The Christian View of Science and Scripture

Bernard Ramm

Ramm is rather hard-hitting and blunt in his criticism of Christians for defeat in the battle on the science and faith front in the nineteenth century, and is not much more pleased with the track record of more modern Christians.


Ch 1: The Imperative Necessity of a Harmony of Christianity and Science

p17 In medieval university, almost all faculty would accept the inspiration of the Bible. Even a hundred years ago, many of the greatest men of science would fully trust the Bible. "If we were to go from office to office in our modern universities we would discover that considerably more than ninety per cent of the faculty are either completely naturalistic or materialistic in creed, or very nominally religious."

p 18 "Why was Huxley or Tyndall or Colenso or Lyell so eagerly heard, and why did Gladstone or Mivart or Pratt have such a limited success?" The main thing this line did was make me feel my ignorance of the thought of these men, so I need to correct that.

p18-23 Having conceded that evangelical Christianity was soundly defeated in its battle for the mind during the past century and a half, he tries to summarize his view of the reasons:

  1. Continuing revolt of man against the authoritarianism of the medieval Catholic church which then became hostile toward Protestant orthodoxy as well.
  2. Development of modern philosophy from Descartes and modern science past Galileo which popularized sharp, critical, nonconventional mentality.
  3. Amazing rapidity of the development of science in the 19th century. "All the practical and theoretical success of science added weight to the arguments of Christianity's critics." "Then too, the theoretical aspects of science found practical expressions which reached into every civilized hamlet. Steam engines, electricity, and chemistry were powerful and practical apologists for the scientific point of view. Innoculations, surgery under and anesthetic, and brilliant new progress in surgery were medical marvels which preached irresistibly the gospel of science." He comments on the fact that theologians do not have an effective method of countering this nascent scientism - their books and logic and history and reason just don't trump this kind of development in the minds of the common people.
  4. There were cleavages in the Christian church, but a measure of unanimity in science. Besides the Catholic/Protestant cleavage, in Protestantism there was the "seemingly unlimited powers of spawning new denominations or cults or sects." Antichristian philosophers "lost no time in preempting science to themselves" so that the "measure of unanimity which prevailed among scientists enhanced the position of the antichristian philosopher who taught his philosophy in the name of science."
  5. Noting that until into the twentieth century education was primarily literary and classical for those Christians involved in the debate, so they were often "woefully ignorant of the simplest facts of science". "Science courses and scientific laboratories on the grand scale now found in the modern university are strictly phenomena of the twentieth century". This ignorance of science was combined with an improper spirit in which "orthodoxy fought the critic with sarcasm or vilification or denunciation". "This too often involved a similar treatment of the facts of science. Such a strategy was futile. The sure advance of empirical data, and the analytic mentality modern science developed in her devotees, could not be coerced or routed by ridicule or wholesale depreciation of science. "
  6. More and more, science was being developed by non-Christians. Gone was the devotion of men like Newton and Pasteur and Clerk-Maxwell, gone was Kepler's "thinking God's thoughts after him." "The prestige of science went to the scientists and to their philosophical and religious views. Science was developed on non-Christian premises. The thousands of students passing through science courses were influenced for naturalism and against religion by the antichristian or naturalistic convictions of their professors of science."
  7. He strongly faults orthodoxy for not having a well-developed philosophy of science. "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." By demanding either 1. fiat, instantaneous creation or 2. atheistic developmentalism, then "every bit of developmentalism in science made the evangelical position that much more difficult of defense. Evangelicals, by putting such a premium on discontinuity, had no recourse but to fight any continuity in any of the sciences as if it were the devil himself."

p19 "In less than one hundred years Paley is moved out of place in British thought and Huxley or Spencer takes over."

p23 "For all practical purposes science is developed and controlled by men who do not believe in the scientific credibility of Holy Writ. Evangelicals in science are considered by scientists as anachronisms or unnecessary perpetuations of the medieval mentality into the modern period."

p24 Having judged that this situation is disastrous for Christianity, he goes on to enumerate some of its effects. One is its effect on ministers who forsook an evangelical theology under its pressure. Adopting the "principle of uniformity of nature" as an axiom, "All miracles and supernatural activity of God had to go." Also countless gifted young Christian young persons either didn't go into science, or did so with a concession that the Bible is scientifically untrustworthy.

p25 Some comments about scientism as being the dominant philosophy of the day.

p26 II. The Approach that Creates Disharmony

p26 Uses the term "hyperorthodoxy" for a rigid approach that does harm. Some interesting short quotes from persons who have worked for harmony.

  • Christian attitude toward science is unworthy and "where not positively hostile, treats it with petty distrust, and an admixture of scorn, or at least with some aversion and distaste." F. Bettex, "Christianity and Science" (1903) p. 123.
  • For contemptible estimations of geology, complains about "slipshod Christianity" which rests smugly on dogmatic theology. J. W. Dawson, "The Origin of the World According to Revelation and Science", (1887) p. 323.
  • Complaining that he was more bitterly attacked by the hyperorthodox than by unbelieving scientists, "[Evangelical castigators of science] are unwittingly serving the designs of [Christianity's] enemies [and are] secret traitors to the cause of Christianity." John Pye Smith, "On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and some parts of Geological Science", (1840) pp148,150
  • The cheap weapons of religious opposition to science are like "Chinese gongs and dragon lanterns against rifled canon." Andrew Dickson White, "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom", New York: D. Appleton, 1896, Vol I, p225.

p28 "Does not the most hyperorthodox among us realize that most of the views he now holds about the Bible, medicine, science, and progress which he thinks are so orthodox, safe, and Biblical, would, a few centuries ago, cost him his life."

p29 Having named the culprit as "hyperorthodoxy", he proceeds to characterize it.

  • "far more rigid and dogmatic than Scripture itself"
  • "made a virtue of disagreeing with science, and have not set any limits as to how serious the divergences with science may go before they must rethink their position."
  • exhibit inconsistency by condemning science while making use of all its advantages. "It is not intellectually respectable to condemn science as satanic while having teeth repaired by scientific technicians, .."
  • "position makes the words of God and the work of God clash .." "it is the uniform testimony of Scripture that the God and Christ of redemption are the God and Christ of creation." Cites Shields in a lengthy quote on p30 about the need for some scientific perspective to understand the Scripture when it refers to natural things. C. W. Shields, "The Scientific Evidences of Revealed Religion" (1900) pp35-36.
  • The majority of scientific matters of fact are agreed upon by Christian and non-Christian investigators.

p32 III The Approach that Creates Harmony

p32 "God cannot contradict his speech in Nature by his speech in Scripture. If the Author of Nature and Scripture are the same God, then the two books of God must eventually recite the same story."

p33 Toward the view that a positive relationship must exist between science and Christianity he proposes:

  1. The doctrine of creation is fundamental to Christian and Biblical theology.
  2. Science needs the light of revelation.
  3. Revelation needs the perspectives of science
  4. Both Science and Theology are fundamental human pursuits

p37 IV The Importance of Bible and Science

p39 Discusses miracles and the need to be true to the Biblical record even when one goes counter to modern science at these points.

p40 Discusses the problem he has encountered in teaching a course on Bible and science for a period of years. Calling it a psychological problem, he says "so many Christians fail to differentiate interpretation from inspiration." "one must realize that revelation is not interpretation, and conversely, interpretation is not revelation."

p41 Quotes John Pye Smith "It is not the word of God, but the expositions and deductions of men, from which I dissent." "[The dogmatic orthodox] represents his own interpretations of Scripture as unquestionable; and so confident is he in the infallibility of his own deductions as to identify them with the Divine Veracity, and to think himself entitled to take it for an analogy to his own reasoning." "On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and some parts of Geological Science", (1840) pp70, 157.

p42 Excursis on the meaning of "true", and an assertion that "True science never contradicts the Bible."

Ch 2: An Analysis of the Conflict Between Theology and Science

p46 Excellent extended effort to define "science". Also provides a working definition of "theology" and describes the work of scientists and theologians.

p47 "task of the scientist to explore the works or creation of God, and that of the theologian the speech of God in the Bible, Nature and history." The speech of God in Nature and in Scripture must accord."

p48 Mistakes peculiar to the theologian. Most along the lines of contempt for scientists without detailed knowledge of their subject. Also mistake of picking a particular worldview and identifying all science with it.

p49 Mistakes of both theologians and scientists. Pronouncing some theory or position as final.

p50 "The Book of Nature and the Word of God emanate from the same infallible Author, and therefore cannot be at variance. But man is a fallible interpreter, and by mistaking one or both of these Divine Records, he forces them too often into unnatural conflict." "Scripture and Science not at Variance (1872) p. 8

p51 Mistakes peculiar to scientists. Notes antireligious attitude, but emphasizes scientific method as a major variance - used to exclude the spiritual.

  1. Scientisms over-simplify the scientific method and the scope of reliable knowledge. Ethical norms,validity of logic, personal interactions necessary and non-material - enter realm of philosophy.
  2. Excessive reductionism - presuming that the complex can always be explained by the simple. Quotes Bertrand Russell in "Human Knowledge".
  3. Prejudice against the supernatural

p58 Summarizes chapter with "if the theologian and the scientist had been careful to stick to their respective duties, and to carefully learn the other side when they spoke of it there would have been no disharmony between them save that of the non-Christian heart in rebellion against God."

p58 Excursis I gives a list of references on the scientific method.

p59 Excursis II on the "Purification of Theology by Science"

Ch 3: The Fundamental Problems of Christianity and Science




Ch 4: Anticipation of Science in Scripture




Ch 5: Astronomy




Ch 6: Geology




Ch 7: Biology




Ch 8: Anthropology





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