In the public square, Christianity and science are often presented as opposing sources of truth: If you believe in one, then you must reject the other. But in fact, many Christians find that science helps them search for truth and understanding, and believe that reason, thoughtfulness and critical inquiry are gifts from God.
Two devout Christians who have truly embraced that idea are John ZuHone, an astrophysicist at NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center, and Zach Fleming, Pastor of Student Ministries at McPherson Free Methodist Church in Kansas and teacher at Central Christian College of Kansas. As part of Sinai and Synapses' series "More Light, Less Heat," they share their views on the relationship between science and their Christian faith.
John ZuHone shares how he sees the way Christianity celebrates reason and critical inquiry.
Pastor Zach Fleming explains how science helps him broaden his understanding of what "truth" means for Christianity.
Hi. My name is John ZuHone. I'm an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and I'm also a follower of Jesus Christ. For nearly my entire life, I've been both fascinated with science and a believer in God.
Now, this hasn't always been easy. But what I've realized is this -- that the Christian faith holds a high regard for reason, inquiry and science. St. Paul says: "Test everything. Hold onto that which proves good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21) In his small catechism, Martin Luther says, "I believe that God has made me and all creatures, and He has given me my reason and all my senses and still preserves them." Finally, the Psalmist says, "The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language with words not heard." (Psalm 19)
Now, what this all tells me as a Christian is this: God speaks to me both through His word in the Scriptures, but also in nature, and that I can discover truth by studying both. Though my finite nature and tendency towards self-absorption -- which the Bible calls "sin" -- means that my understanding will always be imperfect. If I find a contradiction between the two, it means I may have misunderstood Scripture, I may have misunderstood what nature is trying to speak to me, or both.
For example, if the evidence shows clearly that the universe is billions of years old, as I believe it does, it means that I should think perhaps about other interpretations of Genesis Chapter 1. However, it would be a stretch to say therefore that I should doubt that God is the Creator. I think that these are two different things.
God says through the prophet Isaiah, "Come, let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18) I believe, and I trust, that if I respond to this call from this great God, this God who in the person of Jesus Christ died and rose again for my sins, He will also give me the understanding that I need to be not only a better scientist, but to be a better follower of Him.
Thank you for listening.
Hi, my name is Zach Fleming and I am the Pastor of Student Ministries at the McPherson Free Methodist church in McPherson, Kansas. As someone who works primarily with high school and college-age students, I strive to help my students create a healthy understanding of the interaction between science and the Christian faith.
It concerns me greatly when Christians attempt to manipulate particular Scriptures (like the opening chapters of Genesis) and transform them into a science text. This was not the author's intent, and we do a disservice to ourselves and the text when we decide to only approach it through Western-American eyes.
One of the first Christians, a man named Paul, encourages follows of Jesus by saying, "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." (1 Corinthians 3:22)
As a pastor, I strive to help my students see that if they are in Christ, then "All things are theirs!" If Jesus says "I am the truth," then when my students experience or learn something true within a particular scientific discipline, then it isn't that they're finding truth outside of the Christian faith. If it's true, then the Christian faith just got bigger! Because "all things are mine and I am of Christ and Christ is of God."
It's not our world and His fingerprint. It's His world and they are our fingerprints.
As my good friend, Dr. John ZuHone said: "The Christian faith holds a high regard for reason, inquiry, and science."
I want my students to know that the whole universe is their to display God's truth. They have the whole universe -- they have biology and psychology, they have anthropology, physiology, cosmology. They have the human body. They have plant life. They have ecosystems. They have this great, big, wide, deep universe. They have the WHOLE universe to point to how great God is.
Why? Because you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. All things are yours!
Follow Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RabbiMitelman