Science Is Based on Assumptions from Biblical Theism

In 2007, physicist Paul Davies wrote an opinion article for the New York Times with the title, “Taking Science on Faith.” He wrote:

[T]o be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. . . . Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws.

Christians know that the “unexplained physical laws” do have an explanation: they are part of God’s creation. Scientists must have “faith” in this truth from the Bible. Otherwise, as Davies notes, science would not be possible.

However, there are additional articles of faith that underlie the scientific enterprise. The four assumptions described here are necessary for success in science, yet they originated from biblical theism, which laid the foundation for the science that we know today.

1. The physical world exists as a separate reality that can be understood.
The Bible tells us that humans, made in the image of the Creator, are uniquely gifted to acquire a deep understanding of the physical world. God is not part of that world since he is Creator and not the creation. The Creator is to be worshiped; the creation is not. Moses and Jeremiah warned against worshipping the celestial bodies.

It can hardly be overemphasized how transformative that idea was for establishing a framework in which to do science. The Jews and later the Christians were the only civilizations of their era that demystified the entire natural world, celestial and terrestrial. Historian of science James Hannam says:

The starting point for all natural philosophy [i.e., “science”] in the Middle Ages was that nature had been created by God. This made it a legitimate area of study because through nature man could learn about its creator.1

Since the material world is not God and is not divine, man is free to probe his surroundings to gain an understanding of it. There is no nontheistic rationale for believing that an objective description is “out there” waiting to be discovered. That biblically derived confidence continues to underpin science in our modern times.

2. The physical world is governed by fixed, universal, natural laws.
Universal laws of nature that govern the heavens and the earth are an original biblical concept. In Jeremiah 33:25, God tells us that he “established [his] covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth.” In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo wrote that “the ordinary course of nature in the whole of creation has certain natural laws.”2

While modern science owes much to the legacy of the Greeks, the Greeks had no concept of universal natural laws. For them, the heavens were a separate realm from the earth. On the other hand, the Bible says that God put in place his universal “fixed laws” to govern all his physical creation, both Earth and the heavens.

Isaac Newton was building on a biblical concept when he devised his law of universal gravitation, which comprehensively explained the motions of both the moon and a falling apple. Newton’s laws of motion were the first example of universal laws. Cosmologist Max Tegmark explains the enormous significance of Newton’s theological concept of lawful universality:

Newton’s breakthrough empowered our human minds to conquer space: he showed that we could first discover physical laws by making experiments down here on the ground, then extrapolate those laws to explain what was happening in the heavens . . . . The scientific revolution had begun (emphasis added).3

The only explanation of “Newton’s breakthrough” is that the scientists of the day took seriously the biblical narrative of a Creator God who made the entire physical realm and established it under the rule of fixed, rational, and comprehensible laws.

3. The flow of time is linear and irreversible.
The concept of a linear flow of time, which undergirds all physical law, is directly attributable to the biblical view of time. The historical progression of events in time is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. The New Testament describes Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and eventual return to this world. That sequence resulted in a view of reality as a linear chain of events that define an irreversible progression in time toward the future. This linear view of time was ingrained in Christian thought and prepared the intellectual basis for Newton’s dynamics and the development of science.

The Bible’s view of time contrasts sharply with the cyclical view that dominated ancient thought. Oxford philosopher Jonny Thomson explains: “The reason why we see time as ‘linear’ is because of Christianity. The idea of Genesis (at the start) and Judgement Day (at the end) gives us a narrative—a linear view of time. The world of our experience does not obviously lean one way or the other concerning time.”4

The linear view of time provides the mathematical sciences with an “independent variable”  (time or t) for dynamical equations of motion, so they can be used to describe change. The calculus of Gottfried Leibniz and Newton and the science of mechanics would have been impossible without the concept of the continuous one-directional flow of time. Without the mathematical variable t, Newton’s dynamical law relating force, mass, and acceleration could not be known. Cars, buses, airplanes, spacecraft, etc. would not exist. We would still be dependent on sailing ships and animal power. Modern science and engineering would not exist were it not for the early scientists’ acceptance of the biblical view of time.

4. Truth can be found through objective testing.
The Bible repeatedly exhorts readers to test before they believe. The apostle Paul wrote, “Test them all; hold on to what is good.” Hugh Ross provides a biblical view of belief and faith: “The idea of testing before believing pervades both the Old and New Testaments. It forms the very heart of the biblical concept of faith.”5 Because of the Bible’s emphasis on evidence and testing, Ross says that the scientific method could more accurately be called the biblical method; such was the Bible’s historical impact on the legacy of science.

The notion that there is an objective truth “out there” to be discovered raises the question as to what methods should be employed in the process of discovery. Modern science was birthed in Renaissance Europe from the twin influences of Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian monotheism. Empirical techniques are fundamental to the scientific method. However, the ancient Greeks put little value on empiricism.

No Christianity, No Science
By contrast, orthodox Christianity did. Christianity viewed humankind as corrupted and debilitated by Adam’s original sin. From Augustine and Aquinas onward, there were extensive debates about how to recover what was lost in humanity’s fall. Historian of science Peter Harrison documents how the Christian doctrine of original sin was the impetus behind the birth of inductive scientific experimentation.6 Since the fall separated human beings from God and corrupted their minds, human reason alone was not sufficient for an understanding of God’s creation. Humans needed and developed an appreciation of the virtues of experimentation as a way to discern truth.

Davies provides a compelling reminder of theism’s place in the development of science:

Without belief in a single omnipotent rational lawgiver, it is unlikely that anyone would have assumed that nature is intelligible in a systematic quantitative way, mirrored by eternal mathematical forms . . . . Suppose an asteroid had hit Paris in 1300 and destroyed European culture. Would science ever have emerged on Earth? I have never heard a convincing argument that it would.7

This evidence defeats the false claim that Christianity and science are in irreconcilable conflict. Science as we know it would not exist had not biblical Judeo-Christian theism prepared the way for it.


  1. James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2011), 348–349.
  2. St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Ancient Christian Writers), vol. 2, trans. John Hammond Taylor (The Newman Press, New York, 1982), 92.
  3. Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2014), 38.
  4. Jonny Thompson, “A Brief History of (Linear) Time,” Big Think, December 31, 2023.
  5. Hugh Ross, More Than a Theory (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009), 257.
  6. Peter Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundation of Science (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 16.
  7. Paul Davies, The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), 74.