Saturday, August 10, 2019

Explanatory Power of a Biblical Worldview

As a professor of physics at a research university, I will often get unsolicited papers from non-scientists that propose an entirely different perspective on some known physical phenomena, maybe the electromagnetic force, or how atoms behave. In almost every case I can quickly glance at the paper and recognize that the proposal cannot be true. I may be accused of being arrogant or biased because I quickly dismiss these new ideas with apparently very little thought. But, in reality, most of these ideas can be readily discarded simply because they contradict known data and experiments.

For example, a student once came into my office with an idea that he had been working on since he was very young about how electricity might be described and modeled. It was apparent that, although his idea was clever and inventive, it did not coincide with some of the things we know about the electromagnetic force. Rather than squelch this student's idea outright I simply informed him that since he was a freshman physics major he would learn a lot about electricity during the next four years of college. I suggested that he compare what we know about how the electromagnetic force works with his model and see if his model was able to accurately describe what we know from experimental observation. If it didn't, he'd have to revise or reject his model. If it did, his model may be correct.

In any effort to determine if an idea is true or not, it is vital to compare the predictions of the idea with what is already known to be true. If an idea contradicts known truth, then the idea cannot itself be true.

This is the third installment in a series dealing with eight questions that should be asked when trying to determine if an idea is valid or true. These questions can apply to a scientific idea, or in the case of this blog, can be applied to the claims and tenants of Christianity to help ascertain their validity. In previous blog posts I have dealt with the first two questions which were (1)  Is the data logically self-consistent? and (2) Is there enough evidence to support the hypothesis? In this blog post I will discuss the third question: "Is the hypothesis compatible with other known data?"

When comparing with known data, it is a good idea to remember that sometimes a new idea may initially seem to contradict what is already known, but further investigation reveals that there is actually a compatibility between the two ideas or that the older idea could be tested more thoroughly. Major revolutions in physics like quantum mechanics or special relativity may, at first, appear to contradict previously held ideas, but have been shown to be more accurate and comprehensive descriptions of reality that still encompass the other known conclusions within prescribed limits.

There are many known facets of the universe that could be compared with a biblical Christian worldview to determine whether or not Christianity could be true. I'll look at only two of those in this brief blog post: some known facts from science and some observations about the human condition.

Although the Bible is not technically a scientific journal, it does describe certain aspects of how God created the universe and interacts with the universe. As such, the Bible makes predictions about what we should observe in nature. Many of my blog posts have dealt with these topics including the origin of the universe and the design in the universe, both of which follow from the biblical description of God and his relationship to the created universe. The Bible clearly indicates that our universe came into existence at one point in history. Within the last 100 years or so, all scientific observations and theories point to an actual beginning of our universe. The biblical record is compatible with what is known about the origin of the universe. (Or one could turn this statement around and say the discoveries of science about the origin of the universe are compatible with what the Bible claims.) The biblical record in Genesis 1 and scientific discoveries even agree about the details of the earth's history over the last 4.5 billion years as briefly outlined in this blog post. The universe also appears to be designed and finely-tuned as if there were an intelligent designer behind it all. Here too, is a compatibility between what science has discovered and what the Bible declares. All in all, the scientific implications derived within the worldview of biblical Christianity agree with the scientific facts discovered by observing nature.

The Bible also makes many statements about the nature of humans and the societal impact of that nature. In general, the Bible says that humanity is in a "fallen" state, with each human individual having a nature prone to rebel against God rather than follow and obey God. As a result, humans will have an internal tendency toward selfishness and even evil. We see such a tendency in many aspect of society. For instance, there is enough food grown in the world to feed everyone adequately, but human greed and power struggles keep it from being distributed to those who need it. Corporate profit motives drive certain drug prices so high in the United States that people can't afford needed medicine like insulin. I believe that part of the gun-violence problem in the United States stems from this fallen nature of humans and the hopelessness or maybe hatred that sometimes accompanies that.

Some will argue that these societal problems can be solved with better education or monetary distribution, but we live in a time when people in the United States, for instance, are more educated than ever, yet vices like greed and racism still permeate our society. Although I believe in better education and caring for those in poverty, ultimately the biblical solution to these problems is not simply external change but internal change. People's hearts need to be changed. The apostle Paul addresses this heart change when he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (New Living Translation).

An example of positive societal change that should come from a Christian worldview has to do with the issue of discrimination and racism. According to biblical ideas, the church should set an example of inclusiveness because all people have value and dignity and societal distinctions should not dictate how people are treated. Again, Paul discusses this in Galatians 3:28 when he writes, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (New International Version). Paul is not saying that these distinctions don't exist, but rather that within these distinctions, all have equal value and are all part of one family. The examples Paul uses were among the most biased and discriminatory distinctions of his day, but within Christianity there is no discrimination. 

In my opinion, the biblical worldview is more compatible with the societal problems I observe than any other worldview. It seems to me that societal problems really do stem from something within human nature and that external cosmetic changes or enhanced education won't ever fix them. In our highly educated and even wealthy western society, we still have deep problems. I believe that the biblical worldview explains those problems and the ultimate solution better than any other hypothesis. 

In the areas of scientific findings and societal ills, biblical Christianity is compatible with the known data. As such, it continues to pass objective criteria for being true.


  1. After 45+ years, I've found Christianity gives me the best take on Why we (myself very definitely included) act the way we do. Also it provides me with the most satisfying answer to 3 small simple question (answers that require the smallest leap of faith)
    1. How do you get something from nothing?
    2. How do you get life from non-life?
    3. What Happened To The Body of Jesus?

    Been asking these questions to Materialists and non Christians for many far I have not gotten (what I consider) a good answer. One that requires a smaller leap of faith.

    1. I totally agree with your analysis. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Pastor David Cotten, was an educated man, BS,MS PhD my teacher and friend for 40 years. He taught me that simple acts of Christian virtue, kindness and compassion like sending a card,mentoring,visitation, sharing a resource would often be multiplied in it's effect for loaves and fishes. And he was entirely vindicated I can assure you. The transforming power of faith is the only remedy for the ills, the only enablement to true wisdom. One on one to each person the minor miracles are performed. That is the work of the Believer as the scriptures declare. Yes the biblical worldview explains the problem, but more importantly the proven solution and the practical effects.

    1. Kieth, as you have implied I was not too specific in my post about how internal heart change is made. Like you say, it is the transforming power of faith and trust in Christ in each individual. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I recently read an article that said dark matter may have preceded the big bang. Would that have any impact on the evidence for a beginning of the universe?

    1. People use the term big bang to mean 2 different things (1) the origin of the universe or (2) sometime after the origin when we understand the laws of physics, maybe 10E-30 seconds after the origin. The article you refer to is using the term in the second way. So dark matter still came into being after the origin of the universe. See one of my many descriptions of the two different ways the term is used at