty slots” which were filled with new information. I wouldn’t consider that as a part of your faith, but that it caused you to see less belief-killing contradiction between the material claims of Christianity (i.e., Jesus did xyz, when you thought he did abc). I don’t think the decision to believe is based on those material conclusions.

Lisa Godrees November 30, 2012 at 9:14 AM

I think science (when it’s on the right track) is actually God allowing us to see part of His design. As a former scientist, when I consider the intricacies in DNA, it proves to me that God is real. How could that have possibly happened by accident? To me, believing we came to exist by accident is a bigger leap of faith than believing in a Creator.

When science and God don’t coincide, I just assume that science hasn’t quite gotten it all figured out yet. After all, the world used to be flat, right?

Jon Mast November 30, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Bravo! My atheist friends ask me about the cosmos and dna and how I as a Christian can reconcile all that, and you just said my answer: God’s allowing us to see part of his design!

Our God is bigger than our brains. Is it so surprising that we can’t understand everything he created?

DD December 11, 2012 at 6:20 PM

The complex specified information in DNA is seen as a very strong design evidence. I would recommend “Signature in the Cell” by Stephen Meyers or “The Cell’s Design” by Fuz Rana. Both get technical, but provide the high level of science that these discussions sometimes lack.

Erica December 1, 2012 at 8:26 AM

I read a lovely book titled, “The Heavens Proclaim His Glory” published by Thomas Nelson. Its complete with gorgeous color photos of the galaxy, the planets the stars, and some poetry, scripture accompanies most pages…when I look at those brilliant photos, it shows me more of who God is…not less.

So you are absolutely right, it takes a huge leap of faith to believe otherwise.

John Robinson November 30, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Mike, you DO know your site is about to be swarmed by some highly-incensed howling atheists, don’t you? I know; I used to be one.

Best batten down the hatches, bro. Once again you’ve lit a match in a paint factory … but I like it.

As Johnny Storm says, “flame on!” *G*

Morgan L. Busse November 30, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Excellent post Mike! I have no other words, just Yes! Right on!

Johne Cook November 30, 2012 at 10:30 AM

As we have seen time and again, the ‘you shall be as gods’ line is the oldest lie in the book but is still getting incredible mileage.

Ever the pragmatist, I am amused when men try to disprove God from within the Creation He made (which doesn’t include the tools to prove or disprove its Creator).

Think of it this way – God is a programmer and makes a MMORPG (think City of Heroes or World of Warcraft or any of the other perpetual online role playing games). The Designer writes all the tools used to make the game, assembles the servers which host the game, funds the entire endeavor, and gives that power to the Master Builder who creates a game on that infrastructure.

Then, like Kevin Flynn in Tron, the Master Builder insinuates himself into the game itself to interact with the denizens of the game.

Saying that man can disprove God is as silly one of the non-playable characters (NPC) within the game saying he can prove (or disprove) the Master Builder isn’t just another NPC – he simply doesn’t have the tools. He’s limited to the confines of the game, utterly at the mercy of the Designer and the Master Builder and ignorant of just how much he doesn’t really know about how things work and exist.

Kat Heckenbach November 30, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Johne, well said! Perfect analogy.

Jon Mast November 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM

I shall also sing your accolades. Well said!

Kat Heckenbach November 30, 2012 at 11:22 AM

To me, the most important part of this is that science has limits. And the scientific method is very precise. Even if it WERE foolproof and 100% accurate, there are things that simply cannot be tested by it.

This kind of thing always reminds me of what David Gerrold said at a con I attended, which basically boiled down to that he doesn’t believe Christians can write science fiction because we are part of a religion that claims we don’t need to look for answers (we have them all, supposedly, or think we do) and the heart of science fiction and SCIENCE is asking “what if?” and searching for new boundaries. (That is one big, honkin’ run-on sentence.)

I believe it’s science that says, “We can learn EVERYTHING,” as though there is a limit to what exists and what is out there. Christianity is where we can forever and ever ask “What if?” and “Why?” because God is limitless, existence is limitless. There is so much more beyond the physical, what we can see, touch, experiment on.

Bob Avey November 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Mathematicians and statisticians admit that the probability of life just “happening” like an accident is so astronomically low that it is safe to say that it’s impossible. And if after given that one still believes in the Big Bang theory they still have the problem of infinity to deal with. I mean like where did the gas cloud come from and what was it made of? What caused the gas cloud to explode and where did it explode into? If there was nothing before the Big Bang then there was no space.

Sage Grimnly April 30, 2013 at 3:41 AM

Mathematiticians and staticians don’t have shit to work with, ya’dope. Out of the one planets that we’ve explored and the aproximately nine others we’ve observed within our solar system (up close and personal, just about) one of the planets has life. That’s a 1:10 chance right there. I got that information about as easily as thoe guys, using the rectal extraction method, so don’t take me at my word.

Larry Doherty January 9, 2015 at 9:48 PM

lmaooooooooooooooo life on other planets organic life smh their is no other planet with advance life and the mathematics calculates the odds of advance life forming threw the big bang

David Tuggy November 30, 2012 at 12:57 PM

“To make God ‘unnecessary’ as Stephen Hawking says, seems to be a driving force behind much science research. But why? That, too, is a relatively simple question to answer: Stripping the Universe of a deity is necessary for Science to become its own.”

A complementary answer, and probably a more important one in a practical sense, is that stripping the Universe of a deity is very desirable for other reasons, and Science provides the best rationalization so far for such a move.

I will never forget a conversation years ago with a good friend, an atheist, communist, Italian woman, who asked me why I was into this religion stuff. I told it was because I was convinced that, at least in its core, it was true. I asked her why she didn’t believe there was a God. Oh, she threw off as an obvious comment, “because in that case I wouldn’t be the one in charge of my life.” She was an honest woman. It is ironic that despite convincing herself that she was the ultimate authority in charge of her life, she lost her life to cancer not long afterwards.

Bruce Hennigan November 30, 2012 at 1:01 PM

New discoveries in science require that humans thinking beyond what we currently know to be true. Only through the capacity to imagine; to speculate; to hyposthesize can the human mind step beyond that limit of what we currently know to find out what we can know. In essence, we must think beyond nature; we must think supernaturally. Ah, that is the problem. If we deny any answer from the “supernatural”, such as God, then how can we continue to imagine answers that lie beyond what we currently know about “nature”? The reason we have answered so many questions that were once attributed to God is because we were searching FOR God! Remove that desire to reach beyond our limitations to the eternal and infinite, and scientific inquiry could cease. Science needs God. We need the Supernatural. Of course, I believe, and this has been substantiated time and time again in the last thirty years, that the more we learn about our universe, the more we see the fingerprint of a Designer.

Jill November 30, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Science doesn’t need to disprove God, but it searches for answers that may be outside a belief in God. Philosophically, it would be far better to keep that far side of truth open-ended, lest we follow the trail of evidence in a circular fashion all the way back to our a priori assumptions. As somebody who has an albeit irrational–that is, not based off evidence–faith in Jesus, I force myself outside a closed reading of scripture when examining evidence (or lack thereof) for creationism. This may, indeed, lead to circular arguments because I’m always turning toward God in my understanding, but at least I’m not tied to man’s limited understanding of a book that was never meant to be a science text.

In so many discussions on the subject of origins, people tend to become tribal and reactionary and, hence, blinded to truth, while clinging tightly to answers that may be false, such as young earth creationism. A good scientist will at least attempt to keep an open mind and to recognize when his beautiful theories don’t add up, rather than forcing the numbers. Thank heavens, one doesn’t have to keep an open mind to be a good Christian, or a lot of us would be in a whole lot of trouble. A truly neutral person of any type may be a statistical improbability.

richie matt September 14, 2013 at 7:35 AM

my friend once said to me EVOLUTION is true….and all of us came from monkeys…..and that the universe was constant and it never changed……and GOD does not exist…….so i told him……..from where did the 1st living cell come into existence…..nothing?…..from where did the first particle come into existence……nothing?…….which came 1st? chicken or egg?……….u should have seen the look on his face when he could not answer my questions…priceless……he is now a good believer in god…

jesus thin air christ January 13, 2015 at 2:24 PM

you have some very gullible friends
obviously the first particle came from the big bang
every black hole has a white exhaust
thats all the big bang was
god is disproven by simple space physics
everything in the universe has a trajectory, a line that you can trace back to one point

And by the way, we’re primates we’re not supposed to have beliefs.
All they are is our own fantasies

MMhmm... April 2, 2015 at 12:28 AM

Nothing you said disproves God. Besides, didn’t the universe start as a singularity? That is, a perfectly condensed single point? Small as that might be, a singularity isn’t nothing. And, nothing comes from nothing.

Everything in science hangs by the thread of human understanding, there is always the possibility that new evidence (although it isn’t always likely) will come along and knock an old theory out at its heels.

I do believe, by the way, in evolution. Belief in evolution doesn’t contradict a belief in God or nullify a need for His existence. Science very clearly puts forward reliable evidence for the existence of evolution, and it’s difficult to contradict.. However, what science can’t explain is the existence and placement of the laws of the universe as we understand them (simple space physics) – and belief in a multiverse or aliens or multiple dimensions other such theories are just as hypothetical (however reliable) as a belief in God.

We might be just primates, but… we aren’t just primates. We are just primates in the same way a cobra is just a garter snake. There isn’t much of a comparison. We also aren’t just primates in the sense that we know what is just. And we can make up jokes like –

When Bertrand Russell died, he went up to heaven, to his great bewilderment. He met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Saint Peter looked through the big book for Russell’s name. “ahh!” said St. Peter “here you are! It says here that I am to let you into heaven on one condition.” Russell nodded excitedly and said, “what is it?” to which St. Peter replied, “God left His teapot between Earth and Mars on holiday, He’d like you to pick it up for Him.”
(Keep in mind… Its just a joke)

David Tuggy November 30, 2012 at 3:39 PM

I think I would add a fourth reason: Reason #4.) Because demonstrating that Science is at work does not show that God isn’t.

People like Sean Carroll assume (and too often we theists have ceded) a “God of the Gaps” model, wherein God is only allowed to be at work where Science does not yet have an explanation. But how do we impose that restriction on him? How do we know he is not at work equally in what Science does (in some degree) explain? Rationally one should always allow for the possibility that, in Tony Evans’s wording, “Science is simply observation of the consistency of God”.

In other words, even if we could achieve “a complete understanding of the universe” that removed the *necessity for us to believe* God’s existence, we would not thereby exclude him from the universe (or rather the universe from his grasp).

I believe God purposefully made a universe in which we can ignore him, to the point of disbelieving in his existence, if we want to. Many of us (perhaps all of us in some degree) do. Science is the best way we have managed, so far, to achieve that desire with our reason semi-intact. But God is at work where we think we understand best what is going on, as well as in the gaps where our explanations fail.

R. L. Copple December 1, 2012 at 1:02 AM

That was my fourth reason. That is:

The idea that science can disprove God is founded upon a “God of the Gaps” theology, which for traditional Christianity is totally wrong. God doesn’t exist to merely explain what we can’t. He created everything we understand and what we don’t. Learning about it is about as antithetical to faith as an electronics degree is to an electrician.

Even if we could know all there is to know about our universe and existence, God would still be there.

David Tuggy December 1, 2012 at 9:39 AM

“Learning about [what God has created] is about as antithetical to faith as an electronics degree is to an electrician.”

That is a very nice analogy.

How would it work to try the proportion the other way around: “Science is (about as antithetical) to Faith as practical experience as an electrician is to someone getting a degree in electronics” ? Which covers the whole panorama of relevant knowledge better? Science or Faith (is is it Science or Theology?) Arguably Science is much more limited. But, at least for a Judeo-Christian, it certainly fits into the picture developed by the other discipline, and affords the student practical first-hand experience with relevant data.

I wanted to say also that Lisa Godrees’ comment and the replies to it are, in a slightly different way, saying the same thing as the two of us are.

D.M. Dutcher December 1, 2012 at 8:59 AM

I don’t think there is good reason for him to believe science can reach that kind of model. As science advances, it picks off the low-hanging fruit, and further experimental confirmation requires resources often more than anyone can devote. It’s not just a matter of funding being blocked or denied, but the cost even if allowed would simply be too much for a society to support. This is why we use drones to explore the universe instead of manned flights, and the old idea of a moonbase has more or less died. And why we know very little about deep sea life or the planets Mercury and Venus-no getting around the cost of exploration there.

I also think that a lot of our discoveries have come from Moore’s Law. In other words, that the astronomical rise in computing power over the twentieth and twenty-first century pushed a lot of science. Sequencing the genome is a good example. I think eventually computing power is going to reach a hard limit to it that will start to slow the creation of new mathematical models, and we’ll see only plain old direct observation and experiment rise in importance. A lot of the triumphalism that thinks science can explain away God will start to splutter as they reach those limits and deal with the fact human knowledge is bounded by some very steep walls.

That doesn’t mean the whole cult of scientism will dissipate, but I think there will be a lot more uncertainty in its absolute power as a way at life. Already a lot of people really romanticize the scientist, and don’t realize how limited in scope the scientific method is.

Natalie Sharpston December 1, 2012 at 2:00 PM

The earth used to be flat and Pluto used to be a planet.

I work at a university as an administrator. Working in academia-land can be… interesting. To cope, especially regarding PhD’s, we joke…
BS = Bull Shit
MS = More of Same
PhD = Piled Higher and Deeper

Great posts and comments. Love this stuff.

Jim Williams December 3, 2012 at 8:53 AM

“…Being that homo sapiens have been around only 200-plus thousand years of the universe’s 13.75 billion years (that’s, like, 0.00001454545% of the time, bro),”

Is this truly what you believe, Mike? This time frame is not biblical, at least to most evangelicals. It is the crux of the debate in many forums. Rand Paul was recently quoted as “not a scientist, man..” when asked how old the earth is. A recent story I read put the number of Americans who believed the earth is between 6,000 and 9,000 years old at 46%.

How do you reconcile the scientific age of the earth with the biblical accounting? It’s a major stumbling block for me.

Jill December 3, 2012 at 10:28 AM

As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t give an account of how old the earth is. Does it? If so, where? Either God created the universe with apparent age, or the universe is billions of years old. I don’t have a problem with that from a biblical perspective. For all I know, God was romping around with his created angels for billions of years before he began the earth’s human epoch of history 300,000 years ago or so. The Bible neither disclaims or supports this theory. What we get from the Bible is simply what God wanted us to know–that he created everything, that he created mankind in his image, that mankind sinned, and that Jesus had to come as a man to die and live again in order for us to be back in right fellowship with God.

Jim Williams December 3, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Surely, Jill, you have read what biblical scholars have to say. Starting with James Ussher in the 1500’s, literally dozens of well known biblical heavy-weights have estimated our earth to be right around 6,000 years old.

To an agnostic like me, if we are not going to take the biblical age of the earth as a literal truth, then what other biblical truths should I be skeptical about? I’ve tried before to take the position that the bible is a fantastic blueprint for living, but shouldn’t be taken as the literal truth of the origins of earth and man. This was many years ago, but I remember getting eviscerated by good Christians who assumed I was satan’s emmissary.

Jill December 3, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Of course I’ve read biblical scholars. Why are their interpretations considered to be literal? They are simply interpretations based off faulty mathematical assumptions. What if I decided Jesus was ACTUALLY the son of David simply because he was called that (rather than a great-great-great…grandson?) This kind of interpretation seems to forget the way ancient genealogies were constructed. The Bible doesn’t say how old the earth is. Period. Scholars extrapolate what they like, and sometimes scholars are wrong.

Jim Williams December 4, 2012 at 8:30 AM

“Of course I’ve read biblical scholars. Why are their interpretations considered to be literal?”

Well, don’t ask me. I am the one who shakes his head at biblical literalists. I’m only remarking, I suppose, that I sure have met a lot of them in my life. This election season brought the issue to the forefront. In Texas, every few years, some school board attempts to insert creationism into the school curriculum. “Young Earth” creationism.
When I was a child, I was told that you could actually count backwards, using the “begats” as a guide, and determine the approximate age of the earth. I remember being skeptical at that time, because all the men listed lived to be hundreds of years old. Without an explanation of why modern people only live to be 100, I found the whole thing improbable.
I think that is when I began to look at the biblical stories as being “poetic” and probably not intended to all be taken as literal fact. The issue, is that certainly some parts are definitely intended to be historical fact. Which ones? The flood? The burning bush? The New Testament?

Jill December 4, 2012 at 10:11 AM

I don’t think it’s necessary to claim the Bible can’t be taken literally. My point is that these scholars aren’t taking the Bible literally at all. They are making up crap about the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible say that one should count backward by begats. What if the authors left out numerous generations and only highlighted the important names? It wouldn’t make the Bible anti-literal if they did this–it would make it literal on a different level. It would mean that the genealogies were meant to lead to Jesus, not the age of the earth. I don’t comb through the Bible deciding what is literal and what isn’t. I take the Bible for what it is–a book written over the course of 1000s of years by numerous authors who wrote in different languages that have since been translated numerous times over. Each book has a different purpose–history, law, prophecy, poetry. All of these have to be judged for what they are. Even those reporting on Christ had different purposes for writing their testimonies, and they reported the events through their own perspectives. It’s not that the Bible isn’t literal–it’s that inerrancy isn’t the black-and-white concept Americans think it is.

Jim Williams December 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM

I guess where I’m fumbling around is the notion of the bible as infallible fact. I’m a social liberal, and a rainbow-shirted supporter of Gay “rights”. But, the bible, in numerous places, is black-and-white on the issue of homosexuality. I am tremendously bothered by that. I wish it were not so. To me, it means that my very good Christian friends are never going to be able to accept my views. Never. I don’t blame them, since it is an integral part of their faith. It’s just tragic. And polarizing.

I apologize if I’m putting you or any other poster here in the position of “explainer of all things Christian”.

If there is a school of thought that allows for acceptance that prior interpretations of the bible are not set in stone, or that literal acceptance of every word as infallible fact is not necessary (in the case of the science vs creationism, for example), then might there be some wiggle room for the social laws set forth also?

Might it be acceptable to say the proscription against certain social issues are amenable to change. Some have already changed. Divorce is a simple matter. Adultery and prostitution are no longer stoning offenses. Plural marriage is now a distasteful concept.

It should be noted that my upbringing included several years attendance at the Joy Bible Conference summer camps, where we were all told that the Rapture would make true believers disappear one day.

I bring that up just to highlight the point that I’ve been thinking about these things for quite a while.

R. L. Copple December 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Some things do change, but you can usually see that in Scripture, done by God. For instance, Jesus in dealing with the woman caught in adultery was the God who put forth the law to stone her. Of the people there, he was the only one who was without sin. He could have validly stoned her Himself if He had decided to. But He had compassion instead. He modified it. His death and resurrection fulfilled many laws. The Jerusalem council in acts only passed on three of the major laws from Judaism to the Gentile Christians. But certain things didn’t change, like the understanding that committing homosexual acts (not being homosexual) was a sin, just like me having relations outside my marriage, just like a teen having relations to someone without concern for the marital bond they are creating. It is all sin. It shouldn’t be anymore polarizing than me not believing adultery is a sin and to be avoided.

Where the Bible is consistent morally, we should be too. Where it allows wiggle room, we can. St. Paul said all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. So be careful in what you approve.

But I fear this segment of the discussion is moving beyond the bounds of this topic. Not my intention to get into a homosexual debate here, only to illustrate the difference in approach. The Bible has to be taken as a whole. Most wrong interpretations are due to taking a scripture out of immediate context, literary context, cultural context, context of the book, and context of the whole Bible. That’s why demanding that “day” in Genesis has to be a solar day is an error of interpretation. It ignores the literary, cultural, and immediate context of what God is saying there, and forces a modern framework over it. Those issues support, rather than put into question, something like the prohibitions against committing homosexual acts.

R. L. Copple December 4, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Meant to say, me believing adultery to be a sin. Typo alert!

Jill December 4, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Jim, if I didn’t enjoy these kinds of discussions (which always seem to take place here), I wouldn’t keep coming back. I have to be honest and tell you that I can’t speak for all Christian people. I can, however, speak about my American culture and be reasonably certain that most will agree with me when I say that we don’t or shouldn’t have a religious government. Therefore, homosexuals should have full rights under the constitution that everybody else does, regardless of whether Christians like it. They should have the right of free association, just as everybody else. Of course, it’s not as simple as that due to state rights, but that’s an argument for another time. My point is this: I wish Christians would allow for a little more live-and-let-live of those who aren’t Christian people. It isn’t up to us to regulate others’ morality. It’s up to us to regulate our own. If, for example, we want to argue the wrongness or rightness of allowing for homosexual pastors, it’s an in-house argument on our morality that has nothing whatever to do with the state.

You might ask–what kind of God hates homosexuals–and my answer would be, the same God who sent Jesus to die on the cross for all people, including homosexuals. Why does God consider homosexuality a sin? I don’t know. I have no answer for that, only conjecture. You said you were an agnostic, which to me means you’re searching for truth, and I’m reasonably certain that if you approached God with an honest question that he would either answer it or give you peace over it.

R. L. Copple December 4, 2012 at 11:45 AM

“The issue, is that certainly some parts are definitely intended to be historical fact. Which ones? The flood? The burning bush? The New Testament?”

Genesis lends to a more poetic interpretation because it is written that way. The story of the flood, for instance, isn’t written poetically. IOW, you don’t chose yourself the literary type it is written in. The flood is a narrative. It isn’t written as poetry like Genesis. So you take it as that.

It is impossible to verify the accuracy of those stories via the modern scientific historical method. Thus, what they are, are testimonies of what happened. My take is I have no reason to disbelieve what was recorded. I take it for what it is, a testimony of what happened. If I get to heaven and find out that Noah didn’t build an ark, for instance, but a raft, what will it matter? There’s no way to verify it short of building a time machine, and errors will be more due to interpretation issues than the account being wrong. Cultural differences then and now also play a big part in how we look at these stories. They didn’t view them the same as we tend to as well.

Yes, some Christians would disagree with me, and suggest that if I don’t believe every piece of it is historically accurate according to our modern historical overlay, the whole Bible falls apart. But I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, not in the inerrance of its interpreters. And I trust that what is necessary for my salvation, God has preserved that message intact.

DD December 11, 2012 at 6:14 PM

The “young-earth” idea of “literal” is not literal. That view is equating literal with simple. In other words, they are leaving out a number of context issues. Namely, notice how modern translations set “day” of by itself? That’s because the Hebrew doesn’t explicitly state 24 hr days and sets the day off like a marker, but you would never have guessed it by what the young-earth community claims (though I actually heard Ken Ham admit it once). In the true sense of literal, one can translate the Hebrew word for day in Genesis literally mulitple days. A “24hr” view is not mandated by any means.

Hebrew scholars will also attest that the family lists don’t always include everyone, sometimes only the famous (or infamous) or people they want to mention or to meet certain patterns. A comparison of the family trees throughout the bible confirms this. “6000 year” estimates are based on incomplete, or poor, biblical scholarship, sometimes going back to times where Hebrew knowledge was lacking. Often, just reading what the texts actually state, without bringing preconcieved notions to the table, solves the issues.

We have let people misuse “literal” and find ourseleves actually being less literal in our bible readings. Pop-theology has replaced thr rigourous theology of the Christian seminaries and colleges. I can think of many christians who have detailed these issues at length. In particular, Hugh Ross in his “The Genesis Question” and “A Matter of Days” addresses them at length.

For the record, at the denominational level, the vast majority of Christian denominations do not demand the young-earth view. Nor does old earth automatically mean thiestic evolution (there are many varieties of creationists).

Mike Duran December 3, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Jim, while there are many evangelicals who DO believe in a young earth, there is quite a rigorous debate among Christians. Framing ALL evangelicals as adhering to a young earth (and being morons as a result) is a narrative pushed hard by liberals. However, it’s hardly the predominant view. THIS Gallup poll shows some of the nuance and diversity of opinion among Christians. THIS more recent poll of pastors reveals that only 30 percent “strongly agree” that “the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.” So despite how Christians are caricatured, there is not one view as to the age of the earth.

The difficulty here is one of defining terms. Just asking if one is an Evolutionist or a Creationist does nothing for clarity. As an example, I believe in a literal Adam and Eve. This does not make me either a Young Earther or an Evolutionist, although I believe God could have used biological processes to PHYSICALLY create the First Couple. So am I a Creationist? Yes. Does this mean I’m a young earther? Nope. Does this make me an Evolutionist? Not necessarily. Again, I’d suggest that the question is framed that way to caricature religious believers.

As for reconciling the age of the earth with Scripture, it depends upon how you interpret Scripture. Literalists believe in six normal days of creation. So could God create the earth with an appearance of age? If there is a God who spoke the world into existence from the beginning, yes! How could He not? However, many point out that the Hebrew word used for “day” is often translated as “age” or “epoch.” Which is how many Old Earthers reconcile the two positions. And while you’re considering how/if the Bible reconciles with science, consider that the Bible is the only holy book that describes the Creator as existing outside of / independent from creation. II Peter 3:8 says, “One day is to the Lord a thousand years.” It also suggests multiple dimensions, which physicists have only recently conceded. Heck, this was the main reason that Einstein was reluctant to publicize his theories on general relativity — it insinuated that space and time had a beginning. In fact, Scripture taught this long before science believed it.

Jim, the most important thing, however, is where Young and Old Earthers agree: Man is not an accident formed by random biological processes. The real bottom line issue is not the earth’s age, but the earth’s origin.

Jim Williams December 4, 2012 at 8:21 AM

Mike, thanks for the clarification. To be clear, *I* called no one a moron, nor am I interested in creating a caricature of anyone, for the purposes of ridicule. I’m asking questions, as I often do when reading your blog.

Recently Bill Nye angered many in the Christian community when he publicly attacked creationism, saying that teaching your children to disregard science and the established theory of evolution was akin to “harming” them. I happen to agree with him, wholeheartedly.

I have personally toured the dinosaurs of Cabazon, California, where creationists operate a hoax gift shop and tourist attraction, using the huge dinosaur monuments to ridicule the very existence of dinosaur fossils and what they mean to science, and the age of the earth. I was somewhat offended, intellectually, in the shameless bait-and-switch. But, the chutzpah is impressive.

I am gratified to learn that there is not a firm consensus in the Christian community that would lock me out of participation, because as I said, I have a serious problem disgarding the scientific principles that make sense to me, trading them for an unsupported belief that somehow the evidence in front of my eyes is untrue.

I have no idea how you reconcile a literal Adam and Eve (modern humans) being created, when the scientific record shows many steps on the road to Homo Sapiens.

R. L. Copple December 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

“… if we are not going to take the biblical age of the earth as a literal truth, then what other biblical truths should I be skeptical about?”

There is no where that the Bible says literally how old the Earth is. What they did was to take genealogies going back to Adam and then *assume* the Hebrew word for “period of time” means a literal 24 hour solar day, so by that reckoning, Earth was created a couple of days before Adam (man) showed up.

The literary construct of Genesis 1 is poetic. Doesn’t mean it isn’t real or accurate, but it is accurate in what it intends to convey. And how old the Earth is isn’t one of the messages intended to be given in Genesis 1 or the Bible. It is irrelevant to salvation history, and the purpose of Genesis 1 and 2. Our problems comes in trying to shoehorn a poetic account of God’s creation into a modern, Western, historical, scientific framework.

There are Biblical scholars in abundance that take verses out of context, interpret things wrong, etc. Now, do I believe God could have done it in 6 solar days and that Earth is around 6000 years old? Yes. Whether He did or not, I don’t know, and for me it isn’t important. What He did is what He did. The point being, He did it.

And being real about that understanding to me doesn’t mean I’m denying the Bible’s veracity, because I’m not saying it is wrong, I’m only saying people are using it wrong.

Jim Williams December 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM

I can appreciate your POV. At the heart of the issue is not what you or I believe God “could” have done. An omnipotent God can do anything, clearly. The question is actually much smaller, and more personal. Do you believe that the earth is over 4 billion years old? As opposed to the literalists saying it is just around 6,000.

By the way, I have always found myself in the “poetic” interpretation camp. Even in my true believer years. Now, in my “agnostic” years, more than ever.

R. L. Copple December 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

I’m agnostic on that question. I know one group says one thing, another something different. They are both based upon a set of “data” and interpretations derived therefrom. One or the other could be wrong. I suppose if I thought knowing the answer to that question was all that important for my salvation, I might invest more energy into it. But the reality is it could be either way. Science may not have all the data yet to make a correct interpretation, and those Biblical scholars may be wrong in their assumption that “day” means a literal solar 24 hour period in the Hebrew.

In the end, whether God took billions of years or six days matters very little. But I disagree on the point that not taking that Hebrew word to mean a solar day means I am putting into question the rest of the Bible. That reasoning just doesn’t follow.

R. L. Copple December 3, 2012 at 2:53 PM

“By the way, I have always found myself in the “poetic” interpretation camp. Even in my true believer years. Now, in my “agnostic” years, more than ever.”

BTW, the poetic interpretation makes more chronological sense of Genesis 1 than a straight historical reading. That is, based on Hebraic parallel poetic constructs, day 1 happens at the same time as day 4, day 2 as day 5, and day 3 as day 6. Leaving day 7 as the big climax to the parallelism. If you view it that way, the chronology matches up perfectly. The first three days speak of the environment, and the second three days of what is in that environment.

If we’re going to argue God’s existence from the Design argument, one has to say this parallelism didn’t happen by accident, and is therefore how it was intended to be read and understood. Not as a straight sequence, but as a whole picture.

Lyn Perry December 4, 2012 at 7:24 PM

I’m with Rick on this. The theological lesson in Gen 1 is that God is a God of order and peace and goodness – as opposed to the prevailing chaotic and violent and capricious creation accounts of the day – namely, Marduk splitting his fore-mother Tiamat in half and used half for the sky and half for the land. Nice.

Sage Grimnly April 30, 2013 at 3:31 AM

You make some not so compelling arguments. I contend that in most cases, the idea of a god is irrelevant completely, and moreso that it would be very convenient and much better for god’s reputation if he did not exist. Furthermore, I was looking for this when your article spurred my interest: http://www.amazon.com/God-Failed-Hypothesis-Science-Shows/dp/1591026520 . It apparently argues against the likelihood of deities (at least on presently caricaturised versions) based on science.

I also have a problem with your wording in reason 3. The bit about Christians saying something and scientists dressing the same thing up in fancy smarty science words? Doesn’t happen. It’s called the scientific method. Hypothesize, TEST, confirm theory. Also, science does not “need” to make god unnecessary. He did that himself, upon dropping a demonstrably false book (with competition, at that!) and not giving any other evidences for his existence of any kind. I wouldn’t worship anybody on the basis of creating me, especially after they left me to fend for myself. Ntm, since we are so irrelevant to the rest of the universe, who would we be to say we know God’s mind?

Johne Cook April 30, 2013 at 8:18 AM

The Scientific Method is handy if you’re testing / proving something within this creation, but it is not designed to be used to test / prove something outside of this creation. It would be like trying to test / prove the existence of a Designer only using the tools built into a MMORPG if you a character within the game. God exists outside of this creation and exists by definition beyond the ability to prove or disprove scientifically.

J.B. Andelin April 8, 2015 at 8:42 AM

Stephen Hawking’s statement that “science makes God unncessary” is a typical secularist dogma that demonstrates unbelievable arrogance so characteristic of the atheist mindset. Considering the fact that over 99% of the complexities of the universe are unknown, how can anyone make such a ridiculous assertion? The entire treatise of evolution is supported by dogma, not science. All unexplainable mysteries of the biologic world are “explained” by the unproven one-size-fits-all “mutations + natural selection + millions of years” axiom.

Jells April 24, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Big Bang? Who lit the match? Where did this bang occur? Did you know that certain ingredients and conditions are required to make an explosion? Sure science can take things apart all they want, down to the most minuscule component and make all sorts of claims about how it was put together, why it was put together, or what it was that they have taken apart. However, they can never reverse-engineer Creation beyond their creature perspectives. It is beyond the scope of their understanding, and this is exactly what they are trying to do, not realizing that even now they are still at the “earth is flat” stage–only better! Now they have higher educations, the most respected degrees, have gone to the most respected institutions on Earth to learn what their teachers knew and didn’t know, and have surmised newer and more sophisticated assumptions! Still, even at this point, these same (people) are pretty much left sitting around thumping their disassembled particles back and forth like marbles, not knowing just how to put them back together. How have they acquired so much credibility in the first place?

Ali Yasin December 20, 2015 at 8:30 PM

Give me a theory prove existence of god and I will show it is crazy theory. that’s how science work. Give me evidence not just hide behind what scientist still looking for

charley smith April 19, 2016 at 2:42 AM

I dont dissagree that scientist prove and transform what is into understanding. I believe scientist simply fail to give credit to the one who created science. I believe science is a gift or tool, given to us the very same moment that everything else was suddenly created, for us to become better christians and to admire the creators masterpiece. “Christian” means to be christ like. Christ is all knowing, he understands the univrse in its entirity, so in order for us to be “christians” we must seek wisdom, knowledge, and understanding so we can be as christ like as possible. The bible says, and dont quote me word for word, that “though it may cost you all you have,” seek understanding.” So science is the way to gain understanding. We will untill the end of time seek to understand what God understands. Man trys to figure out a way to explain a powerful, mysterious supernatural event, that in my opionion, can only be answered with a powerful, mysterious supernatural answer that is God. We can name all the little things and materials it takes to build a house but an archetic is responible for the desighn. Without the archetics desighn or creation, it would be pointless to know all the little things and materials it takes to build a house. We wouldnt understand what the materials purposes are for. The archetic gives us purpose and guidance. Anyways im rambling now but if you consider all the clock work that goes on in the world, seconds, minuets, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and the seasons, its kind of hard to imagine that the clockmaker isnt responsible for the clock work. Dont get offended by this anyone it wont hurt you none for me to ask for god to bless you all with blessings in general, for god knows whats good and best for us.

charley smith April 19, 2016 at 2:45 AM

I dont dissagree that scientist prove and transform what is into understanding. I believe scientist simply fail to give credit to the one who created science. I believe science is a gift or tool, given to us the very same moment that everything else was suddenly created, for us to become better christians and to admire the creators masterpiece. “Christian” means to be christ like. Christ is all knowing, he understands the univrse in its entirity, so in order for us to be “christians” we must seek wisdom, knowledge, and understanding so we can be as christ like as possible. The bible says, and dont quote me word for word, that “though it may cost you all you have,” seek understanding.” So science is the way to gain understanding. We will untill the end of time seek to understand what God understands. Man trys to figure out a way to explain a powerful, mysterious supernatural event, that in my opionion, can only be answered with a powerful, mysterious supernatural answer that is God. We can name all the little things and materials it takes to build a house but an archetic is responible for the desighn. Without the archetics desighn or creation, it would be pointless to know all the little things and materials it takes to build a house. We wouldnt understand what the materials purposes are for. The archetic gives us purpose and guidance. Anyways im rambling now but if you consider all the clock work that goes on in the world, seconds, minuets, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and the seasons, its kind of hard to imagine that the clockmaker isnt responsible for the clock work. Dont get offended by this anyone it wont hurt you none for me to ask for god to bless you all with blessings in general, for god knows whats good and best for us. Science and our understandings will constantly change but God has always remained constant.

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