Sermon quotes on science & religion
If “evolution” is…elevated to the status of a world-view of the way things are, then there is direct conflict with biblical faith. But if “evolution” remains at the level of scientific biological hypothesis, it would seem that there is little reason for conflict between the implications of Christian belief in the Creator and the scientific explorations of the way which—at the level of biology—God has gone about his creating processes.
Stop telling God what he can do.
We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount…Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.
Speech on Armistice Day, Boston, Mass., 11 Nov. 1948.
James C. Coleman
As the modern day person struggles with the baffling question of his own existence… science falls short of providing full answers… it can tell how, but not why.” Coleman adds, “Despite their fine automobiles, well-stocked refrigerators, and other material possessions and comforts, the meaning of life seems to be evading them. They are suffering from existential anxiety—deep concern about finding values which enable them to live satisfying, fulfilling, meaningful, and [significant] lives.
To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.
Taken from Francis Collins, The Language of God.
The accumulated body of scientific knowledge can tell us all about the canvas, oils, and minerals that combine to make a work of art, but they cannot tell us why it takes our breath away.
Taken from Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World by Mike Cosper. Copyright (c) 2017, p.13. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
The question of whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the Universe has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.
People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.
1995 Templeton Prize Acceptance Speech
Paul A. M. Dirac
God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.
We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled by the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and finds fulfillment of something implanted in its nature. The sanction for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the purpose surging in our nature responds.
The more I study science, the more I believe in God.
The Wall Street Journal, Dec 24, 1997, article by Jim Holt, “Science Resurrects God.”
In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.
The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling . . . that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene . . . . No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.”
Taken from “What Life Means to Einstein,” The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Galileo Galilei, citing Cardinal Baronius
The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.
Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs—and equally compatible with atheism.
From Stephen Jay Gould, “Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge,” Scientific American 267, no. 1 (1992). Quoted in Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion? Inter-Varsity Press
The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you. (this quote is attributed to Heisenberg, but some have questioned it’s authenticity)
Hildebrand, Das Universum, 10., taken from Joseph, Selbie. The Physics of God, New Page Books, p. 187.
In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.
Scientific and Religious Truth, 1974.
Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.
It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.
I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.
The humanistic moral values of secularism are not the deliverances of scientific reasoning, but have come down to us from older times . . . they have a theological history. And modern people hold them by faith alone.
Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind. God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts… and if piety allow us to say so, our understanding is in this respect of the same kind as the divine, at least as far as we are able to grasp something of it in our mortal life.
Letter (9/10 Apr 1599) to the Bavarian chancellor Herwart von Hohenburg. Collected in Carola Baumgardt and Jamie Callan, Johannes Kepler Life and Letters (1953), 50.
Wilberforce did not believe in either evolution or extinction.
Owen believed in extinction but not evolution.
Lamarck believed in evolution but not extinction.
Darwin believed in evolution and extinction.
All four of them believed in God.
Alister E. McGrath
Faith is not something that goes against the evidence, it goes beyond it. The evidence is saying to us, ‘There is another country. There is something beyond mere reason’.
Alister E. McGrath
For Calvin, the creation reflects its Creator at every point. Image after images flashed in front of our eyes, as Calvin attempts to convey the multiplicity of ways in which the creation witnesses to its Creator: it is like a visible garment, which the invisible God dons in order to make himself known; it is like a book in which the name on the Creator is written as its author; it is like a theater, in which the glory of God is publicly displayed; it is like a mirror, in which the works and wisdom of God are reflected.
Robert Andrews Millikan
This much I can say with definiteness – namely, that there is no scientific basis for the denial of religion – nor is there in my judgment any excuse for a conflict between science and religion, for their fields are entirely different. Men who know very little of science and men who know very little of religion do indeed get to quarreling, and the onlookers imagine that there is a conflict between science and religion, whereas the conflict is only between two different species of ignorance.
Robert Andrews Millikan
The impossibility of real science and real religion ever conflicting becomes evident when one examines the purpose of science and the purpose of religion. The purpose of science is to develop – without prejudice or preconception of any kind – a knowledge of the facts, the laws and the processes of nature. The even more important task of religion, on the other hand, is to develop the consciences, the ideals and the aspirations of mankind.
Robert Andrews Millikan
Religion and science, then, in my analysis are the two great sister forces which have pulled, and are still pulling, mankind onward and upward.
Robert Andrews Millikan
The first important quarrel of this sort arose over the advancing by Copernicus of his theory that the earth, instead of being a flat plane and the center of the universe, was actually only one of a number of little planets, rotating once a day upon its axis and circling once a year about the sun. Copernicus was a priest – the canon of a cathedral – and he was primarily a religious rather than a scientific man. He knew that the foundations of real religion are not laid where scientific discoveries of any kind can disturb them. He was persecuted, not because he went against the teachings of religion but because under his theory man was not the center of the universe and this was most displeasing news to a number of egoists.
God created everything by number, weight and measure.
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont, to be called Lord God παντοκρατωρ or Universal Ruler.
In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.
I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.
Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.
Friedrich Nietzsche (For Contrast)
Faith: not wanting to know what is true.
The Portable Nietzsche, Penguin, 1977, p.383.
He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.
It is certain that those who have the living faith in their hearts see at once that all existence is none other than the work of the God whom they adore. But for those in whom this light is extinguished, [if we were to show them our proofs of the existence of God] nothing is more calculated to arouse their contempt…
There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.
Religion and Natural Science (Lecture Given 1937) Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949)
It was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.
The scientist will find in theology a unifying principal more fundamental than the grandest unified field theory. The theologian will encounter in science’s account of the pattern and structure of the physical world a reality which calls forth his admiration and wonder.
Science and Creation. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 12.
Theology differs from science in many respects, because of its different subject matter, a personal God who cannot be put to the test in the way that the impersonal physical world can be subjected to experimental enquiry. Yet science and theology have this in common, that each can be, and should be defended as being investigations of what is, the search for increasing verisimilitude in our understanding of reality.
I believe that a full understanding of this remarkable human capacity for scientific discovery ultimately requires the insight that our power in this respect is the gift of the universe’s Creator who, in that ancient and powerful phrase, has made humanity in the image of God (Genesis I: 26-27). Through the exercise of this gift, those working in fundamental physics are able to discern a world of deep and beautiful order–a universe shot thorough with signs of mind. I believe that it is indeed the Mind of that world’s Creator that is perceived in this way. Science is possible because the universe is a divine creation.
Bertrand Russell (For Contrast)
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear.
The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.
Augustine said that we were all born into the world of “common grace” [i.e., available to all]. Before one is baptized, or even if one never is, such grace meets one in God’s creation. There is grace in the pear tree that blooms and blushes. There is common grace in the sea (that massive cleanliness which we are proceeding to corrupt), in the fact that there was, before we laid hands on it, clean air. Our task is to appreciate that grace.
Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though almost 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. Although I suspect I will never fully understand, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help Him get that job done.
Joseph H. Taylor
A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world.
Do not be afraid of being free thinkers. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion. You will find science not antagonistic, but helpful to Religion.
The Times, May 2, 1903, Lord Kelvin on Religion and Science, corrected by Lord Kelvin himself in The Life of William Thompson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, by S.P. Thompson
Joseph J. Thomson
As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, we do not see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasized by every advance in science, that ‘Great are the Works of the Lord’.”
Presidential Address to the British Association, as quoted in Arthur L. Foley, ‘Recent Developments in Physical Science, The Popular Science Monthly (1910), 456.
When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our illustrations page on Science.