The Language of God 2

Francis_Collins dsWe continue today with a series of posts looking at the book The Language of God by Francis S. Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH). The first section of this book is autobiographical. Dr. Collins tells the story of his journey to faith – how he found God (or God found him) and how he reconciles the various attacks on faith with his belief.

As we consider his story it will be useful to consider several questions: On what do you base your faith or lack of faith? Which arguments are convincing? Which are unconvincing? Why?

Dr. Collins came to faith as a medical student when confronted by the simple faith of patients in the face of pain and suffering and by his inability to defend his atheism. But first a little history… Dr. Collins was raised in a home where religion was unimportant and intellectual investigation was encouraged. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from Yale University with a dissertation in physical chemistry, specifically in theoretical quantum mechanics. For some completely unfathomable reason his usual perspicacity and creativity deserted him at this point in his life and he failed to see the true beauty and excitement of this area of research and teaching (see p. 17 for his view); he became enthralled by biology and medicine; and after finishing his Ph.D. entered medical school at the University of North Carolina. There begins the rest of the story.

Confronted by his inability to defend his atheism Dr. Collins began to investigate the rational basis for faith, certain that the result “would deny the merits of belief, and reaffirm my atheism.” Directed to the writings of C. S. Lewis, beginning with Mere Christianity, things began to unravel. In his own words: I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief. (p. 30)

In these two short chapters (44 pages) Dr. Collins proceeds to deal with several of the philosophical objections to the faith – such as evolutionary explanations (rationalizations) for the moral law; the idea of God as wish fulfillment; the harm done in the name of religion; why a loving God would allow pain and suffering; and the rationality of a belief in miracles. Each of these topics is worth a book and a post of its own of course, and in the end Dr. Collins’ treatment of each of these is necessarily cursory. Nonetheless the picture remaining is one of an intelligent, creative, rational, thinker, who after considering all of the options finds faith in God and the Christian story to be the most reasonable worldview.

What role does a personal story of conversion like this play in your understanding of the relationship of faith and science?

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