RE: PBS: Can We Believe in Both Science and Religion?

From: Jan de Koning <>
Date: Mon Sep 06 2004 - 11:56:33 EDT

At 11:15 AM 04/09/2004 -0400, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
>In the order of things it is better to define science first. To begin with
>it is best to define science in a totally reductive way by equating
>science with the study of the physical aspect of reality---the subject
>matter being data that can be collected, in principle, by purely physical
>devices. Let us see how far that definition of science takes it before we
>expand its definition to include what we can now consider to be the
>nonphysical aspect of reality. Note that there is a historical element to
>religion that cannot be reasoned out no matter how smart one is. The
>historical fact that Jesus is Who He claims to be is, for instance,
>essential to the Christian faith.

Before "defining" "science" one has to have a "philosophy", an outlook on
life. That is why we had to take a Christian Philosophy course in our
first year at the (Christian) Free University in Amsterdam, when I was a
student in Mathematics there. Prof. Vollenhoven was a childlike believer,
which was very clear in his lectures, who also was very well versed in
Greek philosophy. He divide scholarly enterprise in eleven areas, I
believe, but I can check it out if required. The first one was Theology,
the last one was Mathematics. His Philosphy was very much founded on the
Bible. One can study Theology without faith, and consequently there are
many different "philosophies".

The division in "Arts"and "Sciences" is a medieval division, which is only
continued in Anglo-Saxon countries to my knowledge. And, of course, in
countries which are very much depending and organized in Anglo-Saxon
ways. But, everyone studying is basing his studying on a "philosophy",
often not realized by the person studying.

Christian Philosophy in V.'s sense is very much biblical founded. "All of
life is religion" is a well known saying for adherents of his philosophical
thinking. But because of that, a definition of science like you want it,
is impossible for me, since it is base on a medieval philosophy, which in
effect excludes may areas from my Christian belief, which sees all of our
life as "religion", serving our God, who sent His Son Jesus, to free us
from being bound by un-Christian philosophies.

For that reason, a discussion of what is "science" and what is not
"science" is fruitless, as long as we do not know what our starting point
is. For me all university studies are "science", even theology since
before we get a proper definition of what you understand by "theology" we
should know how you read your Bible, and what you do about areas where the
Bible has certain pronouncements, which are clearly not part of our
Christian tradition, and rightly so. For our private worships my wife and
I (our children are all 40 years of age or older) read at the moment the
books of Samuel and Kings. We read, that David was a man after God's
heart. No mention is made at all about how God thinks about his marrying
many wives, though the New Testament is clearly stating that marriage is
between one man and one wife. To straighten that out we read many
philosophical explanations about the difference between Old and New Testament.

I am quite willing to continue this discussion, but it is fruitless as long
as we do not have the same philosophical understanding of our reading of
the Bible and what it means to live according to that in our present
time. Also, the "science" of "theology" is a human business, just like
reading our Bible. Besides reading the Bible in English, you have to
realize, that biblical translations are based on modern views of life,
contrary to the view of life people in biblical times had. None of us
believes any longer that the earth has four corners, nor that the sky is
heaven. I could go on.

For that reason, before any "definitions" are made, we should discuss how
to read a (translated) Bible. I am almost sure that we would have an
unending discussion, which would bear little fruit, if we are not willing
to go back to which Philosphy is guiding or life.

Jan de Koning
Received on Mon Sep 6 12:01:02 2004

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