The challenge that we often face is when a claim of science is at odds with one of our beliefs, beliefs that we find support for in the Bible. Past examples of this conflict includes the shape of the earth, flat verses spherical, and the centrality of the earth to the universe. At one time it was thought that the earth was flat, and that the sun, as well as the rest of the universe, revolved around the earth. And the church looked to the Bible to support these beliefs. It took some time for the church to accept that the earth was actually spherical and, later, that the earth revolved around the sun, and was actually a rather insignificant piece of the universe.
Today, there are two other controversial subjects that seem to define the divide between science and Christianity; the Theory of Evolution and the Big Bang theory.
The Big BangThis name is somewhat misleading because it would lead one to believe it was a noisy explosive event. What this theory does is provide an explanation, based on the best physical evidence available, for the early moments of the life of the universe; a universe that began as an infinitely small, infinitely dense and extremely hot point, a singularity, that began to rapidly expand, and has continued expanding up to the present moment.
The Big Bang theory itself makes no attempt to explain how this singularity came to be or how the expansion was triggered; although many scientists have offered explanations that remove the need for a creator (remember the definition of scientism?).
Probably the biggest sticking point for many Christians here has to do with the time frame. The Big Bang posits a universe that is about 13.9 billion years old with an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, as opposed to the 6-10,000 year old estimate that comes from the Old Testament genealogies. Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Other than ‘and God said’, there is no indication in Genesis as to just how God accomplished this feat. The Big Bang theory does provide a possible scenario.
EvolutionThe Theory of Evolution provides an explanation for how life, once it started, diversified across the face of the earth. Many people try and place the origin of life as a part of this theory, but do so incorrectly. The Theory of Evolution assumes life had already started. The data for this theory comes from many sources including: similarities between species, observation of evolution in action, the fossil record and genetics. The Theory of Evolution is a challenge to Christians because it seems to take the creation of the different species of life present today, especially humanity, out of the hands of the creator, placing it into the blind hands of an evolutionary process. But, who is the creator of that supposedly blind process?
The other issue that many Christians have with evolution is best exemplified by a statement from Richard Dawkins, a militant atheist scientist: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. But that is just scientism rearing its ugly head again. The Theory of Evolution, like the Big Bang, only describes a mechanism, not the source of the mechanism.
ConclusionIn my opinion, science is not a threat to Christianity or to our faith. Seeking to better understand the creation, and how it works, actually increases my awe of the creator. This universe, and the life it contains, is truly marvelous, regardless of just how God went about making it the way it is.
Regardless your stand on the Big Bang theory and the Theory of Evolution, you should recognize that these are not central to our faith and should not be issues that divide believers, or cause believers to fight with non-believers. It is unfortunate that the focus of our debate so often is side tracked by these issues and never gets to the important issues, like faith in God and his purpose for us.