But I would just like to point out that the church has always had a discerning relationship with scientific authority. We ought not accept something simply because it is coming from a scientific authority—especially if this scientific finding is somehow in conflict with other important principles or truths that we might hold.
The church has always had a discerning relationship with scientific authority. We should. Science is indeed a wonderful achievement of the western world that was made possible by the Christian faith. Modern science was born once and it was born within western Christendom. And this for good reason. It is the Christian faith which supplies us with all the necessary suppositions for science to occur. In contrast with the paganism, animism, and fatalism of the ancient world, Christianity alone teaches that human beings are created in God’s image and that we stand apart from the rest of creation. We have the God given ability to have dominion over creation as we rule, subdue, and cultivate it to the glory of God. Science is a child of the Christian faith.
So we ought to respect science and what it has delivered us. We ought to engage in science with passion. And we ought to listen to and respect scientific authorities. In the COVID crisis, however, we’ve arrived at a cultural moment where scientific and health authorities have been given a great deal of actual authority over our lives. Health authorities have signed orders calling for economic shutdowns and various public health mandates. Health authorities very much have the reigns in hand for directing how the next year or two will play out with vaccine rollouts, various other mandates, and intermittent shutdowns.
While scientific authorities deserve respect, should they have this kind of actual authority over our lives? When some in the church have pushed back against lockdowns, stay at home orders, or other health mandates they have come under criticism. It is said that we ought to listen to the science. Sometimes Romans 13 is also taken up against us and we are told that God requires that we submit to legitimate authority – and this includes scientific authorities.
But I would just like to point out that the church has always had a discerning relationship with scientific authority. We ought not accept something simply because it is coming from a scientific authority—especially if this scientific finding is somehow in conflict with other important principles or truths that we might hold. Let me provide some handy examples.
Christians have long rejected Darwinism and full-blown evolutionary theory even though this is undoubtedly embraced by mainstream science. More recently, Christians have rightly rejected the mainstream scientific consensus on homosexuality and gender issues. Within contemporary psychology, mainstream scientific authority tells us that homosexuality and gender dysphoria are not neuroses that need to be treated. They are rather good conditions that need to be embraced. We can all agree that we ought not accept these things simply because they are coming from mainstream scientific authorities.
Other examples could be given related to contemporary biblical criticism. The best “science” in terms of biblical studies tells us that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch and that Isaiah only wrote half of Isaiah.
So if it is somehow unbiblical and irresponsible to go against the scientific mainstream on issues specifically related to the COVID crisis—namely: lockdowns, health mandates, vaccines, etc.—because we ought to trust the authorities, then it is also irresponsible to reject Darwinism and the LGBTQ agenda because these are also coming from mainstream scientific authorities. The church has always had a discerning relationship with scientific authorities. We love science, but we don’t embrace everything scientists say just because they’re scientists.
Billy Otten is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Assistant Pastor in Faith PCA in Cincinnati, Ohio.