By Dr. Ming-Che Chang
People who are under the influence of scientific thinking feel most at a loss when reading about the miracles in the Bible. These miracles are “strange happenings,” which are outside of natural phenomena. The question of miracles involves these aspects:
1. One of the basic hypotheses of science is the uniformity of natural phenomena. In other words, natural laws apply in the same manner regardless of when and where. Miracles, by definition, obviously contradict this law. Scientists believe that scientific laws would be destroyed if miracles did occur. The problem lies in one’s recognition of God. This God is the God who created all the universe. He also established all the natural laws. But He is not like a watchmaker who leaves the watch to run by itself and pays no heed to it. He is simultaneously the Creator and caretaker of the universe. He has the right to interfere with natural phenomena and do something out of the ordinary according to His power and purpose.
2. God does not perform miracles to make Himself happy. Miracles and wonders are not the same. Wonders are extraordinary events that differ from everyday happenings. Miracles have occurred because God has had certain purposes and plans. As recorded in the Bible, the Jews demanded that Jesus perform miracles for them. Jesus refused because God will not perform miracles just to satisfy man’s curiosity.
3. Science cannot deny miracles. The duty of science is to investigate and discuss natural phenomena. If a miracle actually happens, how can science deny it?
The greatest miracle recorded in the Bible is: Jesus is the Son of God who became man through the Virgin Mary. He was nailed to the cross to die for man’s sin and He was raised three days after His burial. The apostle Paul emphasized the resurrection in his preaching of the Gospel. This is the basic belief of Christianity. But for an unbeliever, if Jesus lived on the earth, obviously as a man, how could He be God? How can a man be resurrected after death? How does one believe these claims? We need to believe and accept as true the following points one after the other:
1. Believe that God can perform miracles and inexplicable events.
2. Understand that God has a plan for all His creation.
3. Acknowledge that all men have sinned and will perish, but because God loved the world, He sent a Savior to earth, to achieve salvation for mankind.
4. If men do not accept this method of salvation, there is no other way, and they will perish.
5. If Jesus, who became man, was not God, He would be just like us and could not save us.
6. Study and believe the words of the Bible.
7. Because Jesus was both God and man, God caused Him to have a unique birth.
8. Because He is God, He cannot be held by death.
9. Because He is God’s beloved Son, God raised Him from the dead to heaven.
10. Believers have everlasting life. They will all be raised on the last day of the world. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, no one will be raised.
11. In the Bible the apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus, said, “He was resurrected on the third day, and He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve disciples. After that He appeared to more than five hundred people,” the majority of whom were still alive when Paul recorded those events.
12. The disciples were in great fear after Jesus’ crucifixion, but after Jesus’ resurrection they became courageous.
Thus, in order to believe, one often needs to use faith and reason together. God gave man the ability to reason, desiring man to use this ability to reason as much as possible, but man should also accept that his reason is incapable of completely understanding God’s omnipotence and wisdom.
Science vs. Scientism
Scientism and science are not the same. Scientism is a way of thinking derived from science. Generally speaking, scientism has three kinds of conclusions:
1. All phenomena can be explained by natural scientific principles.
2. Because we are under the influence of evolutionary philosophy, we think that all things are the result of collisions among atoms and molecules, not having a purpose or plan or goodness or badness.
3. Scientific method is the only method of seeking knowledge. Only the knowledge that is obtained from scientific methods is true knowledge. The rest are all random lies.
From this we can see that scientism denies God and the soul, because they do not belong to material phenomena, but are intangible, invisible, and unfounded by scientific methods.
In the future, because science makes progress day by day, we will be able to solve all problems, including the problems of the spirit and the soul.
Scientists are often skeptics, because they advocate a skeptical attitude towards new scientific theories, encouraging the scientific domain to test and prove them repeatedly, so that when they have been proved undeniably true, people can be sure of them, maintaining science’s accuracy. Scientists also advocate a questioning attitude toward old theories. Should any doubt arise, urgent attention will be given to locate the error and to search for a new theory to replace the old. Two Nobel laureates from China, Professor C.N. Yang and Professor C.T. Lee, received the prizes as a result of disproving the law of parity, which was accepted by the physics world. Thus scientists do not believe in absolutes. Toward theories and beliefs in philosophy and religion, they also maintain a suspicious and reserved attitude.
Many scientists clearly understand the restrictions of scientific methods. It has been mentioned that the spirit, the soul, and God in Heaven are outside the range of scientific investigation and discussion. Philosophers and the Christian church also frequently question the followers of scientism. Even though science cannot prove the existence of things in the spiritual world, it cannot prove that they do not exist either. Even though science cannot prove that God exists, it also cannot prove that God does not exist. How can anybody be absolutely sure that there is no God? Somebody once gave an analogy: A fisherman, who used a fishnet with two-inch wide mesh, caught only fish longer than two inches. This did not prove that in the stretch of water in which he was fishing no fish less than two inches long existed.
I entered college in the early thirties, just at the climax of the scientism era. At that time, the theory of relativity, the quantum theory, and theories concerning the structure of atoms and molecules had just been publicized. People adulated scientific beliefs. I chose to major in chemistry, becoming a diehard in scientism and agnosticism. However, people at that time were not like people who worship material things today. Many people were strongly idealistic. I, too, was one of them.
Because I had been enlightened by Confucianism since childhood, scientific principles and idealistic principles stirred in contradictory turmoil within my heart for many years. I sought an integrated thought pattern. After nearly 20 years of searching, when I could not come to any conclusion, I finally entered Buddhism, which I studied continuously for three years. As I studied Buddhism, specifically the Zen sect, it seemed as if I saw a ray of light, but I was unable to grasp it for myself.
At that time I observed two Christians who had obtained what I could not obtain in my study of Buddhism. So I turned to and earnestly studied the Christian religion. Three or four more years passed before I began to comprehend.
Thinking back now, it was only because I broke through the obstacle, formed by narrow-minded thoughts in scientism and agnosticism, that I came to know that in this universe, besides thorough scientific research for the truth of natural phenomena, there are also other methods to search for an even more important truth, that of spiritual phenomena. As far as I was concerned, I had to go through the stage of studying Buddhism, and make a great detour, before I was able to free myself from the firm shackles of narrow-minded ideas. One could say it was a difficult and dangerous road.
Reprinted from “Christianity and Science,” by Dr. Ming-Che Chang, published by Christian Communications Ltd., Hong Kong, © 1986. Used with permission.