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In God, not scientists, we trust

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TODAY’S secularist needs reminding that the founding fathers of modern science believed in a Creator God. The reality of a divine Creator made these pioneers of the scientific method realise that there must be order in nature. So faith itself became the motivation for scientific inquiry into the characteristics of that orderly creation. The Reformation in the 16th century in particular gave impetus to such inquiry. 

For example, Peter Harrison, who has held the posts of Professor of History and Philosophy at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, and also Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford, has stated how the new approach in the 16th century to Scripture as being literally true and authoritative was a major factor in the development of the modern scientific method. Rather than allegorising the Bible to conform to pre-conceived philosophical concepts, the new approach to Scripture as utterly dependable historical narrative stimulated empirical and observational study of the world which God had made.   

Covid-19, and society’s response to it, have brought into sharp focus Britain’s abandonment of the Christian faith. A society devoid of faith in the Creator has been reduced to disproportionate levels of fear. Indeed, the manner in which the arrival of vaccines to deal with the virus has been received has particularly exposed the spiritual malaise in the nation. Fixed in this writer’s mind is the Daily Telegraph headline in November last year which included the exuberant words ‘A great day for humanity’. The vaccines have been hailed as nothing less than the nation’s, and indeed the world’s, saviour, and the impression is given that, in comparison, our God-given immune systems are of no consequence whatsoever. This is hardly a balanced approach.   

It must be emphasised that this writer is expressing no view whatsoever on whether the Covid-19 vaccine should or should not be taken: that is a personal matter, and it is up to everyone to make their own choice. Nor would he dream of questioning any individual’s decision. It should not, however, be within the State’s domain to arbitrate upon people’s decisions. Nor should the need for a privately thought-through individual choice be compromised by unnecessary social pressures to conform to mainstream thinking.

Man is a religious being. He always has to believe in something, some higher force or system of values. In the case of the modern western world, having lost all understanding of God’s providence – the doctrine that the Trinitarian God governs the affairs of men and nations – it has replaced it with the worship of science, and science’s co-deity, ‘Mother Nature’ or ‘the Planet’.

This is why there is so much anxiety about alleged climate change in our society, and it is why governments are vigorously embracing the green agenda to ‘save the planet’. Such actions are a form of religious virtue signalling, akin to the way in which the Pharisees in the New Testament made their piety known by making it obvious to all around them that they were engaged in acts of fasting (Matthew 6:16). Likewise, taking the vaccine is being afforded by a secular society the status of a religious duty whereby not to comply is a heretical act showing that one does not love one’s neighbour. Indeed, we have witnessed the same kind of attitude even in respect of mask-wearing. 

Lest anyone should be tempted to think otherwise, one is not saying that there is no place for science-based solutions to disease: of course there is. As we have stated, Christianity is the friend of scientific endeavour, but it must be carried out in the context of the providence of God, which includes a recognition that in a fallen world which is no longer the paradise of Eden viruses will never be totally eradicated. 

Medical research to improve the lot of man is much to be desired, but what must be opposed is a God-rejecting society’s granting to science an authority and veneration which it does not merit. The ‘science will win’ approach to Covid-19 has most certainly become a kind of national religion, but it is highly deficient because it leaves God out of the picture altogether. It ignores His ordaining of man as frail, subject to sickness and mortal. It ignores the essential theology at the heart of the Christian gospel, namely that man is a fallen creature because of his sin, and must seek his deliverance in Christ.

You see, the same Bible which stimulated the methodology of the great pioneers of modern science, like Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, also teaches the historical reality of man’s rebellion against God and his ongoing susceptibility to disease. Science can make noble efforts to deal with disease, but is utterly incapable of explaining why there is sickness in the first place. In other words, the world needs theology as well as science, and that is a truth which contemporary secularist Britain just cannot grasp.  

An appropriate Bible verse with which to conclude concerns the death of King Asa of Judah. We read in 2 Chronicles 16:12, ’Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians’. This verse is not teaching that the King should not have turned to the physicians at all, but simply that he should not have made them his absolute trust to the exclusion of God. The physicians of his day are equivalent to today’s scientists and medical researchers. Yes of course, they have a vital role, but not to the exclusion of the hard reality that science is incapable of eradicating all the effects of the Fall. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can make men immortal. Science must be kept in its place. 

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Peter Simpson
Pastor Peter Simpson has been Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire since 1990, and is a keen open air preacher.

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