Science as a Tool of Evangelism
Romans 1:20 states: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Acts 17:16-34 gives the account of Paul speaking to the men of Athens about “God, who made the world and everything in it.” The fact is, mankind’s general understanding of Creation can be used as a very effective tool for evangelism. Advances in science continue to confirm the Bible and refute philosophies that are opposed to the Bible.
Regardless of the specific approach, evangelistic efforts must focus on encouraging people to study the Bible, obey the Gospel, and remain faithful. Colossians 3:2 tells us: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Mark 8:36 states: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Acts 2:38 reads: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Topics that are easy to understand can often be effective in encouraging people to consider the Bible with an open mind. For example, most individuals will agree that they can make choices. The most important choice we will ever make is discussed in Joshua 24:15, which states:
[C]hoose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
But how could we make even the simplest of choices if God had not given us a spirit? The answer is, we could not. From science we know that chemical and physical reactions follow the natural laws that God established. If humans were nothing more than a collection of several thousand trillion trillion (octillion) atoms undergoing a sophisticated chemical reaction (as atheists allege), then we could have no free will whatsoever. Acknowledgment that we can make choices is an acknowledgement of God, which can be an excellent first step in our efforts to evangelize. Once a person acknowledges God, we can then focus on helping them realize that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and that we need to live our lives accordingly.1
From science we know that life cannot make itself from non-living material.2 The fallacy of “spontaneous generation” can be discussed at any technical level desired. Perhaps the simplest way to initiate a conversation would be to point out that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in the field of biotechnology, with extremely sophisticated laboratories, and highly intelligent researchers. Yet, no one has ever come close to making life from non-living material. Even attempts to make simple, self-replicating molecules in highly contrived environments continue to fail. Given a few billion dollars, mankind was able to create the space shuttle. Does that somehow add credence to the idea that space shuttles can create themselves? Obviously not. Claiming life (which humans cannot make) could somehow create itself is vastly less scientific than claiming cell phones, cars, airplanes, or rockets (all of which humans can make) could make themselves.
Science has also shown us that information is being lost from the genome—not gained3—further refuting religions based on Darwin’s theory of evolution. Organs and structures once thought to be “vestigial” have been shown to have useful functions,4 and the whole concept of vestigial organs and structures is now viewed as nothing more than an example of scientific ignorance that was overcome by advances in real science. Homologous and analogous physical structures are exactly what Christians would expect given that God created all life. As the Bible states, it is the spiritual difference between humans and animals that make humans completely unique (Genesis 1:26-27). Ideas that contradict the Bible in areas related to the age of the Earth or the origin of the Universe have also been shown to be seriously flawed and based on arbitrary assumptions.5 In short, there are numerous areas of science that Christians can simply and effectively use in evangelism.
But what about topics that are difficult to discuss with individuals who are skeptical about everything? Many agnostics are committed to the idea that nothing can be known for certain. While our primary concern should be the effect that idea has on the agnostic’s willingness to study the Bible and obey the Gospel, the idea that “nothing can be known” can also affect secular conversations that we may have. Those conversations can, in turn, affect our ability to establish the trust necessary for effective evangelism.
Two contemporary examples include the idea of a “flat Earth” and the idea that the U.S. never landed astronauts on the Moon. While a person’s views on those subjects are unimportant compared to their view of Christ, useful conversations can still be had. Calm, logical discussions on secular topics can often lead to calm, logical discussions on spiritual topics.
Interesting parallels can be drawn between the methods that are used in attempts to convince people that the U.S. did not land on the Moon and the methods that are used in attempts to convince people that the Bible is not God’s inerrant Word. For example, one argument used against the Moon landing is that there is a “geographical dependence” on whether or not a person believes we landed on the Moon. A Gallup Poll taken in 2001 showed that 5% of Americans believed the Moon landing was faked, and 6% did not know. At the same time 28% of Russians believed the landings were faked, and up to 75% of people in Cuba and in countries that were heavily influenced by Cuban teachers believed the landings were faked. If a person grew up near Cape Canaveral, knew people who worked on the Apollo program, witnessed Saturn V launches firsthand, and believed the U.S. landed on the Moon, his belief could be dismissed as a “geographical dependence.” The observation is made that if that same person had grown up in Cuba, he likely would not have believed in the Moon landing. But even if that suggestion were true, does it have any bearing at all on whether or not the U.S. actually landed on the Moon? Obviously not. Likewise, atheists will often observe that if a person grows up in an area where knowledge of the Bible is strong they are much more likely to become a Christian than a person who grows up in an area where there is no knowledge of the Bible, and where becoming a Christian is punishable by death. But does that “geographical dependence” have any bearing at all on whether or not the Bible is true? Again, obviously not.
Moon-landing skeptics and agnostics often ask that if we were able to land on the Moon, why have we not returned to the Moon? One answer could be that the initial goal was achieved (land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth) and that additional goals (such as establishing a lunar outpost) will be achieved in the future. In the same vein, people often ask, “If Christ came to Earth once, why has He not returned?” The Bible gives very clear answers, such as 2 Peter 3:9 which states: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Skeptics and agnostics also point out that the Moon landings seemed too perfect. The U.S. first landed on the Moon with only six months to spare (to meet the stated objective), and the final Moon landing occurred just before the Soviet Union allegedly deployed technology that could prove the landings were fake. (The Soviet Union actually had adequate technology throughout the program.) All of the landings also occurred under the Nixon administration.
Similar accusations are also made against the Bible. Christ perfectly fulfilled all Old Testament prophecies, and the Bible (written by 40 different authors over a period of 1,600 years) is perfectly consistent. The obvious answer for this perfection is given in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Numerous other methods are used to instill doubt concerning the U.S. Moon landing, but perhaps the most popular is “with all of the inconsistencies with the Moon landing claim, how can anyone still believe we landed on the Moon?” Numerous examples are then typically presented, including cross hatches in front of photographed objects, odd looking (non-parallel) shadows, a flag that appears to be “waving,” no blast craters from landers, no visible flame from ascent stages, high radiation levels in the Van Allen belts (how could the astronauts survive?), no stars visible in photographs, footprints in Moon dust are too well preserved, etc.6 Direct evidence of fraud is also mentioned. For example, in 2009 the Moon rock at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam was examined and found to be petrified wood. There is missing data (Apollo 11 telemetry), and a woman in Perth, Australia even claims to have seen a soft drink bottle in the frame while watching the Moon landing.
In an analogous fashion, the “numerous inconsistencies” approach is often used against the Bible.7 Questions include: “How could a loving God allow pain and suffering?” “How can God simultaneously be omniscient and give us free will?” “How can the Earth be less than 10,000 years old and the Universe appear the way it does?” “How could a virgin give birth?” “How could Jesus be resurrected from the dead?” In both cases, a good approach is to ask the skeptic which alleged inconsistency troubles him the most, and then spend whatever time is necessary fully addressing his concern. Logically sound explanations exist for all alleged contradictions with the Moon landing, just as logically sound explanations exist for all alleged contradictions within the Bible. In two extensive volumes, Eric Lyons examines and refutes many of the most popular allegations against the Bible.8
From the standpoint of positive evidence, there are also many analogies between belief in the Moon landing and belief in the Bible. Developing and launching a 7.8-million-pound thrust, 363-foot-tall rocket (the Saturn V) was a key aspect of the Moon landing, and millions of people saw the Saturn V launch with their own eyes. Likewise, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are a key aspect of Christianity, and hundreds of people saw the risen Christ with their own eyes (1 Corinthians 15:6). Hundreds (likely thousands) of people both inside and outside of the U.S. were involved in the preparations where they could have easily shown the Moon landing to be a hoax (if the landings had been), but no one did. Likewise hundreds (if not thousands) of people were in a position where they could have refuted Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection had it not occurred, but they did not. In fact, those closest to Jesus (and those who would have needed to be involved in any type of fraud) were willing to die for their knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.
One final analogy can be made relative to discussions about Moon landings. Just as the Moon landings will be reconfirmed when mankind returns to the Moon, the Bible will be reconfirmed when Christ returns to the Earth (Philippians 2:9-11).
A similar subject of interest is the recent surge in belief in a flat Earth, seemingly led by a handful of professional athletes and others. As with discussions related to the Moon landing, it is important to keep our minds set on things above. While Romans 14:15 speaks specifically about food, the same sentiment applies to other subjects as well. We should not risk destroying “one for whom Christ died” over a disagreement related to a secular idea.
Two recent articles provide numerous facts and observations related to refuting the idea of a flat Earth—biblically and scientifically.9 If an agnostic or skeptic is committed to a belief, though, a “rescue mechanism” can almost always be devised to claim that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, their belief is true. Ironically, the same techniques used to garner support for a flat Earth have been used to gain acceptance for the Big Bang, an equally false but more widely accepted cosmology. Observations that contradict either the flat Earth or the Big Bang theory are typically explained away through the use of sophisticated fudge factors, or by framing the theories in a way that any observation or piece of experimental evidence can be accommodated.10
First Corinthians 9:22 states “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Along those lines, it is important that we be able to discuss virtually any subject in a non-confrontational manner. Three ideas related to flat Earth discussions can involve contacting a friend, purchasing (or borrowing) a telescope, and working with a local university.
For instance, the mobility of 21st-century society and the ability to affordably travel and communicate over long distances have allowed many people to develop friendships around the world. If a person has a friend living a few time zones away (i.e., a few thousand miles east or west of him) and at roughly the same latitude, then a simple text or phone call can provide good evidence for a spherical Earth. For example, a call could be made near sunset, and the friend could be asked about the Sun’s position in the sky at his location. The spherical Earth model would exactly predict the response, which would be either “the Sun set a few hours ago” (if the friend lived to the east) or “the Sun won’t be setting for a few hours” (if the friend lived to the west). While there might be a set of “fudge factors” that could be applied to certain flat Earth models to allow for the same response, the use of those factors would show the models to be highly contrived at the very least. A friend living at very high latitudes (e.g., Fairbanks, Alaska; Iceland; Greenland; etc.) could also add to the discussion based on the extreme differences in solar position between winter and summer. A friend living in the opposite hemisphere (e.g. New Zealand, Tasmania, etc. for people living in the U.S.) could be used to obtain other useful data. All of the observations and discussions would show the consistency of a spherical Earth model, and present extreme difficulties for a flat Earth model.
Buying or borrowing a telescope can also be useful in many ways. Not only do telescopes allow detailed observation of God’s creation from Earth, but they also allow us more fully to appreciate Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
From the standpoint of a flat Earth discussion, a telescope can (given clear skies) allow us to view objects on the horizon where the lower portion of the object is blocked because of the curvature of the Earth. A classic example is a ship traveling out to sea. As the ship gets further away, a greater portion of the ship “disappears” below the horizon. This effect is again exactly what is expected on a spherical Earth, and very difficult to explain in a flat Earth model.
Universities are often involved with the launch of high altitude balloons. While the curvature of the Earth is much more obvious from orbit, it can still be discerned from altitudes that can be attained by balloons. If a skeptic or agnostic feels that all international space programs are somehow “covering up” evidence for a flat Earth, perhaps more personal involvement with a local university would encourage them to think otherwise. Some universities have also begun launching experiments on sub-orbital and even orbital flights, which could provide even more opportunity for first-hand observations that the Earth is spherical.
Although beliefs—such as the U.S. never having landed on the Moon or the Earth being flat—are typically attributed to agnostics and skeptics, it is important to remember that both non-Christians and Christians alike can have inaccurate beliefs on secular topics. When discussing any secular topic, we need to remember to keep our mind set on things above. We should focus on spiritual issues and not worry too much about correcting false secular beliefs that have little bearing on eternity. However, it is also important to note that vigorously promoting a false secular belief can have a negative influence on our ability to evangelize. Christians should be very careful about accidentally losing influence by endorsing a secular fad that, while popular in certain circles, is ultimately incorrect.
Another observation concerning both belief in a faked Moon landing and belief in a flat Earth—no matter what the evidence—people can still choose to believe what they want to believe. Likewise, regardless of the evidence, an atheist or agnostic can, ironically, still choose to believe they have no free will, choose to believe that life somehow made itself, choose to believe that all of the information in the genome somehow created itself, and choose to believe the many other falsehoods required to deny God.
While science is an excellent tool for evangelism, we also know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We need to stay focused on encouraging people to read God’s Word, obey the Gospel, and remain faithful. Our ultimate commission is summarized in Matthew 28:19-20—
Go thereforeand make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
1 Additional discussion concerning “free will” is given in Kyle Butt (2016), “Atheism and Free Will,” Reason and Revelation, 36:110-118, October, http://apologeticspress.org.
2 Jeff Miller (2017), Science vs. Evolution (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition.
3 J.C. Sanford (2014), Genetic Entropy (FMS Publications).
4 Jerry Bergman and George Howe (1990), “Vestigial Organs” are Fully Functional (Creation Research Society).
5 Alex Williams and John Hartnett (2006), Dismantling the Big Bang (Master Books); Don DeYoung (2005), Thousands… Not Billions (Master Books).
6 “Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories” (2017), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_landing_conspiracy_theories.
7 Kyle Butt (2013), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
8 Eric Lyons (2003/2005), The Anvil Rings: Volumes 1 & 2 (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
9 Branyon May and Alana May (2017), “Flat or Spherical Earth? Evaluating Astronomical Observations,” Reason and Revelation, 37:86-95, August, http://apologeticspress.org; Justin Rogers (2017), “Does the Bible Teach a Flat Earth,” Reason and Revelation, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5428&topic=24#.
10 Additional discussion in Mike Houts (2015), “Assumptions and the Age of the Earth,” Reason and Revelation, 35:26-34, March, http://apologeticspress.org.