Faith of a scientist: a personal witness

Faith of a Scientist? That's preposterous! It's an oxymoron, right?
Not really--most scientists I know are deeply religious people.

How can that be? Aren't science and religion incompatible? No!

Man, designed in God's image, is destined to learn of the Universe.

Both science and religion seek the truth, but they answer different questions using different approaches.

The search for truth involves the question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Science and religion handle different parts of this total package.

who
what
when
where
Religion uses the Bible as its major source, prayer and inspiration are secondary.

Science examines history from all documents and evidence available; evidence must stand certain test procedures.

Religion and Science mostly corroborate each other on these questions.

whyThis is the exclusive realm of religion.
howThis is most likely the exclusive realm of science; the one book is kind of limited in words to express the details of all mechanisms operating in the universe.

Most of the controversies that appear between science and religion in the new media stem from literal interpretation of Biblical accounts.

The Bible is the best account of God's dealings with ancient man but because it passed through man's mind and hands it reflects both:

  1. divine inspiration and
  2. human fallibility


Examples of Controversy:

1. The Creation Story

We might as well tackle the big one first. This one has been in the media for generations as a controversy. It has really been de-fused in recent years for all but the most "literal" of Christians. Most main-line Christian denominations can distinguish the realms of Religion and Science and do not find much argument with our scientific understanding of the history of the Universe.

QuestionGenesisScience
WhoIn the beginning God created...Item of faith, not science.
WhatUniverse
Life
These did not always exist, therefore must have been created by some mechanism
Sequence of Organisms: plants, fish, birds, mammals, manSequence verified and mechanism is evolution
Whenabout 4000 BC over a 7-day period
Universe 1-2, plants 3, fish, birds 4, animals, man 6
that's all it says about times!
Universe, light = Big Bang 12 billion YBP
Life 3.5 billion YBP, Man < 200,000 y BP

Who cares about timing?

The Bible certainly does not.
In terms of generic time:

Genesis 2
2 And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

Psalms 90
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

2 Peter 3
8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

These three verses, taken together, mean that the creation process took 7 days or maybe 7000 years or maybe even more. You see, time is irrelevant to the power of the story.


In terms of human lifespan:

Psalms 90
10 The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Genesis 5
27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.

These two verses, taken together, along with other longevities listed in Genesis 5 indicate that time was rather loosely defined throughout the history recorded in the Bible. A literal interpretation of universe creation and evolution to man in seven 24-hour days would be an error.

Scientists certainly do not.

Carl Sagan in his book "Cosmos" used the illustration of the history of the universe in 12 "months". Other tele-scientists have used a 24-hour clock as the illustration.

In terms of the year as a revolution around the sun, science places the history of the universe at 12 billion years!

However we think of time, it is the rest of the story that is important anyway!

QuestionGenesisScience
WhereIn a void--the deep
later events on Earth
At the center of the universe, later events in Galaxies and on planets.
WhyPurpose of religion using advice in the Bible and prayer for divine inspirationA question of Faith
HowAlmost no details, left for further inspiration (=science?)Universe:
E=MC2 E=> mass + speed
F=MA Force => mass x acceleration
2nd Law of Thermo E decreases as heat => condensation of stars planets

Life
Creation mechanism not completely known
Evolution by Natural Selection => Sequence
new crops, animals, flowers, Burpee and Parks, etc.

We need to think of the creation of man by evolution
NOT
Creation of man instead of evolution!

Evolution is the mechanism of creation.

As I tell my students, this theory of evolution has been tested from many different perspectives (NOT JUST FOSSILS!), and has never failed to explain our biological universe. It is as close to fact as the theory that we are here in this place. In science the word theory does not mean speculative!

In summary of this example:

  1. Religion gives history, tells WHY.
  2. Science verifies history, tells HOW.

Scientists expect TRUTH to PREVAIL and WRONG to FAIL

So does Religion

Acts 5: 38-39
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them."

The controversies certainly pale in this way of thinking.

2. Errors in the Bible

Rev. 7
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.

Is the Earth a flat square?

Isaiah 40
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth...

Is the earth a flat circle?

Since 1492 we have known it is a sphere!

These errors in fact do not threaten religion in any way.
The WHYS (realm of Religion) are not changed!

3. Errors by Theologians

Theologians some years ago presumed the universe rotated around the Earth.
Copernicus was persecuted for his correct belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

But the Gospel is still valid!

4. Science fails too sometimes!

Some of you may remember that even within the present century science had a Law of Conservation of Matter. Matter could be neither created nor destroyed.

Now we know that cosmic rays (a form of energy, not matter) can be induced to form an electron and a positron (both forms of matter)
Matter CAN be created!

Now we know we can combine two hydrogen atoms to make one helium atom. In this process matter is destroyed but a huge amount of energy is released (the hydrogen bomb).
Matter CAN be destroyed!

In light of these new findings, scientists had to modify the original law. So we no longer teach about a law of the conservation of matter, but we teach about a law of the conservation of energy!

Science was wrong and truth has prevailed!
Religion was wrong and truth has prevailed!

Many of the "apparent" conflicts between science and religion really exist only in the minds of people.

I doubt there any conflicts in the mind of God!


So as scientists each new discovery we make has two possible effects on us:

1. God is less great because we know more about the universe
2. We see yet another example of God's presence; we know more about Him and His works.

This is like the half-full half-empty perception problem. The interpretation is up to the scientist. Personally, I tend toward the latter. The more I learn, the more I see His hand.

Even if we are ultimately successful in creating life in the laboratory, a feat that would make many scientists think less of God, the question will remain:

Why Are We Here?

Because of this, for this scientist and many others, there will always be a place for Religion!

To me, the purpose of life is to:

1. Grow in Wisdom
2. Grow in Goodness

So now I'd like to turn to these two important tasks.

WISDOM

Who is God?

Bible:

Science:


these certainly have those characteristics

God is great but also transcends greatness to be a small part of each of us.

Surrounded by evil, tyranny, and despair we begin to wonder "DOES GOD EXIST?"

My witness to you is:

God is so gentle, so dedicated to our free choice between evil and good, that we question His very existence.

This is the best testimony of his existence; He guides with silken threads so gentle they cannot be seen but are stronger than steel. This shows His mercy, kindness, and concern.

How do we know God cares about us?

As the current (albeit brief!) most-remarkable creature, God must care about us. Therefore it is not unreasonable to provide a perfect example (Jesus) and Gospel as a blueprint for our development and welfare in striving for goodness.

Wouldn't it be better if God forced us to be good?

This would be the case if Satan, Hitler, or Stalin were ruling...
Did they play God? NO! They removed free choice and so are AntiChrist!

God does not force because that is not God's way.
Dealing with God is sometimes difficult. He operates only through Love. The best analogy I know of is when Luke Skywalker was trying to defeat the evil Emperor in "Return of the Jedi." Luke could not use hatred to defeat the Emperor; the more hatred he felt against the Emperor, the more his soul belonged to that devil. That kind of evil force can never really triumph. Instead, it was an act of Love...in this case of a Father (Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader) protecting his Son (Luke) to defeat the evil one. You might not think of StarWars as particularly "Biblical" but this story certainly carries a religious concept in my opinion.

GOODNESS

The main tasks Jesus assigned us in this area are:

1. know what the Christian life is...then follow it
2. spread the Word of our new life

The Christian life is the subject of the New Testament and is portrayed there as the cornerstone to:

1. immortality
2. universal brotherhood
3. finding a personal relationship with God
4. all based on the need for good works, but more importantly, faith

If we try to live as Jesus directed us, we preach a greater sermon than anything we can say!

Our Bible readings tell us what to do:

1. Become familiar with the Gospel--read your Bible

2. Talk frequently with God--pray

3. Live the two commandments--Matt 22:37-39

Love God
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
4. Witness to others about God--Mark 9: 39-41
Don't Just Be Good, Be Good FOR SOMETHING!

We are not born with knowledge of Christian Life, we have to learn it through study and prayer. This is the purpose of religion.

Consider memorizing an Affirmation of Faith. These, such as the Nicene or Apostle's Creeds, summarize the Christian Faith in a formal way. A memorized verse such as these can come in handy when it comes time to witness. What DO you believe as a Christian? Are you prepared to answer that? What would you say? What should you say?

This witness is important because, as generations go, if we fail our teaching/witness even slightly, our errors compound! Your witness today can influence others for many generations. So TEACH about your faith! Get Involved!

Our Bible Lesson, Romans 12, tells us that all of us can witness in our own professions.

Does your witness show in your:

language
behavior
lack of gossiping
compassion?

Ask yourself this:

Do any of my friends, my business associates, know that I am a Christian?

Share your testimony!

The Reward

According to the Bible, our reward for Christian Living is Eternal Life.

Science has little to offer in answering the existence of this.

You cannot see it or measure it.
1. But there are near-death experiences and
2. That "conservation of energy" law that passes our energy on!

Religion offers three reasons why there must be eternal life:

1. To accept death as final is to accept life as futile, meaningless

2. God would be less compassionate than many good people if life ended at the grave.

3. Broken, uncompleted lives are one of the best reasons for eternal life in which the scales of justice are balanced by a Just God!


Summary

  1. Science and Religion complement each other
  2. Science gives details of HOW the Universe works
  3. Religion gives details of WHY we are here
    1. Live a Christian Life
    2. Spread the Gospel
  4. The Bible gives us instructions for Christian Life

Benediction

Paraphrase of Matt 28: 19-20

Go into the world, teaching others as Jesus commanded, and remember He is with you now, and forever. Amen.


This page © Ross E. Koning 1994.

Go back to Ross Koning's Religious Thoughts Directory

Go to Ross Koning's Homepage.

Send comments and bug reports to Ross Koning at koningre∂gmail⋅com.