Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thoughts on Faith and Science

The paragraphs below consist of my response to the attached article from the New Yorker. Actually, this is less a response to the article (which advocates for critical thinking, a position with which I heartily agree), and more a response to many of the comments after the article which seemed to defend the position that faith and science are incompatible (a position with which I heartily disagree).

The only reply I got in return was from the poster, who said, “Holy Christ!” I then responded with, “lol, careful, or someone might think you converted :)” which I hope he appreciated. Anyway, as always, your thoughts on the article or my response are welcome!

My Thoughts on Faith and Science
There have been many mainstream and well respected scientists (including physicists) in the past century who have been religious and who have still provided valuable and solid scientific insights, including Charles H. Townes (inventor of the laser), Kenneth R. Miller, Tom Mcleigh, Russel Stannard, etc .

I think perhaps the key is avoiding belief in a "god of the gaps," or a definition of God that is defined by what we don't know. Naturally, as scientific knowledge advances, such a god would inevitably retreat. It is this type of god Richard Dawkins argues against in his book, The God Delusion. Ironically, he uses the argument against the "god of the gaps" as an atheist argument, when Christian theologians (Henry Drummond, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc.) have argued against such a definition for centuries.

My understanding of God ultimately derives from the Incarnation of Christ, in that His (or Its, for that matter) presence consubstantiates the physical cosmos. This means the presence of God exists in and all around the cosmos, even extending into nothingness (a God who doesn't exist being the same as That which does), both personal and impersonal. In this point of view, deriving better understandings of the natural world through science helps us better understand the workings of Creation. I find no contradiction with this in scripture, primarily for three reasons:

The first is that many of the miraculous stories found in the Bible are best understood poetically, prophetically, and allegorically. This isn't a new or heterodox position, as it was advanced by St. Clement of Alexandria as early as the second century. This means you don't have to believe in literal talking snakes in order to be a Christian. The creation story is best understood as a poetic myth describing the magnificence of God's creation, and Adam and Eve are best understood as a conflict which is played out in every human being's life, and not just a "first couple."

The second is in my understanding regarding the role of scripture. Many people erroneously call it the word of God, though this term is reserved in the New Testament only for Christ himself. Perhaps a better term for scripture should be "words about God." This means that all scripture, while may be useful in a variety of contexts, is still humanity's flawed response to the revelation of God rooted in the Incarnation. So of course there are textual variances, mistakes, and fantastic elements. This does not diminish the truth found in Christ (at least for the Christian).

The third is my understanding of miracles. While I don't think it is necessary that most of the miraculous stories in the bible be literally true, I do think that the basic understanding of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ be true in order for Christian faith to maintain any coherence. These miraculous events, if actually breaking any physical laws, would be "one-off" affairs, meaning they would be non-replicable and therefore untouchable to scientific investigation.

This is where it becomes a matter of faith based on the testimony of the gospels. This should not be confused with "blind belief," which I define as intellectual assent for no reason. Instead, it should be defined as a radical, life-changing trust in Christ that is so essentially transforming to a person and community that they become the Body of Christ participating in the redeeming of the cosmos, today.

The above isn't necessarily meant to convert anyone to my point of view and it touches on a lot of elements that deserve a much more extensive treatment. It is simply meant to demonstrate that a rational, scientifically-minded human being can still exhibit faith in God.

 #science #religion #atheism #christianity #faith

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