Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law -- By: Vern Sheridan Poythress

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:1 (Mar 2003)
Article: Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law
Author: Vern Sheridan Poythress


Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law

Vern Sheridan Poythress

[Vern Poythress is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 27009, Philadelphia, PA 19118.]

All scientists-including agnostics and atheists-believe in God. They have to in order to do their work.

It seems outrageous to include the agnostics and atheists. But by their actions people sometimes show that in a sense they believe in things that they profess not to believe. Bakht, a Vedantic Hindu philosopher, may say that the world is an illusion. But he does not casually walk into the street in front of an oncoming bus. Sue, a radical relativist, may say that there is no truth. But she travels calmly at 30,000 feet on a plane whose safe flight depends on the unchangeable truths of aerodynamics and structural mechanics. 1

But what about scientists? Do they believe in God? Must they? Popular American culture often transmits the contrary idea, namely that science is antagonistic to orthodox Christian belief. Recitations of Galileo’s conflict and of the Scopes Trial have gained mythic status, and receive reinforcement through vocal promotions of materialistic evolution.

Historians of science point out that modern science arose in the context of a Christian worldview, and was nourished and sustained by that view.2 But even if that was once so, modern science seems to sustain itself without the help of explicit theistic underpinnings. In fact, many consider God to be the God of the gaps, the God whom people invoke only to account for gaps in modern scientific explanation. As science advances and more gaps become

subject to explanation, the role of God diminishes. The natural drives out the need for the supernatural.3

I. The Character of Scientific Law

The situation looks different if we refuse to confine God to “the gaps.” According to the Bible, he is involved in those areas where science does best, namely areas involving regular and predictable events, areas involving repeating patterns and sometimes exact mathematical descriptions. In Gen 8:22 God promises,

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (ESV)4

This general promise concerning earthly regularities is supplemented by m...

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