In Colossians 2:2-4,8 Paul writes – “My goal [in my ministry] is that [Christians] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments… See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
In this blog, I am going to attempt to refute what many of our students’ public school science classes are conveying to them in relation to the Christian religion. Like Paul, my goal today is to move us more toward a “complete understanding” of our Christian beliefs, that we “may know…Christ,” and that we may not be taken “captive through hollow arguments” or “hollow and deceptive philosophy” against Christianity as is (often) taught in our students’ public school science classes.
This blog is born out of our Ecclesiastes series, specifically Ecclesiastes 3:21: “Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” What Solomon is saying, here, is that, based purely upon our five sense, we are unable to know what happens to us after we die. Why? Because nobody has died, experienced life after death, and then returned. The only way we can know what happens to us after we die is if God tells us.
My concern today is not so much the function of Solomon’s statement within its immediate context, but with the twofold principle Solomon here affirms. The first part is that there is much we cannot know in our lives based purely on the evidence we gain from our five senses. The second (implied by Solomon’s continued adherence to his Jewish monotheistic beliefs) is that there is, nevertheless, much we can know through God’s revelation, personal faith, and a form of empiricism that is rooted in and answerable to Scripture (i.e. a Christianscience – not to be confused with the cult, of course). Solomon’s twofold principle is exactly the opposite of what our students’ public school science classes are conveying to them, namely, that the only way they can knowanything is through evidence derived from experiments using their five senses. To this I will return.
Science, in many ways, is a wonderful thing. There are good reasons to value science as its various forms (chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, etc.) have culminated in a major improvement in the quality of life we enjoy. So, for example, thanks to science we have awesome medications that can heal us of sicknesses we might otherwise have died from (strep throat, flu, small pox); we enjoy everyday luxuries like refrigerators, cars, video games (can’t forget those!); and so on. In many ways, life is substantially more enjoyable for us thanks to the discoveries of science.
At the same time, the science classes taught in our students’ (public) schools are, for the most part, operating from assumptions that are contrary to Christian beliefs; assumptions that significantly downplay, if not deny altogether, the role and place of the spiritual world in relation to the natural one. Along with these assumptions has come a very bad thing: religious (particularly Christian) skepticism. Public school science classes have caused many students to doubt their ability to know things that were once taken for granted, such as the existence of God (and other spiritual beings), the creation of the world, the truthfulness of the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Often, Christian students come away from their public school science classes feeling like they are naïve, unreasonable, out of touch, and brainless to actually believe the kinds of things they do.
The reason for this anti-Christian (and anti-spiritual) stance is the (often) unspoken assumption that the only way someone can know something is true is if it can be proven through observations and tests using the five senses. Anything that is not “proveable” in this sense – such as the existence of souls, angels, or even God – is looked down upon as merely opinion, belief, or preference, rather than something that can be respectfully called knowledge.
The kind of sentiment of which I am speaking is embodied in the following California instructions (issued in 1989) for dealing with problems relating to public school science classes. If a student approached a teacher with reservations about the theory of evolution, the teacher was advised to respond as follows: “I understand that you may have personal reservations about accepting this scientific evidence, but it is scientific knowledge about which there is no reasonable doubt among scientists in their field, and it is my responsibility to teach it because it is part of our common intellectual heritage.” Notice how the theory of evolution is presented as if it were unquestionably true, using words such as, “evidence,” “knowledge,” “no reasonable doubt,” “responsibility,” and “common intellectual heritage.” If a student’s Christian convictions are at odds with this particular scientific hypothesis, those beliefs are denigrated as “personal reservations” – that is, mere opinions that are, supposedly, not born out of the “rock solid” methods of science.
Our students must realize how false such statements are, and, conversely, how true Solomon’s twofold principle really is. That is to say, they must learn that they are not limited in their knowledge to what they can prove through observations and tests using their five senses; they can (and should) reasonably embrace God’s revelation (i.e. the Bible) and personal faith, along with the contributions of Christian scientists. They must gain confidence in their Christianity and be convinced that, although they may believe things that they cannot “prove” according to the rules of (non-Christian) science, they are, nonetheless, very rational to believe such things. Moreover, they must see that these (non-Christian) science adherers – that is, their science teachers, textbooks, and fellow classmates – require just as much faith (indeed, more so) as Christians to believe the things they do.
Jarrett Van Tine is the Youth Director at Faith Evangleical Presbyterian Church in Kingstowne, Virginia.