Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . God, Science, and Agendas




There seems to be an idea today (okay, for quite a while), that faith and science are at war. I’ve heard scientists say only fools believe in God as the Bible paints him. But what concerns me more is that lately, from every direction, I’ve been bombarded with Christians who say that science can’t be trusted because it doesn’t agree with the Bible. I’ve seen tracts that point out where science is wrong and the Bible right. I’ve seen videos, heard interviews, and been debated on Facebook about the “dangers” of science.

I’ve even heard people claim that if you believe in evolution to any degree, you’re not a real Christian. (So…what do you call dog breeding, dude? Are you aware that that is what Origin of Species is actually addressing, not ape-becoming-man?? Have you read it, or are you just judging it on what others have told you about it?) I’ve had people tell me that if I even let my kids hear about evolution, I’m introducing evil into their lives. And if a Christian doesn’t believe the earth is 6,000 years old? Watch out—you might get excommunicated.

Now, I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the specific arguments, because they usually make my eyes glass over. I won’t judge the scientists for their erroneous claims about faith, because that’s not my place—Paul’s pretty clear on that. He warns us that we’ll be called fools by the world’s “wise.” But I will say this:

Too many Christians today are turning into Pharisees over science.

I’m not supposed to judge the world for being…well, the world. But I am supposed to call out Christians for not being Christ-like (I Cor 5:9-13). But only if I can do it as Christ would—with love. I sure don’t feel any love from someone who says I’m not a Christian if I’m not willing to sign a statement of belief that says the world was created in 6 24-hour days, period. (I’m using Young Earth and Evolution as my two examples because they’re the ones that have come up for me so often lately.)

To them, I’d like to ask this. Do you believe that there’s an ocean above the skies? Not moisture in the atmosphere, but a body of water? Do you? Well if you’re going to read Genesis literally, you should. And it was a big, hot-topic debate about 150 years ago. Moses is pretty clear that God divided the firmament from the waters, and there were waters above and waters beneath. Today, we assume that’s just pretty-talk for water and sky. That’s an understanding that has come by reconciling our understanding of science to our reading of the Word. It wasn’t always so. Theologians in the 1800s got fired up over this, and those who dared to say, “No, there isn’t water above” were branded as heretics by those who wanted to stick to the very-literal meaning.

We can see who ultimately won that argument.

Does it mean that God has changed? That the Scriptures are fallible? No! It means our understanding is fallible and changing.

That’s the thing that really gets my knickers in a bunch. All these people who seem to think that if they can’t reconcile an idea with their traditional understanding, then they should just accuse the idea of being wrong and ungodly. Yo, dude. Maybe your understanding is faulty. Can we please stop pigeon-holing God into the narrow slip of the world that we can understand and instead praise Him for being so much greater than we can understand?

I get that it’s hard to challenge the way you’ve always thought of a thing. I do. But just look at how many different interpretations there are of Scripture. Once-saved-always-saved sure isn’t accepted worldwide. How about beliefs about baptism? Communion? Evangelism? Hell? Speaking in tongues? The other gazillion issues that have divided one denomination from another?

Why not accept that thoughts on science are similar? Science as a whole knows that its understanding is incomplete. And while, sure, you’re going to get adherents to a specific theory that will argue with that theory’s detractors until they’re blue in the face, science as a whole will readily admit that there’s much they don’t know. To them, that’s what fuels discovery. That’s what makes them stretch themselves out toward new knowledge.

Why are Christians so ready to claim that “new” is evil?

That leads me back to my statement about us turning into Pharisees, which I sure hope got a rise from you. Pharisees knew the Law and the Prophets. They could quote it backwards, forward, and upside-down. They were kings of saying But God said… “But God said ‘keep the Sabbath holy,’ Jesus. Why are you healing on it?” What did Jesus say? That He’s Lord of the Sabbath.

The Pharisees said, “But Moses said we can divorce our wives!” What did Jesus say? That Moses was writing to the hardness of man’s heart, but that was never what God wanted.

You get that? Moses was writing to fallen, limited man. But Jesus challenged us to open our eyes to the God behind the words. The intent behind the Law.

Maybe God did explain the universe to Moses in terms of atoms and neutrons and black holes and cellular functions. But Moses was still a man, and one without the scientific base that we have. Moses had limited words. Ever try explaining a dream? You can see it, but there just aren’t always words for it. So you end up saying, “I flew to LA, but when I got there, it was London.” They’re the best words you have…but they’re not enough to explain what you really saw and experienced in that dream. They’re not enough to make it make sense. I daresay Moses experienced something similar. I mean, seriously. Can you imagine having eternal truths revealed you and then having to put them into words?

I’m not saying Moses explained it wrong. I’m not saying the Word of God wasn’t inspired. I’m just saying that it was crafted with human tools, and that those are limited. I’m saying that God is bigger than any explanation. I’m saying that though the Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God, it isn’t all of God. He’s too big to be constrained to 66 books.

You know what? The Pharisees didn’t much like Jesus challenging them to expand their understanding. They stuck with what Moses said, thank you very much. And then they killed him for his trouble.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know how the earth was created—I just know God created it, and then He rested. Were the days 24-hours long? [Insert shrug here.] Strict readers of Genesis would tell me they were, of course they were, and then some would look at me with profound sorrow in their eyes for doubting the word of God.

I’m not. But I am realizing that I sure don’t read “day” as “a literal 24 hours” in chapter 2 when God says “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” We’re happy to call that one metaphorical (though it’s the same word used in “On the first day…”) because we can see the evidence that Adam and Eve did not die on that day.

But we can’t see Creation. We can’t see any particular step of evolution (though duck-billed platypuses do make some wonder, LOL). We can just look at the evidence left behind and try to understand it.

If we’re not married to a literal understanding in chapter 2, though, why are so many married to it in chapter 1? Why are we willing to alienate an entire generation over it? I’m not saying it couldn’t have been 6 literal days. I’m just saying it’s not worth arguing about. I’m saying that the most profound thing you can admit is that our understanding is limited, incomplete, and fallible.

I’m saying that my faith isn’t so weak that it hinges on a particular understanding of a particular verse. Why should it, when I intimately know the unlimited God? When I can see how He’s bigger than the average man in the Old Testament believed Him to be? God hasn’t changed, nosirree. But man has. And oh, how glad I am to have the Spirit dwelling within me, guiding me through new discoveries!

You know what I took from Origin of Species when I read it? Wow, God is so awesome! He made His creation so adaptable, because He knew change would come! Know what I generally think when I hear physicists musing about a big bang versus an eternal universe (new theory), expanding versus contracting? Wow, look at God’s fingerprints on the universe! How awesome and vast and unknowable it is—and how comforting to know that though I’ll never know the Truth of it, He does.

He created us with curious minds. Minds that long to know more. Do we latch onto beliefs about our world that are wrong? Absolutely. But it’s not just science that does that. It’s us.

We’re not at war with science, Christians. We created it, after all. Modern science was based on the idea that the world must be orderly, since God made it, and so we have a hope of understanding it. Sure, plenty have gone astray from that. Too many scientists try to reason away God.

But maybe that’s because too many Christians have deemed science evil instead of letting go of their own limited understandings.

Science, in its purist form, shouldn’t be trying to prove God-or-no-God. It shouldn’t be trying to prove evolution-or-creation. Science shouldn’t have an agenda, and that goes for a “Christian” agenda as much as an atheist one. It should just be observing, and then wondering about the observations. That should make us questions our understanding. That doesn’t mean we have to question our faith.

Jesus proved that faith is so much bigger than the words Moses penned. Those words are meant to be a guide toward God, but they cannot get us to Him, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. So why are so many Christians today clinging to an Old Testament understanding about the world? Why are they ready to crucify any who say that maybe there’s more to it?

If you got in a time machine and showed up in medieval Europe with a cell phone, you would be burned at the stake for witchcraft. If you told that early church that man would walk on the moon and the earth was round, you’d be labeled a heretic. Not by science (our idea of science--modern science--didn’t even exist then), but by the church.

Prove to me we’ve changed, people. Prove to me that our faith is stronger than this. Prove to me that you’re capable of seeing that, no matter whether you’re debating photons as particles or waves or some combination or are happy to leave it at “Let there be light,” God is the ultimate authority, not you. Science is just trying to understand the world. Faith is trying to understand the creator. Most of the time, they use very different language, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When you put them together, it isn’t war. It’s beautiful…at least until the Pharisees (anti-science Christians) and Sadducees (atheist scientists) show up. But let’s not let them ruin it for the rest of us. It’s a beautiful day, folks. A day when we can get a bit more of a glimpse than ever before into the wonders that are our God. Let’s not ruin it with our limitations…let’s just look to the Unlimited One and thank Him for leading us toward a fuller understanding. Even if that means letting go of our previous one.

6 comments:

  1. Awesome article. I was waiting for it since earlier this week, and since I know you, I anticipated you would go this direction. I just had a big discussion with my twelve year old discussing 7 day creationism, atheistic evolution, and the many, many theories that fall in between.

    Personally, I find it ludicrous to assume that the days would be 24 hours, when the sun (the basis of the 24 hour day) doesn't appear until day 4!!!!

    Christians make themselves sound so stupid sometimes. Sure God could have done it in 7 24 hour days, but the nature of the passage seems very symbolic and poetic, so we should not assume that it must be constrained to such a literal, left-brained understanding.

    My personal favorite theory is by Gerald Schroeder, a Jewish physicist who explains that if you take into consideration the relativity of time and the expansion of the universe that Genesis 1 actually perfectly matches up with the newest scientific theories. And that every place science has no explanation, God does an action verb in Genesis.

    Now that's what I'm talking about! God being bigger and more awesome than we ever imagined. Not being stuffed into some little human-centric box.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to look up Gerald Schroeder! Sounds like exactly where my instinct takes me, though I obviously haven't studied it out fully-on-physicist-style. ;-) And I had a feeling you would be of the same mind here, LOL.

      Delete
  2. Excellent article, Roseanna! Must share it.

    I do believe in a literal seven day creation with the understanding of time as we know it. Why? Because to say it couldn't happen is to put God in a box, and you know how I feel about that.

    But I also don't rule out other theories. Again, it's putting God in a box to do so. I view the possibility of alien life the same way. To say it doesn't exist is putting God in a box and forcing Him to fit into MY understanding of the world. Which is woefully incomplete and will remain so until I'm in heaven.

    The world God created for us--FOR US!!! That ought to give us goosebumps--is so vast and beautiful and amazing. We will never understand it, and I don't think we're supposed to ever fully understand it. To behold creation and the wonders of it, whether on our planet or out in the stars, is to be drawn to Him.

    In the end, that's all that matters.

    And I totally agree with you about the Pharisee thing. The church has become a group of Pharisees, and as a result we're losing the war for the souls of God's creation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really what I love about grasping THAT God is so infinite--I have no clue how He did it, and I don't have to. (Though I did come across some organization that wanted to you sign a statement of beliefs that included their understanding of creation, and it really did make me think, "But I don't understand how God created to ever sign something like that.") I believe it totally could have been 6 literal days...I believe it's possible that it could have been 6 literal days by one perspective and billions from another perspective as the universe expands...and I believe it could be some other explanation that at once lines up and challenges preconceived notions. But I'm sure not going to ever claim I'm the authority on it!

      With you on the goosebumps. =) And I just really, really wish the Church would fight the real enemy and not try to define a "true Christian" by such legalistic standards.

      Delete
    2. From a non-liner, non-subjective point of view, time is just a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey... stuff! It explains so much about everything.

      Delete
    3. LOL. So true!!! I'm never going to claim it's any concise thing. It's so NOT.

      Delete