Faith vs. Science: Are They Really at Odds?

I will grant you, the title of this article seems to make an assumption that at least a portion of us do think that science and faith cannot co-exist together.  It assumes that it must be either one or the other.  And in that regard, perhaps I am guilty in phrasing it in such a manner as to create controversy where this is none.  But I believe if we look at certain areas of our culture today, as well as what is sometimes reflected in the media - there is in fact room for a frank discussion on the matter.  

If I am being honest, all of this may have started from playing in the creek where I grew up as a child, looking for tadpoles.  I loved the symmetry of the half frog / half tadpole body.  This helped to start my fascination with science in general.  I mean afterall, wasnt this evolution in action?  Didn't this reflect what we were learning in the classroom?  Later, when I was a bit older, my appreciation of nature manifested itself in the form of an 11-year old miniature DNR officer.  I would catch game fish at the lake and bring them home for release in my small backyard swimming pool.  The above ground kind of pool you buy at Walmart by the way, nothing extravagant.  This then gave way to me digging a 4x 5hole in my mothers garden one warm summer's day, in the hopes of creating my own makeshift farm pond.  Such was my appreciation of the local ecosystem that I had to build a miniature one for myself!  My parents were patient thats for sure, but not that patient.  I managed to get in some trouble for that one, so naturally I blamed it on my uncle (who was a real-life DNR officer).  More on this later.



But what happens when we grow up?  What happens to this imaginative self-expression as we become adults?   Well, I think a lot of the time we start asking big questions such as how much in this world is science and how much is faith?” … or what is really responsible for creating those fish that I used to catch and release into that little swimming pool?  Did God start everything or not quite?  I think as we become young adults especially, we are thrust into certain academic environments (at high school or college), where we are subjected to curriculum and teachers who have no room for God (at least as it pertains to biology or cosmology in the classroom).  And there is sometimes no room whatsoever for theology.  It may often beg the question:  Is faith at war with science?  Or can they actually co-exist?  


Well it didnt take long for my interest to switch from what nature and science were
doing down on Earth, to what was going on up above in space.  Some of you may
remember a television personality named Carl Sagan.   I remember fondly as a child,
when my father and I would sit on the sofa together and watch the show Cosmos on public television, and Sagan would talk about how vast the universe was.  There are “billions and billions of stars out there" he would say.  The idea of the Big Bang was of particular interest to me as well: the notion that everything just shot into existence from a small, dense ball of matter called a singularity.   It wasnt until later in my life that I began to ponder questions that many of my teachers could not (or would not) necessarily answer.  Questions such as what caused the singularity?  What came before everything else?  Is there even a need to ask such questions?


Now I am no expert on cosmology or astronomy, but there is a man named William Lane
Craig - a Christian philosopher, PhD, and author - who ardently defends a theory known
as the Kalam argument.   Dr. Craig often travels the globe expounding upon, and defending this theory at major universities, as it brings together both the science of the big bang and the theology of a creator.  The argument is exquisite in its' simplicity, and it contains the following three steps:
 
1.) Nothing currently exists without being caused
2.) The Universe currently exists
3.) Therefore, the Universe has a cause


Why is this argument so important?  Because it flies in the face of a popular counter argument that has come about recently, namely that everything came from nothing that we are all total accidents.  Life has no real meaning, and the universe simply popped into being one day on its own.  Because you see friends, if we can accept the three premises of the Kalam argument - and that nothing can exist without a first cause - then even the Big Bang and the universe had a cause.  It didnt just happen” accidentally.  So then, what was this first cause?  Is it okay to discuss this?  Since no one alive today was around to witness it, does the question even matter?  I think that it does.


We can find some concepts about this first cause in the book of Genesis from the Bible. What does God say about the beginning of everything?   Genesis 1:1 says this, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  Read closely, as I believe this verse tells us two important things:
 
1.)  Before there was anything at all, there was something

2.)  God himself was the first cause that did the creating (and not chance or accident)


This may seem like common sense to those who were raised in the church, but let me tell you, Genesis 1 isnt held in the same high esteem by everyone, or in the same way as we do in the church.  Take Lawrence Krauss for example.  He is a high profile scientist and proponent of the idea that things can spring into being from nothing.  He says that particles can simply jump into being from a vacuum state (vacuum here meaning nothing).


The problem with this idea (and others like it) is that this vacuum state of nothing he is referring to is actually a whole lot of something.  Its a sea of fluctuating energy and violent activity, that has a rich physical structure, and is even governed by physical laws.  But many people dont want us to know that.  They dont want us to understand that these vacuums consist of observable materials and laws.  And when this was brought to light, Krauss had to acknowledge this truth publicly (at a live debate in Brisbane titled Life, the Universe and Nothing).  But the idea still sometimes persists, the damage was done.  The media spotlight turned toward this notion of a creator-less universe and went with it.  Genesis 1 it would seem, was lost in the shuffle, at least temporarily.


I promised we would return again to the account of building a make-shift farm pond in my mothers backyard.  There was actually some research that went on prior to me talking my poor friend into destroying the garden.  His name was Brian by the way, and he was a good sport.  He kept asking me, is it really okay to dig up this garden?  I assured him it was.  

You see, when all of this was still just an idea (and my pond was still a garden) - I talked at length with my uncle about how to create a farm pond (remember he was an actual DNR person).  All the while, I knew in the back of my mind that it probably wasnt a good idea to tear up the soil, but I pushed forward anyway.  I was selecting what I wanted to listen to, and since I didnt want to listen to the notion that little kids shouldn't dig up their parents backyard, I ignored it.   In this same way, I think many adults seek after only the particular type of knowledge that they select to listen to ahead of time.  They hear what they want to hear, and ignore the rest.


Ravi  Zecharius is another prolific defender of Christian foundational thought.  He is fond of the saying “intent precedes content."  This is a fancy way of saying that if someone has made up their mind already, it is extremely tough to change it.  I believe this to be true: if someone has decided that there is no God and that faith is indeed at war with science, then no amount of Kalam arguments or big bang discussions will change that.  They have locked themselves into an intellectual prison allowing only one way of thinking, and thrown out the key to the cell door.  The mind shuts firmly closed, and often only God can crack it ajar again. 


Now, what are we to do with this?  Do we throw our hands up in the air and give up?  Do we sink back into the notion that it isnt any good discussing our faith with other mindsets?  Will faith and science always be hot topics that we should leave alone, just like politics and religion?  I want you to consider one thing first.  What does Scripture say about how people are to look for evidence of God?  We know that the apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans that “… since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”   But given this, how is it specifically that we are to come to this realization of God without excuse?


I love the statement from the book of Acts - chapter 17:27.  It says, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  Or also in Jeremiah, when we read, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You see, I dont think it is enough to take someone else's word for it.  Its not enough just to believe what I am telling you in this article. We must look and grope around for God with our whole heart and with our entire intellect.  We must look for ourselves, without selecting or filtering out the things we dont like or dont want to hear. For you and I, the hunt for God is ultimately a solo proposition.  It is our choice to seek Him, and our choice alone to accept Him.  And I think He wants it that way.  I dont think He wants it to be so black and white that we dont have a choice but to know Him.  He wants us to choose freely.


Evidence, science, the Big Bang, and even Christian apologetic books are simply
collections of statements and sayings.  They can be interpreted differently by different
people.  It is up to you and I to choose God or not.  No cheating allowed and no shortcuts  we have to make up our own mind.  So then, can faith co-exist with science?  Of course it can, there is no war.  But that isnt the real issue most of the time.  The real question is can you and I co-exist with a good and holy God?  Or are we at war with Him?  I suspect this has always been the real question.  It will always be possible to decide to filter out the truth of His existence with abstract arguments and alternate philosophies.  We may decide to believe that something can come from nothing - uncaused, or that evolution explains even the Universe and other galaxies.  But we must be careful doing so, because we may very well be using the wonderful intellect that God has given each of us, in order to crucify Him a second time by failing to really seek Him with our whole heart.


I love the story of Eben Alexander.  Do you remember him?  He authored the famous book Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife.  This is the story of a doctor who was so entrenched in the idea that science explained everything, he abandoned God early on in his youth.

After he contracted meningitis and ended up in a coma however, he had a near death experience.  In this book he describes visiting heaven, seeing angels, and living beyond his earthly life.  There is great beauty and love awaiting us, he says.  Did he take some criticism from his colleagues, other doctors, and some scientists?  You bet!  By the way not all scientists share this unbelief.  Google Francis Collins from the genome project or Dr. Steven C. Meyer in the field of physics and molecular biology.  Or maybe Dr. Guillermo Gonzales in the field of astronomy and physics.  These are only a few prominent scientists who are also believers.  I would love to hear their perspective on Alexander's account.  In fact, this experience transformed Eben Alexander forever.  It prompted him to write a book, go on talk shows (including Oprah), and begin attending church regularly.  His filter had been removed, he was now open to think about and ponder the things of God.  

There is a verse in Colossians 1:17 that I think provides a decent enough summation for us by saying this:  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  This includes faith, and this includes science.  And it would certainly include little boys that turn their parents' garden into swimming pools.  May all of us have the courage to search for God, and find Him.





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Comments

  1. I loved this phrase; "We must look and grope around for God with our whole heart and with our entire intellect." I understand faith as a journey but it is often presented like a "Hungry Man" t.v. dinner (everything you need is easily accessible.) The problem is that prepackaged Christianity isn't always conducive to earnestly seeking after the deep questions that often plague our faith. Thank you for writing this article Jon!

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  2. WAS THE THIEF ON THE CROSS QUALIFIED TO BE A BAPTIST? BY STEVE FINNELL

    Did the thief on the cross meet the qualifications to become of member of the Baptist Church? NO, he did not.

    1. To be a member of the Baptist Church you must be baptized in water.

    The thief was not baptized.

    2. To be a member of the Baptist Church you must say the sinner's prayer.

    The thief did not say the sinner's prayer.

    3. To be a member of the Baptist Church you must believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

    The thief did not believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was still alive when the the thief was saved.

    Baptists believe that men today can be saved just as was the thief on the cross.

    Was the thief saved. Yes. The thief was saved before the new covenant was in force. Men today cannot be saved like the thief.


    Baptists believe you can get into heaven without being baptized, however, they believe you have to baptized to become a member of the Baptist Church.

    Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved....(NKJV)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com


    Posted by Steve Finnell at 9:15 AM
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