I have been pastoring churches in Texas since 1987. For most of my 33 years in ministry I have been intrigued and sometimes intimidated by the tension and sometimes outright conflict between science and faith.
I never did well in the sciences when I was in school. In the seventh grade I walked into a chemistry class for the first time. Lab tables instead of desks were strange enough. The Periodic Table of elements was beyond comprehension. To this day, I’m grateful for Bryan Reed, now a friend of forty years and a fellow minister in Bossier City. On that first day, Bryan invited me to his lab table. We started a science partnership that became a treasured friendship. I’m certain Bryan carried me through that class.
A year later I worked with my team to dissect a frog. I was certain then that being a medical doctor was not in the cards. Maybe that’s what propelled me towards things like history, theology and sometimes philosophy. I’m still struggling with that last one! I may not have graduated from seminary if it weren’t for Dr. Jim Denison, the founder and Chief Vision officer of Denison Forum, taking over my Philosophy class at mid-term.
To say I was not following the original Philosophy Professor in this class would be putting it mildly! God saw my struggle and sent in a “Philosophy Marine” to save me and several others.
This ongoing dance or duel between science and faith, (it has appeared as both in my experience), is often confusing, challenging and even scary to me and some of my church members. I’ve never felt well-equipped to answer when one of my members or a non-Christian wanted to talk about Darwin’s theory of evolution, competing ideas about creation, young versus old earth theory or where dinosaurs fit into the timeline.
Every time I preach or teach about Noah and the flood I secretly pray that no one wants a conclusive answer to the unanswerable questions of science and faith that appear in that one chapter.
The questions and conversations at the intersection of science and faith are legitimate and important. Those asking the questions and seeking answers are often humble, sincere and passionate about knowing what happened, how things happen and the powerful, creative God behind it all. Of course, idols come in all shapes and sizes, as do people’s attempts to explain the living God out of their lives.
Scientism is the modern religion of some. This faith system has some really smart, articulate and impressive leaders. Names like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer and Stephen Hawking come to mind. Their combined reach and influence is substantial.
The strength of scientism has grown across the last 50 years in significant ways. That’s why I was shocked at the following story. Since the arrival of the Covid-19 virus in the United States, Americans and the world have become deeply familiar with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci has held this position since 1984 and since the pandemic hit the US in January, he has been at the epicenter of guiding the White House and the country through this crisis. In June, Dr. Fauci was interviewed by CNN and said this:
“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are—for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable—they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority,” Fauci said.
“So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that—and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth,” Fauci said.
When I first heard these comments about an “anti-science, anti-authority” spirit in America, I thought, “Welcome to the world of every preacher.” Pastors know well the spirit of many who don’t “want to believe” and resist God’s loving authority in their lives.
My second thought was, “Are we seeing the dethroning of the science god?” Have the common, everyday adherents to the “science is god” idea decided to rebel and reject their god because they now don’t like what he’s saying about this pandemic? If so, they would not be the first people to reject their religion and their “god” as soon as he started saying something unpleasant and unpopular.
In a twist of irony, followers and proponents of the religion of scientism may now experience some of what Christians, Christian apologists, theologians and pastors have been experiencing for years from people in their camp: disbelief and rejection. Like Dr. Fauci, I find myself thinking, it’s “inconceivable and not understandable” why so many reject the revelation of God in Christ and the good news of grace, mercy and eternal life in the Christ event.
In the duel and dance between science and Christian faith, I have grown to have increasing hope. I’ve discovered, often through recommendations from other believers and Christian leaders, that faith in Christ and biblical revelation can stand toe to toe and in the best sense, in harmony with, the discoveries of science.
Additionally, there are many, highly trained and capable Christian scientists, thinkers and spokesmen. Among them are the likes of C.S Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, and Jim Tour. I have listen and watch and found myself mesmerized by the intellect, understanding and passion of these Christians. Honestly, I could listen to Jim Tour lecture on science and faith for a 168 hours without stopping! Praise God for YouTube!
A few years ago, a dedicated Christian stockbroker in my church handed me my first audio book on CD. (Compact Disks are an ancient ‘cutting edge’ technology now occupying our landfills!). The book was The Language of God by Francis Collins, who is now the director of the National Institutes of Health. He was the lead scientist in mapping the human genome project. He is also a believer in Christ Jesus. The stockbroker had his own questions about faith and science and he’d worked his way through this monumental work.
I nearly drowned in the book. The science is way beyond my comprehension. But threaded within the science, and then coming into full view in the latter half of the book is Collins’ story of revelation and conversion to faith. I made it all the way through the book and realized the following:
- As Collins says, “Science can lead us to ‘touch the face of God.” Science and faith are not combatants, they are partners in the revelation of God and our response to HIM.
- I can increase my scientific understanding. I’ll never be a scientist like those mentioned here and others who could be named. I don’t need to be or have to be. But science can confirm, affirm and help my faith grow. God has provided many whose gifts are to investigate, discover and explain the workings of God found in the lens of the microscope, telescope and all those other scopes as well.
- I don’t need to fear. God is the ultimate Scientist. He also has a vast army of lab partners. He’s holding class every day and every night.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge” (Psalm 19:1‒2 NIV).
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2‒3 NIV).