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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Science and faith are incompatible, right?

            If you were paying attention to the news headlines at all the past two weeks you were aware of the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”).  Ken Ham is the founder of Answers In Genesis (AIG), a Christian ministry that produces resources to support and defend a young-earth view of creation.  AIG holds the position that the earth is only 10,000 years old and we come to that conclusion by reading the Bible literally – particularly the first three chapters of Genesis.  Bill Nye is an engineer who has had popular TV shows where he explains science in understandable and entertaining ways.  He argued for a naturalistic view of origins.  He believes the universe is billions of years old and what we see today in plant and animal life is a result of evolutionary processes.  There is no God so he obviously wasn’t involved in anything.  Both are smart people.  And they are at polar opposites when it comes to explaining and understanding the origins and formation of the universe and everything it contains.  And there you have it – what you have had a sneaking suspicion of all along - science and faith are incompatible.

            If this is your belief, whichever side you find yourself on, it has shaped how you view the other side.  If you are on the “faith side” this is the reason we shouldn’t trust science and scientists, you reason.  They are mostly godless people who are out to undermine faith.  If you are on the “science side” this is the reason we shouldn’t trust Christians, you reason.  They are clearly small-minded people who are blinded by their religious ideology and twist scientific fact to fit their belief system.
            The media industry loves extremes and they love a good fight.  The 900 tickets to the live performance sold out in 2 minutes.  Seventy media organizations registered to attend the debate.  Twenty video crews were on hand.  Articles have been written, talk shows have had a field day.  And, no doubt, books will be sold making some people a bit of money.
            In all of this you might have been fooled into believing these are the only two ways of viewing the Bible, the universe and creation.  But you would be mistaken.
            If you are coming at understanding creation from a Biblical, Christian perspective there are three non-negotiables:  First, God doesn’t lie, he is completely trustworthy.  Second, God has given us this compilation of writings that we call the Bible so we can know God, his story and our story.  Third, God has given us his creation – the universe around us – so we might know him and his glory.  Psalm 19:1-14 does a wonderful job of pointing us toward these things.  Theologians call #2 Special Revelation and they call #3 General Revelation.  Each of God’s revelation is wholly true and each requires interpretation.  God designed it so his Special Revelation (the Bible) helps us interpret his General Revelation (the universe).  And, his General Revelation helps us interpret his Special Revelation.
            What does this mean for faith and science?  It means they are not enemies or incompatible, they are friends.  And only by treating them as friends are we able to continue growing in our understanding of who God is and what God has done.  Many of the greatest scientists and greatest theologians we have known in history understood this and it opened new worlds of knowledge. 
            Truth is never something we should be afraid of – wherever it comes from  - because truth always helps us to know God more deeply.  And ultimately that is what life is all about.

Peace and grace,


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