The Christian and the Scientific Method -- By: W. Stanford Reid

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 24:1 (Nov 1961)
Article: The Christian and the Scientific Method
Author: W. Stanford Reid


The Christian and the Scientific Method

W. Stanford Reid

I. The present Christian attitude to the scientific method

Since the beginning of the seventeenth century man’s confidence and admiration for scientific activity has steadily grown until today he has become dependent in almost every aspect of life upon the results of scientific research. Whether he has liked it or not science has by virtue of its advances come increasingly to dominate his thought-patterns as indicated by the more common use of scientific terms in ordinary conversation. Western man has reached the position where he believes that practically every aspect of experience, including one’s religious beliefs, may be analyzed properly only if one employs the methods of natural science.1 For this reason the Christian has during the past century or more felt himself torn between two attitudes to science, and this ambivalence has caused him much uncertainty in his attitude towards the scientific method itself.

The Christian cannot, and indeed should not, deny the accomplishments of scientists, nor the effectiveness of the scientific method. After all, whether he recognizes the fact or not, both his necessities and his luxuries have come to him largely as a result of scientific endeavour. The car he drives, the aeroplane in which he travels, the food that he eats and the clothes that he wears to a large extent owe their existence to the scientific research of the past century. Moreover many of the contemporary social phenomena and patterns trace their origins back to the same source. Consequently he may never fail to acknowledge that the use of the scientific method has aided greatly in the opening up of human culture in this world.2

On the other hand, the Christian often feels that he has abundant cause to fear the development which has taken place through the use of the scientific method. For one thing, one cannot always be sure that the so-called advances in science which seem at first to introduce an amelioration of man’s condition, have always truly helped man. This is particularly striking when one realizes that only too frequently unbelievers have attempted to employ the scientific method as a weapon against the Christian gospel itself. Adopting a fundamentally materialistic point of view, many scientists have rejected any idea of man as more than a fortuitous extension of the animal kingdom, a denial of the Christian doctrines of creation, fall and redemption in Jesus Christ. To this Christians have usually reacted with disfavour and fear. The scientific method they feel is godless and atheistic, and as far as possible no Christ...

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