We’re told over and over again that science and faith are like oil and water. They don’t mix; they don’t get along; they hide in their bunkers and lob grenades at each other. It’s an impossible marriage.
But we can’t go there in our thinking, because the moment we insist the two are incompatible, we cut off our nose to spite our face. The truth is that science and faith need each other. Desperately so.
Faith desperately needs science, and in part 1 of this series, we spelled out one clear reason this is so: the pursuit of science is part of God’s call on the human race. Here are two additional reasons why faith needs science:
Because science can be a tool in bringing God’s love to a hurting world.
Question: when I am sick, if I turn to a doctor or to medicine to help me, am I trusting God less than I would if I just prayed for healing?
Some misguided religious nuts think so. And they’ve watched their children die in the process. Let me put the question another way: when I am hungry, if I turn to the refrigerator for food, am I trusting God less than I would if I just prayed for a full belly? Is God offended that I would dare put a Hot Pocket sandwich in the microwave and eat it?
My wife is – but God’s not. And when I saddle up to the table with that steaming Hot Pocket in front of my eyes, ready to dig it and enjoy all those tasty preservatives and chemicals, I pause to give God thanks that there’s imitation daily bread for a hungry body. And when later I reach for the aspirin because the Hot Pocket gave me a headache, or the Pepto Bismol because it’s turning my intestines in knots, I also thank God that there are such remedies for an ailing body.
The pursuit of science – of learning how God made the physical world around us to work – is a noble pursuit, which when kept within moral boundaries has unleashed incalculable good for the human race.
We know that Timothy in the Bible had recurring stomach problem, because Paul mentions it to Timothy in his first letter to him. And it’s interesting what Paul says to him. He doesn’t tell Timothy to pray about it. He says, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Paul recognized the medicinal value of wine 2,000 years ago, and he’s saying to Timothy: Hey partner, take care of yourself. Take your medicine. Take advantage of something learned men have discovered about God’s creation.
But doesn’t God get less glory that way? No, not at all. He made our bodies. He knows what makes them tick. He knows what makes them break down. And he knows what restores them. That Christian is wise who takes advantage of all the gifts that God provides us, including doctors and medicines.
By learning how things work in this world of ours, we enjoy so many blessings today that are the fruit of scientific study. The poorest among us today live better than kings and queens did a century ago. When a missionary goes into a remote village with the resources to dig wells and bring medicines and bring Jesus – such a combination is an awesome display of God’s love.
Second, science helps keep faith from slipping into irrationalism.
The Bible tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. God never asks you to unplug your brains to become a follower of Christ. “Come, let us reason together,” God says to us through Isaiah the prophet.
The Christian faith is not blind faith – but reasonable faith, built on a sturdy foundation of truth, and proof, and evidence and eyewitness testimony. Yes, you need faith to cross the line at last and bow your knee to Jesus Christ. But when you put together all the pieces, and weigh it all in the scales, there are reasons too numerous to count for becoming a Christian.
But sadly there are twisted versions of Christianity, and so many other pockets of bizarre religious belief, where you are asked to check your brains at the doors before coming in and asked to act in ways that are utterly irrational.
Militant Islam. Jim Jones. David Koresh.
What can keep faith from slipping into irrationalism? Well, being scientific. What do scientists do? They ask questions; they test things out; they take things apart; they let others examine their findings.
Real Christianity invites the same type of scrutiny. When the apostle Paul came to the town of Berea on his first missionary journey and began to preach Jesus to them, the Bible says of them: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures everyday to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) Veritable scientists.
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 said: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything.” Notice the balance here. Be open to the supernatural movement of God in your life. Don’t treat prophecies with contempt. But have a healthy skepticism about your spiritual life. Test everything.
So faith without science dishonors God who created us to reason; faith without science limits our ability to do good for others; and faith without science leaves us terribly vulnerable to spiritual error. Sounds to me like each Christian should have a lab coat in his or her closet.