Integration of Christian Faith and Biology

The following statements summarize the key areas where our Christian faith impacts our discipline of biology. While we do not address all of these in each and every course we teach, our students are exposed to many of them during their undergraduate program in biology. These statements reflect our current understanding of the issues concerned. Some of them may change as our understanding changes. That is the nature of science.

The natural world is God's creation.

This profound truth, that the natural world is God's creation, forms part of the foundation for scientific investigation. If there were no God, then there would be no natural world. If a person does not acknowledge the world as God's creation, then he or she is robbing God of the awe and praise that is due Him every time some amazing new part of nature is discovered. The same Scripture which tells us that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7) is permeated by the central truth that God is the Creator. Living things the focus of biology are an integral part of that creation.

Therefore, we are committed to the doctrine of creation. At the same time, we represent a diversity of views about the mechanism which God employed in creating "all things visible and invisible." (Nicene Creed) We feel it is important to distinguish between the process of evolution and the world view of evolutionism. That organisms evolve at least within species, sometimes called micro-evolution is undeniable. That this evolution is an adequate explanation of the origin of all living things, i.e., evolutionism, is antithetical to our faith as Bible-believing Christians.

God's creation of the natural world gives Him ownership of it. The world is not ours to keep and do with as we please. The dominion, or rule, that we have over it is only as tenants. God remains the owner of His creation. This has important consequences for how we take care of those things over which we have been given stewardship responsibility.

God constantly rules His creation in a providential way.

Having created it, God did not leave the creation to run on its own, independent and autonomous from Him. God is not uninvolved in His creation, as deists would have us believe. Neither does God leave the creation to run on its own most of the time, with occasional intrusions to perform a miracle, as many Christians tend to believe.

Rather, God constantly upholds the creation by His law, His Word. (Colossians 1:16-17) God is always and intimately involved in His creation. Every law for nature is maintained day by day, moment by moment, by God Himself. If God were to suddenly stop upholding the creation, the whole thing would instantly disappear.

God, the Creator, rules the creation in its moment-by-moment activities. Most of the time His rule is consistent and predictable, resulting in order in the creation. Human observers, in response to this order, may describe it as the result of so-called natural laws. But God can just as readily rule the creation in ways that are unexpected and appear to violate these natural laws. We might refer to these events as miracles. God is able to do this because He is not confined by the laws for creation. He made those laws and therefore He is able to alter those laws to suit His holy, unquestionable purposes. It is inappropriate to think of the predictable, everyday events as natural and the miracles (unpredictable events) as supernatural. The same God directs them both. Both are supernatural! And both are natural!

One other implication of God's intimate control of His creation is that nothing happens by chance or without God's knowledge and will. (Matthew 10:29) Because God is in control of all of His creatures from California redwoods to picornaviruses we need not be afraid.

The Role of Science

Science is the study of God's orderly creation.

Because God upholds His creation, it functions in an orderly way. We can identify patterns and regularities in the creation which are evidence of the laws which God has instituted for it. Disordered or random happenings cannot be fruitfully studied. But when a pattern of happenings is discovered, that pattern can be studied and understood. Because God's creation is orderly, we can discover the laws for that creation. Truths about the creation can be derived by scientific investigation, as well as by direct revelation, in spite of the effects of the fall.

Only the Christian who believes in God's providence has a legitimate basis for seeing order, or constancy, in the natural world. The non-Christian scientist can only assume that the laws governing the universe have always been, and will always be, as they are now. For the non-Christian, order can never by fully, completely proven. Of course, assuming order in the universe is a safe assumption, but only because of God. Because order and constancy remain an unprovable assumption for the non-Christian, they are simply believed in. The non-Christian has faith that there is order in the universe. This faith is really part of the non-Christian's religion.

The Christian scientist and the non-Christian scientist study the same creation and will discover the same laws. (However, it is possible to "discover" or invent what we might call false laws supposed laws which do not really exist because of the conduct of fallible, sinful scientists.) One significant difference between the activity of Christian and non-Christian scientists is in their responses to their discoveries: the Christian gives the praise for his discovery to God the Creator, while the non-Christian will keep the praise and honor for himself, use the discovery for humanity's goals, or praise the magnificence of "nature" rather than the God who created it. Another difference is in the way they interpret their data.

We believe that the order and interwovenness evident in the biological world, at the level of ecosystems, organisms and even cells, shouts out that there is an intelligent designer behind it all, who we affirm is the God of the Bible. The structures and functions we study in biology point us to God and teach us about Him. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

Science is a human process shaped by the surrounding culture and influenced by the fallibility and sinfulness of its human practitioners.

The body of knowledge and the process that we call science works within a framework of cultural values, assumptions, and biases that are often unexamined and therefore unconscious. Scientific work is also the product of fallible and sinful persons whose shortcomings and wrong motivations can distort the resulting knowledge. Despite attempts to reduce the influence of these factors -- through peer review, publication and replication of data -- the results of scientific activity are not totally neutral or objective.

Given these influences and biases, we should be thankful that God's common grace has enabled humans to discover as many truths about the creation as we have.

Science and the scientific method are limited.

The methods of science cannot now, nor will ever be able to, answer all questions about the creation. First, science is limited to questions of how nature functions, not why it exists. The purpose of the creation, including humans, is given in the revelation of Scripture, not nature. Second, science is limited to studying phenomena which, however indirectly, can be detected by the body's senses (usually vision) and measured.

Third, science cannot perform experiments to test, much less prove, a hypothesis for which the proper conditions or variables are not known. An example is the supposed evolution of life from nonliving matter.

Fourth, even a scientific theory is not necessarily absolutely true, in the sense that it states exactly God's law for a particular natural phenomenon. In formulating a theory, scientists can never know for sure if they have it exactly right.

A final limitation of science is its inability to save us from sin and the effects of the fall into sin. Many people look to science to solve all their problems: disease, pollution, aging, antisocial behavior, poverty, starvation, to name but a few. People still believe that, with the help of science, they will live happily ever after. While science can do much to cure diseases. decrease pollution, minimize starvation, control certain antisocial behaviors, etc., science is not the savior from these effects of the fall or from sin itself. That ultimate salvation is to be found only by faith in the Savior Jesus Christ.

Applications of Science

Distinctively biblical principles direct truly ethical actions in biology.

We believe that the Bible contains three general standards which any action in biology from transplanting an organ, to building a toxic waste treatment facility, to treating cancer by gene therapy must meet in order to be ethical. First, is the action obedient to biblical law? Second, are the individuals responsible for the action being motivated by biblical love? And third, are the needs of people affected by the action met with biblical justice?

When applied to actions dealing with the environment, these principles translate into such considerations as proper stewardship of the resources with which we have been entrusted by the Creator and obedience to the laws which He has laid down for the use of those resources, the motivations of those proposing an action, and the impact of that action on other people and the resources they need.

When applied to problems in medicine, such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and genetic screening, these principles enable us to break through the impasse imposed by disobedience to biblical law, humanistic self-centeredness and conflicting "rights."

Science provides important information and tools for effective stewardship of created things.

As God's tenants or stewards on this earth, we have been commanded by Him to take care of it for the good of the earth, for our own good and for God's glory and praise. But how do we know how to take care of this creation? How do we come to know things about nature? Primarily by scientific investigation! We need to know how the natural world works so that we can live in harmony with it and be faithful stewards.

Understanding how nature works can enable scientists to cure or prevent disease, decrease pollution of the environment, enhance agricultural production to decrease starvation, and promote more intelligent, obedient use of the natural resources we have been given.

Biology is a valid Christian calling.

Anyone who seeks to meet the needs of others, whether those needs are spiritual, economic, psychological, or physiological, is a minister. Those who have been gifted by God with talents to understand the creation and apply its laws in order to serve others and bring glory to God are truly using their gifts in a way which pleases God. However, when a person has been equipped to contribute to the building of God's Kingdom, they should do it as unto the Lord. This perspective makes a wide variety of "ministries" possible: a healing ministry for those involved in treating disease and restoring ecological communities; a research ministry for those involved in investigating the details of biology and the bases for biological problems; and a teaching ministry for those involved in educating others about the marvels of God's creation and how to be better stewards of our bodies and environment.

While doing biological healing, research or education, we have opportunities to proclaim and praise the Creator. We may find lessons in biology which tell us about our relationship to God. We may be able to point out the wonder of the creation, its obvious fallenness, and the only hope for the redemption of the whole creation Jesus the Son of God. (Romans 8:20-22)