Science and Religion incompatible?

“Thus the first step that the current scientific method is asking you to take is to assume that the facts that you meet are brute, that is, uninterpreted facts. I say you are asked to assume the existence of brute facts. If you did not assume this you could not be neutral with respect to various interpretations given of the facts. If God exists there are no brute facts; if God exists our study of facts must be the effort to know them as God wants them to be known by us. We must then seek to think God’s thoughts after him. To assume that there are brute facts is therefore to assume that God does not exist.

The second step that the current scientific method is asking you to take is to accept the position that theoretically any hypothesis is as good as any other. Satan first assumed and asked Eve to assume that facts are brute facts. On the basis of this assumption he then asked Eve to accept his hypothesis as being no less relevant than God’s hypothesis. He said in effect that he did not ask Eve to be unfair to God; he wanted her to consider God’s hypothesis no less than his own, and his own no less than God’s. In a similar way the current scientific method wants us to grant the theoretical relevancy of any hypothesis.

The third step which the current scientific method is asking you to take is to test the truth of any hypothesis by experience. Here, too, the temptation is the same in principle as that which came to Eve. Let us again begin Satan’s argument from the start. First, he asks Eve in effect to assume that the fruit of the tree in question is a brute fact. He insinuates that to hold anything different would be to degrade the originality of the human mind. To take for granted that all is interpreted in advance is to make science live by authority and that is to kill science. Secondly, he asks her to place the two mutually exclusive interpretations on a par with one another. Satan argues in effect that the question of being has no significance for the question of interpretation. That God claims to be the “Creator-being” and that He also claims Satan to be a mere “creature-being” should not influence Eve in the least. Therefore, in the third place, Satan argues that Eve ought to test the truth of the two hypotheses by experience. Surely that is fair. We must test all our theories by the facts of experience, must we not? What other way have you, Eve, of testing between two hypotheses that are at variance with one another? You cannot go back to the authority of God’s Word. That would be to go back on your first step. It would be to set one hypothesis above another at the outset. To be consistent you must take all three steps if you take one.”

(Van Til, Van Til’s Collection of Articles From 1920-1939)


Cornelius Van Til might have been a very intelligent man, but still a fool. His theology states that everybody has assumptions, or axioms, but some are true to their axioms, and others not. Well then, from the statement that everybody has axioms, it follows that Atheism has axioms as well. This means that Atheism and having axioms isn’t inherently incompatible. So if the fact that an Atheist denies having axioms isn’t enough to charge him or her with dishonesty and dismissing Atheism outright, then an Atheist can deflect any Christian attack with saying something is axiomatic.

Christian: “If God doesn’t exist, where does the very idea of Justice come from?”

Atheist:  “Justice is axiomatic.”

Christian: “If God doesn’t exist, why can we trust our senses?”

Atheist: “Sensory information is axiomatic.”

However, dismissing Atheism because it falsely denies having axioms presupposes that dishonesty is morally wrong. This means morality logically precedes revelation, while presuppositionalism states that not just morality but epistemology itself presupposes revelation. In practice, it means that someone who admits having axioms is automatically superior, even if the axiom entails the idea that whatever I do, I am always right.

Presuppositionalism also runs into trouble because every time you charge someone with needing axioms, you’ll get it doubly back.

Christian: “If God doesn’t exist, how can we be sure our eyes are working?”

Atheist: “If God does exist, how can we be sure our eyes are working? If you want to read the Bible, you need two axioms where I need one. I need only to assume my eyes are working, you have to assume your eyes are working when you read your Bible AND assume God tells you the Truth in that Bible. You cannot find these axioms in the Bible, because you need them to read your Bible, but you cannot assume them outside the Bible, because then Christianity would have axioms (dogmas you call them) not found in the Bible (incompatible with both Sola Scriptura and presuppositionalism).”

Also, Cornelius Van Til as a Calvinist held that God is just and sovereign and can punish as He sees fit. If we take Creationism and Evolutionism as axiomatic, which scenario is more probable:

Creationism: I am a sinner. I deserve everything God punishes me with. Just as God is free to deny me grace and salvation, God is free to deny me any reliable information about the world around me. God is under no obligation to supply me with truth, either scientific or religious.

Evolutionism: Although it is possible that some mutation made my senses unreliable, it is highly unlikely. Millions of years of natural selection culled any organisms which didn’t have good vision, hearing, smell and so on. The blind, deaf, and anosmic have little chance of survival and little chance to propagate their genes.

Calvinism leading to Brain in a Vat?