On Faith and Science

I find it interesting when hearing Christians say one has to choose between religion and evolution. Another spark of interest is when atheists and/or agnostic say that because one is a Christian, that person must take the Genesis account of creation literally.

To add to the fray, not long about I did this post about evolution without mentioning religion, yet numerous comments mentioned religion. Does all this imply or assume a natural conflict between religion and theology? – Especially because one relies on facts about the natural world and the other relies on an inward faith in something outside the natural world that science cannot prove or disprove.

Faith is a complex, yet bold and loving trust about God, God’s grace, and God’s creation that changes our heart, thoughts, and actions. Faith is not proof and does not require proof. It is through this gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), the unconditional trust of faith, that Christians place themselves into the hands of God for care, comfort, reassurance, strength, and protection. Faith is also the trust Christians place in God for the positive future when God reveals himself to us in eternal life. (1 Peter 1:3-5, John 11:26-27)

I appreciate this description of faith by Lutheran Theologian Dr. Ted Peters:

Faith responds to God’s Word. Faith recognizes that God is gracious. Faith believes. Faith trusts. Faith invites the risen Jesus Christ into one’s soul. Faith acts in love. Faith seeks understanding. “Atheist Stimulus and Faith Response”, Trinity Seminary Review, Summer/Fall 2009 (Vol. 30, Issue 2)

I describe science as a way of knowing, but not the only way. Although science and theology examine different realms of human life, integrating the two leads us to a newer and deeper perspective of nature. Using science, theology, philosophy, psychology, history, ethics, and other social sciences enhances our understanding as each provides a layer of information and perspective into a quest for meaning; however, science cannot detect or measure faith. Science cannot test a God is everywhere hypothesis. Besides, these statements are outside the boundaries of science. Again, from Dr. Peters (2009):

Believing faith is justified by appeal both to the story of Jesus we find in God’s Word and to reason as well. Reason supports faith, even if this support never completely expunges all doubt. Scientific reasoning provides helpful knowledge of the created world in which we live, to be sure; but its method restricts itself to looking for natural causes. Modern science is blind to transcendent reality. This blindness is not proof that no transcendent reality exists. People with strong Christian faith can work quite happily in scientific research.

The way science opens our eyes to nature, we can get a broad perspective of creation. As the United Church of Christ states, “We are seeing nature with new eyes, and what we see fills us with wonder and praise.”

Dr. John Haught (Georgetown University) describes how science and theology together enhances a two-dimensional Flatland into a multi-dimension view.

It is our own attachment to Flatland that leads us to an either/or rather than a both/and way of thinking about natural and divine creativity. Thus, we think we have to make a choice between explaining the diversity of life in terms of either natural selection or divine creation. (Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution, 2001)

Faith is a spirit. Faith is confidence. Faith is a power of hearing and understanding the word with the hope of living by the word. Faith is a belief in a presence of unconditional love, forgiveness, and eternal life. Faith is a confidence of God at work in our lives, including our ability to discover and understand the world through science. Faith is a trust to never let go.

Image from John Haught’s book Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution (Paulist Press)

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38 thoughts on “On Faith and Science

  1. Hi. Been on on a brief vacation boating in Arizona. Well deserved girls trip. You are a brave soul to write on this topic. As An Educational Docent with a zoo and botanical garden we tried to stay away from this topics when we had kids in a tour. Some how the kids have a way of bringing it back to truth and honesty. Good thought provoking subject.

    • Kellie,
      I recall you telling me about your days working at the zoo and dealing with the question. Glad you found it to be thought provoking … and thanks for visiting.

  2. Some how I think today the two sides to the way of thinking are slowly getting closer together, almost as though the expounders of opposite thinking are accepting the reality, that neither can prove their theories and that the two can easily be married within their own divine wisdom. An acceptance of providence within the evolutionary thoughts, seems to be slowly gaining ground.

    • Bulldog,
      Actually, many at the theological level are involved (in a positive way). There are more professional organizations on the topic than one would think, numerous books, and good Internet resources as well. So the opportunity for laypeople to learn is bountiful. On the other hand, in general (and in my opinion), this has not reached the individual church/congregation level (at least in the US). Thank for commenting.

  3. I am a person who has learned to believe in both during my years of existence…i believe in what i see working..but how many times i have seen things which were declared untreatable or impossible being proved wrong…there are hundred thousand things on this planet and they work on both science and faith working as a team…..Faith is also what makes us keep going finding out new things when every person in the science world laughed at the mere thought…
    they are both existing in the same sphere..as so beautifully put and both must work together in ones brain to make it work for himself and others

  4. tell me the difference between your statement and how i have altered it – if you think there is a difference:

    1. Faith is a belief in a presence of unconditional love, forgiveness, and eternal life.

    2. Faith is a belief that there is a presence of unconditional love, forgiveness, and eternal life.

  5. Hi,
    A very good post. :)
    Religion and evolution should really co-exist, I know at the moment they want to teach children that evolution is not real, and lean more towards religion, of course I don’t agree with this at all. I cannot see why both can’t be taught. Evolution is a fact, and has been proven time and time again, you only have to go a museum to learn about evolution. Both can have a place in society.

    • Mags,
      The number of people for which religion and science coexist is growing. Unfortunately (at least in the US), knowledge about this among the typical person is lacking. Interestingly, many churches who are actually supportive of the coexistence haven’t taught their flock. On the other hand, the congregations where it doesn’t coexist teach their people about their view. (Right or wrong is not my point). Meanwhile, I’ve taken it upon myself to help get the word out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. We are apparently on the same wavelength, Frank. I wrote about this issue in my latest post, too. http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/06/25/sinking-deeper/.

    There is room for both science and faith. Because if you believe in God, and in the wonders of creation, why should mankind’s ability to learn, to seek, to understand and to question be seen as something devil’s work? That is something I will simply never understand.

    And what a wonderful song, Frank. A great one to wake up to.

    • Elyse,
      Wow … interesting how our karma was not planned. Thanks for the reminder because I’ve been on the road. Simply put, there i both a lot of ignorance and a lot of stupidity on the topic. Thanks for commenting.

  7. I enjoy your blog entries on evolution because they share and explain the view of the United Church of Christ that, “We are seeing nature with new eyes, and what we see fills us with wonder and praise.”

  8. Applause ! Encore! To me, we shouldn’t separate Science from God/ religion especially when they’re extremely complimentary and, the true meaning of the word Religion means~’to tie together ~ Excellent write up and constructive thinking! Thanks dear friend ~Sincerely Deborah

    • Deborah,
      Many thanks for the kind words. This issue is important to me and I’ve done more than my share of studying the subject. (Notice the Religion and Science category in the sidebar.) Thanks for stopping by.

  9. This is a great post. I have never felt that science and God need to be in different competing compartments. In fact to me, science is some small subset of tools that peer at the mysteries and awesomeness of God’s universe. Evolution can be one of God’s tools. God can also reach in and make changes rapidly or slowly. Science does not have all the facts yet either. Consider gravity. Is it a dimension, a wave, a particle? Science still speculates about it, yet we know it exists, and even distort the time space. Science is great. I am a social scientist by schooling. But God is much Greater. Science should quit trying to disprove God, and religion should quit dismissing the facts of science. Do get the message out.

    • Randel,
      Well said as well. As the category list show, I’ve done my share of posts on this topic – and in the end, the bottom line of my approach is that it’s ok to see these two subjects together – thus one doesn’t have to choose.

      I toss this out for you to ponder. I don’t believe that science is trying to disprove God just because some prominent scientists continue to use science as an approach against God – Rich Dawkins being the most prominent – but he speaks for only a segment, not all —- and gets his share of air time as he fires his bombs to the conservative creationists. Meanwhile, there are numerous scientists and science writers who support the way you and I think.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Interesting read. I have always believed the two don’t cancel each other but instead confirm the existence of the other. I once had a doctor who said I was a walking miracle, he made me laugh.

  11. I think you express yourself as clearly and about as well as anyone I know on this complex topic. Because I work in an evangelical Christian university the very dialogue you bring up is a persistent theme in my life. I read a lot of scientific topics and I am a Christian…I have yet to find a conflict. But often it is in dialogue that the “unknowns” light a fear in some people and in being uncomfortable with “I don’t knows” automatic defenses trigger emotion which then halts reason at any level. I find that a shame. I really think it’s fascinating and I enjoy the way you send the topic out for others to discuss!

    • Debra,
      Many thanks for the kind words. I guess it is obvious that I’ve done my share of reading on the subject (and continue to do so) … and the more I read, the more grand creation appears to me – hence a reason why I have header of deep space. Thank for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Hi, Frank! This is a very well-written piece.

    I was raised VERY strict charismatic Christian (non-denominational church), then went waaaaaayyy out when I left home because I felt it left no room for real understanding of the real world.

    I was NOT taught any evolution theories or science related to Darwin other than he was a misguided overly-praised scientist. Even today, I struggle with understanding it and yet, you cannot turn a blind eye towards scientific facts and discoveries-things we learn about more and more each year. It’s truly amazing to me.

    As an adult, I do believe in God, and consider myself a Christian, but I do not like the word “religion” because I feel it has such a negative connotation to those of us trying to find our own way when brought up in extreme “religious” circumstances.
    I agree–the average “Christian” church today still does not embrace the science of evolution–to even the point of acknowledging a respect for it. It’s lacking, and still not even taught. I went to private Christian schools for nine (9) years, and when college came rolling around, I was amused…appalled..no, confused! Really confused. Because I had a great science teacher with an open mind. Open mind. We must respect all, but we can choose to believe what we believe. In my mind, the more we keep the dialogue open, the better. Cheers, Deborah

  13. Magnificent, well-thought out post, Frank. I was raised a Creationist, taught my children the same (almost lost them when they couldn’t figure out how their otherwise very smart parents could be so stupid about evolution), and came to the ever maturing conclusion that just like we are spirit, soul, and body, “how, what, when, why, and where” of the Earth’s existence is answered when faith in God join hands with evolution. I love your phraseology:

    “I describe science as a way of knowing, but not the only way. Although science and theology examine different realms of human life, integrating the two leads us to a newer and deeper perspective of nature.”

    Amen!

    ET

    • E-Tom,
      I knew you would like this one, so I’m glad you dropped by. Also, extra thanks for sharing a bit of your journey! By the way, because I know you like wine, you need to see my just-posted On Spirit of Wine. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Have spent days trying to finish reading this article. I started and kept getting distracting by one thing or another. Growing up in a somewhat strict religious environment, where I was told about evil lution, I struggled when wanting to head into studying biology. In the Christian college I attended I came to realize that perhaps Genisis wasnt meant to be literal. In studying the language of the time the Bible was written discovered that when it says something like, a thousand years to us is like a day to God, that they used the word thousand like we use the word infinity. This helped me to believe in an old earth. I realized that it would be more like man to build the earth in 7 days. From my experience with God he seems to take his time. Thanks for the article I thoroughly enjoyed. it.

  15. Pingback: Flashbacks: On the Science-Religion Interchange | A Frank Angle

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