Thursday, June 30, 2011

Faith and Science

by CWK

I have been corresponding with a friend from college the last 10 years over issues of faith and science. One of our most recent conversations is noteworthy because it conveys many of the common misconceptions about the relationship between faith and science. This friend is on the cutting edge of the science world, and one of the up and coming young thinkers in their field. For those struggling with the relationship between faith and science, I thought it might be helpful to include an email interchange between this friend and me. My friend will go by AB (not their real initials -- not even close), and I will go by CK.

CK: I believe that God graciously rules all events for the good of his beloved people. I know he guides my life, and yours as well. I believe in providence. However, I don't think we humans can always figure out what God is doing; there will be a lot of mysteries in this life.
AB: I coudn't agree more. In fact, to me, that describes the essence of a spiritual life. I see it as the life journey to understand mysteries for which we won't necessarily find an answer. Although what bothers most of us is always the's the journey and its questions which are more important....but that is just my thought...

CK: Interesting how you describe the spiritual life as a journey to understand mysteries for which we won’t necessarily find an answer. When I talk about mysteries, I'm talking of things that cause wonder and amazement: things so deep and true that the human mind cannot get to the bottom of it because our mind is too small and finite. As I have listened to most Americans, they seem to have a different definition; they think of mysteries as something ‘illogical’ or ‘bizarre.’ Christianity doesn’t leave me with this option since Jesus claimed to be ‘the truth.’

AB: In fact, I came to the States with the idea of going to medical school and then pusuing medical missions. Things have changed  a lot for me since. I ended up being a scientist instead, and I have yet to figure out what my spiritual calling is.

CK: Whatever your calling is, it must be spiritual. It must be done for God’s glory. The man who cleans bathrooms has a spiritual calling! Everything should be done with God in mind and for his pleasure, and everything can be done in that way because God created everything: the heavens, the earth, the stars, and every blade of grass. Science is only possible because we live in an orderly universe that makes sense, that is logical. The first scientists were Christians, and many of them Bible scholars (an example is Isaac Newton; you should read about him sometime- you will be encouraged). The scientific revolution arose in Christian countries. Indeed, it could not have arisen anywhere else. Ancient Greek philosophy actually hindered the rise of science (especially Aristotle), but Christianity freed the thinker because it gave them the starting point of a creator and an orderly universe.

AB: I'm going through a period of time of questioning many things,

CK: I feared this would be the case even when we spoke years ago. I was not afraid that you would ask questions, but rather that the world you were in would teach you to ask questions in the wrong way. For instance, we are told by the university to question everything, but we are never told to QUESTION THE UNIVERSITY. We are not really free thinkers in American Universities (though that is what we are told); instead, we are trapped by the 21st century. We should indeed ask good questions, but we should be sincerely searching for the truth as we do this. I had a similar experience of doubting in college and this led me to nearly abandon Christianity. However, I set out to see if Christianity was true and I started to really think for myself. The more that I earnestly searched for answers the more convinced I became that Christianity was the only sufficient system of thought that really satisfied. Then, I found that a host of other people had been through the same thing; I saw that scientists, poets, philosophers, writers who had sincerely looked into Christianity had often become convinced of its truth. I would recommend that you read a book called “Orthodoxy” by GK Chesterton. If you send me your address I will mail you a copy. Anyway, in that book Chesterton takes on the scientific questions leveled against Christianity. Chesterton himself had been a serious doubter, but later went on to become a Christian and eventually to debate men like Clarence Darrow (in fact, he bested Darrow in a debate).

AB: (I'm going through a time of) of being challenged by my human knowledge and by my faith, and feeling like they both take me in opposite directions.... but again, I guess this is a part of that journey in which there are more mysteries than facts, more questions than answers....

CK: I disagree; there will be a lot of questions, but there should also be a lot of answers. Also, your faith and your science should not take you in different directions. True science, which I would define as “the orderly search for knowledge about the world using experiment and experience” does not in any way contradict Christianity; it rose from Christianity; in fact it was commanded by God when he told Adam and Eve to rule over the earth and subdue it. God meant for Adam and Eve to learn about the world and use it wisely.  Christianity was the light in which science flourished. What reasons do you have to believe that science and Christianity are opponents? Also, what is the difference between human knowledge and faith? Isn’t all knowledge human? Aren’t your brightest prof’s still humans? In fact, aren’t your brightest prof’s still humans who make mistakes? Also, how are you defining faith? How do faith and knowledge relate? It seems to me that you have overlooked the connection between faith and knowledge. If you observe yourself carefully this week you will see that, even as a scientist, you are continually placing faith in all sorts of things. Faith is not bad; it is inevitable. The question is: what do we put our faith in?

No comments:

Post a Comment