Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Science and General Revelation

Scientific law is a form of the word of God [Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-centered Approach (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 25]

It suffices to observe that, in reality, what people call "scientific law" is divine. ... In thinking about law, scientists are thinking God's thoughts after him. (Ibid., 27)

[On Psalms 19 -DHC] Verses 1-6 show God's revelation through creation and providence. Verses 7-11 focus on his revelation through his law given to Israel. The first of these, general revelation, clearly has a relation to science and its study of the external world. The second, special revelation, has a close relation to the Bible and to the study of the Bible in theology. So the theology of revelation found in the Bible gives us a way of seeing the relation between science and the Bible (Ibid., 35).

In this respect, the formulations by a human scientist are more like a commentary on the Bible than they are like the Bible itself. (Ibid., 45)

Vern Poythress' reading of science is that it is like a commentary on infallible General Revelation. While science might err, it errs in the same way as commentaries on the Bible err, in that both when done right are infallible revelations of God's wisdom and might. Thus, Poythress can claim that scientific law is "a form of the word of God," and that scientists are "thinking God's thoughts after him." But is this the way we ought to regard the relationship of science and General Revelation?

Poythress would be right if he only claims General Revelation to be infallible, but he extends the reliability of General Revelation to science, which is a study of the world, and thus in some sense it is a study of General Revelation. Yet science is not THE study of General Revelation, but a particular manner of studying General Revelation. For example, a major axiom of the modern scientific enterprise is methodological naturalism, that one does not posit the divine as a factor in scientific experiments. This is not necessarily bad or "godless," for if one were to reject it, then how can one know if the results from any experiment were tampered with by God, or demons? Science would be impossible if methodological naturalism was rejected, and therefore the modern scientific enterprise requires the axiom of methodological naturalism.

Yet, by utilizing this axiom, science automatically is disqualified from investigating miracles of any sort. Miracles are not "contrary" to science as much as they are incommensurate with science; they lie outside the purview of science. Likewise, the assumption of uniformitarianism is required for the scientific enterprise, but that implies that history lie outside the purview of science. In other words, because of how science is done, science is a very restricted study of General Revelation. Science therefore is not analogous to a biblical commentary, for a biblical commentary actually deals with the text. Rather, the correct analogy for science (and math also) is that of lexicons and concordances, and word studies based upon these. Just as lexicons and concordances are tools which do not in themselves indicate the content of special revelation, so likewise science provides technical knowledge which do not in themselves indicate the content of General Revelation.

Science therefore is not General Revelation, neither is it a study of General Revelation per se. Rather, it is a restricted study of the phenomena of General Revelation which can be used as tools to understand General Revelation itself. What then are scientists? Scientists are not "thinking God's thoughts after him," but rather they are creating analogues of some aspects of God's thoughts after him. Science as such is pragmatic, not realistic, something which we will discuss later.

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