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.