Conflict sells. From politics, to sports, to entertainment, struggle between opposing sides is accepted as part of life. For many, science and faith are casually accepted as enemies. But are they? The conflict model is accepted by many who cling to either science or faith as the path to knowledge. Some speak and write in exaggerations and extremes in hopes of destroying their perceived enemy. But science and faith are not at odds.
First, the perceived conflict is partially a history problem. In this case, there is a difference between what is taught and what is true. What is taught: once upon a time the Church held power and authority over truth. Phenomena which could not be explained were simply attributed to deity or divine power. As scientists began to gain more knowledge through evidence and testing the Church was threatened, pushed away science and deeply persecuted scientists. What is true: Scientific inquiry and discovery arose from Christian Europe and a Judeo-Christian worldview. Many scientists and leading thinkers were not atheists, but theists (Copernicus, Boyle, Newton, Pascal, Kepler, Pasteur and Bacon). They believed God created the natural world with order, therefore humans could use their reason to study and understand it.
Second, the perceived conflict is based on a misunderstanding of what faith is. This is illustrated by Indiana Jones’ friend, Marcus as they discuss whether or not to seek the “holy grail” in the movie, “The Last Crusade.” Marcus tells Jones, “If you want facts, I have none to give you. At my age I’m prepared to take a few things on faith.” He speaks as though faith isn’t supported by facts. Ironically, their decision to pursue the “Holy Grail” was based not on blind “faith” but the lifelong research of Indiana Jones’ father. He had accumulated an entire diary of information which led him to reasonably believe the grail existed. The only reason Marcus made his “faith” statement was precisely because they held facts in their hands. Those facts strengthened their faith in the grail’s existence! Science is about facts. But facts can only take one so far. Faith is the bridge to the unknown based on what is known.
Third, the perceived conflict equates science with scientific naturalism. Every person sees life through their worldview, or set of beliefs. Naturalism is a worldview which believes nature is all there is. There is no God, no supernatural, and mankind is simply an animal. Naturalism is obviously at odds with theism (the belief that God exists). Theism looks to the fine-tuning, beauty, and order in nature and concludes there is more than nature. There is a Designer and the supernatural. Science answers many questions about the natural world, but is limited and cannot answer everything (such as why we are here, why is there something rather than nothing, and what is our purpose?). This is where faith and theology have much to offer. Naturalism is problematic, because if true, life has no meaning (besides what you create), no value (no difference between a serial killer and a saint), and no purpose (we turn to dust).
Naturalism is at odds with faith, not science! For the Christian, science is an exciting enterprise. Whereas other disciplines (like history, the arts, etc.) examine man’s accomplishments, math and science discover what is already there! My son loves his Rubix cube. To me it’s an unintelligible mess. But he sees something which was designed purposefully and can therefore be understood and solved. He studies what he sees and is inspired. Scientists can do the same. Science and faith are not foes. They are friends!
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.