June 20, 2024

Augustus Nicodemus Lopes on Pearcey and Thaxton’s The Soul of Science

Stephen Nichols & Augustus Nicodemus Lopes
Augustus Nicodemus Lopes on Pearcey and Thaxton’s The Soul of Science

Are science and Christianity opposed to each other? Today, Augustus Nicodemus Lopes and Stephen Nichols discuss a book that traces the foundations of the modern scientific method back to the historic Christian faith.


Dr. Stephen Nichols: Welcome back to another episode of Open Book, and we are visiting once again with Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes. And this week, we have The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, co-authored by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. So, why this book?

Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes: Yes, I came across this book when I was chancellor of Mackenzie University in São Paulo, about fifteen years ago or so. When I became the chancellor of the university—even though the university is under the Presbyterian Church of Brazil—because of the Brazilians’ law regarding education, freedom of academic research and following any areas of thought is guaranteed to the university. It’s called autonomy. The university, even though it belongs to a church, but it has autonomy to do research, publish, teach whatever they think, the university thinks, is necessary. So, even though McKinsey University belonged to the Presbyterian church, it was pretty much under the control of the atheists, evolutionists, and Darwinists, materialists, naturalists, all those—you know, the whole package.

Nichols: And you’re brought in to be president—or chancellor.

Lopes: Yeah, I was brought to be chancellor, which is a little bit different. I was the representative of the Presbyterian church in the university, and I was above the president. I mean, if the president would take a decision that I would think was harmful or against the policies of the church, I could just give a veto and say, “It’s not going to be in effect.” So, I had that power.

And I said, “Now what am I going to do, I mean, to help these people to see that—we have forty thousand students here.” And then, I decided to start some conferences where I would invite atheists and I would invite scientists who were committed to the Christian worldview. And this is when I found Nancy Pearcey. She’s a historian of science, and she maps in this book, she maps out, she shows how Christianity gave birth, actually, to modern science and to the modern university. And most of the branches of science that we have today had as patrons and as fathers and beginners people who were committed to the faith. I didn’t know about that.

Nichols: Like Isaac Newton, for instance.

Lopes: For instance. I didn’t know about that.

Nichols: Right.

Lopes: So, when I read this book, I said: “Now I know what I’m going to do. I see that Christian faith is not in conflict with science, true science. Christian faith is in conflict with scientism,” something like this. Reading the book, The Soul of Science, she says that the soul of science is Christianity or the faith in God, that from there, people developed modern science. So I said, “I have to bring people here that think like that.”

Then the first guy that I brought to the university was a Dutch senator, to speak about technology. And had this event, and he came to speak about technology. He was a fully committed Christian and a fully committed scholar. He was a top scholar in Holland, and it was amazing. All the people in the university, I said it was kind of mandatory for them to attend that. And so, they came to see the guy speak, this Christian scientist—he has a book published in Portuguese, by the way. And then people said, “Well, I never heard about that, that Christianity.” I mean, people thought that Christianity was something that, you know, “Just religion, just blah, blah, blah.” And then all of a sudden, he had arguments, scientific arguments. He could speak from knowledge, from history, and people were, you know. And then the next year I had another conference, and this time I brought Nancy Pearcey herself, and she spoke to the whole university about it.

Nichols: Interesting.

Lopes: And I had atheists to come and discuss because it was university—you had to have the contrary. You have to have the other side because of the way the academy is. And even the atheists, they said, “I never heard about that.”

And so every year, I had people coming, scientists. Once I brought John Lennox from England—he’s a fine scholar and a mathematician and things like this. And even the local newspaper of São Paulo noticed that Mackenzie University brought John Lennox to speak on this. And every year—and then I discovered the people from Discovery here in Seattle. They had scientists who were professors at university, but they were Christians. I discovered a scientist in Brazil. He was a top scholar of the year, and he was a Christian. I just brought this guy—I hired him, the university.

Nichols: That’s great.

Lopes: So, it all started with Nancy’s books.

Nichols: Reading this book.

Lopes: Reading this book, The Soul of Science, it gave me that direction of what I should do while I was the chancellor of the university: “This is what I’m going to do.” So, I learned I was not afraid anymore to bring atheists to debate with the Christians because the Christians would have arguments. They were scientists, and well-ranked in the national—we have this rank in the national education system—and I brought the best. And usually the Christian scientists won the discussion, and the atheists wouldn’t know what to say. So, I thank this book for that.

Nichols: This is Paul at Mars Hill in Athens, right?

Lopes: Exactly, exactly.

Nichols: So there you were—your Mars Hill was Mackenzie University.

Lopes: Yes.

Nichols: And then you think about this—this is forty thousand college-age minds that we’re talking about impacting here through this work.

Lopes: Yes. Our conferences would happen in a conference room that would hold like a thousand people, and it was packed with the students within and without. They were interested to know how to relate the Christian faith and what they hear from the professors and everything.

Nichols: Well, books and their ideas can indeed have influence. Well, thanks for sharing that with us, and thanks for this time together for this episode of Open Book.

Lopes: Thank you.

Nichols: You’re welcome.

I’m Steve Nichols, and that was another episode of Open Book. Open Book is a podcast about the power of books and the people they’ve shaped. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating or review wherever you’re listening. It’s the best way to help others discover us. We’ll be back in the library next week, so please join us again for another episode of Open Book.