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Are Christianity and Science Enemies?

You've seen them. Jesus fish on one car. Darwin fish with legs on another car. Jesus fish with the word "truth" eating the Darwin fish on the third car. What's next, a Darwin fisherman frying up the “truth” fish and eating it with some chips? How did the great science/faith debate revert to a fight on the elementary school playground? “God created the earth.” “No he didn’t.” “Yes he did.” “No he didn’t.” “Yes he did.” We apparently haven’t evolved too much.

We can talk about the specific issue of evolution some other time. My point in this article is to call us all to take a deep breath over the relationship between science and faith. It seems as though many people think we must be on one side or the other. Let's put down our my-fish-can-eat-your-fish attitudes for a minute and talk this thing through. I don't think that science and faith have to be mutually exclusive.

Christians, we don’t have a very good track record when it comes to our dealings with science. The sun does not revolve around the earth, you know. Science got that one right. Sorry, Copernicus, for our undue criticism. My apologies, Galileo, we may have overreacted. In some cases our criticism is warranted, other times we speak out of fear and ignorance and condemn unjustly. Sure, there is a definite world view difference that we cannot embrace as Christians when it comes to seeing the world strictly through reason and empiricism. We see the world through the eyes of faith, which will lead us to different conclusions on many issues. A faith world view is no less intelligent or valid than an empirical one. We do not have the same confidence as science in the limited knowledge of humans to feel comfortable basing our conclusions on the breadth and depth of the universe on reason alone, we instead rely on God revealing wisdom to us. But, don't turn off your brain when you decide to follow Christ. We don’t have to be afraid of science. It has a lot to offer as well.

Our God invented the laws of science and so science should lead to the Creator, not act as his archenemy. It even says in our Bible, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Isaac Newton said, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." Science helps us fill the earth and subdue it and should inspire awe in the Creator.

Some Christians reject medical treatment in favor of prayer alone, thinking that relying on medicine is somehow showing a lack of faith. If God created the body in such a way that medicine can repair it and he has given us intellect to be able to figure out how to make that happen, I think that being healed through medicine is still being healed by our God. It is God working through science.

Yes, we should be critical of science and we have a major role to play that I will get to in a minute, but first my challenge is this: instead of proving that a faith world view is valid by having a fish-eating contest, let’s get our hands dirty and show what servanthood, benevolence, character, integrity, and love can do when put into action. We can create some empirical evidence for the existence of God through our effect on this world. If we believe in a Creator God, let’s be a part of redeeming his creation.

Okay, science people, get off your high horse and realize that science can't explain everything, and if it could, this would be a world I would not want to live in. I would hate to think that my love for my wife is only due to dopamine and firing synapses. If my love for my son is due only to DNA and preservation of the species, this is a cold and lifeless place we live in. Maybe the world is more beautiful because of the mystery faith offers. That doesn’t mean we close our eyes to facts, it means that the experience of mystery is a fact that points to the existence of something greater than us.

Please stop judging all Christians as unthinking and irrational. Many of us have pondered both science and faith to great depth. Some of the greatest scientists and mathematicians have been Christians – Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, even Copernicus himself. The Christian faith, while embracing mystery and living in a trust relationship we call faith, can be in itself a very rational system. Most arguments I hear from Christians dismissing science stem from ignorance, and the same is true with those in the science world who wish to dismiss faith. There are answers to many of the questions that you think stump faith.

One of the most important roles of the Christian faith in the realm of science is that of morality and ethics. Science can heal, but faith can teach us why we should. In other cases, science says “we can,” but faith asks “but should we?” Faith brings the check and balance of ethics to the purely fact-driven world of science. Science is a dangerous thing if left unchecked and faith is left unfulfilled without exploration of its object.

I believe the debate between science and faith shouldn't be a debate at all. Maybe we could have a conversation instead? There will be things that we disagree on. There will be incompatible issues that arise. But the basis of both science and Christianity is the pursuit of truth. It seems like we can help each other along in that journey. This might be a long conversation, however, perhaps we can all go fishing sometime.

The Rev. Dan Alger is the Pastor of The Church of The Apostle in Hope Mills and can be reached at ecs@tcota.org.