Common Thoughts 10


Science and religion: Are they two separate domains having nothing to say about the other? Yes and no. I apologize up front, the subject I now find myself considering tends to become more philosophically phrased therefore sometimes more abstract from our normal conversation. I’ll try to keep it less because the subject is one important to us all as our thinking is shaped by it whether we are aware of it or not.

We are back to metaphysics: after the physics, or next to the physics. What we see and observe only tells us part of the story, there is more to it that we must consider and understand to truly know the whole. This is where science and religion (or God) is both/and.

If I am looking through God’s eyes there is no distinction between science and religion. When I’m looking through my eyes I see a distinction, places where they are different, but also spaces where they overlap. Recall, if you can, the discussion on being guided in the spaces between facts. In those spaces, we are being tugged either in the direction of science or the direction of religion (faith). The extremists in both camps claim theirs is the only truth you need (and is) and build narratives to support their extremism. This is that either/or we have to suffer through. Both sides in their extremism actually mirror each other; they are excessively arrogant, paranoid, narcissistic, filled with an exacerbating hubris. Naturally, neither side recognizes these categories as theirs. Remember, they are righteously right, everyone else is “unrighteous-ly” wrong.

It is both arrogant and self-serving to make issues and answers to the nature of Reality as either/or. This means that science and religion (faith) play a role in our understanding of the full nature of Reality.

I’m dismissing out of hand extremists on both sides of the science/religion debate. I’ve been reading an excellent book, Thinking Fair: Rules for Reason in Science and Religion by Lucas John Mix, who holds a PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard and a MDiv from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Randy Isaac, ASA Executive Director reviewing this book writes: “Mix is interested in what we think, what we do, and with whom we do it. We need to understand why people think what they do and how this affects their actions. . . he intends to ‘present this as an exercise in thinking broadly, sympathetically, and systematically about how you view the world.” Between the extremes, we need to understand our own beliefs and the beliefs of others so we can communicate with each other with open eyes and ears.

Western science came out of Western philosophy and was filled with scientists who were Christians (or religious) and non-Christian (atheists). And why not find scientists who were Christian, it was the presupposition of Judeo/Christian beliefs that the world was created in an orderly fashion that could be knowable.

If you take a Bible and place it in the center of your dining table the first thing you notice is how little space it takes up. If you think of the table representing the entirety of the cosmos as we know it (just its physical structure) it overwhelms the smallness of the Bible. But don’t assume this small Book is overwhelmed by the large table. Both represent knowable things but they don’t always speak into the other’s domain, so to speak. You can say we are we looking at two kinds of knowledge by design but both reveal knowledge of the whole of Reality.

Why do we have a Bible? What meaning does it have in our understanding of Reality? If from our view there are two kinds of knowledge, but from God’s view only one, how do we understand the two halves of knowledge?

There really aren’t two different kinds of knowledge, there are, however, different questions being asked and answered. Whether we believe in God or not-God we run smack dab into limitations in reaching full knowledge. For Christians, sin (rebellion) sets our limits. For secularists limits are inherent in what is. For the Christian, when redemption is complete and we are reunited forever with God, all limitations to knowing cease. For the non-Christian, they are hoping they can overcome their limitations through technology that may end homo sapiens as a species as they merge into a whole new form of life.

We are never comfortable with incomplete answers. I spoke of this in “How Certain is Certain?” Here are truths we learn from the Bible:

  1. In the beginning God . . . (I AM)
  2. Everything that is has its beginning in God . . . (Let us make . . .)
  3. Man was made in God’s image . . . (male and female he created them)
  4. Man rebelled against God (original sin that applies to us all)
  5. God has a plan of redemption for man . . . (to Abraham God said: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Gen. 12:3)

These truths are imperative to God for us to know, not if the sun rotates around the earth or the earth around the sun or how he actually created because none of this has ultimate meaning to us, until we first settle sin and redemption. As I’ve written before, the sole purpose of the Bible is the story of our sin and God’s redemption. It’s not a science textbook; not a history textbook; not a textbook of anything other than what it looks like to be a sinner and what it will look like to be redeemed. As one writer put it, the Bible is not an encyclopedic answer to everything in life.

As it happens, in this story there are references to a larger Reality than sin and redemption so it has a legitimate place on that table representing the cosmos. What it doesn’t give us is definitive answers, but it gives us questions to ask. As to the table (the cosmos) what it won’t give us is answers to the questions of sin and redemption or how to live Godly lives. That it doesn’t cannot be construed to then deny our religious needs, simply that these aren’t issues necessary to understanding the larger Reality. We’re looking at both/and. In other words, both science and religion are legitimate realms of research for answers they can find. Science will give us the what but not the why. Religion will give us the why but not the what. Together they make a complete answer, at least as complete as we can get giving our limitations brought on by sin.