The Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture

Keith Matthison

“How old is the universe?”

During the second Question and Answers period at the Ligonier Ministries 2012 National Conference, the speakers were asked this question in connection with the ongoing debate between Christians who think the universe is less than 10, 000 years old and those who think it is much older. Dr. R.C. Sproul took about five minutes to answer the question, and what he said in that brief period of time should be heard by every Reformed Christian who is interested in this subject and by every Reformed Christian who is discussing and debating it.

Please take a few minutes to watch Dr. Sproul’s entire response.

Science, Scripture, and the Age of the Universe from Ligonier Ministries on Vimeo.

The importance of what Dr. Sproul says in this response lies in the fact that he reminds us of certain issues that are necessary to a proper approach to this question, issues that are routinely mishandled, neglected, or simply ignored. Dr. Sproul, for example, reminds us of the source of both general and special revelation, the difference between God’s revelation (general or special) and our interpretation of that revelation, and the fallibility of our interpretations of both kinds of revelation. In doing so, he reminds us of several aspects of a distinctively Reformed approach to questions of science and Scripture that have been largely forgotten in the debates of the last several decades. Continue reading

The Bible and Science

Science confirms the Bible (1:30:13):

The Top 10 Questions about Genesis (58:45):

Do you believe in the Bible? Then what about carbon dating? Do you believe in the Global Flood? Then how did Noah get all of the animals on the Ark? Are you a Christian–then what do you do about all of the ‘Ape Men?’ In this fast-paced video lecture, Ken Ham gives answers to these and other commonly asked questions that skeptics lodge concerning Genesis and Creation, such as ‘Where did Cain get his wife’ and ‘Where did all of the races originate?’

Friday Round Up

(1) Science, properly understood, is no enemy to the truth. Scientism, on the other hand, often over reaches. This article explains.

(2) Some quotes:

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” – G.K. Chesterton

“There are no sinners from whom sin was transferred to Christ on the cross, to whom Christ’s righteousness will not be transferred to them by grace.” – Justin Edwards

“There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from.” – Jonathan Edwards

“The ascension of Jesus was the supreme political event of world history.” – R.C. Sproul

“The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and, as such, you would need to trust (partly) in yourself to either attain or maintain your own just standing before God.” – John Hendryx

(3) There’s a variety of resources in this week’s Friday Ligonier $5 sale worth considering. Especially recommended are “The Truth of the Cross” audio book and “Five Things every Christian should know” CD series, both by Dr. Sproul. They can be found here.

Just how small are atoms?

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together

Just how small are atoms? And what’s inside them? The answers turn out to be astounding, even for those who think they know. This fast-paced animation uses spectacular metaphors (imagine a blueberry the size of a football stadium!) to give a visceral sense of the building blocks that make our world.

Higgs Boson

From the” announced Rolf Heuer, director of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) on July 4. “We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.” Thundering applause resounded from the packed auditorium in Geneva and at the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia, which was linked by a live feed.4 Joe Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti, the heads of the two large teams of scientists at CERN, announced they have detected a new subatomic particle consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, commonly called the “god particle.”

The Standard Model of physics is the currently most-accepted model to explain how the physical universe works. Within the Standard Model, which involves quantum physics, some high-energy particles—like electrons and quarks, the tiny particles comprising protons and neutrons—have rest-mass, and other particles—photons, essentially particles of light energy—have no rest-mass. But the Standard Model has not found the reason some particles have rest-mass and others do not. Theoretically, the universe is filled with a Higgs field mediated by Higgs bosons that impart rest-mass to particles of matter as they interact with it.5 The Higgs boson thus is the theoretical—and now likely observed—subatomic particle that imparts rest-mass to matter.

Mass is a measure of how much matter something contains. Gravity acts on mass to give things weight and ultimately to hold the physical universe together.

Such a subatomic particle is extremely unstable. Therefore, in an effort to find proof of the existence of the elusive particle and then to study its characteristics, physicists have for several years been colliding beams of high-energy protons in the 17-mile long Large Hadron Collider under the Alps. They study the debris resulting from the collisions in search of subatomic particles. Now that a subatomic particle closely fitting the expected characteristics of the predicted Higgs boson has been repeatedly found by the two teams, they believe they’ve found it. Read more about the physics involved and the significance of the findings atBeams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider.

Over the past months there have been rumors and hints that this discovery was imminent. In particle physics, for a discovery to be deemed truly “discovered,” it must be detected repeatedly such that there is only the remotest possibility that the signals detected could have resulted from random chance. This is called a “five –sigma” level of certainty, and that is the benchmark that has finally been reached. 6

Notably, as further testing examines the nature of this subatomic particle, physicists hope to learn more about the way the universe works. As with the results thus far, repeatable observations are made and the data interpreted and compared with hypotheses and predictions. This is an excellent example of how experimental science works and how science can help us understand the way God upholds His creation.

What these results do not (and will not) reveal, as many media pundits suggest, is how the universe originated. British scientist Peter Higgs—who was on hand in Geneva for the announcement6—postulated the existence of the Higgs field that produces the Higgs boson “as the way that matter obtained mass after the universe was created in the Big Bang.7 As one of the CERN researchers added, “Without it, or something like it, particles would just have remained whizzing around the universe at the speed of light.”7

Although many believe the collision of the proton beams in the LHC re-creates the conditions of the big bang and therefore claim the Higgs discovery will unlock the secret of how the universe blew into existence without God, it does no such thing. The ability to create a situation in a present-day well-designed and enormously expensive laboratory does not prove the situation ever came about naturally in the past or that such an event produced the universe in which we live. A discovery that deepens our understanding of the nature of matter and energy does not rule out a supernaturally created origin for that matter and energy.

“Thanks, nature!” Gianotti said to laughter, alluding to the unpopular layman’s term for the Higgs boson, the “god particle.” The term was coined by physicist Leon Lederman, much to the consternation of Higgs and many in the Higgs-hunting business,8 due to his book title, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? But though the Higgs boson can help us better understand the way the physical universe works and fill in the gaps in the Standard Model of physics, it does not explain how the universe could come into existence without allowing “a divine foot in the door.”9

A walking biological laboratory…

From the000 germ species live in and on healthy people by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

They live on your skin, up your nose, in your gut – enough bacteria, fungi and other microbes that collected together could weigh, amazingly, a few pounds.

Now scientists have mapped just which critters normally live in or on us and where, calculating that healthy people can share their bodies with more than 10,000 species of microbes.

Don’t say “eeew” just yet. Many of these organisms work to keep humans healthy, and results reported Wednesday from the government’s Human Microbiome Project define what’s normal in this mysterious netherworld.

One surprise: It turns out that nearly everybody harbors low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy – like the 242 U.S. adults who volunteered to be tested for the project – those bugs simply quietly coexist with benign or helpful microbes, perhaps kept in check by them.
Continue reading

How Old is the Universe?

From the Ligonier website:

During the second Question and Answers period at the Ligonier Ministries 2012 National Conference,000 years old and those who think it is much older. Dr. R.C. Sproul took about five minutes to answer the question, and what he said in that brief period of time should be heard by every Reformed Christian who is interested in this subject and by every Reformed Christian who is discussing and debating it.

The importance of what Dr. Sproul says in this response lies in the fact that he reminds us of certain issues that are necessary to a proper approach to this question, issues that are routinely mishandled, neglected, or simply ignored. Dr. Sproul, for example, reminds us of the source of both general and special revelation, the difference between God’s revelation (general or special) and our interpretation of that revelation, and the fallibility of our interpretations of both kinds of revelation. In doing so, he reminds us of several aspects of a distinctively Reformed approach to questions of science and Scripture that have been largely forgotten in the debates of the last several decades.

A Reformed approach to the age of the universe question that takes these issues into account is missing from much of the contemporary discussion.

Please take a few minutes to watch Dr. Sproul’s entire response.

Two Kinds of Science

From the Answers in Genesis website:

We could simply tell you there are two main types of scientific research—operational and historical—but we’d rather show you. And to do that, we want you to take part in a short experiment. (Don’t worry. You won’t even have to move from your seat.)

Imagine that a friend points to a building and asks you to tell them about it. Being the inquisitive individual that you are, you immediately set out to describe the building in as much detail as you can.

The first part of your investigation is pretty straightfoward. You climb to the top and drop down your measuring tape to find that the building is exactly 1,453 feet and 8 9/16 inches from the ground to the tip of the broadcast tower—that includes over 100 floors and an observatory. You put the building on your scales and find it to be 365,000 tons.

“That’s great,” says your friend. “But when was it built?”

Measurements alone can’t tell you that part. You could make an educated guess, of course, but there’s really no need. After all, you have an eyewitness account.

After a quick Internet search, you hand your friend the complete history of this amazing historical monument — otherwise known as the Empire State Building in New York City.

Two Kinds of Science

While our experiment above was fictional, the two methods used for uncovering data aren’t. Some bits of information can be gleaned simply be examining things with your senses—such as the height and weight. Other people can then check your results by making measurements of their own. We often call this operational science (also called observational science—for obvious reasons).

But some research requires either making educated assumptions about the past by examining evidence in the present (historical or “origins” science)—or finding a primary source of information. While our assumptions could be accurate, it’s always better to start with an eyewitness account. Otherwise, our assumptions could lead us in the wrong direction.

For example, some geologists take present-day rates of radiometric decay and rock formation and imagine that the rates have always been the same. That’s why they think the earth is so old (it’s not). But we can’t zip back in time to test this for accuracy.

What we can do, however, is check our historical research against a trustworthy eyewitness account. But what about for the history of the earth? Does something like that exist? You bet—and this amazing compendium of history isn’t hard to find. Just pull out your trusty Bible.

A Trustworthy Source

The Bible often gets attacked as being antiquated and anti-science. But that’s not the case. In fact, using the Bible as a framework allows us to understand why science is even possible and to make sense of the past from a solid foundation.

Starting from the Bible, given to us by the Creator of all things, we know when we’re on the right track (Hebrews 4:13; Colossians 2:2–3).

Stay in your field of expertise

Stephen Hawking (pictured) recently portrayed heaven as being a fairy tale. N. T. Wright reponded with a brief article in the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog:

“It’s depressing to see Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds in his field, trying to speak as an expert on things he sadly seems to know rather less about than many averagely intelligent Christians. Of course there are people who think of ‘heaven’ as a kind of pie-in-the-sky dream of an afterlife to make the thought of dying less awful. No doubt that’s a problem as old as the human race. But in the Bible ‘heaven’ isn’t ‘the place where people go when they die.’ In the Bible heaven is God’s space while earth (or, if you like, ‘the cosmos’ or ‘creation’) is our space. And the Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock. For the ancient Jews, the place where this happened was the temple; for the Christians, the place where this happened was Jesus himself, and then, astonishingly, the persons of Christians because they, too, were ‘temples’ of God’s own spirit.

Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death—first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection—he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it—most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much…”

HT: The Resurgence

Man vs. Machines

There’s something very exciting about seeing a super computer in action on a TV show. Four years in the making, this super computer recognizes human language and can answer questions fast enough to beat the best of the best mankind has to offer.

Its all very fascinating, but more than a little scary too.

“Watson is the name given to IBM’s supercomputer, which proved both faster and smarter than the two most decorated Jeopardy champions of all time.

Watson, which is much too large to fit behind a podium, was represented by an avatar and fed the questions via text. This occurred at the same time Jeopardy host Alex Trebek read the questions out loud to Ken Jennings, who hold’s Jeopardy’s longest win streak ever at 74 games, and Brad Rutter, whose more than $3.2 million in winnings is also a record. But they were no match for Watson, who rang in faster and answered more questions correctly, including a pair of Daily Double questions, one of which Watson was only about 32 percent sure of his answer yet still got it correct.”