Nye vs. Ham: Witnessing to scientists...

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After watching the recent Creation/Evolution debate between Bill Nye, an atheistic scientist, and Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist, I was challenged to think about how I, as a scientist, should witness to my colleagues. As a six-day creationist working at a secular University, what is my "strategy?"

First, I want to thank God for the work of Ken Ham and others. While I don’t agree with much of his approach, I was reminded recently that the “wrong” evangelism that he does is better than the “right” evangelism that I don’t do.

With that said, though, there are some dangers in trying to learn lessons for our own witnessing from what Dr. Ham and Answers in Genesis do.  It is easy to come away from a debate like that and think, “I wish I knew a lot more science! Then I could really witness to a scientist. Oh well, I better leave it to the experts.” But the truth is that none of that science is needed in witnessing. In fact, it is a hindrance. God has given us all we need in His Word.

Here are a few Biblical points to keep in mind if you want to witness to a scientist...

1.  We need to believe what God says when He declares that “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.” It requires faith to talk to a scientist and look at him as a fool.  After all, he knows a lot more about science and the way things work than you do. More than that, he is not afraid to brow-beat you into submission by insinuating that you are the one who is the fool. It was instructive to hear Mr. Nye explain to Larry King that anyone who believes in a six-day creation is inconsistent when he uses aspirin. It is sheer nonsense, but it sounds pretty demeaning! A statement like that just invites a comeback like, “Oh yeah?  I am no dummy!” But is that the first step in the witnessing to a scientist?

I could never understand the logic of attacks like this until I understood that it did not come from scientists, but from those who hold to the philosophy of scientism. Scientists study the physical universe. Scientism declares that there is nothing except the physical universe. Scientists use the scientific method to better understand the world. Scientism limits understanding to the scientific method so that they can deny anything outside the world. Scientists use science to solve problems and help others. Scientism declares Science as the savior of the world. After all, Bill Nye doesn’t want tax-payers to allow their tax dollars to fund an improper understanding of science because, he says, it will “rob our students of their future.”

What is the application to witnessing? Understand this truth: everyone needs a Savior, and everyone knows it. Fools claim that science is god, they evangelize through their proclamations of the ability of science to solve all our problems, and they warn of the impending doom if the great god science is replaced with another God. But even though they say in their hearts there is no God, they know there is One.

2.  Next, we need to pay close attention to what God says that the fool has done: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”   The atheist scientist will (unsurprisingly) say the exact opposite of what God says. The scientist will tell you that he has determined with his own mind that there is no God. Being a naturalistic materialist, he has no other framework for knowing. He knows because he has weighed the evidence for God in the scales and found Him wanting. And the naturalistic scientist really believes this; because he has no understanding of his darkened heart, he can only know things through his “enlightened” mind. 

So how does this truth help us in witnessing? We can avoid a trap. Don’t say anything with the ultimate purpose of bringing more light to his mind. He doesn’t need it, and it is not addressing the real issue anyhow. Don’t approach his soul through his mind. Approach his heart through his conscience. Dr. Nye might be better loved by talking to him about the restraining order he has against his ex-wife than by a discussion of carbon dating.

3.  After this, it is really helpful to know how the fool came to have a foolish heart. According to Romans 1:22, they became fools while they were professing to be wise. Rather than honor God and give him thanks, they were professing to be wise. This is the distinguishing characteristic of scientism. From the time a natural science major steps foot into college, he is trained that he is smarter than students in any other field. (Maybe we will give a tip of the hat to mathematicians.) Once you start to witness to a scientist using evidence for God or creation, you have lost the war.  You are playing on his home turf, because he has spent a lot of time building up evidence that matches his view on the world. Best case scenario, all you can do is to have more evidence for your position than he does for his position. And what does this teach a scientist? It just teaches him that he has to work harder to find more evidence, because, after all, that is what a scientist does for a living. 

But much worse, what have you really taught him while you pile up evidence for God? You are teaching him that it is right for men to use what they "know" to judge God. You might have all the facts in the world to support the truth, but at the same time, you are whispering in his ear, “You can be like God, knowing good and evil.”  You are telling him that he is wise, and just needs to look at everything around him and be saved with his new understanding.

Does that mean there is no room for discussing science facts in witnessing to a scientist?

Yeah, pretty much. No one was ever converted because someone outdid him with one more scientific fact supporting creation than he has supporting evolution.

There is still some room for science, though, if you do it Biblically. A good scientist will be able to talk all day about what “we know,” but he needs to realize that he can spend the rest of his life talking about what we don’t know. For every fact about the physical world that we know, there are a billion we don’t. It might not seem like much of a witnessing strategy, but by constantly pointing out what we don’t know, at least you are spending time “professing to be unwise.”

4.  If you want to witness to a scientist, you need to love him. Like I always say, scientists are people too.  John 3:16 isn’t a cliché, after all. God does love the world, and He desires that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Don’t get hung up if you don’t know a bunch of science facts. Even if we have all knowledge, if we do not love, it profits nothing (1Corinthians 13). 

5.  Ultimately, we need faith. What do we need to believe when witnessing to a scientist who believes in scientism, an atheistic scientist?

  • He is a fool.
  • His biggest need is to know he is a fool.
  • Jesus came to save, not the wise, but fools.  Praise God!

(Note from TB: The author has a Ph.D., professes chemistry at Indiana University, and is a second-year student at Clearnote Pastors College in Bloomington, Indiana.)