Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Science Matters!

Frequently, certain friends seem troubled by my exploration of the sciences, and my willingness to accept evidence which at times runs contrary to earlier theological assumptions. A friend recently wrote to me expressing her concern over my interest in what she regards as “the religion of science.” Below is my response to this friend:

I do not share your view of science. You indicate that science is a religion unto itself, that is it merely "possible" for a scientist to believe the Bible, and that science (or what you call "worldly knowledge") is something that will eventually fade away.

I have a much higher view of science, and of its usefulness to faith, to understanding God, to understanding spiritual things, etc. Without question there are those who wrongly worship science, just as some worship sports, others worship cultural icons of Hollywood, and some (dare I say it?) worship the Bible. I know people who would define their entire relationship with God as a pouring over the Hebrew and Greek, searching out the minutia of the text for hidden clues about God, while they have little personal knowledge of or walk with the true "Word of God", Jesus. They have fallen into bibliolatry. But we have these two great sources (or channels, more accurately) of revelation: Special Revelation, and General Revelation. We learn about God in the pages of Scripture, the person of Jesus, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit; and we also learn about him by paying close attention to Creation, to the works of his hands. If indeed the heavens declare the glory of God, then we have a much fuller understanding of God's greatness, magnitude, and glory post-Hubble than before. The intricacies of the living cell are clueing us into the infinite wisdom and creative genius of God. Quantum mechanics is helping to dismantle the unhealthy notions of strict determinism ... that is, we now know the universe is not a static Newtonian predictable set of causes and effects; that helps to correct our theology! Paul tell us in Romans 1 that we can not only learn of God's existence in nature, but we can even learn about his attributes, perhaps even facets of his character. Knowing the Bible, and personally knowing Jesus, helps us to properly "read" the data from science. But it is equally true to say that science helps us to properly read the Bible. It did so in Galileo's day; it continues to do so today. Technically, of course, you are correct: all knowledge will fade away, including science, and including (in my view, at least) the Bible. But for now, science is an amazing tool for looking deeply into God, how he structured the cosmos, how he created the universe. These profound data give us clues to his purposes, and why he responds (or at times does not respond) as he does. The more I understand from science, the more I come back to the Scriptures and say "Aha ... now I understand that!"

I read in your tone almost disdain for science. That makes me sad. It is true that secularism has hijacked science to a large degree over the last 100 year or so. And, in my view, history reveals that we, the people of faith, are utterly responsible for that hijacking! Through the early centuries of the western scientific enterprise, the primary impetus of science, the motivation for scientific inquiry and study, was God! It was a bottom-line belief in a good and orderly God that gave rise to science, and that fueled its progress for hundreds of years. But when the early fundamentalists of 100 years ago (not all of them, to be sure), tied science (particularly evolution) to the attacks upon the Bible in the late 19th Century, believers abandoned science en masse. Secularists picked up the sciences and ran with them. And the Christian fundamentalist leaders began a century long campaign against science. "Don't trust it" they told us from their pulpits. "It is evil, filled with atheistic lies!" This fundamentalist mantra continues right down to the present day. When I read your comments about science, I fear you have bought into this polemic. I cannot agree with it at all. Not only do I learn about God, understand better his actions in my own life, through peering deeply into nature, but I want Christians everywhere to listen to what we are learning from science; yes, to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff; but to stop the travesty of a church turning its back upon the honest study of our Lord's ingenious and creative works, and deeding it over to atheists and secularist. Christians, of all people, should be the most interested in science. I find it a deplorable tragedy that so many are not, and that we continue to allow atheistic thinkers to set the agenda for science by simple default. Thank God for scientists who are outspoken believers! Thank God for Francis Collins! Thank God for Kenneth Miller! Thank God for Simon Conway-Morris! I thank God for dedicated followers of Jesus who are reassuming positions on the cutting edges of science, who are not denying obvious facts, but who are instead moving science in its proper (and only true) direction: toward God!