Today we complete Ch. 4 with our final post on the interactions of science and religion. Previous posts on this chapter provided an overview and a description of the conflictindependence, and dialogue models. Today we look at the integration model.

The INTEGRATION of science and religion

The fourth and final interaction of science and religion is integration. Integration, like dialogue, respects (or in some cases, uses and abuses, as we will see) both science and religion and seeks to bring them together in a meaningful manner. However, integration takes it one step further and seeks to provide a more coherent view of reality that is based upon synthesis of the two disciplines. As Barbour notes, integration comes in one of three flavors. The first flavor (I like ice cream so we’ll call it vanilla) is the one most relevant to this book. In the vanilla form of integration, science is used to provide a basis for belief in God in the form of natural theology. God’s existence can thus be inferred either through the confirmation of Biblical passages, observation of design in nature, or the anthropic principle which shows how unlikely, very unlikely, it is for life to have evolved in our universe.

While natural theology is not nearly as popular as it once was (compare Paley’s watchmaker with Dawkins’ blind watchmaker), it still has its lobbyists, namely, creationists and intelligent design proponents. For the young-earth creationists, integration is driven by a literal interpretation of the Bible that produces “facts” that they attempt to legitimize using scientific terminology and numbers. Being a Christian is not sufficient, one needs to be a Creationist. Because this worldview is all encompassing, the science is seen as evidence for God and not only the best apologetic money can buy but also an acid test for the faith. Not a Creationist? You’re living a double-life and your worldview is incoherent.

For the old-earth creationists, integration arises from a concordist reading of the Bible in which alignment of passages with certain scientific evidence is attempted, again as an argument for the existence of God. They accept the overwhelming evidence for an old earth and apply a day-age or gap-day interpretation in an attempt to “harmonize” scientific data and Genesis 1.[1] The interpretation applied to Genesis 1 is supported by other Bible verses like 2 Peter 3:8 that says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”[2] There is not a similar attempt to harmonize evolution and Genesis 2-3 because it breaks the rules or exceeds the boundaries of a concordist interpretation and the requirement for a literal fall of Adam is believed by them to be essential to Christian faith. Both variants of creationism appear scientific when they are not, at least as science is normally practiced as described in Ch. 2. They are instead apologetic or evangelistic, aiming to provide a rational defense of belief or serve as entry point to faith in God.

For the intelligent design proponents, integration is not driven as much by a literal interpretation or harmonization of the Bible with scientific facts as it is an incorporation of philosophy into scientific practice. There not only can be a supernatural cause in nature, but it can be detected through the use of mathematical interpretations of apparent complexity. Intelligent design is not creationism 2.0 and should not be discounted as such. Nevertheless, intelligent design is motivated not by scientific evidence but by anti-materialist philosophy that says evolution by natural selection is not capable of explaining the origin and diversification of life. Like with young-earth creationism, there is an attempt to select scientific “facts” or magnify areas of scientific debate in an attempt to show lack of support for evolution. Intelligent design as a philosophy or as a framework for the science and religion dialogue is interesting and worthy of investigation. However, because of the way its proponents abuse science and due to the lack of scientific evidence for the supernatural causes, intelligent design cannot really be said to be scientific anymore than creationism can.

I would argue that we could include in our vanilla ice cream also the scientific materialists that say that science is the only method of knowing and that there is no evidence of God from science. This is also an attempt at integration even if it’s an integration of science with atheology instead of science with theology. The method and purpose is still the same as they are using science to judge the existence of God, but instead of the result being natural theology they produce natural atheology.[3]

You may be thinking, didn’t we already classify creationists, intelligent design proponents, and scientific materialists under the conflict model of science and religion? Is this meandering the reflection of Justin’s poor writing skills or an error that slipped by the editor?[4] Interestingly, though all of these parties were mentioned in the conflict section they also fit well into the integration model too. Their conflict, though seemingly about science, in reality is about philosophy and the different products of their attempts at integration. Creationists and intelligent design folk use science to prove their theological philosophy while scientific materialists use science to prove their atheological philosophy. Thus the conflict. No matter that the kids (the science) are stuck in the middle like children during a divorce.

Though the other two forms of integration (we’ll call them chocolate and strawberry) are more relevant to academic treatments of science and religion, I need to introduce them here because some evolutionary creationists integrate science and religion in their writings as well. In the chocolate flavor, science is used to reformulate traditional theological doctrines, but is not capable of proving the existence of God. This, now referred to as theology of a nature, takes it as a given that God exists and that God created the world. Mechanisms of how God created, insights into who God is and what God’s purpose may be in creation, etc. may all be augmented or revised by scientific exploration. Theology of nature would be said to be “weaker” than natural theology but is specifically used as its own category to differentiate it from older arguments or “proof” of God’s existence. It is also only one component of a broader theology that includes many other doctrines from multiple other sources, but its proponents usually give high credence to the methods and findings of science. They may see teleology or design in the process of evolution and argue that this is due to God’s interaction with and continuing creation of the world. Much of the work in this area is on mechanisms of divine action. The scientist-theologian Arthur Peacocke (1924-2006) led this charge, but others including Robert John Russell, Philip Clayton, Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne, and Tom Oord (to name a few) have written on theology of nature as well.[5]

Integration, flavor strawberry, is the creation of a systematic synthesis. This model was exemplified in the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) who sought to integrate evolution and Christianity (some parts of it, at least) into his remarkable vision called the “Omega Point.”[6] His level of integration was extreme and eye opening, and as such others who profess this model are likely to limit themselves a bit more.

Another example of systematic synthesis, process philosophy, attempts to generate an inclusive metaphysics that brings both science and religion together holistically. If natural theology is science driving theology (the evidence for it) and theology of nature theology driving science (the interpretation of it), then the third form, process philosophy, is more even-handed (although science is still in charge). It is not possible to sum up process philosophy in a couple of sentences here but it’s my book so I’ll try anyway.

Process philosophy is anti-reductionistic and views nature as a dynamic and interdependent reality. Its proponents highlight change and interplay as opposed to static substances (which makes for difficulty in studying it scientifically). Each event of change has two aspects, an inner or interiority, and an outer reality. Again, it is important to note that process philosophy is about metaphysics, not science or theology specifically. Many Christians are against process philosophy, because it results in a God that is greatly unlike that of traditional Christianity. Briefly, God is not omnipotent and does not coerce, but instead persuades. Additionally, God is not immutable and undergoes change with the world. God is the source of order, novelty, and complexity but not in a deterministic manner. For those that are interested in learning more about process philosophy as applied to science and religion, the work of John Cobb and David Ray Griffith is a good place to start.[7]


So there we have the four models according to Barbour for the interaction of science and religion: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. We have seen that evolutionary creationists as a group can be found in each of the latter three models which I will argue in future chapters has consequences for evolutionary creation in the Christian intellectual marketplace. I have also argued that the other creation and evolution participants: intelligent design supporters, young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and scientific materialists belong in the integration interaction. They are usually seen as representing the conflict model, but I believe this is not due to them seeing an inherent conflict between science and religion but instead a result of their integration resulting in very different positions that makes them at odds with one another and evolutionary creationists.

[1] For a brief overview of the day-age interpretation and others by an Old-Earth Creationist group, see

[2] New International Version.

[3] Hmm… might want to copyright natural atheology. I’ll be back shorty, I’m Googling it right now…

[4] Well shut up. Righting is hard!

[5] For a good introduction, see Arthur Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming – Natural, Divine, and Human (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993) and Paths From Science Towards God: The End of all Our Exploring (Oneworld Publications, 2001); Robert John Russell, Cosmology: From Alpha to Omega (Fortress Press, 2008);

Philip Clayton, God and Contemporary Science (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998); Ian Barbour When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperOne, 2000) and Nature, Human Nature, and God (Fortress Press, 2002); John Polkinghorne, Science and Providence: God’s Interaction with the World (Templeton Press, 2005) and Science and Theology: An Introduction (Fortress Press, 1998); Tom Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (IVP Academic, 2015).

[6] See, for example, Christianity and Evolution (Mariner Books; 2002) and The Phenomenon of Man (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008).

[7] See John Cobb and David Ray Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (The Westminster Press, 1976); John Cobb, A Christian Natural Theology, Second Edition: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007); David Ray Griffith, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).