Science is a gift from God and should inspire a confident church. One that is open and engaged in a fast-changing, technology-driven world.
But also a church that also remains in the unchanging truth of God and His word.
The problem is that there is far too much misunderstanding and sometimes fear of science in churches.
This is so sad because science can help worshippers come closer to God.
Science is a way to understand His greatness in creation.
And there are so many inspiring ways this can be communicated in our churches.
Why don’t we talk more about science in Church?
The hesitancy around science, church and worship I suspect comes down to one difficult area for some Christians.
Let’s name the dinosaur in the room; evolutionary theory and the claims of scripture.
This is hardly new but the recent outrageous campaigning by the new atheists only encourages suspicion and hostility from some Christians. Rightful indignation from others.
What you read here is pretty typical of them:
“Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.” Richard Dawkins.
I won’t go into the whole new atheist debate, which seems to have quietened down lately, other than to say ideas typical of Dawkins has been thoroughly refuted on many occasions elsewhere.
Sadly, though, the effect has been to leave some believers deeply wary of science and scientists and would rather disregard it altogether.
Science and the thorny issue of biblical interpretation.
Many in the church would rather put the claims of science aside because it creates tensions around scriptural interpretation.
Some Christians will reject evolution outright and read various accounts in the Bible in a way that others of equal conviction don’t find plausible at all.
They include many Christian scientists and theologians.
So clergy and leaders in churches unconsciously (or not) avoiding controversy.
But a lot of churches in stepping back from some tricky topics, are also partly responsible for not correcting the idea of science and faith in opposition.
One way this problem can be addressed is by enabling churches to fully equip their leadership to answer science and faith questions. Recent initiatives in the Church of England are doing just this.
What’s more, there’s a depth of inspiring history of Christian scientists that the churches can use as wonderful examples for believers today.
Famous Christian scientists are an inspiration for the Church.
So many of the great scientists, past and present, were committed Christians.
Here’s an opening roll call to begin with; Galileo (we don’t have time to address the misreading of history around his conflict with the Catholic Church), Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday (pictured), Babbage, Mendel (founder of genetics), Pasteur, Kelvin and Clerk Maxwell.
The new atheists would retort by saying that they would be because everyone was religious in the past. This is a red-herring because the scientists were not just religious culturally, they really were personally very devout. Their own personal writings indicate this clearly.
Not only that, there are many more modern scientists who are believers. Some of whom have come to faith later in life. Francis Collins, former director of National Human Genome Research Institute, are among them.
In fact, the list is so long, I couldn’t fit them all in one blog!
You can find a pretty comprehensive list of eminent scientists who are Christians here
Science is an inspiration for the church when an act of worship.
Dig a bit more in history and you’ll find a fascinating connection between science and church.
You’ll know the word laboratory, a place where scientific work is done. Its Latin origins reveal something fascinating. The word laboratory combines labour, meaning to toil and oratory, meaning a chapel, praying or to speak.
It’s inspiring that a word synonymous with science has its origins in the church. It goes to show that if you’re a believer and a scientist, your work is not separate from your worship.
Inspiring a new kind of worship.
But even if you’re not a scientist, scientific discovery should form an even greater part of our worship.
Because science uncovers the immense glory, vastness and complexity of reality and the work of its creator.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20
To do science, as Kepler put it, is to ‘think God’s thoughts after him.’ It’s an amazing privilege to do and I know many Christian scientists who think just like this. Science is their calling and an act of worship.
When we discover more things about the universe, it also inspires (in me certainly) an even greater praise of God and his works.
It also puts me in my place.
Knowing the vastness of the universe humbles me and fills me with awe at the God who got the whole thing going.
The problems I have are insignificant in comparison to the enormity of the universe I belong to. And the one who put me here, to begin with.
That very knowledge and insight have been given to me by science and it inspires my worship back to Him.
Church and those inspired to be scientists.
The realm of science should be encouraged in the church, especially for those people who have a scientific calling. After all, it doesn’t matter what we do so long as we dedicate it to God:
‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,’ Colossians 3:23
Sadly I know of instances where some from a very strict religious culture forbid their children or congregation from pursuing science if it conflicts with their faith.
It boils down to a choice, science or the Bible, and of course, the Bible has to come first.
Again, this is based on a completely false understanding of the Bible and science being in conflict.
It’s a group of Christians enforcing one interpretation of scripture over another or not even tolerating differences of viewpoints.
We need to acknowledge that some forms of interpretation are damaging and denying what is a God-given calling on someone’s life.
Scientists who are Christian are an encouragement.
I’ve met many Christian scientists who have certainly had their faith tested by the things they study or the opinions they receive from other scientists.
Many of them have worked through whatever questions or doubts that arise in their particular field with what the Bible may say.
These Christians are a gift to the church.
Hearing them share how they’ve worked through difficult issues and coming through it with an even stronger faith is a tremendous encouragement for other Christians. Churches would do well to hear them speak more often.
These individuals are often thoughtful, wise and also a very effective witness in their workplace.
Science is here to stay and so is the Church.
Science is here to stay.
We can’t unlearn or un-discover what we know to be verified and true. We can no longer assert that the earth is the centre of the solar system or any other idea that has been thoroughly disproved.
But I believe far from undermining faith, ironically science and its discoveries in the future will support it.
Like a pair of binoculars, we see more clearly the beauty and depth of the world looking through both lenses.
Looking with only one eye shifts and distorts our perception.
God has given us two eyes and he’s given us two ways to understand the truth; reason and revelation.
Neglecting either of these is to take away the grandeur and glory of who He is and the universe we live in.
So we should be confident of the truth of God’s Word and the glory of His world.
And that is an incredible inspiration for the whole church.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
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Images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC. Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.