Science and Apologetics
- What is an apologetic?
- Can scientific data or information serve to support a view on faith?
- Can scriptural texts integrate scientific information that serves as a witness to God's presence observed through the natural world?
PLACE HOLDER DRAFT ARTICLE
An apologetic is a reasoned argument in support or defense of something (e.g., a view, theory, religious doctrine).
A clear apologetic is logical and often based on fact, and most effective when based on information from a number of sources or perspectives. This approach supports the one position while declining alternatives that are not supported.
An apologetic is in many ways giving a clear and well reasoned explanation. Like the graphic on the right, relationships that can be demonstrated to our understanding take the mystery out of life. When the apologetic is specifically a defense of the Bible in light of any challenge, we require critical thinking and information presented in the context of culture and practice.
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... the very revolutionaries responsible for modern science embraced design in nature. For example, Johannes Kepler is widely admired as a great modern scientist, but as Gingerich and points out, he never wavered in his "views of God as a geometer and of a universe filled with God's geometrical designs"
Psalm 19 (KJV), "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Moreover Psalm 136 asserts that by wisdom God made the heavens. The universe is thus not a jumble of random, unconnected phenomena but instead follows certain laws of nature.
This made science, or the search for these laws, a rational activity for Kepler and his contemporaries, and this is still implicitly assumed by all scientists. Far from abandoning it, therefore, modern science presupposed design to make the "new quantitative and mechanistic approach" possible. Kaita (MC) Page 386
Dr. Spetner's epilogue to his book "Not By Chance" makes several notes in relation to science and Torah. While making a defense for the position put forth in his book he also notes how scientific views can be in harmony scripturally:
For example, until not much more than 50 years ago, the accepted scientific opinion was that the universe was infuriately old and had no beginning. This scientific view dated from Aristotle and denied the Torah concept of creation. Torah scholars unanimously rejected the infinite-age theory, in spite of all the scientific authority behind it. ... The past 50 years have seen in science the replacement of the infinite-age theory with the big bang theory of the origin of the universe. The basic position of the Torah scholars has thus been vindicated by recent scientific discoveries, even though there is still disagreement about time scale. Spetner (NBC) page 211
Mormonism and a lack of scientific accuracy in the Book of Mormon is a key issue when asking for an authentic authority in supposed scripture—yet the text reveals its lack of authority in its inaccuracies. This is no small issue, for the bible unlike other religious texts is not inconsistent with nature in any aspect of its text or context. We look at this as a significant test.
The distinction between primary and secondary causation, while capable of much more subtle clarification than I can give here, is nevertheless fairly straightforward. Roughly, what God did in parting the Red Sea was a primary causal act of God; what he did in guiding and sustaining the sea before and after that miracle involved a secondary cause. Primary causes are God's unusual way of operating; they involve his direct, discontinuous, miraculous actions. Secondary causes are God's normal way of operating, by which he sustains natural entities and processes in existence and employs them mediately to accomplish some purpose through them. Either way God is constantly active in the world, but his activity takes on different forms. Moreland (CH) Page 13
From A Scriptural Viewpoint:
How about looking at all the world's many religious systems and their related documents to see which ones stand up to the basic logic of science. This exercise is at the root of what Dr. Hugh Ross did very early on in his life. We suggest that you read or listen to his own words on how a process of readings in a number of sources provided a basic understanding that only the Bible is consistent with what science has to offer. No, we are not saying the Bible is science or reveals technical scientific details, but the consistency comes with a correct set of references to the physical world and further contains no misinformation on a scientific basis.
To read details or simply listen to Dr. Ross give an account of his experience ... click here ... and when done you can return with the back arrow or continue reading the science narrative on the left.
Defining ' Apologetic'
An apologetic in part is a state of being prepared to defend a position. The common context is a religious argument or clearly defined logic presented to defend a faith. This is not merely a matter of pointing to a holy book and saying the words are truth. The defense requires something more than the words from one source. Examples related to science are provided in this section of WindowView (including titles on the science booklist). Examples of what we consider important Messianic apologetics books can be found elsewhere at this web site (click here to see these selected examples).
One might conclude that a scientific apologetic might rely on scientific information alone. Actually, Scripture along with scientific information provides the launching pad for a faith in a God who provides the physical foundations from which scientific data is gathered by humans. A dilemma creeps in when one assumes that science can explain everything (strictly a materialist's viewpoint) — to the exclusion for the existence of God. But in many cases, the opportunity to examine evidence and to consider the existence of God — both considerations taken together — is resisted and argued with great effort. However, peeling away false assumptions and entertaining ignored information often makes for the valid apologetic and brings one to reality in clear terms.
J.P. Moreland's book, Scaling the Secular City, starts with an introduction that further clarifies and defines an apologetic. Moreland indicates:
"In science, there has been a crisis in the Neo-Darwinian version of evolutionary theory, and the sociologists and philosophers of science have raised objections which have called into question the truths of claims and rationality of science as a discipline. The American Scientific Affiliation and the Creation Research Society listed among their members several hundred professional scientists who believe that the real facts of science and the Christian faith are compatible. In the New Testament studies there has been a clear movement since the 1960's toward a more conservative view of the New Testament materials.
Taken by themselves, the trends listed do not prove that Christianity is true or even a rational. But these trends do point to the fact that a number of thinkers believe that secularism is an inadequate view of the world and that a rational apologetic can be given for a historical Christianity."
Note that WindowView expands upon the use of the term 'Christian' by employing the word 'Messianic.' The logic to this is explored further in the fourth feature area of this web site (see Harmony). Moreland then gives four specific reasons for needing a reasonable and logical apologetic.
''First, Scripture commands us to defend the faith and gives us several examples of such activity. Genesis 1 does not merely assume the existence of the God of the Bible, but attempts to refute ancient Near Eastern concepts of deity by arguing that there is one God and that he created everything.''
Moreland gives several examples of this point from the Old Testament and then the New Testament, including:
''In Acts, Paul reasoned with unbelievers and gave evidence for the gospel by appealing to creation and a the facts surrounding Jesus' life and resurrection. Jude 3 and 1 Peter 3:15 explicitly command us to contend for the faith by giving a rational answer to those who question our faith.''
''Second, apologetics can help remove obstacles to faith and thus in embracing the gospel.''
[And if the word 'gospel' is awkward to you, then think of this as 'news.' Something that is news can be either good or bad, or even of an indifferent sort. Apologetics has at its core an intention of providing something that is of value and thus would be of great value or good news if true. Gospel is often intended to simply mean Good News. Bringing the reality of truth to light is the intent of a well reasoned apologetic. If developed to its full end point, then we are brought to reality associated with good news and not some shell of information that lacks truth.]
''Third, apologetics can strengthen believers in at least two ways. For one thing, it gives them confidence that their faith is true and reasonable; therefore, apologetics encourages a life of faith seeking understanding. Further, apologetics can actually encourage spiritual growth.''
To grow in our understanding of and presence of the Messiah ... ''is in some measure dependent on what that person is able to see in the scriptures and the world around him.''
''Fourth, apologetics can contribute to health in the culture at large. For example, the last several years have witnessed and the upsurge in the formation of bioethics committees. This in turn has raised in the culture at large questions about the objectivity of value, the reality of life after death, and so on. When believers promote their faith because it is true and rational, they contribute to a general cultural perception which sees that moral and religious issues are not mere matters of private taste, but rather are areas where truth and rational argument are appropriate.''
WindowView exhibits two areas for an apologetic. The mini-topics illustrated in the science feature area begin to outline a reasonable and logical scientific apologetic. Elsewhere, in the area entitle 'Harmony' there is support for a more focused Messianic apologetic. The latter case is perhaps unusual because it is not exclusive to Jews or to Gentiles, but is an example of the more classical apologetic in a holistic religious context.
The scientific apologetic offered here speaks to the fact that nature, the universe, and even the material consequence of human activity (e.g., global changes) — as observed in numerous areas of anthropocentric activity (i.e., human centered) — leads to evidence for God's presence. To be clear, we are speaking of the same God as written of in the Hebrew Scriptures. The reasons for only considering this one and no other god or gods is perhaps an area that extends beyond what can be addressed here. Again, we refer you to the book list noted above for sources that discuss different world religions.
Examples of Apologetics in Action
This web site provides a base for an apologetic through science and Scripture. The following section first illustrates reasons why the biblical text is a reliable source, if for no other reason by the numbers of copies and the great care by which the Scriptures were preserved over time.
Next, we employ a bit of science reasoning as explained in a separate article by Thomas Key. Here the Book of Mormon is put to the test — based on science fact. This supposed 'scriptural text' fails to hold its own in a number of areas where fact contradicts what is written — thus invalidating these particular writings as produced by Joseph Smith.
A second apologetic resource is also provided here. While science is used to invalidate the Book of Mormon, we include an 'apologetic table' for your study that similarly invalidates a position held by the Jehovah's Witnesses. However, a word of caution is needed here. Many members of the Jehovah's Witnesses are well grounded in many areas of biblical study. For this they are to be commended. The wrinkle we are revealing here is in their teaching that God and Messiah are two separate gods. The table serves as an interesting apologetics tool for two reasons. First, like the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses use a translation of the Scriptures which is of their own making. This leaves open the problem of errors in translation of the original text (i.e., the original Hebrew or Greek). Ironically, even using their version of the Scriptures one can examine the table to compare Scripture references that together illustrate that there is only one God, not two or more.
An Example of Putting Ancient Writings to a Scientific Test
Ancient writings that claim to be important scriptural texts need credibility to stand on their own. Again, our focus is on reliable information. Scientists who look at the Bible—inclusive of its Hebrew and Greek texts—have many ancient copies to work from. For the Hebrew (Tanach), many well preserved scrolls, in part or whole have been unearthed. The find at Qumran—the Dead Sea Scrolls—provide texts from well over two millennia ago. The content can be studied and is well preserved. The New Covenant texts boast some 5,000 copies and show good preservation of the content. Science can be used to test the validity of such writings. Historical accounts, by known persons, such as Josephus, et al., and physical evidence, such as found at the various archaeological digs now scattered all about the Middle East, all match the texts. References to peoples, animals, plants, places, all fit with present knowledge. In fact, some modern finds have been discovered only after a reading of the biblical text and its descriptions. So far, the Bible, in its entirety is not in error.
The Book of Mormon is a good example of a new world text of questionable origin. There is no original manuscript [the supposed gold plates in an ancient Egyptian glyph language]. The English version from Joseph Smith has been edited for grammar and other errors. But the true test of the validity of this text is its content. On close examination, the Book of Mormon reveals many problems. From a scientific view, there are errors in regard to geography, botany, zoology, physiology, technology, anthropology, and other areas. The following article provides extensive details on the nature of the problem.
Biologist Examines The Book of Mormon by Thomas D. S. Key
(reprinted with permission from Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation)
We do not take pride in making the appearance of undermining what some folks have put their entire faith in—yet the credibility of a text is key to discerning where one should place their faith. An apologetic stance is one that points to the validity or problems one encounters. The present example cites problems with the Book of Mormon, but there are other texts given as much attention and they too need a careful review. Time and again these other sources prove problematic. Space does not allow a full discussion here, but we refer you to one source for additional reading that helps to complete the point initiated here (see: The Compact Guide to World Religions; which is referenced in our booklist).
An Apologetic Table
Jehovah's Witnesses' View of Multiple Gods
The link provided here takes you to a listing of citations (chapter and verse) that on the one hand identify God by a particular characteristic as defined in the Scriptures. The exact same characteristic is linked to the Messiah and in so examining appropriate and parallel citations one can identify that Messiah and God are one and the same — in unity. The number of characteristics and multiple citations for each build an insurmountable apologetic argument.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org