Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Science vs Religion: The Disjunction Fallacy

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Science vs Religion: The Disjunction Fallacy

In D.A. Carson's terrifying book "Exegetical Fallacies" he points out several exegetical mistakes often made by preachers and scholars when forming conclusions to be offered from the pulpit or in written form. One of these fallacies given by Carson in both word study and logical form is the fallacy of false disjunction. Carson says a false disjunction is a "false either/or requirement when complementary might be acceptable and they are extraordinarily common and potentially very destructive of fair minded, evenhanded exegesis."

This is indeed a common fallacy. I sense a theme of false disjunction through much of what we debate among denominational battle lines. Its not good works, but its only faith. Its not complete sovereignty, but its human free will. Its not complementary roles for men and women, but its only men and women are completely equal. Our ears should perk up when we begin to hear the phraseology of "not this. . .but that."

A quick side step here is to say that there are disjunctions that are proper and true. Not all disjunctions are false of course. As a believer in Jesus Christ, Christians believe that there is an "only this and not that" sense to salvation and a relationship with God. The danger of finding a theme to fallacies, as Carson points out in his book, is that we begin to see them everywhere and no longer think anything is accurate or true.

I say all of that as an intro to a discussion concerning science and religion. It seems a close look at this relationship might in fact yield a verdict of a false disjunction. The very phrase of "Science vs. Religion" conveys that one is right while the other is wrong. . .or at least severely flawed. Those who hold to a science view will say things like the Bible must "catch up" with science and that the only things true are those things which can be quantified and empirically tested. While those who hold to the Bible will spout out things like "I don't care what science says, the Bible is true" and will refuse to look at the latest scientific developments and research.

To make such a wide gap or disjunction between science and religion is to make a false disjunction. Historically, science was not against Christianity or vice versa. In fact, it was the Christian worldview that grounded the very beginnings and advancement of science. Even the most devout "science only" guys will admit that the history of science and scientific achievement is rooted in a philosophical, religious world view that saw the world as being created by a perfect God and therefore was able to be studied with mathematical precision. J.P Moreland points out in his book "Scaling the Secular City" that there is a philosophical ground that science today still operates under and that the statement of 'only what can be known by science is rational and true' is self-refuting. Moreland says that this is not a statement of science, it is a statement about science.

I believe in a sovereign, all powerful God who controls all things. I believe in a God who predestined and foresaw everything that would ever take place on this earth before the foundations of the world. But that does not mean I cannot harmonize those beliefs with a scientific study of life. When a scientific, or more to the point, philosophical worldview contradicts that of my biblical belief, of course I have to take that seriously. But to find one or two or 36 theories or understandings that stem from "science" and refute my understanding of Scripture and therefore make the jump that it is either science or religion is a false step. Of course we will find areas of tension. Just like we find areas of tension in our understanding of interpreting Scripture. The important concept to take with us is not to overexagerate and disallow the truth of one because of a particular claim from the other.


Blogger Tim Kuehn said...

I believe in a sovereign, all powerful God who controls all things. I believe in a God who predestined and foresaw everything that would ever take place on this earth before the foundations of the world.

So, are you saying that God's the cause of all the evil in the world? Because if He controls all things and predestined everything, then He's the cause of both all the "good" and all the "evil" in the world.

Somehow I doubt that's what you really mean. :)

God is omnipotent, but He chooses not to control some things but let people make a choice of their own. Adam & Eve had the freedom to make a choice - their choice to disobey has since limited mankind's ability to make anything but a choice "against" God ever since.

It is true that God, being timeless, foresaw all that would come. But I would question that He _predestined_ the kind of evil which has happened in this world.

February 18, 2007 9:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home