Faith, Science, and Reason: Dive into the Tough Questions with Grace
Everyone knows that God and science are enemies… right?
At Grace College, we agree with the Chair of the Department of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Joe Frentzel, who says, “Science and God are not at odds with one another.” In fact, we agree with this so much, we require every student to take a class called Faith, Science, and Reason where students are encouraged to dive headfirst into the tough questions.
Dr. Tyler Scott, assistant professor of physics, and two students: health science major Melika Minnaar and accounting major Alexis Bergman, give their insight on the class and share how it connects their understandings of God and science.
What is the purpose behind the Faith, Science, and Reason course at Grace? Why is it required for all students, regardless of their major?
Dr. Scott: The Faith, Science, and Reason course is intended to increase awareness of and appreciation for science. One of the unfortunate reasons science is not appreciated enough among Christians is that science is thought of as a threat to or an enemy of faith. So this course is also designed to revive the proper understanding of science through a Christian worldview.
Minnaar: I really liked how this class showed the connection between faith and science, especially considering the popular and often accepted idea that they can’t coexist or agree. Moreover, I think by gaining a deeper understanding of how faith can be integrated into science, it broadens students’ perspectives on how faith can be joined with other subjects as well.
Bergman: This course starts by addressing questions such as what is truth and how do we know what is truth, and then becomes broader and builds off of these core ideas. In our culture, faith and science are often viewed as contradictory topics, but when we look at its history, it is amazing to see that science was greatly advanced by Christians, and today faith and science can complement each other. Students in this course gain a greater understanding of how to defend their faith and share with others why they believe what they do.
What are some of the essential topics covered in the Faith, Science, and Reason course and which do you think are the most important?
Dr. Scott: The course is designed to start with the core of what truth and knowledge are and then build outward from there. We start with theoretical questions like, “What is truth?” and “How do we know?” and then work towards the practical questions like what we are to make of controversies over the theory of evolution and how science can influence the way we defend our faith. Along the way, we find out that science is not as neat and tidy as we sometimes think it is and that faith is not just a blind leap in the dark.
Everything we cover is important and beneficial! But seriously, it is important that students think about what truth is and how we know it. We are steeped in a pagan culture that views truth as relative to an individual’s background or experience. So it is important to reflect on the fact that truth is fixed with respect to our God who never changes (Heb. 13:8, James 1:17). That fact is what led to the development of modern science in a Christian context. This is surprising to many students who have absorbed the message from our culture that science is at war with Christianity. Instead, Christianity provided the correct worldview to develop science. Rather than being at war, science depends on the presuppositions of Christian Theism.
Minnaar: I enjoyed reading about the findings and thoughts of influential scientists like Galileo and Pascal, especially when Pascal is in complete awe of the greatness of God, explaining how we are a means between two extremes: between the nothing, microscopic details hidden from us, and the infinite, the massive galaxies. Going through this class, I realized very quickly the finiteness and limitations of what we can understand, but I also found comfort in knowing that we have an awesome Creator and Father that holds us in His hands.
Bergman: All the topics covered in Faith, Science, and Reason are beneficial and important for students to understand how they view the world. But I really enjoyed reading about epistemological tendencies. God’s word points to the fact that we can know certain absolute truths through his word, through observations in our world, and through ourselves. All three epistemological tendencies are seen in scripture and help us understand the world we live in. Writing a worldview essay and researching what your core and peripheral beliefs are, including how you view the relationship between faith and science, is vital for college students who are growing and developing their own beliefs as adults.
This course is known to be unique across the educational landscape. What makes Faith, Science, and Reason stand out from some of the general science classes required at other institutions?
Dr. Scott: As mentioned earlier, the message of the course is different from the one you will hear in our culture or a secular college classroom. There are similar courses at other Christian colleges, but most are not required as part of the core curriculum.
Bergman: Diving deep into philosophical questions causes students to develop their own beliefs and assess where they are spiritually and why they believe what they believe. Faith, Science, and Reason is a great course for all students that will prepare you for the rest of college and life. It is challenging, but it is extremely rewarding. This course equips students to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
For those students who are science majors, how will their course of study continue to build on the principles of this class?
Dr. Scott: I hope that science majors who take this course will be prepared to think critically about the worldviews they encounter in science labs and academia. For example, when a popular TV personality who stars in a science/engineering show says, “There is no such thing as a fact that cannot be independently corroborated” or when a prominent, best-selling scientist says that only science is “capable of describing and understanding reality” I want the students to recognize that those statements are logically self-refuting. However, on the positive side, I want the students to be able to articulate how the Christian worldview supports the existence of science.
Minnaar: I am a health science major, and it was incredibly helpful for me to take this course as it provided some background information and understanding on the relationship between faith and science. Oftentimes in science classes, you just learn about specific theories or study organ systems, but this class provided a map to navigate those topics, to allow me to see the bigger picture and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of thought processes, worldviews and how to journey along the path of science.
In your own words and experience, how do you refute the idea that faith and science cannot coexist?
Dr. Scott: One of my favorite examples in response to this question is that Christian Theism provides a reason to trust the inductive method. We make predictions in physics based on past observations. If I drop a pen, I expect it to fall because for years and years I have observed that things fall when released. However, there is no airtight, logical proof that the future will behave like the past. Any attempt at proving the validity of inductive reasoning becomes circular. But the Christian worldview found in the Bible leads us to trust that God made a world that exhibits regular patterns, patterns we can study with science. The secular scientist has no assurances that the world will operate in regular ways. In fact, when faced with that question, the response is usually to say that we expect the world to operate in regular ways because observations have shown that to be the case. But that is just invoking induction again!
Another aspect of the regular patterns that we observe in science is that they are comprehensible and language-like. Mathematics is used as the language of physics. However, languages are used for communication between minds. If the universe were a purposeless accident, then there would be no comprehensible patterns for us to understand. The existence of mathematics and laws of physics imply a mind who communicates. This idea is found in Genesis 1 and John 1 where the creation of the universe happens because “God said” and by means of “The Word.”
These thoughts just scratch the surface. There is a rich intellectual tradition in Christianity that stretches back to its beginning. The modern challenges to Christianity are not much different from the ancient ones.
God and science seem to be opposing forces, but in the end, they support one another.
Want to know more about how our Christianity intersects with our scientific studies? Learn more about our Department of Science and Mathematics, or schedule a campus visit to meet the professors and ask them all of your questions about faith, science, and reason over a cup of coffee!