by Bill Nugent
Few people in the 21st century are familiar with the 13th century scientific accomplishments of Roger Bacon but if it wasn’t for him and his followers we might still be riding in horse drawn carriages and eating by candle light. Bacon saw the foundations of science in the Bible at a time when the Bible was available only in ancient languages and read by few.
Let me first set the stage. In the Medieval period, roughly 400 AD to 1500 AD, there was the Christian/neo-Classical synthesis dominating the thought processes of scholars in the universities and monasteries of Europe. In other words the teachings of the Bible were mingled with the teachings of the ancient Greek pagan “classical” philosophers. Classical thought consists primarily of the teachings of Plato (427-347 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC).
The Greek Pagan Religion, Olympianism, Gave No Basis for Science
The ancient Greek religion was Olympianism which has some points in common with Hinduism. The ancient Greeks recognized the twelve Olympian deities including Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite and the others.
Like Hinduism, Olympianism had a low view of the material world. In the Greek mind, nature was considered to be a poor reflection of higher knowledge. Hindus regard the material world as “maya” meaning “illusion.” Those with a Hindu worldview would not be inclined to do experiments on nature which to them was mere illusion.
The ancient western Greco-Roman view of the material world is that the material world is chaotic and unpredictable. To the unaided eye, nature, at first glance, appears random and chaotic. Walk through the woods and you see rocks and boulders strewn about and trees, bushes and weeds growing haphazardly. A stream courses through a valley and tumbles over rocks and splashes in apparent chaos. The ancient Greeks didn’t do experimentation on nature which they saw as chaos.
The ancient Greek view of evil was that evil is in the material world and therefore to be free of evil one must escape the material world. Plato regarded the human body as the prison house of the soul. A famous dictum of Plato is “soma, sema” which translates to “a body, a tomb.”
The Biblical View of Nature Provides the Frame of Mind for Science
The Christian view of evil is that evil is in the hearts of people and therefore we must turn to God for forgiveness. The Christian regards the material world as subject to evil but not inherently evil. The body is created by God to glorify God. The Christian’s body will be resurrected from death in a glorified state.
Though Plato and Aristotle departed from cultic Olympianism in some respects, the Olympian low view of the physical world shows through in their writings.
Platonic and to a lessor degree Aristotelian thought largely rejected experiments on nature (scientific experimentation) as a means of gaining knowledge. The ancient Greeks did mathematics and architecture but almost no pure, experimental science. Their worldview would not allow for the scientific method.
In the Medieval world, the influential scholar Augustine (353 AD-430 AD) was heavily influenced by Plato. Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) was heavily influenced by Aristotle. This reflected the pagan syncretism that hobbled the church for more than a thousand years. The educated Christians of western Europe saw both the Bible and nature through the teachings of Plato and Aristotle.
Roger Bacon was an Early Light of Science
Roger Bacon was a Franciscan friar and a professor at Oxford University. In his writings he began to strip away the reasoning of the ancient Greek philosophers. He endured much opposition from church leaders. Some criticized his experiments and falsely accused him of dabbling in dark arts.
Bacon did experimentation that came up with different conclusions and that which was taught in the writings of Aristotle. Bacon challenged Aristotle and he got in trouble for it! It reminds me of the times in which we live now and that if you challenge Darwin you get in trouble for it. In medieval times all of science was seen through the lens of Aristotle especially during the late medieval period.
In our own time, the biological sciences are seen through the lens of Darwin. If you challenge Darwin, like myself and all other creationists, you’re seen as some kind of a scientific heretic. However, Darwin’s theory of evolution has enormous scientific flaws about which I’ve often written. For a list of scientists who dissent from Darwin you may visit the website dissentfromdarwin.org.
Bacon even came up with an early formulation of the scientific method. This was more than three centuries before Francis Bacon (no relation) formulated the scientific method in the early 1600s and revolutionized science.
Bacon began a movement away from Plato and Aristotle that would take centuries to fully unfold. Roger Bacon is considered to be a true scientific pioneer. The key to his success is that he viewed the physical world from a purely Christian biblical perspective.
Three sources of knowledge in the Christian worldview are the Holy Scriptures, the natural world and the conscience. The Christian view of nature is that nature is not an illusion, nor is it random or chaotic. Furthermore, observations of nature can be inductively applied. This is contrary to the rationalist deductionism of Aristotle.
Christians Conduct Experiments and Add the Results
To “induce’ means to “add” and this means you conduct experiments and add the results to form hypotheses, theories and discover laws of nature.
To “deduce” means to “subtract” and it means to study the writings of an authority such as Aristotle, including his book titled Physics and form your scientific opinion from his teachings.
Nature has been called “God’s second book” because Psalm 19:1-2 and Romans 1:20 teach that the created, natural order reveals things about God. Since the scriptures command us to know God, it is implicit, therefore, that we should study nature. In Genesis 1:28, God commands Adam to “subdue” the earth. We are commanded to tame or master the natural world. This is why modern science arose in the Christian west.
Roger Bacon taught the inductive method of studying nature. Experimental science is also called inductive science. To induce means to infer or extrapolate from the part to the whole. For example if you do an experiment on a small part of nature you infer that the findings of the experiment hold true throughout all of nature.
In previous generations such knowledge gained from experiments was considered useless because the natural world was considered chaotic. In other words if you measure the temperature at which water freezes it is useless because tomorrow water could freeze at a different temperature.
The Christian worldview regards God as rational and orderly and therefore nature is assumed to be consistent and orderly. This in turn leads us to the fundamental axiom of modern science. (An axiom is a presupposition that is assumed as true and never doubted.)
The axiom that forms the basis for all modern science is called “the regularity principle.” It is also called the“inductive principle.” The regularity principle is the Christian view that the universe is consistent or “regular” and therefore what is found true in one part of the universe is true in all of it.
Nature is Subject to God’s Laws of Physics
The God of the Bible created nature, therefore nature is subject to God’s consistent physical laws. The Bible shows God as a moral lawgiver who is rational and consistent. Early Bible believing scientists regarded nature as being under God’s consistent, orderly laws of physics.
The Greek gods gave no laws. They gave no moral laws or physical laws. There is no Ten Commandments given by Zeus. The scholars of Greece were forced to probe for life’s meaning by human reason, philosophy and logic.
The regularity principle is derived from the Christian worldview and is further proof that the Christian worldview is true. God gives both moral laws and laws of physics. The fact that nature is orderly means that mathematics can be applied to nature in a rational way.
Long after Roger Bacon passed away, the Bible became more available to the people of Europe. During the Protestant Reformation the Bible was translated into the languages of the people. In 1538, a command was given by Lord Thomas Cromwell (under Henry VIII) to have the Bible read in English in all the churches. Bible knowledge exploded across England. The Bible soon became accessible to people across all of Europe.
The Bible became more available in the 1500s and the fundamental breakthroughs in science occurred in the 1600s. The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge was founded in 1660. Its members were Bible believing Christians, including many Puritans. Some consider it to be the world’s first think tank.
The Birth of Modern Science in the 1600s
The biblical worldview spread far and wide. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) made the fundamental breakthroughs that birthed modern science.
Robert Boyle is considered to be the founder of modern chemistry. Medieval alchemy gave way to modern inductive chemistry under Boyle. Boyle was a devout believer in Christ. He left provisions in his will to fund a series of lectures titled: “Defending the Faith.” Sounds kinda familiar doesn’t it?
Newton’s laws of motion revolutionized physics. Newton was also a brilliant mathematician who discovered calculus. Newton was a believer who wrote more on theology than he did on science.
How ironic it is that many who reject the Christian faith often use science (falsely applied) to attack the relevance and accuracy of the Bible yet it was the Bible based Christian worldview that gave rise to modern science!
God Created a Physical Universe and a Moral Universe
The Bible teaches that God created human beings in his own image and that He has given us a purpose and that purpose is to love God and to enjoy him forever (Westminster Catechism). We are born into this world with a purpose and that purpose lasts into all eternity.
God has given us moral laws by which we must conduct our lives. Yet the Bible plainly teaches that we cannot earn salvation by keeping moral laws. The sinfulness of human beings is such that all of us fall short of God’s holiness. The Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
God, in His great love for us, has sent His son Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, to die in our place and redeem us from our sins. Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 prophecies that gave details about his life, ministry, suffering and death. By His death and suffering in our place, Jesus took the penalty of our sins, upon Himself, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins. This is called substitutionary atonement.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24 NASB).
The prophecies also foretold that Christ would rise from the dead. Christ offers salvation to all who turn to Him in repentance and ask for forgiveness on the basis of His death and resurrection on our behalf. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.
(c) 2023 William P. (Bill) Nugent, all rights reserved except permission granted to translate , email or republish for Christian outreach
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!