Faith versus Science

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  January 31, 2015

            It is a debate that started five centuries ago when Nicolaus Copernicus suggested that the earth was not the center of the universe. Up until that time the Church remained largely in command of everything that was taught and, understandably, most of it centered on the Church’s interpretation of the Bible. The fields of study that today we understand as science, did not exist beyond the philosophical explorations of a few brilliant thinkers—the vast majority of whom were also devout Christians.
            Following Copernicus, faithful inquiry and painstaking observations made by such thinkers as Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and Galileo Galilei radically transformed the way in which humanity saw our place in the universe.
            For much of history, the Church responded to scientific discovery and exploration with exceptional contempt. Quite understandably, the new concepts of how life came into being, how the universe was organized, and the overall age of Creation seemed to flatly contradict the Church’s traditional understanding and interpretation of Scripture.
            Right or wrong, many faithful in the Church—in particular those for whom the Church was the source of personal livelihood and social prominence—believed that science was launching a direct assault on the basic authority of religion. If it were to be proven that the Biblical records were incorrect, such a belief would fundamentally undermine the authority and reliability of scripture completely. Consequently, if the Bible was wrong, it was feared, Christianity would be proven wrong. For very obvious reasons, the Church resisted this path bitterly.
            After Copernicus, the bitter divide between some who adhere to science inquiry and mathematical proofs over religious beliefs and those who hold religious doctrines and literal Biblical interpretations over science continued to grow. Some three and a half centuries after Copernicus, Charles Darwin postulated what was, perhaps, one of the greatest divisions in the bitter science versus religion debate. In the wake of his theory of evolution, humanity’s uniqueness as spirit-being created in God’s image was questioned. This started what would become an unrelenting skepticism of all things and, for some, the ultimate rejection of either science or religion as being absolutely false. As the on-going debate between Creationists and Evolutionists so vividly illustrates, many of us are still fighting the battle today!
            When an argument goes on as long as this one has—after all, it has been over 500 years since Copernicus suggested the earth was not the center of the universe—it is easy to stay caught up in the argument itself and lose sight of the bigger pictures. Today there are many people of faith that refuse to give credibility to scientific thought because science is believed to be at odds with our Christian faith. Likewise, there are many scientifically-minded people who refuse to embrace any religious ideology because religion is believed to be an unnecessary superstitious delusion largely disproved by science.
            In spite of the large gulf that some of us have tried to place between the two, science and religion can really benefit from each other and do not necessarily have to be interpreted as absolutely contradictory in nature. Science is a wonderful mechanism for understanding how God works in the universe and religion provides essential meaning to God’s creation.  After 500 years of enmity, it is time that Christianity and Science truly embrace for the mutual benefit the two partial ways of understanding reality can offer each other.