Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Can’t Stand Christians Who Think Science is the Enemy!

* Read Psalm 104:1-5; Romans 14:13

With all the controversary surrounding the Creation vs. Evolution debate over the past 80 years, I wonder if the deeper question on the minds of most fundamentalist Christians isn't really about science – is it good or bad for Church theology?

A little boy comes home from church and asks his father, "Daddy, in Sunday School, I was taught that we came from God but in Public School we are being taught that we are descended from the apes. Daddy, Daddy, which one is it?" Now the Dad who felt pretty uncomfortable when it came to religion vs. science discussions, thought a second and replied, "Well, the answer is very, very simple! My side of the family came from God and your mother's side of the family came from the apes!"

The question that is more often on my mind these days is: Which raises more questions these days - science or religion? Paul cautions us on the issue of being a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters. A stumbling block is a physical obstacle in our path that trips us up and deters us from our destination. In Paul's discussion, a stumbling block obstructs our spiritual journey as well; conceptual obstacles trip us up and deter us from our destination of getting to know God better and better.

Romans 14:13, “live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
A spiritual stumbling block can take the form of behavior—good or bad—that throws someone else off.

A short history of Faith & Science
Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century published Summa Theologica which argued that all truth is one, so faith and reason were complementary rather than contradictory. During the Renaissance science advanced by leaps and bounds, and challenged certain assumptions by the church. Galileo was a Catholic but did not believe the earth was the center of the universe, so he was imprisoned. Darwin solidified the misconception that faith and science were incompatible in 1859 with the Origin of Species. His followers saw his theory of natural selection and common descent as a way to remove God as Creator. The result had two possibilities for Christian theologians; to harmonize evolution with creation, or reject the theory altogether, vilify Darwinism and deepen the divide between science and faith. The comes the evolution of Scientific Creationism in late 19th Century by the Seventh Day Adventists. They held three bedrock beliefs; 1) The seven days of creation were 24 hours long; 2) The great flood accounted for the geological changes that make the earth appear old; and 3) The Bible is a sourcebook for science.

The ramifications of scientific creationism movement concluded that there was only one possible interpretation of the biblical account of creation. Science was out to disprove God and the bible. and therefore all scientists are opposed to God. Any Christians who didn’t agree was opposed to Scripture.

What does God really think about all this?
I think first and foremost, God is all about truth – all God’s knowledge and words are both true and the final statement of truth. God is therefore reliable and faithful. This realization should encourage us in the pursuit of knowledge in all areas of the natural and social sciences and the humanities. Whatever the area of our investigation when we discover more truth about the nature of reality, we discover more truth that God already knows. In this sense, we can affirm that “all truth is God’s truth.”

Worldview of the Bible

As far as the ancients knew, the world was flat. There was a bubble surrounding the earth that was full of water. The sky was blue because it was made of water. The firmaments (known universe) was also enclosed within this bubble. When the bubble burst, the flood came and destroyed that worldview. No thinking Christian still believes that. Everone's understanding of science has changed, but God hasn’t - only our understandings have. New scientific understandings are truths that come from God, and therefore teach us more about God.

A theologian (person who studies God) and a scientist (person who studies nature) are both seeking truth. Shouldn’t the God of the world and the Bible be in harmony? Yes, but the conflict arises when we draw absolute conclusions from insufficient evidence. There is a new age emerging where Faith and Science are partners. What is this new consciousness? It is founded in a new worldview and belief in the unity of the Divine; that all living things are sacred and come from the Divine. There can be direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life. It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius on February 4, 1962 that began a departure from Western ideology that had oppressed many groups and damaged the Earth. This new ideology is relational, characterized by analytic thinking, intuition, the unity of all life, and the path to knowing.

Scientific knowledge lays the foundation for understanding our culture and our theology. God is now thought of in terms of relationships. Rather than being perceived as material—an old man in the sky—God is understood as power or energy which emerges when relationships are mutual and participatory. God is incarnate – embodied in all of life. We now imagine God as the “interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” thus imaging a network, a web of connections, a system, a process in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts and in which any part affects the whole. Eastern thought gave us the paradigm long ago – reality is interdependent and neither the self nor anything is solid or permanent, rather constantly in process, affected by and affecting the whole. The Heart Sutra in Buddhism says that “Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.” If we substitute form for the word matter, and emptiness for energy, then we have a primitive understanding of Einstein’s theory of quantum mechanics, E=MC2.

The incarnation of God becomes the work of Christ in his atonement. Yet the central meaning of that theological concept has been misunderstood. It is "At-one-ment" - when we open ourselves to the present moment, sensing that all we say or do influences what happens around us scientifically and spiritually, we experience the miracle of mindfulness, the loss of our egos and union with all that is. Aware of our interdependence we can let go of our need to be doing and in control…and just trust in being. Then when we return to doing, we can act out of compassion, accepting that we cannot be certain that the effects of our actions will be what we intended, but willing to take responsibility for them, even as we are not attached to their outcome.

Jesus said a new age was coming - the Kingdom of God was at hand. When will we Christians stop resisting it, and start affirming that Science is our partner in the revelation of God?

Excerpts from Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz's awesome book, "I'm fine with God...It's Christians I Can't Stand" (2008: Harvest House Publishers)