‘Celebrating God Through Science’

Christianity today has posted a fascinating interview with a well-respected, Christian scientist – and those two don’t always go hand-in-hand. You can find the interview here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/workplace/articles/interviews/franciscollins.html

For those who grew up as I did, many of his views will be controversial at best and heretical at worst. Most notably, he believes in evolution, albeit theistic evolution (which means he believes God has caused and guided the evolutionary process).

If you have a few free minutes, you should check out his interview on the Colbert Report:
http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/79238/december-07-2006/francis-collins

I find this interview fascinating. Most articles I read about Christian scientists are simply about scientists who reject evolution in favor of Young Earth Creationism. Talk about beating a dead horse.

However, I find this particular interview challenging and refreshing. He is a scientist who has clearly grappled with the findings of science and accepted many of them. And on the other hand, he is a completely convinced Christian. AND, he’s able to reconcile them both.

I wonder what some of you might think. Science certainly poses problems for most flavors of Christianity, particularly when it comes to Creation vs. Evolution. Yet, that’s certainly not the only problem. Have you struggled to reconcile your faith with the contemporary scientific worldview and landscape in our country? If so, what are some examples? If so, how have you gone about resolving these issues?

Or, one might even question if this debate is worth having… anyone find themselves on this side of the debate?

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9 thoughts on “‘Celebrating God Through Science’

  1. I think this is a great question, and one that Christians should not be afraid of. I have no trouble balancing science and faith, because science reinforces and validates that faith. God created everything so everything in existence should confirm His hand in things. Scripture was given as His direct, or special, revelation; creation was given as His general revelation. The two can’t conflict, by definition. Reasons.org calls it the ‘Two Book’ approach.

    Here’s the rub: when the two (science and faith) seem to be in conflict, it can only be because a) our interpretation of the science is wrong; b) our interpretation of Scripture is wrong; or c) both of the above.

    Many Christians, particularly those who hold to a young-earth creation (YEC), 6000 year-old earth viewpoint, would challenge this. They confuse the truth of Scripture with the truth of an interpretation of Scripture (i.e., Genesis says day and night, so that MUST mean literal 24-hour creation days).

    YECers also tend to equate old-earth creationism with belief in evolution. Tain’t so. Evolutionists and those who hold a naturalist view of life tend to equate all creationists with the YEC view. Tain’t so, either.

    Personally, I believe in an old-earth creation (i.e., the earth is 6 billion years old) but don’t see the need to invoke evolution, simply because evolutionary theory it’s not supported by scientific observation.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate the reference to “two books,” which gets us into general and special revelation. That is a challenging and complicated question, and it might serve as a separate post…

    I do have a question for you, however. You volunteered that you are an old earth creationist, a position I am familiar with; however, you didn’t elaborate much on why you’ve decided on that particular reconciliation of the scientific data and biblical ‘data.” I wonder if you mind elaborating a bit?

    I also wonder if anyone has thought of other areas where this debate might manifest.

  3. Thanks. I suppose for me the decision regarding OEC/YEC came as I looked at the various attempts to align the Biblical creation accounts with science (or vice versa). I remember loving dinosaurs as a kid and suddenly being afraid to admit because, if the earth was only 6000 years old, when did they live? What about woolly mammoths and the Ice Ages? Where did they fit in Scripture?

    The biggest thing, though, was space. I’m a space geek and have always been amazed at imagery from the Hubble and other space observatories. The more I looked at it, the more I was enthralled with God’s creative power. Those images often came with explanations describing objects millions or even billions of light years distant. How do you sync that with the notion of a 6000 year-old earth? All YEC groups such as Answers in Genesis and ICR could come up with were wild theories involving changes to the speed of light. (Not to mention dinosaurs coexisting with man.)

    One day someone invited me to hear Hugh Ross from Reasons.org speak on creation and origins. Suddenly the light went on and I began to realize that science and faith aren’t, and can’t be, in conflict, because they both come from God. It was suddenly okay to belief in science, dinosaurs, a big cosmos and the entire natural record. With that understanding, everything began to fall into place.

    I also wonder if anyone has thought of other areas where this debate might manifest.

    In what sense? YEC vs OEC, faith vs evolution?

    I will say that there’s often not much of a ‘debate’. OECs tend to see YECs as anti-intellectuals who fear science, while YECs see OECs as compromisers in league with those evil evolutionists. Not much room for debate there.

  4. Steve,

    Ironic, space was the clincher for me as well. I’ve always been a star-gazer. In fact, I used to go running after dark and just stare at the constellations while running… Sci-fi is a corresponding interest.

    On a serious note, it was Paul Davies book, Cosmic Jackpot, that finally convinced me that YEC was not a possibility for me. In college, I made the exegetical decision that YEC was not the only interpretation of Genesis 1-2, and then that decision was broadened once I got to seminary after realized that Genesis 1 and 2 were actually two different accounts. Coupled with the abundance of Ancient Near Eastern cosmologies that share so much in common with Gen. 1, the evidence mounted in favor of the decision I had already made.

    When it comes to other areas, what I was trying to suggest was: are there other areas where faith and science are at odds with each other.

    For example, last week my wife and I watched an episode of Law & Order SVU in which a pedophile’s defense made the case the defendant was genetically predisposed to pedophilia and thus could not help himself.

    I’m obviously simplifying, but the debate over genetic predisposition and personal responsibility and choice tends to bleed over into religious circles quite often.

    Curious if others have noticed that as well.

  5. Yes, there are quite a few areas where faith and science could be at odds, but I would be careful in painting with too broad a brush. Yes, there are disputes between science and faith, but also strictly internally within the science and faith communities. We like to dispute and defend our pet theories, and maybe that’s just the way God made us.

    To get back to your specific question, though, how about the ethics of genetic manipulation and gene modification, either within the human genome or in food crops?

    Predisposition is an interesting topic. On a macro level, we all have the predisposition to sin and reject God. Individually we may have other, more specific predispositions toward specific behavior, such as toward alcohol or pedophilia or homosexuality, or whatever. I didn’t see that episode, but having such a predisposition does not free us from the obligation to resist that particular sin or behavior. If I am predisposed toward alcoholism, for instance, I have to work daily to resist the temptation. If I give in, I’m just as guilty as the person without commits the act without having a predisposition. Make sense?

  6. Well thought out and well said, Steve. It’s good to have a new voice on the blog.

    I agree with you whole-heartedly that we can resist sin; however, in a culture where sin is not an assumption or prerequisite, I wonder if arguments such as the one I present will begin to hold more sway?

    It certainly is the case within sections of academia, even in some Christian aspects of it (especially when it comes to sexual orientation).

  7. I wonder if arguments such as the one I present will begin to hold more sway?

    Uh, let me play stupid. Which argument? The defense’s argument from L&O SVU that predisposition is an excuse for bad behavior?

    I would say, absolutely. Man is all about finding reasons NOT to accept responsibility for his own actions. Remember Flip Wilson’s “The devil made me do it”? It’s always easiest to point at something outside of ourselves as the cause for our bad actions.

  8. While I certainly do agree with you, I think there are some extreme cases in which brain chemistry and even damage has been shown to limit one’s responsibility. Those cases are obviously the smallest of minorities, but I think it is possible that in some cases, people are not responsible for their actions.

    I am going to try to find one study in particular that convinced me of what I’m saying — but it has been some time since I’ve read it. I hope Google comes through for me here…

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