Why Science Causes People to Leave the Faith (and how to fix it)

The Science of God News Letter.jpg

“I Just don’t know if I can believe anymore.”  It’s a phrase I have heard in my office far too many times.  And when it is a person who has not recently experienced a tragedy, the source of their lack of confidence in their beliefs is often Science.  

Whether they had a teacher contradict something they believed to be a key tenant of Christianity, or just watched some Discovery or History channel special, somehow the discoveries of Science has challenged (or ruled out the possibility altogether of) their belief in God.

Some will tell you the solution is to wage an all out war against Science.  Pull your kids out of school, make them teach religious principles in the classroom, and disprove (using things very close to science) anything that even hints at disputing a religious belief. This response will not only exacerbate the problem, it totally misunderstands the REAL issue here.

On the surface, you might think that the problem is that Science is challenging the truths of Scripture when serious Science never seeks to interact with the spiritual at all. It seeks to collect data, analyze it and make conclusions from it.  Disproving God is an aftereffect of offering another option (based on the data collected) of how something occurred.

Which forces a choice: either our Biblical explanation of an event is correct and God is real or Science is correct and God is not real right?  Wrong.  There is a third option: we have poor theology.  I think that is, more often than not, the case.

For too long, we have explained our faith’s relationship to science using a HORRIBLE method known as the God of the gaps.  Basically, wherever Science comes up with nothing, we interject God.  

Before we understood how our immune system fought a common virus, every time a person recovered from one it was attributed to God.

Before we understood the gravitational force that holds our solar system together, the answer was: God held it together.

Before we understood how plate tectonics worked, earthquakes and tidal waves were God’s judgement.

The problem with all of this is that when science fills in one of the gaps and explains something that was attributed to God, God seems less credible and less powerful.

Fast forward to when I was a child.  The Scientific idea that was rocking our spiritual world was the idea of the Big Bang.  Up until that point, even those who ascribed to evolution had no real explanation for how the universe was created, and God was the answer.  

I remember talking to a pastor about the Big Bang and saying, “If the universe was created by the Big Bang, where was God?”  One of my gaps had been filled in thus making God seem a little less.  His reply?  “Well, maybe the universe was created by the Big Bang, but what made the Big Bang?”  Another Gap, and another place for God to live.  Until…

You’ve guessed it.  There is a plausible explanation now for how the Big Bang happened, and our bad theology has once again allowed God to be unseated by Science.

What’s the solution?  Pretty simple:  stop using the God of the gaps and start using science.  Start using science?  That’s right.  Check out Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

God created the universe and created it to tell us about who he is.  That means when we (Scientists) study the world and come to a greater understanding of it, we are further clarifying God’s message about who he is. That means Science is an intensely spiritual undertaking for those who believe in Jesus.

When the findings of Science become another tool for us to better understand God, we can take God out of the gaps and place him where he belongs: as ruler over all.  We stop making enemies out of the geniuses that are studying God’s creation, and we allow our people to believe without feeing they have to reject Science.

>>>Read More: 5 Simple Ways to Keep Skeptics out of the Church

Why Rulers Don't Work (Lorentz Contraction)

As mentioned in the previous post, I am thinking through a series of ideas I am picking up from a book by Brian Greene called The Elegant Universe.

 

Lorentz contraction is something quite peculiar. It is observed when something is measured while standing still and while in motion. You would expect that if you measured your car while it was sitting in your driveway to be 8’ 3” long and then repeated the measurement while it was moving that the two measurements would be the same. When in fact, the moving measurement would be smaller.

 

However, Lorentz contraction is negligible at everyday speeds. You have to be going a significant fraction of the speed of light to have any noticeable effects[1]. In other words, it is not until you get into realms of speed far outside our normal, every day, human experience that you can even notice it. To measure it at any normal speeds would require precise measurements beyond that which are currently available.

 

So, what does this have to do with faith? Well, it tells us that our normal, everyday lives are easy to describe and understand using common logic and perception, but once we move beyond the normal (or natural) things do not necessarily operate the way we think, and we must recognize that and look for more precise tools.

 

God is far beyond anything we experience naturally. It would be quite acceptable to say that describing God is similar to trying to experience/measure something going close to the speed of light with a ruler or tape measure. Sometimes, he is simply too different to measure, and we need to be careful to not treat him as something that should be able to be described with the same tools we use to describe going to the gas station or planting a tomato.

 

Throughout the faith, we run up against things about God that cause our tools to break down. Consider the way in which his omniscience and our God-given gift of free will cause a breakdown in logic. If you take the idea of God’s omniscience to its simple logical conclusion, God not only knows what we are going to do, but where we are going to go. Simply put, God has already decided whether or not you are going to hell... there’s nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, we believe that the scriptures are just as clear that we have free will, and it is entirely our choice whether or not to go to heaven or hell.

 

What?!? Those two things do not match up! Either it’s our choice, or God’s. It can’t logically be both. The solution? Lorentz Contraction. We have two great options. Either we say that our measure (logic) is not precise enough to fully describe God, or we must get really precise in our description of this attribute of His person (See my post on Time and God for a crude attempt from me).

 

Here’s the point. When talking about something as lofty, high, and supernatural as God, we must be careful that we do not limit Him[2] to what can be measured by our natural means. His ways are higher than our ways[3].

 

[1] At the speed of 13,400,000 miles per second, the length observed is only 99.9% of the non-moving speed.

[2] Though letting Him limit Himself is quite alright. This is how we avoid iniversalism. God makes it clear who he is in the Scripture, and we need not find ways to remove who He says that He is in order to make Him more likeable.

[3] Isaiah 55:9

Light Speed and God

I believe that as we discover the mysteries of the cosmos, we discover the ways of God. For that and many other reasons, I love learning about science especially Quantum Science and Relativity. I have been thinking a lot about some ideas brought up in the book The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and this is the first post that is an attempt to relate those ideas in print.

 

We know a lot about the speed of light. Most of it is wild, but not mysterious:

  1. Light travels at 186,000 miles per hour second.
  2. Though it has wavelike properties it is composed of tiny particles called photons (more on that in a later post).
  3. The closer you get to approaching the speed of light, the slower time passes.

Here is the mystery: imagine someone fired one of these photons away from you, and you decided to pursue it. You could imagine that if you started to run at 186,000 miles per hour second, the photon would appear to be standing still (or going the same speed as you). In other words, it would not appear that the distance between you and the photon was increasing. Furthermore, you could imagine that if you started to creep above the speed of light, that you could eventually catch up with the tiny light packet.

 

That is not the case. In fact, no matter how fast you travel, light will always appear to be traveling away from you at 186,000 miles per hour second. It is simply not relative to you.

 

God is the exact same way. Isaiah 55:9 says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways." (my paraphrase) No matter how much we try to make God conform to our rules of culture or logic, he never seems to fit. No matter how many times we look at each other to decide how God will or should work, he never conforms to our pattern. God is simply not relative to us.

 

God is the constant. God is the measure. God is. May we be ever seeking to measure ourselves against the person of God, and not the other way around.