I had the opportunity to speak on Sunday at a local church. The pastor is a friend I’ve known for years – since our kids were toddlers. The topic for the day was science and Christian faith. What does it mean to be a believing scientist, and to stay a believing scientist? After all, there is a common idea in our culture that science and Christian faith are locked in conflict. We can embrace one or the other, not both. Coming off three marvelous days at the BioLogos Christ and Creation Conference there was plenty of material running through my head ready to share.
To look at this question I’d like to start where we as Christians should always start – with Scripture.
In the Gospel of Mark we read: (Mark 12:28-34)
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, understanding and strength. This is an important part of our calling as Christians. It means that being a Christian and a scholar, whether in science or social science or humanities should not be a matter of compartmentalizing … weekday scientist, weekend Christian and never the twain shall meet. But this can be easier said than done.
There was a time in graduate school when I wasn’t sure it was possible to be or stay a believing scientist and scholar; the questions loomed large and answers were few and far between. Often it wasn’t even clear where answers might be found. Quite frankly, most of the resources from a Christian perspective did not take science or scientists seriously, with respect. Rather they were strangers to be ridiculed and dismissed. I distinctly remember one Sunday, back from graduate school at Berkeley. A movie from an apologetics group was shown in the evening service (back in the day when Sunday evening services were common). Rather than dealing with the very real questions raised by modern science – geology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, even Chemistry – the film used a rather funny sequence with hapless scientists in white lab coats performing meaningless tasks with mice and drawing ridiculous conclusions. This was not helpful.
Today there are many resources available to work through the issues at the intersection of science and Christian faith. I have been lucky enough to be involved in some of these discussions. I’d like to share five reflections on science and Christian faith.
The first is that there is a wonderful harmony between science and Christian faith. There are no unavoidable conflicts, places where this harmony can’t be found. There are questions for which we do not, today, have answers – but this is nothing new. Continue reading