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Do faith and science mix?

December 06 2017
December 06 2017

A young teacher asked her students to list what were, to them, the current Seven Wonders of the World. Votes were cast for the pyramids of Egypt, India’s Taj Mahal, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica and China’s Great Wall. While gathering the votes, the teacher observed that one student had not turned in her paper yet. She asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.

The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.”

“Well, tell us what you have,” the teacher said.

The girl hesitated, and then answered, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are to see, hear, touch, taste, feel, laugh and love.”

This is more than a cute story. It reminds us that some of the world’s greatest wonders are those we have assumed and whose luster has been overlooked. Indeed, we are all little sacred wonders fashioned by our Creator and “crowned with glory and honor,” according to King David (Ps. 8:5).

Today, however, the notion that we and the whole cosmos were made by a Divine, super intelligence revealed for us in the Scriptures and Jesus Christ has fallen on hard times. Ours is an age of skepticism and science where faith is seen as antithetical to serious intellectual inquiry. Richard Dawkins captures this sentiment well:

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Such hostility between faith and science has not always been present though. Surprising to some, most of the early famous scientists—Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Pascal—were practicing Christians. They viewed scientific inquiry as completely consistent with a commitment to faith.

These early scientists recognized that their quest was not to explain the existence, meaning or purpose of the universe, but to understand its workings. Galileo famously said, “The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.” It would have been inconceivable to Isaac Newton to theorize about the world without the existence of a creator. He wrote, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” His faith notwithstanding, even the well-known atheist, Stephen Hawking, observes that “Newton is a colossus without parallel in the history of science.”

The warfare that now exists between people of faith and people of science came later and under the influence of the Enlightenment. Amidst these tempestuous waters, Christians must learn how to keep their heads and their hearts together as God intended.

At Redeemer, we believe that Christians should be the first to engage these sorts of questions about the natural world and God’s special revelation of himself. The tension between faith and science has far more to do with our own prejudice than anything of their essence. Indeed, such conflict is contrary to God’s creative purpose, given that our reasoning capacities are themselves endowed by our Creator.

Thankfully, there are still those who believe that science and faith are not necessarily hostile to one another. Charles Townes, a physicist at Cal Berkley and winner of both a Noble Prize and a Templeton Prize, counts himself among those who regard the two as complementary. He writes,

“This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.”

Negotiating this perceived tension between faith, science and the Bible is the focus of our upcoming Christianity and Contemporary Culture Conference, which will be February 16-17, 2018. Specifically, we hope to explore three important categories of questions: 1) How do we understand the Bible in light of scientific discovery? 2) Can the earth be old and the Bible still true? Is an old earth compatible with the Biblical account of creation? 3) What about the theory of evolution? How should a Christian respond? There will also be ample time for Q/A following each lecture.

To lead us in our discussion, Redeemer will have the privilege of hearing from the Rev. Dr. C. John Collins.  Dr. Collins is both a professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Liverpool, andjack collins a  scientist, receiving degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has also been awarded a grant by the John Templeton Foundation. After having written the important book, “Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?” and other seminal articles and books on this topic, “Jack” has become one of Christianity’s premier experts on the intersection of faith and science and could not be more qualified to guide our conversation.

So, please make plans now to attend. You don’t want to miss out on this exciting, relevant and informative opportunity.

Learn more about the 2018 Christianity and Contemporary Culture Conference and register HERE.


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