One of the issues that often causes disagreement is when atheists accuse Christians of not believing in science. Mainstream science of the big-bang and evolution is so popular that it is assumed it must be true, and the Bible's description of creation and the flood is believed to be false. However, Christians need to be aware of the problems with science in order to not doubt their faith when confronted with the anti-Biblical claims of mainstream science.
Two Types of Science
The first important thing to discuss is that Christians do believe in science. We all benefit from the advances of science to bring medicine, hygiene, and high technology, and many Christians (except maybe the Amish) would say these are good things. Christians do not doubt the laws of physics, or that the world is round and orbits the sun (well, maybe a few isolated uneducated Christians do, but that's their own choice and should not reflect badly on Christianity as a whole). There are many Christians who work in scientific fields working to discover new technologies or study nature or medicine. So it's false to say that Christians do not believe in science.
Functional Science vs. Origins Science
But it is important to note that there are two different kinds of science. There is "functional" or "operational" science which is focused on studying the world as it is today, and learning how the world works today and creating new technology and medical advances. Most Christians do not have a problem with "functional" science.
Then there is "origins" science, which tries to examine the past and determine what the world was like and how it came to be the way it is today. The main debate is around "origins" science. Christians who have problems with origins science often have no problems with functional science. So if you meet a Christian who doubts the big-bang or evolution, it is wrong to say they also don't believe in computers or vaccines. These are two different fields of science, and functional science is much more legitimate than origins science.
The Assumptions of Science
There are three basic assumptions of science which all scientists base their theories and calculations and experiments on. These are:
- The laws of nature are constant and do not change.
- No supernatural events ever occur.
- The processes of nature that are seen today are the same as they were in the past.
Scientists use these first two assumptions on a day-to-day basis. For example, a scientist will expect an experiment to give the same results every time it is done, if it is done the exact same way. They do not say "Ok, gravity is in effect only on Tuesdays, so if we do the experiment on Wednesday we're going to get a different result". Also, scientists must always look for natural causes. They cannot appeal to divine intervention or miracles to explain the results of their experiments. It would be silly for a scientist to turn in a report and say "My chemicals reacted in this way because God caused them to". No one would accept this as a scientific explanation.
When it comes to functional science, assumptions 1 and 2 are generally quite good. We assume that the laws of physics will be the same tomorrow as they are today, and we do not expect a miracle from God each time we turn on our computer. However, origins science requires the third assumption that all processes we see today are the same as they were in the past. For example, geologists assume that the rate of sedimentation was the same in the past as it is today. They try to find how much dirt builds up today, and then try to look at the strata lines in rocks and estimate how long it took for those layers to develop, assuming that dirt built up at the same rate in the past as it does today. This is how they reach their conclusions that fossils are millions of years old.
These three assumptions form the basis of mainstream science. However, Christians would debate the assumptions 2 and 3 - that God never intervenes in nature, and that the processes we see today are the same as in the past. The Bible warns that in the last days, people will say: "'Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed." (2 Peter 3:3-6, NIV). Mainstream scientists who study the origins of the earth and believe in evolution make exactly these mistakes. They assume that the world today is the same as it was in the ancient past (including the rates of natural processes such as erosion, sedimentation, and nuclear decay), that God never intervened in creation, and that God did not cause the worldwide flood described in Genesis. These mistakes are what lead them to their conclusions that the world must be billions of years old, that the big-bang happened, and that we all evolved over billions of years from a one-celled life-form. Instead, Christian scientists who believe in creation and the flood can explain the fossils and other discoveries in a scientific way that is compatible with the Bible. I would highly encourage you to visit this excellent resource with many articles on many Christian science topics here: Creation Ministries International.
The Problem With Scientific Assumptions
There are many problems with assumptions 2 and 3, but mainstream origins science bases itself heavily on these assumptions. Once we doubt these assumptions then we must also doubt any of the origins science which is based on these assumptions, which includes most of traditional "dating" technologies, the big-bang theory, and the theory of evolution.
Miracles do happen
Clearly, if you are a Christian who believes the Bible, assumption 2 (that God never intervenes in nature) is false. God doesn't do it on a daily basis, but in the Bible we see all sorts of times when God miraculously intervened in history. Some examples are: creation (Genesis 1-2), the flood (Genesis 6-8), the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-12), and the parting of the red sea (Exodus 14). The Israelites saw all sorts of miracles as God led them through the desert, such as providing water from a rock (Exodus 17), providing food from the sky (Exodus 16), and healing from poisonous snakes (Numbers 21:4-9). God intervened in later periods of Israel's history to help them defeat their enemies, such as at the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6).
God intervened in the New Testament by having Jesus be born even though Mary was a virgin (Luke 1:26-38). We see God's intervention in all of Jesus' miraculous healings and control over nature and raising dead people back to life (many examples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The most important miracle was the resurrection of Jesus. So Christians must believe that God does intervene in nature, and has done so in the past. If any Christian doubts that miracles happen, especially the resurrection of Jesus, then I would really wonder if they are really a Christian or not, since Christianity is based on the core belief of the miraculous resurrection of Jesus.
We cannot prove what the past was like
The problem with assumption 3 (that the past was the same as the present) is that it cannot be proven. No one can travel back in time and see if the rate of radioactive decay was the same as it is today, or that the rates of erosion and sedimentation were the same as they are today. Maybe the rate of radioactive decay was much higher in the past, in which case all of the carbon-dating of fossils and other items would be very wrong. No one can do experiments to reproduce the formation of the first single-celled organism, and atheists and evolutionists just "have faith" that it must have happened.
The only truth about the past that we can actually "know" is from eyewitnesses, and depend on how trustworthy those eyewitnesses are. We know the world is at least 3000 years old because Chinese and Egyptian written records go back at least that far. The Bible has genealogies which go back several thousand years as well. However, the difference between the Bible and other sources is that Christians believe the Bible was inspired by God, and is 100% trustworthy. The authors who wrote the text in the Bible were not just making up legends or stories, but God inspired them to write what was true and what God wanted to be written. If God told us how he created the world and how He made humanity, Christians should trust Him because God never lies (Titus 1:2).
Now, again this assumes that you believe the Bible is true, which is a whole other issue. It also assumes that what is written in Genesis, Exodus, and the rest of the Bible is "real history". Some Biblical critics claim that the Old Testament narratives are just Israelite legends and myths, and can be used for "spiritual" truth but they do not represent real history. I do not accept this, because God does not lie and so He would not inspire false historical stories.
If I get to heaven God tells me "By the way, Genesis was just a myth", then I would say "Ok, but what else did you expect me to believe?". But, if I say Genesis is only a myth, and when I get to heaven then God says "Let's go meet Adam and Eve", then I would feel really stupid. I would rather be called ignorant by humans for believing the Bible is real literal history than to be seen as stupid in front of God when I get to heaven.
Don't some Christians accept evolution and mainstream science?
There are some Christians who do not doubt mainstream science, and believe what it claims about the big-bang, evolution, and the world being billions of years old. Some Christians claim this is compatible with Genesis, if you interpret it correctly. I would say it's not a major issue - a Christian who believes in evolution is still saved, but their worldview is inconsistent, and it is wrong to make mainstream science the ultimate authority over the Bible. It also leads to many theological problems, such as where sin and death came from, and doubting that what is written in the Bible is really God's word and totally true. To be consistent in our theology we should believe in literal six-day creation and a young earth. But this is not necessary to be a Christian (to be a Christian the only required belief is faith that Jesus is God and died to deal with your sins).
When I was younger I believed that we could reinterpret Genesis to match with the big-bang theory and billions of years, but now I see the issues with this theology and have switched to believing in a young earth (only thousands of years, not billions) and creation in six days exactly as described in Genesis. I believe that a six-day creation and a young earth helps if you want to have a consistent rational belief system without internal contradictions. It is not that hard of a belief once we realize the faulty assumptions of origins science and trust what God has told us in the Bible.
I do not have time to go into further details on all the areas where the Bible does match with science, or where mainstream science has many flaws. For lots of good information on these topics I would recommend Creation Ministries International, who have tons of fabulous articles to support that Genesis is real history and does match with science.
Overall, we can see that Christianity itself is not against science in general. But the Bible does say that some of the basic assumptions of mainstream science are incorrect. God does occasionally intervene in history such as in creation, the flood, the plagues of Egypt, and the resurrection of Jesus. Also, we cannot accept claims that everything in the past was the same as it is today, because no one can prove it. So any science which is based on these assumptions should be doubted since it cannot be proved. For me, I would rather believe the Bible is real history than to believe atheists and evolutionists who base their science on questionable assumptions.
It might seem to take a lot of courage to stand up for Biblical accuracy and historicity when mainstream science claims otherwise. However, scientists are just people, who can be biased, wrong, or have ulterior motives just like anyone else. A majority view does not automatically make that view correct - the view must be proven to stand on correct science, based on correct assumptions. If we have any reason to question their assumptions, then that is legitimate objection, since scientists cannot prove their assumptions are correct. I will believe the Bible is completely accurate, even if it disagrees with popular scientific opinions.