Faith & Science: Studying a Disordered World

by the Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry
Understanding the Christian faith in the light of current scientific theories is a vital topic for anyone seeking to commend Christ today. The highly-publicized recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is a case in point, as is the choice to focus on this topic for the recent Mere Anglicanism conference. With my background in physics, it is a subject that has long interested me. 
In engaging these conversations, it is important to remember that scientists study a disordered world. It has fallen into sin, death, and destruction, which we know from Scripture are not part of God’s long-term plans for His creation. But this fall is something that probably cannot be detected scientifically. Scientists can only study what they “see” and then draw inferences from that. They observe, for instance, that entropy (disorder) always increases in natural events, but cannot know scientifically that this must be a temporary crisis that will be resolved in the new heavens and new earth that will last forever.
Imagine a world in which no-one could make a clock that really worked well. Some of us are old enough to remember such a time! For the sake of argument, imagine clocks were very bad at their job of telling the time and that even the best of them lost many minutes every day. It would still be a worthwhile task to study such clocks, but it would be a big mistake to assume that they were “good clocks” that tell the exact time. Scientists might learn many things from them, but they would be studying “faulty clocks.”
My point is simply this: If we study this disordered world and try to work out what life is all about and how we are to live only from science, we might well decide we are supposed to be the way we are: sinners who suffer sickness, sadness, death, and destruction. We might also decide that there is a god, or gods, but it, or they, are not good. We could end up with a panoply of pagan gods and goddesses.
We need the revelation of Jesus Christ to know what God is truly like, loving and good, and to know what human beings really are created to be and how we should live. Such things lie beyond the scope of science, and it is vital we remember that.

The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry is the Dean and President of Trinity School for Ministry and Professor of Systematic Theology.
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