Next week I’m off to Galiano Island (one of the southern Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia) at the invitation of Regent College. I’ll be a participant in the third cohort of Regent’s three year Pastoral Science program. The purpose is to engage evangelical Protestant pastors with the world of science, to better integrate sound science with sound theology. It’s a brilliant project and you can check out the Cosmos website here.
The backdrop for this project is the ongoing cultural conflict between faith and science, the polarized debate that has morphed into an exaggerated warfare model pitting scientific thought against belief in God and the bible.
While I think the conflict is more perceived, the warfare is real with actual casualties. I’ve talked with too many people who have accepted the “either-or” notion that you cannot hold to a biblically shaped worldview and retain a rational, scientific mind. I’ve had countless conversations with young adults who have grown up in cocooned Christian environments only to hit university and have the underpinnings of their faith taken out in the first two months on campus. Just recently I sat down with a young couple, one graduated in biological sciences the other finishing off his university career – their faith either left behind or hanging by slim threads. Why? For one thing, their traditional six day creation understanding of the Genesis creation account taken apart and undone by a thorough challenge of evolutionary science (one of many challenges they weren’t prepared for). Even my 8 year old son has already felt the pinch of the issue, wondering about how the facts of science line up with the tenets of faith (we do live in a dinosaur cemetery here in Western Canada, so his imagination runs wild wondering about how dinosaurs fit within the creation story).
I find this tension irritating since the intellectual project that birthed science comes from the instincts and impulses of Christianity – the goodness, wonder, rationality and design of creation, the beauty of human intellect that can know and understand the created world. These are the founding principles of science rooted in a biblical, Christian worldview. So where has science lost a sense of humility and where has Christianity traded in its sense of wonder for theological rectitude?
Which makes me very glad to be part of a faith tradition that affirms both the revelatory nature of scripture and creation. One of our confessions, Belgic Confession art. 2, says that we know God through two means: “First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20 … Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.”
Did you note which comes first? Creation. I don’t think we’ve honoured our scientists appropriately as men and women who help us know the majesty and wonder of our world and the Creator God. And further, this confession tells us that there is no basis for a conflictual relationship between science and faith. Any conflict between them is an antinomy, a perceived contradiction between the truth of science and the truth of scripture – but not a real one. If there is a conflict, if truth from one source of revelation seems to contradict or refute something from the other source of revelation, then either our understanding of scripture is flawed and needs adjustment or our understanding of creation is flawed and needs further research and observation.
The Pastor Science project’s tagline is “refaithing science.” Not bad but at times I think a more appropriate tagline would be “resciencing church,” because all too often branches of the church have been vigilant opponents to scientific discovery and thought (can anyone say Galileo). I wonder if the Christian faith might regain its place as a warm environment for scientific discovery and thought, a place where scientists are led towards worship because of the sometimes indescribable mysteries they encounter and observe, and for the church to be led deeper into awestruck wonder at the Creator’s handiwork.
So I’m privileged to be part of this Pastor Science Cohort and pray for its good goals, and probably will do more blogging about it. But I would love to hear your thoughts and stories. What’s your understanding of the relationship between science and faith? Does science threaten your faith or faith seem to stymie your curiosity or scientific knowledge? Where are the pressure points you experience? How do you understand the two working together? How might we imagine a collaborative relationship?