Is science compatible with religion? Most of the major scientists of the past would say it is, and Ruth Bancewicz agrees. In her book God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith she explores the question of what modern science means for Christians and how Christianity affects day to day scientific work. Her conclusion, that a study of nature enhances faith, is confirmed by many scientists.
Bancewicz gleans knowledge about day to day science in the life of a Christian from her own career as well as from other believing scientists. She explores the ideas of creativity and imagination which she says are foundational to both science and faith. Then she also discusses beauty, wonder, and awe, pointing out that they are driving forces that keep scientists motivated. What’s more, believing scientists are led to worship when their research leads to these overwhelming emotions, and unbelievers often get the feeling that there is something mysterious at work.
God in the Lab is full of insight:
—Although nature gives us knowledge of God, we cannot understand him perfectly from nature, because creation is not God, we are not perfect, and creation, also, is broken. Therefore we must test every new insight from creation with the Bible and remember that it is Jesus who really shows us who God is.
—Bringing order out of chaos is deeply satisfying, whether it is a hands-on process in everyday life or a scientific process of organizing and attempting to understand facts about the world.
—When the emotion of wonder is based on ignorance, error, or illusion, it will fade in the light of understanding, but understanding will lead to more enduring wonder. Wonder informed by spiritual wisdom can lead to spiritual exploration and in this sense, too, science points us to God.
—Wonder is an almost integral part of science. Wonder and awe at who God is and what he has done is also an integral part of the Christian faith, and part of Bancewicz’s thesis is that the wonder inherent to science enhances our awe of God.
—One scientist confessed,
“I’m just a creature—like the man Job in the Bible I’m someone who needs to be put in his place all the time by the creation around me—and yet I’m a child of God who can speak directly to the Father….If everything broke at the fall, then Jesus’ death on the cross is not just for us—it is for all of creation. It’s about God, and not primarily about me.
Now I can hardly talk about science without theology, and about theology without science. The more I look into science, the more I’m awed by God.”
All these ideas I know to be true from my own time as a scientist, and Bancewicz has given words to many concepts that I felt but had not yet verbalized.
Do note that God in the Lab assumes theistic evolution (i.e. the idea that God created using evolution instead of simply by speaking), an assumption that it neither examines carefully nor promotes vigorously. I do not understand why, when Bancewicz is so eager to promote God’s greatness as creator, she feels constrained to accept a theory with so many questionable points, but this could be due to at least two factors:
- The author was trained as a biologist, and nowadays biology is learned through the lens of evolution.
- She is surrounded by brilliant scientists who are committed Christians and who think that God created through evolution. Some of them are very insistent on distancing themselves from the idea of a young earth, although I have not yet found in their writings any serious grappling with the scientific evidence in favor of young earth creation. Obviously peer pressure is a powerful force in science as well as elsewhere.
Even so, this is a very worthwhile book, also for homeschoolers. Despite highlighting many profound concepts it is written in an accessible and interesting way, and the author’s enthusiasm shines through almost every page. I highly recommend God in the Lab to all scientists, teens considering a career in science, and others interested in God’s amazing world.
This is the kind of book I would recommend for your teen’s science and math reading.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of this review. All my opinions are my own, and I am not compensated for sharing them.