Scripture and Science: An Accord (part 2)

Introducing Accordism

For me there are important points to note about the nature of science and scripture. Both have their limitations, defined by the set of things under their purview. Scripture provides a holistic, historically situated, theological worldview. Though it does address physical reality in very important ways, its purpose is not to give a comprehensive account of all reality, much less physical reality. Science on the other hand is the best avenue available for people to explore the nature of physical reality. It is a set of particular methodological and social practices, undergirded by certain philosophical presuppositions, for rationally investigating strictly physical phenomena. As potent as science is, it is a very particular bandwidth of knowledge that touches on a very limited aspect of the human experience. Science is very good at doing what it’s made to do but beyond that it’s not much help. Scripture is quite similar in that regard. While wisely determining what we can legitimately use scripture for is a whole question onto itself, it is pointless in trying to make it address what it is not interested in.

Science and scripture both concern and are a part of the real world in which humans inhabit. While Christians believe scripture is God-breathed it is very much a product of human activity as well. When it is read, referenced or interpreted that is an ongoing human activity. While these things are pretty obvious, Christians tend to wistfully forget the humanity and this worldliness of the scriptures. Science is a uniquely human enterprise so it can have conversation with scripture because they are a bona fide part of the human world. As long as you are a believer living in the modern world the pervasive influence of science is unavoidable. Dialogue does happen between them as you’re already aware. The question is how it can be done responsibly with respect to both.

I suggest an approach I call “accordism.” Sorry to add another “ism” but I need to provide a label that distinguishes it from other approaches. As the name suggests it means a type of agreement but what distinguishes it from concordism is that it is not trying to harmonize scripture and science. I think there are realistic and fruitful points of dialogue between them because they both talk about particular aspects of the world, even though they do so in very different ways towards very different ends. Observing the world through these very different lenses results in very different views. Instead of trying to reconcile these different images, an accordist approach simply compares them, recognizing what each brings to the table and sees if perhaps there are general commonalities or points of intersection between the two. We can expect sometimes that science and scripture will say things which are quite similar or compatible with one another since they concern the real world. Other times they ask salient questions of one another which requires one carefully considering the other. This does not mean abandoning the scientific method to pursue a theological agenda or choosing to use science over exegesis in engaging scripture. It rather means being respectfully aware of the relevant issues both raise. The following are some examples of when scripture and science happen to be in step with one another as well as when they legitimately provoke questions of one another.

⇐Part I

Part III⇒

6 thoughts on “Scripture and Science: An Accord (part 2)

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