January 9, 2017
Allan Rex Sandage is considered to be one of the greatest observational cosmologists in the world. Sandage “deciphered the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars, revealed the age of globular clusters, pinpointed the distances of remote galaxies, and quantified the universe’s expansion thorugh his work at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories.” Sandage’s resume was quite impressive. He had won the Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2000), the Bruce Medal (1975), the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1967), the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy (1957), the Eddington Medal (1963), the Rittenhouse Medal (1968), the National Medal of Science (1970), the Elliott Cresson Medal (1973), the Crafoord Prize (1991), and was a Fellow of the Royal Society. Sandage’s doctoral advisor was Walter Baade and was greatly influenced by Edwin Hubble—the creator and developer of the Hubble telescope.
Sandage was invited to a conference on the topic of science and religion and the origin of the universe. Theists (believers in a personal God) sat on one side and atheists sat on the other. Many knew Sandage to have been an avowed atheist in his youth. Certainly a scientist of Sandage’s stature would be a skeptic with no room for such things as miracles and God! When Sandage approached the stage he approached the atheist section of the stage, however, everyone was stunned to find that Sandage turned and took his seat among the theists!!!
When asked about his beliefs, Sandage admitted that he had become a Christian in his fifties. Sandage explained that the “big bang…was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it. Science has taken us to the first event, but it can’t take us back to the first cause. The sudden emergence of matter, space, time, and energy point(s) to the need of some kind of transcendence.” Sandage’s realization that faith and science are not enemies and that God’s existence is by nature a necessity led him, like many others before him and after him, to the Christian faith. What can we summarize from Sandage’s story?
1. Theology and science are complementary rather than antagonists.
Recently on the Bellator Christi Podcast, I interviewed a botanist who is a devout, Christian woman. She noted how science and faith are not enemies, but complement the other very well. Science and faith approach matters from two different perspectives. Science asks, “How did this come to be?” Theology and philosophy ask, “Why and by whom did this come to be?” Both fields are important for our knowledge.
It is important not to become unbalanced. We have two sides to our brains. The left side deals with matters of logic, sequences, rationality, analysis, objective truths, and parts of a matter. The right brain is creative, intuitive, holistic, synthesizes, is subjective, and observes the whole of a matter. Both sides of the brain are important. Can you imagine trying to figure out a problem with just one side of your brain? While people tend to be more left-brained or right-brained in their mindset, the lateralization of the brain is critical in order to solve problems.
Likewise, people are blinded when they only allow for one field of study in their lives. A life with all science and no theology becomes hardened, cynical, critical, and doomed to a life and eternity without God. A life with all theology and no science becomes irrational, flaky, (and like its counterpart) cynical and critical, and doomed to a worldview that can become unbiblical and heretical. Now how, might one ask, does one become unbiblical by disallowing scientific inquiry? Easy! If one disallows the science of hermeneutics and biblical research (which often involves the science of archaeology and other fields), then the Bible becomes subjective and, thereby, causes the Scripture to lose all authority in one’s life. We, then, tell the Bible what we want it to say rather than learning from what the Bible actually says. And, let’s not forget the bizarre situations where medical help from blood transfusions and the like are refused due to radical inclinations which have sometimes led to premature deaths. Both theology and science tell us about the grandeur of God.
2. Science can be an act of worship.
Sandage worshipped God through his science. He was able to see God’s handiwork through his investigative research. Previously, I mentioned my conversation with botantist Amanda Lanier. She noted that science can be an act of worship. Lanier noted, “Science better helps us understand the nature of God.” Theologian Daniel Mitchell, professor at Liberty University, said something similar. Mitchell said in a lecture, “The more we study God, the bigger he becomes.” Thus, for the Christian who engages in science, science can be an act of worship. When I look up at a winter’s night sky and see the grandeur of the universe, I cannot help but think, “My, what a mighty God we serve! How mighty and powerful God is!”
3. Apologetics does contribute in a person’s journey to faith.
Science contributed to Sandage’s faith. Sandage saw the need for God through his investigative research. I first read about Sandage’s story in a devotional co-authored by Lee Strobel. Strobel is the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. Many of you know his story well. Strobel was a hardened atheist before his wife came to faith in Christ. She challenged him to use his legal investigative skills to research the authenticity of the Christian faith. He did so. His research led him to the throne of Christ. God used apologetics to bring Strobel to faith just as he had done with Sandage.
Sandage and Strobel are not the only cases. J. Warner Wallace, Fuz Rana, C. S. Lewis, and even the apostle Paul came to faith after having been ardently opposed to Christ. They were led to faith by the evidence that exists for the Christian faith. For those who know my story, I was led back into the ministry due to the power of Christian apologetics. Apologetics plays a major role in modern evangelism.
Some will read this article and think that I am elevating science to the level of biblical theology. Actually, I am not. Theology has been called the queen of the sciences and rightfully so. The most important endeavor is one’s search for God. However, we do not have to leave our brains at the door in order to become a Christian. Christianity is an evidential religion, perhaps the only one of its kind. Christianity has been tested time and time again. It has been shown to be true. Allan Rex Sandange exemplifies the power of Christian evidences and also proclaims that science and Christianity are not adversaries as some Christian hyper-fundamentalists and New Atheists purport. Rather, we find that David was right all along that the “heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).
See also, Sharon Begley, “Science Finds God,” Newsweek (July 20, 1998), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/newsweek/science_of_god/scienceofgod.htm, retrieved January 9, 2017.
 Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg, “A Scientist Discovers God,” Today’s Moments of Truth: Devotions to Deepen Your Faith in Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 16.
 I use the term “theology” rather than “faith” as faith is understood to be one’s trust in God.
 Amanda Lanier, “The Integration of Science and Faith with Botanist Amanda Lanier,” interviewed by Brian Chilton, The Bellator Christi Podcast (December 19, 2016), https://bellatorchristi.com/2017/01/07/the-bellator-christi-podcast-the-integration-of-faith-and-science-with-botanist-amanda-lanier/.
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