Many fear to tread into culturally charged topics in an “us” versus “them” social media climate characterized by rapid escalation, rabid judgments, and character assassinations. What if a course on God and science could actually help us love one another, or at least be kinder to those who see things differently than we do?
I’ve just returned from Houston where I taught the first three lectures of an eight-session course on “God and Science.” I’m thrilled and a bit overwhelmed with the challenge and opportunity presented to me by The Bible Seminary in Katy, TX. How does one begin to develop and teach a course on two inexhaustible topics? My approach so far: prayer, perseverance, hope, humility, and lots of good authors, theologians, biblical scholars, and scientists.
The surprising thing to many, myself included, is that after the next lecture we’ll reach the halfway point—and we haven’t even covered a single piece of “scientific data” yet. What?! What kind of course on God and science is that?
Well, it’s one where I’m not trying so much to teach the intricacies of science to nonscientists or to convince anyone to see the data my way. I’m trying to help others see foundations for harmony or integration when thoughtful, committed people engage on the topic of science and faith in a culture where the two are sometimes pitted as polar opposite ways to approach life.
So, what have we looked at? In week one, we examined metaphysics and worldviews, as well as the roles of revelation and interpretation. Next, we considered the history and concept of dual revelation in nature and Scripture, ways of relating science and faith, and the types of reasoning we employ whether we’re involved in scientific endeavors or theological ones. In the third session, we spent most of our time discussing and contemplating the demarcation of science and the role of methodological naturalism in scientific research (and how critically different methodological naturalism is from philosophical naturalism).
The best part of covering this material is that I have drawn from authors who cover the gamut of interpretive positions. The next lecture will feature some of the most challenging material as we look at specific interpretive positions. In regard to the science, I am drawing from old-earth and evolutionary creationists as well as naturalists and biblical literalists. And in regard to scriptural interpretive approaches, we’ll consider those who take the creation accounts literalistically1, non-literalistically—but still historically (analogical and chronological approaches), and positions that could be described as more theological than historical (e.g., framework views, polemic views, and ancient Near Eastern mythical views). When we break it down and tackle the topics this way, we see areas of overlap in several positions and logical consistency within a variety of positions that try to harmonize God’s activities in nature and words in Scripture.
I’m not out to convince others of my position. I am hoping to help others understand how their philosophical (metaphysical) and worldview biases shape the way they interpret data (scientific and biblical) and to adopt their own view on how science and faith relate. By doing this, I also hope to help them understand that others may approach the interpretation of the data (scientific and biblical) differently. We’re all just trying to make the best sense we can out of life. We’re all just trying to fit those things we know via mathematics and philosophy, natural and behavioral sciences, human experience, and religious beliefs together in a logically coherent whole that helps us navigate and make sense of the world.
I hope this approach will allow us to be more accepting and loving of fellow Christians who have different views than we might. I hope it will allow us to view other non-Christians with a greater degree of understanding and acceptance, too. I really hope it will allow us all to dialogue with true curiosity and genuine kindness with one another.
Jesus calls us to seek truth and to be actively engaged in loving each other—and God—as we do. If we’re doing these things with a modicum of humility and a serious dose of self-awareness, I think we can build bridges and friendships with people who are very different than we are. What a beautiful vision, a kaleidoscope of diversity without character (or real) assassinations. If we could pull that off, maybe others would believe there really is a God and that Jesus is really who he claimed to be.
If we’re helping one another to consider things differently, we will likely understand our own positions better, and together, draw closer to the truth. As Christians we should never shrink back from the pursuit of truth as we trust in Jesus. Because all truth, after all, is God’s truth. On that note, I’ll close with a recent statement I heard that I wish was attributable to a fellow Christian, but is not. “In the end we’re all just walking one another home”—even in a course on God and science.
- Use of the word “literalistically” is intentional. Although not found in some dictionaries, literalistically is used in discussions regarding interpretation and refers to a particular commitment of an interpretive approach, one which is done in a literalistic manner; an approach to interpretation that adheres to the explicit sense of a given text or doctrine.