The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Science and faith

Data and human experience complement each other

I have long thought that scientists who deserve our highest admiration are individuals blessed with sophisticated minds, brilliant intellects, meticulous scientific methods and notable achievements. But they also possess another special quality. They have a capacity to be awed. They meet mysteries they can’t solve. They ask questions that reveal beauty. They are stunned by the intricate majesty of the universe. 

Listen closely to outstanding scientists. They share how little they know in the midst of how much they know. Listen closely to deep believers. They testify to how much they trust in the midst of how little they can verify. 

The rift between religion and science often gets painted with larger brushstrokes than seems necessary. Public debates on science vs. religion, and creationism vs. evolution, attract broad attention. Were these debates capable of generating heat and light from all the energy they expended, we might end our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. Strident arguments get aired. Camps develop. To even use the word “debate” implies a fundamental incompatibility between two realms. It should come as no surprise that strong passions get stirred in communities where compartmentalized thinking reigns. 

Certain public school districts in pockets of the country have moved to prohibit the use of various science textbooks. Proponents fear that the textbook content might conflict with matters of faith. Specifically, they worry about the Genesis creation account getting undermined.

It’s hard to believe that any ancient writer would have penned the Genesis story for the sake of recording good science. If that was the author’s intent, he (or they) failed miserably. The early chapters of Genesis make for lousy empirical science. Not that this has kept numbers of Christians from trying to cram every dinosaur jawbone, distant galaxy and Grand Canyon formation into the span of the last 6,000 years.

The Genesis story was never meant to tell us how the world was created. It is rather a masterful treatise for informing us who created this floating orb in its magnificent universe. From the story, we learn that God appreciates beauty, design and order over ugliness, nonsense and chaos. One doesn’t have to tread far into Scripture before discovering that humans were created for relationship with God and one another. These convictions of faith are hardly at the heart of scientific inquiry.

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February issue


Embracing diversity