As I committed to reading through Calvin’s Institutes with a friend, in honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, I thought it would be worth jotting down some bits that I found particularly interesting. Here’s the quote for today:
Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labour to our benefit? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognise how preeminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognising at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, 2.15
There’s a common (and misleading) narrative today that science and faith are in direct opposition; that anyone who claims a scientific perspective cannot have a faith, and that anyone who holds to faith denies science.
Yet in stark contrast to this, Calvin is standing in defence of science as not just allowable, but praiseworthy and coming directly from God. In fact, he even appeals to the fact that the pagan poets celebrated such things being invented by gods.
Generally, the interactions between “science” and “faith” that you hear about are negative ones—so reading a quote from almost 500 years ago encouraging Christians to thank God for science may be surprising to you.
If you’re a Christian—”science” is not an abject force out to discredit your faith. Sure, there are some loud atheists who work in scientific research and have strong opinions. But praise God for his grace in giving us hard-working women and men who probe beyond the boundaries of human knowledge to help others!
If you’re someone who’ve often thought science as disproving religion—perhaps you should actually examine the claims of Jesus for yourself, on his own terms. Read the Bible for yourself (start with the gospel of Luke, it gives a good overview of Jesus’ life), and evaluate his claims rationally. There’s no point in knocking down a straw-man Jesus if the real deal is worth knowing!