taking the words of Jesus seriously

Science is good at working things out. Science starts with an observation: “Look. We found an X!” It moves from there to a hypothesis: “I wonder if X is because of Y?” It then goes through a process of trying to work out if the hypothesis is true. This sometimes takes knowledge on a circuitous path: “As it turns out, X is because of Z. Here is the logic behind our thinking. Here are our experiments which prove that we’re right, insofar as we can know at the moment.”

All science has a touch of archaeology to it. Archaeologists never finish their work. They make a habit of leaving things undone, in the knowledge that future generations will have new ways of unraveling truth. Knowledge builds on knowledge. That is the basis of the progressive idea of knowledge.

We know more than we did. And as to the future, as Louis Armstrong sang, “They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.”

As science marched its merry way, it began to discover things which flew in the face of scriptural truth. The earth seemed to have a lot more years under her belt than the Bible could account for. People whose faith was built on concrete pillars, apparently strong, but susceptible to earthquakes, crumbled in the face of the new knowledge: “If X isn’t true, then Y isn’t true, and therefore it must all be untrue, ergo there must not have been Jesus.” Followed by an almighty existential AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH.

The modern age of secular skepticism had begun.

Many years later came the inevitable backlash, what is often ring-fenced as Creationism: science in the service of God. And as the years have gone by, Creationism has been getting better. It talks about flaws in carbon dating, the irresolvability of the Big Bang (actually something called the singularity), different theories of red shift. It’s taken to picking holes in science, then standing back and pointing, and saying, “See? They tell you X is true, when in fact it’s not. Therefore, you can’t trust any of it. Ergo, Jesus!”

Related: Dear Christians, Before You Attack Someone’s Beliefs, Think About This…

And with every hole poked in the hole of secular science, there is a little party in Creationistville. (Or at least I imagine those parties…)

In short, Creationism is using the tools which secular society used to criticise the Bible in order to criticise Science. It is a rather clever, but all too human, endeavour. There are two problems with this:

It’s Bad Science

There is a fair bit of discussion about this, which has an ironic twist. Creationists tend to position Secular Science and Creationism as alternative paradigms, each with a certain validity. The irony is that this is essentially a Postmodern outlook. There are alternative truths. It’s up to us to pick one to follow. Many Christians choose to believe the proofs of the Creationists, others choose to believe Secular Science. Fortunately, Creationism only bothers with the bits of science which relate to scripture, so you don’t need to suddenly rethink why your microwave oven works.

But Creationist science is seeking an answer, a specific answer. The fundamental nature of science is that it begins with an enquiry, and ends when an answer is found, with no predisposition as to what that answer might be. And there are countless tales from science history where the search for an answer led to a seemingly unrelated discovery, or where the answer was really quite far from what had been expected. Creationism makes no such allowances.

If you need the answer to be X, that’s not science. (Yes, this does happen in some instances of Secular Science, for reasons of money, influence, and pressure – but I would argue, that’s not Science, either)

It’s Not Scriptural

People enjoy pointing at the latest version of Creationist Science, and saying, “See! More proof!”

Proof of what?

Proof of God’s existence, of course. Proof of scriptural truth, of course.

And there is a progressive attitude that we will, through the wonders of science, prove God’s existence one day. Soon. Just as atheist scientists of a Dawkinsian ilk jump up and down with every proof which seems to deny God.

And all this tit-for-tat bickering ignores quite a lot scripture.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

We are called to have conviction without proof. When Jesus is confronted by the doubting Thomas, Jesus doesn’t thrill with his discovery of the telltale holes in his hands, but instead rebukes him.

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)

To the select few given proof, of course they believe. But far better, and more blessed, to believe without proof.

Of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest. Why? Because, as Thomas Aquinas deduced, love is the only quality which God possesses. God doesn’t need faith. He knows he’s real. God doesn’t need hope. He knows what’s going to happen. But God is love.

Also by John: Lessons from Nigeria

We are called to all three. With a definitive, Creationist, discovery of the existence of God, a God Proof, we would lose our faith, and our hope. We would lose some of the central pillars of our Truth.

And that is not the call which scripture puts on us. We are not meant to know and believe.

We are meant to not know, and believe anyway.

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