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Do Disciplines Conflict?


Have you ever thought about what makes the various disciplines of study unique?


Biology.

History.

Theology.

Mathematics.

Psychology.

Engineering.

Philosophy.


If yours isn’t on that list, it’s probably among the many others listed on your local state university’s list of departments and majors. There’s just so many different fields in which one could become an expert.


And just for a moment - think about what each of these fields are trying to do. They each have their domain of content and methods. Maybe at times they overlap and share some boundaries with other disciplines, but most of them have a distinct flavor to them.


Collectively, we might say, the various disciplines are directed toward understanding the world, the cosmos. And toward that end, they each have crafted specialized tools, ideas, and methods for getting an even better understanding of certain parts of it.


This might all be rather obvious. Get to the point, Clint!


Okay, okay. Here’s my issue: what do we make of the idea that sometimes the disciplines “conflict” on their findings?


Or first, does that ever happen? Is it even possible for it to happen?


If it does and if it is, then what causes that conflict - why would it happen? It is a strange thing to say happens, since it is the very same world that each discipline is attempting to understand. And if the disciplines are truly unique and separate, that is, the boundary lines between are drawn neatly, then you’d expect them never to conflict because they study different things. (Leave aside the worry of intradisciplinary conflict!)


In my role as a pastor, I encounter many folks who are concerned, convinced, or even militant about the idea that science and theology are at odds. The conclusions of these fields of study, so it is said, are contradictory or at least contrary.


Now, you might say, “Clint, ‘science’ isn’t a discipline - science is a family of disciplines like biology, physics, geology, and the like - which one of those is the troublesome one?”


Yes.


I’ve heard concerns about all of them; depends who you ask.


Each has been building quite the rap sheet for some adherents of particular brands of theology. I won’t go into much detail there - we get into it in this week’s episode a bit - because I want to ask a further question:


In a case of conflict between the disciplines, how is it resolved? What standard-bearer, what plumb line of truth or accuracy is used to determine which is closer to the truth?


If a theological doctrine/idea conflicts with the scientific findings of the day, or even well established scientific theories, what should the inquirer committed to the legitimacy of both disciplines do?


What do you think? Join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you. You can write to us at mailbag@opentotruth.com. We’d love to get a dialogue going. These are the sorts of topics you could expect to find in the Discord Community we’ll be launching soon. Stay tuned!


You can watch this week’s episode on Youtube. It is part 1 of our conversation with Dr. Janet Kellogg Ray where we discuss her new book, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark?: The Bible and Modern Science and the Trouble of Making It All Fit. You can also listen on your favorite podcatcher.


Stay Curious!