The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Faith and science

As knowledge explodes, we need to talk

Too often, too easily, some have regarded faith and science as unrelated or as competitors for human allegiance. They argue that faith speaks to values, science to verifiable facts. Faith responds to the longings of our heart, science to the curiosity of our minds. Faith confesses human sinfulness, placing trust in God's grace and mercy in Jesus. Science acknowledges human imperfections, placing confidence in humanity's capacity to transcend limits and to perfect life.

Do you agree with these familiar distinctions?

I fear they tend to preclude important conversations between faith and science. Our world doesn't permit the neat compartmentalization of life into faith and science. It is encouraging to hear voices calling us to discover their interrelatedness. (See page 12.) We shouldn't be surprised that an age experiencing the exponential expansion of knowledge is also a time of heightened spirituality.

Headlines from just two days beckon science and faith into greater engagement:

• Soul-searching over cloning: People of faith want to make sure that moral questions are part of scientific discussion.
• Planet like Jupiter found orbiting star.
• Two new studies bolster promise of stem cells.
• Earth has "close" shave with asteroid.

The sighting of a distant galaxy, the mapping of the human genome, the unearthing of a dinosaur fossil give me a sense of awe. With the psalmist I praise God asking, "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4).

I agree with 20th century Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler. The heavens do reveal God's glory but not God's will. Such a distinction invites faith and science into a dialogue that need not deteriorate into a debate.

As people of faith we'll ask scientists about risk, cost and responsibility. We'll struggle to discern within what limits we should live and what limits might be transcended for the sake of life. These abstract questions become concrete at the bedside of a seriously ill loved one.

Finally, with Paul we remember that "if I ... understand all mysteries and all knowledge ... but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2), and nothing "in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).


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