In the discussion on my previous post, I ended a comment with the following statement which pretty much summarises my position:
To put it another way: science tells a coherent and compelling story about the universe. As Christians, we can either spend our lives trying to say science’s story is wrong and that those telling it are evil or deluded – or we can insist that it is not the only story that can, or needs to, be told. I prefer the latter approach.
To take another example to illustrate this: we believe that, in the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.
If the elements were subjected to scientific analysis after the words of institution had been spoken then the results would be clear: the bread would still be bread and the wine would still be wine. Every aspect of the elements could be subjected to the closest scientific scrutiny, and the result of every test would be the same: absolutely no physical change would have taken place.
Now, in broad terms there are three ways in which we can proceed from here. The first is that of the scientific rationalist: empirical observation conclusively demonstrates that no change occurs in the bread and wine in the Supper. Therefore no change does occur, and the belief that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ is obscurantist superstition. You will find no shortage of people willing to agree with that conclusion (including, sad to say, many Christians).
The second approach is that of the creation scientist or ID proponent: the only reason why scientific investigation fails to identify a physical change in the elements is because scientists are blinded by their materialist and naturalist presuppositions. What is needed is a new scientific paradigm founded on biblical principles, which will then allow the changes in the bread and wine to be demonstrated by empirical observation.
The third approach is to accept the scientific finding, but to insist that it is not the whole story. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ because Christ himself says so, through his minister, in the words of institution. This is invisible, undetectable, completely beyond any scientific observation; true only because Christ’s word declares it to be true, and believed by us because we believe Christ, not because our own observations back him up. The doctrine of the real presence does not contradict our observations (in contrast to a literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3), but it does insist that science is not the only story to be told about the bread and wine.
We’re left with the conclusion that this is how God works. A scientific observation of Jesus during his earthly ministry would have concluded that he was “just” human; a scientific observation of the elements in the Supper finds they are “just” bread and wine; and scientific observation of natural processes finds that they “just” operate according to scientifically-observable principles. But in each case there is something more to be said, without having to unsay the science.