The Role of “Faith” in Science (Faith and Science 5)

As the author of Hebrews puts it, faith is an “inner conviction of things we do not see” (Heb 11:1, my translation). It is through faith we understand that “the universe was created by the word of God” (Heb 11:3, ESV). Faith is more than just knowledge of facts. It is an inner conviction of things we cannot always prove. If the scientific evidence perfectly confirmed our faith, it would no longer be faith in the full sense that Hebrews describes it. To live in faith is to live with a certain amount of tension. When it comes to matters of faith, we need to take the evidence of both the Bible and science seriously. Because of inspiration, I choose to give the Bible 51% of the weight in my personal faith decisions. But those faith decisions do not rule out a continuing openness to further study in both the Bible and science. Study of the Bible can suggest scientific options that an unbelieving scientist might not think of. Study of science and experience has led the church to read the Bible differently (think Galileo and Acts 15). The best definition of theology I have ever heard is “Faith seeking to understand.” Faith is both a standpoint and a process. When it comes to faith, both conviction and continuing process are a given. To repeat, people of faith must learn to live with a certain amount of tension.

Where one ends up in matters of faith seems to have a lot to do with experience. If life has pointed you to the beauty of flowers and bird feathers, mountain peaks and sunsets, if you have sensed the divine presence in small tokens of everyday life, you will likely be open to interpreting the Bible and science from a divine perspective. If life has confronted you with birth defects, disease as a result of genetic accident, cruelty, oppression and injustice, you may be tempted to either hate God or to explain the world in ways that leave God out of the picture. Because experiences of life are so different, I am reluctant to judge those who see the world and God a bit differently than I do. The world as we experience it projects a mixed picture. Faith can afford to be generous with the intellectual struggles of others. Perhaps the following statement is apropos here: “The perception and appreciation of truth. . . . depends less upon the mind than upon the heart.” (DA 455)

Perhaps the story of Job is helpful here. Job, his wife and his friends all were ignorant of the larger issues in the universe that led to the situation Job found himself in. The conflict between their view of God and the world they experienced created a tension that challenged their faith. Job’s wife saw the tension and gave up her faith in God. Job’s friends maintained their beliefs by denying that there was a tension. Job recognized the tension, struggled with it and still believed. His belief did not lead him to deny the reality of the tension, he believed in full awareness of the tension. And it was Job’s position that was commended by a God who chose not explain the tension in terms the reader already understood (chapters one and two), but left the tension in place (Job 42:7-8, see 38:1 – 41:34). This middle position is the one that healthy, mature Christians can and should embrace.

One thought on “The Role of “Faith” in Science (Faith and Science 5)

  1. Robert Whiteman

    If genuine faith, why the tension? I don’t understand. Faith is certainty, not uncertainty. We believe what we cannot see because we have faith in the One that tells us of what we can’t see, trusting Him from the things we can see that lead to faith in Him. Faith is never blind or uncertain, or we must call it presumption.

    What is the need to judge others? Of what? Yet God has judged the person who denies Him, saying in their heart; “there is no God”, as a fool. We only acknowledge what God has shown us. A fool is one who does what is foolish. Lack of knowledge does not create fools unless that lack is willful, while denial of we know is what is foolish. (see Ps 14:1 and Rom 1:19-22) This does not mean to treat others as fools, but rather, treat them as God has treated us in Christ “while we were yet sinners[foolish]”, being “merciful, gracious, longsuffering,…forgiving”, etc. This is how one loves even enemies, as Jesus does.

    Also, if the bleak environment you describe gives men excuse, how do you explain those who have exercised faith in such an environment? God is accessible to all(Acts 17:27,28, Ps 139), and one must deny Him through unbelief, which is an act of rejection. We cannot reject what we do not know.

    Ok, in this last paragraph you enlarge on the “tension” issue, though I still don’t understand what you mean. I see only two options in this world: Faith, or Unbelief. Unbelief is when light has been rejected, however small that rejection, and may come from willful ignorance as well. God brings no test we cannot gain the victory over through faith, so Job’s wife and friends fell into unbelief, or why would God hold Job’s friends as guilty?(Job’s wife is not mentioned by God as guilty or not, but His sentence against Job’s friends should teach us what we need to know) Remember the teaching of Jesus, which wasn’t new, but eternal; “the pure in heart…shall see God”. In another place Daniel was told “none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand”. Jesus said the obedient are wise(Matt 7:24). So, wise = obedient. Those that don’t understand are not wise, being disobedient, according to Jesus(Matt 7:26). So if we apply what God teaches us through His Word(both written and Living), we know how to become wise through faith, and how to treat those weak through unbelief. In this, I cannot find what you are calling tension. Sorry if I am missing something that should be obvious. Can you share a passage of scripture that defines this clearly? I’m just not able to define what context this tension applies to. Did this tension exist in Eden before sin? Faith was still required in that perfect environment, and the first demonstration of unbelief is how faith failed, and sin entered. Job’s friends(and wife) could not “see” God, while Job, living in the same environment did “see” God, and held his faith in God firm, while not understanding his circumstances. Wasn’t Joseph’s experience similar? When we sin(putting our will before God’s revealed will), we introduce the blindness of unbelief and cannot “see” God through the obstruction we have created through choice. No outside force exist unless we allow it. God has ever protected our ability to choose, which is why sinners are guilty.

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