Like many Christian ministers, I did not study science at the undergraduate or graduate level. Instead, I opted for philosophy and theology, academic disciplines which I felt would better prepare me for ministry. Thus, while I am not wholly ignorant of modern science, my understanding of it is admittedly thin. My conversations with ministerial colleagues indicate that this thin understanding is the rule among us, not the exception.
Such a thin understanding of science is, it now seems to me, a hindrance to ministry in the modern world. While the most enduring objections to Christianity—the problem of evil, for example—do not arise from scientific inquiry, the most interesting ones today do: the origins of the universe (Big Bang cosmology) and the origin of the species (biological evolution). According to the so-called New Atheists, scientific explanations have displaced theological ones, so that God is a “failed hypothesis,” as the subtitle of a book by Victor J. Stenger puts it.
One response to the scientific critique of Christian belief is simply to reject the science. This is the strategy of Young Earth Creationism and the Intelligent Design Movement, both of which reject biological evolution, although they disagree on cosmological issues such as the age of the universe and the Big Bang. These two responses are very prominent within North American Pentecostalism and evangelicalism.
Another response—more commonly found among Christian academics and professional scientists than among laypeople—is to accept the scientific consensus on cosmology and biology but to reject the atheistic inference. This is the strategy of Karl W. Giberson in his new book, The Wonder of the Universe. Rather than dispute either Big Bang cosmology or biological evolution, Giberson argues that they may provide “hints of God in our fine-tuned world,” in the words of the subtitle of his book.
From 1984 to 2011, Giberson was professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College. In 2008, he became president of the BioLogos Foundation, “a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.” He currently directs the Science & Religion Writing Workshop at Gordon College.
Young earth creationists will dismiss Giberson’s acceptance of mainstream cosmology and biology out of hand because they conflict with a literal reading of the Bible. Intelligent design advocates will split the difference, accepting the cosmology but rejecting the biology. (To be accurate, most of the book deals with cosmology and physics. Only one chapter addresses biological evolution.) Those who give Giberson’s argument an open ear, however, might discover that “fine-tuning fits comfortably, supportively and logically within a worldview grounded in the belief that God is the Creator of all that is.”
Whether you ultimately agree with Giberson’s scientific conclusions on cosmology and biology, you will find that The Wonder of the Universe is an accessible introduction to mainstream cosmology, and thus a partial remedy to a thin science education. You might also find that the atheistic inference from science is not as strong as New Atheists say it is.
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