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)