Can they be reconciled?
I have been trying to write this blog post for over a week now but I keep procrastinating. The thing is that I know what I want to write on the topic but I just can’t bring myself to sit down, focus and just write it. One reason is that it is a very contentious topic and I want to be very coherent. P.S. I am referring to Christianity in this post and not any other religion.
I would like to point out that I am not trying to answer any questions but rather share my thought process on the matter. It is a topic that I got interested in a few years ago in trying to understand some of life’s biggest questions that I had including: Why are we all here? What is the point of all of this? What is my purpose? Do I have a purpose? Is there a God? Why is there so much suffering and injustice in the world if there is a loving God? Can science explain all the mysteries of the universe? Is the fact that we can even understand and apply science in our world, a proof of the existence of an all-knowing God?
And even now I ask, can faith and reason be reconciled? Scientists, philosophers, theologians, religious leaders and many other people have been discussing this topic for years now. I quite enjoy listening to discussions and debates concerning the belief in a sovereign God versus the scientific proof that He even exists. I mean, is philosophy dead and are scientists now the torch bearers of truth in this generation? Now, I don’t understand people (especially faith driven religious people and militant atheists), who do not want to discuss the possibility that God may or may not exist based on scientific proof or the lack of thereof, thereby shielding themselves from other opinions. It’s as if they are afraid that their faith or lack of faith, may be challenged because they might stumble upon a discovery that will prove the non-existence of God or the existence of God. I believe we were given a mind for a reason, to think. But I digress.
Okay. There’s a lot to be said on this topic but I will not go into detail because I really don’t want this post to be very long and also because I am ill-equipped to do so. I am only sharing my thoughts in trying to find the truth and answers like many other humans. But I will proceed to compare some arguments that have been made on the topic.
Some scientists that have argued against the existence of a sovereign God based on scientific evidence include: Stephen Hawking (an English physicist, cosmologist, mathematician and author), Richard Dawkins (an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (an American astrophysicist, author and science communicator). I could spend time exploring the various arguments of these scientists, but I will focus on Neil deGrasse Tyson in this blog post.
The first time I heard about Neil, was when I stumbled on a YouTube video based on keywords I had inputed into Google Search. It was an interview where he discussed his ideas on objective reality/scientific evidence versus religious philosophy. He argued that faith and science, could not be reconciled because one is based on personal truth (subjective) while the other is based on objective truth (which he argues can be proven and exists outside of culture, religion, race etc.). He has discounted eye-witness testimonies such as near death experiences, spiritual encounters etc., as simplistic excuses with no scientific proof.
A book titled “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, a lawyer, journalist and atheist turned Christian, which I am currently reading, is exploring the validity of eye-witness testimonies used in writing the four gospels of the New Testament in the Bible which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Is it possible that the gospels might not be entirely true because of distorted realities/ information by the authors and eye witnesses and also because they weren’t written during the life of Jesus the Christ or right after His death, but many years later? It has been a very interesting read so far and I will review the book once I have finished reading it. But again, I digress.
In many of the interviews I have watched on Neil deGrasse Tyson, he maintains that he is not an atheist or theist but rather a science communicator who wants people to think for themselves, asks questions and separate science from religion, especially in educational institutions. Neil has explored the idea of the limits of the human physiology asking questions such as “can the human mind decode all the mysteries of the Universe we live in or have we just defined ourselves as an intelligent species because we have no other species to compare ourselves to?” In other words, our “mysteries”, i.e. dark matter, black holes, the complexity of the universe etc., might be trivial or simplistic compared to other species more intelligent than we are. So does that explain the existence of a sovereign being? Neil argues that points of mysteries have always invoked God.
Philosophers have termed this idea “The God of the Gaps” meaning that when man cannot understand and find solution to a problem, then surely, it must be an act of God. Neil says and I quote, “God has to mean more to you than where science is yet to tread. If that’s where you going to put your God in this world, then God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance.” In discussing mysteries of the universe, he says that proclamation of the physical universe based solely on Bible passages have always got the answers wrong. Therefore, reinterpretation (meaning Bible passages were not meant literally but figuratively) came after science showed prove that the physical universe was not the way it was described in the Bible.
Another scientist, John Lennox (a Northern Irish mathematician, science philosopher and apologist) tries to reconcile religion with science. P.S. For people who don’t know, an apologist is someone who offers an argument in defence of something controversial. Therefore, apologetics is “the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse.” e.g. Christian apologists such as John Lennox.
John Lennox has said that “agency does not compete with mechanism and law” and we should not compel people to choose between religion and science as the two are very much reconcilable because the God who created the universe, also created the human mind to comprehend and understand it. He also argues that it was the belief in God that set science in motion in the first place in the 16th and 17th centuries and the “fact that we can do science is evidence for God.” He has explained that his involvement in science has strengthened his faith in God because Chrsitianity offered the best explanation by far and his personal experience with God, also helped to strengthen his faith. He is in search of the “ultimate truth and reality” and does not believe that we should be afraid to explore the questions that we have about life and our world. He argues that contrary to popular belief, there is mention of the genesis of the world in the Bible found in books such as Genesis 1 and John 1. Lennox has always said that “science has great cultural authority but the difficulty is statements by scientists are not statements of science, but they are taken with that authority, because of who they are.” i.e. Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins etc. There is a brilliant speech he gives, detailing his arguments which I will link here ,for those who would like to explore his ideas. John Lennox is one of many apologists and his work in both science and the defense of Christianity is very profound.
At the end of the day, we are all searching for meaning, purpose and truth. Christianity is a faith based religion meaning we really might not have profound proof that God does or does not exist (for now it’s just ideas, theories and speculations) but Christians CHOOSE to believe. A scripture that comes to mind is John 4:24: “God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We can interpret this by saying that faith, rational thinking and a personal spiritual relationship with God is what a sovereign God would want from us and it is what is necessary to understand the nature of God.
I will end with some lyrics from Nigerian singer, Asa’s No one knows:
See, we can can study history and philosophy and Plato’s ideology oh oh oh but tomorrow’s still a mystery…so when I die someday, will I be in heavenly places, singing hallelujah with an angel on the piano or will I be, just another contribution, to the earth, the trees, the grasses, as tomorrow slowly passes, no one knows…
Please share your thoughts.