A good friend of mine recently posted a question, or challenge (depending upon how you look at it) in regards to science and religion:
My first claim: science and religion are incompatible. (By this I mean that you cannot use science to support religious claims, and that you cannot use religion to support scientific claims.)
My second and resulting claim: neither atheists nor believers have sufficient evidence to prove God does or does not exist.
It is interesting because the past couple years as my faith has grown and been refined (I’d like to hope it has been, anyway) I have asked the question more and more: why do some believe and others do not? Certainly, there are easy “churchy” answers for this, but they don’t satisfy me. Additionally, the topic of science and God has always intrigued me since there are so many different opinions.
There tends to be a huge tug-o-war about the subject of science vs. God, regardless of the response. Some say God doesn’t exist, others say science is foolishness, and myself, I fall somewhere inbetween where I believe science is a reflection of God and the constant discovery of how wonderful He is. But, before we talk more about that, let’s clear something up.
For one, your beliefs cannot be wrong. If you believe them, then they are true to you. Similarly, if someone tells you that you are wrong for what you believe, then they are missing something. This might seem like a “soft” answer to this problem, but let me explain. I say this because beliefs, while they can be grouped into generalities, at their core are individual. Certainly, we have different groups of people who have similar beliefs, but if you ask 5 people that attend the same church what they believe, you will find that they not only have differences about this or that, but that their story about how they came to believe what they believe is entirely different and clearly personal. This leads to my personal response based on my experience and research up to today.
I once challenged someone to use the scientific method to prove God’s existence. While I completely accept the fact that it has been over 10 years since I actually used the scientific method, my meaning is to simply propose a theory then test it. I love science and have come to learn that science actually helps us discover more and more of how wonderful and creative and intelligent God actually is, not the opposite. It is probable that this is a result of my faith and science viewed through those beliefs, so I do not plan on arguing that point or supporting it since well, it isn’t much of an important point to make (in regards to what I want to say).
My point in “using the scientific method” is simply putting yourself in a place to experience God. Scientifically, when we test something we first discover a problem and/ or produce a question. We then create a way to discover the answer (which admittedly could lead to more questions). This is how I have experienced my growth in faith. First, we must open ourselves up to accepting whatever truth we discover. If we get a result and do not like it and choose to ignore it or retest until we get the result we want (instead of the true answer) then the whole exercise is pointless. I have learned that this is the part where most people who claim to want the truth derail the process because they don’t like what they discover for one reason or another. You can see my perspective on it in: Tickled Pink
Ok, so we are open to whatever we find, now what? Well, the formulas are all in a book: the bible. Now, I know, especially by people who do not believe it is the word of God, and even by some who believe in God but not everything the bible says, this is an area of contention. For the most part, I think it is great that we question the authenticity of the bible. However, I believe that it can also become a distraction to us (myself included) because we get caught up in everything BUT what it actually says. Belief in the bible is not about who wrote it or if we can trust the authors/ compilers as much as it is if and how can we trust what it says. If someone tells you the truth and you continually affirm that it is the truth, then does it matter who said it? Would it be any less true if it was said by Martin Luther King Jr., Saddam Hussein, your mom, or Charles Manson? I’ve discovered (and continue to discover) many mistakes that others and I make when reading/ studying the bible because we let our current traditions and beliefs dictate how things should be read (or what it says) instead of reading it for how the author intended it to be read (regardless of who it is). You can find more about this in Cut and Paste Theology
It is out of reading the bible for what it says (not for who wrote it) that we can start to discover the essence of the principles/ equations in it and learn what it says as far as how to apply it. As we apply these things, we discover the truth in them because 1) it works and 2) our faith in it grows: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know. This is how faith works (in anything, not just God). Interestingly, many people (myself included) often forget that it isn’t up to us (humans) to convince others that God is real…because we cannot. The reason is because only God can prove Himself real to us individually. He is a personal God. Yes many people believe in Him, however our individual relationship with Him is what makes us believe, not a corporate gathering of everyone feeling good about themselves because it sounds soothing. Don’t get me wrong, corporate worship has its place and is important, but our relationship with God (to me it is the same as belief in His existence) is intimate and personal.
Faith is more than book knowledge. Book knowledge is just one facet of faith. We can study all the history and ancient language we want (usually what is studied to examine the authenticity of the bible more thoroughly) but it will not result in much, if any, faith because we don’t put it to use. We question and discover information, but we don’t do anything with it so it is wasted time. This is the cycle that tends to stymie our progress in reference to discovering God or growing in our relationship with Him. By all means, I encourage anyone to research the authenticity of the bible, but please don’t think that what you find will be the ultimate answer to faith, because it is just a piece of the bigger puzzle. What is Faith?
Lastly, and I think this may be where faith largely differs from science (if I may be presumptuous enough to think I know the scientific method enough to say this) is that faith never “arrives” at a complete and solid answer. There may be a day that you discover you believe in God, the bible, or anything else for that matter but the truth is faith is an ongoing journey for life. It isn’t an event. The day you believe is the day you actually begin the journey of faith. Think of it as walking through the woods looking for a specific path you have heard about. We are all walking through this forest. Some people stumble upon it and say, “hey, I like the looks of this” and start walking down the path. Other people find a different path and decide to walk down it or they don’t. Some look for the path specifically, find it, and then decide they do not want to walk down it at all. Some people find a similar path, but it is not quite the path they think it is (or should be). The rest don’t find the path at all because: they don’t care to, they are looking in the wrong place, or they just have not found it yet because it has not been revealed to them.
As someone who is on that path (not trying to say you are any less of a person if you are not, just following the analogy to make things clear), I try to tell others not necessarily how awesome the path is (because nobody has really asked that question) but where it is and why I personally have chosen it. Once you discover the path, however, you always have the choice to walk down it. But, because we are different people altogether, our perspectives will be different and you will describe the path to someone else differently than I am explaining it to you now, even though we would be (in this scenario) walking the same path. This is what I meant in the beginning about everyone having a different story and why. I believe science and God are compatible, completely and absolutely because science discovery reveals more of God’s creation. However, I cannot prove to you God exists scientifically (as in, with an article or two published in a journal) because when He proved His existence to me, it was for me alone to experience so that I believe.
I can tell you in as much detail how as a boy on my knees I was praying for God to help me because I felt like nobody believed me (my parents thought I was doing drugs when I was not and I was grounded indefinitely). I can explain how I felt the presence of someone else in my room, despite the closed door and lack of evidence before and after of anyone in the room. I can tell you the audible stern yet comforting voice I heard say, “I believe in you,” that stopped my wailing cold. I can express to you the fear I felt that someone else was in the room with me even though there was nobody to be found and everyone else was asleep in different parts of the house. But, even if you believe the story or not, you do not have the solid mark in your life of that happening because it was for my own faith and my own personal relationship with God that it happened, not for others to believe. Science reveals the wonders of God’s creation, which is for all to experience and enjoy. Faith, however, is for us to know personally and experience on a level that nobody else would understand but you. Similarly you will have an up close and personal experience with God that will leave you with no doubt that He exists and it will be the foundation of your belief that will not make anyone else believe but will never leave your soul.
Interestingly, as my conversation continues with my good friend, we reached an interesting conclusion. Rather, I reached the conclusion; it is just the point he had been trying to make all along. If God is supernatural and science examines the natural, then science (as it currently stands) cannot be used to prove or disprove God. How can you measure a miracle? How can doctors explain instant healing? How can someone explain a burning bush that wasn’t burnt up? How can I prove the presence of God in my room that night when I was younger? How can someone explain the instantaneous speaking or understanding of a foreign language? What scientific tools do we have to prove or disprove any of these events? I mentioned above that science reveals the magnificence of God, but I did not say that it proves God. If science proved God (or disproves Him), then there would be no need for an intimate relationship with Him, would there? We could just sit and look at an experiment. It doesn’t work that way because it is not how He designed it.
We’ve become so enamored with trying to prove our own righteousness, even to the point of using a system that doesn’t even apply, that we have blinded ourselves to the magnificence (or lack thereof) of God altogether. If we think God can be proven by a man made system, then we clearly have a warped (and very human) sense of who God is (or would be) and the God we are looking for is not one who made man, but one that man made. I certainly would not want to have a relationship with a God who isn’t really God, would you?
Additionally, how can you prove God doesn’t exist when you don’t know what His properties are to test? What kind of test can you run against an element that you think doesn’t exist? This is my point in using the scientific theory. Without repeating myself, I implore you to read what the bible supposedly records about God (since that’s basically the best starting point anyone has) and apply what it says to see what happens. Apply the equation and wait to see if the answer lines up with what the book says it will. Afterall, if He doesn’t exist, what do you have to lose? If He does, you have everything to gain.