Part 2: Science, Revelation, Common Grace, and Knowledge

In Part 2 of this Christians and Science series, the relationship between science and some important Biblical doctrines will be examined.  These doctrines include revelation, common grace, and knowledge.  This part of the discussion examines four questions:

  1. What is revelation?
  2. What is the relationship between common grace and science?
  3. What are the limits of human knowledge?
  4. Why do Christians and non-Christians view science differently?

Revelation, common grace, knowledge and science are all interrelated.  In this article, the terms will be examined.

  1. What is revelation?

The Bible describes two kinds of revelation, general revelation and special revelation.  Revelation is an important doctrine and it is described in Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), Of the Holy Scripture.

Revelation, general:  The term “General Revelation” refers to the revelation of God through the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence.  This revelation leads humankind to conclude that there is a God.  General revelation is clearly described and is clearly limited by Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith portions of this article are excerpted as follows:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.“

Revelation, Special: The term “Special Revelation” refers to the word of God, the Bible.  Special revelation is clearly described by Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith portions of this Article are excerpted as follows:

Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”

In summary, the Bible provides definitions for general revelation and special revelation.  The descriptions from the Westminster Confession of Faith are a clear summary of what the Bible teaches on the subject of revelation.

  1. What is the relationship between common grace and science?

Common grace is God’s grace that is available to all humankind, both saved and unsaved.  It is a doctrine in reformed churches.  However, there is some disagreement as to the extent of common grace.

In terms of the creation discussion, common grace has important out workings as follows:

  • The scientific observations of non-believers are often accurate and honestly presented.
  • Non-believers are often able recognize design in scientific observations. This recognition of designed served as the basis for the Intelligent Design Movement.
  • Non-believing scientists are often critical of the scientific consensus.

Christians should be grateful to God for the common grace that He gives all humankind.  Common grace means that Christians are able find conclusions of even non-believing scientists to be helpful in many areas.  Common grace allows Christians to use scientific information that is generated by non-believers.   Common grace means that elements of the scientific consensus are often helpful.

  1. What are the limits of human knowledge?

Illustrations are often helpful in explaining concepts.  The “Limits of Knowledge Illustration” shows the scope of knowledge and how that scope is limited.  Knowledge available to humankind is limited by God for His own purposes and glory.  In addition, humankind limits the knowledge available to them by their own presuppositions.

 

 

 

THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE ILLUSTRATION

Knowledge Available to Non-Christians: The first rectangle in the illustration has three components and represents the knowledge available to the non-believer.  Biblically, the non-believer is described as the “natural man.” This term is taken from I Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them; because they are spiritually discerned.”

The three components of the first rectangle are:

  1. The official positions of the scientific consensus (bounded by the heavy dashed line)
  2. Views of scientists that are outside the scientific consensus (bounded by the heavy solid line)
  3. General revelation (bounded by a light dashed line at the top of the first rectangle.

The official positions of the scientific consensus are based on both experimental science and forensic science.  The outworking’s of applied science in medicine and engineering are appreciated by all.  Many official positions of the scientific consensus are based on forensic science.  The “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe is based on the forensic evidence of phase shifts in light.  However, the “Big Bang” is a unique event that cannot be replicated by an experiment.  The presupposition of the scientific consensus is naturalism; there is no need for the God of the Bible or any other god.

Views of non-believing scientists that are outside the scientific consensus are important.  The Intelligent Design Movement is based on microscopic observations which have led some scientists (including non-Christians) to conclude that living organisms are show design and therefore there must be a designer.  In medicine, qualified professionals have opinions concerning such things as cancer treatment and vaccines that differ from those of the scientific consensus.

General revelation is God’s providential blessing to humankind.  The scope of general revelation is limited as demonstrated by the Bible and as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Knowledge Available to Christians: The second rectangle in the illustration includes all the knowledge available to non-Christians (represented by the first rectangle) and extends beyond that knowledge.  Special revelation is available only to the Christian.

Christians are able to appreciate the work of the scientific consensus.  They are able to appreciate and use the work of applied science that is part of the scientific consensus. They are also able to understand forensic science aspects of the scientific consensus.  Most observations made by those who operate within the scientific consensus are accurate and usable to those who are outside the scientific consensus.  However, interpretations of the observations will differ.  Those within the scientific consensus must choose interpretations that are based on naturalism.  Those who operate outside the scientific consensus are able to consider the hand of God.

The Christian’s knowledge is also limited as can be seen in Deuteronomy 29:29:   “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and our children for ever, that we may all do the works of the law.”  God reveals to humankind only what he elects to reveal.

However, the Christian’s knowledge of God is also limited as can be seen in Deuteronomy 29:29   “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and our children for ever, that we may all do the works of the law.”

The Knowledge of God:

Finally, the area beyond the limits of knowledge available to Christians represents God’s knowledge.   God is omniscient (all knowing).  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are my ways your ways sayeth the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my thoughts are higher than your thoughts and my ways higher than your ways sayeth the LORD.”  (Isaiah 55:8 & 9)

  1. Why do Christians and non-Christians view science differently?

Basically Christians and non-Christians view science differently because they view God differently.  Here are some differences.

Christians view the God of the Bible.  “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1) is affirmed by all Christians.  God is the “First Cause”.  This recognition of God as creator separates theistic evolution (Evolutionary Creation) from the evolution of the scientific consensus.  The non-Christians must start find a first cause other than the God of the Bible.

Christians are able to have a broad view of science which able to appreciate and critique the scientific consensus.  Christians should be able to recognize the presuppositions of the scientific consensus.  Christians are able to appreciate the work of non-believers who operate outside the scientific consensus.  Finally, Christians are able to recognize the character of God.  He is omnipotent and does things according to His own thoughts and ways.

Christians are able to fully appreciate science.  They are also able to appreciate a God who operates outside of naturalism and human understanding.

to be continued ……