Tag Archives: Science

Van Mastricht on the Relationship Between Science and Scripture

I’m reading Aza Goudriaan’s Reformed Orthodoxy and Philosophy, 1625-1750.  In this fascinating book he describes and evaluates the conception of the relationship between theology and philosophy in the thought of Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht, and Anthonius Driessen.  An important thing to keep in mind is that, during this era, philosophy included what we today would call science.

Goudriaan notes that Van Mastricht followed in the line of Voetius and insisted that philosophy must be subordinate to Scripture; reason must always bow to revelation.  This became important in struggles with the Cartesians.  While Descartes himself “professed willingness to adjust his philosophical thoughts to theology” (59), later Cartesians were not of the same mind.  Van Mastricht rejected the later Cartesian claim that philosophy is revealed by God or that it is divine.  Likewise, he rejected the notion that philosophy “has an evidence Scripture lacks.”  Indeed, says Van Mastricht, “what God says deserves more credit than the musings of humans whose rational abilities are fallible” (59).

The fact that all of this has reference especially to natural philosophy (or what we would call ‘science’) becomes clear in the next paragraph:

Van Mastricht notes that while the previous Cartesian claims concerning the relationship between theology and philosophy tend to equate the two, the steps that follow imply the “superiority and domination” of philosophical thought.  One of these steps is the hypothesis that the Bible “speaks in natural matters in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people.”  Moreover, “the judgement about places of Scripture regarding natural matters — of whether they are accurate or popular — is to be left to philosophers.”  In addition, the conclusion is drawn that the Bible should not be considered a source book for physical knowledge.  A further step is made when philosophical criticism suggests that “Scripture, in practical and moral matters, speaks in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people.”  Then, the suggestion is made that even “in matters of faith” the Bible is not to be taken at its word, as it is claimed to “speak in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people” in this realm too.  It is not difficult to see that on this trajectory finally the conclusion seems inescapable that philosophy is a superior means to finding out truth.  Accordingly, the final chapter of this first part of Van Mastricht’s Gangraena discusses the claim “that philosophy is the infallible interpreter of Scripture.”  (59-60)

George Santayana call your office!  Indeed, ” those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history…”  There’s evidence here of what happens when science is allowed to determine our interpretation of Scripture and when biblical inerrancy is discarded.  This is an important reason why historical theology is valuable and much needed in our day.

Book Review of Beale’s “The Erosion of Inerrancy”

A while back my colleague Jim Witteveen (missionary in Prince George, BC) wrote a review of G.K. Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy. Among the questions that Beale deals with:  ‘Can Old Testament Cosmology Be Reconciled With Modern Scientific Cosmology?’  Sounds like a good read.

Dehumanized: When Math and Science Rule the School

I took the kids downtown this afternoon to get them acquainted with the big central library in Hamilton.  While there, I saw the September issue of Harper’s Magazine and an article by Mark Slouka caught my eye.  It’s entitled “Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school.”  In the article, Slouka argues that utilitarian and economic ends have biased American education towards math and science.  The humanities, with their civic ends, have received the short end of the stick.  The article is worth reading, even as a Christian would interpret the problem somewhat differently, as well as possibly proposing a different solution.   Unfortunately, the article is only available on-line if you’re a subscriber.

Slouka argues that the sciences are, by nature, generally non-threatening to governments and not subversive.  Even where they might be subversive, their nature often works to subvert their subversiveness.  I found this quote interesting:  “Not only are the sciences, with a few notable exceptions, politically neutral; their specialized languages tend to segregate them from the wider population, making ideological contagion difficult.”

Gigapan of an Ant

Gigapan is a really neat website.  Among the cool pictures that you can zoom in on is this one of an ant.  An amazing creation points to an amazing Creator.


Discussions about the relationship between science and faith have been in vogue as of late.  Dr. John Byl is a professor at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, the author of a number of books, and a member of the Willoughby Heights CanRC.  He recently started a blog to address some of these issues.