By Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministry
In a war against science, religion will lose. Thankfully, this is a battle God never asked us to wage.
Christianity has had several embarrassing conflicts with science as of late. So many of us grow tired of the meme that pitts loud, Christians voices against reasonable, scientific ones as the church tends to get painted again and again with the same backwards, anti-everything, brush.
After all, most of the Christians that I know are genuinely thankful for the fruit of scientific labors. These people aren’t threatened in the slightest by evolutionary theory (many embrace it), care deeply for the environment (have concerns about global warming), and actively seek to integrate new scientific learnings, from a myriad of disciplines, as they work to serve their communities. They even read their Bibles with methods that reflect an appreciation for scientific disciplines and a humility that we can never know anything in its entirety.
So is it fair to blame all Christians or to lump together all religious folks? No, but it happens and we could certainly do more to communicate a positive alternative to the fundamentalists to whom it does apply and the popular caricatures of Christians in the press. In our efforts to remain polite and inclusive, we fail to actively and regularly denounce the anti-scientific rhetoric, and even bullying, that takes place in many churches – even some of our own. Let me give you an example.
Last year I was at a leadership gathering bringing together people from the different regional bodies of our church for an extended learning session on adaptive leadership. This wasn’t publicized as a gathering of the laggards; these were people intentionally brought together to help lead us into the future. Early on in her presentation, the keynote speaker made a quick, and fully appropriate, reference to evolutionary theory as she discussed the foundations of adaptive thought. I barely even noticed it.
[pull_quote_left]Is it too much to expect that at such a leadership gathering a scientific theory might be mentioned without a Galileo-moment…[/pull_quote_left]After a short break, the speaker resumed her session with an apology. Apparently several people had approached her during the break, deeply offended by her mention of evolution, Being a graceful person she must have seen apology as the easiest way to move forward. She has no fault of this, after all, she was our guest; but all the same I really wish she hadn’t been so generous. Is it too much to expect that at such a leadership gathering a scientific theory might be mentioned without a Galileo-moment of aggressive defensiveness and forced recant?
I work for the church and I love it. I like to think that continuing to care for a church that is so backwards at times is the best way to follow a God who still loves us despite our meandering hearts. My wife is a pastor. As a family, you might say that we are fully invested. Still, as things stand, I’d prefer that my daughters became scientists rather than evangelists. I want them to live in the future, and not in the past. I’m not convinced the church is willing to do the same.
But I know God wants us to live into the future. The world is so greatly in need of transformation and what is our purpose but to do this work?
Despite our many technological and scientific advances, we continue to wrestle with persistent problems that have been with us for as long as we can remember. Every spark of progress is accompanied by new moral complexities and equal opportunities to turn each toward advantage for the few or the many. To this world the Gospel still asks the provocative question, “Who is our neighbor?” and too often the question falls on deaf ears and hardened hearts.
[pull_quote_right]To this world the Gospel still asks the provocative question, “Who is our neighbor?” and too often the question falls on deaf ears and hardened hearts.[/pull_quote_right]To be the church that can minister in emerging contexts with integrity, we need to continue to wrestle with God’s calling upon us and not content ourselves with the simple peddling of nostalgia. We must step bravely out into the present, confident in the knowledge that God is the Lord of all; recognizing in each discovery the blessing of a universe so complex and interesting. We need to recover a corporate faith that doesn’t fear progress or demand our leaders to apologize for being educated and well informed.
The scientific community doesn’t need the denunciation of a church that is unwilling to live in the present. What many, if not most, deserve is our appreciation for the work they do help us to understand the miracle that we profess as creation. And for those who remain people of faith, they deserve recognition for the ways they use their gifts to pursue God’s call upon their lives and for the great reservoirs of tolerance they must embody.
It is true that the caricatures in the media do not fairly represent the diversity of Christianity. But without our loud and consistent protest to the contrary, why shouldn’t we be surprised when people don’t stop to mark a difference between our timidity and the loud voices of those who declare war on reason?
What does your church do to let people know that science, and scientists, aren’t the enemy? How do you help to raise up young people who don’t see a conflict between the pursuit of an education and the faithful following of Jesus? Maybe we need a special Sunday to recognize and honor our scientists and their achievements; a hug a scientist for Jesus day, if you will.
In a war against science, religion will lose. But it is hard to be at war with those whose work we honor, or with persons we hold within our firm embrace. I am thankful to be a part of of a church that honors scientific achievement and education. I just wish more people knew about it.