Angels & Demons part 1
Science vs. Faith
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 10, 2009

Three years ago, a movie came out based on a book written three years before that. This book by Dan Brown quickly became a best-seller and caused quite a stir all around the world. It was even banned in some countries. That book/movie was The DaVinci Code, and at the time of the movie’s release, we took the time here at Sunrise to explore some of the themes and assertions that Dan Brown made.

Right on the first page of that novel, Dan Brown claimed that all of the historical and archaeological content in the book was factual, including what he claimed about church history and about the person of Jesus. And what we discovered is that his claims had virtually no basis in reality and were nothing more than the hype of a conspiracy theory. We didn’t object to what Dan Brown wrote just because we didn’t like it or it didn’t line up with our faith; we objected because what he said just wasn’t true.

If you’ve read that book or seen that movie and it raised questions for you, then you may want to go onto our website and search through our sermon archives there for those messages.

So that movie was three years ago based on the book three years before that. And three years before that, Dan Brown had written another book based on the same main character, Robert Langdon, called Angels & Demons, which comes to the big screen later this week.

This book wasn’t quite as controversial and it hasn’t gotten the same kind of press, but I think it also presents some claims that are worth exploring. So starting today and for the next couple weeks, we’re going to be talking about the book/movie Angels & Demons.

Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet. I expect I’ll go to see it when it comes out because I’m doing this series, but I haven’t seen it yet. So I don’t know how faithful it will be to the book.

And I’m not exactly recommending that you yourself go to see the movie or read the book. You can if you want, but just because we’re talking about it here doesn’t mean that I think it’s worth your time or money. Personally, I don’t like the idea of participating in the financing of Dan Brown’s attacks on Christianity, so last summer when I went through the book, I just got it from the library. That way, I wasn’t sending him any royalties.

But since some of you are reading the book or are planning to see the movie, I’ll try not to give too much of it away today.

But from what I’ve seen and read from both of these books, it appears to me that Dan Brown has some kind of an axe to grind with Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church. To the point that he misrepresents theology and historical facts, claiming that his own versions are true.

Now, looking at the two books, Angels & Demons is similar to The DaVinci Code in a variety of ways. There are once again conspiracies, and secret societies, and claims about ancient history, you’ll find a lot of architecture and symbolism referenced throughout the novel, and the Catholic Church is front and centre.

Going back to The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown mainly attacks the formation of our New Testament and the divinity of Jesus. He claimed that both were created by the Council of Nicaea in 323 A.D. And what we discovered is that he was wrong on both counts. The books in our New Testament were all written during the first century and contained verifiable eyewitness testimonies, and were circulating among the churches by the end of that first century. The Gnostic Gospels, which Dan Brown says the church suppressed, weren’t written until the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, they contain mythological qualities, and have little or no historic reliability.

As for the divinity of Jesus, Jesus himself claimed to be divine and his first followers believed him to be divine. It certainly wasn’t something attributed to Jesus three hundred years later. Especially since we have ancient manuscripts dating close to the time of Jesus which confirm this.

And The DaVinci Code also alleged that the Christian Church has oppressed women and demonized sexuality. But we saw that the Bible and the Church elevates women, even leading to women’s suffrage and the fight for equal rights. Oh, there have been times when Christians haven’t treated women very well. But those have been the exceptions, and for the most part whenever Christianity has been introduced into a culture, the quality of life for women has shot upward.

Plus, we saw how Christianity celebrates sexuality, and sees sex as a wonderful gift of God to be enjoyed fully in the marriage relationship.

In The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown predominately attacked the Christian Church in the areas of our Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, our treatment of women, and our view of sexuality. (And those are some of the topics we addressed in that message series three years ago.)

Today we’re going to talk about one of the main themes of Angels & Demons: the conflict between science and faith.

VIDEO – Angels & Demons: Science vs. Religion Featurette

So the underlying theme of this movie is the conflict between science and religion. Even Ron Howard, the film’s director, talked about what he called “the age old struggle between science and religion.” And we have to be honest here; there have been instances of conflict. For example, when Galileo supported Copernicus’ idea that the earth revolved around the sun instead of the other way around, that was considered to be heresy by the hierarchy Catholic Church. Galileo was put on trial by the Inquisition, found guilty, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Or you have the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, which was basically a Tennessee court case pitting Creation against Evolution, which seemed to cause quite a rift between Science and the Christian faith.

Those are possibly the two most famous examples of this apparent conflict. And the danger is to look at those two examples and assume that they characterize the true relationship between science and faith.

But I don’t think that would be accurate. And buying into that misconception just leads to conflict and prejudice and hostility between the two.

Now, I am not a scientist. Although, I started out in university studying science with a biology major. So I’ve long held a fascination with science. And I’ve considered this relationship between science and my Christian faith. So this morning I want to share with you some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

So let’s get at it…

The Truth about Science & Faith:

1.    Science and faith are both seeking the truth.

Tom Hanks in that video clip talked about how Science and Religion are on different tracks. But really, we’re on the same track. We’re both seeking after truth.

In fact, we even start with the same evidence… the world around us. And we explore it and we study it and we see what we can learn from it. We’re looking to understand our world and increase our knowledge and add meaning to life.

So we’re both seeking after truth, but we often do it in different ways. Science seeks truth by asking “How”? “How does this work? How is that put together? How do we create technologies that improve life?” Whereas faith asks the question, “Why?” “Why are we here? Why is there so much order in the universe? Why is there even anything here to observe at all?”

So we’re both seeking truth, but we go at it by asking different questions. In addition to that, we use different methodologies. Science relies strongly on observation and using the scientific method. “This is what we see, this is what we believe happened, these are the results that we can reproduce through tests.”

But Faith adds the extra component of Revelation. “This is what God is saying to us. This is how God reveals Himself to us… through Creation, through Scripture, through the person of Jesus, and through personal experience.” And those kinds of things aren’t reproducible as the scientific method would require, but they are God’s revelation of Himself to us.

Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.

As followers of Jesus, we believe God reveals Himself to us—yes, through the Scriptures. But we also believe He reveals Himself to us through Creation itself. “The Heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display His craftsmanship.” So there’s no inherent conflict between science and the Christian faith. Both faith and science are seeking after truth, and really each can benefit from the other. This is in your notes…

Faith illuminates science; science illuminates faith.

John Polkinghorne is a former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, he’s been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and he was on the team that discovered the Quark… (not the Ferengi on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but a very tiny particle of matter). He’s also a Christ-follower, and this is what he says…

“Science and religion are complementary, both seeking truth through motivated belief but at different levels—science on the impersonal universe and religion on the level of the transpersonal reality of God.”
John Polkinghorne

2.    The Christian Church has a long history of promoting scientific progress.

And it’s not just me saying this. Hoards of people, Christian and secular, have written about this. It’s just that in our society we seem to be unaware of this. But for centuries, Christians have pursued and encouraged the work of science.

One of the commonly held beliefs of today is that modern science was born during the Enlightenment of the 18th century. But that’s a misconception. Did you know…
That [according to Rodney Stark] at the time Columbus made his famous journey, every educated person, especially Christian clergy, already knew the earth was round. That’s been documented. 800 years before Columbus, the Christian historian Bede was teaching this, as did Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century.
In the year 1230, John of Sacrobosco who was a clergyman, released a book called Sphere, which talked about the earth as being round, and it was required reading by students in all Western European universities for the next four centuries.
Copernicus, who was himself a Christian and served as a Catholic cleric, was taught by Christian scholars the fundamentals that led to his orbital model of the galaxy.
Three hundred years before Isaac Newton, a Christian cleric named Jean Buridan was already teaching Newton’s First Law of Motion—obviously didn’t call it that, but he was teaching it—that an object in motion will stay in motion unless another force acts upon it. Buridan also proposed the idea that the earth turned on its axis.
Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Boyle, Michael Faraday… all Christian believers who viewed nature as a book written by God that needed to be read.
Ernest Rutherford, the creator of atomic physics – another Christian.
Even today, you have Fritz Schaefer, theoretical chemist, University of California at Berkeley, Nominated for several Nobel prizes – a Christian.
Francis Collins, who headed up the Human Genome project that unraveled human DNA earlier this decade – a devout Christian believer.
Alister McGrath, doctorate in philosophy of molecular physics, has served as a professor at Oxford – is a Christian apologist.

Christians have long promoted scientific progress and for centuries were at the forefront of all scientific discoveries. And while I wouldn’t say we’re at the forefront today, we’re still in the mix and making significant contributions. And that’s a direct result of our belief that God designed a world that could be studies and understood.

“…Modern science and education, liberal democracy, [and] capitalism flourished in Western civilization precisely because of the Judeo-Christian worldview.”
-  Charles Colson
Breakpoint 11/5/08

Historian Gary Ferngren put it this way…

“Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.”
– Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion

And then there’s sociologist Rodney Stark, who is not himself a Christian believer… he says he has trouble with faith and doesn’t know what to believe… but he documents how…

“Christian theology was necessary for the rise of science… Christianity depicts God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as His personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension… In contrast with the dominant religious and philosophical doctrines in the non-Christian world, Christians developed science because they believed it could be done, and should be done.”
- Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God

Why? Because Christians believed our world was created by God and could be explored in a rational, logical way. So much for faith and science being polar opposites.

Mark 12:30 (NLT)
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

It’s not just your heart, soul, and strength. You’ve got to love God with all your mind, too. That means you use your mind, you use your reasoning abilities, you use your logic to learn what you can about God and about what He’s revealed to us through His creation.

And that very concept has driven Christ-followers throughout the centuries to pursue knowledge, including scientific knowledge.

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD.

3.    In most cases, there is no interaction between science and faith.

For example, my faith really has nothing directly to say about the science of developing a faster microprocessor. Oh, I’ll be happy to use it, but my faith has nothing specific to say about that science. Nor does science have anything to say about the morality of me loving my enemies. It may have something to say about the health benefits of forgiveness, but science has nothing to say about morality itself.

Most times, science and faith are concerned with different things and are independent of each other.


4.    When they do interact, science and the Christian faith are compatible.

And I should mention, when I talk about the Christian faith, I’m not necessarily talking about organized religion. Organized religion is run by people, and sometimes people make mistakes. So I do want to draw that distinction between organized religion that involves fallible people, and the purity of the Christian faith untainted by our sinfulness.

Also, when I talk about Science, I’m not talking about Scientism. Scientism is basically a worldview that believes that only what can be proven through science is knowable. One of the main characters in the book Angels & Demons holds to this view. He said…

“Since the beginning of time, spirituality and religion have been called on to fill in the gaps that science did not understand. The rising and setting of the sun was once attributed to Helios and a flaming chariot. Earthquakes and tidal waves were the wrath of Poseidon. Science has now proven those gods to be false idols. Soon all Gods will be proven to be false idols.”
~ Max Kohler

That character believed that science could answer all questions. But it can’t. Let me show you a video clip of a discussion between the atheist Peter Atkins who argues that science is the source of all truth and William Lane Craig who shows that science can’t prove everything. (We watched this clip a while ago in our LIFE Group.)

VIDEO – WLC vs. Peter Atkins

Okay, so when I talk about the Christian faith, I’m not necessarily talking about organized religion. And when I talk about science, I’m not talking about scientism, like Peter Atkins was promoting. Those extremes really are in conflict, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

So with that clarification, why do I believe science and my faith are compatible? Let my start with my faith. My faith is nurtured and developed through what God teaches me in His Word, the Bible. I believe this to be the inerrant, infallible Word of God, completely without error in the original manuscripts, and it has been handed down through the centuries without the corruption of any essential doctrine. And we have the ancient manuscript evidence to show that.

As for science, what is science? It’s the study of our world (and beyond)… it’s the study of what exists in our world and how the universe functions and how it came into being and where we can go from here with new technologies and new discoveries. Well, I believe the universe was created by God, and He reveals Himself to us through it.

Roman 1:19-20 (NLT)
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.

So if my faith is based on the inerrancy of what God reveals to me through His Word, and if science is the study of the universe, which is another inerrant revelation of God to us, then faith and science have to be able to be reconciled.

Do you see that? God reveals Himself to us through His Word, God reveals Himself to us through nature. Therefore faith and science have to be able to be reconciled. As Jasmine read earlier…

Colossians 1:15-16 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation… Everything was created through him and for him.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t apparent contradictions. The one that gets the most press these days is Evolution vs. Creation. And Intelligent Design is one attempt to reconcile the two. But here’s the thing…

5.    When there is an apparent contradiction, either…

•    The science is wrong.

Like it was in the Scopes Monkey Trial. That was actually a landmark victory for the teaching of evolution in schools, but pretty much all of the evidence presented from science then has since been universally refuted and now they’ve moved on to other evidence. So either the science is wrong, or…

•    My interpretation of God’s revelation is wrong.

God doesn’t make mistakes, but I do. And sometimes I misunderstand what He’s saying. Sometimes we all do. Here’s a classic example. There’s a verse in the Old Testament that says…

Psalm 104:5 (NLT)
You placed the world on its foundation so it would never be moved.

And at one time, people interpreted that to mean that the earth was stationary in space and everything else revolved around it. So when science showed that it wasn’t that way, it seemed to undermine faith. But the problem wasn’t that the Bible was wrong; the problem was that our interpretation of it was wrong. That verse wasn’t talking about cosmology; it was talking about God’s special provision for us on this planet. It was a poetic way of talking about the faithfulness and the omnipotence of God.

And let me tell you, this has happened time and time again. There have been apparent contradictions, on one side or the other, which given time, have worked themselves out. All that was needed was some more time, some more investigation, some more tests, some more discussion, some more evidence.

And by the way, there are disagreements that arise even within the faith community and even within the scientific community.
Christians argue about specific passages of scripture, such as the book of Revelation and how the End Times will play out.
Scientists have their own internal arguments, like they’re having right now about Global warming. Is it real, are we the cause of the problem, and are we on the brink of disaster, or does nature just go through cycles? Depending on your interpretation of the evidence, you could reach either conclusion.

The point is, these apparent contradictions are just that… apparent. They’re not real. And given enough time and research and a better understanding, these contradictions disappear.

Will we ever get to a point that there will no longer be any apparent contradictions? I doubt it. Not on this side of eternity. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to find the common ground and reconcile seemingly opposing viewpoints.

All the way back in the 4th century, a man named Augustine, one of the most influential people in the history of the Christian Church, said this…

“Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”
-    Augustine, in the 4th century

Okay, so while this movie coming out later this week may push the idea that science and faith are in a hopeless conflict with each other and always have been, I think it’s pretty clear that’s really more of an urban legend. Science and faith have worked together through the centuries. When there are disagreements, they can be worked out. There’s really no inherent contradiction between the two. Problems only arise when people come in with their own biases and assumptions.



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