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Teaching Science: Justification

Reflections of God in the subject matter

In the study of nature

The Christian can gain an enhanced appreciation for the God he serves by studying His creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). With the present level of sophistication in scientific instruments and techniques, we are in a position to appreciate more fully than ever before the majestic splendor of His handiwork. Moreover, we can ascertain several of God's attributes through a study of His workmanship. His wisdom is displayed in the marvelously contrived design of the universe and its parts; His omnipotence is manifested in the sheer vastness of its structure; His sovereignty as Lawgiver is seen in the ordinances that govern it. His benevolence is attested by His abundant provision for the needs of His creatures. Though it is now flawed by the Fall, nature still bears God's distinct and indelible imprint.

Another benefit of modern research has been an increased cognizance of some remarkable scientific statements contained in Scripture—statements that can be attributed only to the Author of the universe Himself, for they manifest an understanding of the intricate workings of nature far in advance of the day in which they were written. Among these are the assertion in Jeremiah 33:22 that the stars cannot be numbered and the declaration in Ecclesiastes 1:6 that the wind follows a cyclic pattern.

The above perspectives, properly taught, can heighten the student's awareness of God's greatness and goodness. Moreover, they should draw him closer to the Lord and encourage him to emulate the One Who "hath done all things well" (Mark 7:37). The student with a fuller, more accurate understanding of reality—a view more like God's—may be conformed more readily to the mind of Christ.

In the history of science

It is instructive for the modern Christian to study the lives of great scientists who were believers and to note the evidences of the Creator's hand they looked for and found as they studied nature. Such venerable researchers as Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Lord Kelvin, Johannes Kepler, Matthew Maury, and James Clerk Maxwell approached their work with an attitude of extreme reverence and humility. These men, in a tradition that has been all but lost in scientific circles, reported their findings in a manner that placed the emphasis on the greatness and goodness of the Creator, rather than on the theoretical or experimental prowess of the researcher. It was Kepler who set the example for all who followed him in attempting to "think God's thoughts after Him." As an astronomer he believed that God had given scientists in that field of study the special privilege of learning about His glory by studying the heavens. These men then had the responsibility of disseminating this knowledge of His majesty by making their findings known to men. It is an enriching experience indeed to glean insights from men of keen minds who were rightly oriented to God's truth.

Godliness in the resultant knowledge, attitudes and skills

In general Christian character and service

A student who seriously pursues some area of experimental science will find that it requires and develops self-discipline. Instead of taking a casual, hit-or-miss approach to making observations, he learns to be precise and meticulous, carefully controlling his operating conditions, proceeding in logical steps, and recording his data neatly and efficiently. This organization is transferable to other areas of the student's life, developing him into a better-regulated person. To a limited degree a student of science is required to mirror God's activity. This is manifested in a general way in the care and concern he must exercise for his work; it is also manifested in certain specific operations, such as measurement, synthesis, purification, and evaluation.

Second, science can be a tool to aid a student's understanding of Scripture. For example, a knowledge of the chemical composition of the salt used by the ancients enables one to comprehend how it could lose its savor (Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50). (The salt, a mixture of sodium chloride and impurities, loses its strength with exposure to moisture, as the sodium chloride dissolves, leaving impurities.) A knowledge of early metallurgical processes provides insight into the meaning of purging away the dross from the life of an individual or a nation (Proverbs 25:4-5; Isaiah 1:25; Ezekiel 22:18-22). A study of the properties of gold drives home the meaning of the analogy of a vessel that is pliable in the hands of its Creator, capable of repeated refining (Job 23:10).

Third, the Christian student who receives a thorough grounding in true science develops his defenses against a number of "isms" that are built upon "science falsely so called" (I Timothy 6:20)—evolutionism, communism, fascism, scientism, modernism, liberalism, humanism, and environmentalism. Our young people are continually bombarded with a variety of pseudoscientific claims—on television and in newspapers, books, and magazines. Many of the statements they hear have religious overtones. The science courses in the Christian school provide an antidote for such onslaughts, furnishing continuing guidance for our students at various levels of instruction, helping them to stay "on course."

Fourth, a knowledge of science can enhance the Christian's testimony by giving him a point of contact with a sizable segment of the population. Almost everyone possesses an appreciation, at least, for the results of science, if not for the intricacies of its inner workings. The nature of our society dictates that every citizen know some science. Other things being equal, it is a better testimony for a Christian to be knowledgeable about such matters than to be ignorant. Today even the so-called "common man" whose vocation has nothing to do with science (if that is in fact possible) must have a working knowledge of basic scientific terms to understand even his daily newspaper. Slightly more erudite reading can make considerably greater demands upon his scientific vocabulary. A knowledge of metric units (taught in science courses) is important for many kinds of purchases; a knowledge of physical principles can often assist in making intelligent choices of tools, appliances, and other household commodities. The life of the Christian becomes incalculably more useful to God as well as more enjoyable to himself when he understands something about the earth he lives on, the objects he views in the night sky, the plants he cultivates in his garden, the food he eats, and the physical body he inhabits.

In special vocational service

It is not unrealistic to expect that a certain percentage of the students we educate will feel called to scientific vocations. In addition to the obvious benefits of having Christian witnesses in the scientific community, the infusion of qualified Christian personnel should have a salutary effect on both the quality of the research that is performed and the philosophical interpretation of that research. More than once in the past a believing scientist has been in a position to lay an ungodly theory to rest before it had the opportunity to gain more widespread support.

If the Christian school has served its role faithfully, its graduates not only will be able to compete favorably in their higher education or specialized training programs but also should perform better in general than students who have been educated in secular schools. There are at least two reasons for this. First, the Christian student has been taught true science, more clearly and realistically. Second, many of the character traits he has acquired during the course of his Christian training—orderliness, diligence, patience, perseverance, honesty, and dependability—will stand him in good stead for the work that lies ahead. When he occupies his post in industry, in the teaching profession, or wherever he might be called, other things being equal, he should do so more capably than his secular counterpart. This superiority will strengthen his testimony and help defeat the notion that Christian faith and scientific achievement are mutually exclusive.

In fact, in a very specific way, Christian character facilitates scientific achievement. Most technological advances have resulted from team effort. When a member of a scientific community bases his work on the amount of recognition he can receive, he creates jealousies within the community that tend to stifle exchange and generous collaboration. Theories that have outlived their usefulness may be vehemently defended in disregard of scientific evidence, to the detriment of science as a whole. A scientist working unselfishly gives preference in honor to his scientific colleagues and, if he is a Christian, refers all glory to God.