by Dr. Eric Woller
This is a difficult question to answer in context of the natural sciences. Clearly, the natural sciences have a critical role in studying how the heavens and earth declare the work of God’s hand (Psalm 19:1). The sciences at Bethany have a critical role in developing young Christian scientists that understand and continue to discover the amazing order God has designed (Proverb 25:2).
However, to identify what role the natural sciences have in Gospel outreach is a bit more difficult. The connection is often indirect. Any direct connection risks being contrived and artificial. That is not meant to suggest the natural sciences cannot be used to directly preach the Gospel. There are undoubtedly ways this can be done, but it is more likely that the natural sciences will play a supporting role.
One example of a supporting role could be in the telling of stories. A good story is arguably a better vehicle for spreading the Gospel through mass media than broadcasts of church services or lectures. Many kinds of people will watch good stories, and science is a rich source of story material in a variety of ways – human encounters with nature, human encounters with science, human encounters with scientists. Whoever writes these stories will have to know science – or consult with people who know science – in order for the stories to be authentic. The natural sciences can offer validity to stories that incorporate science in one form or another. Inaccuracies in scientific facts and how science is performed can be detrimental to an overall message. Adherence to proven scientific principles is necessary to provide validity to a message that could easily be discounted for a minor infraction.
There is one pitfall that must be avoided when using or portraying science in media. It must be understood what science can and cannot do. The sciences can be used to support the natural knowledge of God. By studying creation, one cannot help but ask, “How could this have come about?” Blinded by the devil, the world and our sinful flesh, we can easily gravitate towards an evolutionary explanation. Our sinful nature does not want God to be involved in our existence, but there are plenty of observations in nature that suggest a divine creator. However, science (at least science as God currently allows us to know it) cannot be used to prove the existence of God. Likewise, it cannot be used to prove that we are sinful, that we need a Savior and that Jesus Christ is our Savior who has completely paid for our sins and won for us salvation. These things are not proven with science, but believed by faith. This faith is created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments. Science supports the natural knowledge of God, but does not directly support the revealed knowledge of God and His plan for our salvation. In devising any form of media designed to spread the Gospel that relies heavily on science, this must be taken into account.