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Christian Perspective on Science and the Space Program

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Why should human beings explore the outer space? That’s a fair question by anybody. For some people, it might be something as simple as, “Because it’s there.” Or for people like Elon Musk, it’s “So we can find alternative planets for human inhabitation.” These are legitimate motivations. Natural curiosity and practical solution to a practical problem. Many times, this is what people think science is mainly for— to satisfy man’s curiosity. Or to solve practical problems.

However, I want to argue that science is much more. It requires a biblical perspective. Without a biblical perspective, science is impoverished at best. At worst, science becomes demonic, a tool of destruction. Understood from a biblical perspective, science is enhanced in its goals and methods. I will use space program as an example of this.

First, the first goal of science is to see the glory of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps 19:1). God is revealing his glory through nature, and so we should see God’s glory in it. One might ask, what is God’s glory, and why do we need to see it? When Isaiah saw the glory of God in the temple, he realized how holy (all-powerful, beautiful, and good) God is, how sinful we are, and how God stoops down to redeem us. Nature reveals both God’s eternal divine nature (Rom 1:20) as well as his relational character. Nature is a means by which God shows his love toward us. The Psalmist looks at the heavens and feels how much God cares for us (Ps 8:4). But for those who are against God, God reveals his wrath in nature (Rom 1:18). Thus, the ultimate goal of science is to aid us in our personal relationship with God, through the discovery of his beauty and goodness in nature.

Another way in which science aids us in our relationship with God is by helping us to hear and understand God. “Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps 19:2). God is actively involved in nature; he actively speaks through it. Even through regular motions of the heavens such as the rising and setting of the sun (Ps 19:6), God is speaking through it. Thus, a second goal of science is to discover the truth about God and his ways. But in discovering the truth, we need to make sure that since nature and man’s interpretation of nature are both fallen, we depend on God’s Word to provide us with a proper perspective on hearing God in nature. This is why the Psalmist ends Ps 19, which begins with a meditation of God in nature, with a meditation of God in His Word: “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight” (v.14).

At this point, people may object and say, “Well, seeing God’s glory and hearing God’s truth might be the result of science, but not the goal of science.” Underlying this objection is the idea that science is purely objective, and that anything related to God is not science. Both of these objections have underlying assumptions that are false. As we examine these two objections, we will see that the method of science from a Christian perspective is also much more comprehensive than that of secular perspective.

Regarding the idea that science is purely objective, even respectable secular scientists like Thomas Kuhn ( Structures of Scientific Revolution) have already established that no science is purely objective. It is a common daily experience that when we set a clear goal for any ordinary activity, we tend to move toward it. The same is true with science. If we seek after the glory of God (which requires faith), we tend to find the glory of God objectively in nature. Thus, the scientific method requires a delicate interplay between subjective qualities such as faith, love, and wonder with objective discoveries.

Regarding the objection that anything related to God is not science, this is just a logical deduction from the false premise of the first point. But since the premise is false, this conclusion is also false. “Science” simply means knowledge. Furthermore, for most of history, a proper pursuit of any knowledge unifies both the knowledge of spiritual things (centered on the Bible) with the knowledge of natural things (provided by observation of nature). We need the Bible to properly interpret nature because our observation of nature is both naturally limited and because our thinking is also subject to sin. This paradigm is laid out in Ps 19. A study of nature requires the interpretive framework of the biblical worldview. Even if our observation of nature is not affected by sin, our observation of nature is limited in providing us with information regarding the essence of something (“formal cause”), the purpose of something (“final cause”), and mechanism by which something exists (“efficient cause”). Much of this interpretive framework is provided by Scripture, so that together with natural observation, the observer comes to appreciate what he or she observes. For example, David in the Bible could not have appreciated the moon and the stars in the night sky (Ps 8:3) or come to appreciate how much God cares for us, if he did not also learn from the Scriptures that God has given man dominion over all of creation (Ps 8:6).

Applying these biblical perspectives to the pursuit of space exploration, we can now ask what is the purpose of space exploration and how do we do it? C. S. Lewis wrote the “Space Trilogy” to change our society’s thoughts about space exploration. In the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis shows that a proper approach to space exploration begins with a change in perspective about space, a change that its main character Dr. Ransom was going through.

He had read of “Space”: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now—now that the very name “Space” seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it “dead”; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? ... No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens—the heavens which declared the glory…

In terms of the method of space exploration, it requires a study of the four causes. Not just what things are made of, but how it came there, what is its essence (why it is there), and what is its purpose. Further a truly scientific process requires that these four questions interact with one another in the process of the scientific investigation. To do that well, scientists must be trained not only in scientific experiments, but in the humanities (literature, history, philosophy, rhetoric) and most importantly, the Scriptures, to learn to think not only precisely about facts, but imaginatively about what God is revealing about himself and the universe he created for us.

We look forward to launching Veritas Space Program in August, 2023. Please find out more about it by emailing Mr. Hanz Ling at hling@veritasclassicalacademy.com or come to the Quester Showcase in May (date to be announced)

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