Faith and Science
I teach a course on Christianity to students at a small, private Christian university in the western part of North Carolina. Despite this being a Christian university located in the South, what some people call the Bible belt, I am always struck by how little these students know about the Bible or Christianity. On the first day of class one semester, I asked how many knew who the Apostle Paul was. Of my 22 students in class only 4 raised their hands. I was stunned. Later, I would adjust my evaluation of this exercise with greater knowledge of these students and learn that extraordinary shyness prevented some of them from raising their hands. Nevertheless, their knowledge of the Christian faith was miniscule and shaped more by popular stereotypes than actual understanding of historical doctrines and activities of the church.
One of those stereotypes is that faith and science are antithetical, they are completely opposed to one another. The stereotype holds that you can have faith in God or you can have faith in science, but you can’t have faith in both. This has been perpetuated in the coronavirus pandemic when you hear certain religious groups or persons claim they don’t need to wear a mask because they have faith in God. This social behavior is grounded in the fundamental tenet that faith in God is theologically distanced (as opposed to socially distanced) from scientific studies.
This dichotomy is most often evidenced in the student’s view on evolution. I will hear students say, “I don’t believe the Bible; I believe in science and evolution.” The most vocal proponnents of this view are often student-athletes who have been recruited from European nations. In like fashion, some students who have grown up in Fundamentalist religious communities say, “I don’t believe in evolution; I believe in the Bible.” It’s interesting that these two seemingly diametrically opposed positions hold the same view of science and the Bible. The Bible and science are enemies and not partners. The Bible is a literal text book on every realm of knowledge with which it deals.
What I hope to do with these students is help them see the partnership between faith and science. These two pillars of robust intellectual life address very different questions about life. Science addresses the questions of what, when and how, while faith addresses the questions of who and why. For example, the stories of Genesis are not scientific treatises on how old the earth is or when the world was “created.” They are stories of faith that teach the Israelite community who created the world, why it was created and what their part is in it. The rest of the Bible continues to flesh out the questions of who and why through the incarnation of a particular group of people God chooses.
What does this have to do with C3 and caring for creation? C3 is engaged in an ongoing educational role of teaching, reminding and persuading people that theism and scientism are vital partners with one another. We believe in God and science. And yes, science is constantly changing because we are continually privy to new data and understanding. God is unchanging, but our experiences of God change so our views of God are constantly evolving or changing. C3 wants to help people embrace the prophetic voice of the scientists and the prophetic voice of God’s proclaimers. Sometimes those prophetic voices are preachers and sometimes they are rocks and streams and mountains. God will not be limited to just one voice, even while God remains One. We need to hear both the voices of science and faith to gain a greater understanding of truth and Truth.