The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm was published in 1954, but it is clear to me from reading the first chapter that much has remained the same in the relationship of Christianity and science. Ramm has a lot of insight in the subject that is still very applicable. For anyone who is interested, the following is an outline of one of the book’s first sections, “The Present Status of Christianity and Science.”

Ramm begins by noting the change from the medieval university, whose faculty was comprised primarily of Christians, to the modern university, where the Christian professor is a distinct minority. He says that the battle between orthodoxy and “modernism and unbelief” was fought and lost by orthodoxy in the ninteenth century for seven reasons.

1.  There was already a widespread movement away from the medieval authoritarianism of the Catholic church toward secularization, which made people more open toward the changes of the nineteenth century.

2.  Modern philosophy and science had introduced a new and valuable way of thinking that was critical and skeptical. People recognized the practical value of this mentality and were predisposed toward it and against a more theological way of thinking.

3.  The immense practicality of science was easily demonstrated at increasing rates in modern inventions, medicine, etc., offering convincing proof for the arguments of science. Theology had a hard time competing against the flashiness of science.

4.  There were and are innumerable divisions within Christianity over theological truth. In contrast, the sciences were becoming increasingly unanimous in their interpretation of the natural universe. This difference between science and religion created a psychological impression on those observing the battle.

5.  The response of the “hyperorthodox and even the orthodox” to science only hurt itself. First, much of the response was characterized by ignorance about science in general, since ninteenth century education was primarily focused on the liberal arts. (Modern emphasis on scientific education and laboratory experimentation came in the twentieth century.) Secondly, much of the response was characterized by a sarcastic and mocking spirit, which could not possibly stand against the emerging mound of physical evidence.

6.  The people making up the scientific community were increasingly atheistic and naturalistic and decreasingly Christian. Students began to be influenced by the non-Christian philosophies of their teachers.

7.  “Orthodoxy did not have a well-developed philosophy of science or philosophy of biology. The big problems of science and biology must be argued in terms of a broad philosophy of science. The evangelical always fought the battle on too narrow a strip. He argued over the authenticity of this or that bone; this or that phenomenon in a plant or animal; this or that detail in geology. The empirical data are just there, and the scientists can run the evangelicals to death in constantly turning up new material.” (Does this sound familiar, anyone?) Ramm does recognize that evangelicals didn’t have much time during the explosion of science in the ninteenth century to develop a philosophy, but that still doesn’t negate the necessity of having an over-arching philosophy of science.

After giving these reasons for the loss of orthodoxy in its battle with science , Ramm lists the ramifications.

1.  Evangelical Christianity has lost credibility and deference within the sciences.

2.  Many within the church have bowed the knee to naturalism, denying the miraculous in the Bible.

3.  “Numerous intelligent and gifted young men […] could have served the church with distinction but […] live and work outside the church in the belief that Holy Scripture is scientifically untrustworthy. Thousands of splendid, trained, capable men now lost to secularism could have provided the church with an impressive array of scholars in every department of learning and provided for a stronger ministry and more intelligent laity.”

4.  The popular impression is that the Bible and science are opposed to each other, and that fact is on the side of science.

Ramm’s observations here are pretty disheartening to me. I have to wonder what would have happened if evangelical Christianity had responded differently to the emerging sciences. Was such an explosion of conflict really necessary? How many were lost to Christianity because of a bad reaction from the Christian community? Disheartening as these things may be, hope is not lost. Jesus is still Lord, and he is in the business of using people and groups who make big mistakes.

There is more good stuff in the first chapter, but that might be too much for a single blog entry. Hopefully later.