As a high school student, I refused to take the required biology and chemistry courses because I was a Christian. I had been taught by the Christian culture of my childhood that science was inherently unbiblical, would lead me into sin, and cause me to stray from God.
Last year a doctoral student in our public university ministry confided in me that they had a hard time going to church because, “In order to go to church, I must pretend that I live in the 16th century and that the scientific discoveries since then aren’t real. It’s like the church isn’t aware of what we’ve learned about the world in the last few centuries.”
There are many historical and cultural reasons for the deep disconnect between faith and science in North American evangelical culture today. Part of why many think faith and science are locked in opposition to each other is because scientific discoveries challenge religious beliefs formed in ancient, pre-scientific worldviews. Part of the explanation is also because our late 20th- and early 21st-century political landscape has been geared for conflict rather than collaboration.
In God Speaks Science, John Van Sloten takes a pastoral approach to this thorny question. He recommends that Christians begin to resolve this conflict between faith and science by recognizing the countless ways in which the Creator God invites us to learn more about his Creation so that we might be better stewards of it. It’s right in the Bible.
This would have been the perfect book for me when I was a teenager caught in the grip of fundamentalist culture wars about faith and science. Van Sloten patiently invites his reader to consider a range of contemporary scientific fields and how those fields point to and reinforce our beliefs about God that we glean from the Bible.
For Van Sloten, the key is recognizing what our Reformed tradition has confessed for centuries: that God is revealed through Creation as well as through Scripture. This conviction has a long track record: from Irenaeus and Augustine in the earliest centuries of the church, to Calvin in the medieval Reformation, right on down to faithful Christian scientists today. Since God is the creator of all things, all things reflect their Creator. When we study Creation scientifically, we catch glimpses of God.
I don’t think this is the book to give to your non-Christian biology professor at university. But if you’re a Christian student and you’re wondering how the various sub-disciplines of science can spark moments of spiritual wonder and connection with God, then this is a great book for you.
Each chapter begins with a scientist’s reflection on their discipline and their faith. Chapters devoted to medical physics, astronomy, orthopedic surgery, marine and plant biology, language acquisition, DNA repair, and neuroscience cover a range of ways we can learn about who God is in ways deeply resonant with Scripture (which is just as abundant as scientific information in these pages).
Readers with advanced scientific training and knowledge will recognize how this book is intentionally oriented to the Christian believer who is beginning to make these connections. An understandable amount of simplification is necessary to make a book like this accessible for a wide audience.
But Van Sloten’s point should be entirely welcome to us: through scientific investigation, we are learning more about God’s Creation every day. This allows us numerous opportunities to reflect on who the Creator is and how the Creator has equipped us to steward Creation, which is our human vocation. When we reject science—like I did as an impressionable teenager—we stunt our capacity to worship God and neglect to use our gifts for faithful service in the world.
As Van Sloten challenges us, “Imagine a world where the church and science see each other as indispensable allies”—instead of antagonistic enemies! I agree wholeheartedly: imagine a world where human beings love God by serving every part of the world through the full range of our gifts and abilities. It might even become as Jesus pointed to: God’s reign emerging on earth. That would contribute to shalom in all its creational fullness and joy! (Moody Press)