I used to be a swimmer, and I clearly remember all those early morning practices. Especially the part where I was standing at the edge of a very cold swimming pool… knowing I needed to jump in. I didn’t want to jump. But I knew I had to.
That’s how I feel with this post.
Today’s post is something near and dear to my heart, but I have a feeling it is going to land a bit unpleasantly for some of us. Sure, some of you will think it’s not big deal. But some of you might start to feel a little uncomfortable. If that’s you, I just ask you read it through.
Ok. Here we go. One… two… three.
We, as youth pastors, have got to do a better job of handling the debate between science and faith.
When this topic comes up, here’s what I usually see: Youth pastors, many of us are angry. And, at the same time, many of us are really ignorant – we might know a lot about faith, but we don’t always know a lot about science. Anger and ignorance is not a good combination.
So you know what’s happened?
We have failed our kids. We have set them up for failure. We have set them up as easy targets that easily get knocked down by peers and professors once they head to college. Don’t make me get out the stats to prove it! Those stats will make you want to quit your job.
Please hear me out on this.
Now, like many youth pastors, my college degree doesn’t quite match what I do for a living. I don’t normally share this but, for this post, I think it’s important. I finished college with a degree in Physics and spent 10 years teaching Physics and Calculus. All of that to say, please hear me out on this.
I am one of those students who the church has failed.
I am one of those students who has struggled with science and faith all my life, only to finally realize…
There should not be a struggle between science and faith at all.
They are not opposites. They are not enemies. So… let’s start with the basics.
1. SCIENCE IS AMORAL.
Science is not inherently good or bad. It is neutral. It is simply an ongoing, self-correcting search for truth about our natural world. It’s always changing and always evolving (whoa… dangerous word!), as we learn more and more about how this world works.
2. SCIENTISTS ARE PEOPLE.
Sure, some scientists are idiots. But most are not. Many are believers. And yes, some have a thing against religion and maybe even go to great lengths to make us look like simple fools for believing something that a majority of the people in the world believe. (To those people, I have to ask why they put such energy behind disproving something they see as a fairytale. But, that’s a rabbit trail. Maybe we can talk about that someday.) But that is not every scientist.
Now… back to science and faith.
3. SCIENCE CAN INFORM OUR FAITH.
We get ourselves in trouble when we attach our faith and theology to something that is moving and changing. Like science.
Let’s use an example that is not as full of conflict as the current debate about faith and evolution.
Before 1543, many Christians attached their faith and theology to a model of the universe in which the Sun revolved around the Earth, because that’s what they believed the Bible taught. Then Copernicus published a book.
Was it an attack of faith? Not at all! Copernicus believed in God. He knew there would be an issue. But, the problem with Copernicus’ idea wasn’t that there was new idea of how God had created the natural world. The problem was that Christians had anchored their faith on an old scientific theory… the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth.
The faith of Christians was challenged, not because science didn’t mesh with scripture, but because they had interpreted scripture through the lens of their current understanding of science.
We can’t do that. And, with the acceleration of what we are learning in Science these days, we need to be more cautious then ever. Please be careful!
I have a lot more to say on this. A lot more than can be covered in one post. But for now, let me leave you with the words of St. Augustine. Now, as you read these, remember, these words were written by a man intensely interested in the words and meaning of Genesis. He also wrote these at a time when he was not responding to Darwin… or even Copernicus, for that matter.
In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different Interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.