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i heart scienceIt’s no big secret that, as a young boy growing up, my parents raised me not only in the Christian faith, but also to have a love of science and intellectual pursuits. I was probably one of the few 7-year-olds that had an ongoing subscription to Discover Magazine. Even after embracing my Christian faith and pursuing further intellectual studies in the Scriptures and theology, I still maintained a strong interest in science and scientific thought, and never succumbed to the whole “fear of science” that many of my fellow believers seem to subscribe to. Even during my brief stint in a church that actively encouraged avoiding critical thinking, I never thought that my interest in science and logic was anathema to my faith.

Some ways of understanding Christianity do not see the scientific studies as an integral aspect of the faith. Many forms of Pietism, for example, hold that the Christian’s sole responsibility is to focus on a personal devotional life rather than to become preoccupied with intellectual issues. Others would suggest that Christianity is primarily a religion of salvation and that a concern with offering an explanation of our world does not feature prominently (if it features at all) in the New Testament. I remember, ten years ago, being told in one of those Evangelical Christian chat rooms, “The only important thing is winnin’ souls, so stop wastin’ time with all this intellectual mumbo-jumbo.” I still run into this sentiment today.

While I agree that Christianity does indeed encourage a “discipleship of the heart”, there is also an obligation to develop a “discipleship of the mind”, something that many other fellow believers either are ignorant of, or outright ignore. In Matthew 22, Jesus replied to a question posed by one of the Pharisees about which is the greatest commandment in the Law with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (v.37). This view was certainly held by C.S. Lewis, whose personal journey from atheism to Christianity resulted from his judgement that Christianity offered a better vision of reality. Sir John Polkinghorne, Cambridge quantum physicist turned theologian, is another Christian thinker who believes meta-questions that arise from our scientific experience and understanding can point us beyond what science by itself can presume to speak about:

Religion — or rather theology — is, I think, the great integrating discipline. It takes the insights of science — doesn’t tell science what to think — but it takes science’s insights and understandings, it takes the insights of morality, takes the insights of aesthetics, the study of beauty. The wonderful order or pattern of the world that science discovers and rejoices in is a reflection, indeed, of the mind of the creator, whose will and purpose lie behind the world. Our moral intuitions, our intimations of God’s good and perfect will, our experiences of beauty, I believe, are sharing in the joy of the creator, the creation. You can soon see the gross inadequacy of thinking that science can tell you everything that you could possibly know.*

Mind you, I’m not an academic; my exploration of both science and theology is purely from a layman’s perspective. But, I have come to a place now that I don’t see my faith and science to be opposition to each other. If anything, I can see how they both can be very complimentary, in both my spiritual and intellectual growth. It has become, not a war between Christianity and Science, and more a dialogue between the two. Take that as you will.

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[*=”Sir John Polkinghorne on Science and Theology”, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, May 8, 1998]