Christianity is the enemy of science.
There’s meme on the internet that goes something like this:
Christians: Atheists shouldn’t share our Christian holiday.
Just work instead.
Atheists: And you shouldn’t share our medical research.
Just pray instead.
Some of the atheists I’ve debated believed that the Enlightenment period led to the Scientific Revolution, implying that skeptics gave birth to science, but the truth is that the Christians of the Protestant Reformation initiated the Scientific Revolution! The Enlightenment happened more than 150 years after the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.
So, how did the Christians of the Protestant Reformation contribute to the development of the Scientific Revolution?
Monastic Mysticism Hindered the Growth of Science
One expression of Catholicism in the medieval era was monastic mysticism. It was the belief that Christians could separate themselves from the evil, physical world of fleshly temptations and enter into the presence of God through contemplative activity. (This is the attempt to empty the mind of all intruding thoughts so that the person praying can place all their focus on attaining a state of “divine union” with God.)
One consequence of this belief was an attitude of spiritual superiority, as though the further a person got away from the earthly, physical world and delved into the silent, ascetic world of mystical pursuits the closer they were to God.
First of all, this wasn’t the way that Jesus taught us to pray. Secondly, it also wasn’t conducive to the study of earthly, material, or scientific things!
Because of this attitude toward the fleshly and physical realm, some of the monks lived as hermits, beating themselves with chains, going on long fasts, and even acting like animals and feeding on grass. Symeon the Stylite would live atop a column (yes, like those in front of a building) for thirty years. Not to be outdone, another monk would live atop a column for thirty-four years.
In response to some of these excessive attempts to overcome the physical “flesh,” Benedict would establish his “Benedictine Rule.” One rule insisted that monks ate, since in their attempt to spiritually outdo one another, many monks had destroyed their digestive systems.
The Catholic contemplative, Teresa of Avila, also tried to escape the physical world. She wandered through the many rooms of the “interior castle” of her heart and tried to achieve a spiritual marriage with God. She would become so given over to her pursuits that she was known to levitate!
Because Luther taught that salvation came through God’s grace, rather than through works (spiritual effort or rituals), and the Protestant reformers emphasized “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone) over mystical experience, one of the first by-products of the Protestant Reformation was the growth of the knowledge of the physical world and the belief that it could give glory to God. After all, in the book of Genesis, it says God created the world and then declared that it was “good” (Gen. 1:31).
John Calvin, one of the Protestant reformers, pointed to Psalms 19:1 (“The heavens declare the glory of God . . .”) and declared that nature was the theater of God’s glory, encouraging Christians to see proof of God’s existence in His creation, saying:
In attestation of his wondrous wisdom, both the heavens and the earth present us with innumerable proofs not only those more recondite proofs which astronomy, medicine, and all the natural sciences, are designed to illustrate, but proofs which force themselves on the most illiterate peasant, who cannot open his eyes without beholding them.
The Influence of Aristotle on Medieval Science
Another way the medieval Catholic Church stunted scientific growth was by blending Christian beliefs with Greek philosophy. As I mentioned in the last chapter, Aristotle was introduced to the church through the Muslim scholar Averroes, and the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, blended Aristotle’s philosophy into his Summa Theologica. As a result, Aristotle’s “natural philosophy” became an entrenched part of Catholic theology.
This was one of the main reasons why Galileo was rejected by the Catholic Church. Galileo didn’t think the Bible was his enemy, but he did have a problem with the Greek philosophical view of the universe.
In his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (the writing that was being inspected by the Inquisition), Galileo’s heliocentric (sun-centered) view, (in which he agreed with Copernicus, whose motive was to bring glory to God) was represented by the character “Salviati,” and the Aristotelian geocentric (earth-centered) viewpoint (which came from the Greek astronomer Ptolemy) was held by the character “Simplicio” (a name which was insulting in itself). Galileo juxtaposed the two positions in the opening paragraph of his argument:
Yesterday we resolved to meet today and discuss as clearly and in as much detail as possible the character and efficacy of those laws of nature which up to the present have been put forth by the partisans of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic position on one hand, and by the followers of the Copernican system on the other [emphasis added].
Galileo wasn’t arguing against God! In fact, he often gave glory to God in his Dialogue. Because Galileo was clashing with the Catholic Church, it would also seem he was clashing with the Bible, but this wasn’t the case. He was actually clashing with the Greek philosophy that had infiltrated the Catholic Church.
Although the Inquisition prosecuted Galileo, partially on the grounds that his views violated the Scriptures, Galileo never believed that they did. He argued that they were merely describing astronomical events from a human viewpoint, rather than from a scientific viewpoint. For example, when Joshua said that the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12-14), Galileo reasoned that the story was merely being told from the perspective of Joshua’s experience, so it shouldn’t be used as a scientific explanation.
The Scientific Method
Francis Bacon was also rebelling against the Catholic/Aristotelian blend when he developed the scientific method. He is now known as the “Father of Empiricism” because he established the use of experimentation, observation, and making inductions from what can be sensed or measured, rather than starting with a set of philosophical beliefs (the Aristotelian method) and making deductive conclusions. His Novum Organum, outlining the new scientific method, was a direct challenge to Aristotle’s Organum. Many people don’t realize that the person who made such a great contribution to science loved God and his Word. Yet Bacon declared:
There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error: first, the volume of Scriptures [emphasis added], which reveal the will of God; then the volume of creatures [his creation], which express his power.
Bacon believed the mind of God could be discovered in his creation!
Robert Boyle, whose Skeptical Chymist [sic] would become the foundation of modern chemistry, and who was a charter member of the Royal Society of Great Britain (whose motto was Nullius in Verbia which means “Nothing in Word” [emphasizing the importance of inductive experimentation rather than deductive philosophy]), was directly rebelling against the Catholic/Aristotelian viewpoint that all things were composed of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. He rejected the Greek basis for science and preferred using a truthful method of experimentation in order to know how God designed the universe. He explained why he rejected Aristotelianism:
I ignore not that not only Leucippus, Epicurus, and other atomists of old, but of late some persons, for the most part admirers of Aristotle’s writings [emphasis added], have pretended to be able to explicate the first beginning of things [referring to Aristotle’s belief in spontaneous generation] and the world’s phenomena, without taking in or acknowledging any divine Author of it.
A New and Exciting Attempt to Discover the
“Mind of God”
Because the Protestant Reformation freed men from the constraints of the Catholic/Aristotelian and monastic/mystical worldview, science exploded. A new respect for the material world, coupled with the thought that God had revealed himself through his creation, opened up a universe filled with excitement and discovery as people attempted to find proof of the mind of God in the world around them. In this, the Scriptures didn’t hinder; they helped! New meaning was gathered from verses such as Romans 1:20, KJV:
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God-head; so that they are without excuse.”
They also pointed to Colossians 1:17, KJV, and looked to God as the miraculous force that holds the physical universe together:
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
One example of the impact of the Scriptures on scientific endeavor was the discovery of the Gulf Stream by Matthew Maury. After reading Psalms 8:8, which speaks of “the paths of the seas,” Maury, a sea captain, decided to believe the Word and document the pathways that ran through the oceans. He enlisted the help of other captains and began the process of charting the ocean’s currents. This is just one example of how the Bible impacted these early scientists.
Another example of the Bible being used as a source for scientific advancement was through the work of James Simpson, a British obstetrician who was searching for a way to help women experience less pain in childbirth. He used the example of God putting Adam to sleep in order to remove a rib and create Eve as a justification for administering anesthesia, which he said was a gift from God.
Recently, Francis Collins, who helped to decipher the genetic code through the Human Genome Project, explained that he felt as though his work was like learning the “language of God.” This was similar to the attitude of Isaac Newton, who said his work was such an exciting pursuit for him that it was like child’s play.
I was like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Newton was inspired by a desire to know the mind of God and believed that his research proved the universe was intelligently designed.
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being . . .
I’ve debated atheists who didn’t know that Isaac Newton was a believer, or if he was a believer, argued that his love for God had nothing to do with his scientific pursuits, yet Newton, speaking of his greatest work, Principia Mathematica, said it was his desire to prove the existence of God that gave inspiration to his work:
When I wrote my treatise about our Systeme I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the beleife of a Deity & nothing can rejoyce me more then to find it usefull for that purpose.
Johannes Kepler (who was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1612) discovered the laws of planetary motion. He was also trying to understand the mind of God in his creation, and he was thrilled to find out that God was a designer!
We see how God, like a human architect, approached the founding of the world according to order and rule and measured everything in such manner.
Modern day skeptics point to the trial of Galileo as evidence that having faith in God is a hindrance to science, but true science was precipitated by men of faith. It was their desire to discover how God had designed his creation, and to find truth based on the Bible and physical evidence (rather than relying on Greek philosophy) which led them to discover and understand the workings of the universe–from the smallest atom to the limitless galaxies.
Because the Scriptures told them that God was a God of order, rather than of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), they began to search for that order, and as a result of their studies, Isaac Newton, for one, could confidently assert: “He is a God of organization not of disarray.”
The list of great scientists who had faith in God could read like a virtual “Who’s Who” of scientific advancement and discovery:
Antiseptic Surgery – Joseph Lister (1827-1912)
Bacteriology – Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
Calculus, Dynamics – Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Celestial Mechanics – Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Chemistry, Gas Dynamics – Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Comparative Anatomy – Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)
Computer Science – Charles Babbage (1792-1871)
Dimensional Analysis – Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919)
Electronics – John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945)
Electrodynamics – James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)
Electromagnetics – Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Energetics – Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
Entomology of Living Insects – Henri Fabre (1823-1915)
Fluid Mechanics – George Stokes (1819-1903)
Galactic Astronomy – Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)
Gas Dynamics – Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Genetics – Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
Glacial Geology – Louis Agassiz (1807-1883)
Gynecology – James Simpson (1811-1870)
Hydraulics – Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
Hydrography – Matthew Maury (1806-1873)
Hydrostatics – Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Ichthyology – Louis Agassiz (1807-1873)
Isotopic Chemistry – William Ramsey (1852-1916)
Model Analysis – Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919)
Natural History – John Ray (1627-1905)
Non-Euclidean Geometry – Bernard Riemann (1826-1866)
Oceanography – Matthew Maury (1806-1873)
Optical Mineralogy – David Brewster (1781-1868)
Paleontology – John Woodward (1665-1728)
Pathology – Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902)
Physical Astronomy – Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Reversible Thermodynamics – James Joule (1818-1889)
Statistical Thermodynamics – James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)
Stratigraphy – Nicholas Steno (1631-1686)
Systematic Biology – Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778)
Thermodynamics – Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
Thermokinetics – Humphrey Davy (1778-1829)
Vertebrate Paleontology – Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)
To many of these great scientists, unlocking the secrets of the universe was like an adventure. It inspired wonder and respect for the sheer genius of the Creator.
The Scientific Revolution was initiated by an attempt to discover the way God thought by exploring and documenting the evidences for his design in the material realm, and it blessed humanity in ways too numerous to count, but it took men who stood on the Word of God alone—not the Word blended with worldly philosophy—to begin to unlock the truths of the physical universe. And they did it for a simple reason: they loved God and wanted to know more of him and the glory of his mind as seen in his creation.
The Rejection of Spontaneous Generation
and the Advance of Modern Medicine
Christopher Hitchens, the infamous atheist, speaking of the beliefs of the American people in an interview with Bill Maher said:
They tell the pollsters they believe in Satan more than they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, but they don’t know anything about either, and when they go to the hospital, they act as if they think Darwin is probably more likely to be right.
The implication of this statement is that medical advancements were a result of the work of Darwin. This is revisionist history!
One of the greatest blessings to humanity (in the form of medical advances) came as a result of the work of scientists who were trying to disprove spontaneous generation—the Aristotelian idea that living things could develop from non-living matter. For example, the experiments of Francesco Redi proved that maggots didn’t spring forth from rotten, decaying meat; they came from eggs that were laid on the rotten, decaying meat.
It was a Christian, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology, who developed microscopes which were able to reveal the existence of bacteria, explaining how life came from life, even though the naked eye couldn’t see it.
John Ray, one of the earliest biologists, opposed the Aristotelian concept of spontaneous generation also, saying: “My observation and affirmation is that there is no such thing in nature” and that it was “the atheist’s fictitious and ridiculous account of the first production of mankind and other animals.”
Louis Pasteur, the founder of modern medicine, who developed the process of pasteurization, an anthrax vaccine, and the cure for rabies, was specifically motivated by a desire to discredit spontaneous generation. He discovered a way to heat liquids enough to kill the bacteria and then, through the use of his simple “swan-necked” bottles (which kept the milk from being exposed to germs in the air), he showed that life only produces life. He believed that his experiment (laying the foundation for the law of biogenesis) struck a “mortal blow” to the doctrine of spontaneous generation. Pasteur was a creationist who claimed:
The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.
Joseph Lister (of whom we get the name “Listerine”) was influenced by the discoveries of Pasteur. He also made medical advancements in surgical sterilization based on the rejection of the concept of spontaneous generation. His use of carbolic acid (which kills bacteria without being too harsh on the skin), in combination with hand washing and covering wounds with sterile bandages, has saved countless lives. Lister wasn’t an atheist. He declared that he was a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and in a letter written to his sister Jane, he explained how he served his patients for their good—and for the glory of God:
I trust I may be enabled in the treatment of patients always to act with a single eye to their good, and therefore to the glory of our Heavenly Father.
Canned food is another blessing based on creationist principles. Germ theory, the foundation for modern medicine (another concept that came from Louis Pasteur), is also based on the creationist principle that life can only come from life and it isn’t spontaneously generated.
John Snow, a devout Christian who traced London’s cholera outbreak in 1854 to a dirty water well, is now known as the father of epidemiology. As a result of Snow’s efforts, clean water has been made a priority throughout the world.
Hygiene, cleanliness, and health owe much to the belief that God was the Creator. And yet, Charles Darwin tried to take us right back to the concept of spontaneous generation. Writing in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1871, he suggested that life may have begun in a “warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc . . . present so that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes.” This primordial soup theory hasn’t been able to be replicated in a laboratory even though there have been numerous attempts (such as the Miller-Urey experiment)—all of which have failed.
The attempt to associate the origins of the Scientific Revolution with the Renaissance or the Enlightenment periods are false. The Renaissance was a rebirth of the classical (Greek/Roman) era, and any contributions to science in that era came from the Aristotelian worldview which had been recovered as a result of contact with Averroes, but science didn’t advance as a result of this knowledge. In fact, it was stunted as the medieval church gave precedence to Aristotle over physical experimentation or the Scriptures. Instead, it was the direct attempt to overthrow the stranglehold that Greek philosophy had on the Catholic Church—by Bible-believing Christians—that led to the explosive growth in science.
The Enlightenment was a consequence, not a cause, of the Scientific Revolution. To the Enlightenment philosophers, God was Newton’s “First Cause” who had set the universe in motion like a “Grand Watchmaker” and then stood back without intervening. Their faith was based on “reason” and the highest understandings that human knowledge had attained, and yet, as we’ll see in the next chapter, the Enlightenment philosophers were racists! They cherry-picked the Scriptures that fit with their worldview and discarded those with which they disagreed. Unfortunately, when they abandoned biblical truth, they were able to justify racism and slavery.
Most of the atheists I debated over the last decade had no idea that Christians had such an impact on science. Somehow, they absorbed the idea that a “conflict” exists between science and religion. Perhaps this came from the mocking influence of the agnostic reporter H.L. Mencken as he covered the Scopes “Monkey” Trial (which determined whether evolution could be taught in Tennessee schools), or perhaps the conflict theory, promoted by John Draper and Andrew Dickson White at the end of the 19th century permeated the educational atmosphere of the 20th century. Even though this belief in a conflict between science and religion has been discarded by most historians, it continues to influence popular culture and thought.
I hope after reading this chapter, that if a skeptic tries to make the argument that Christianity is a hick religion that has hindered science, believers will remember that faithful Christians—loosed from the bonds of philosophy and tethered to the truth of the Bible—gave birth to true science.
 The pathway to the presence of God was now ritualistic, repetitive, mind-emptying prayer, rather than the blood of Jesus. Even the goal of “divine union” was out of order since the church isn’t married yet! We are still in the betrothal stage. Instead, it’s a form of spiritual fornication. Ann Voskamp is an example of a modern-day mystic who makes the mistake of believing that she can be married to God and make love to him now:
Mystical union. This, the highest degree of importance. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body, quenched by His blood—this is where eucharisto [emphasis hers] leads . . . God, He has blessed—caressed. I could bless God [emphasis hers]—caress with thanks. It’s our making love. – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 213.
 Shirley du Boulay, Teresa of Avila: An Extraordinary Life (New York: BlueBridge, 2004), 67.
 Atheists will be sure to point out that Calvin was responsible for burning the anti-Trinitarian Michael Servetus at the stake “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Horrifying!) Calvin also led a tyrannical theocracy in Geneva, but his willingness to encourage Christians to discover the glory of God in His creation aligned with the scriptures (Romans 1:20, Psalms 19:1). Even though men may fail in their endeavors, the Word of God never fails.
 “To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power, to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful working of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more gratifying than knowledge.”—Nicolaus Copernicus as quoted in Poland: The Knight Among Nations by Louis E. Van Norman, (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1908), 290.
 Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, trans. Stillman Drake, ed. and cond. by S.E. Sciortino. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017. http://www.famous-trials.com/galileotrial/1010-dialogue.
 Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, 2nd ed., ed. William Aldis Wright (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1877), 51.
 Robert Boyle, Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle, ed. M.A. Stewart (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1991), 155.
 Delores Shimmin, Matter and Motion in God’s Universe (Pensacola, FL: A Beka Book Publications, 1994), 155.
 Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006), 3.
 Isaac Newton, Newton’s Principia: The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. Andrew Motte (London: Benjamin Notte, 1729), 504.
 Isaac Newton, “Original Letter from Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley, Dated 10 September 1692.” The Newton Project, Trinity College Library, Cambridge. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017. http://www.newtonproject.ox.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00254.
 J.H. Tiner, Johannes Kepler: Giant of Faith and Science (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1977), 178.
 Gale E. Christiansen, In the Presence of the Creator—Newton and His Times (London: The Free Press, 1984), 261.
 As we’ll see in a future chapter, Louis Agassiz was a Christian who went astray from believing in the scriptures. As a result, he embraced scientific racism (polygenism), defending it to the point that he even rejected the new Darwinian model.
 Henry M. Morris, Men of Science, Men of God: Great Scientists Who Believed in the Bible (San Diego, CA: Creation Life Publishers, 1982), 121-123.
 John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation, Part II, etc. (London: J.F. Dove, 1827), 246.
 René Vallery-Radot, trans. R. L. Devonshire, The Life of Pasteur, 2 Vols. (London: Archibald Constable, 1901-1902), 142.
 Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot, trans. Alfred Joseph, Louis Pasteur: A Great Life in Brief (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), 175.
 Laurence Farmer, Master Surgeon: A Biography of Joseph Lister (New York: Harper, 1962), 29.
 Charles Darwin, “Letter to J.D. Hooker, 1 February 1871” Darwin Correspondence Project. Accessed July 22, 2019. http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/?docId=letters/DCP-LETT-7471.xml;query=warm%20little%20pond;brand=default.
 John William Draper is an example of an author who tried to equate Christianity with scientific oppression. In his book, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science, he cast the Galileo incident “not as divisions between different scientists, but as theologians on the one side and scientists on the other, and they were made to typify all relations between the two groups” [Jonathan Hill, Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 36]. Andrew Dickson White also attempted to assert this “conflict theory” between and science and religion in his book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, but Gary Ferngren, in his 2002 volume on the relationship between science and religion, dispels this myth: “While some historians had always regarded the Draper-White thesis as oversimplifying and distorting a complex relationship, in the late twentieth century it underwent a more systematic reevaluation. The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavor, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.” [Gary Ferngren, “Introduction,” Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2002), ix.]