Re: Science: working in the flesh?

David Campbell (
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 12:10:44 -0500

Rodney Dunning asked
>But this brings me to an interesting question. Let's suppose that the
>search for this alternative hypothesis lends itself to the scientific
>method (never mind how). Each of us believes that there is no theory that
>can explain all the data in the Gospels but the resurrection itself. But as
>scientists, do we ignore the search for one? Is it "scientific" to say
>"there will never be any satisfying explanation of the available data
>but the resurrection itself"? It is on points like this I feel a tension
>between faith and science, insofar as faith SEEMS to say, the search for
>truth is over (I know it doesn't really say that in general, but faith
>does say "the resurrection happened- period"), whereas science seems to
>say the search is never over.
>Does this make any sense? Does anybody know what I'm talking about?
It makes sense to me. Searching for alternatives seems to question faith,
but science is caught in the dilemna of having to disprove rather than
prove. The standard example from logic is trying to prove all ravens are
black by examining everything that is not black and determining that it is
not a raven. We probably cannot come up with all possible alternative
explanations to the resurrection, so science (or logic) cannot say that the
Gospels provide the only explanation; asserting that theirs is the best
available explanation is the strongest endorsement possible from them,
whereas faith can be certain. Perhaps faith could view continued searching
on such issues as useful from an apologetic viewpoint-a "scientific
explanation" of the resurrection would do much less harm if presented in
the context of "here is why I don't believe this is a better explanation
than that of the Gospel accounts" rather than "Here's why all those
Christians are a bunch of fools". The other importance to faith of
continued investigation is that Christianity is fundamentally a historical
faith-if the resurrection did not happen, there's no point in wasting time
participating in a lie. Our faith cannot afford to ignore historical
research about its origins or even to simply comment on the studies of
others. "I believe because I like it" justifies anything; "I believe
because it is true" makes an absolute claim that confronts the world.
From a Christian perspective, J. I. Packer (in _Knowing God_)
points out that the ordinariness of Jesus' birth and the fact that He died
are more surprising than virgin birth or resurrection. "'Tis mystery all,
the Immortal dies/ Who can explore His strange design?", in Wesley's words.