Written by: Rev. Nathan Hill
Many people assume that theology and science have no bearing upon one another and therefore should not be spoken of in the same breath. Further, many more people assume that science is the enemy of theology, is corrupt, and is self-seeking. To be fair, this is not completely a lie—scientists are humans too and affected by the sinful nature—but this does not mean that the entire field of study is to blame, does it?
I may be biased on this issue, having earned an undergraduate degree in microbiology & immunology right after high school, but it appears there are many other Christians who are rethinking such a strict categorization of science. Just last week Ed Stetzer—author, pastor, and executive director of Lifeway Research—published an article on the Christianity Today blog detailing three reasons why Christians ought to engage in science. [http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/may/3-reasons-for-christians-to-engage-in-science.html] The tide may indeed be turning, but how to we redraw the lines?
First let me say that the field of science may not be as corrupt or immoral as you have thought. When we think of science and theology co-existing, our minds often go to the age-old debate of creationism versus evolution or perhaps to the very new issue of sexual orientation—is it determined genetically or environmentally? Beyond this many people feel that the industry of scientific research is profit driven and not results driven…welcome to capitalism where nothing survives without a solid business plan. Nevertheless, these areas are the fringes of the field and not the core. I participated in four years of university education, research on Legionaries disease, and publication of an article in a scientific journal and actually found faith in the process as opposed to loosing it. Some scientists live in the fringes of the field, promoting controversial hypotheses without necessarily repeatable or irrefutable results, but so many more simply love the process of describing a hypothesis, testing its premises, and learning something new about our world. As a theology professor of mine once said, knowledge influences doxology—the more we know about our world the better we can worship God for it.
The most succinct way that I can describe the science/theology interaction is that science tells us the way things are, and theology tells us the ways things could be. Science uncovers absolute principles in our world—gravity has a downward acceleration of 9.81 m/s/s, penicillin kills bacteria in our bodies, and cancer is a diverse illness that has many different behaviours and even more potential treatments. Theology tells us about the way that our world could be—just read about the Garden of Eden, the tree of life, the removal of illness and decay, and the restoration of the Garden of Eden state of life when Christ returns. In this way science can help us understand the full impact of the fall of humanity, while theology can give us hope that it will not always be this way—and hope does not fail.
Finally, we had better be careful judging an entire discipline (i.e., science) by its practitioners…lest we forget that not everyone who studies theology has remained on the orthodox pathway both professionally and personally. There are fringe ideas and individuals in every field, and if you look for them you can find them. However, when studying theology, science, or anything for that matter, do not get all your facts from the fringe—dig in to the core and discover the heart of the matter.