Science & Faith
As a young adult studying biology at a Christian college, it didn’t take me long to sense a rub between science and faith. I will admit, I’m no expert in either area; my journey of exploring the two fields only spans ten years. I’ve spent time reading books, articles, lectures, and interviews concerning the tension of both fields. I can easily conclude it’s all too common for people to assume science and faith are on opposite ends of the spectrum. As I dive further into my understanding, however, I can’t help but process science and faith in these ways.
In order to grasp both fields, start by defining science and faith separately.
Science: a field of study based on an observation that involves the scientific method, performing experiments, and collecting data to answer questions. This field of study produces technology, medicines, vaccines, alternative energy sources…you name it.
Faith: a system of belief not necessarily based on proof in the form of data.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (NLT)
When we define it this way, it’s easy to see how different these fields really are. It seems basic, but it is vital to grasp that understanding.
Science and faith seem to be at the greatest odds concerning two topics: the origin and evolution of life.
Where and how did life begin? How have we gotten from the beginning to life as we know it? These are questions that both science and faith try to answer.
The Christian faith would reference the creation story found in Genesis 1.
Why don’t we teach Genesis 1 in public education? Because it’s not science. This text isn’t based on first-hand observation. There’s no experiment we can conduct. There’s no scientific method we can follow here. As Christians, we accept God’s Word as truth. The Bible was inspired by God, and he used various Christ followers to write it down. If that’s a point of contention for you in your faith, at least you know where you need to dig in and explore the authenticity of God’s Word, and I challenge you to do just that.
So, the Christian faith references the creation story in Genesis. Science, on the other hand, will refer to the origin of life by describing one key event: The Big Bang Theory.
The Big Bang Theory is what science uses to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Prior to that moment, there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe. The Big Bang Theory is an effort to explain what happened during and after that moment.
According to the standard theory, our universe sprang into existence around 13.7 billion years ago. After the initial appearance of the universe, it apparently inflated (the “Big Bang”), expanded and cooled, going from very, very small and very, very hot, to the size and temperature of our current universe. It continues to expand and cool to this day and we are inside of it: incredible creatures living on a unique planet, circling a beautiful star clustered together with several hundred billion other stars in a galaxy soaring through the cosmos, all of which is inside of an expanding universe that appeared out of nowhere for reasons unknown. This is the Big Bang theory (source: http://www.big-bang-theory.com/).
My opinion, based on my Christian faith & my scientific background, is this: The Big Bang Theory can explain what happened according to science, and the creation story in Genesis can explain how it happened.
Think about this for a minute: We have no idea how long a “day” was in Genesis. God, the author of time, the God of past, present, and future who transcends time, spoke creation into existence.
Psalm 90:4 “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.” (NLT)
2 Peter 3:8 “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (NLT)
Creationists believe Earth and everything in it was created according to the biblical account in the book of Genesis.
Scientists argue the universe came into existence via the big bang, and we have filled the world with everything in it by means of evolution.
“The Top 13 Questions About God: Intense Discussions for Youth Ministry” shares evolution’s three schools of thought:
- That all living things are constantly improving themselves. This tends to create more of a philosophy rather than scientific theory.
- Others see evolution as a simple, observable fact: Many living organisms can be seen to change over time. à microevolution (small-scale changes)
- The third definition of evolution states that all living things have evolved from a single source that came originally from inorganic matter. This definition of evolution is what pins science and faith against each other. à macroevolution (large-scale changes)
Evolutionists and creationists come up with different answers to explain the origin of life largely because of the assumptions they start with.
Evolutionists start out seeking the origin of life with the assumption that God doesn’t exist. Creationists assume God does exist. Because of the differing starting points, the two groups can look at the same evidence, choose which parts to rely on as most trustworthy, and draw two completely different conclusions.
So who is right? If you believe the Bible and begin with the assumption that God exists, then creation must be right according to Genesis. However, you don’t have to close your eyes to scientific fact and accept creation totally by faith.
- The laws of probability point to the existence of a Creator. To consider even the simplest of amino acids to have formed completely by chance is idiotic. The fact that amino acids, the building blocks of life, exist at all indicates an intelligent Creator.
- Fossils can form only when organisms are buried so quickly they have no time to decay or be eaten by scavengers. This fact seems to support the notion that a cataclysmic event – such as a worldwide flood described in Genesis chapter 7 – created the vast majority of fossils we see today.
Here’s a question for you: Could God in some way have used evolution in creating the world?
- Some people say no – that God created the world in a literal six days, and there was no time for anything to evolve.
- Others believe that the “days” of creation may not have been literal days, but could have been extended periods of time, even millions of years. People holding this view make room for God to have used evolution to create various species of living things.
- For you, the answer to this question depends on how literally you interpret the Bible and the seven days of creation.
You can still be a creationist and believe in microevolution (gasp) … I do! You can be a creationist and still believe in portions of evolution without being a hypocrite.
Why? Because, as I see it…Science and faith are not isolated entities.
Perhaps, when professing Christians start with accepting the creation story in Genesis as truth, the Big Bang Theory and parts of evolution actually show evidence of this Biblical account.
A great number of scientists who hold some form of religious belief say that there is no conflict between their faith and their work. Astrophysicist Joel Primack says, “In the last few years astronomy has come together so that we’re now able to tell a coherent story. This story does not contradict God, but instead enlarges [the idea of] God.”
No matter where you’re at in your understanding of science and faith, continue your journey. Talk with reputable people and consider reputable sources. It’s okay to ask questions and pursue them as you expand your faith.
Jenni has been in youth ministry for 7 years and is an 8th-grade science teacher in Brandon, SD.
© 2017, Never The Same