There are no very good reasons why science and Christian faith should seem opposed to each other, and, unfortunately, where there are reasons (not good ones) they seem largely to be the fault of Christians. The interface between the two realms of knowledge, on the Christian side often appears to be occupied by the angry rather than the faith filled, and they assume at times that non-Christian scientists are animated by an anti-Christian agenda, when this is normally nowhere near the truth. People in the scientific community are usually passionate in their search for physical truth and care little about the spiritual, but when their views are impugned, or worse, they are impugned, they react against their attackers and, lo and behold, there is a barrier erected. Happily there are many top-class scientists who are also men of faith, indeed there are many who have come to faith through, initially, science; it is a pleasure to be able to talk here about one such, Dr Hugh Ross, and the ministry he began, Reasons to Believe (RTB), www.reasons.org. It is particularly a pleasure because he is a gentleman I have met and warmed to personally very much.
In the Creator and the Cosmos Ross tells how he moved from scepticism to faith. Interested in astronomy from childhood he earned his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Toronto; fairness of mind told him he needed to investigate the claims of religions, none of which seemed to offer any consonance with scientific fact until he took up the Bible and read Genesis ch.1; this led to further consideration of the Bible and finally an empirically (ie evidence) based decision to trust the Bible’s author. Christ came in.
My bookshelf contains 9 books by Ross, 2 of them co-authored with Fazale Rana, his colleague whose speciality lies in the field of bio-chemistry, and whose The Cell’s Design examines evidence for design in recent research; it is most likely to prove of interest to those with prior knowledge in this field, since it is a little technical. Ross’ background in astronomy is reflected in The Creator and the Cosmos, Creation and Time, The Fingerprint of God, Beyond the Cosmos and Why the Universe is the Way it Is. The Genesis Question works through issues concerning the opening chapters of that book. More than a Theory presents RTB’s most current methodological approach and numerous examples of its practice.
It is Creation and Time which sets out an understanding of the development of barriers between science and religion. Historical developments out of a basic ideological rather than evidence based clash between Christians and evolutionists led to a polarization and the birth of the ‘young earth creationism’ which incites the opposition of the scientific community (on scientific grounds). The point is that the argument does not proceed on strictly scientific grounds; it starts with the idea that the Bible teaches a young universe, and proceeds to say that science must all be wrong, and so to the construction of an alternative. Ross reports that ‘Most secularists with whom I have discussed the issue perceive that becoming a Christian requires them to reject all authority but the words of the Bible. Few have been presented with the possibility of God’s dual revelation of truth‘, which is to say Scripture and Nature. He goes on to speak of a ‘young astronomy research assistant and his wife…asked to leave one church after another…because in response to probing they acknowledged their belief that the universe is some billions of years old’. He doesn’t say quite how in the material I have, but Ross became persuaded that his task was to help bridge the gap between the scientific and the religious communities, in particular by offering an alternative to the highly questionable (my term) views of young-earth creationists, as well as good reasons for seeing God in creation.
With regard to young-earth creation, this is probably approached in two ways. Firstly, the physical evidence; Ross frequently looks at young earth arguments and shows their weaknesses, then, more frequently, looks at the evidence for a great age for the universe. There are numerous examples; one would be the existence of comets, which is felt by some to argue for a very young universe, a view Ross examines in the light of the evidence. Secondly, he looks at a few necessary theological questions, notably the length of the days in Genesis 1. I personally am struck by the very high level of expertise brought to bear on areas outside his initial discipline. Personal acquaintance showed me that this is a man with a very unusual degree of commitment to what he does and the highest of standards.
With regard to seeing God in creation the Reasons to Believe line is to find elements that clearly indicate design. One of the main ‘weapons’ here is the argument of fine-tuning; the parameters for so many physical phenomena are extremely precise. The Creator and the Cosmos, for example, lists 32 parameters for the situation of the earth which point inevitably towards design. The phenomenon of our moon for example is of the greatest interest; life is dependent on the moon which exists by the most extraordinary set of circumstances. The fact that we are here could also be the result of chance; the issue of cosmic accident or creation is discussed at length.
A full statement of methodology is set out in More Than a Theory. This ‘rests on four cornerstone inferences from Scripture: 1. Dual Revelation…… 2. Creation Purposes….3. Creation chronology…..4. Detectability of the divine: close and careful study of nature’s record can reveal evidence of the Creator’s miraculous interventions‘. I have added the explanation of part 4 because this seems to be the focus of much RTB work, to investigate new discoveries as they occur and comment on them.
Of more theological interest is Beyond the Cosmos where Ross discusses extra-dimensionality (one theory says the universe has 10 dimensions) and how this relates to thinking about God. We are invited to imagine ourselves as living in a 2-dimensional world into which a three-dimensional being pokes his fingers and us then trying to understand what has happened; from there we extrapolate to our difficulties in our understanding a 10 dimensional God. There is also a good chapter on evil and suffering.
Who was Adam?, and Origins of Life, co-authored with Rana, look at the issues of the titles. They have done a lot of work on hominids, evolutionists’ supposed evolutionary links, the dating of Adam and Eve from genetic evidence, the global dispersal of humanity, Neanderthals.
Origins of Life has more to say about biochemistry and is more the work of Rana
The Genesis Question is a compelling account of all those difficult questions – who did Cain marry? who were the ‘nephilim’? what was the extent of the flood? when was the flood…….Everything is covered! Here is a typical statement about the unfortunate polarization that takes place in churches: “To some Christians, a person’s belief that the Flood covered the entire planet and all its high mountains (as they interpret the Genesis text) provides a reliable litmus test of his or her salvation, of membership in the body of Christ. They have drawn a line in the sand where it does not belong. The Bible tells us that a person’s response to the truth, to the Holy Spirit’s testimony about who Christ is and about who we human beings are in relationship to Him, represents that line.”
Across the books there is quite a lot of overlap since foundational ideas need restating; overlap but not much duplication, so that interested readers would probably find themselves wanting to look at all of them! For a basic understanding of Ross/RTB I would go to Creation and Time first. Generally speaking I would expect that the level at which most of the books are pitched would make them accessible to anyone with secondary school science.
Finally, Hugh Ross is an expert in his field; he brings a most disciplined mind to his task; has a fine team around him; and that is just the beginning because the man is a committed evangelist with a track record of winning people to Christ, particularly those in the scientific community. This is a ministry of major importance. Here is a short testimony :-
I’m a Christian convert from Libya. I’m just here to say thank you very much for all you do for the Glory of the true and living God in a logical, sensible manner, with reason and fact. Your debates with atheist scientists (whom I sympathize with because I was an atheist myself after leaving Islam) helped me come to know God….Your debate with Victor Stenger, your argument with Ken Ham, and finally your website (for which I have a tremendous amount of appreciation with all its real, factual, scientific evidence) led me to believe in the account of the Bible. And I started to look at the world from a totally different point of view. This newfound faith changed me in every aspect of my life. Glad to say that I’ve been a Christian for almost two years now, thanks to you…
Note:- I have personally maintained a minor interest in reading books on geography, natural history, science generally, and have indulged myself in going a little off subject by recommending some of these on the post titled Nature.