Hinduism & New Age Spirituality on Suffering
Hinduism & New Age Spirituality on Suffering
What does Hinduism say about suffering?
The most prominent of the six schools of Hindu philosophy is Vedanta Hinduism. It teaches that suffering comes from ignorance (maya). This view teaches that we can be freed from suffering when we recognize our oneness with the Divine. This form of Hinduism thus says since all is divine, there is truly no sin and no suffering. Salvation is thus through knowledge, the knowledge that one is actually God.
It is important to realize that Hinduism “does not technically name one religion but is a broad term that includes the various religious beliefs and practices of India. Hinduism has no founder and no single authoritative text.” But, “all Hindus share some core beliefs, including the eternality of the cosmos, reincarnation, karma, the caste system, affirmation of Vedic scriptures, and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth as the ultimate goal of life.”
A second view of suffering from Hinduism is that our suffering comes from a previous life in which wrong was done. As the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler say in The Art of Happiness, “In the Buddhist and Hindu models… suffering is a result of our own negative past actions and is seen as a catalyst for seeking spiritual liberation”
We, in this life, are thus paying for the wrongs we did in our previous lives. All suffering thus has its antecedent sin, somewhere. We may not understand it but all suffering is thus just. This is the doctrine of karma: people get what’s coming to them.
A few questions come to mind. What acts of compassion to alleviate the suffering of others do you expect from Hinduism that does not believe in the reality of suffering? Also, as we have seen, Hinduism teaches Karma, people get the suffering that they deserve in this life. Does that lead to compassion for those who are suffering? Sadly, often it does not.
Think of the caste system. If someone was born into poverty that’s what they must deserve. If someone gets sick and dies that’s what they must deserve. Hinduism holds that humans “are directly responsible for the suffering (physical, mental, spiritual, existential, and so on) that they are experiencing.”
That’s very briefly what Hinduism says about suffering.
The Bible as we will see teaches that we are not divine, we are not God; we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Ignorance is a problem but it is not the problem.
The Bible teaches the decisiveness of this life, we had no other life in the past. What we do matters more than we can know. It does not just affect the next life where we get a retry. It affects eternity. So, the way people live and how they treat people has a lot of significance.
Also, from a Christian perspective, there is judgment. People will get what they deserve, we can be assured of that, but it’s not through Karma. It’s through Jesus, the good and just Judge (Rev. 22:12).
Lastly, Christianity places huge importance on compassion (Col. 3:12-13). Jesus came and suffered for us to ultimately alleviate our suffering even when we didn’t deserve it. Therefore, Christians are to be compassionate and even sacrificial.
What does New Age Spirituality about suffering?
First, what is New Age Spirituality? It is a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism and personal feelings. It is kind of the “mix n’ match” of religions.
It’s basically impossible to distill down what New Age Spirituality says about suffering because you’d probably get a different answer from each adherent to the many forms of New Age Spirituality. I hope here, however, to give a general perspective.
It seems suffering in this view is a result of not being awakened to our inner power. We need to relinquish negativity so that “the universe’s healing power might flow unimpeded.” If someone is in your life that you’re having trouble with, then the solution is to cut them off. They are not helping your inner calm so they need to go. New Age Spirituality seems to teach that the solution to suffering is to focus on yourself.
New Age Spirituality seems very self and inward-focused. Of course, they say they are very inclusive and accepting of everyone. So, New Age Spirituality is also very pluralistic. ‘You have your truth and I have my truth. And that’s fine.” That’s what proponents of this view would likely say.
Primarily, though, suffering is something to be avoided. What is messy and unlikable is to be avoided. New Age Spirituality in that sense seems to be an escapist mentality. In contrast, “the Christian path of obedience, sacrifice, and suffering can seem foolish, even masochistic.”
Suffering exists for various reasons, but Christianity teaches that it is primarily a result of sin. Sin is not really a category for the New Age Spiritualists. Christianity also differs in that it says suffering is not always to be avoided.
Jesus waded into our suffering to provide salvation. And Jesus very often calls us to also take up our crosses. And love people. Even when it is difficult. Even when it means sacrificial suffering. Christians believe that they cannot agree with everyone (for example, Jesus is the only way to God) but they are to love and sacrifice for anyone—even when they disagree with that person and caring for them requires sacrifice (think of the Good Samaritan).
 E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering [New York: The Abingdon Press, 1937], 58.
 Tawa J. Anderson, W. Michael Clark, and David K. Naugle, An Introduction to Christian Worldview: Pursuing God’s Perspective in a Pluralistic World [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017], 269.
 The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, The Art of Happiness, 200.
 Jones, Christ and Human Suffering, 51.
 Some would take this to mean that we should not relieve the sufferings of others because it really is not helping them. They are getting their just desserts for their wrongdoing. If we relieve them in one way they will just suffer in another.
 Jones says, “There is a deep and abiding truth in the law of Karma. We do reap what we sow” (Jones, Christ and Human Suffering 54). See Galatians 6:8. However, the doctrine of karma is wrong although God does justly mete out justice.
 Scott J Fitzpatrick, Ian H Kerridge, Christopher F C Jordens, Laurie Zoloth, Christopher Tollefsen, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Michael P Jensen, Abdulaziz Sachedina, Deepak Sarma, “Religious perspectives on human suffering: Implications for medicine and bioethics” in Journal of Religion and Health 2016; 55:159–173.
 The Bible says that it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
 See also “Is the world enchanted?”
 Nicole Watt, “A Reiki Master’s Redemption,” 95 in Christianity Today.
 Watt, “A Reiki Master’s Redemption,” 95 in Christianity Today.
*Photo by Min An
Is science our salvation?
Science brings solutions. Solutions I thank God for. Without the breakthroughs in medicine that science has brought, my wife and son would not be alive because of a dangerous birth. The Bible tells us to be thankful for good things like science. It doesn’t say science isn’t real, or anything crazy like that. Instead, it says, “every good gift… comes down from heaven” and “should be received with thanksgiving.”
But, science is not everything. Science is not our salvation because science is wielded by humans, and humans do something that is unpopularly referred to as sin. So, in the most scientifically advanced century, there were also the most mass inflicted deaths. If the past is an indication of the future, science will continue to be a place of ethical stress and struggle. Science has been good in many cases, but science has also been used to propel genocide.
So, I’m super thankful for science but science is not our salvation. Science can’t even begin to tell us the meaning of life. It only answers questions that can be found through reproducible observations. It can tell us about the way the world is, but it cannot to us about the way the world ought to be.
Science might provide solutions, science might help us out especially physically, but our problems are deeper than that. Our problem is not just physical, it’s spiritual. And science knows nothing of the spiritual. It can’t see or do tests on what ills us at our deepest levels and so it can offer no final solutions.
If humanity is to be saved we need more power than even science offers. And we need it welded by a perfect person. Christians believe in just that person.
Christians believe Jesus is the Solution
Christ’s resurrection proves both that the world is more than meets the eye and that science, though often very good, is not our salvation. Jesus the Bible repeatedly shows, is our salvation.
“For the Christian the natural world is real and full of strangeness and wonder, but it is not the only reality or the higher reality, so important though science is, there are ways of knowing other than through science… After all, there are many sounds that humans cannot hear, but they are still objectively real and completely audible to dogs, bats and bears.”
Yet, just because Christians believe more is needed than just science, does not mean Christians discount science. And just because Christians believe that Jesus is the solution, does not mean Christians discount reason.
Christianity is a reasonable religion. Or, it at least certainly claims to be. Each person has to decide for themself. But, the Bible indeed gives reasons to believe. It’s arguing for something. It’s proposing a full-orbed philosophy of life.
Christianity has been reasoned since the beginning. In fact, the Bible makes the huge claim that reason (logos) was fleshed out as Jesus walked in the flesh (see John 1:1-14). Wisdom walked the earth. Philosophy was not abstract, theoretical, and locked up in a far-away lecture hall. No. Philosophy was flawlessly lived out by Jesus who perfectly loved people and God.
Science cannot save us but it points us with a whisper and a roar to the One who can. Jesus can do the surgery on our hearts that we all need because He is knowledge and wisdom incarnate. He is philosophy. He is Logic made flesh.
Jesus the sovereign over science is the one who brings salvation. He is the sinless solution. The one alone who perfectly welds His power.
 Os Guinness, Fools Talk, 150.
What is the difference between self-confidence and pride?
Theologically what is the difference between self-confidence and pride?
God does gift individuals. And it is good to acknowledge that truth. The manager in Jesus’ parable that invested his talents and earned a good return for the owner had to have a type of confidence (Matt. 25:14-30).
Further, God created us as a “work of art” to carry out the good deeds and mission He wants us to accomplish (Eph. 2:10). So, in a sense, we can have confidence in the self that God intended us to be. Therefore, self-confidence is not in itself bad.
Of course, these truths need to be balanced by the humbling reality that we are sinners and that every good thing we have is a gift. What do we have that we did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7)? And we should always recall that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). It’s not innately ours.
Self-confidence can mean prideful evaluation of one’s ability. It does not, I don’t think, have to be understood that way though. It could mean something like: confidence in who God made you to be and in your God-given abilities. If understood that way, perhaps “God-confidence” or “God-acknowledgment” would be better.
Either way, it does not seem to me that self-confidence is inherently bad. I also think considering the opposite term can be helpful to consider: “self-skepticism” or “self-suspicion.” The Bible does say that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). So, does “self-skepticism” better describe what the view of ourselves should be?
I don’t think so. I don’t think self-confidence or self-skepticism gives us the whole picture. And if left with just one of them or even a balance of both of them together, we still miss something huge! We miss our self in relation to God.
If we consider ourselves without relation to or thought of God, we’re going to get it wrong. We’ll error on either over-confidence or over-suspicion about our self. Yet, when we consider ourselves with reference to what God can and does do, we can be confident in who He has made us to be. While at the same time not obsessing about our self, because we’re focused on Him. We can have a healthy suspicion of our self but that’s not crushing. Because we know that God can and does overcome our sin.
“Pride,” at least how I think about it, has to do with what one has done. In my mind, it means someone is proud of what they themselves have accomplished. Pride is less an evaluation of one’s ability and more so a belief that’s one’s ability is simply a result of one’s own efforts. There’s no grace in pride, given or received; all is earned.
So, with pride, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of who humans are and who God is. God is the giver we, as humans, are receivers. God is, and we are contingent. Pride is a foolish misunderstanding of ontology. God is independent, humans are dependent.
Notice, King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled after he praised himself and all he thought he himself had accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar found out that God humbles those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37). When pride comes, then comes disgrace (Prov. 11:2).
We should, however, understand that there is a difference between “pride” and “pleasure.” King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just take pleasure in his kingdom and in all that God had entrusted to him, he took pride in it. That is, he acted as if he was responsible for it all himself. He exalted himself and failed to exalt God.
I believe it is good to take pleasure in the abilities God has given us—whether preaching, building cabinets, or whatever. In a movie about Eric Liddel, a Christian Olympic runner, he says, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in what God has given us to do. But, notice an important point: Liddel said, “God made me fast.” Liddel acknowledged God even in his abilities.
But wait, didn’t Liddel run? Didn’t Liddel sweat? Didn’t Liddel sacrifice? He showed amazing discipline to be an Olympic runner, right? Yes. And every good gift is from God. Including Liddel’s ability to do each of those things and also his ability to breathe and his very existence was from God.
So, I believe one could evaluate themself as very good at what they do and that it required a lot of work on their part to become effective, without being prideful. How so? They acknowledge that it is all a gift. Discipline—a gift. Breathing—a gift. Etc.—a gift.
Perhaps the fundamental difference between “pride” and “self-confidence” as we are considering the terms is this: One is an exaltation of self without reference to God, the other can be confidence in God with reference to who He has made you to be.
The apostle Paul had a sort of confidence—we see it demonstrated through his letters and missionary work—but he also said it was not him but Christ in him (Gal. 2:20). Paul, after He met and was radically transformed by Christ, was not so much confident in himself as what God was able to do through him, though he was a mere disposable jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7).
So, I believe it is right and good to have a kind of self-confidence in who God has made us to be even while we work at killing pride.
*Photo by Nicolas I.
Suffering? What does Buddhism say about it?
Suffering? What does Buddhism say say about it? Why does it happen and what hope is there in the midst of it? How should we respond to the reality of suffering?
Why does suffering happen?
Why does suffering happen? What hope do we have in the midst of suffering? And what do the major views of the world say about these questions?
There are a bunch of different forms of suffering. Suffering because of the actions of others, because of our own choices, from loneliness, from financial distress, from the death of a loved one. Statistics say there have been millions of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 alone. Suffering is sadly part of our world.
But, why? And did it have to be this way? Does it have to be this way?
In the upcoming posts we’re going to briefly look at what Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age Spirituality, Islam, Naturalism, and Christianity say about suffering.
What does Buddhism say about suffering?
Buddha said, “Existence and suffering are one.” And Buddha explains, through the four noble truths, that suffering is a result of desire. Therefore, Buddhism says, the solution, the way to end suffering, is for us to end desire. To get to our resting place then, to get to Nirvana, where we no longer suffer, we must cut the root of all desire.
Issa, an eighteenth-century poet from Japan, went to a Buddhist Zen Master for help. He was grieving. He tragically lost his wife and all five of his children. In Issa’s distress and grief he went to the Zen Master. The Zen Master said: “Remember the world is dew.” That was the solution that was given, “Remember the world is dew.”
Dew is fleeting. “The sun rises and the dew is gone. So too is suffering and death in this world of illusion, so the mistake is to become to engaged. Remember the world is dew. Be more detached, and transcend the engagement of mourning that prolongs the grief.”
The answer given, then, is basically, “Be more detached. Care less.” After Issa received his consolation he composed one of his most famous poems:
I appreciate something E. Stanley Jones said:
“Buddha was right in diagnosing our difficulty as ‘desire.’ It is the desires of men reaching out to this thing and that thing that return to them disillusioned, pained, suffering. We seem to be infinite beings trying to find satisfaction with finite things. The result—suffering! Yes, Buddha was right in finding the root of our difficulty to be in desire, but he was wrong in the remedy. He would try to get rid of all desire, when the fact is that there is no possible way to get rid of one desire except to replace it by a higher desire.”
What’s the Christian View?
The Bible actually agrees that we have desire and that it is strong. For example, Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that we have eternity in our hearts. Therefore, the Bible as well as Augustine and Aquinas say we have great desire but they also say our desire can be met, but only by God Himself.
So, let’s think through the implications of the Buddhist view of suffering. The Buddhist view leaves people wanting to leave earthly existence altogether and arrive at the passionless state of Nirvana; that is the true solution from the Buddhist approach.
One of the problems with this kind of belief is that it does away with the significance of good and evil. And thus it also does away with rescue. C.S. Lewis said it this way: “Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’”
The Christian view of suffering looks at suffering as much more multidimensional. From a Christian perspective, there are many reasons for suffering:
- sin and wrong desire
- war and human conflicts
- living in a fallen and cursed world in which there are physical calamities such as hurricanes and pandemics
- health issues and physical infirmities
- economic distress
- humans sinning against other humans in various ways
- the abuse of secular and religious authorities and even at the hands of parents within the family structure
- Suffering, for the Christian, can also happen as result of living for Jesus the Lord
For the Christian, the solution is much different too. The solution is not leaving earthly existence, the solution is Jesus coming to earth. And Him always having the right desire and doing the right thing and suffering in the place of humans.
 Of course, in the space we have, we cannot come close to an exhaustive account of each view. Instead, we’ll look at what I believe is a fair representation.
 This is what the four noble truths say: (1) Suffering is an innate characteristic of existence with each rebirth and (2) the cause of that suffering is desire. (3) We can therefore end all suffering by ending all desire. And (4) we can end all desire by following the eightfold path.
 Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk, 126.
 E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1937), 49-50.
 As Psalm 16:11 says, “In the LORD’s presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand our pleasures forever more.”
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
See Apologetics at the Cross.
*Photo by JD Mason
Does science disprove miracles?
What is a Miracle?
David Hume, a skeptic philosopher believed a miracle is a violation and even a transgression of a law of nature. That view assumes the impossibility of miracles at the outset. It makes sense that someone who doesn’t want to believe in God, or God’s interference with our affairs, wouldn’t want to believe in the possibility of God’s intervention. So, I understand where he’s coming from.
The Importance of Starting Places
Is Science able to Disprove Miracles?
Should we Believe every Miracle Claim?
Does Science Disprove Miracles?
Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?
Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?
Newton, a scientist that also happened to be a fish, was a keen observer of the ecology of the fishbowl. He was surprised to observe regular patterns in his fish universe. But he did.
For example, Newton observes that food daily falls upon the surface of the water at the same time each day. It is a law of nature. It’s just the way the world is.
Newton observes other natural phenomena like the temperature of the water. He further notes that each death of a goldfish results in a distant flushing noise and then in reincarnation of that goldfish. Newton, awestruck by his discoveries, publishes his findings in his magnum opus entitled Fishtonian Laws.
Many read his groundbreaking work and are convinced that the laws of the fishbowl are unassailable. After all, the patterns observed have always been that way and so always will be that way. No outside source can act within the fishbowl. The reality is food appears every day and as a goldfish dies, a new one appears. That is the unbroken chain of events we observe. That is the way it’s always been. How could it be different? Who or what could act on these laws of nature?
We are in a closed system; the aether of the universe—in which we live, move, and have our being—is constrained by an invisible force. There is an unknown unobservable wall that keeps us from knowing what is outside nature, what is outside the physical universe. There is no way for us to know the metafishbowl.
In the post-Fishtonian world, there were still whispers of the metafishbowl—of the supernatural hand of God—but most of those stories were dismissed as baseless dreams. After all, even if there were a God that set up the fishbowl, he no longer acts in the fishbowl. Such a being is wholly other and transcendent and would not care about lowly fish.
Everything just goes on swimmingly by itself. We shouldn’t expect an outside hand, right?… There is no reason to think an outside being or force could act within our world.
Or, does something smell fishy about this story?
Do you have to have a certain view about creation to be a Christian?
Do you have to have a certain view about creation to be a Christian?
Christians believe that when understood correctly there will ultimately be harmony between God’s word the Bible and His world because He is the author of both. Christians don’t believe that there is a contradiction between Christianity and the way creation was carried out. Although, various Christians believe various things regarding evolution and the age of the earth.
Also, it is important that we remember that evolution does not entail the beginning of the universe. Evolution does not offer a reason for the existence of space, time, or matter. In biology, evolution is an explanation of how and why various species have the characteristics they have. Evolution seeks to explain the evolution of different forms of life, not necessarily the origin of life. Christians believe, as the Bible clearly states, that God made the world out of nothing. They, however, disagree on a lot of the particulars.
Christians have Various Views
Various Christians, for example, have various explanations as to the age of the earth. Christians don’t believe that science contradicts the creation accounts. Even while Christians hold various views as to their understanding of the creation accounts. I will say though that this is a topic that many are very dogmatic about. Avowed atheists as well as many evangelicals. Many disagree on the dating of the earth but they’re doubled-down on their dogmatism.
I, however, think a healthy dose of humility is helpful. As well as a willingness to listen to and even learn from and be sharpened by those that come from a different direction.
Again, it’s important that we realize that there are Christians with opinions on both sides of the age of the earth and evolution spectrum. The Bible’s position on the creation of the earth and the humans that inhabit it is not a contradiction. Confusion for some, confidence for many, and consternation for others, yes, but that does not at all prove a contradiction.
Here’s a flawed analogy: A buffet of food doesn’t prove there is no right choice, it just makes finding the right food maybe a little bit harder. I think we can appreciate that there are options and be patient with the person that picks salad.
Here is ‘the buffet’ of choices regarding how humans and the world got to now. I believe there is one choice that is clearly at odds with Christianity, and others that I don’t find as compelling but the presence of choices shouldn’t stop a person from considering Christianity.
This is a naturalistic explanation that has no place for God. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga would say this view is incompatible with Christian belief. I agree. I also believe it is false (see “If God created the universe, what created God?“).
This view advocates that there is a creator/designer of some sort. “The fundamental claim of intelligent design is straightforward and easily intelligible: namely, there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” This view can support a deist or Christian view of the world. It certainly doesn’t prove Christianity, but it doesn’t necessarily contradict it either.
This view holds that God used evolution to make the world, or at least life forms, the way they are.
Advocates of this view believe that God created the world over a period of ages or epochs. They believe the account given in Genesis is a faithful poetic explanation of the earth’s origins. The Hebrew word for ‘day’ (yom) used in the Genesis creation account can mean various things (e.g. a period of 24 hours, a vague amount of time, a year, long age).
This view holds that the earth was created in six literal days six to twelve thousand years ago.
God certainly could have created all things in six literal days, or He could have used a process to bring humans to the state that they are now. “God may have created organic life directly or he may have evolved it from inorganic life by natural processes; nothing we know for sure in either theology or science, God or nature, makes us absolutely certain of either answer.”
There is more than one plausible interpretation of the creation account. So, people interpret the Genesis account in different ways and believe different things regarding how old the earth is. I personally believe we should hold our beliefs regarding the creation of the world with charity.
Christianity does not regulate what one’s belief must be regarding the specific age of the earth. Or how exactly humans got to now. This is a topic Christians can and do disagree on.
Yes, Christians answer differently. But that does not disprove Christianity. Christians believe that there are faithful ways to understand what science says with what Scripture says, even if they sometimes disagree on what those faithful ways are. One Christian author even said, “Whether [God] completed the job in six literal twenty-four hour days or over a longer period does not really matter (Christian opinions differ over how we should interpret Genesis 1). What is important is the fact that God is the creator of all things.”
 See John Lennox’s helpful book, Seven Days that Divide the World.
 Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford University Press, YEAR), 12.
 William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution.
 Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, 107.
 Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, 27.
Doesn’t science show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate?
Doesn’t science show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate?
Scripture is in line with science in various important ways.
Science has found Scripture to be correct in various regards way before its time. The Bible is not a scientific textbook. Yet it is accurate scientifically. That is, it concurs with all sorts of scientific discoveries. The Bible also, as we have seen, lays the groundwork for scientific research to be carried out.
The Bible is also accurate or predictive in connection with science. For example, the Bible clearly says that the universe came into being at a finite time. “Not until the twentieth century did any other book—whether science, theology, or philosophy—even hint at” this reality. We now know that the universe is accelerating at ever faster speeds. If we were to reverse the accelerating expansion of the universe we would see that there was a point at which it did not exist. That is, the universe came into being—ex nihilo—out of nothing, as the Bible says. The “big bang” demonstrates empirically what the Bible has said for hundreds of years.
So, although many people ridicule the Genesis creation account, the Bible’s accuracy in fact predates many scientific discoveries. It’s almost like the Bible had access to special information. There is currently debate regarding the days of creation. I do not currently have a dogmatic answer to that question, however, as we have seen, there are various plausible explanations.
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has said,
“The Bible accurately and uniquely described the major features of the origin, structure, and history of the universe thousands of years before any scientist discovered them… The predictive success of biblical cosmology affirms the reliability of Scripture’s message about why the universe exhibits the characters it does.”
Also, the Bible talks about the expanding universe. It doesn’t quite say “the universe is expanding” but that’s the picture we get. The Bible says that God “stretched out the heavens.” The Bible talks about what we know as the “laws of nature,” it refers to the “fixed order of heaven and earth.” We now know, as the informed modern people that we are, that the world is made up of a bunch of tiny things that we cannot see (atoms). The Bible does not contradict that truth but states nonchalantly that “the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
The Bible explains the “happenstance” that trillions upon trillions of electrons have the identical electrical charge as one another. It explains the many “Goldilocks,” just right, factors that are necessary for life, such as, the earth’s position in relation to the sun.
Therefore, the Bible, far from being out of line with science, fell in line with scientific discoveries before they were discovered. Further, the biblical worldview provides a framework for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. So, when we consider the Bible’s relationship to science it ends up lending credibility to the trustworthiness of the Bible.
Christianity and Scientists
We should also understand that there have been many good scientists who are Christians, and they didn’t see a contradiction between their science and Christianity. If anything, many of them believe the two are complementary.
Christianity far from being filled with hacks has had a history of cultural contributions. Sophisticated calculations, diatribes on causation, and beautiful cathedrals are part of the Christian legacy. Christianity is based on the word made flesh and the words of the Bible, so, not surprisingly, it is a life philosophy with a rich history of books. Christianity even talks about two main books known as general and special revelation. That is, Christians believe that God reveals Himself and His will through both His word and His world. Christians have a long history of believing both matter and both are good. Christians have a long history of supporting literacy, scholarship, and science.
Here are some scientists that have had a massive impact that seemed to have believed in at least part of the Christian view of the world. Or “Christians of various stripes,” as Eric L. Johnson put it.
- Blaise Pascal was a mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher. He is behind Pascal’s principle, the syringe, and the hydraulic press.
- Robert Boyle is “the father of chemistry.”
- Isaac Newton is one of the greatest and most influential physicists and scientists of all time.
- Andre Ampere is where “amp” and our language of electrical measurement comes from.
- Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction.
- Gregor Johann Mendel was an Augustinian monk whose work led to the concept of genes.
- Louis Pasteur was a chemist and microbiologist famous for pasteurization, principles of vaccination, and research that led to greater understanding as to the causes of and prevention of diseases.
- Lord Kelvin is where we get the Kelvin scale of absolute zero and why we say the sun is 6000° Kelvin.
- George Washington Carver was born into slavery and yet became one of America’s greatest scientists.
- Francis S. Collins recently led the Human Genome Project.
Thus, we can see Christians have a rich history of thought and scientific discovery. Of course, that does not at all mean that Christianity is true. But, I do believe it means that it deserves thoughtful and honest consideration.
And no. Science does not show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate.
 Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the way It Is, 133.
 The phrase “big bang” makes it sound as if the beginning was just a disordered explosion. That is wrong. Instead, “there must be an incredibly precise amount of order at the Big Bang. We know that the universe is moving from a state of order to a state of increasing disorder (this is the Second Law of Thermodynamics), and it is the case that you needed a lot of order at the beginning for the universe to be able to produce… the ordered structures we see” (Rodney D. Holder, “Is the Universe Designed?” Faraday Paper number 10).
If I’m shooting pool and I want one ball in the pocket, there is some complexity. I must hit the ball at roughly the precise spot for it to be knocked into the pocket. With every additional ball the complexity and thus precision is more crucial. If I was breaking up all the balls and wanting all the stripes to go in and none of the solids it would take a phenomenal amount of both calculation and precision. And it would be the initial hit that set a chain of cause-and-effect reactions into place.
 Ross, Why the Universe Is the way It Is, 15.
 Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Is. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Zech. 12:1.
 Jer. 33:25 see also Ps. 74:16-17; 104:19.
 Eric L. Johnson, Foundations for Soul Care, 63.
Photo by Kitera Dent
What explains the possibility of science?
Where did the idea or faith in an ordered world—a controlled rather than a chaotic cosmos—come from? Is this view just the view humans have always had? Is it the default view of humans? What explains the possibility of science?
One author has said that “the emergence of science is a more extraordinary event than many children of the atomic age would imagine.” Or, as Peter Harrison has said, “there was nothing inevitable about the emergence of modern science.” We often take science and all the possibilities that science allows for granted. For most people in the history of humanity, that has not been an option. Because science as we know it was not in existence.
Many saw the world as chaotic and capricious, not controlled. The view that the world has discoverable laws has not been the norm. Why would one see the world as chaotic and uncontrolled? On the other hand, why would someone see the world as controlled? And, what difference do these views make?
These views are two different tracks that take you vastly different places. Seeing the world as inherently chaotic and capricious does not lead one to think there are laws that world govern the world. The most you could hope for would be survival, not science. If there are no rules to a game, you don’t think you’re going to win the game or even make much progress. Your goal, more likely, is to stay in the game as long as possible.
If, however, you believe in a controlled orderly world, it makes all the difference in the world. If there are rules to “the game of life” then one might find that there are advantages to knowing those rules.
Perspectives about whether the cosmos is chaotic or controlled have had huge implications on how people have thought about an enterprise like science. If we believe something is lawless, we don’t look for laws to study.
Or consider this, in many ways a stone mosaic and stone driveway are not that different. Both are spread-out stone. I, however, look at one with intention to find the pattern and picture. I don’t do that for the other because I know no pattern or picture is there.
That’s the way, apparently, humans have always been. The world has witnessed a few great cultures, cultures one would think capable of producing science. Yet, many times science has experienced a stillbirth. Why?
It would seem, if we believe in a Creator it makes sense to believe in creation, something that was created, created with a purpose. If there’s a Law Giver, it makes sense that there would be a law, and order and rules to creation. If, however, things just came somehow from chaotic chance, it makes sense that things would be chaotic.
“There is considerable historical evidence, particularly in the writings of René Descartes, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, suggesting that the very notion of ‘natural laws’ is rooted in the understanding of a rational creator God who sustains an intelligible universe.”
So, what impact does the view of the cosmos being controlled or chaotic have? That is, what impact did the view of God and the world have in connection with science? In my understanding, and of many authors I’ve read, it had/has a big impact.
“Great cultures, where the scientific enterprise came to a standstill, invariably failed to formulate the notion of physical law, or the law of nature. Theirs was a theology with no belief in a personal, rational, absolutely transcendent Lawgiver, or Creator. Their cosmology reflected a pantheistic and animistic view of nature caught in the treadmill of perennial, inexorable returns. The scientific quest found fertile soil only when this faith in a personal, rational Creator had truly permeated a whole culture, beginning with the centuries of the High Middle Ages. It was that faith which provided, in sufficient measure, confidence in the rationality of the universe, trust in progress, and appreciation of the quantitative method, all indispensable ingredients of the scientific quest.”
Christians believe the cosmos is not chaotic because it’s controlled by a Creator. The universe is ordered because it follows orders. The law of gravity follows the rules of the Law Giver. God governs the world and so we can make scientific discoveries. Experiments are repeatable because the laws that govern the universe exist, they repeat. They were in operation yesterday, one year ago, today, and we’re counting on them being in operation tomorrow. But, why are they in operation? And, why should we count on them being in operation tomorrow?
If we came into being by chance, and the laws of the universe somehow are in operation by chance, isn’t there a pretty big chance they won’t be in operation tomorrow?… And, what is ‘chance’? Isn’t ‘chance’ just a reference to something that is statically improbable happening? But, that’s not an actual explanation of what happened or why, right?
 Stanley L. Jaki, Science and creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Gondolin Press. Kindle Edition).
 Peter Harrison, “Religion and the Rise of Science” Faraday Papers 21.
 Jaki, Science and creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe.
 Denis R. Alexander, “Miracles and Science” Faraday Paper 20. “French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) pioneered the idea of physical laws of nature, arguing that God had set the world in motion at the moment of creation and that he continued to move things in accordance with laws that he had freely chosen” (Peter Harrison, “Religion and the Rise of Science” Faraday Papers 21).
 E.g. John Hedley Brooke, Science and religion: Some historical perspectives, Herbert Butterfield, The origins of modern science 1300-1800, Stanley L. Jaki, Science and creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe, Pearcy and Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian faith and natural philosophy, and Rodney Stark, For the glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunt, and the end of slavery.
 Jaki, Science and creation.
*Photo by Trnava University