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How the church fostered science and technology

There is a persistent myth that Christianity has held science and technological progress back, but is that the truth?

Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CHM), offers its latest issue, #134, titled: Science & Technology – How the church fostered science and technology. From inception, the Christian church considered all creation a gift from a good God to mankind, whom He made in His own image. Human reason, enquiry and a desire for truth, all characteristics of the emerging fields of science and technology, were considered the very image of God and the essential foundation of man’s relationship with his creator.

The historical record confirms the world is a place of measurable order and regularity, shaped by God and everywhere reflecting His supreme intelligence and glory. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the Creator mandates that we use reason to work with the raw materials of His creation for human benefit and flourishing (see CH issue #119, The Wonder of Creation).

Isaiah 1:17-18: learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ESV

Early innovators and inventors understood that while mathematical and naturalistic explanations do not preclude theological truth, and likewise the scientific method does not rule out awe and wonder. Universally, they interpreted their study of science as a reflection of their faith, enriched by their understanding of scientific methods, which consisted primarily in the measuring and testing of the laws of nature or scientific methods. They were not scientists in spite of being Christians; they were scientists because they were Christians first (see issue #76The Christian Face of the Scientific Revolution). Today, the life of the Christian is both improved, and burdened by modern science.

This issue, #134, titled: Science & Technology – How the church fostered science and technologyfeatures a collection of in-depth articles chronicling how the Scientific Revolution, that unfolded in Europe between 1550-1700 in Christians founded universities, laid the groundwork for modern science. Over the past twenty centuries, followers of Christ pursued scientific and technological innovation with Christian motives and understandings, that were both productive and controversial.

“I was raised by a father who was chemist, turned United Methodist pastor,” said Jennifer Woodruff Tait, Managing Editor of Christian History magazine. “As far as I knew, science and faith went hand-in-hand. But as I grew older, I learned that many scientists and Christians have assumed an aggressive posture of opposition toward each other. Highly popular media portrayals of scientific topics have reinforced the conflict.”

In the article, “God made it, God loves it, God keeps it,” this issue’s editors, Jennifer Woodruff Tait and Chris Armstrong, interview four working scientists with distinguished careers and one who is just now embarking on the journey – Francis Collins led the Human Genome Project and is now director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland; William Phillips is a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics; Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and the Political Science Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law at Texas Tech University and Allison Greenplate is a postdoctoral fellow in immunology at the University of Pennsylvania.

CH issue #134, contains 13 feature articles and shorter side-bar articles; a chronology timeline; an archive of rare artwork & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CH editorial staff. The magazine is fully available on-line and can be conveniently read on screen at: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/issue/science-and-technology.

 

The following articles can be accessed on-line and reprinted with permission:

Divine power, wisdom, and goodness by James Hannam

The medieval flourishing of natural philosophy in Christianity

Natural adversaries by David Lindberg

Has Christianity always warred with science?

The condemnations of 1277 by James Hannam

Debates over Aristotle’s role in scientific exploration

To make whole by Glenn Myers

Hildegard of Bingen, naturalist and apothecary

What is so great about Albert? by Michael W. Tkacz

The preserver of scientific riches

Understanding God through light and tides by Nicholas Jacobson

Faithful friar or scientific sorcerer? by Richard Oosterhoff

Roger Bacon on experimental science

Christian History Timeline: Faith and Science by the editors

A few of the highlights of Christian exploration of science that we touch on in this issue

The clergy behind science as we know it  by Jennifer Powell McNutt

Enlightenment-era pastors didn’t oppose modern science, they helped advance it.

Science vs. religion by James Ungureanu

What is really at war here?

A world of love and light  by Edward B. Davis

Christian theology shaped modern science through the work of Johannes Kepler and Robert Boyle

The “religion of geology” by Edward Hitchcock & Edward B. Davis

Drinking from a fount on Sunday by Geoffrey Cantor

Michael Faraday’s experiments advanced the study of electricity

Freedom from dualism , by Tom Topel

On several occasions Maxwell indicated his view on the relationship between his faith and physics

“I know that my Redeemer liveth” by Jennifer Woodruff Tait

George Washington Carver sought to understand God’s creation and develop its benefits for others

God made it, God loves it, God keeps it by the editors

We talked to four scientists who are believers—three with distinguished careers and one embarking on the journey.

Science and Technology: Recommended resources

Learn more about Christian scientists and inventors throughout church history with these resources selected by this issue’s authors and editors.

 

Christian History Institute
www.ChristianHistoryInstitute.org
Worcester, PA, July, 2020

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Category: Church History, Summer 2020

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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