Episode 208 - Is Science About Facts and Religion About Values?

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Hello and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for your Christian convictions. This week, we're going to continue on looking at this list of supposedly 10 unanswerable questions by Christians. We've talked about where the earth came from, how does the Bible relate to that, what evidence does it give, why should we believe that, how do we think through aliens and potential life on other planets. And today's question kind of takes a little bit of a turn from that. And the author is basically making an accusation about Christians or perhaps more specifically, Catholics who would say that there can be such a thing as holy water. And he says, "When you put a word, an adjective in front of a noun, that means that there's something different about the noun. In other words, there should be something different about water that is holy than water that is not holy. So what is different about it? And if you're saying something is different about the water, then that means we should be able to see and ascertain and examine the water and see the part that's different that actually makes it holy."

Now, I do want to caveat this and probably the next couple of questions we hit from this gentleman by saying I'm not a Roman Catholic and they have many different aspects of their theology than do Protestants, and one of them is actually at the heart of this question in part, and it's that Roman Catholics, at least official Roman Catholic theology, believes that nature and grace work together, and that natural things can actually communicate and be infused with grace. And I don't believe that. I do think God works and that he can be gracious to us through physical means, but they mean something very different. So I don't actually think water can be holy in that way. They have the same thought and reasoning when it comes to the waters of baptism and something similar is going on when they take the Eucharist. So we're not going to affirm the same things here about this point, but I actually wanted to zoom in on this and say, well, if he's saying that holy water is no different than physical water because we can't see that it's different, he's assuming materialism.

He's assuming that the only things that exist, the only things that we can know or that are worth knowing perhaps are material things that we can examine with science. The other thing is he's assuming that our scientific method and processes and tools today are good enough to determine every single thing that exists. And this is not true. I mean, scientists would tell you that this is not true, but more than that, he starts from a position of physicalism, of materialism, where only physical or material things exist. He doesn't prove that. And he's actually told us in previous questions that he basically takes this on blind faith. He thinks, now he doesn't use that term, but he does show us that he thinks one day science will answer our questions. So he has a lot of faith, a lot of trust in science.

But here's the point of this question I want to hone in on today and here's what he says. "Theists like to say that science is about the material world and that religion is about meanings, morals and values. But if you make a claim about water not being ordinary water, you're playing on the field of materialism and when you play on the field of materialism, you better have evidence to back up your claim, which takes us to differential diagnosis.", and then he goes on to talk about how you determine things in a physical world.

Well, I want to contest this major point he makes there. I hope theists, I hope Christians are not claiming that religion is about meaning, morals and values. It is about so much more than that and I hope we're not saying that the material world is simply left to science. That is not true either. Now, science cannot tell us very much, if at all about the nonmaterial world because it's a process that tells us about the material world.

However, religion, in other words, Christianity also speaks to the material world. The very first verse of the Bible, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. That's telling us something very important about the material world and about the entire type of world we live in. It's a supernatural world because before God created the heavens and the earth, there was God and God is not the heavens and the earth. He's not part of the material world that exists. So he is non-material, he's not natural, he's supernatural. So that very first verse of the Bible tells us the type of world we live in. But Christians should never cede the ground that religion is only about meanings, morals and values. Francis Schaeffer talked about this and how that many people want to divide knowledge into kind of two stories and that there is the story of meaning and value, and that's religion.

And then there's the fact story, with things we can know and determine and examine, and that is the realm of science and what can be verified. Well that thinking, 40, 50 years after Francis Schaeffer, still exists today. And it's why even in our schools that teachers are teaching that facts are things that can be verified and beliefs and opinions are just things you believe. And so in other words, there can't be any moral facts there. I would be curious if you ask your kids some of these sorts of questions, what do they say? What's a fact? What's an opinion? What's a belief? And then based on that, try to figure out if they actually believe there can be moral or religious facts. I bet you many of them will not. Even in my town here in Tallahassee, I've been surprised to hear that elementary school students are being taught this and teachers aren't even aware explicitly that this comes from a non biblical worldview, but it does.

But going back to what this guy says, religion is not only about meaning, morals and values. It certainly is about those, but it's about so much more because religion, properly understood, encompasses a worldview and a worldview tells us about everything in the world. It's a way of looking at every single part of the world we live in, where it came from, what its purpose is, what it's made out of, what it's supposed to do, what's wrong with it, how do we fix it and what's ultimately going to happen. So yes, those are meaning points, but it does tell us about science and if religion can't tell us about the physical world, then what could it even tell us about our resurrection? What could it tell us about death and life and how you would determine if someone went between those? So religion can tell you and does tell us that Jesus died and rose again.

But science and physical means would have been able to say about Jesus at one point in time, he's dead. There's no brain activity, there's no heartbeat, those sorts of things. And then at another point in time, he could say, "There is brain activity. There is a heartbeat." So science can tell us things that are true or false religiously speaking. However, it's not something that only tells us about the physical world. Religion speaks so much to it. In fact, Christianity tells us about history. It tells us about different things in the natural world and it tells us what they mean and where they came from. So all of that to say, Christian, don't let other people force you onto the corner of the field and say, "Well, all you get to say, all your religion gets to tell you is about meaning and morals." No, it tells us about so much more than that.

It tells us about everything. Now, that doesn't mean that Christianity can tell us about quarks and electrons and that it speaks to those, but it does speak to where they came from and why they behave in an ordered manner and that they're not random. It tells us about those sorts of things. And it's not true that science is the only thing that can tell us about the material world. And it's not true, and this is important, that science is the only thing that gives us facts, because the way this guy writes this, "Religion gives us meaning, morals and values." Okay, well that seems to mean that he doesn't think it gives us facts, but it does. It gives us facts about things that aren't material and non-material things are just as real. The laws of logic, we can talk about them. They're not material.

Okay, this guy's soul, not material. Now he would contest to that. He probably has a soul because he probably thinks he's physical all the way down. But nonetheless, there are so many things that exist that we can talk about that aren't material, that still have facts about them. And so statements, I can say that a statement is true or false, but the statement is not physical and yet we're still able to say something about it. So I just wanted to briefly give you kind of a shorter episode today. We're not dealing with the holy water part of this question. Maybe we'll talk about Roman Catholicism's view of nature and grace at a future point in time. I'm sure that would be thrilling to so many people, but I do think it's vastly more important that we understand that religion says so much more than just about values and morals.

So science is a tool that can be used as a part of a Christian worldview, but like so many tools, it depends on who's using it and for what. So you can use tools for bad ends and tools for good ends. And what you start with often dictates what you end with. So science as a tool in the hand of a Christian from a biblical worldview can tell us about the world and shed more light on who God is and his glory displayed in the heavens. Science used from an atheistic or nihilistic worldview is going to do the opposite.

It's not the tool's fault. It's the fact of who is using the tool. So all of that to say, religion gives us much more than morals and values. It tells us about the entire world. Let's not let ourselves get painted into a corner here, a small chunk of the field that's realizing religion speaks to the entire playing field. I'll talk with you next time on Unapologetic.